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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Truebridge, Benjamin Arthur (1882–1955)

by Patrick Buckridge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Benjamin Arthur Truebridge (1882-1955), poet, was born on 23 September 1882 at Carlton, Melbourne, eldest of six children of Victorian-born parents William Molish Truebridge, compositor, and his wife Irene, née Greenslade. Educated at Middle Park State School and then privately, he became a music teacher. In 1915 he taught violin at the Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne. At St Silas's Church of England, Albert Park, on 26 October 1910 he had married Edith Annie Luther, a nurse. They lived for a time at Camberwell and were later divorced.

Leaving Melbourne about 1920, Truebridge worked his way around Australia and New Zealand for the next decade as fruit-picker, gold fossicker, music teacher, and masseur. During these years several of his light lyrics appeared in the Bulletin, under the pseudonym 'Brian Vrepont', a Frenchified version of Truebridge. Settling in Brisbane in the early 1930s, he published his first book, Plays and Flower Verses for Youth (1934). He was by then writing prolifically, mainly for the Brisbane Telegraph which printed nearly seventy of his poems and a large number of his reviews. In 1939 he won the C. J. Dennis memorial prize for The Miracle (Melbourne, 1939), a long philosophical poem. Colin Bingham, the Telegraph's literary editor, described it as 'a powerful . . . and moving indictment of Man's shameful misuse of his priceless heritage, the soil'. On 29 September 1939 at the general registry office, Brisbane, Truebridge married 26-year-old Elma Helene Stehn.

In 1940 Vrepont, Clem Christesen, James Picot and Paul Grano founded Meanjin Papers. Vrepont's 'The Apple Tree'—later referred to by Douglas Stewart as 'perhaps the most beautiful lyric ever written in Australia'—was the first item in the inaugural issue. Most of his poems were passionate responses to nature, underpinned by a form of 'pagan' pantheism and extending, politically, to a form of revolutionary pacifism. Quick-tempered and acerbic, he was also fervently anti-Catholic (which brought him into conflict with Grano, a Catholic), and contemptuous of the traditionalism of the Brisbane literary establishment. His most radically experimental work (prose poems and a variety of musically influenced forms) appeared in the early 1940s in Angry Penguins and the avant-garde Melbourne magazine Comment.

Vrepont's second book of poetry, Beyond the Claw (Sydney, 1943), received mixed reviews. Soon afterwards he moved to Sydney where he was employed as a salesman by the booksellers Angus & Robertson Ltd. In 1945 he received a Commonwealth Literary Fund grant to write a novel, 'The Time has Come', which he completed but never published. About 1950 he and his wife moved to Perth. He continued to write poems and reviews, and taught music. In appearance and lifestyle he was the typical 'decadent' of the 1920s: slim and over six feet (183 cm) tall, with a thin, suntanned face, deep-set eyes and grey-silver hair brushed back from a fine forehead. Although he was something of a loner, his relationships with women were intense, and complicated. In 1952 his marriage broke down. Truebridge died on 10 March 1955 in Royal Perth Hospital and was cremated. His wife survived him. He had no children.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Bingham, The Beckoning Horizon (Melb, 1983)
  • L. Strahan, Just City and the Mirrors (Melb, 1984)
  • Rex Ingamells papers (State Library of Victoria)
  • Meanjin Archives (University of Melbourne Library)
  • Commonwealth Literary Fund—B. Vrepont, A463, item 1958/568 (National Archives of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Patrick Buckridge, 'Truebridge, Benjamin Arthur (1882–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 5 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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