National Library of Australia

Henry Lawson reconstructed

Ella Lillian Pedersen (1898–1983)The Lights of Cobb & Co. 1943

written by Henry Lawson (1867–1922)

illuminated manuscript; 27.7 x 19.7cm

Australian Library of Arts, State Library of Queensland
The Lights of Cobb & Co. 1943

Henry Lawson (1867–1922) led a troubled existence, blighted by poverty, deafness, mental illness and alcoholism.

He was born in Grenfell, New South Wales, and a trip to Bourke provided much of the raw material for his greatest literary work. In 1896, Lawson published his first collection of verse and his first major collection of stories, While the Billy Boils. Lilian Pedersen’s beautifully illuminated 1943 manuscript version of his poem The Lights of Cobb & Co. is featured here. The poem was first published in the Bulletin on 11 December 1897.

After two children and a failed marriage, Lawson spent several periods in a mental hospital, and was gaoled many times for drunkenness and failure to pay alimony and child maintenance.

Recognising the value of celebrity, Lawson created ‘association’ items, usually for money. Reportedly, he would pick up a new walking stick in a Sydney store and give it to the manager, who would pay him sixpence and sell the stick as one that ‘Henry Lawson used’.

On his death, Lawson became the first Australian writer honoured with a State funeral.