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Long, Richard Hooppell (1873–1948)

by Peter Pierce

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Richard Hooppell Long (1873-1948), poet and carpenter, was born on 27 November 1873 at Tue Brook, Lancashire, England, son of Richard Long, engineer, and his wife Marian, née Hooppell. The family migrated to Australia in 1879. Largely self-educated, Long worked as a carpenter and cabinetmaker and also as a ship's joiner on the Australia-New Zealand run. Apart from a brief period in Sydney, he lived with his family, and after the death of his mother in 1913 and his father in 1919, with his sister, Minnie Isabel (Belle), at Sandringham, Melbourne. Neither brother nor sister married, though Long's legatee Eric Charles Haslem was treated 'as a son'.

Throughout his adult life Long wrote topical verse, prompted to do homage to Nature and to denounce capitalism by such particular matters as bee-keeping or what he saw as the outrageous resistance of that 'faithless shepherd', the bishop of London, to an early conclusion of World War I. Many of the poems appeared in the Melbourne Socialist and Fellowship. A collection, Verses, was published in 1917.

Long and his sister belonged to the Victorian Socialist Party and the Free Religious Fellowship. Long's literal-minded devotion to the 'brotherhood of Man' was such that he kept a coiled chain in his workshop above the familiar injunction to 'Workers of the World'. Characteristically, his religious faith was Independent: he refused to wear a collar at fellowship gatherings, as his forefathers, he said, had worn one inscribed with the legend 'Serf'.

In 1918 Long represented the fellowship at the Australian Peace Alliance Conference at Leura, New South Wales, (afterwards walking home to Melbourne) and his period of intense and somewhat perverse public agitation began in September that year. Although critical of the Bolshevik Revolution he flew the red flag of socialism on successive Sundays on the Yarra Bank in defiance of government proclamation. He was three times imprisoned for a total of eight months between December 1918 and December 1919. After these stubborn flourishes his political activities became more sedate. In 1925 he made his only trip to England when, with his sister, he attended the War Resisters' International Conference at Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.

During the Depression Long was forced to supplement carpentry with day-labouring. He wrote verse steadily and indulged his favourite pastime of long bush excursions, treading 'the quiet, country roads of God'. Contemporaries (among them J. Le Gay Brereton, Bernard O'Dowd, Nettie Palmer and Percival Serle) remembered him as gentle, versatile and candid. He was of medium height and build, with blue-grey eyes, round features and a heavy beard; in later life he was bald.

Belle died in 1947. Next year Long was knocked off his bicycle by a car and died of bleeding from a peptic ulcer on 19 July 1948 in Melbourne. He was cremated. Whether or not he was 'a spiritual kinsman of St Francis and Walt Whitman', as Sinclaire suggested, or the 'half-satirist, half-saint' recollected by Nettie Palmer, he was a poet of limited yet determined ambition, capable of felicity within his compass:

I have had dreams and visions, but distrust
Imaginations that lack strength to bear
Communion with the commonplace …

Select Bibliography

  • F. T. Macartney, Australian Literary Essays (Syd, 1957)
  • Landfall, 29, no 1, Mar 1975
  • K. J. Kenafick, The Life and Work of R. H. Long, Australian Poet (State Library of Victoria)
  • R. H. Long papers (State Library of Victoria).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Peter Pierce, 'Long, Richard Hooppell (1873–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/long-richard-hooppell-7224/text12507, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 23 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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