Non-Fiction Prose of Henry Lawson Peter Myers, November 6, 2001; my comments within the text are shown {thus}.

Write to me at contact.html.

You are at

Was Henry Lawson a Fascist & Nazi, as Humphrey McQueen alleges? McQueen's allegation is at mcqueen.html.

HENRY LAWSON Autobiographical and Other Writings 1887-1922

Volume Two of Collected Prose Edited by COLIN RODERICK


{the following are extracts of prose essays by Lawson}

{p. 3} AUSTRALIAN LOYALTY SENTIMENTAL AND POLITICAL {published in The Republican, 1887}

... sentiment, though a good servant, is a bad master ...

Sentimental loyalty has recently done both these things in a most pronounced manner for Australians, and perhaps stigmatised them as petty bullies, with a tinge of cowardice into the bargain. This was the loyalty which sent several hundred jingoes and several thousand pounds to assist England in crushing a brave nation of savages who were fighting for a country of no earthly use to anyone but themselves. Following closely upon the "Contingent" bungle, and when the Russian war scare was at its height, this loyalty tumbled of [over?] itself in its hurry to make an independent colonial declaration of war against Russia by sending the money and jingoes thither. But war with Russia and war with the Soudanese were two very different things, and as the former did not come off perhaps Australia lost whatever benefit she may have derived from a dearly-bought lesson not to meddle in Northern affairs.

Since then sentimental loyalty has gone on whining, blundering, and bullying

{p. 4} through this year of Jubilee until it brought to the surface an undercurrent of republicanism which long had existed - in spite of the Contingent, in spite of the Jubilee pop and fizz, and in spite of the lying messages to which our Government prostituted the cable which connects us with the Northern world.

And as sentimental loyalty has done this much for us, and brought gladness and hope to the heart of many a true Australian, with the knowledge that he is by no means alone in his convictions, we will dismiss it - with thanks.

"That Australia needs the protection of England against the encroachment of dishonest and designing nations" constitutes the hind legs of political loyalty. If the following questions are honestly answered political loyalty must either fall or go about on false legs, which it is most likely to do: - 1. Are there no other nations which are not dishonest and designing on the face of the earth save England and her dependencies? 2. Is Australia bounded by nations that would annex and divide her as Poland was annexed and divided, that she needs protection? 3. Is Australia a neutral field of vantage for troops between two deadly hostile nations as Belgium is between France and Germany that she needs protection? Is Australia hated as a thief, a bully, and a hypocrite, as England is that she needs protection? Is Australia solid gold? Is she peopled by women alone; or does she misrule a nation of Irish and a nation of Hindoos that she needs the protection of England against the encroachment of dishonest and designing nations?

America needed the protection of England against the encroachment of her (England's) free and easy taxation policy; and England proceeded to protect her in a manner essentially British. She made elaborate preparations to carry out the "stamping out" policy recently so loudly advocated here. But it was a game two could play, and America won it, and though the world was full of "swords and fire then", she has gone on ever since, increasing in wealth and power, checked only for a few years by "dishonesty and design", not of other nations, but within herself. The only protection Australia needs is from the landlordism, the title-worship, the class distinctions and privileges, the oppression of the poor, the monarchy, and all the dustcovered customs that England has humped out of the middle ages where she properly belongs. Australia's progress has been marvellously fast, but not half fast enough for today. Once free, the spirit of independence or self-dependence will push her ahead 50 per cent. faster. Poverty is but slightly felt in Australia, and therefore Australians sleep. They will awaken presently to find they have slumbered too long; to find the good old English gentleman over them; the good old English squire over them, the good old English lord over them, the good old English aristocracy rolling round them in cushioned carriages, scarcely deigning to rest their eyes on the "common people" who toil, starve, and rot for them; and the good old English throne over them all.

They will awaken to find the cornstalk in the Australian back softened and made pliable by winters of poverty, and the Australian forelock accustomed to being pulled to "your 'onner" the squire and his progeny. Then the Australians can kick and hurt themselves as the Irish do, threaten and starve as the poor of England do, explode dynamite and hang as the Nihilists do, and curse themselves for sleeping when their rights could have been made invulnerable without bloodshed and without toil.

1887 Republican

{p. 5} UNITED DIVISION {published in The Republican, 1888}

There can be no Imperial Federation in the true meaning of the word Federation. Imperial Federation means an union between England and each one of her colonies individually, whilst the colonies themselves would be divided by bitterness and jealousy of the meanest and most despicable kind. Say, can there ever be as brotherly a feeling between the Australian colonies of Great Britain as there would be between the United States of Australia?

Why on earth do we want closer connection with England? We have little in common with English people except our language. We are fast becoming an entirely different people. We are more liberal, and, considering our age, more progressive than England is. The majority of English people know nothing of Australia, and even the higher classes understand neither us nor our country. The latter entertain a sort of good-natured contempt for us which is only the outcome of their contact with our own shoddy aristocracy, which is several degrees more contemptible than that of England.

The loyal talk of Patriotism, Old England, Mother Land, etc. Patriotism? after Egypt, Burmah, Soudan, etc. Bah! it sickens one. Go and read His Natural Life, and other natural lives, by Marcus Clarke, and then talk of the dear old Mother Land that gave us birth.

Another argument used by the loyal, is that we should at least entertain a brotherly feeling for Englishmen and be ready to assist them in extremity. So we should, but we cannot assist Englishmen in Soudan or Burmah, neither can we assist them in Egypt with the "eyes of centuries" looking down upon us. "Where then can we assist Englishmen?" you ask. Amid the slums and alleys of London, or under the pitiless eyes of the stone lions (symbolical of the pity of the aristocracy) in Trafalgar Square, my masters!

Who says Australia offers not a home for every poor Englishman, or any other countryman that finds his way to our shores? And what sort of thanks do we get for it? Take the Cockney new-chum, for instance; for many years after arrival, the burden of his cry is "Yer oughter go 'ome to Hingland, young man. Yer oughter see Lunnon, young man." When he is not saying this he is running down Australians and the country that gives him food and shelter to their very faces. If England

{p. 6} is such a glorious place why do not all the new-chums stay there, or go back as soon as they earn passage money ?

We shall never be understood or respected by the English until we carry our individuality to extremes, and by asserting our independence, become of sufficient consequence in their eyes to merit a closer study than they have hitherto accorded us. Every few weeks an English journalist or big bug comes out on a flying visit, drinks champagne and gorges beef with men who are no more representative Australians than Laplanders are, and returns to England a recognised authority upon the colonies. ...

Federation should begin at home. If Federation - whether Imperial or of the world - should ever appear in a better light than at present there will be plenty of time to consider it. But for the present, let our colonies try to cultivate a still more brotherly feeling for each other, and the day will come when the sons of all the colonies can clasp hands and say truly, "We are Australians - we know no other land!"

1888 Republican

{p. 8} STRAIGHT TALK {published in The Albany Observer, 1890}


The capitals of New South Wales and Victoria are out of all proportion with the size of their inland populations, and the size of their inland towns. These cities make good show windows for their respective colonies, no doubt, but a show window is of little use without the corresponding stock to back it up. The city of Ballarat stands out as a brilliant exception among the inland "cities" of the east, but Ballarat rose under exceptional conditions. The city of Bathurst - occupying a position in New South Wales corresponding (geographically) to that of Ballarat in Victoria - is the dullest, dreariest, sleepiest, deadest hole I ever set foot in. A few towns in New South Wales, like energetic little Dubbo, with its gas, etc., have lately begun to wake up and go ahead, but these towns should have been cities long ago.

I often think that if some of the surplus suburbs of Sydney were shifted up country a few hundred miles, New South Wales would benefit greatly by the

{p. 12} change. In Sydney human beings are sardined together in a manner which would not be credited by the people of New South Wales, but they'll have to credit it shortly.

In Sydney we have slums and "hells" equal to any found in London. We have human styes of the worst description. We have Chinamen packed in hundreds, over the ceilings and under the floors of "buildings" in the main street of Sydney - the notorious George Street South. We have hundreds of unemployed living in our parks, we have "model lodging houses", we have ragged schools (where little children starve more for bread than knowledge), we have "refuges", soup kitchens, and whole streets of brothels, and yet we point triumphantly to the "marvellous growth" of our capital city as a proof of the colony's prosperity. Marvellous growth! I would call it a rank growth rather.


CLASS, creed, and nationality are words which should find no place in the vocabulary of the Australians, because these words are synonymous with everything that is hostile to the peace and happiness of the world; they are written deep on the bloodiest fields that ever lay under battle smoke, and their baneful meaning has been learnt by the fireside of many a home. The Australians, and more especially the West Australians, should judge a man by his worth as a colonist and a citizen, without regard to his creed or country. I do not object to Chinamen because they are Chinamen, nor because their creed is not the same as mine - I object to them because, as a nation, they are bad citizens and

{p. 14} bad colonists. This may be easily seen when we reflect that, while the people of Sydney rose as one man and refused to allow a ship load of Chinamen to land, the best known, and perhaps the most respected gentleman in Sydney was a Chinaman, the philanthropic Mr Quong Tart. ...

{p. 15} But the very fact that we cannot compete with the Germans at farming proves that the country has everything to gain, and nothing to lose, by their presence. I think that Western Australia would benefit immeasurably by an immigration of German farmers; I am sure the Eastern colonies have done so.

I believe that a great many trades unionists regard German mechanics with the eye of distrust because it is asserted that Germans are willing to work long hours, and take low wages rather than go idle for any length of time; but how many men in the unions would do, and do the same thing? The Germans who immigrate are just as democratic as the Australians, and as ready to stand up for the rights of labor. But, at any rate, this objection cannot be brought against the German farmer. Their only faults are that they often work their women too hard, and are apt to be a little unneighbourly at times; but these faults are seldom seen in mature Germans of the second and third generation.

The Australian of German parentage differs little from the ordinary type of Australian, - as far as it has developed. The only difference, if any, is that the descendants of Germans are a little more methodical and level headed than the others; and I think that a time is coming when Australia will need all the level-headed men she can get.

Germans who immigrate are not as a rule conservative; when they come out here they come to make the country their home, and they have sense enough to see that the interests of Australia lie in the same direction as theirs and their children's. And moreover, the Germans do not bring with them the wretched national and religious hatreds that are the curse of our own "parent" lands.

If we are to assist immigration, why should our assistance be extended to any one nation in particular? Why not offer encouragement to desirable colonists such as the Germans? Germans are just as true to their adopted lands as men of any other nationality; truer to Australia than some who are more closely related to us, and German Australians are just as patriotic as those of British parentage. We get the true Australian, anyway, in the course of time, and the sunny south will be none the less great because its people spring from the stoutest sons of the greatest nations on earth, and not from one or two nations only.


I AM glad to see that the workmen of Albany are beginning to form branch unions here because I think that the surest and the shortest road to the great social reformation of the future lies through trades unionism.

No doubt if a simple-minded writer attempted in this enlightened year to explain the objects of trades unionism he would be referred to his aged grandmother as a fitting pupil to undergo a course of instruction in the art of sucking eggs; but at the same time there are many, perhaps thousands, of intelligent people who hold altogether wrong ideas regarding trades unionism and its objects. As an instance of this, I once heard a gentleman say that trades unionism was an evil and unnatural thing because it was a formation of brotherhoods antagonistic to the formation of a universal brotherhood. I never thought that an intelligent man could get such a mighty grip on the bull's tail.

It is true that unions are formed for protection against unprincipled labor as well as unprincipled capital, but if man is selfish and unphilanthropic enough to go in opposition to the principles of labor unionism so long as it is to his interest to do so he must abide by the consequences. The fault is his and not the union's. Every workman should bear in mind that self-denial in the individual is quite as essential to social reformation as it is to individual reformation.

In the "Mississippi Pilot" Mark Twain tells the story of the rise of the Pilots' Union on the Mississippi River. The promoters of this union were boycotted from the first, and it was only after great perseverance and self-denial that they were in a position to cope with their opponents. Then the tables turned rapidly, and the other party were soon in a position similar to that occupied by the unionists at the outset. Many of the old pilots held out to the bitter end with a courage worthy of a more philanthropic cause, and when they were at last compelled by necessity to seek admission to the union fold they were obliged to pay entrance fees of sufficient size to have swallowed up all the profits of their selfishness, even had they been in constant employment up to that time. In fact, it was with the greatest difficulty that some of these bitter spirits were got into the union at all. Perhaps these stringent measures were necessary under the circumstances, and considering that this was in the early days of the rise of trades unionism; but our unions of to-day are not obliged to adopt such measures and it is not their policy to do so. Trades unionism is not "a formation of brotherhoods antagonistic to the formation of a universal brotherhood", as my friend remarked. Trades unionism really aims at the abolition of all unions and class distinctions, and when this is accomplished it will be no longer necessary for men to combine against their fellow-men.

Trades unionism is a new and grand religion; it recognises no creed, sect, language or nationality; it is a universal religion - it spreads from the centres of European civilisation to the youngest settlements on the most remote portions of the earth; it is open to all and will include all - the Atheist, the Christian, the Agnostic, the Unitarian, the Socialist, the Conservative, the Royalist, the Republican, the black,

{p. 17} and the white, and a time will come when all the "ists", "isms", etc., will be merged and lost in one great "ism" - the unionism of labor.

There is something grand in the rise and progress of trades unionism; it is like a great green vine growing steadily round the world and bearing fruit in all its branches. There is no branch union so small or remote that it does not contribute strength to the grand union, and there is no branch so insignificant and unimportant as not to be able to depend upon the assistance of the main unions in a good cause.

I have seen the unions from Townsville to Adelaide stand up as one man, and demand justice for some small branch union. I have seen the stern-faced unionists of Sydney gather in thousands (forming a meeting that had to be divided into three portions) and stand for five long hours arranging plans of campaign and subscribing funds to carry them out, simply because a body of men, whom they had never seen and who were separated from them by fifteen thousand miles of sea, sought their assistance against a bitter wrong. I refer to the great dock laborers' strike, and I must add, in justice to the outsiders, that many rich and influential gentlemen in Sydney, and many workmen outside the unions, worked like unionists on this occasion.

Of course, we all know that there is one great flaw in the theory of universal brotherhood. It is where the Chinaman comes in. The Chinaman is a kind of gigantic eastern question, which will take a deal of solving. There will be no difficulty in including the progressive "Jap" in the scheme, and the American negro is already a man and brother. The American Indian, the African and South Sea savage, and the aboriginals of Australia will soon in the course of civilisation become extinct {does he mean as separate groups, or is he thinking of their cultures?}, and so relieve the preachers of universal brotherhood of all anxiety on their account. The Chinaman remains to be dealt with. Whether he is the going man; the descendant of a people who once ruled the old world and were crowded into the East by the spread of European civilisation, we do not know; whether he is (God forbid it) the coming man time alone can tell. But our time won't tell it, and the Chinese question is, I fear, one of the problems which we must leave to our children to solve. The Chinese nation is an unnatural, and, as far as we know, an unprecedented growth on the history of the world, and in all schemes for the furtherance of the universal brotherhood we must leave the Chinaman out of the question altogether; or at least until we can understand him better.

For my part I think a time will come eventually when the Chinaman will have to be either killed or cured - probably the former - but it would be advisable for the world to wait further (Chinese) developments before taking decisive action in the matter. In the mean time we will have plenty of work to do by way of civilising ourselves. I think the European nations should have left the Chinaman alone in the first place.

The woman's question is another bugbear with trades unionists, and one which places them in a very delicate position. The position of the unions with regard to female labor is often misunderstood even by unionists themselves. It is not, as some advocates of woman's rights think, a question of trades unionism against woman, but the old question in a new guise - of trades unionism against cheap labor. It is all very well to say that it is a woman's place to keep house, and a man's place to keep her; but I know for a fact that many poor women in cities are obliged to go out and work by the day in order to feed a large family of small children and a lazy or drunken husband. Something must be done in this mattel; either Adam must be compelled to keep Eve in comfort in return for

{p. 18} her domestic services or Eve must be allowed to earn her living by working at such trades as are most suited to her strength. Of course under the existing social conditions Adam is not always able to keep Eve and himself in comfort, and so they both starve, or live in a state of starvation. But this is one of the evils for the cure of which trades unions exist.

I think, if I may venture an opinion on the subject, women should be allowed to work at such trades as are suited to her, but she should be required to learn the trade thoroughly, and not work for less than the union standard of wages. In order to do this she would have to be received into the union in the first place as an apprentice. I think this would do more towards keeping female labor within proper limits than any offensive measures could do.

But the female labor question is one that cannot be disposed of in a few lines, and, with the editor's permission I would like to devote some future article to the question.

In the mean time I would be glad if some Western writer would start a controversy on the subject, for the woman question will have to be dealt with sooner or later in Western Australia. 1890 Albany Observer

A LEADER OF THE FUTURE {published in The Worker, 1893}

{during the 1890s a civil war was raging in Outback Australia - in the shearing sheds, on the river boats - as recorded on monuments near Bourke, at the Museum in Barcaldine, and in Waltzing Matilda. The mood of that time is captured in the following essay; Lawson met the union leaders in Bourke, during his stay in that region in the early 1890s}

SOME of our bards are fond of singing about a saint - a man of peace and love, with the form of an artist's model - whom they call "the leader of the future", or "the man that is to come", or refer to as the individual we want and are waiting for. We might wait, for he won't come. They picture an ideal Christ, not the real man; their "leader of the future" was really a leader of the past - if he ever existed. The Bible writers seemed to think that he did live. Anyway, we are led to believe that the nearest approach to Him was born in Western Asia some eighteen hundred years ago. He was a naturally intelligent carpenter and a Socialist. There were greater men in his time and before him; and there have been since; but he was an honest man- and original. He preached peace and goodwill and brotherhood, and the people hanged him - or, at least they crucified him, which amounts to the same thing.

Another kind of leader rose in the vicinity of Mecca. They didn't hang him. His followers depended on the power of the sword rather than that of the tongue or pen. Sword and tongue ran a close race for centuries, and the sword came out ahead: the Christians couldn't get along without it. The pen and tongue are at war with the sword to-day - the first two on the side of Labor and the other on that of Monopoly. Who's getting the best of it? Labor tried the power of the sword in France a hundred years ago. Who got the best of it then?

And yet our saviour is to be a man of peace, is he?

The leader of the future will be a man, not a god: gods don't knock round nowadays. He'll rise on the top of a barricade first, perhaps, and when the smoke clears away we'll be able to see what manner of man he is. He'll most likely come

{p. 19} with a blood-stained bandage round his forehead and carry one arm in a sling and a club in the hand of the other. His uniform will be the umiform ot the unemployed. He won't have a "calm, majestic front" - he'll most likely have a rag over one eye and the rest of his face covered with burnt powder and dust and blood, and a stubby beard of a week's growth; also, he might have black teeth and a brutal cast of countenance. His language will not be Christlike, or Gladstonelike. His remarks will be short and to the point, and vulgar, and lurid, very offensive to the delicate ear. Delicate ears will be "shifted" a lot in those days.

This leader of the future will not reason calmly and well; he'll not stop to reason at all, even if he can - he'll feel too mad. He'll think of his starved wife and children and the old folks, of the few pounds he saved out of his miserable wages and was swindled out of by "financial institutions" at the beginning of winter, and of his mates, shot down in the streets like mad dogs or stuck like pigs behind the barricade. He might feel by instinct that he is to avenge, in some part, the shameful, cowardly wrongs of centuries behind him. He won't pause to consider. Hatred and the sense of injustice will urge him on. He might be ignorant and narrow-minded - one of those men who, when they get hold of an idea, will stick to it as though ideas were scarce in the world and monopolised by companies. He will be an individualist really, and so will be the majority of his followers - he'll want revenge above all things, except brandy, maybe - he'll hate all except those who follow him - he'll want to burn down artificial things and blow them up, and comprehensively abolish the society which produces victims like him, and if he gets half a show he'll do it. And, now we come to think of it, he will be a god for the time. His followers will follow him as long as the work of destruction goes on and he keeps ahead of it.

The Parliament of Labor and the Parliament of Greed will go down alike before him - and all the little parliaments that fourish for a day - for his revolution will rise from beneath them all, even the lowest and most extreme. He will have need to depend on no league except the union of misery. We shall know his army when it comes by the uniform of rags. The Socialists of to-day are really working against the possibility of his coming because they want to reform, not to destroy. They'll be included in the general destruction. How blind the rich are! He won't last long at the time, if that's any comfort (if he did there would be few left to rule or be ruled) but he'll make things lively while he lasts. There will be a good many of him, and he'll turn up often in future times, and postpone the millennium some thousands of years.

If he drinks, he will celebrate victory with a howling spree, and want to set up as a king on his own account, after the fashion of the Yankee Caesar (he of the "Column"), and then his followers will cut off his head and put it on a pole before he sobers up.

Such a man will lead the people yet, and again at intervals.

1893 Worker

{p. 20} OUR COUNTRYMEN {published in The Worker, 1893}

THE other day a "Britisher" wrote to one of our leading journals to say that it was very easy to be an "Australian" - "you only have to wear a cabbage-tree hat and say 'bloody'." We don't know about the cabbage-tree hat, it's getting rare - he might have left out the hat altogether, or any other would have done as well - but we have no doubts concerning the "blank". Taking it all round, we are inclined to think that the much-abused "new chum" got one in that time- straight from the shoulder.

We are getting tired of hearing and reading about the average Australian, and the height of his average intelligence over that of other nationalities, and the average superiority of him from a physical point of view - not to speak of his average morality and sobriety; and we think it about time he was averaged up and taken down a peg or two - for his own benefit. We are seeing too much of the pleasant side of truth.

We are an Australian ourself. We're not particularly proud about it, or glad; though there was a time when we would swell out our manly chest and thump it with our fist whilst proudly declaring our nativity; but lately we began to entertain a most unpatriotic, irreligious doubt as to whether we would now be much worse - or worse off - had we been born a Chinaman. We merely say that we are a "native" to show that the following ought not to be prejudiced; anyway, it will be written in the interests of truth - and Australia. The average Australian poet has written so much rot in praise of his country and countrymen - especially bushmen - that whatever doubts they entertain concerning their own superiority are "in a fair way of being dispelled" - to let 'em down softly; and, when a man begins to think he is perfect, you can't do anything for him, God alone can help him.

The average Australian boy is a cheeky brat with a leaning towards larrikinism, a craving for cigarettes, and no ambition beyond the cricket and football field; he regards his parents with contempt, takes it for granted that his mother mostly talks nonsense or "rot" when she talks to him - and he doesn't always hesitate to tell her so.

The average Australian youth is a weedy individual with a weak, dirty, and contemptible vocabulary, and a cramped mind devoted to sport; his god is a twolegged brute with unnaturally developed muscles and no brains.

The average Australian man has not been developed yet.

It is true that the Labor cause has been ahead in Australia, but that was not due to the average intelligence of the Australian - the brunt of the battle was borne by a few exceptional men from all nations - a few "grand fellows" scattered about here

{p. 21} and there in townships and shearing sheds; and now that those men are getting tired of doing all the work and standing all the kicks, the bottom is likely to fall out of the cause; it will be a "caws" directly, fashionable amongst church people only.

The average Australian bushman is too selfish, narrow-minded, and fond of the booze to liberate his country. The average shearer thinks that he is the only wronged individual, and that the squatter is the only tyrant on the face of the earth. Also, the shearer is too often a god-almighty in his own estimation; and it would be good for him to know that Australia might worry along if there wasn't a sheep in all the land.

And as for the city: The Unions might be crushed, the Labor cause abolished, and every fat man get into parliament, and these things would be of less importance to the towney than the fact that Bill Somebody sprained his (blanky) groin at football last Saturday and mightn't be able to play in the forthcoming match.

The average Australian intelligence gives a Searle the burial of a hero, and doesn't know the name of Gordon or Kendall from that of Adam; it thinks more about Carbine than one-man-one-vote; it tolerates mobs of animals called "pushes" in the cities, and a gang of spielers in every township; and it expects a few foreigners to liberate the country or keep it from absolute slavery - and it's time the average Australian heard about these things and mended his ways accordingly.

1893 Wkr

AN ARTICLE ON MAN {published in The Worker, 1893}

IT is fashionable to sneer.

It could scarcely have been so fashionable in say, Byron's time, or in the time of Thackeray, because had it been so those men would never have been considered the great and original writers they were. For, in order to be original and to live, the writing of a man must be really against the "fashions" of his time.

It is fashionable to sneer nowadays; it is fashionable to say that there is nothing good and pure in the world. It is fashionable to laugh at the idea of honor among men; and it is considered wisdom to believe and act accordingly. It is fashionable to be a liar, a swindler, a blackguard; it seems even fashionable to be "found out", but not clever. It is fashionable to be a successful thing.

I am not sure how it is in other lands. These conclusions are built in Australia.

It is not fashionable to write this way.

Gambling, which is called "sporting", is the most popular thing in Australia, and our best writers pander to it, because they are too blind to see that if they wrote as cleverly against it they would be thought a good deal more of.

This reminds me that a "poet of the people" might write for them all his life and starve; they will scarcely recognise - just tolerate - him, that's all; but if he turns round suddenly and stings 'em pretty smart they will immediately begin to think

{p. 22} a great deal of him. A smart sting of that sort must necessarily have truth in it, you understand.

We may as well finish with writers now we have commenced. Here is a plan for a fashionable, or popular, Australian short story:

Write three inches of marriage, and put some stars underneath; then write about a foot of adultery, making it as dirty, or "racy", as you dare, or as the law allows; put some more stars, and finish up with an inch or two of divorce. Then that "little thing of yours" will be read, and thought a good little thing, and you'll be consldered a very clever writer. But your work won't live longer than the issue of the paper in which it appears.

Speaking of popular things, the most popular man in an Australian country town is very often the greatest rascal and the man with the flattest head. Were he intelligent he wouldn't be popular.

This brings up a famous remark made long ago by a man who would have been wise in any generation. He was reported to have ejaculated with feeling, "What foolish thing have I said that the people cheer me?" or words to that effect. It was more a remark than a question. Judging his wisdom from that remark alone, we are inclined to think that he did make a fool of himself on the occasion referred to. He must have been a wise man, or he wouldn't have known it. He must have been an honest man, else he wouldn't have said it. The funniest point of the business is that for generations after his death the wisdom of the world whooped louder for these few words than for many other observations of his; and, had he gone back immediately and mounted the stump and told the old original crowd what he thought, the chances are that they would have barracked for him more enthusiastically than before. Such is man. But this is wandering from the point.

We will have to take writers, for instance, again. You need not be truthful, but you must be clever; you need not be just, so long as you are humorous. We didn't say "funny", because it would sound nasty there. The average reader looks more for humor than justice, more for smartness than truth, and it's a pity that all those things couldn't always be together.

It is fashionable to look for dirt nowadays, and find it in everything. The Australian boy does it because he hears the Australian young man, and thinks it clever. He wants to be "manly", and for the same reason he smokes and drinks and becomes a larrikin. The young men see filth in most everything, because - because it's fashionable. We admire the manliness of the age.

Suppose an average man-about-town to meet a girl who is as God intended her to be; the man would take her for a hypocrite; he wouldn't believe in her, because he doesn't believe in the purity of woman outside his own family circle. He might consider her the opposite to what she really is. Most likely he would see "encouragement" in the very simplicity or innocence of her conversation, and come to the conclusion that "it would be good enough." That last expression might seem offensive in print, but then, you know, it's- it's fashionable among men. If the larrikin language were to be printed a few times with suitable comments, it wouldn't be used so much by gentlemen.

No, a pure true girl who speaks as she thinks would be put down either as a hypocrite or as being "a bit gone here" by the average man-about-town. We admire

{p. 23} the man-about-town, we have the greatest of respect and admiration - almost awe - for the "man of the world" of to-day. He is so clever, so witty, so bitingly sarcastic, so humorous (not "funny"); he so thoroughly understands human nature - men and women; he is so infallible, so unassailable (not to be had, you know); so blindly, ignorantly egotistical.

Damn him, for a blatant fool with a dirty mind and a dirty mouth.

Put aside all the bosh about Australia's noble sport, her youth and beauty, her sunbright skies and grassy plains, her "shining rivers", her enterprise and her "resources", her loyalty, or, on the other hand, her Republicanism - put aside all the rot that has ever been written about Australia, and what remains? The remnant of a dying race of men who were men, though somewhat small-minded, and a rising race of "dudes" and larrikins. What a land for swindlers!

We will not say that Australia is becoming "wicked", because "wicked" is an "old womanish" word, and the user would be considered soft. You mustn't be soft nowadays; you must appear manly.

It is not fashionable to prophesy, but we'll chance it. In a few years, perhaps, Australian cities will be the most unprincipled in the world, and dirtier than ever the British hypocrite accused Paris of being. And when the societies of these cities are most vicious and their witty (not funny) men most grandly cynical, some great man will rise and turn his soul against all that is fashionable in his time, and his works will create a reaction- and live.

1893 Wkr

{p. 26} THE CANT AND DIRT OF LABOR LITERATURE {published in The Worker, 1894}

IT is a great pity that the word "scab" ever dirtied the pages of a workman's newspaper. It is a filthy term in its present meaning - objectionable every way you look at it. It should never be used by one man in reference to another, no matter how bad the other may be. It is a cowardly word, because it is mostly used behind a man's back; few men, except bullies who have the brute strength to back them, would call a man so to his face. If it is used face to face, it is only in the heat of a drunken row, the prelude to a fight, or in cases where the other man is physically weaker. It is a low, ignorant word, and only appeals to ignorance and brutality. It does no good - you can't convert a man by using that word behind his back; and if you do use it so, then he's as good a man as you are. It is a low, filthy, evil-working, ignorant, cowardly, and brutal term, and belongs to the slang of the brainless, apish larrikins and the drunken prostitutes of the city slums. A man only uses it when he hasn't got the brains to say something clean and cutting. You will often find that the bushman who doesn't swear or mix dirt with his language can cut sharper with his tongue when he likes than the men who do. The word free laborer is unsuitable because it conveys a false impression - one might as well say "independent". No laborer is "free", anyway. Let us use "non-Unionist" until, at least, a better word turns up.

Many objectionable words of another kind - often used in stump oratory and Labor papers - might be placed under the heading of the alleged words. "Skiteley-Wing", which is objectionable in the first place because it is an idiotic attempt at a pun, and a man only makes a pun when, if he is a writer, he wants to pander to the capacity or "taste" of the ignorant; or when he has not the brains to make anything else.

Such words are objectionable because they are senseless, too senseless even to be ridiculous - they are childish, silly. We wonder how any full-grown man with the usual quantity of brains could raise a smile at such silly, childish mumble-jumble. It would be deemed beneath the contempt or intelligence even of a city gutter boy.

Now, taking the widest possible view and admitting that there might be a meaning implied in these sounds, how many of our correspondents who use the term "Skiteley Wing" have the ghost of a reason to think that King (with all his crimes) is a skiter? Then take the silly name "Georgy-Porgy", as used by some beacons of light and liberty in connection with Dibbs. Now - always admitting that there is a language (sort of "language of music") in the sounds - can Dibbs' bitterest and most extreme hater truthfully and reasonably state that he thinks there is anything "Georgy" or "Porgy" about him?

{p. 27} Let us talk straight in plain English, and not weaken our arguments with silly sounds that mean nothing.

Which reminds us that we once heard a courtly gentleman of the old school say to a young "lady" at a picnic up country:

"I'm afraid you are an icicle, Miss Brown."

Then she, with a desire to show off, made answer sharply: "Then, I'm afraid you're a kysical, Mister Lowe."

"There is no such word, Miss Brown," he said quietly.

"Oh, yes there is."

He bowed, and turned away; and she left also with a very red face. She always hated him after that, of course - being a woman.

Try to make every man, who uses silly sounds in his arguments, feel and look as foolish as that young lady did, and by-and-bye we'll have less funny business and bosh, and more sense in our labor literature and oratory.

There are many words in the "language of liberty" which, although they were good words originally, have been so abused, gushed about, and used by hypocrites, fanatics, and ranters, that they are now almost on a par with the cant of Christianity. "Truth" is one of them - it might now be mistaken for "Trewth"; "Comrade" is another; "Tyranny" is another, and also "Liberty", or Freedom itself. The word "comrade" always suggests to me a bilious fanatic who calls himself a "Socialist", and who has no faith in human nature - his own included.

That egotistic word "mateship" - which was born of New Australian imagination, and gushed about to a sickening extent - implied a state of things which never existed any more than the glorious old unionism which was going to bear us on to freedom on one wave. The one was altogether too glorious, and the other too angelic to exist amongst mortals. We must look at the nasty side of truth as well as the other, the conceited side. When our ideal "mateship" is realised, the monopolists will not be able to hold the land from us.

There are four words which will be fondly remembered by us when we are old men, and when the A.W.U. will only remember with shame that so many of its members were foolish and ignorant enough to use and admire such words as "scab", and "Skiteley Wing". These four words - "chum", "jolly", "mate", and "sweetheart" - will never die.

1894 Wkr

{p. 31} THE BUSH AND THE IDEAL {published in The Bulletin, 1897}

BRITISH ignorance of Australia is certainly no greater than the coastal Australian's ignorance of the Australian back country. The people of our cities look at the bush proper through the green spectacles of bush bards and new-chum press-writers, and are content - wisely, if they knew it - to sit down all their lives on the rim of Australia.

No one who has not been there can realise the awful desolation of Out Back in ordinary seasons; few even of those who have tramped there can realise it. One might imagine a tropical jungle, a "glittering" ice-field, a "rolling" prairie, a "Northern" forest, an "African" desert; but not a mighty stretch of country which is neither desert nor fertile land, nor anything else you can think of - except thousands of miles of patchy scrub. A region which is not quite desert enough to be provided with oases, nor tolerable enough to have permanent rivers. A region where there are no seasons to speak of; where the surface will bake for nine months or a year, and then suddenly become a boundless marsh; where the single river, flowing between drought-baked banks and under blazing skies, will rise from a muddy gutter to a second Mississippi, because of the Northern rains. A country where human life can just exist; a country that carries sheep with difficulty in fair seasons - though at first sight you would think it incapable of carrying goats at its best - and their worst.

If the back country were a desert we might love it, as the Arabs are alleged to love their desert, for the sake of the oases; if it were a region of noble ranges mighty forests, shining rivers, broad lakes, and grassy plains, we would love it for these things; as it is, we don't know how to take it, and prefer not to take it at all - at least not until a general earthquake or a mighty scheme of irrigation breaks the dreadful monotony, and alters the face of it beyond recognition.

I have been accused of painting the bush in the darkest colors from some equally dark personal motives. I might be biassed - having been there; but it is time the general public knew the back country as it is, if only for the sake of the bush out-

{p. 32} casts who have to tramp for ever through broiling mulga scrub and baking lignum, or across blazing plains by endless tracks of red dust and grey, through a land of living death.

After reading bush literature in prose and verse, and after trying the bush for myself, I feel inclined to doubt all scenery that is boomed. But Bill and Jim do not see the bush as it is; and if they write verses about it - as they frequently do in camp - they put in shining rivers and grassy plains, and western hills, and dawn and morn and eve and gloaming, and forest boles of gigantic size - everything, in fact, which is not and never was in bush scenery or language; and the more the drought bakes them the more inspired they seem to become. Perhaps they unconsciously see the bush as it should be, and their literature is the result of a craving for the ideal.

I watched a mate of mine sit down in camp on the parched Warrego - which was a dusty gutter with a streak of water like dirty milk - and write about "the broad, shining Darling". The Darling, when we had last seen it, was a narrow streak of mud between ashen banks, with a barge bogged in it. Two weeks later this mate was sitting in a dusty depression in the surface, which he alleged was the channel of a river called the Paroo, writing an ode to "the rippling Warrego".

The average Australian bushman may exult in the bush because he has never seen any decent country to compare it with. Maoriland shearers clear out by the next boat they can catch after they get their cheques. But my Warrego bard was born in St Petersburgh, and had travelled through France and some of the fairest countries on earth. Ideal bush literature is an interesting subject, anyway, and it is written and accepted as realistic by the bushmen themselves. Its popularity is wonderful, and most pathetic.

The moral is the universal one: "Let us irrigate."

1897 Bn

CRIME IN THE BUSH {published in The Bulletin, 1898-9}

{p. 33} The shearer is a social animal at his worst; he is often a city bushman - i.e., a man who has been through and round and between the provinces by rail and boat. Not unfrequently he is an English public school man and a man of the world - so even the veriest out-back bushie, whose metropolis is Bourke, is brought in touch with outside civilisation. But there are hundreds of out-of-the-way places in the nearer bush of Australia - hidden away in unheard-of "pockets" in the ranges; on barren creeks (abandoned by pioneering farmers and pastoralists "moving up country" half a century ago); up at the ends of long, dark gullies, and away out on God-forsaken "box", native-apple, or stringy-bark flats - where families live for generations in mental darkness almost inconceivable in this enlightened age and country. They are often in a worse condition mentally than savages to the manner born; for natural savages have a social law, a social intercourse - perhaps more or less inadequate, but infinitely better than none at all. Some of these families live from one year's end to another without seeing a face except the face of somebody of their own class, and that of an occasional stranger whose character or sanity must at least be doubtful, to explain his presence in such places. Some of these families are descended from a convict of the worst type on one side or the other, perhaps on both; and, if not born criminals, are trained in shady ways from childhood. Conceived and bred under the shadow of exile, hardship or "trouble", the sullen, brooding spirit which enwraps their lonely bush-buried homes will carry further their moral degradation. You may sometimes see a dray or spring-cart, of antiquated pattern, dragging wearily and unnoticed into the "township", and containing a woman, haggard and spiritless-looking, or hard and vicious-faced - or else a sullen, brooding man - who sells produce for tea, flour, and sugar, and goes out again within the hour, without, perhaps, having exchanged half-a-dozen words with anyone. This is the only hint conveyed to the outer fringe of God's country - and wasted on apathetic neighbors - of the existence of such a people.

These places need to be humanised. There are things done in the bush (where large families, and sometimes several large families, pig together in ignorance in badly-partitioned huts) known well to neighbors; or to school-teachers - mere lads, going through their martyrdom in such places - and to girl-teachers too, God forgive us! or even to the police; things which would make a strong man shudder. Clean-minded people shrink from admitting the existence of such things, until one, bolder than the rest, and with the certainty of having his or her good name connected with, perhaps, one of the dirtiest cases known to police annals, speaks up for the sake of outraged nature and reason, and "horrifies" Australia. But too often the informant is one of the brooding, unhealthy-minded ruck who speaks up only from motives of envy or revenge. {end of selections}

Henry Lawson on Rural Australia from the 1870s to 1916: lawson2.html.

Humphrey McQueen depicts Henry Lawson as a Fascist & Nazi: mcqueen.html.

Australian Bush Poems: bush-poems.html.

Write to me at contact.html.