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Henry Lawson Henry Lawson i(A12465 works by) (birth name: Henry (Lawson) Larsen) (a.k.a. H. L.; Harry Lawson)
Also writes as: Joe Swallow ; An Australian Exile ; Tally ; The Exile ; Smoko (?) ; Jack Cornstalk ; The Ghost ; Rumfellow ; Cervus Wright ; Henry Hertzberg Larsen ; 'Arry
Born: Established: 17 Jun 1867 Grenfell, Grenfell - Quandialla area, Blayney - Cowra - Grenfell area, Central West NSW, New South Wales, ; Died: Ceased: 2 Sep 1922 Abbotsford, Drummoyne - Concord area, Sydney Inner West, Sydney, New South Wales,
Gender: Male
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Henry Lawson was born at Grenfell, New South Wales, in 1867 to Niels Hertzberg (Peter) Larsen and his wife Louisa Lawson. His name was registered as 'Henry (Lawson) Larsen' and both his father and mother later used the anglicised version of their name. Lawson was educated briefly at several schools, but was sometimes kept home by his father to help with his carpentry. At the age of nine Lawson experienced problems with his ears and suffered partial deafness for the rest of his life. Lawson worked for his father until 1883 when he joined his mother, Louisa, in Sydney. Here he worked as a coach painter and became interested in the republican movement. He also assisted his mother with her periodical, the Republican, in which Lawson published his first prose piece. His first poem, 'A Song of the Republic', was published by the Bulletin in 1887.

During the 1890s Lawson wrote his most admired work. His first collection of verse was published by Louisa Lawson's Dawn press in 1894, but his reputation was sealed in 1896 when a collection of his short stories, While the Billy Boils, and an anthology of his poetry, In the Days When the World was Wide, were published by Angus and Robertson. Lawson's enduring reputation is built on his prose works, making While the Billy Boils a landmark in Australian literature. In 1901 Lawson published Joe Wilson and His Mates, adding another classic collection of Australian stories to his name. Lawson became, for many twentieth century critics, the personification of Australian literature. The images of the bush and bush people in Lawson's best stories have remained influential. Some characters, such as the "drover's wife", have become icons that continue to be interpreted from various critical perspectives. But Lawson's subsequent work did not achieve the same quality. The vivid descriptions of Australia and the symbolic resonances in Lawson's earlier work were never matched.

Lawson's artistic decline accompanied his decline into alcoholism and mental illness. He married Berthe Bredt in 1896 and they travelled to New Zealand and England while Lawson attempted to attract more financial reward for his writing. But, following their return to Sydney in 1902, Lawson lived apart from his family. He spent time in gaol for failing to pay maintenance and became a well known figure in Sydney as a drunk and beggar. His friends and supporters found work for him and sometimes removed him from the city. Lawson continued to write prose and poetry, but this work remained far beneath his earlier levels of excellence. In 1920 a pension from the Commonwealth Literary Fund provided some financial security. Henry Lawson died of a cerebral haemorrhage at Abbotsford in 1922.


Most Referenced Works


  • Henry Lawson was included in the Bulletin's '100 Most Influential Australians' list in 2006.

Affiliation Notes

  • Australian Colonial Narrative Journalism:

    While Henry Lawson is known primarily as a short story writer and balladist, he was also a prolific journalist. Throughout his writing career, and parallel to his fiction and poetry, Lawson wrote articles that ranged from social commentary to vivid literary journalism.

    Prior to 1901, Lawson wrote articles for The Bulletin, The Australian Star, The Worker, The Boomerang, Louisa Lawson’s Republican, and The New Zealand Mail. JF Archibald, founder of The Bulletin, encouraged Lawson in both fiction and non-fiction by funding a rail ticket to drought stricken Bourke in 1892, which remained a central influence on Lawson’s writings for years to come, including the literary journalism works, “In a Wet Season” (1893) and “In a Dry Season”(1892)  published in The Bulletin. Some of this literary journalism is included in Lawson’s best known book, While The Billy Boils (1896).

    His literary journalism was most vivid when he was travelling, in which he replaced opinion with narrative, dialogue and characterisation; from exhaustion in the Australian bush, idling on a ship outside the Sydney Heads, living in West Australia and New Zealand, and stopping in exotic ports en route to London, in which he wrote “A Stroll To The Strand” (1903).

    Selected Articles:

    • “Albany before the Boom”, Australian Star 30 September 1899
    • In A Wet Season” The Bulletin, 2 December, 1893
    • In A Dry Season” While The Billy Boils, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, Australia 1896
    • “Coming Across, A Study in Steerage” The New Zealand Mail serialised 18 and 29 December, 1893
    • Some Reflections on a Voyage across Cook’s Straits” (N.Z.) [Across the Straits] Worker, 12 January 1895 
    • “A Stroll To The Strand”, The Bulletin, 19 November 1903

Known archival holdings

Albinski 124-125
University of Sydney The University of Sydney Library (NSW)
State Library of NSW (NSW)
National Library of Australia (ACT)
Last amended 7 Feb 2018 08:51:31
Influence on:
Tales from Henry Lawson Margaret Macpherson , 1977 selected work children's fiction
Childhood Memories of Henry Lawson Country Ted Noffs , 1983 selected work autobiography poetry
Alec's Gone with Samples Andree Hayward , 1897 single work poetry
Untitled 1896 single work poetry
While the Billy Boils Leonard Teale , 1977 single work drama
Lawson Oriel Gray , 1943 single work drama
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: