Henry Lawson : the retreat from reality

McLaren, John (1985) Henry Lawson : the retreat from reality. UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)


Draft of an unpublished article on Henry Lawson. This paper is in most ways a mere footnote to Brian Matthews' book on Lawson, The Receding Wave (Melbourne University Press, 1972), and it assumes the main arguments of that work: that Lawson's imagination was gripped partly by his early childhood experience but particularly by his shocked apprehension of the realities of the outback which he encountered on his trip to Bourke in 1892, and that the decline in the quality of his later work is due to his exhaustion of this subject matter - and to innate artistic flaws rather than to external causes such as his alcoholism. I have also adopted a suggestion offered by Brian Kiernan at an ASAL conference in Brisbane some years ago that Lawson's bushman represents a kind of Australian ideal, a standard offered to criticise the present at the very moment that economic depression is destroying the reality on which it was based and driving selectors from the land into the city. In this paper I want to examine the nature of this ideal. The genesis of the paper came when I was rereading Lawson to prepare an introductory lecture and was struck by the extent to which his stories represent an unrelieved catalogue of misery and disaster. This was noted by some of his first reviewers, who tended to reject the unrelieved pessimism of his work. Yet from the first his stories seem to have struck a sympathetic chord among his readers - in the first year of publication While the Billy Boils had sold 7000 copies and had gone through several editions.

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Date is approximate.

Item type Other
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/17046
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 2005 Literary Studies
Historical > FOR Classification > 2103 Historical Studies
Current > Collections > McLaren Papers
Keywords Australia, history, settlers, realism, romanticism, literature, reviews, writers, literary criticism, poetry, bush stories, MCLAREN-BOXB1-DOC10
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