Obituary: Geoffrey Dutton

GEOFFREY DUTTON was one of the most prolific, versatile and talented writers in the literary history of Australia.

His contribution to Australian letters was probably unrivalled in his generation - a remarkable output of nine collections of poetry, eight novels (three for children), and critical studies, biographies of Australian writers and explorers as well as of the American poet, Walt Whitman, travel books and works of art appreciation: over 40 publications in all including, in 1994, a disarmingly frank autobiography, Out in the Open.

As well he wrote hundreds of essays, articles and reviews for literary journals and newspapers: he was a superb critic, penetrating and incisive in his judgements. He was a formidable force as a literary catalyst, founding some of his country's best-known literary journals, as an editor for Penguin Australia and later co-founder of the publisher, Sun Books.

He was an enthusiastic advocate of government funding of the arts and mainly responsible for the establishment of the now internationally famous Adelaide Festival of the Arts. He was awarded the high distinction of Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1976.

Dutton was born in 1922 into a patrician and pioneering South Australian family whose English forebears had founded the state's first sheep stud farm in 1838 - a magnificent property named "Anlaby" to the north of Adelaide. He was educated at the Geelong Grammar School and the University of Adelaide, where he read English under J.I.M. Stewart (of later "Michael Innes" fame). He interrupted his studies to enlist with the RAAF, where he became a flying instructor.

After the Second World War, Dutton, like his father and brother before him, entered Magdalen College, Oxford. He was unimpressed with post-war Britain, of which he later wrote: "the climate was vile, the dinginess and overcrowding depressing and, worst of all, despite hopes raised by the comradeship of war, the class system was entrenched as strongly as it had ever been". But he greatly enjoyed his three years at Oxford, where a college contemporary was Kenneth Tynan and his tutors J.A.W. Bennett, whom he greatly admired, and C.S. Lewis, whom he did not. "He was like a jolly thick-lipped, red-faced butcher, only that he was not really jolly. You felt with Lewis that if you dropped dead as you went out through the door after the tutorial he would not notice."

After Oxford he toured Europe and returned to Adelaide where, before embarking on a full-time writing career, he lectured in English for a few years at the university.

There was an elegance in Dutton's writing that matched his personality. An entertaining conversationalist and raconteur, he had a wide circle of friends including leading local and overseas writers and artists such as Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd. For over 20 years he was an intimate of the Nobel prizewinning novelist Patrick White, notorious for his abrupt termination of friendships. Dutton suffered the same fate when White took exception to something Dutton had written about his work in a local journal. "I've had enough of Duttonry," he wrote tersely.

Happier was Dutton's friendship with the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, whom he arranged to visit the Adelaide Festival in 1966 and again for a visit in 1973 when Dutton took the poet on an outback trip. "He had an enormous capacity for drink," Dutton recalled, "and he developed a taste for Australian champagne."

Dutton had many of Yevtushenko's poems translated and published and they corresponded for many years.

Another visiting poet whose company Dutton enjoyed was Laurie Lee. The similarity of their poetry was a bond between them - lyrical themes of love and an appreciation of the countryside. "Laurie had a crumpled look and an amiable manner and obviously enjoyed the opportunity to get away from the cities. He thought the lyric was still alive and well in Australia because we were all close to the country even if we lived in the city - there was something of the bush in or near every Australian city."

A period in the United States in 1963 as a visiting professor of English at Kansas State University and the American experience led Dutton ardently to embrace the cause of republicanism. On his return he wrote and lectured forthrightly that Australia would not achieve its potential unless it became a republic, enraging a then largely pro-monarch establishment. Nevertheless Dutton attracted a considerable following and in 1990 became an influential member of the Australian Republican Movement, comprising many leading citizens urging the creation of an Australian republic by 2001.

Dutton married twice: in 1944 the well-known enamellist Ninette Trott, by whom he had two sons and a daughter, and in 1985 the writer Robin Lucas.

Geoffrey Dutton's tall, slim figure with his mop of grey hair and his quizzical and always benign expression was usually discernible in any gathering of writers at festivals, seminars and the like. His zest for life, his friendly personality, his enthusiasm for writing and his readiness to offer help and advice to young writers, will be remembered by all who knew him.

Geoffrey Piers Henry Dutton, writer: born Anlaby, South Australia 2 August 1922; AO 1976; married 1944 Ninette Trott (two sons, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1985), 1985 Robin Lucas; died Canberra 17 September 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower