Reprint: Letter to the Editor: Lawson - "City Bushman"

[In October 1927 F. Bennett, in connection with Australian Authors' week, gave a speech in Brisbane that described Henry Lawson as a "town bushman".  Last week I reprinted a summary of that speech from The Brisbane Courier, and followed that up with a letter in reply. 

[Bennett then repeated the main thrust of his argument about Lawson at the November 1927 meeting of the Queensland Authors' and Artists' Association, which received a mention in The Brisbane Courier on 19th November 1927.  The following letter appeared in the same paper a few days later.]

Sir, - At the November meeting of the Authors' and Artists' Association, held in the Women's Club rooms on Tuesday, 15th inst-, a report of which appeared in your issue of Saturday last, Mr. F. Bennett, when reading a sketch from the pen of the late Henry Lawson, is alleged to have stated that Lawson must not be taken seriously as regards the bush -- he was a "town bushman." From whence does Mr. Bennett derive his information? Is it not a parrot-like reiteration of the sentiments expressed by a Mr. A. G. Stephens in a recent issue of the Brisbane "Daily Mail,", when the latter gentleman commented on the home and family life of our late lamented author? Among other things, Mr. Stephens is reported to have stated that Lawson never wrote true to the Australian bush-he was a townsman, and got most of his information of bush life, and methods from travellers, &c. That is not so, and no person should know the character and eccentricities of Lawson better than Mr. Stephens. The late author rarely spoke to any one, and certainly never sought information from strangers. He was a morose and lonely wayfarer at all times. Why this personal attack on Henry Lawson? As to his not having been a bushman, did not the Sydney "Bulletin," in commenting on one of his books of short story, class his stories as "wedges cut clean out of real life." Again, does Mr. Stephens or Mr. Bennett remember the comments of that paper on another of his publications. "How real he is, how natural, how true, how strong"? And will they still continue to place their opinions against what is probably the highest authority in Australian literature, and maintain that Lawson was "not a bush- man, and wrote not of the bush"? If so, sir, I should strongly advise these gentlemen to read on, and see what David M'Kee Wiight had to say, under date September, 1918, on the life and merit of Henry Lawson:- "Henry Lawson is the first articulate voice of the real Australia. ... He knows men and women -- his men and women. In the world's loneliest places he has grasped hard hands alive with heroic meaning.

... He was born in a tent on the Grenfell goldfield in 1867, and spent his boyhood on old mining fields and on a selection his father had taken up. ... He has lived the life that he sings, and seen the places of which he writes; there is not a word in all his work which is not instantly recognised as honest Australian. The drover, the stockman, the shearer, the rider far on the skyline, the girl waiting at the slip- rails, the big bush funeral, the coach with flashing lamps passing at night along the ranges, the man to whom home is a bitter memory, and his future a long despair, the troops marching to the beat of the drum, the wilderness of the Never-Never -- in long procession the pictures pass, and every picture is a true one, because Henry Lawson, has been there to see with the eyes of his heart. At 21 Lawson, was probably the most remarkable writer of verse in Australia ... Of Lawson's place in literature it is idle to speak. Something of what Burns did for Scotland, something of what Kipling did for India, he has done for Australia. ... If permanency is to be looked for anywhere, it is in vital, red-blooded work such as Lawson's -- work that came so straight from the heart that it must always find a heart to respond to it. All Australia is there, painted ,with a big brush in the colours in which its people see it. - I am, sir, &c.,

FRANK WALKER. Kelvin Grove, November 22.

[Mr, Bennett was quite correct in saying that Lawson was not a bushman. Lawson never claimed that he was. Because eulogistic remarks have been made of some of his poems and some of his stories, that does not make Lawson a bushman or a bush poet. The fact that, without experience, he wrote so correctly of one phase of bush-life does not detract from his merits; rather it adds to them.-Ed. "B.C."]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 28, 2010 8:40 AM.

Australian Bookcovers #220 - More Than a Sentimental Bloke by C.J. Dennis and John Derum was the previous entry in this blog.

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