Thursday, 29 April 2010

Statues - Henry Lawson


Dare I make a bold claim about Henry Lawson? He is a writer much derided in his own land, yet much loved as well. He has not translated into the modern age very well, hasn't our Henry. He was a product of this land, at that time - for much of the 19th century, the country called Australia did not exist. We were just a collection of independent states.

So the bold claim? Henry Lawson is to Australia as Mark Twain is the the United States. What about Banjo Paterson I hear the pundits splutter? Or C.J. Dennis or Adam Lindsay Gordon, or Henry Kendall I hear interjected from the bleechers!


Lawson almost single-handedly defined the mythical Australian in his landscape. He created the ideal of the sun-burnt battler humping his bluey around the outback blocks of this state, living off his wits and ever sus of them city-folk in their finery with their fancy ideas.


Lawson was prolific in the period before the demon drink got her claws into him. He was well served by George Robertson (of the booksellers, Angus & Robertson), and by J.F. Archibald (editor of The Bulletin). He also had Banjo looking out for his legal interests. Mainly two women, his mother and his wife, who always gave him curry. Every time Henry was locked in the clink or dead-drunk in the gutter, his mates would hand the hat around, and Henry would live to write another day.

Lawson's journal, exhibited in the Centenary '100' by the State Library of NSW

Try but two of his short stories: 'The Loaded Dog', and 'The Drover's Wife' to get the flavour of his definiton of life in this wide, brown land.

As for his poetry, I have already posted 'Faces in the Street', and 'One Hundred and Three'. Seek out 'The Roaring Days', and 'A Voice from the City'.

It is ironic that this statue puts Lawson on a pedestal - that is the last place he would want to be. But one calm, starry night wander through Sydney Hospital, across the Domain and down Mrs Macquarie's Road. Just as the loop divides, in the centre beneath a gum-tree, there you will find Henry, his dog, his mate and his swag ready to entertain you with ballads from a land that maybe no longer exists, if it ever did.

Portrait of Henry Lawson, painted in 1913 by Florence Rodway, held by the State Library of NSW

18 comments:

Lois said...

Such a beautiful tribute Julie! I like the statue, but the painting is my favorite. I will have to read some of his work.

brattcat said...

I think you and Henry would have had a fine afternoon together if your paths and times had crossed.

J Bar said...

Good to see this statue from different angles. I appreciate the info too.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Andrew said...

Is Lawson really derided? Not by anyone I know and not by me. I must remember to take a look at the statue next time I am in Sydney. Very nice indeed.

Ann said...

That's a beautiful statue and another one I haven't noticed. Keep forgetting about the Library exhibition as well. I want to go and seeing as it a block away there's absolutely no excuse not to.

Ann said...

Thanks for the info re Sunday. Will see you as close to 2pm as the busses allow.

Didn't occur to me not to shoot inside the memorial providing you show respect and I don't use flash in places like that. Everyone who came in took photos. Don't recall seeing any no photography signs (unlike St Mary's). Don't think you can tell a complete story without showing the interior.

J Bar said...

Julie, a couple of replies to your comments today. I always thought we should have an Indigenous Day as a public holiday in Australia. Maybe in July when we have NAIDOC week celebrations.

I'm wondering if they'll be making such a big deal of Captain Cook's anniversary as they did back in 1970. I think that times have changed. We know a bit more about earlier explorers to our shores now and more people have different opinions on British settlement following Cook's voyage. So I'm just not sure that people will have the same high regard for Captain Cook in 2020 as they might have had fifty years earlier.

Jayne said...

Julie - Here's a link to a fabulous, well-researched novel on Henry, detailing little-known facts and events in his life.
He liked to raise a Bishop Barker or 3 ;)

Julie said...

That sounds like fun, Jayne. I managed to find Roderick's 'definitive' biography of Lawson in Berkelouw's here in Paddo. Will finish that before blasting off with the fictional account. But will purchase same this evening.
Many thanks.

Serge Cornillet said...

Fabulous your last pictures, Julie, I enjoy a lot.
Thanks,
Serge

Peter said...

a true sydney poet - great close up - I love this statue - do you remember when they replace it for cleaning and put a bouncer statue in its place?

Julie said...

No ... do tell?

Joan Elizabeth said...

I'm with you - Lawson's writing is far superior to the others you named. His short stories are particularly good. And your photo of the statue at the top is particularly good too.

Mary Ann said...

After reading through your post, I decided to look of Lawson at Project Gutenberg. They have free e-texts of the following:

Children of the Bush
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses
Joe Wilson and His Mates
On the Track
Over the Sliprails
The Rising of the Court
While the Billy Boils

Is there one on the list that you'd particularly recommend?

Julie said...

Mary Ann, that appears to be a list of books publishd in his life-time. As he aged, his life-style impacted woefully on his creative ability, something of which he was aware. I am not used to PG, but if you have to pay to down-load an e-copy I would go for "While the billy boils" (1896). I would be more interested in his short stories than in his poetry. And in particular, I would read
The Loaded Dog
The Drover's Wife
The Geological Spieler
Joe Wilson's Courtship, or
Mitchell on Matrimony.

Thank you for showing an interest.

Clytie said...

What an interesting man with an interesting life. The statue catches something of his whimsical character.

TheChieftess said...

Love the top photo!!!

bitingmidge said...

Another cracker of a post Julie!

Sunshine Coast Daily Photo - Australia