Guide to the Papers of Robert Harris [MSS 038]

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Manuscript Name Papers of Robert Harris
Manuscript Number MSS 038
Last Updated October 2021
Extent 10 boxes + 1 oversize + 1 AV box
Location Special Collections, UNSW Canberra
Abstract Correspondence, essays, drafts, notes.

Collection Subject Type


Scope and Content

This collection relates to the poet Robert Harris and includes correspondence, essays, poetry drafts and notes.

Date Range of Content


Biographical Note

Robert Harris, poet, 1951-1993.

Robert Harris was born in Melbourne and educated at Dovetown High School. He enlisted in the Australian Navy in 1968 during the Vietnam War. During the 1970s he spent time in a commune. He was married but separated from his wife in the 1980s with no children. He lived in Sydney in the later part of his life. Harris died in 1993 of a heart attack. His obituary in The Sydney Morning Herald stated that "he followed his own poetic path with little regard for the niceties of a literary career." 

Harris was involved in literary magazines as an author and as an editor. He worked as an editor for New Poetry magazine and for Overland magazine. Five books of his poetry were published. They cover a number of themes including defence force related.

Seven Songs for Sydney (10 poems), concerning the Royal Australian Navy cruiser HMAS Sydney and its sinking in World War II. Harris had served, possibly in the troopship of the same name during the Vietnam War, and felt a strong sympathetic connection to the sailors. It has the dedication "This poem is dedicated to those who perished in Sydney, their families and shipmates." It was performed at a poetry reading performance in 1987 at La Mama Theatre, produced by Barry Dickins. It was performed by Dickins in August 2008 for the ABC Radio Poetica program when the wreck of the cruiser was discovered.

Reference: Wikipedia


Administrative Information


Access and Copying Conditions

Access: Check with Curator

This collection contains a variety of copyright material. Copyright is held by the creator of each item. Specific conditions for this collection are listed below. If no conditions are stipulated then the standard terms of the Copyright Act apply for published and unpublished items. Digitised material from manuscript collections is provided to clients by UNSW Canberra in good faith for private study and research only, and may not be published or re-purposed without the express and written permission of the individual legal holder of that copyright. Refer also to the UNSW copyright, disclaimer and takedown policy. 

Copying: Check with Curator  

Preferred Citation

Papers of Robert Harris MSS 038, Special Collections, UNSW Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, Box [Number], Folder [Number].


This collection was acquired between 1987 and 1995 from Robert Harris and his family


Subject Keywords



Poetry, Australian poet

Personal Names

Robert Harris 1951-1993




Container List


Box 1

Folder 1

Exercise book of poetry (Journal).

Folder 2         
Various Correspondence and papers.

Folder 3         
Various Correspondence and papers.

Folder 4         
Various Correspondence and poetry.

Folder 5
Various Correspondence and poetry.

Folder 6         
The Cloud Passes Over” (2 copies).

Folder 7         
Various writings.

Folder 8         
Various writings.


Box 2

Folder 9         
Correspondence 1987-1991.
Poetry drafts.
An essay - “The Shadow of Doubt and Derivations in Australian poetry” by Robert Adamson.

Folder 10       
Poetry drafts.
Newspaper clipping.
An essay on the photography of Juno Gemes by Robert Adamson.

Folder 11       
Correspondence 1991.
Poetry drafts.

Folder 12       
Correspondence 1989.
Poetry drafts.

Folder 13       
Seven songs for Sydney production notes.
Poetry drafts for “Jane interlinear and other poems.”

Folder 14       
Poetry drafts for “Jane Interlinear and other poems.”

Folder 15       
Poetry drafts.

Folder 16       
Poetry drafts.


Box 3

Folder 17       
Drafts of “Seven song for Sydney” and “Jane Interlinear and other poems” by Robert Harris, appendix and notes.

Folder 18       
Drafts and notes “seven songs for Sydney” and “Jane Interlinear”.

Folder 19       
Poetry drafts and notes.

Folder 20       
Poetry drafts and notes.
Draft “Jane, Interlinear.

Folder 21       
Poetry drafts.
Correspondence 1990.

Folder 22       
Poetry drafts and essays.

Folder 23       
Draft of “Queen Jane, her songs” by Robert Harris and other poetry drafts.

Folder 24       
Poetry drafts.


Box 4

Folder 25       
Poetry drafts and essays.

Folder 26
Correspondence 1992/1993.
Works in progress.
Francis Webb conference.
Letter to Lily Brett.
Response to attack by Geoffrey Dutton.

Folder 27       
Notebook / diary 1990/1991.
“The shadow of doubt” (typed).

Folder 28       
Complete unpublished essays.

Folder 29       
Anniversaries and Addresses” by Lily Brett  (draft).

Folder 30       
Drafts of letters (personal) handwritten.

Folder 31       
Correspondence 1985/1987 (typed/handwritten).
Overland (editor).
Miscellaneous poetry.

Folder 32       
Literary Awards 1990.
Literary Awards 1992.


Box 5

Folder 33       
Poland” (draft) (typed) by Lily Brett Drawings by David Rankin.

Folder 34       
The Autumn” (typed) (photocopy) by Authur Drew.

Folder 35       
Unintended consequences” by Lily Brett (draft)(typed).

Folder 36       
HMAS “SYDNEY” Comic (photocopy).

Folder 37       
Early draft of “Jane Interlinear” (typed)

Folder 38       
Current notices

Folder 39       
Newspaper and Article (photocopy)


Box 6

Folder 40       

Folder 41       

Folder 42       

Folder 43       

Folder 44       

Folder 45       


Box 7

Folder 46       

Folder 47       

Folder 48       

Folder 49       

Folder 50       

Folder 51       

Folder 52       


Box 8

Folder 53       

Folder 54       

Folder 55       

Folder 56       

Folder 57       

Folder 58       

Folder 59       


Box 9

Folder 60       

Folder 61       

Folder 62       
Article on Robert Adamsons “reckoning”.

Folder 63       
Lamentation, or complaint of a sinner (photocopy).
The years of preparation.
Dudley (Lady Jane).
The life of Queen Elizabeth.
The life of Lady Jane Grey.
NSW library stack slip.
The Death of Edward 6 July 1553.
Gdwin Sandys.
Alexander Dayce.

Folder 64       
Lamentation of a sinner.
Chronicles of Queen Jane and Queen Mary.
Lady Jane Grey’s family tree.
Queen Jane approx (synopsis).
1992 Premiers Literary Awards Winners poster.

Folder 65       
Drafts of Queen Jane Grey

Folder 66       
Queen Jane (early draft).

Folder 67       
India notes.
Overland controversy (annual General Meeting).

Folder 68       
Stuff on HMAS “SYDNEY” and newspaper article.
Biography on Geoffrey Dutton.
Queen Jane approx” (first draft)
Writing pad.
Wildflowers charts and Tree charts of Britain and Northern Europe.


Box 10

Folder 69
Drafts of poems
Stray bits of poetry A-Z

Folder 70       
Poetry Drafts.

Folder 71
Various poetry.
The tower of London.
Notebook art notes and history.
Jane 1  Prose 1.

Folder 72       
Pages from writing pad (Dutton attack plan).
Literary award and fellowships.
Pamphlets from paper bark press.
Church handout.
The death of Lady Jane.
Mourning of the bitter death.

Folder 73       
The tower of London.
Women’s fashion 1547-58.
Seven songs for Sydney” poem by Robert Harris.

Folder 74       
Poetry poster.
Toxicological 3,4,2.
The heart of the Shires.
Lady Jane Grey’s letter.
The literary remains of Lady Jane Grey.
The execution of Lady Jane Grey.

Folder 75       
Newspaper articles.
Bulletin June 25 1991.
Note book.

Folder 76       
Deploratio Acerbae Necis (Latin poem).
Letter to Cathy? from Robert Harris.
Biography on Jane Grey.

Folder 77       
Queen Jane approx.
Queen Jane and her literature.
Intro: Beginning the search.
Roger Ascham.
Jane Greys sins.
Lady Jane Grey to Lord Gilford Dudley.
The law of treason.
Church settlement of Edward VI.
Lee, Roland.
The Famous history of Sir Tomas Wyatt.

Folder 78       
Writing Pads.
Stuff on HMAS “SYDNEY”.


Folio 1 (Oversize)

Scrapbook 1970’s.


Audio Visual

Box 1 (AV)

  Audio cassette  : 

 Seven Songs for Sydney (production at La Mama Theatre, 23 November, 1987).

 Robert Harris New Poems (December, 1983).

 Computer disk  -  JANE.doc.

 Microfiche  -  Lady Jane Grey and her times.