STRONG, Sir Archibald Thomas (1876-1930)


STRONG, Sir Archibald Thomas (1876-1930)
scholar and poet
son of Professor H. A. Strong (q.v.), was born at Melbourne on 30 December 1876. He was taken to England in 1883 and was educated at Sedbergh school and Liverpool university where he graduated B.A. with first-class honours in classics. Going on to Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1896, a long illness prevented any possibility of a first in "Greats". After leaving Oxford he was for some months at the university of Marburg, Germany, before returning to read law with F. E. Smith, then a rising barrister, but afterwards to become lord chancellor of England. He became a member of the Middle Temple, but ill-health caused him in 1901 to go to Australia seeking a warmer climate. He settled in Melbourne, did some tutoring and lecturing, and in 1905 published a volume of verse, Sonnets and Songs. In 1910 he was president of the Literature Society of Melbourne and his presidential address, Nature in Meredith and Wordsworth, was printed as a pamphlet in that year. He was for many years literary critic for the Herald newspaper and in 1911 republished some of his earlier writings for this journal under the title of Peradventure, A Book of Essays in Literary Criticism. He was appointed lecturer in English at the university of Melbourne in 1912, and in 1913 brought out a volume of translations, The Ballads of Theodore de Banville, followed in 1915 by Sonnets of the Empire before and during the Great War. When Professor Wallace enlisted in 1916 Strong became acting-professor of English for three years. He was passionately patriotic and, having been rejected for active service, did much war work in addition to carrying on the English school. Some of his work was in the nature of propaganda; a collection of his articles, Australia and the War, was published in 1916 and The Story of the Anzacs, published anonymously at his own expense in aid of patriotic funds, appeared in 1917. From 1919 to 1922 he acted as chief film censor for the Commonwealth government. A small volume of verse, Poems, appeared in 1918. In 1920 he became associate professor in English language and literature, and in the following year the Clarendon Press published his A Short History of English Literature, and Three Studies in Shelley and an Essay on Nature in Wordsworth and Meredith. In 1922 he was appointed Jury professor of English language and literature at Adelaide.
Strong had been about 20 years in Melbourne and his leaving meant the tearing up of many roots. He was eminently fitted for his new task, as in addition to his knowledge of the work of his own school he was an excellent classical scholar, familiar with French and German literature, and with some knowledge of Italian and Spanish in the originals. At Adelaide he became a valuable member of the staff, fully convinced of the importance of the humanities in university life. He visited Europe in 1925 and represented South Australia at a world conference on adult education held at Vancouver in 1929. He had published in 1925 his translation of Beowulf into English rhyming verse. He was engaged on a work on Swinburne when he died after a short illness on 2 September 1930. In 1932 Four Studies by him, edited with a memoir by R. C. Bald and with a portrait frontispiece, was published in a limited edition at Adelaide. Strong never married. He was knighted in 1925.
Strong played both cricket and foot ball at Liverpool university and was much interested in boxing. He was one of the promoters of the original Melbourne repertory theatre and became president of the similar organization at Adelaide. He was a good lecturer in English, never losing his enthusiasm for his subject and communicating it to his students. His Short History of English Literature is a first-rate piece of work within the limits of its 200,000 words, sound and interesting. His verse is technically excellent, often no more than strongly felt rhetorical verse, but at times rising into poetry. Allowing for the difficulties of the problems involved his translations from de Banville and Beowulf are both successful. Personally he was courteous and amiable, with a sense of humour and a gift for friendship.
R. C. Bald, Memoir prefixed to Four Studies; The Advertiser, Adelaide, 3 September 1930; private information and personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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