Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Evans, George Essex

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EVANS, GEORGE ESSEX (1863–1909), Australian poet, born at Cumberland Terrace, Regent's Park, London, on 18 June 1863, was youngest son of John Evans, Q.C., who was a bencher and treasurer of the Middle Temple and liberal M.P. for Haverford West (1847-52). After education at Haverford West grammar school and in the island of Guernsey, Evans emigrated to Australia in 1881. He attached himself to a survey party, and during a tour through the bush was first inspired to sing the praises of his adopted country. Subsequently he joined a brother, J. B. O. Evans, on a farm near Allora, Queensland; but cherishing literary ambitions he soon engaged in journalism. In 1882 he became a regular contributor to the 'Queenslander,' in which his earliest poems appeared under the pseudonym of Christophus, and after a struggling existence he established a connection with leading Australian papers like the 'Brisbane Courier' and the 'Sydney Bulletin.' In 1888 he settled at Toowoomba, where he was appointed district registrar by the Queensland, government; he continued, however, to devote himself to literary pursuits. In 1892, 1893, and 1897 he edited a literary annual called 'The Antipodean'; but the venture, despite the collaboration of R. L. Stevenson, proved a failure owing to Evans's lack of business experience. His pen was also employed on less congenial tasks. In 1899 he compiled a guide to Darling Downs entitled 'The Garden of Queensland,' and later his services were enlisted by the government in preparing a report on the resources of Queensland, which was distributed in London at the Franco-British exhibition of 1908.

Evans's first volume of poetry, 'The Repentance of Magdalene Despard, and other Verses' (London, 1891), containing some spirited patriotic utterances, attracted little attention. He was more successful with 'Loraine, and other Verses' (Melbourne, 1898), a long narrative poem, vividly descriptive of Australian life on a sheep farm, and in January 1901 he won the fifty-guinea prize offered by the New South Wales government for the best ode on the inauguration of the Australian commonwealth. He added to his reputation by the publication of 'The Sword of Pain' (Toowoomba, 1905) and 'The Secret Key, and other Verses' (Sydney, 1906), both in England and America he recognised as an Australian poet power and individuality. With a view fostering in Australia appreciation of and literature, he founded the Toowoomba Austral Association in May 1903. In an enthusiastic ode entitled 'Queen of the North' (The Times, 7 Aug. 1909) he celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of Queensland. He died at Toowoomba shortly afterwards, on 11 Nov. 1909. He married in 1899 Blanche, widow of E. B. Hopkins of Goodar station, Queensland, and daughter of the Rev. W. Eglinton, by whom he had one son. His admirers propose to commemorate him by a complete edition of his works.

Evans's poetic inspiration came from Australian life and country. He belies that Australian poetry should strike a new and distinctive note. Unlike some Australian poets, he was no pessimist. He encouraged his countrymen 'to face and subdue the resistance of nature,' and his verse breathes an intense appreciation of strenuous effort and robust courage. While his blank verse lacks technical finish, many of his stirring odes and lyrics reach a high level of poetic form.

[The Times, 14 Dec. 1909; Brisbane Courier, and Brisbane Daily Mail, 11 Nov. 1909; B. Stevens, Anthology of Australian verse, 1906; Sir J. Symon, Poetry and its claims, 1911.]

G. S. W.