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Cobb, Chester Francis (1899–1943)

by B. G. Andrews

This article was published:

Chester Francis Cobb (1899-1943), novelist, was born on 8 June 1899 at Charing Cross, Waverley, Sydney, son of Joseph Septimus Cobb, chemist, from England, and his Geelong-born wife Rosalie Thomasina Kate Cockburn, née Smith. Interested early in fiction, Cobb left school to become a cadet and later a reporter on the Sydney Daily Telegraph. In 1921, on his mother's death, he came into a small inheritance; he left for England soon after, settled in Oxfordshire, and took up poultry-farming. On 31 March 1924 at Little Rollright near Chipping Norton, he married Barbara Anne Convy, twenty years his senior.

In 1925 Cobb's first novel, Mr. Moffatt, was published in England and favourably received; an American edition followed in 1926, the year in which Days of disillusion appeared. In both works Cobb drew on his Australian experiences. The title character in Mr. Moffatt, a chemist at 'Claverley' in Sydney in the 1890s who takes a painting to London to be valued and finds it a 'fake', is based on the life and experiences of Cobb's father. Similarly, Days of disillusion, a chronicle of the growth and development of Robert Watson over thirty-odd years, is also set in Claverly and opens in 1894. The spiritual odyssey of Moffatt and Watson, the central concern of each novel, derives from an interest in religion which led Cobb to question orthodox Christianity as a youth and ultimately to embrace theosophy in England.

Cobb wrote a third novel but it was never accepted for publication. In 1938 he became a sub-editor on the Countryman, a quarterly rural review and miscellany. He died on 17 February 1943 after an operation for gall-stones at Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. Although his literary career was brief and he never returned to Australia, he is significant as the first Australian-born novelist to employ a 'stream of consciousness' technique in his work.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Roderick, 20 Australian Novelists (Syd, 1947)
  • S. Tick, ‘Casebook for a novelist’, Southerly, 4 (1961).

Citation details

B. G. Andrews, 'Cobb, Chester Francis (1899–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 1 December 2021.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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