Lawson, Henry

Lawson, Henry (1867 - 1922)


Born at Grenfell, New South Wales, June 17, 1867, Henry Lawson was Australia's first great short-story writer and poet. Educated at New Pipeclay and at the Catholic school at Mudgee, and influenced by his mother's writing, Lawson discovered literature. His deafness became evident when he was nine years old and was total five years later. His first jobs were building and carriage making, and Lawson never found a decent trade. He spent his life more than as an unemployed tramp than in making money by his writing, occasional school-teaching, clerking, painting, prospecting, and other jobs. He began writing verse in 1885 and short stories in 1888, contributing to papers like the Sydney Bulletin and the Brisbane Boomerang. He tramped through the outback, visiting Bourke in September 1892 and January 1893, and he later visited Wellington, New Zealand. On April 15, 1896, he and Bertha Bredt married and had a son, Joseph Henry, born February 10, 1898, and then a daughter, Bertha Marie Louise, born February 11, 1900. His mother Louisa had compiled his first collection of verse and prose in 1894, but In the Days When the World Was Wide (1896), a book of poems, firmly established him as a popular and respected poet. The year after his second volume, Verses Popular and Humorous (1900), he and his family went to London, but it was not a successful trip and they returned to Sydney in 1902. His alcoholism, dating from 1898, then became a major problem for himself, his family, and friends, leading to a stay in Prince Alfred Hospital and to separation from Bertha in 1903. By 1905 he was serving time in Darlinghurst Gaol for non-support. From 1907 to 1918 Lawson was often destitute; otherwise he stayed in Darlinghurst mental hospital for alcoholism or was imprisoned for non-support. Volumes of poems and short stories came out unabated, yet they never remunerated him enough. He took an interest in the selection of works for his Selected Poems, but his editor David McKee Wright appears to have emended his texts without consulting him. Lawton finally received a weekly pension from the Commonwealth Literary Fund in 1920. He died September 2, 1922, in Sydney and was given a state funeral two days later at St. Andrew's Church. He is buried in Waverly Cemetery.

  • Burrows, Robyn, and Alan Barton. Henry Lawson: A Stranger on the Darling. Sydney, N.S.W.: Angus & Robertson, 1996. PR 6023 .A94Z634 Robarts Library
  • Chaplin, Harry F. Henry Lawson: His Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters and Association Copies, together with Publications by Louisa Lawson. Surry Hills, N.S.W.: Wentworth Press, 1974. Z 8492 C47 Robarts Library
  • Henry Lawson: A Chronological Checklist of his Contributions to "The Bulletin". 1887-1924. Comp. Walter W. Stone. 2nd edn. Sydney: Wentworth Press, 1964. British Library
  • Lawson, Henry. Collected Verse. Ed. Colin Roderick. 3 vols. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1967-1969. PR 6023 A94A17 Robarts Library
  • --.For Australia and Other Poems. 1913.
  • --. In the Days when the World was Wide and Other Verses. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1896. x.908/13059 British Library. shel 0660 Fisher Rare Book Library
  • --. My Army, O, My Army! And Other Songs. Sydney: Tyrrell's, 1915. PR 6023 A94M8 Robarts Library. Published as Song of the Dardanelles, and Other Verses. London: G. G. Harrap, 1916. PR 6023 A94S6 Robarts Library
  • --. Recollections: A Selection of Autobiographical Works. Ed. Leonard Cronin. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Reed, 1987. PR 6023 A94Z47 1987 Robarts Library
  • --. Selected Poems of Henry Lawson. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918. PR 6023 A94A6 Robarts Library
  • --. The Skyline Riders and Other Verses. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1910. x.908/15976 British Library
  • --. Verses Popular and Humorous. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1900. x.981/3738 British Library; PR 6023 A94H8 1905 Robarts Library
  • --. When I was King and Other Verses. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1906. x.908/578 British Library
  • Mackaness, George. An Annotated Bibliography of Henry Lawson. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1951. Z 8492 .M3 Robarts Library
  • Roderick, Colin Arthur. The Real Henry Lawson. Adelaide: Rigby, 1982. PR 6023 A94Z874 Robarts Library
  • --, ed. Henry Lawson: Criticism 1894-1971. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1972. PR 6023 A94Z87 Robarts Library

The colour portrait, from Selected Poems (1918), is from that by John Longstaff in the National Gallery, Sydney.

Given Name
Family Name
Birth Date
June 17, 1867
Death Date
September 2, 1922
  • New Pipeclay

  • Mudgee

Literary Period
Literary Movement
Cause of Death