Timeline: The life of Henry Lawson

By Ian Connellan 15 February 2013
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Read a timeline of Henry Lawson’s life as a travelling poet and observer of Australia.

HENRY LAWSON CREATED SOME of this country’s richest literary portraits, which yokes his writing to such luminaries as Charles Dickens in England and Mark Twain in the USA.

But there’s no equivalent of Twain’s Mississippi River or the malevolent Dickensian London in Lawson’s Australia. Even detailed landscape descriptions are sometimes lacking in his work.

It’s people and situations that make his writing, and the key was his genius as an observer of human interaction.

He caught the subtleties of behaviour and effort, dreams and despair, character and atmosphere.

Recounting the major events in this great man’s life paint a picture of the development of an Australian icon.

Timeline of Henry Lawson’s life

1867 Born 17 June at Grenfell, NSW to father Niels Larsen, Norwegian sailor-turned-digger, and Australian-born Louisa (born Albury) 

1868 Parents move to New Pipeclay (later Eurunderee), near Mudgee 

1871  Family moves to goldfields at Gulgong 

1873 Lawsons return to Pipeclay, take up selection 

1875-79 Attends school at Eurunderee, Pipeclay Creek and Mudgee 

1880-83 Goes to work with father, now a carpenter 

1883 Moves to Sydney to be with his mother – parents separated 

1884-87 Apprenticed as a coach painter 

1887-88 Lawson’s mother publishes political paper The Republican, Lawson contributes to it and to The Bulletin; visits Melbourne and Ballarat
1888-90 Lawson contributes to Town and Country Journal, Freeman’s Journal and Truth; travels to Albany, WA for five months 

1891 On staff at The Boomerang, a Brisbane weekly 

1892-93 Travels to Bourke; writes for The Western Herald and sends work to The Bulletin; works as a house painter in Bourke and a rouseabout at Toorale station; walks to Hungerford, on Queensland border, and back 

1893 Travels to New Zealand 

1894 Returns to Sydney; works for papers Daily Worker and Worker; first book – Short Stories in Prose and Verse – published by his mother 

1895 Meets his future wife, Bertha Bredt 

1896 In the Days When the World Was Wide published; marries Bertha Bredt, 18; travels to Perth; While the Billy Boils published
1897 Moves to New Zealand 

1898 Son Joseph Henry born; returns to Sydney 

1899-1900 On the Track and Over the Sliprails and Verses Popular and Humorous published; daughter Bertha Marie Louise born; moves to England 

1901 The Country I Come From and Joe Wilson and His Mates published 

1902 Children of the Bush published; returns to Australia 

1903 Separates from Bertha; lives a vagrant’s life in Sydney 

1904 Taken in by Isabel Byers, who will care for him for many of his remaining years 

1905 Jailed for not paying maintenance; When I Was King and Other Verses published 

1906 Sells copyright of Children of the Bush to Angus & Robertson 

1908-09 First of a series of confinements in Darlinghurst Mental Hospital; jailed for defaulting on maintenance 

1910 The Rising of the Court and The Skyline Riders and Other Verses published 

1911 Again admitted to mental hospital; A Coronation Ode and Retrospect published 

1912-13 Living as an alcoholic vagabond in Sydney 

1914 Twice visits childhood area of Mudgee/Eurunderee 

1915 My Army, O My Army published; moves to Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, NSW 

1918-19 Partly sustained by an allowance from his publishers but often seen with his hat out at Circular Quay 

1920 Lawson’s mother dies in Gladesville Mental Hospital 

1921 Three months in hospital after a cerebral haemorrhage 

1922  Dies on 2 September at Abbotsford, Sydney, aged 55; given state funeral and buried at Waverley Cemetery.