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Victor J. Daley--An Australian Nineteenth Century Poet.

When I published for the Mulini Press Frank Molloy's Bibliography of the poetry of Victor J. Daley, Frank informed me that he must be identified as Victor J. Daley. The J. was important to him. I wondered at this at the time because people seldom have such a feeling about their second christian name. However the biography of Daley which Frank Molloy has just published told me why. He was baptised in Ireland in 1858 simply as James Daly. It seems like many authors of the past and present Daley liked to spin stories about himself. He always emphasised his childhood life in Ireland and its stories.

Molloy has uncovered much detail about the early life of Daley from this parents and school days in Ireland, his working life in Portsmouth, England and his decision to emigrate to Australia. The picture he gives shows graphically what little opportunity a young man had in Ireland and little better in England. In Portsmouth Daley was a clerk for one of the Railway companies in boring tasks like copying railway details. No thoughts of poetry there.

In Australia his life in the colonies was shrouded in shadow where he hid himself behind stories and tales. Molloy reveals some of Daley's activities as a journalist and newspaper editor. There is an amusing account of his walk from Victoria to Queanbeyan, NSW. Life in this small country town, now almost a suburb of Canberra, is told in a short paragraph. Daley was editor of one of the town's newspapers and was involved in its local controversies.

It was not until sometime later that Daley began his career as a poet. This section of the biography is of great interest because it tells the story of the bohemian life in Sydney with famous characters like J.F.Archibild and A.G.Stephens and the whole tribe that gathered around the Bulletin. Daley is always central in the book but there is so much on the other characters of the time that it gives an insight into this world of 'Dawn and Dusk'. This was the title of one of Daley's poems and became the name of a 'club' of bohemians in Sydney. Daley spent a further period in Melbourne and then came back to Sydney, but he never settled down in one place for any length of time.

He married and had a family but we are not told much about Daley's personal life. He managed to keep this outside his public activities. He was not without personal problems. Although he had received high praise as a poet in later years there was growing criticism of his work. His poems were published in most of the well known newspapers and magazines of the time

Never a robust person Daley's health steadily declined and attempts were made to organise a cruise to assist him to recover. There was never enough money. He finally died in Sydney at the young age of 47. Victor J. Daley is remembered as a poet of the celtic revival in the late 19th century. Frank Molloy's work has revived an interest in one of our best early poets.

* Victor J. Daley a life by Frank Molloy. Sydney, Crossing Press, 2004 at $20.
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Publication:M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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