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Transcript of HENRY LAWSON
design by Dóri Sirály for Prezi
17th June 1867
in Grenfell NSW
In 1883, however, he joined his mother in Sydney at her request. Louisa had abandoned the post office and was living at Phillip Street with Henry's sister Gertrude and his brother Peter.
Niel Hertzberg Larsen
(liked to be known as Peter)
At 21 he decided to go to sea
Arrived in Melbourne in 1855
Decided to join the gold rush
Married Louisa in 1866
Oldest of 4 kids
Moved around a lot as Peter looked for gold.
Family settle in Pipeclay
Louisa looks after a Post Office
Neil is a building contractor near Mudgee
Lawson was 8 before Louisa's vigorous agitation led to a school being established in the district, and he was 9 before he actually entered the slab-and-bark Eurunderee Public School as a pupil in the care of the new teacher John Tierney.
In the same year, 1876, after a night of sickness and earache, he awoke one morning slightly deaf. For the next five years he suffered hearing deficiency. When he was 14 the condition deteriorated radically and he was left with a major and incurable hearing loss. For Lawson, already psychologically isolated, the deeper silence of partial deafness was a crushing blow.
TROUBLE AT HOME
Peter and Louisa had been having marriage issues since Henry was born.
As the eldest, Henry had to take on a lot more responsibility especially when his Dad was not home.
Outside the family, he was one of those children who seem inevitably to become the butt for juvenile ridicule and cruelty. He had little opportunity for boyhood friendship and little talent for it when rare opportunities arose. He several times expressed to his father a reluctance to grow older even as worry, fears and oppression were denying him most of the joys of childhood.
Henry as a Boy
When his much-interrupted schooling (three years all told) ended in 1880, Lawson worked with his father on local contract building jobs and then further afield in the Blue Mountains.
He became apprenticed to Hudson Bros Ltd as a coach painter and undertook night-class study towards matriculation.
He was no happier in Sydney than he had been on the selection. His daily routine exhausted him, his workmates persecuted him and he failed the examinations.
Over the next few years he tried or applied for various jobs with little success.
Oppressed anew by his deafness, he went to Melbourne in 1887 in order to be treated at the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. The visit, happy in other ways, produced no cure for his affliction and thereafter Lawson seems to have resigned himself to living in the muffled and frustrating world of the deaf.
Meanwhile he had begun to write. Contact with his mother's radical friends imbued in him a fiery and ardent republicanism out of which grew his first published poem, 'A Song of the Republic' .
1887- First Published Poem
At the same time he had his introduction to journalism, writing pieces for the Republican, a truculent little paper
By 1890 Lawson had achieved some reputation as a writer of verse, poems such as 'Faces in the Street', 'Andy's Gone With Cattle' and 'The Watch on the Kerb' being some of the more notable of that period.
Early in 1891 Lawson was offered, as he put it, 'the first, the last and the only chance I got in journalism'. The offer came from Gresley Lukin of the Brisbane Boomerang and was eagerly accepted. Lawson became a prolific contributor of prose and rhymes to the Boomerang and also to William Lane's Worker. But his luck had not changed: by September the Boomerang was in trouble and Lawson's services were dispensed with.
Once again he found himself in Sydney dividing his time between odd jobs, writing and occasional carousing with friends, chief among whom at this time was E. J. Brady.
Whether it was a matter of luck or temperament, Lawson seemed unable to attain equilibrium or direction in his writing or his lifestyle. His promising early poems had been followed by a rush of versifying on a wide range of topics, contemporary and reminiscent; and his first published story, 'His Father's Mate' (Bulletin, December 1888), though uneven and sentimental, had given glimpses of his extraordinary ability as a writer of short stories.
BACK IN SYDNEY
By 1892 a number of sketches together with the magnificent 'The Drover's Wife' had fully borne out the initial promise. Yet Lawson seemed in a rut: failing to concentrate his energies and gifts much beyond what was required for subsistence, spending more and more time in favourite bars around Sydney.
. Recognizing something of Lawson's inner faltering, J. F. Archibald suggested he take a trip inland at the Bulletin's expense. With £5 and a rail ticket to Bourke, he set out in September 1892 on what was to be one of the most important journeys of his life.
Much of what Lawson saw in the drought-blasted west of New South Wales during succeeding months appalled him. 'You can have no idea of the horrors of the country out here', he wrote to his aunt, 'men tramp and beg and live like dogs'. Nevertheless, the experience at Bourke itself and in surrounding districts through which he carried his swag absolutely overwhelmed him. By the time he returned to civilization, he was armed with memories and experiences—some of them comic but many shattering—that would furnish his writing for years.
Though the creative pressure of his outback experience showed almost immediately in his writing, Lawson's life in other respects settled back into the depressingly familiar hole-and-corner existence.
BACK TO OLD HABITS
Decides to moved to New Zealand and become a Telegraph Linesman. He also sobers up.
He returned to Sydney on 29 July 1894 to take a position on the newly formed Daily Worker only to see it wound up three days later. He consoled himself with drink and Bohemian exploits with a circle of friends that now included J. Le Gay Brereton.
BACK TO SYDNEY
BACK TO SYDNEY
TO NEW ZEALAND
In 1895 he contracted to publish two books with Angus & Robertson; In 1896 Angus and Robertson brought out the two books, In the Days when the World was Wide and other Verses and While the Billy Boils, as arranged; both were well received.
In 1895 Henry met Bertha Marie Louise Bredt (1876-1957), daughter of Bertha McNamara. After a brief and, on Lawson's part, characteristically intense and impulsive courtship, they were married on 15 April 1896.
Again Henry took to drinking.
The venture was not a success, creatively or otherwise. Lawson's initial enthusiasm for the Maoris whom he taught at the lonely, primitive settlement soon waned. As well, there is evidence in some of his verse of that time ('Written Afterwards', 'The Jolly Dead March') that he was realizing, for perhaps the first time since their romantically rushed courtship and marriage and subsequent boisterous, crowded life in Western Australia and Sydney, both the responsibilities and the ties of his situation. Lawson's growing restiveness was deepened by promising letters from English publishers. Bertha's pregnancy strengthened his resolve and they left Mangamaunu in November 1897
Henry believes that London will hold all the answers he is looking for so he along with Bertha and their 2 kids (Joseph and Bertha).
Lawson himself in later years provided fuel for the idea that his English interlude, so eagerly anticipated, was in fact a catastrophe: 'Days in London like a nightmare'; 'That wild run to London/That wrecked and ruined me'. But he had some successes in London, the opportunity was certainly there for him to establish himself upon the literary scene and he may have been in some ways simply unlucky. On arrival he retained the services of J. B. Pinker, one of the best literary agents in England, and was soon receiving enthusiastic encouragement from critic and publisher's.
The four Joe Wilson stories—generally regarded by critics as the peak of his achievement—were written in London.
The strain of family life in unfamiliar surrounds and an unkind climate, his wife's serious illness (she spent three months from May 1901 in Bethlem Royal Hospital as a mental patient) and the consequent return to the soul-destroying task of writing under pressure to pay the bills, all sapped Lawson's early resilience and affected his health, the quality of his work and the nature of his literary aspirations and plans. In1902 they were all back in in Sydney.
NOT THE HAPPY ENDING
From that time Lawson's personal and creative life entered upon a ghastly decline. A reconciliation with Bertha soon after their return was short lived.
In December 1902, Henry attempted suicide.
In April next year Bertha sought and obtained a decree for judicial separation.
He wrote a great deal despite his often squalid circumstances but his work alternated between desperate revivals of old themes and inspirations and equally desperate and unsuccessful attempts to break new ground. Maudlin sentimentality and melodrama, often incipient even in some earlier work, invaded both his prose and poetry.
He was frequently gaoled for failure to pay maintenance for his children.
After 1907, was several times in a mental hospital. Though cared for by the loyal Mrs Byers, he became a frail, haunted and pathetic figure well known on the streets of Sydney; in his writing, images of ghostliness proliferated and increasingly a sense of insubstantiality blurred action and characters.
ON THE STREETS
Many friends tried to help him but his state of mind, physical condition and alcoholism continued to worsen. The Commonwealth Literary Fund granted him £1 a week pension from May 1920.
NOTHING COULD HELP
He died of cerebral haemorrhage at Abbotsford on 2 September 1922.
Lawson was something of a legendary figure in his lifetime. Not surprisingly, as dignitaries and others gathered for his state funeral on 4 September, that legend was already beginning to flourish in various exotic ways. The result was that some of his achievements were inflated—he became known, for example, as a great poet—and others obscured.
BECOMING A LEGEND
In his stories, he shows himself not only a master of short fiction but also a writer of peculiarly modern tendency. The prose is spare, cut to the bone, the plot is either slight or non-existent. Skilfully modulated reticence makes even the barest and shortest sketches seem excitingly full of possibility, alive with options and potential insights.
Though not a symbolist writer, Lawson had the capacity to endow accurately observed documentary detail with a significance beyond its physical reality: the drover's wife burning the snake; the black goanna dying 'in violent convulsions on the ground' ('The Bush Undertaker'); the 'hard dry Darling River clods' clattering on to the coffin of the unknown drover ('The Union Buries its Dead') are seemingly artless yet powerful Lawsonian moments which, in context, transform simple surface realism into intimations about the mysteries, the desperations and the tragedies of ordinary and anonymous lives.
By Tahnae Luke