Henry Kendall was once regarded as Australia's finest poet, compared favourably with Wordsworth. His poetry was romantic, sentimental in its celebration of the Australian bush he loved. But he was more Henry Lawson than John Keats: a self-pitying wife deserter, cadger and drunkard. And it ran in the family.
From 1859, Kendall published prolifically in newspapers and periodicals. But he struggled to support a wife and children through poems and articles, his first poetry book was a financial failure (though critically acclaimed) and his brother and sister contributed to his financial troubles.
Often in debt and on the precipice of bankruptcy, Kendall suffered from poverty, ill health and drunkenness. In 1870, he was charged with forging a cheque, and found not guilty on grounds of insanity; two years later, he spent time in an insane asylum. But from 1876, he began to rebuild his life and career, and in 1880 his collection Songs from the Mountain was an outstanding success.
In this intriguing work of literary investigation, celebrated author and historian Adrian Mitchell delves deep into Kendall's storied life and uncovers a dark past that casts new shadows on his legacy. He discovers that this habitually self-effacing poet had good reason to keep himself and his family out of the limelight. This is the true story of Henry Kendall, his parents and his grandparents - and he had every reason to dread it being made public.