Authors: Henry Lawson
Tags: #Fiction, #General
This edition of Henry Lawson’s
follows the definitive versions of those stories as they appeared in Colin Roderick’s comprehensive
Henry Lawson: The Master Storyteller: Prose Writings
, published by Angus & Robertson in 1984. This present selection, and readers of Lawson’s work, owe a huge debt to the late Professor Roderick’s meticulous editing and Lawson scholarship.
The chronology of Henry Lawson’s life is an edited version of that which appeared in
Henry Lawson: Twenty Short Stories and Seven Poems
selected by Colin Roderick and published by Angus & Robertson in 1947.
In Lawson there was a deep, enduring and genuine appreciation of the nobility in mankind that is independent of worldly fortune. He sought the good in man, and to him it was all the more precious whenever it surmounted satanic forces that might have been expected to destroy it. In Lawson’s world the heroic in man is exalted above the harshness of the bush, the grim of the slum, the pitilessness of the gaol. His work mirrors the yearning of man to refine the human condition. The integrity of his work rests on the two strong pillars of love and hope. No one has expressed Lawson’s creed, as man and as artist, more succinctly than he has himself. In 1889, at the very beginning of his career, he wrote:
Brotherhood and Love and Honour!
is the motto for the world—”
And five years later:
“’Tis the hope of something better that will save us in the end.”
Colin Roderick, 1984
|1866||Peter Hertzberg Larsen (later|
), Norwegian immigrant, marries, 7 July, at Gulgong, Louisa Albury, of Guntawang, near Mudgee.
|1867||Henry Archibald Lawson born on Grenfell diggings 17 June. His parents return to Eurunderee, near Mudgee.|
|1870||Lawson’s father selects at Eurunderee.|
|1871||Peter Lawson joins the rush to Gulgong.|
|1872||Lawson’s first visit to Sydney.|
|1873||Peter Lawson returns to Eurunderee.|
|1874||Gold rush to Eurunderee.|
|1875||Henry George Hanks opens a school in the vicinity of Eurunderee, which Lawson attends.|
|1876||Henry and Charles Lawson enrolled, 2 October, at the newly-opened school at Eurunderee under John Tierney. Henry’s deafness begins.|
|1877||Lawson’s twin sisters, Gertrude and Annette, born in April. Annette dies in December.|
|1878||Peter Lawson builds the new Eurunderee school. Louisa Lawson begins publishing verse.|
|1879||Lawson sent to the Roman Catholic school at Pipeclay Creek.|
|1880||Lawson leaves school to assist his father as a carpenter. Correspondent for the Mudgee|
. Stays at Granville with his grandparents while having his defective hearing investigated. Works as a carpenter.
|1881||In the Blue Mountains with his father.|
|1882||Works with his father carpentering and painting at Rylstone.|
|1883||Peter and Louisa Lawson separate. Henry moves with his mother to Granville and becomes apprenticed as a coach painter to Hudson Brothers, railway contractors (“Grinder Brothers”). Attends night school.|
|1884||Lawson a painter in Newcastle for Hudson Brothers. Fails at clerical work. xi|
|1885||In Melbourne, seeking to have his deafness cured. Works at his trade for a time.|
|1886||In Sydney, unemployed.|
|1887||Begins publishing verse with “The Song of the Republic” (|
|1888||Louisa Lawson begins|
. “Faces in the Street” (verse), and “His Father’s Mate” (prose) in the
. Goes to work painting at Mount Victoria, where he meets Arthur Parker (“Mitchell”). Takes to drink, and is sent back to Sydney. Peter Lawson dies 31 December.
|1889||In Albany, Western Australia, painting houses. On return to Sydney, joins the|
|1890||Joins the staff of the|
, Brisbane (“Joe Swallow”). Is represented in Archibald and Broomfield’s
A Golden Shanty
|1891||In Sydney after the failure of the|
. “When Your Pants Begin to Go.” Visits Eurunderee and becomes engaged (for a few weeks) to Bridget Lambert.
|1892||Humps his bluey with Jim Grahame from Bourke to Hungerford. “Song of the Darling River.”|
|1893||To New Zealand, where he works as sawmill hand and telegraph linesman.|
|1894||In Sydney. Helps with the|
. His mother issues his
Short Stories in Prose and Verse
. Employed as clerk in the New South Wales Government service.
|1895||In Sydney meets Bertha Marie Louise Bredt, a young nurse from Bairnsdale.|
|1896||Marries Bertha Bredt, 15 April, living first in Sydney, then in Perth.|
In the Days when the World was Wide
. Lawson works spasmodically.
While the Billy Boils
. Returns to Sydney.
|1897||Fred Broomfield forms the Dawn and Dusk Club. Lawson falls into convivial ways. To New Zealand, where Lawson receives an appointment as teacher in the Maori school of Maungamanunu, near Kaikoura.|
Joe Wilson and His Mates
On the Track
Over the Sliprails
written here. Tries play-writing for Bland Holt.
|1898||Birth of his son, Jim, 11 February, at Wellington, during an earthquake. Resolves to return to Sydney. Takes up residence, first at Dulwich Hill, later, in North Sydney. Appointed a clerk in the government service, but unable to discipline himself. Spasmodic writing.|
|1899||Meets Earl Beauchamp, Governor of New South Wales, and is persuaded to go to England.|
|1900||His daughter, Bertha, born 11 February. The Lawsons leave for London in April.|
On the Track
Over the Sliprails
Verses. Popular and Humorous
|1901||The Country I Come From. Joe Wilson and His Mates|
. Writes preface to Miles Franklin’s
My Brilliant Career
|1902||Children of the Bush|
|1903||Returns to Australia. Separation from Mrs Lawson, who takes up work as a saleswoman.|
|1905||When I Was King, and Other Verses|
Children of the Bush
|1907||Send Round the Hat|
The Romance of the Swag
(rearrangement of stores in
Children of the Bush
|1910||The Rising of the Court|
. With E. J. Brady at Mallacoota Inlet.
|1911||A Coronation Ode|
|1913||For Australia and Other Poems|
|1914||Living a restless life in Sydney.|
|1915||Writes the preface to C. J. Dennis’s|
The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke
My Army, O, My Army!
|1916||January. Is placed on a farm in the Yanco Irrigation Area, at Leeton.|
|1917||Leaves Leeton in November.|
Selected Poems of Henry Lawson
, with preface by David McKee Wright. 1919 Writes preface to Vance Marshall’s
The World of the Living Dead
|1920||Seriously ill. Death of Lawson’s mother.|
|1921||In Coast Hospital.|
|1922||Death on 2 September, at Abbotsford, Sydney. State funeral.|
YOU remember when we hurried home from the old bush school how we were sometimes startled by a bearded apparition, who smiled kindly down on us, and whom our mother introduced, as we raked off our hats, as, “An old mate of your father’s on the diggings, Johnny”. And he would pat our heads and say we were fine boys, or girls—as the case may have been—and that we had our father’s nose but our mother’s eyes, or the other way about; and say that the baby was the dead spit of its mother, and then add, for father’s benefit: “But yet he’s like you, Tom”. It did seem strange to the children to hear him address the old man by his Christian name—considering that the mother always referred to him as “Father”. She called the old mate Mr So-and-so, and father called him Bill, or something to that effect.
Occasionally the old mate would come dressed in the latest city fashion, and at other times in a new suit of reach-me-downs, and yet again he would turn up in clean white moleskins, washed tweed coat, Crimean shirt, blucher boots, soft felt hat, with a fresh-looking speckled handkerchief round his neck. But his face was mostly round and brown and jolly, his hands were always horny, and his beard grey. Sometimes he might have seemed strange and uncouth to us at first, but the old man never appeared the least surprised at anything he said or did—they understood each other so well—and we would soon take to this relic of our father’s past, who would have fruit or lollies for us—strange that he always remembered them—and would surreptitiously slip “shilluns” into our dirty little hands, and tell us stories about the old days, “when me an’ yer father was on the diggin’s, an’ you wasn’t thought of, my boy.”
Sometimes the old mate would stay over Sunday, and in the forenoon or after dinner he and father would take a walk amongst the deserted shafts of Sapling Gully or along Quartz Ridge, and criticise old ground, and talk of past diggers’ mistakes, and second bottoms, and feelers, and dips, and leads—also
outcrops—and absently pick up pieces of quartz and slate, rub them on their sleeves, look at them in an abstracted manner, and drop them again; and they would talk of some old lead they had worked on: “Hogan’s party was here on one side of us, Macintosh was here on the other. Mac was getting good gold and so was Hogan, and now, why the blanky blank weren’t we on gold?” And the mate would always agree that there was “gold in them ridges and gullies yet, if a man only had the money behind him to git at it.” And then perhaps the guv’nor would show him a spot where he intended to put down a shaft some day—the old man was always thinking of putting down a shaft. And these two old ’Fifty-Niners would mooch round and sit on their heels on the sunny mullock heaps and break clay lumps between their hands, and lay plans for the putting down of shafts, and smoke, till an urchin was sent to “look for his father and Mr So-and-so, and tell ’em to come to their dinner.”
And again—mostly in the fresh of the morning—they would hang about the fences on the selection and review the live stock: five dusty skeletons of cows, a hollow-sided calf or two, and one shocking piece of equine scenery—which, by the way, the old mate always praised. But the selector’s heart was not in farming nor on selections—it was far away with the last new rush in West Australia or Queensland, or perhaps buried in the worked-out ground of Tambaroora, Married Man’s Creek, or Aralven; and by-and-by the memory of some half-forgotten reef or lead or “Last Chance”, “Nil Desperandum”, or “Brown Snake” claim would take their thoughts far back and away from the dusty patch of sods and struggling sprouts called the crop, or the few discouraged, half-dead slips which comprised the orchard. Then their conversation would be pointed with many Golden Points, Bakery Hills, Deep Creeks, Maitland Bars, Specimen Flats, and Chinamen’s Gullies. And so they’d yarn till the youngster came to tell them that “Mother sez the breakfus is gettin’ cold,” and then the old mate would rouse himself and stretch and say, “Well, we mustn’t keep the missus waitin’, Tom!”
And, after tea, they would sit on a log of the wood-heap, or the edge of the verandah—that is, in warm weather—and yarn
about Ballarat and Bendigo—of the days when we spoke of being “on” a place oftener than “at” it:
Creswick—and they would use the definite article before the names, as: “on the Turon; The Lachlan; The Home Rule; The Canadian Lead”. Then again they’d yarn of old mates, such as Tom Brook, Jack Henright, and poor Martin Ratcliffe—who was killed in his golden hole—and of other men whom they didn’t seem to have known much about, and who went by the names of “Adelaide Adolphus”, “Corney George”, and other names which might have been more or less applicable.
And sometimes they’d get talking, low and mysterious like, about “Th’ Eureka Stockade”, and if we didn’t understand and asked questions, “What was the Eureka Stockade?” or “What did they do it for?” father’d say: “Now, run away, sonny, and don’t bother; me and Mr So-and-so want to talk.” Father had the mark of a hole on his leg, which he said he got through a gun accident when a boy, and a scar on his side, that we saw when he was in swimming with us; he said he got that in an accident in a quartzcrushing machine. Mr So-and-so had a big scar on the side of his forehead that was caused by a pick accidentally slipping out of a loop in the rope, and falling down a shaft where he was working. But how was it they talked low, and their eyes brightened up, and they didn’t look at each other, but away over sunset, and had to get up and walk about, and take a stroll in the cool of the evening when they talked about Eureka?
And, again they’d talk lower and more mysterious like, and perhaps mother would be passing the wood-heap and catch a word, and ask:
“Who was she, Tom?”
And Tom—father—would say:
“Oh, you didn’t know her, Mary; she belonged to a family Bill knew at home.”
And Bill would look solemn till mother had gone, and then they would smile a quiet smile, and stretch and say, “Ah, well!” and start something else.
They had yarns for the fireside, too, some of those old mates of our father’s, and one of them would often tell how a girl—a
queen of the diggings—was married, and had her wedding-ring made out of the gold of that field; and how the diggers weighed their gold with the new wedding-ring—for luck—by hanging the ring on the hook of the scales and attaching their chamois-leather gold bags to it (whereupon she boasted that four hundred ounces of the precious metal passed through her wedding-ring); and how they lowered the young bride, blindfolded, down a golden hole in a big bucket, and got her to point out the drive from which the gold came that her ring was made of. The point of this story seems to have been lost—or else we forgot it—but it was characteristic. Had the girl been lowered down a duffer, and asked to point out the way to the gold, and had she done so successfully, there would have been some sense in it.
And they would talk of King, and Maggie Oliver, and G. V. Brooke, and others, and remember how the diggers went five miles out to meet the coach that brought the girl actress, and took the horses out and brought her in in triumph, and worshipped her, and sent her off in glory, and threw nuggets into her lap. And how she stood upon the box-seat and tore her sailor hat to pieces, and threw the fragments amongst the crowd; and how the diggers fought for the bits and thrust them inside their shirt bosoms; and how she broke down and cried, and could in her turn have worshipped those men—loved them, every one. They were boys all, and gentlemen all. There were college men, artists, poets, musicians, journalists—Bohemians all. Men from all the lands and one. They understood art—and poverty was dead.
And perhaps the old mate would say slyly, but with a sad, quiet smile:
“Have you got that bit of straw yet, Tom?”
Those old mates had each three pasts behind them. The two they told each other when they became mates, and the one they had shared.
And when the visitor had gone by the coach we noticed that the old man would smoke a lot, and think as much, and take great interest in the fire, and be a trifle irritable perhaps.
Those old mates of our father’s are getting few and far between, and only happen along once in a way to keep the old
man’s memory fresh, as it were. We met one to-day, and had a yarn with him, and afterwards we got thinking, and somehow began to wonder whether those ancient friends of ours were, or were not, better and kinder to their mates than we of the rising generation are to our fathers; and the doubt is painfully on the wrong side.