Reprint: Letter to the Editor: Lawson - Bush Poet

Sir - Kindly allow me space to state that I, too, consider it a distinct libel to say that Lawson was not a bushman, and positively inaccurate to attribute his bush ideas as borrowed from strangers. I, personally, knew Lawson, and although I admit he was a very poor horseman, in other respects he was most typical of the bush. He was born near Gulgong, reared on a small selection, migrated to Sydney, dissatisfied with city life, drifted out to Bourke, humped his swag down the Darling, headed for Queensland, reached Wanaaring, Hungerford, and Thargomindah, worked in the shearing sheds en route, and again got back to Bourke, wrote a local poem about "Watty Braithwaite," but never got out that far again. I think his late years were spent on the Yanco irrigation areas. I believe his first 25 years were spent exclusively in the bush. His writings, in my opinion, leave no doubt whatever as to his being a bushman (not a horseman), or I should more correctly state "swagman," meaning one who carries his swag. The name of his first book, "While the Billy Boils," is characteristic. "To an Old Mate," "Out Back," "Sweeney," "Coming Home," "Middleton's Rouseabout," "Andy's Gone with Cattle," and many others that I cannot at present quote from memory. "The City Bushman" is a tilt at Banjo Paterson, which by no stretch of imagination could be applied to Lawson. I believe Lawson's characters are all live ones (no creations); and in most cases are his own practical experiences, hence they are true in every detail, thereby lies the strength and realism not to he found in any other Australian writer. Previous to Lawson's appearance, most of our scribes were horsemen, Gordon, Boake, Paterson, Ogilvie, &c. I am a thorough bushman, with 50 years' bush experience, mostly Queensland, and I am satisfied no other writer is dearer to the hearts of bushmen than Lawson. - I am, sir, &c., 


Winton, November 29.  

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 8 December 1927

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

Note: you can find the text versions of the poems mentioned in this letter on the Project Gutenberg Australia site.

This letter was written in response to a report on a lecture about Henry Lawson, and follows a similar letter reprinted here.

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