A. D. Hope

A. D. Hope bigraphy, stories - Australian poet and essayist

A. D. Hope : biography

21 July 1907 – 13 July 2000

Alec Derwent Hope AC OBE (21 July 1907 –13 July 2000) was an Australian poet and essayist known for his satirical slant. He was also a critic, teacher and academic.


Hope was born in Cooma, New South Wales, and educated partly at home and in Tasmania. He attended Fort Street Boys High School, Sydney University, and then the University of Oxford on a scholarship. Returning to Australia in 1931 he then trained as a teacher, and spent some time drifting. He worked as a psychologist with the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry, and as a lecturer in Education and English at Sydney Teachers College (1937–44).

He was a lecturer at the University of Melbourne from 1945 to 1950, and in 1951 took the post as the first professor of English at the newly-founded Canberra University College, later of the Australian National University (ANU) when the two institutions merged, a chair he held until retiring in 1968. From 1968 was appointed Emeritus Professor at the ANU.

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1972 and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1981 and awarded many other honours. He died in Canberra, having suffered dementia in his last years, and is buried at the Queanbeyan Lawn Cemetery.



  • 1956: Grace Leven Prize for Poetry
  • 1965: Britannica Award for Literature
  • 1966: Australian Literature Society Gold Medal
  • 1967: Myer Award for Australian Poetry
  • 1969: Ingram Merrill Foundation Award for Literature (New York)
  • 1969: Levinson Prize for Poetry (Chicago)
  • 1972: Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)
  • 1976: The Age Book of the Year Award for A Late Picking
  • 1976: Robert Frost Award for Poetry
  • 1981: Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)
  • 1989: New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Special Award
  • 1993: ACT Book of the Year Award for Chance Encounters

Poet and critic

Although he was published as a poet while still young, The Wandering Islands (1955) was his first collection, what remained of his early work after it was mostly destroyed in manuscript in a fire. Its publication was also delayed by concern about the effects of Hope’s highly-erotic and savagely-satirical verse on the Australian public. His influences were Pope and the Augustan poets, Auden, and Yeats; he was a polymath, very largely self-taught, and with a talent for offending his countrymen. He wrote a book of "answers" to other poems, including one in response to the poem "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell.

The reviews he wrote in the 1940s and 50s were feared "for their acidity and intelligence. If his reviews hurt some writers – Patrick White included – they also sharply raised the standard of literary discussion in Australia."Hart (2008) However, Hope relaxed in later years. As poet Kevin Hart writes, "The man I knew, from 1973 to 2000, was invariably gracious and benevolent".

Hope wrote in a letter to the poet/academic, Catherine Cole: "Now I feel I’ve reached the pinnacle of achievement when you equate me with one of Yeats’s ‘wild, wicked old men’. I’m probably remarkably wicked but not very wild, I fear too much ingrained Presbyterian caution".cited by Hart (2008) Cole suggests that Hope represented the three attributes that Vladimir Nabokov believed essential in a writer, "storyteller, teacher, enchanter".

Influence and impact

Kevin Hart, reviewing Catherine Cole’s memoir of Hope, writes that "When A. D. Hope died in 2000 at the age of 93, Australia lost its greatest living poet". Hart goes on to say that when once asked what poets do for Australia, Hope replied that "They justify its existence".

He also wrote the poem "Coup de Grace," which translated means "the final blow," or "blow of mercy." This poem, like many others, demonstrates his views of women, and creates a sort of battle of the sexes.