James King of Irrawang Travelling Scholarship


Christopher John Brennan was born in Sydney, Australia in 1870 of Irish parents. Brennan first studied for the priesthood, but abandoned his vocation at St. Ignatius College for the University of Sydney. There Brennan concentrated on classics and philosophy, graduating from the University with first class honours in 1891. He received a James King of Irrawang Travelling Scholarship, which allowed him to study at the University of Berlin. However, Brennan returned to Sydney in 1894 without the doctorate, due to both his attraction to the Berlin intellectual society and an affair with Anna Werth, his landlady’s daughter. In 1897 he married Anna Werth in Sydney, and they had four children. The marriage faltered after 1907, and Brennan became a well-known presence in Sydney’s café society. Brennan was heavily influenced by European Symbolist poetry, and in 1913 he published Poems, which has remained his most well-known work. In 1920 Brennan was appointed professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Sydney. He had long wanted this post, but the wait may have been due to his alcoholism and the eroticism in his 1897 poetry collection. He was dismissed by the University Senate in 1925 due to the controversy over his divorce and subsequent affair with Violet Singer. In his last years Brennan was often depressed as a result of Singer’s death in 1925; he also lived in poverty, helped by occasional teaching opportunities, friends and relatives. Brennan died in 1932.

  • Clark, Axel, "Brennan, Christopher John (1870-1932)." Australian Dictionary of Biography. VII. Melbourne University Press, 1979. 397-99. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A070405b.htm
  • Brennan, Christopher. XXI poems: MDCCCXCIII-MDCCCXCVII: towards the Source.. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1897.
  • --. Poems: 1913, Sydney: G. B. Philip and Son, 1914. See Australian Poets eTexts Project, The Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS)
  • --. A Chant of Doom: and other Verses. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1918. Digital facsimile by the University of Sydney Library, 1999. See http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit
  • --. The Burden of Tyre. Sydney: Harry F. Chaplin, 1953.
  • --. The Verse of Christopher Brennan. Ed. A. R. Chisholm and J. J. Quinn. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1960.
  • --. The Prose of Christopher Brennan. Ed. A. R. Chisholm and J. J. Quinn. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1962.
  • --. Christopher Brennan. Ed. Terry Sturm. St. Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press, 1984.

We are grateful for access to AustLit in the preparation of these poems.