Charles Orwell Brasch

(1909-1973)

Biography of Charles Orwell Brasch

Charles Orwell Brasch was a New Zealand poet, literary editor and arts patron. He was the founding editor of the literary journal Landfall.

Brasch was born in Dunedin, the son of lawyer Hyam Brasch (who later changed his name to Henry Brash) and Helene Fels, a member of the prominent Hallenstein family of merchants. He began writing poetry at Waitaki Boys' High School and entered St John's College, Oxford, in 1927 where he gained an 'ignominious third' in Modern History (to his father's disappointment). His contemporaries at Oxford included W. H. Auden and Cecil Day-Lewis.

Brasch spent some time working in and studying the field of archaeology before returning to Dunedin in 1931. With private means, he travelled widely in Europe, Asia and the Americas during the 1930s. He spent the Second World War in Britain as a firewatcher and intelligence officer having been exempted from active service on medical grounds.

Brasch returned to New Zealand in 1946, settling in Dunedin. He had held the ambition of publishing 'a substantial literary journal' in New Zealand for at least 15 years, and in 1947 he founded Landfall, remaining its editor for the next 20 years.

In later life he was a substantial patron of arts and letters, and was involved in the establishment of the Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago. He was also a patron and contributor to the Otago Museum; in this he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Willi Fels. He died of cancer in 1973.

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The Quest

I have come to the end of doubt
And to the beginning of the knowledge of self;
I have described a circle round the earth
And reach my starting place,
And I am ready for that which awaits me there.

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