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John Le Gay Brereton (1827–1886)

The announcement of the death of Dr. Le Gay Brereton is as sad a piece of news as the Sydney press has had to tell for many a long day. The genial, kindly, large-hearted, and broad-minded gentleman, the ripe scholar and deep philosophic thinker, the poet and the pleasant companion, the gentle spirit whom to know was to love and venerate, is beyond the shrouding veil that hides hereafter from us. To say that he will be missed by the many to whom his friendship was a social and intellectual benefit, his society a good gift, is to say but the simple truth, as it is also to say that he will be mourned by all on whom that friendship was so freely bestowed. And the word 'mourned ' will not adequately tell the grief of those to whom his hand was ever ready in the bestowal of a wide charity that was as bountiful as it was unassuming. He was ripe in charitable works, and none but himself knew, or will ever know, the extent of those works. Dr. Brereton was a physician, and the son of a physician, and was a native of Bawtry, Yorkshire. He was induced by the late Mr. T. S. Mort to come to Sydney, having arrived in 1858, and his professional skill soon secured him a large and lucrative practice, whilst 'his perfect disposition' made him hosts of friends amongst the best of men. For some few years past he had retired from the active duties of his profession, and had lived on his estate near Gladesville, called Osgathorpe, where he cultivated the literary faculties with which he was so richly endowed. He has published more than one volume of poems, very far above the so called 'poetry' which mere rhymsters are continually putting forth. This is no place to enter into a detailed analysis of his poetical gifts; but it is bare justice to say that all his work was full of sweet, beauteous, and ennobling thoughts, and was wrought out in dainty, pleasant language. His religious views were, in his earlier life, in accord with the Society of Friends; but later he became an intellectual follower of Swedenborg (without falling into one with the sect named after that thinker), on whose views he frequently addressed audiences. And it may be said that Dr. Brereton, without himself making many pretensions that way, for he was one of the least pretentious of men, was an admirable lecturer. To the last he retained a philosophic connection with the medical world, whilst in local literary circles he was an important figure. In the reformation of lunatic aslyums, and in all that tended to the best treatment of the insane, he was an earnest worker. The disease which was fatal to him at the age of 59, it was supposed, was originated nearly nearly seven years ago, during a visit to the Hawkesbury River, when he suffered severely from exposure to very cold and bad weather. Of Dr Brereton, it may be said, in some of his own lines, that he is no longer “a mortal amongst mortals.” His soul has found …..

Its home and its eternal rest
In that from which it sprang; attaining there
The full fruition of its painful toils
In blended energies of perfect lives –
In unrestricted freedom- in the heave
Of effortless power – in the choral shout
of jubilant waves; and in the silent praise
Of stainless and unfathomable joy.

Original publication

Citation details

'Brereton, John Le Gay (1827–1886)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


Bawtry, Yorkshire, England


28 October, 1886 (aged ~ 59)
Gladesville, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

kidney disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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