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Evans, Henry Congreve (Harry) (1860–1899)

from Advertiser (Adelaide)

Journalists, like poets, are born, not made. Training is much, but aptitude is more, and it is not everyone who serves his apprenticeship to a newspaper who makes a successful journalist. The late Mr. Henry Congreve (Harry) Evans possessed the true literary temperament, and he was a charming and facile writer by the power of heredity. He came of the same stock which two centuries earlier produced William Congreve, the great dramatist. His mother was a most accomplished authoress, who under the pen name of Maud Jeanne Franc gave great delight to the young people of the last generation by her charming stories, the best known of which were Minnie's Mission and Marian, or the Light of Someone's Home. On Tuesday the son was laid to rest beside this amiable and clever woman, from whom he drew many of the gifts which made him popular as an editor and as a man. Those who stood round the grave could read on the tombstone the records of the deaths of Henry Congreve, aged 59, and Elizabeth Anne Congreve, aged 49, who both passed away in 1852. These were the grandfather and grandmother. Then on the same tablet was inscribed the name of Mrs. E. Evans (Maude Jeanne Franc), who died in 1886 at the age of 59, and her sister, Miss Emma Congreve, who lived until 1896, and who attained the age of 66. Mr. Harry Evans was born at Nuriootpa on December 10, 1860, and so had just completed his 38th year. His father was a Baptist minister at Angaston, but he died in 1863, when Mr. W. J. Evans, the second son, was barely 12 months old. The family, had then removed to Angaston, and the widow subsequently resided in Mount Barker, where she had lived before her marriage, and where her first book, Marion, was written. Mr. Evans was educated at the North Adelaide Grammar School, which was then conducted by the elder Mr. Whinham, and while he was quite a lad he manifested his love for the pursuit of letters by inaugurating The Boys' Australian journal, which became very popular with his companions. From school, where, as in after life, he was a great favorite with his fellows, Mr. Evans went to the mercantile office of Messrs. Fanning & Co., but at the age of 16 he had joined the staff of the Advertiser. Of the gentlemen then connected with the literary department of the paper all who now remain are Sir Langdon Bonython, the editor and proprietor, Mr. F. T. Robertson, and Mr. E. W. Webb. Mr. Evans worked with great zeal in his capacity as a reporter, and he did especially good work in the Parliamentary gallery both as a stenographer and as a terse, witty, and original chronicler of the political events of the day. He shone, indeed, in all kinds of newspaper work, and his advance was so rapid that at the age of 24 he was appointed to the important and responsible position of leader of the literary staff. While acting in that capacity he accompanied the then Minister of Education (Mr. J. C. F. Johnson) to the Northern Territory in 1888, and he wrote a very, bright account of the incidents of the trip. Mr. Evans had a rich vein of verse, and his descriptive talents were of a high order, while he never neglected the routine duties attaching to his office. Desiring to strike out a new line, however, early, in 1890 he resigned his post for the purpose of establishing the weekly, satirical paper with which his name has since been associated. Naturally the companions with whom he had worked so long could not allow him to go without a word of farewell, and on Saturday evening, February 1, 1890, at the South Australian Club Hotel, a dinner was tendered to him and to his partner, Mr. Chandler, by the members of the Advertiser staff. The chair was occupied by Mr. (now Sir Langdon) Bonython, who, in proposing the toast of "Our guests," remarked on the intimate relations which had existed between himself and Mr. Evans during the 14 years in which the latter had been connected with the paper. "Whatever Mr. Evans may be,” said Sir Langdon, "'he is the product of the Advertiser, and we are proud of him. The son of a gifted mother, he has inherited her literary skill, a skill in one particular direction, which cannot fail, if he is so determined, to bring him lasting fame. In speaking of Mr. Evans I will not go into details. It will be sufficient for me to say that as a journalist and short hand writer Mr. Evans is in the front rank, and that as a rapid and accurate transcriber of notes, it is doubtful if he has his superior in Australia. But nature has given Mr. Evans something more than mere ability. It has bestowed on him a kindly disposition, which has made him the friend of all. Too efficient himself to descend to meanness, and too generous to take advantage of inexperience, it is not surprising that he stands amongst as perhaps the most popular man on the Adelaide press." On the same occasion the members of the reporting staff presented Mr. Evans with an address, which, among other sincerely complimentary things, contained this paragraph:—"During the many years you have been engaged in literary work you have, by your geniality and high social qualities, as well as by your professional ability, established a reputation of which we feel proud. Only those who have worked with you can fully appreciate the feelings of regret with which we lake leave of you." This sentence is true in a far deeper sense now that he has gone forever from his companions and his intimate friends. The work of Mr. Evans in Quiz has been before the public week by week for the last eight years, for he contributed practically the whole of the contents of the paper. Yet in that period he found time to write the libretto of the opera of Immomeena, which was set to music by the late Mr. Heuzenroeder, and he has composed the words of The Mandarin, for which Mr. J. M. Dunn supplied the music. Both these operas were produced with considerable success at the Theatre Royal, and it is understood that Mr. Evans has left behind him the manuscripts of several other comedies. He wrote novelettes also, and some of them were published in Quiz. His first effort in that direction, however, was purchased by Captain Drysdale for the Port Augusta Dispatch. Mr. Evans had a firm grasp of public affairs, and he was able in a trenchant, yet good-tempered, way to hit off the foibles of our public men. There was nothing malicious in his nature, and none even of his most outspoken sayings have left a sting behind. In politics he was a broad minded Liberal, and his chief aim was to do good to humanity in the mass.

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'Evans, Henry Congreve (Harry) (1860–1899)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/evans-henry-congreve-harry-13441/text24116, accessed 21 November 2017.

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