Dunedin, Arthur T. Keirle, 1890.
Quarto, viii, 359 pages plus 20 full-page tinted photolithographs ('by New Zealand and English artists').
Half calf and cloth, all edges gilt, with the spine lettered and decorated in gilt, in compartments; leather a little rubbed at the extremities, with minor wear to the rear bottom corner; spine a little mottled; small light stain to the bottom margin of the title leaf; very light marginal cockling to the text block, with occasional light tidemarks (extending into the text on a small number of leaves); short sealed tears to the leading margin of four leaves; overall a very good copy with a 1920 gift inscription on the front flyleaf.
The deluxe edition of poetical works by Bracken, published to commemorate New Zealand's Golden Jubilee. Thomas Bracken (circa 30 December 1841?-1898), was born in Ireland; he became an orphan in 1852. He 'was cared for by an aunt until about the age of 12, when he was sent to Australia to the care of his uncle, John Kiernan, a farmer at Moonee Ponds, near Melbourne. He worked on his uncle's farm for about a year, and was then apprenticed to a chemist in Bendigo. After about 18 months he went to work on a station at Colbinabbin, north-east of Bendigo, where he became a proficient horseman and shearer. Little is known of this period of Bracken's life, except that he began writing verse during these years and published a volume, "The Haunted Vale", in 1867. Bracken is thought to have arrived in Dunedin, New Zealand, in early 1869' ('Dictionary of New Zealand Biography'). He spent the rest of his life in New Zealand, working primarily as a journalist and editor, and continuing to write and publish his own poetry. 'From 1890 at least, there is some suggestion of continuing financial difficulty in Bracken's affairs. The expensive de luxe edition of "Musings in Maoriland" did not sell well in Australia, and economic problems appear to have been accentuated by a promotional tour of that country.... His single most important literary achievement, however, was his poem "God defend New Zealand" [included here on pages 195-96 as 'New Zealand Hymn']. On 1 July 1876 the New Zealand "Saturday Advertiser" published the five stanzas under the title "National hymn", and announced a competition to compose an air for the poem for a prize of 10 guineas.' The work was given equal status with 'God save the Queen' as a national anthem in 1977. 'Bracken's poetry was highly praised in his lifetime and in the early twentieth century.... However ... recent literary historians and anthologists have shown little interest in him'. Be a reactionary, buy back the farm: a number of poems (some of them lengthy) are based on his Australian experiences, including 'Sturt's Last Letter'; 'Australia'; 'Henry Kendall'; 'Old Bendigo'; 'Adam Lindsay Gordon'; and 'Our Pet Kangaroo'. The last-mentioned appears in the section headed 'Humorous and Satirical', along with 'Chinee Johnny', which is definitely showing its age.