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Donald Beviss Kerr (1919-1942)
Papers 1919-1942

MSS 0102


Biographical Note

D. B. KerrD.B. Kerr was born on June 27, 1919 at North Adelaide. He was educated at St Peter's College, Adelaide, and attended the University of Adelaide from 1937 to 1940 where he studied English Language and Literature and was awarded the John Howard Clark Scholarship.

A resident of St Mark's College, Kerr was active in student life including debating and rugby, representing the University in both. He was President of the Arts Association and edited the University magazine Phoenix, and, following its demise, founded the literary journal Angry Penguins, which later moved to Melbourne under the editorship of Max Harris.

Kerr enlisted in the R.A.A.F. before completing his University studies, and was called up shortly after graduation. He was killed in air operations near Buna, New Guinea, on December 15 1942, at the age of 23.

D.B. Kerr was a fine poet, described by some as "close to the borders of genius", and published many of his poems in Phoenix and Angry Penguins: D.B. Kerr, Max Harris, Paul Pfeiffer and Geoffrey Dutton being the four original Angry Penguins poets identified by Professor Charles Jury in 1940.

A posthumous collection of Kerr's poems was published in 1943 by the Hassell Press under the title Death, Be Not Proud, taken from his favourite poem by John Donne.

The University of Adelaide received these papers from the Kerr family in 2007 through the agency of Kerr's niece, Dr Heather Kerr. The greater part of the Lost Angry Penguin files were deposited by John Miles in November 2007.

Contents Summary  

  • Series 1. Personal/biographical
  • Series 2. Poems
  • Series 3. Reviews of Death, Be Not Proud
  • Series 4. University of Adelaide. English essays, 1937-40
  • Series 5. University of Adelaide. Notes taken from published sources, 1937-40
  • Series 6. John Miles. Lost Angry Penguins: D.B. Kerr & P.G. Pfeiffer: A path to the wind (2000) – source materials and papers relating to publication

Contents Listing

 1. Personal/biographical 2cm.

Copy of birth certificate

Letter 21/1/1943 from Casualty Section, Dept of Air, South Yarra to Mrs M.J. Kerr with information regarding the circumstances of Kerr's death

Royal Australian Air Force Observer's Air Gunner's and W/T Operator's Flying Log Book, 1941-1942


  • Kerr, head and shoulders, looking down ca. 1940 (as reproduced in Death, Be Not Proud.
  • Kerr in airforce uniform (in frame) inscribed 7/6/42
  • Kerr at barracks with sighting device ca. 1942

2. Poems 1cm.

Draft poems, ms and typewritten copies, many annotated and marked ready for publication and dated 1936-1940, in original folder (from David I.B. Kerr, DB Kerr's youngest brother).

Includes many of the poems selected for Death, Be Not Proud (published 1943), being those "which gave evidence of preparation for publication", and a Latin I translation exam sheet.

3. Reviews of Death, Be Not Proud 2cm.

Newspaper clipping: review of Death be not proud, from the Advertiser(?), 1943

Typed review/introduction to reading of poems from Death, Be Not Proud [anonymous]

4. University of Adelaide. English essays, in ms and typescript, 1937-40 4cm.

4.1 Essays: general

  • Arnold's literary criticism (draft)
  • Early nineteenth century transition

4.2 Essays: poetry

  • Beowulf and Germanic tradition
  • The Finn episode
  • Dryden and the failure of the Inquisition
  • Hopkins
  • Byron
  • W.W. [William Wordsworth] ("very rough" draft)
  • The course of Wordsworth criticism
  • Keats (2 essays)
  • Keats' letters

4.3 Essays: Shakespeare

  • Shakespearean criticism to Johnson
  • Dr Johnson
  • Shakespeare criticism since Johnson
  • Shakespeare's early comedies
  • Shakespeare's problem comedies
  • Shakespeare's Roman plays
  • Shakespeare's chronicle plays
  • Macbeth
  • Othello
  • The copy for Measure for Measure
  • Romeo & Juliet

4.4 Essays: drama

  • Revenge plays
  • Tourneur & Webster
  • Chapman [draft notes for essay?]
  • Marlowe
  • The Family Reunion

4.5 Essays: novel

  • Smollett
  • Thackeray
  • D.H. Lawrence

5. University of Adelaide. Notes taken by Kerr from published sources, in ms, 1937-40 4 cm.

5.1 Notes: general

Notes from Romanticism / F.L.Lucas, and others; Arnold / Raleigh; Speculations / T.E. Hulme; The 17th Century Background / Willey; The 18th Century background / Basil Willey; Art & Scholasticism / Maritain.

Also compilation of pages numbered 1-96: Drama & Society in the Life of Jonson / L.C. Knights; Spenser / W.L. Renwick; Translation: an Elizabethan Art / Matthiessen; Dekker / Ernest Rhys; Sir Thomas Wyatt / E.M.W. Tillyard; Henry Vaughan / Leishman; Thomas Trehane / Leishman; George Herbert / Leishman; John Donne / J.E.N. Crofts; Metaphysical Poets / Leishman; 17th Century Studies Presented to Sir Herbert Grierson; Donne / C.S. Lewis; Ben Jonson / Simpson; From Conversations of Ben Jonson; Lyly as a Playwright / Bond; John Lyly 1554-1606 / E.K. Chambers.

5.2 Notes: poetry

Richards [on Hopkins] from 'Dial' Sept. 1926; Beowulf and Epic Tradition / W.W. Lawrence; The Poetical Career of Alexander Pope / R.K. Root; Milton & Wordsworth / Herbert Grierson; Keats / W.P. Ker; Browning / Jury; Wordsworth & Coleridge / T.S. Eliot; Keats' Craftsmanship / M.R. Ridley; Wordsworth / Matthew Arnold; Primitivism of Wordsworth / Irving Bebbitt; Coleridge: excerpts from Biog. Lit.; Coleridge's literary criticism; Blake, Coleridge, wordsworth, Lambeto / H.C. Robinson ; Early Humanism / G. Herbert Reed.

5.3 Notes: Shakespeare

Plays of the First Folio / Chamber; Shakespeare / Middleton Murray; Johnson on Shakespeare.

5.4 Notes: drama

Tragedy in Relation to the Poetics

5.5 Notes: novel

Wuthering Heights / Boris Ford

6. John Miles. Lost Angry Penguins: D.B. Kerr & P.G. Pfeiffer: A path to the wind (2000) - source materials and papers relating to publication 5 cm.

6.1 Photocopies of source materials re D.B. Kerr cited in Lost Angry Penguins, including:

  • University of Adelaide Arts Association "Minutes" April-June 1940 (originals held by University of Adelaide Archives)
  • excerpt from the papers of Charles Jury (State Library of SA, PRG 20/20/2 p. 7-10) re Donald Kerr and Phoenix, 1939
  • biographical note on Donald Kerr by Max Harris from Angry Penguins 1943
  • biographical note on Donald Kerr by Bruce Williams and jacket blurb by Max Harris from Death, Be Not Proud, 2 nd ed. 1943
  • Voices: a quarterly of poetry . No. 118 Australian issue (Summer 1944) with poems by Kerr and article "Commentary on Australian poetry" by Max Harris
  • letter from Bruce Williams to John Miles 16/12/1996 re founding of Angry Penguins

6.2 Lost Angry Penguins galley proofs

6.3 Post-publication:

  • copies of reviews
  • letter from John Miles to Dr Heather Kerr 7/9/2001 re trust account for royalties from the Lost angry penguins to go towards an annual prize in Kerr's and Pfeiffer's names
  • article from the Independent Weekly (Aug. 28-Sept. 27, 2005) titled "Beautiful Sammy" on D.B. Kerr and the founding of the Angry Penguins journal.
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