Saturday, June 17, 2006

Who was Henry Lawson?

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted

"Give me a pound a column, and a drop to clear my throat,
An' I will write the reddest song as ever poet wrote"

1867 Birth of Henry Lawson (d. September 2, 1922), Australian's best-known writer of short stories and verse, noted for his realistic portrayals of bush life and the revolutionary politics of his earlier writing.

Henry Lawson was born dirt-poor in a bark hut* on the goldfields at Grenfell, New South Wales. Likewise, he died in abject poverty, under a tree in his garden, and Prime Minister William Morris Hughes ordered one of the grandest State funerals ever seen in Australia, and the first for a writer, which was attended by many thousands in St Andrew's Cathedral and out on the streets of Sydney (picture of funeral).

Years later, his face was on Australia's $10 note, only to be removed and replaced with that of his conservative friend and Bulletin magazine poetic sparring partner, Banjo Paterson. On the reverse of today's $10 note is one-time Communist Mary Gilmore, who Lawson once asked to marry him, but was refused. She changed her mind soon after she had sailed to Paraguay to live on the William Lane-led radical communal experiment, New Australia, but by then it was too late as Lawson had married the daughter of two of Australia's most famous fiery radicals, William and Bertha McNamara.

Henry Lawson's mother was the pioneer feminist and 'Mother of Women's Suffrage', Louisa Lawson (1848 - 1920), publisher/editor of the progressive women's journal, Dawn (a “paper in which women may express their own opinions on political and social questions”), which Henry Lawson printed in its earliest editions. His brother-in-law was another fiery labor man, Jack Lang, who became Premier of New South Wales in 1925 ...

Henry Lawson lived much of his life in poverty and alcoholic despair, but even during his lifetime he was acknowledged as a poetic genius, much-loved by the Australian people who until recently had a strong poetic culture. With Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson (1864 - 1941), he is Australia's national poet and the two names are often said together. His poetry, however, like his short stories (he was prolific in both genres), has much more of a radical bent than that of Banjo. The two men were friendly rivals and a famous poetic duel (Up the Country), was fought publicly between them in The Bulletin. Paterson's poem romanticised the Aussie outback; Henry Lawson, ever the cynic-realist, answered decrying its harshness, poverty and social injustice ...

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