Henry Lawson was born in a tent on the goldfields at Grenfell (NSW) on 17 June 1867. His father, Nils Hertzberg Larsen was a Norwegian sailor who had a property at Pipeclay, near Mudgee while his mother, Louisa had an interest in republicianism and women's civil rights.
Henry spent his early years at the property at Pipeclay. His father was often away, trying to earn enough money for the family as a carpenter. Henry had only three years of schooling at Pipeclay State School and the Catholic School at Mudgee. When he left school at 13 years of age, he began an apprencticeship as a coach painter.
Henry's parents separated when he was 15 and he eventually went to live with his mother, brother and sister in Sydney. His mother published a magazine Dawn as well as Henry's first book titled Short Stories in Prose & Verse (1894) when Henry was 27 years old.
Henry's first published prose was in The Republican in 1887. His first published poem was A Song Of The Republic which appeared in The Bulletin the same year.
Henry did various work to make a living including painting houses in Albany (WA) and Bourke (NSW) where he also worked on magazines The Boomerang (Brisbane), The Worker (Sydney) while submitting items to The Bulletin, Truth and the Sydney Worker. He also taught in a Maori school in New Zealand and spent some time in London.
Henry married Bertha Bredt, a nurse from Bairnsdale (Vic). Bertha was the stepdaughter of the owner of a Sydney bookshop frequented by Henry and other writers and poets of the time. They had a son and a daughter before separating in 1902.
Henry moved around Australia. He had a serious problem with alcohol abuse and was often very ill or in trouble with the law. He had some friends who supported him and tried to help him abstain from alcohol.
He died at Abbotsford (NSW) in 1922. The following year, the Henry Lawson Memorial & Literary Society was established by Steve Ford at Footscray (Vic).
An important Henry Lawson collection, including one of his shirts and walking stick was presented to the State Library of Victoria in 2003 by the Henry Lawson Memorial & Literary Society Inc. The Henry Lawson Centre at Gulgong (NSW) is devoted to Henry's life story and work.
Source: Graham, M., "Henry Lawson Selected Works", (1992)