Autobiograhies & Verse
Brasch kept all his books in very good, if not pristine condition. Indeed, a local Dunedin identity, familiar with the New Zealand book-trade, remarked recently that he had never seen such a fine first edition copy, with its dust-jacket, of David Ballantyne's The Cunninghams. On 19 January 1952, Brasch read the novel for the first time. He praised the author: 'Ballantyne has real warmth for his people & a good deal of understanding; he may be analysing a class… but he's first of all presenting a human situation, & with sympathy & skill; he's a professional, no fumbling, no padding.'
In early February 1952, Brasch began work as a part-time lecturer in the English Department at the University of Otago, sharing a room in the Leith Street house with Bob Robertson and Don Anderson. In preparation for classes, he re-read Spenser's Faerie Queene, which he had first read in 1931. A September entry reveals further demands:'I had got the December LF ready for press, … I'd prepared work for Monday's classes, & my one remaining task of university work was to write a lecture on Donne which I'd begun & … I took up a book which I have been waiting to read for more than a year now, Spender's autobiography.' Pencilled notes are common in most of Brasch's books, and here a loose sheet from within begins: 'F.Q. as a book of instruction.'
In March 1952, the Wellington manager of Oxford University Press asked if Brasch would edit a new book of New Zealand verse after 'the present monstrous Oxford book…goes out of print.' This was a tempting project, but Brasch decided not to because he did not have the patience to read all the verse required for such a volume, nor could he make any detached judgment on poems by Glover, Mason, Louis Johnson, or older poets like Arnold Wall and Alan Mulgan. Here is Brasch's copy of the 'monstrous' Oxford book, edited by Australian Walter Murdoch and New Zealander Mulgan.
In the early 1930s Brasch read much of E. M. Forster's works, including A Passage to India, first written in 1924. It seemed that re-reading Forster's classic novel in March 1952 got him through the first term of teaching:'After all the anxiety of the past month as I read desperately to try & prepare myself for university work I began the day (first of term) in good spirits, easy; partly dissolved with pleasure & thus made calm by Forster's charming Aziz in A Passage to India.' A loose sheet within this copy contains a brief note: 'What happened in the cave – does it matter?'
When three of his poems were published in John Lehmann's New Writing (1941), it marked a significant point in Brasch's life. As he wrote in Indirections, 'It was a declaration to the world that I was a poet, that I had not lived in vain.' He was also pleased that they appeared with works by other writers that he admired such as W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender. Brasch purchased Spender's Autobiography in late 1951 and finally pushed aside class preparation to read it. He started it on 28 September 1952.