Formative Years

London & Oxford

London & Oxford Cont'd


Before the War

New Zealanders

The War Years

The War Years Cont'd

Heading Home


The Wordsworths & Others

Towards an Autobiography

Autobiographies & Verse


James & Others

Modern Years

The Final Years



New Zealanders

While in London, Brasch often met the New Zealand expatriate writer James Courage (1903-1963). In early April 1940, he started reading Courage's One House (1933), now a relatively scarce Gollancz title. Part of his journal entry reads: 'It carried me on, unevenly – now slow, now faster; but after reading for several hours I had come into a warm & healing air of continuity, security, an air so long-lost I had almost forgotten it existed, so calm (in the quiet night, with a little wind in the thorn bushes breathing life outside, & now & then a train puffing reassuringly) that I felt restored, whole of all my discontents, self-accusation, despair; a haven…'. Brasch later edited Such Separate Creatures (1973), stories by Courage.

James Courage, One House. London: Victor Gollancz, 1933. Brasch PR9640.C68 O5

The Canterbury-born writer D'Arcy Cresswell believed that poetry was his vocation. Unfortunately, his poetry was not good; his prose works such as The Poet's Progress (1930) and Present Without Leave (1939) carried a little more substance. Although Brasch was encouraged by Cresswell's determination 'to live as a poet he believed himself to be', he was critical. On 23 June 1940, after reading Present without Leave, Brasch wrote: 'Parts of it are unreadable, to me, I have no patience with the ideas & their expounding; & most of what I can read seems to me rather trivial & misinformed, & I find it profoundly depressing. Partly, of course, because I see the image of a wasted life – like my own – with certain gifts or faculties useless for lack of development.'

Walter D'Arcy Cresswell, Present without Leave. London: Cassell, 1939. Brasch PR9640.C74 P7

Many of Charles Brasch's poems explore the theme of the relation of New Zealanders to the land. He loved the South Island landscape, and evoked in many poems a strong sense of place. One of his contemporaries was the Auckland poet A. R. D. Fairburn. Brasch bought Fairburn's Dominion (1938) in Dunedin in March 1938 and although he recognised some uneven parts, the rest he read with excitement:  'Here for the first time, more directly and clearly than in Ursula Bethell, the physical New Zealand I loved had been brought to life in poetry.'

A.R. D. Fairburn, Dominion. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1938. Brasch PR9640.F3 D6

On 7 August 1940, Brasch read John Mulgan's Man Alone, a scarce title, especially with its original dust jacket. His journal comment on that day reads: 'Then I went home & read John Mulgan's novel Man Alone … I could not put it down – the description of the escape, round Ruapehu, over the Rangipo desert, & through the Kaimanawas, was quite enthralling. The book is by far the best of its genre (so much better than Lee's book & Iris's Starkey); the style carries one on though it would only do for this kind of novel. John like so many of us is obviously haunted by the country – its physical nature; the dark heavy bush, the mountains, the farm country. And he is haunted by the sense of man's exile in the world of the Truce: man homeless, without guidance, without allegiance.' A reduced version of this was repeated in Brasch's Indirections.

John Mulgan, Man Alone. London: Selwyn & Blount, [1939]. Brasch PR9640.M86 M3 1939