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Tardent, Henry Alexis (1853–1929)

from Worker (Brisbane)

By the death on Thursday at his home, "Ormonts," Wynum, of Henry A. Tardent, Labor has lost one of its staunchest and most cultured champions, and Queensland a citizen of the best and most patriotic type. Born in Switzerland 77 years ago, the late H. A. Tardent, though practically self educated, proved himself a brilliant scholar, with a special gift for languages. At the age of 16 he went to Poland as a teacher of French. Later he went to Russia, and graduated at Odessa University as professor of the French and German languages. Until 1887 he taught in the Russian boys' and girls' grammar schools, when failing health and a strong desire not to rear his family under Czarism made him migrate to Queensland. For some years he was at Roma, where he entered into wine-making and general farming. Afterwards he became the first manager of the Westbrook and Biggenden State farms. Resigning, he unsuccessfully contested the Burnett electorate in 1902 in the Labor Cause. Afterwards and almost until the end he followed up journalism and literature, serving for some years on the staff of the Brisbane Daily Standard, and contributing numerous articles to The Worker as well as to other papers. He was the author of many treatises, biographies, and essays. Besides his contributions to Australian papers, he was this country's correspondent to the Paris L'Illustration the Revue, of Geneva, and the Gazette de Lausanne. His published works (some of them prize essays) include biographies of Richard John Randall (Queensland artist), George Essex Evans (Queensland poet), and Mrs. Ellis Rowan, whose paintings of Australian wild flowers are of the highest order of artistic excellence. He also wrote Reflections on an Australian Literature, The Influence of Poetry on Modern Life, Art and Its Value as a National Asset, The Functions of the State in Relation to its Commercial Life, Arbitration v. War for the Settlement of International Disputes, The Future Development of Western Queensland, Science as Applied to Agriculture, and Australia's Contribution to the World War, besides numerous works in French on various phases of Australia and its development. His writings, in French and Swiss publications, marked as they were, by a high literary tone, did much to bring Australia, and particularly Queensland, before the eyes of large and new audiences in Europe, with results wholly beneficial to the county's reputation that are difficult to appraise. An article by him on The Birth of Canberra, starred in the Paris L'Illustration with appropriate photographs, was a brilliant example of the best in high-class journalism, and probably proved one of the most effective advertisements the Commonwealth has received in any country outside of Britain itself. As a crowning and fitting climax to his numerous contributions to French papers, work regarding which but few Australians had any knowledge, he was awarded in March last one of the highest honors at the disposal of the French Government — the title and decoration of O.A. (Officer de Academia) for services rendered to literature, science, and art.

The funeral, which was largely attended, took place on Saturday to the Bulimba cemetery, those present including, besides the chief mourners and many intimate personal friends, the consuls of Switzerland and France, and representatives of the Authors' and Artists' Association, Royal Geographical Society, Alliance Francaise of Brisbane, various Labor organisations, different departments of the civil service, and other bodies. Numerous pressmen were also present to pay their last respects to their old colleague, the papers represented on the sad occasion including The Worker, Daily Standard, Daily Mail, Telegraph, Truth, Queensland Agricultural Journal, and Sugar Journal.

Among those gathered around the graveside were many — men of culture from our universities, men of science, men of letters, and men of affairs— who knew that the sad ceremony in which they were taking part was no ordinary one, but that the casket being committed to the earth in their presence contained the remains of one of Australia's truly great men, one whose work and worth recognised during his life by an ever-growing circle, will be appreciated more and more as the future unfolds. For Australian culture, still in its formative stage, owes a debt to Henry Tardent— its sponsor and champion, its guide, philosopher, and friend in countless ways—the extent of which is not yet rightly understood. When it is, when Australian art, letters, science, music, and all the various forms of national self, expression in their highest come into their own, Henry Tardent will, be accorded the proud place in the history of its development that his pioneering labors on its behalf and his unbounded faith in its future have earned for him.

An old friend, a frequent and ever welcome visitor to The Worker office as he was, his passing is a great grief to members of the staff. For along with intellectual qualities of the highest, scholarship of the widest range, and culture in every branch of study, Henry Tardent was one of those rare souls who, by his sunny nature and overflowing good will, endeared himself to all who enjoyed the priceless boon of being included among his intimates.

He is survived by his wife, three sons, and four daughters, besides a number of grandchildren, and to these The Worker extends its heartfelt sympathy.

Original publication

  • Worker (Brisbane), 11 September 1929, p 11

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Additional Resources

Citation details

'Tardent, Henry Alexis (1853–1929)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/tardent-henry-alexis-8746/text30642, accessed 22 November 2017.

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