Arthur Henry Adams
Biography of Arthur Henry Adams
Arthur Henry Adams was a journalist and author. He started his career in New Zealand, though he spent most of it in Australia, and for a short time resided in China and London.
Arthur Henry Adams was born in Lawrence, Otago, New Zealand, on 6 June 1872, the son of Eleanor Sarah Gillon and her husband, Charles William Adams, a surveyor and a talented astronomer.
Arthur attended Otago Boys' High School in Dunedin then onto the University of Otago, where he graduated BA in 1894. Although his major study was law, he was more interested in literature, and in 1893 supplied the composer Alfred Hill with a comic opera libretto, 'The whipping boy'. (This was never performed.) Another collaboration with Hill was the cantata Time's great monotone (1894).
In 1895 Adams abandoned law to become a journalist and joined the Wellington Evening Post , which was edited by his uncle E. T. Gillon. In the same year, he and Hill worked on a cantata, Hinemoa. Adams's text was an essential contribution to the work's popular success. In 1898, aged 26, he moved to Australia for the first time. For most of his life Sydney was to be his home. There he worked on the libretto of the comic opera Tapu , which - again with music by Hill - was a success on its production in Wellington in 1903 despite some inadequacies in the dialogue.
His first volume of poems, Maoriland, and other verses , was published in Sydney in 1899. It was welcomed by critics and some of its verses have been frequently anthologised. Adams went to China in 1900 to cover the Boxer rebellion for the Sydney Morning Herald. He took advantage of this experience to make a lecture tour of New Zealand in 1901. Like others before and since, he travelled to England hoping to make his name. The three years he spent there seem to have been unhappy, and the poems In London streets (1906) give a negative image of the metropolis.
In 1905 Adams returned to New Zealand to continue his journalistic career at the Evening Post and for a brief time, the New Zealand Times. Then in 1906 he replaced A. G. Stephens as editor of the Red Page in the Sydney Bulletin. This appointment was a sign of literary success. Stephens had long been feared and respected as the arbiter of literary taste among Australian writers. The Red Page (named for the colour of the journal's cover, on the inside of which it appeared) was four long columns of literary gossip, criticism and comment. Adams was now established as a leading figure in Sydney life.
On 30 September 1908 at Neutral Bay, Sydney, he married Lilian Grace Paton. The same year the first of a series of his comedies for the theatre had been performed. The tame cat was set in London, where a New Zealander tries to persuade a friend to return to the antipodes. One critic complained of the lack of action in the play but praised its sparkling dialogue. This judgement is in keeping with later praise of Adams's skill with words rather than with larger structures. In 1909 Adams left the Bulletin to take over the editorship of the literary magazine the Lone Hand , which published many well-known Australian writers. In 1911 he became editor of the Sydney Sun and returned to the Bulletin six years later.
In 1913 Adams published his Collected verses , in which he announced his abandonment of poetry. In fact he had already published his most successful novel, Tussock Land , in London in 1904. It is the story of a young man who leaves his New Zealand home to seek artistic success in Australia but is constantly tortured by memories of the country and the young Maori woman he left behind. On returning to New Zealand he and Aroha are reconciled. This novel, with its powerful word-pictures of New Zealand landscapes and Sydney streets, is an important document of a man losing and recovering his sense of belonging to New Zealand.
Adams never forgot his origins and was always viewed by his Australian colleagues as a transplanted New Zealander. He continued to live in Australia, however, and published a number of other novels: Galahad Jones (1910) , A touch of fantasy (1912) , Grocer Greatheart (1915) , The Australians (1920) , and the autobiographical A man's life (1929) . These are marked by a lively sense of humour, an ironic view of the gap between sexual passion and romantic idealism, and of a similar gap between the creative urge and the banality of daily life. They are notable for their overall kind-heartedness of tone. Adams also published four novels under the pseudonym James James, light-heartedly ironic treatments of married life.
Adams himself was devoted to his wife and family. He was described as 'tall and thin, good-looking in a dark, sallow way', and evidently irritated people with his vanity while charming them with his natural talents and devotion to the literary life. He was an ardent advocate of Australian drama, and for over 20 years exerted considerable influence on Australian literature as journalist and critic. As a poet, playwright and novelist, for a time he was 'a fashion and a force. Adams died in Sydney on 4 March 1936. He was survived by his wife, two daughters and a son.
Arthur Henry Adams's Works:
Maoriland: and Other Verses (1899)
Collected Verses of Arthur H. Adams (1913)
Australian Nursery Rimes (1917)
Fifty Nursery Rhymes with Music (1924)
Tussock Land (1904)
London Streets (1906)
Galahad Jones (1910)
A Touch of Fantasy (1911)
The Knight and the Motor Launch (1913)
Double Bed Dialogues (1915)
Grocer Greatheart (1915)
The Australians (1920)
Lola of the Chocolates (1929)
A Man's Life (1929)
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Arthur Henry Adams Poems
A Pair Of Lovers In The Street
A PAIR of lovers in the street! I dare not mock: with reverence meet My unforgetting heart I cheat.
I thought, because we had been friends so long, That I knew all your dear lips dared intend Before they dawned to speech. Our thoughts would blend, I dreamed, like memories that faintly throng.
A Spring Sonnet
Last night beneath the mockery of the moon I heard the sudden startled whisperings Of wakened birds settling their restless wings; The North-east brought his word of gladness, "Soon!"
All things must fade. There is for cities tall The same tomorrow as for daffodils: Time's wind, that casts the seed, the petal spills. Grim London's ruined arches yet shall fall
One moment mankind rides the crested wave, A moment glorious, beyond recall; And then the wave, with slow and massive fall, Obliterates the beauty that it gave.
She lies, a grave disdain all her defence, Too imperturbable for scorn. She hears Only the murmur of the flowing years That thunder slowly on her shores immense
In her grey majesty of ancient stone She queens it proudly, though the sun's caress Her piteous cheeks, ravished of bloom, confess, And her dark eyes his bridegroom glance have know.
About me leagues of houses lie, Above me, grim and straight and high, They climb; the terraces lean up Like long grey reefs against the sky.
LAST night I saw the Pleiades again, Faint as a drift of steam From some tall chimney-stack; And I remembered you as you were then:
BENEATH this narrow jostling street, Unruffled by the noise of feet, Like a slow organ-note I hear The pulses of the great world beat.
ONCE more this Autumn-earth is ripe, Parturient of another type. While with the Past old nations merge
I AM a weakling. God, who made The still, strong man, made also me. The God who could the tiger plan, In his lithe splendour unafraid—
THEY drew him from the darkened room, Where, swooning in a peace profound, Beneath a heavy fragrance drowned Her grey form glimmered in the gloom
Rain in the Bush
The steady soaking of the rain, The bush all sad and sombre; The trees are weeping in their pain, Dank leaves the ground encumber.
BENEATH this narrow jostling street,
Unruffled by the noise of feet,
Like a slow organ-note I hear
The pulses of the great world beat.
Unseen beneath the city’s show
Through this aorta ever flow
The currents of the universe—
A thousand pulses throbbing low!