James Griffyth Fairfax was born in Sydney and spent his early boyhood in Australia but was educated in England at Winchester and New College, Oxford. He published his first volume of poetry in 1906, the year he went up to Oxford, and published poems in several magazines: his second book of poems was published in 1908. It was around this time that Fairfax consolidated his friendship with fellow Australian poet Frederic Manning with whom he corresponded frequently between 1907 and 1914 and met the American poet Ezra Pound. Fairfax and Pound eventually became romantic rivals for the affections of Dorothy Shakespear: Dorothy and Pound became engaged early in 1914 much to Fairfax’s shock.*

At the outbreak of war, Fairfax joined the army, serving as a captain in the British Royal Army Service Corps, attached to the 15th Indian Division from 1914-19. He published two volumes of war poems, The Temple of Janus in 1917 and Mesopotamia in 1919.

Every night Australian captain James Griffyth Fairfax wrote verse in a small notebook which he carried in the breast pocket of his uniform.

[Jill Hamilton, From Gallipoli to Gaza: The Desert Poets of World War One, p. 190]

After the war Fairfax married and was elected as the Conservative MP for Norwich, Norfolk in 1924, his parliamentary career ending when he was defeated in the 1929 General Election.

James Griffyth Fairfax’s Poems

 


*For a more detailed discussion of Pound and Fairfax see ‘James Griffyth Fairfax and Ezra Pound in Edwardian London’, by Hugh Witemeyer, English Literature in Translation, 1880-1920, Volume 42.3, 1999, pp. 243-264 accessible via Project Muse

Photograph © National Library of Australia