DALEY, Victor James William Patrick (1858-1905)


DALEY, Victor James William Patrick (1858-1905)
generally known as Victor Daley
poet
was born at Navan, Ireland, on 5 September 1858. His father, a soldier, died when he was an infant, his mother was a Morrison of Scotch descent. He lived for some time with his grandfather who brought him up in an atmosphere of Irish legends and fairy lore, and would tell the boy that his forefathers were princes in the land. His mother married again and removed to Devonport, England, where Victor was sent to the Christian Brothers' School. At 16 he obtained a position at Plymouth in the Great Western Railway Company's office. Three years later he decided to go to some connexions at Adelaide, and early in 1878 landed at Sydney, probably with no very clear idea of how far away Adelaide was. When he did arrive at Adelaide he obtained a position as clerk in a mercantile house, and began to do a little writing for the press. He next went to Melbourne, did free-lancing, was an assistant at the Melbourne exhibition of 1880, and for a time constituted the staff of a suburban newspaper. He met Marcus Clarke (q.v.) and other members of the Melbourne literary group, and when he said that he had given up being a correspondence clerk to become a journalist was advised not to "give away his silk purse for a sow's car". Daley did not know at the time why the others laughed. His next venture was prospecting for gold at Queanbeyan, New South Wales, where a friend had preceded him. They found no gold, but Daley obtained work on the local paper for some months and then went to Sydney. He soon began contributing to the Bulletin, then in its lusty youth, and met Kendall (q.v.) and others in the literary circle. About 1885 he returned to Melbourne and continued free-lancing, writing much for the Bulletin, sometimes under the signature of "Creeve Roe", including short stories, literary articles and light verse.
In 1898 Daley went to Sydney in connexion with the publication of his first volume At Dawn and Dusk. The criticisms were favourable and it sold fairly well. A position was found for him in one of the government offices, but like Kendall in Melbourne many years before he was asked to do statistical work, and it is seldom that the poetical and arithmetical minds harmonize. He went back to his free-lancing and continued to write excellent verse for the Bulletin. In 1902 he was in bad health, and friends helped him to take a voyage to New Caledonia and the islands in 1903. Later on he tried the inland country in New South Wales, but his health continued to fail and he died of tuberculosis on 29 December 1905. He had married while a young man and was survived by a widow and four children. A collection of his poems written after the publication of his first volume was published in 1911 under the title of Wine and Roses with a memoir by Bertram Stevens (q.v.).
Daley was a man of medium height with a large head and prominent features. The portrait prefixed to At Dawn and Dusk he pronounced too solemn. Though a good companion with a fascinating personality, the convivial habits attributed to him have been made too important by some writers. He could indulge on occasions but was essentially a puritan, shrinking from "evil language, gross stories and violence of any kind", though sociable and charming with both friends and acquaintances. As an Australian poet he is possibly the finest of those between Kendall and the coming of O'Dowd and Brennan (q.v.). His poetry is melodious and full of images, with just sufficient emotion to lift it above merely beautiful verse, and in poems such as "Night" he has the added grace of gentle philosophical humour.
A. G. Stephens, Victor Daley; Bertram Stevens, Memoir prefixed to Wine and Roses; information from W. E. FitzHenry.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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