Abstract: When Henry Lawson died in 1922, he was publicly honoured as a “national writer,” but for the last twenty years of his life he had been a “derelict artist,” caught in a cycle of poverty, alcoholism and depression, humiliated, frustrated, often ashamed of the work that he was producing and haunted by the sense of the writer that he might have been. Almost a century later, there is no biography that adequately portrays the man and the circumstances that contributed to his collapse. Underlying this article, which considers aspects of his struggle to realize his literary ambitions, is the assumption that because Lawson’s work has such a strong autobiographical element, the way in which his life is read inevitably colours how his writing is read. Until there is a biography in which the tragic dimension of his life is fully recognized, our understanding of Lawson’s literary achievement remains incomplete.

Keywords: Henry Lawson, biography, mateship, nationalism, short stories

Copyright © John Barnes 2016. This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged.