Stories by Henry Lawson
Poems by Henry Lawson
1867 - 1922
Henry Lawson is remembered today as Australia's poet of the people. His difficulties in life shaped his writings and are what makes them an inspiration to many Australians.
Henry Lawson was born on 17 June 1867, on a goldfield in rural Grenfell, New South Wales. His father, Peter Lawson (born Niels Hertzberg Larsen) was a Norwegian sailor who settled in Australia.
Henry's mother was Louisa Albury Lawson, who was a writer herself. Read her poetry
Lawson's life was difficult from the beginning. The family was very poor and often on the move as Peter Lawson followed opportunities for work.
With Louisa's urging, they eventually settled down on a small farm, however Peter was often away for longer and longer periods of time on contracting jobs. Louisa was left alone to do the hard work of caring for the family and farm and enduring the loneliness.
Problems continued to plague Henry's childhood. At age 9 he went partially deaf as a result of an ear infection. That progressed until at age 14 be became totally deaf. As a shy, sensitive child growing up, he was tormented by children at school. As a result, Henry became a loner spending his time watching instead of being involved with those around him. This provided the pattern for his life and the reason his poems, many feel, capture the Australian way of life.
In 1883 Louisa left Henry's father and moved to Sydney where she started up a boarding house. Henry later moved to Sydney and was re-united with his mother. In 1887-8 he and his mother edited the Republican, a publication calling for all Australians to unite under the ' flag of a Federated Australia'.
Louisa went on to become one of Australia's early feminists and is credited with helping make women's vote a precondition of a federated Australia. Henry's exposure to his mother's political and journalistic efforts helped shape his writings. In 1888 his first short story "His Father's Mate" was published in the Bulletin. In 1890 he took up a position writing for the Albany Observer.
Henry fell in love with Mary Gilmore, a fellow writer, but she refused his marriage proposal. Years later in 1896 he married Bertha Bredt and had two children. Seeking a wider audience, the family sailed to England in 1900 where he did some of his best writing. Illness, bankruptcy and the English weather among other reasons caused the Lawsons to return to Australia in 1902.
In an unhappy marriage, Henry and Bertha separated and he started drinking heavily. Lawson's life was filled with disappointments and he became a bitter man. During the years 1905 to 1910 he was in and out of prison for inebriation and non-payment of maintenance. Henry's sadness became a theme in many of his poems. It was through his writing that he was able to express his feelings about the hardships of bush life, love won and lost, and living in a world that often confused him.
However, his life was not all sadness. He valued the friendships he made while talking to his mates over a beer. He was also known for his kindness to homeless people down on their luck. It was because he felt he didn't have much luck in his own life that he felt a connection to them.
At the end of his life Lawson became physically and mentally ill. Although he spent time in mental hospitals and rehabilitation sanatoriums, he never really recovered from his problems. Henry Lawson died 2 September 1922, at the age of 55, in Abbotsford, NSW.
Despite his problems, he never lost the people's admiration. As a sign of respect, the Australian government gave him a state funeral - the first for a writer.
Lawson's works include:
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