John Le Gay Brereton, born in Sydney in 1871, was the son of a well-known Sydney doctor and poet. Brereton graduated from the University of Sydney in 1894 and worked as a teacher, tea merchant and clerk before returning to the university as a librarian in 1902, becoming chief librarian in 1915. His first book of poetry, The Song of Brotherhood and Other Verses, was published in 1896.

Although he was strongly anti-militarist, the First World War led Brereton to produce a slim volume of verse in 1919 – The Burning Marl – which he dedicated to ‘All who have fought nobly.’

He was appointed Professor of English Literature at the University of Sydney in 1921 and in 1923 was a founding member of the Sydney branch of the English Association. In 1929 he became the first president of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Brereton died suddenly in 1933.

John Le Gay Brereton’s Poems

The Burning Marl, State Library of Victoria digital site


Professor John Le Gay Brereton c.1930, by unknown, gelatin silver photograph

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

Gift of the Windeyer family 2012