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Henry Lawson

William Johnson1915

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

Henry Lawson (1867–1922), one of Australia’s defining authors, is best known for his short stories and ballads depicting the hardship of bush life. Lawson spent his childhood on a poor selection in the Mudgee district in New South Wales. He received little formal education, but he was encouraged to read widely by his mother, women’s rights activist and writer Louisa Lawson. A regular contributor to the Bulletin in the 1890s, he supported its nationalist, egalitarian and pro-union stance. In that decade, too, he wrote scores of stories and vignettes, the best of them – such as ‘The Drover’s Wife’ and ‘The Bush Undertaker’ – haunting, profoundly sad and wryly funny all at once. Despite catastrophic bouts of depression and alcoholism that turned him into a shambling, suicidal wraith, Lawson continued to write until his death in Sydney at the age of fifty-five, when he was honoured with a State funeral.

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