Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jeremiah Joseph Stable (1883–1953)

by J. C. Mahoney

This article was published:

Jeremiah Joseph Stable (1883-1953), professor of English, was born on 14 May 1883 at Gawler, South Australia, son of Benjamin Stable, seaman, and his wife Mary Ann, née O'Connell. At the age of 4 he was taken to Switzerland where he lived with an aunt; he received his secondary education at the Collège de Genève. In 1902 he entered Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, and read for the tripos in medieval and modern languages, specializing in English literature (B.A., 1905; M.A., 1909). A fine-featured, sensitive and athletic young man with a good reading voice, Stable tutored in English language and literature at the University of Commerce, Cologne, Germany; he also studied linguistics at Bonn. In 1908 he married Irene Bingham Sheridan and in 1912 took a position as lecturer in English, French and German at the University of Queensland.

In March 1916 Stable was appointed lieutenant, Australian Field Artillery, and in June promoted temporarily to captain for intelligence duties on the district censor's staff. Although tactful, he aroused controversy when—under the direct instructions of Prime Minister W. M. Hughes— he entered the Queensland printing office on 26 November 1917 and seized all copies of no. 37 Queensland Parliamentary Debates because they contained an anti-conscription speech by Premier T. J. Ryan, parts of which Stable had previously censored from the press.

Resuming his full-time university duties in March 1919, Stable was appointed in 1922 to the McCaughey chair (later Darnell chair) of English language and literature. His lectures were lucid and he was at his best with small groups of honours students. Tall and lean, calm and courteous, he endeared himself to his colleagues and pupils. He encouraged F. W. Robinson in 1923 to teach Australian literature—the first time such a course was offered at any Australian university. Stable was dean of the faculty of arts (1932-39) and of the faculty of commerce (1932-36).

Stable influenced the intellectual and cultural life of the State. He was president of the Queensland Authors' and Artists' Association (1921-31) and of the English and Modern Languages Association of Queensland (1923-48); with Miss Barbara Sisley and Professor Michie, in 1925 he founded the Brisbane Repertory Theatre Society; in 1930 he became one of the first trustees of the re-constituted Queensland National Art Gallery and was chairman of trustees (1946-48).

A foundation member of the Queensland Historical Society in 1923, with Professor Henry Alcock he edited The University of Queensland 1910-1922 (1923). For many years Stable contributed articles of literary criticism to the Brisbane Courier. His enthusiasm for the study of Australian literature was reflected in his compilation with A. E. M. Kirkwood of the anthology A Book of Queensland Verse (1924) to mark the Brisbane centenary. He insisted on links between Australian and English literature: his anthology for schools, The Bond of Poetry (1924), bore the motto 'Caelum Non Animum Mutant Qui Trans Mare Currunt'. The High Road of Australian Verse (1929) was followed by The Second Bond of Poetry (1938) and by Prose Selections (1947), compiled with A. K. Thomson. From 1936 Stable was general editor of the series, The Australian Students' Shakespeare, to which he contributed an edition of Julius Caesar (1936).

During World War II he rendered service to the Commonwealth government as district censor for the Queensland lines of communication area from 1939 to 1942. He was in charge of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme within the university from 1944 and president of the professorial board and a member of the university senate from 1944 to 1952; in 1950 the degree of doctor of laws honoris causa was conferred upon him. On his retirement in 1952, Stable became the university's second professor emeritus.

Survived by his wife and three sons, Stable died of a coronary occlusion in his home at Indooroopilly, Brisbane, on 24 December 1953 and was cremated after a funeral service in St Mary's Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Scott, Australia During the War (Syd, 1936)
  • M. I. Thomis, A Place of Light and Learning (Brisb, 1985)
  • H. Gregory, Vivant Professores (Brisb, 1987)
  • Stable file (University of Queensland Archives)
  • Stable papers (University of Queensland Library)
  • private information.

Citation details

J. C. Mahoney, 'Stable, Jeremiah Joseph (1883–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 27 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 May, 1883
Gawler, South Australia, Australia


24 December, 1953 (aged 70)
Indooroopilly, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.