NICHOLSON, John Henry (1838-1923)


NICHOLSON, John Henry (1838-1923)
miscellaneous writer
was the son of John Nicholson, an oriental scholar of distinction, and the first English friend of Leichhardt (q.v.) (A. H. Chisholm, Strange New World, p. 350 and The Times, 9 December 1886). Nicholson was born at Lyme Regis, Dorsetshire, England, on 12 June 1838, was educated at Croft House academy, and emigrated to New South Wales in 1854. He went to Queensland in 1859, opened a private school at Toowoomba in 1860, and in 1863 had a school at Warwick. He joined the Queensland education department in May 1865 as an assistant teacher. He resigned in 1868 in order to visit England, rejoined the department in June 1869, and later had charge of several country state schools. Between 1867 and in 1878 he published three little books of miscellaneous prose and verse, facetious and satirical in character and not of much merit. So far back as 1856, however, he had begun to brood over the idea of writing an allegorical history of a man's life on the earth, and in 1873 he wrote the early chapters of The Adventures of Halek, which was published in London in 1882. He resigned from the education department in April 1885 but rejoined some years later and was head teacher of the state school at Cambooya from September 1893 to the end of 1894 when he finally gave up teaching. He was then appointed registrar of births, marriages and deaths at Nundah near Brisbane. A second edition of Halek was published in 1896 at Brisbane, and a third appeared in 1904. In the same year Almoni, described as a companion volume to Halek, was also published at Brisbane. Other volumes in both prose and verse will be found listed in Miller's Australian Literature. When Nicholson was approaching 70 years of age a Swedish literary woman, who had been attracted by his work, came to Australia from California and married him. In his later years Nicholson, who had always been inclined to be erratic, would sometimes voluntarily go to the mental hospital at Goodna until he felt fit to face the world again. He died at Brisbane on 30 June 1923 at the age of 85. His wife survived him. There were no children.
Nicholson wrote a fair amount of verse, but little of it is good. Three examples are given in A Book of Queensland Verse. He is remembered for Halek but though it has beautiful moments it is problematical whether many people have read it to the end. Almoni, described as a companion volume is really a sequel to Halek. Nicholson was a man of unusual culture and character, with a streak of genius in him, which he scarcely succeeded in bringing out in his books.
Private information; Information from Department of Public Instruction, Brisbane; E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature; H. M. Green, An Outline of Australian Literature; Preface to Almoni; H. A. Kellow, Queensland Poets; The Brisbane Courier, 3 July 1923.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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