POET C.J. DENNIS, DUBBED AS "AUSTRALIA'S ROBBIE BURNS" by prime minister Joseph Lyons, sold thousands of copies worldwide of The Sentimental Bloke. He became famous as “Melbourne’s” literary answer to Sydney’s Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson but his origins and formative years are very South Australian.
Born in Auburn in 1876, Dennis grew up and was educated in other mid north South Australian country towns: Laura, Gladstone and Sevenhill. He also came to Adelaide, living with his aunts in Norwood, to attend Christian Brothers College.
His verses, from an early age, were published by newspapers in the mid north and Adelaide, before being picked up by national magazine The Bulletin.
In 1898, Dennis joined Adelaide magazine The Critic, writing under many pseudonyms. As The Critic’s occasional and then permanent editor in 1904, Dennis made contacts with interstate writers. He founded a short-lived magazine, The Gadfly, in 1906 with Archie Martin, a future detective fiction writer.
Dennis went to Melbourne and was working as secretary to a Federal Labor government minister when The Sentimental Bloke was published in 1915.
The Sentimental Bloke was followed by The Moods of Ginger Mick and less successful books such as Glugs of Gosh and A Book for Kids. Dennis had lost his fortune by 1924 and had succumbed to drinking bouts. Keith Murdoch gave Dennis a job as a columnist on the Melbourne Herald and he was popular in the press and on radio. His cocky farmer pseudonym Ben Bowyang inspired a cartoon series.