Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Short Stories by two great New South Wales, Australian Authors-Henry Lawson and Andrew 'Banjo' Paterson

"The Dog" by Andrew (Banjo) Paterson -1917-9 pages

"The Drover's Wife" by Henry Lawson 1892-7 pages

The Reading Life Outback Tales Project

Two Wonderful Stories from New South Wales

One of the best things about my new found interest in the short story is that it has allowed me to discover some great new to me writers without making the     larger commitment to read a novel.    This week I read my first works by two authors from New South Wales Australia, Henry Lawson (at the left above) and Andrew Paterson.   I really enjoyed at admired their stories.   

Henry Lawson (1867 to 1922-New South Wales, Australia) is considered one of the very first Australian authors to write about life in "The Bush" or "The Outback"  in a realistic fashion.    His mother was a well known advocate of women's rights in Australia.   His father was an immigrant from Norway who came to find gold.    At 14 Lawson lost his hearing (he never regained it).   He married a prominent Australian Socialist but his marriage was not happy.   His writing style is laconic, has a dry wit and a keen eye for small details.    He celebrates the hero in the ordinary person struggling against the hardships of country life.    His most famous short story is "The Drover's Wife", first published in 1892.   (A drover is one employed in driving large herds of cattle or sheep to the market.  In Australia as in the American west it often involved being away from home for months.)    The story focuses on the wife of a drover whose husband has been away for months.   She is left with their children and a great  dog to run the family farm in the bush country.    Lawson does not really tell us as lot about her, rather he shows us what her life is like.   The main focus of the story is on the efforts of the wife and her dog to protect the family from a dangerous snake that has crawled under their house.   Lawson's description of the life of the wife is perfect:

She is not a coward, but recent events have shaken her nerves. A little son of her brother-in-law was lately bitten by a snake, and died. Besides, she has not heard from her husband for six months, and is anxious about him.
     He was a drover, and started squatting here when they were married. The drought of 18-- ruined him. He had to sacrifice the remnant of his flock and go droving again. He intends to move his family into the nearest town when he comes back, and, in the meantime, his brother, who keeps a shanty on the main road, comes over about once a month with provisions. 
     She is used to being left alone. She once lived like this for eighteen months. As a girl she built the usual castles in the air; but all her girlish hopes and aspirations have long been dead. 
The story is exciting, real and kept my interest to the end.    I hope I will be forgiven this but as I was reading this story I imagined Katherine Mansfield, D. H. Lawrence and Crocodile  Dundee having a drink together and finding they all liked the work of Henry Lawson.   At his death Lawson was given a state funeral.   "The Dover's Wife" can be read at East of the Web: Short Stories

Andrew (Banjo) Paterson (1864 to 1941-New South Wales, Australia) is best remembered as the author of the unofficial Australia national anthem,  Waltzing Matilda.  Like Henry Lawson Paterson wrote stories about the lives of people in the outback, the bush country of Australia.   "The Dog", notice both stories partially center on outback working dogs, was  first published in 1917.    Paterson grew up in the outback and attended rural schools.   In time he became licensed as a solicitor with a law firm.   Paterson wrote poetry as an avocation and broke into print when one of his poems was published in a newspaper.   Paterson was an ardent supported of independence for Australia.   He became a war correspondent during the Boer Wars in South Africa (1899) and this brought him his first measure of fame.   He served in France in WWI as an ambulance driver.   Upon his return he began to writer stories, songs and poems and is so highly regarded in his native country that his picture is on the Australian ten dollar bill.

The style of "The Dog" has more of a self consciously literary feel to it than Lawson's "The Drover's Wife".    "The Dog" is kind of a paean to the Australian working dog.   Neither writer has any time for pomp or pomposity.   Both right in a straight forward easy to follow fashion.   Here is a sample of the prose of Paterson:

The dog is a member of society who likes to have his day's work, and who does it more conscientiously than most human beings. A dog always looks as if he ought to have a pipe in his mouth and a black bag for his lunch, and then he would go quite happily to office every day.
A dog without work is like a man without work, a nuisance to himself and everybody else. People who live about town, and keep a dog to give the children hydatids and to keep the neighbours awake at night, imagine that the animal is fulfilling his destiny. All town dogs, fancy dogs, show dogs, lap-dogs, and other dogs with no work to do, should be abolished; it is only in the country that a dog has any justification for his existence
 "The Dog" can be read at

I enjoyed both of these short stories a lot and hope to read more works by Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson in the coming years.   

Mel u


Helen said...

I'm glad you enjoyed The Drover's Wife, Mel. I haven't read any Banjo Paterson yet but I'll try to read some of his works soon.

Booklover Book Reviews said...

I applaud you for putting the spotlight on these classic Aussie Authors - Banjo Paterson wrote such thoughtful and direct prose which still reads beautifully today...

Suko said...

I haven't read any Australian short stories yet. This is a great intro! :-)

Anonymous said...

As someone who grew up in Australia, we had to read these in primary school. I never really liked them, mostly because the whole "outback" thing wasn't very appealing. The Aborigine Dreamtime stories were pretty interesting, though.