Henry Archibald Lawson was the first popular Australian writer to reflect distinctly Australian attitudes, and his short stories, prose sketches, and ballad verse helped develop a literary nationalism. He was born in Grenfell, New South Wales, Australia, on June 17, 1867, to Peter Herzberg Larsen and his wife, Louisa Albury, an aspiring writer and eventual participant in radical social movements, including feminism. At his birth, the Larsen name was recorded as Lawson, and that became the family name. His parents were separated, and at the age of fifteen, Lawson left his father and joined his mother in Sydney, where he worked as a coach painter. He subsequently enrolled in night school and began writing ballads: His first “Song of the Republic” appeared in The Bulletin in 1887. In 1890, he became a journalist for the Brisbane Boomerang, and in the early 1890’s he traveled widely, absorbing the material and the stories he later drew on for his fiction and ballads.
His mother published some of his prose and verse in 1894, and his principal publisher, Angus and Robertson, printed two of his books in 1896: In the Days When the World Was Wide, and Other Verses and While the Billy Boils. The following year, he and his wife—he had married Bertha Bredt in 1892—went to New Zealand, where the couple directed the Maori School at Mangamauna, New Zealand. They returned to Sydney in 1898, and in 1900 he published two more successful books, one of stories, the other of verse. His drinking, a problem throughout his adult life, caused him to seek treatment and certainly strained his relations with his wife. In fact, by the time he left for London in 1900, he had fallen in love with Hannah Thornburn. In England, he was also a success—he reprinted some of his earlier stories as well as two new books—but his triumphal return to Sydney in 1902 turned to tragedy when he discovered that Hannah Thornburn had died only a few days earlier.
Though he lived twenty more years and...
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