Title: Henry Lawson Among Maoris

Author: William H. Pearson

Publication details: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 1968, Wellington

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Paul Millar

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Henry Lawson Among Maoris

Appendix II — Lawson's Visits to New Zealand

page 180

Appendix II
Lawson's Visits to New Zealand

Lawson made two earlier visits to New Zealand. Not much is known about the second; but a summary of the first, based mainly on published sources, is appropriate. The main sources are Tom L. Mills's two articles, Anthony Cashion's article in Henry Lawson by his Mates, and Lawson's 'Pursuing Literature in Australia', his four letters to Jack Louisson and one to Emma Brooks.* Little is added by an article by Charles Wilson in the Lyttelton Times, 9 September 1922. Colin Roderick has added further details in his two essays, in Overland, Spring 1957, and the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, June 1967; and an account of the visit is given by Denton Prout in his biography.

Driven by economic depression in Australia in 1893, Lawson sought the price of a passage to New Zealand and was donated a first-class passage by the Union Steam Ship Company, but he chose to travel steerage. The voyage took eleven or twelve days, and he wrote of it in 'Coming Across', first published in the N.Z. Mail (Wellington), 15 December 1893. H. Roth's statement that he landed in Wellington on the Waihora on 27 November is backed by a report in Fair Play (Wellington), 2 December, that Lawson had arrived on the previous Monday. This conflicts with Lawson's dating a letter from Wellington to Emma Brooks, '6/11/93', but perhaps the '11' is a mistake for '12'.

Lawson landed at Auckland first, and he visited the Auckland Museum to see Maori carving. He 'could not get a show' of work in Auckland and spent his last pound travelling to Wellington where he was better known, 'old chums at every corner'. He reached Wellington in time to see women vote 'for the first time' on 28 November. When he arrived, according to Colin Roderick, he telegraphed J. F. Archibald, editor of the Bulletin, for money. He slept at least his first two nights in Wellington in sewage pipes which were lying in the recreation ground waiting to be installed as part of a municipal drainage system.

A compositor on the N.Z. Times called Talbot told the chief compositor, Tom L. Mills, who asked Talbot to bring Lawson to the news-room. Mills, whose family was away at the time, offered to put Lawson up, and

* I have not seen a letter written from New Zealand to John Le Gay Brereton, in the possession of Mr Harry Chaplin.

H. Roth, Overland, 12, Winter 1958, p. 11; Henry Lawson to Emma Brooks, Mitchell Library Al 29/-2.

page 181for a fortnight Lawson lived with Mills, cooking the meals and writing. Mills says that even if he arrived home between 2 and 4 a.m. Lawson would have a hot meal ready. He would recite verse by the hour-Banjo Paterson, Kipling, Kendall, and Boake. He was a laborious writer and his total equipment was a 'J' pen, a traveller's bottle of ink and a shilling Routledge dictionary. Through Mills he met Charles Wilson, editor of the N.Z. Mail (a weekly published by the N.Z. Times) and later General Assembly Librarian, and in December and January the N.Z. Mail published, besides 'Coming Across', another sketch and three of Lawson's poems, for one of which ('For'ard') he earned a guinea. He contributed a cheerful article to Fair Play (30 December), 'New Zealand from an Australian's Point of View', in which he was most impressed by such unfamiliarities as the quality of the beer, the gambling in Wellington bars, the half-paved footpaths, by 'boys in knickerbockers, and tall strapping girls of fourteen, and intelligent women', by the women's franchise and the Liberal Government, by the Botanical Gardens and Wellington's liability to earthquakes and the stale 'National Joke' about the winds of Wellington. In a poem 'I've Drawn New Zealand Blank' published in the N.Z. Mail, 25 January 1894 (later re-titled 'The Windy Hills o' Wellington', CV, 262-3) he complained of being down on his luck. His impression of New Zealand newspapers was not favourable:

At one of these offices that I know, and have a hearty contempt for, it would be thought an act of charity to offer a hard-up Bulletin writer 5s. per col.; while in another it would be a mark of special favour to offer him a chair. I have stood (and walked up and down and boiled over) for two hours in the passage outside the office of a paper which had been "clipping" my work for years, and this because they knew I was hard-up and wanted them to pay for a contribution by way of a change.

He also met Edward Tregear, Secretary of Labour. Tregear found Lawson a job as a painter, but the only work Lawson was given was to paint a small door to the grounds of Government House. Others, according to Mills, who helped Lawson were Gresley Lukin, editor of the Evening Post, for whom Lawson had worked on the Brisbane Boomerang in 1891, and Herbert Baillie whose bookshop in Cuba Street Lawson used as an address when he wrote to Aunt Emma, and was the scene of two photographs of Lawson taken by Baillie's brother John. Mills placed some of Lawson's verse with newspapers, including, he says, the Otago Witness.

He went with a mate to the Hutt Valley, apparently near Silverstream, working for a boss who contracted to supply a sawmill with logs. For a fortnight they slogged in a rough wet gully, felling trees, cutting a track for the bullocks and jacking logs over stumps and boulders. The boss, however, told them they were not bushmen (i.e., in its New Zealand sense, timber workers) and gave them an order for wages on the owner of the mill in Wellington, an order for some reason never cashed. According to Lawson they tramped 20 miles back to Wellington without food or tobacco, and for a while Lawson found some work painting houses.

The 'three-months' unemployed "perish" ' he recalled in 'Pursuing page 182Literature in Australia' presumably ended with his arrival in Pahiatua, on or about 26 February, when he called into the office of the director of the Pahiatua Herald, Alex Baillie, known to him in Sydney when Baillie was on the staff of the Sydney Morning Herald. Anthony Cashion, then a reporter on the Pahiatua Herald, claims that it was at his suggestion that Baillie invited Lawson to join the staff, but this has been questioned by Colin Roderick (CV, i, 450) and by Rollo Arnold, who has written an interesting speculative paper on Lawson's stay in Pahiatua.* Dr Roderick says that Lawson was not a reporter for the Herald, simply a contributor: Lawson confirms this in a letter to Jack Louisson from Pahiatua, written on Herald note-paper: 'Have had no work except a little from the local paper', the Herald in March ran two prose pieces and some light verse of Lawson's. Cashion tells the legend that Lawson, sent to report the opening of the Tui Brewery at Mangatainoka, handed in a brief and overdue report: 'The Mangatainoka Brewery was opened one day this year. It was a gigantic success and ended in oblivion'.

Lawson visited a number of places within a rough radius of 30 or 40 miles: the Manawatu Gorge, Ngaturi, Kaitawa, Woodville, and Eketahuna within 20 miles of Pahiatua, and further away, Makuri Gorge and Pongoroa. According to Cashion, he was welcomed by the farming community and was friendly with two families-the Crosbies who had a farm at Mangatainoka, and 'Mr Moore and his daughter Gertrude'. Rollo Arnold identifies Moore as George Moore, clerk to the Pahiatua County Council and suggests a love affair between Lawson and Gertrude, whose poem 'Waiting: A Bush Idyl' (N.Z. Mail, 17 June 1897) expresses longing for the return of a lover with whom she had walked during a bushfire one Easter Monday. Lawson's memory (in 'A Wild Irishman') that it rained five weeks while he was in Pahiatua is contradicted by Mr Arnold's finding, in files of the Herald, reports of a bushfire on Easter Monday 1894, started by farmers burning off after a long spell of dry weather. He reads Gertrude Moore's poem as a message to Lawson, written in ignorance of his marriage but in the knowledge that he had returned to New Zealand in 1897. Mr Arnold relates the poem to some obscure references in Lawson's verse to a broken love affair.

The connection, however, is tenuous. Whatever Gertrude Moore might have felt for her imagined lover, the passionately feminist personality suggested by her story 'Toitoi's Pakeha' (N.Z. Mail, 1 April 1897)-in which a calculating Pakeha lover who causes a Maori girl's suicide is ' "accidentally" shot' by the brother of another girl he had betrayed-is hardly one that would have held Lawson's sympathy for long; and there

* 'Henry Lawson: The Sliprails and the Spur at Pahiatua?' (1967), typescript in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

Henry Lawson to Jack Louisson, n.d., [1894], Alexander Turnbull Library Q 091, Sydney Bulletin Writers, vol. i, p. 175.

George Moore had once worked as a reporter on several English provincial newspapers. Another Moore at Pahiatua in 1894, with whom Lawson might have had common interests, was F. G. Moore, bookseller and job printer. (Cyclopedia of N.Z., vol. i, 1897, pp 1024, 1040-1.)

page 183was one other girl in whom Lawson was equivocally interested. Writing from Pahiatua to a friend in Wellington, he asked to be remembered to 'your dear clever little friend Miss Luskie … one of those women to whom the man comes home to die … I know such another girl in Sydney. She loved me and I didn't love her … I loved another who didn't love me-or did-I don't know. I will probably go home to the first one to die'.* And from Sydney in November Lawson again asked his friend about Miss Luskie: 'I wish I knew her well enough for her to write over and give me a d-d good lecture-or, I mean, I wish she knew me well enough to think it worth her while to write me some advice-but I'm d-d if I know what I do mean'.

It would be tempting to relate this to Lawson's statement in 'The Ghosts of Many Christmases' that his life had been changed by the loss of a letter from a sweetheart when the Tasmania was wrecked off Gisborne, except that when the Tasmania was wrecked (off Mahia Peninsula on 29 July 1897) Lawson was back in New Zealand and in any case married.

It was at Pahiatua that Lawson knew the shoemaker from whom he heard the outline of his story 'A Wild Irishman'. Lawson left Pahiatua for Wellington on 6 April 1894.

Somewhere in his New Zealand experience, either at the Hutt, or on the way from the Hutt to Wellington, or from Pahiatua to Wellington, or perhaps later in the South Island, Lawson met and tramped with a commercial traveller who had a wife and family in Wellington and who was the model for his confidence trickster Steelman, the subject of seven sketches. A mate Lawson had met before he was in Pahiatua was Jack Louisson, a 27-year-old lineman attached to the Wellington Post Office.

In Wellington Lawson applied again to the Labour Department and it was probably Tregear (though possibly Jack Louisson) who found him work as a lineman with a gang putting up a telegraph line in Marl-borough. His journey by ferry from Wellington to Picton he described in 'Across the Straits'; according to this account, he arrived in Wellington with 25s., 10s. of which he spent on the ticket, and the half-sovereign change he lost. From Picton he wired a friend in the North Island for a pound. Bertha Lawson says the telegraph line was between Nelson and Tophouse (near the head of the Wairau Valley), but this line had been completed years before, as had the line connecting Picton, by way of Kaikoura, with Christchurch. (AJHR, 1876, F-iA, p. 2; 1866, E-5, p. 4.) The only new line laid in Marlborough in 1894 was a 9-mile connection between Awatere (16 miles south-east of Blenheim) and Cape Campbell lighthouse. But 195 miles of old line were overhauled, mainly between Blenheim and Tophouse, and between Picton and Kaikoura. (AJHR, 1895, F-i, p. xx.) The addresses on three of Lawson's manuscripts are consistent with his working on the northern section of the Picton-Kaikoura line: a

* Henry Lawson to Jack Louisson, n.d. [1894], from Pahiatua. Alexander Turnbull Library, Q 091, Sydney Bulletin Writers, vol. i, p. 175.

Henry Lawson to Jack Louisson, 19 November 1894, from Sydney, ibid, vol. i, p. 171.

page 184poem addressed Tuamarina (north of Blenheim), an undated postcard to Jack Louisson from Blenheim, and a letter to Louisson dated '-94-' from 'Keherangu', that is, Kekerengu on the Marlborough Coast. One of his sketches, published in the N.Z. Mail, 29 April 1897, 'Drift from the Wreck' is set in Kekerengu. He did not, as he claims in 'The Ghosts of Many Christmases', spend Christmas with the lining gang; but it was in this lining gang that he first met five Maoris from Mangamaunu.

Tom Mills says that the foreman of the lining gang was Jack Louisson's brother whom Bertha called Tom, but whose name is given in the Post and Telegraph departmental list (N.Z. Gazette, 1894, p. 1122) as W. W. Louisson, first-grade lineman, aged 38. He was stationed at Greymouth at the end of March 1894 and in the following year at Nelson, neither of which offices are likely to have supervised the laying of lines in Marl-borough, since there were first-grade linemen stationed both at Blenheim and at Kaikoura. But he must have worked in Marlborough for a time. Writing to Jack Louisson from Kekerengu Lawson mentions a Bill known to them both: 'I understand Bill thoroughly. Good hearted old lunatic' And from Sydney in November he wrote: 'Remember me to that old hard case, the Boss, if you see him.'

He described the work in 'The Romance of the Swag':

I've carried a shovel, crowbar, heavy rammer, a dozen insulators on an average (strung round my shoulders with raw flax)-to say nothing of soldering-kit, tucker-bag, billy and climbing spurs-all day on a telegraph-line in rough country in New Zealand, and in places where a man had to manage his load with one hand and help himself climb with the other; and I've helped hump and drag telegraph-poles up cliffs and sidlings where the horses wouldn't go.

The boss was a 'driver' but Lawson enjoyed the open-air work and said that after 'four or five months' of it (in fact three or four months, through autumn and into mid-winter) he was 'too healthy to write'. He told Jack Louisson: 'Graft easy but-mind weariness, you know. Fever of life and all that sort of thing'.*

He was attracted from this work by an offer of a job on the new Daily Worker, launched in Sydney at the beginning of July-initially (according to the Hobart Clipper, 14 July 1894, p. 5) planned to appear daily only for the duration of the 1894 New South Wales elections. The paper only lasted a month, and, according to Colin Roderick, Lawson arrived back in Sydney on 29 July 1894, three days before its demise. He had thus been in New Zealand nearly eight months.

Besides the Steelman sketches and those already mentioned Lawson's stories set in New Zealand are 'Stiffner and Jim' (set in North Canterbury), 'His Country-After All' (set in the Awatere-misspelt Avetere-Valley in Marlborough), 'The Ghostly Door' (set in the Hutt Valley) and 'A Wild Irishman' (set on the West Coast of the South Island). It is doubtful if Lawson had in fact been in Canterbury before 'Stiffner and Jim' was first published (according to Mr Arnold) in the Pahiatua Herald

* Henry Lawson to Jack Louisson, 1894, from Kekerengu, Alexander Turnbull Library Q 091, Sydney Bulletin Writers, vol. i, p. 174.

page 185on 9 March 1894; and it is not clear if, and when, he got as far south as Dunedin, as Colin Roderick infers from his poem 'Statue of Robert Burns' (CV, i, 409-10, 474-5).

It is more likely a statue in an Australian 'southern town'. Burns statues were unveiled between 1887 and 1905 at Ballarat, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney. The Ballarat statue, unveiled 21 April 1887, has on the west panel these lines from 'Robin':

He'll hae misfortunes great and sma'
But aye a heart aboon them a'.

There is possible reference to these lines in Lawson's last stanza:

And the sorrows that you knew
I am learning, Bobbie Burns.
But I'll keep my heart above…*

All the places in 'A Wild Irishman' can be found on the 1:63360 N.Z. Lands and Survey Department maps of Westland districts or in Dollimore's New Zealand Guide: Duffers Creek is 40 miles south of Hokitika, Ahaura (misspelt Aliaura) in the Grey Valley; Orwell Creek (spelt Orewell) 2 miles from Ahaura; Nelson Creek, off the Grey River, now a sawmilling town; Notown, a former gold-mining settlement, now a ghost-town; and Kaniere, 3 miles south-east of Hokitika can be recognised behind 'Th' Canary', its usual local (Pakeha) pronunciation. The spelling Aliaura (which first appeared in the Worker in 1894, and has been repeated ever since) and 'Th' Canary' support Lawson's statement that he heard this story away from the West Coast; it is likely that he took notes and, in the case of Ahaura, misread them.

Yet on the whole-apart from the opening of his later sketch 'The Australian Cinematograph' and impressions based on physical discomfort like the storm in the Hutt Valley in 'The Ghostly Door'-the New Zealand landscape made little impression on Lawson's writing, and most of the stories could, as Denton Prout says, be as easily set in Australia.

Lawson's second visit to New Zealand was briefer. He wrote to Jack Louisson from Sydney on 19 November 1894 to say that he intended to take a run over to New Zealand at Christmas for 'a trip-two or three weeks'. But there is no record that he did. His memory in 'The Ghosts of Many Christmases' of a Christmas at sea, on the Tasmania going to New Zealand, may be no more reliable than his memory of a Christmas with the lining gang. He stayed in Sydney in December, presumably to see his first book, Short Stories in Prose and Verse, through the press. Denton Prout says that he gave copies to A. G. Stephens, to John Le Gay Brereton, and to the Public Library of New South Wales on 22 December. There is no evidence, to my knowledge, that he made the visit before early 1896. Bertha's account of this visit is that they had agreed to postpone their marriage and save, she by nursing and he by

* See Edward Goodwillie: The World's Memorials of Robert Burns, Waverley Publishing Co., Detroit, 1911, p. 67.

Alexander Turnbull Library, Q 091, Sydney Bulletin Writers, vol. i, p. 171.

page 186working in New Zealand; she says he sailed to Auckland but stayed only long enough to catch the next boat back. This was in March 1896. The Bulletin, 21 March 1896, notes (on the Red Page) that 'Henry Lawson is back from his Maoriland trip'. But a longer stay and a visit to Wellington are implied in T. D. Mutch's note that on 14 February 1896 Lawson signed directions for the payment of debts of £1 to T. L. Mills and £1 to Tregear.*

On his third visit, most of which has been dealt with in this book, the Anglian called first at Auckland, but though the Wellington papers announced his arrival in Wellington, a steerage passenger was beneath the notice of Auckland's N.Z. Herald. The latter part of this visit, after he left Mangamaunu, was spent mainly in Wellington, where according to Bertha, they found a room in College Street. It is not certain where Aunt Emma stayed. The address on a letter to Louisa Lawson is 14 College Street.

But a letter to Jack Louisson, written from Sydney in 1900, suggests that for part of the time he lived with 'T.L.' I assume that this is Tom Mills, who adopted 'Tom L.' as his regular forename in 1886 to avoid postal confusion with two other Thomas Millses in Wellington. Lawson quarrelled with Mills and regretted it:

threshing it out I've come to the conclusion that it was a paltry quarrel after all-I was worried and irritable and over sensitive on account of my financial position, and quick to take offence at what I considered a slight-Then again we tried to live together in our capacities as married men-which was a great and silly mistake. I never quarrel with any one only when I'm hard pushed and fancy myself in a false position. Now Tom barracked for me alright, I know that-

In Wellington Lawson sought, apparently without success, another government job. Bertha says that at Mangamaunu he had worked on the script of his long play Pinter's Son Jim for the producer Bland Holt, and he completed it in Wellington, but Holt declined it as far too long. According to Tom Mills, Holt was looking for 'the great Australian drama', with Mitchell as a central character, and in order to familiarise Lawson with the mechanics of stage production, took him 'on tour through New Zealand'. He gave Lawson 'a MS from London to practise his prentice hand upon and localise', but Lawson either lost the script or put it aside. This need not conflict with Bertha's statement that Holt hoped with Lawson's help to condense Pinter's Son Jim (which she called Ruth, after the heroine) but their departure for Australia did not allow time for it. Holt did give Lawson work, possibly not connected with his

* Mutch papers, Item 27, Mitchell Library.

R. A. McKay (ed.), A History of Printing in New Zealand 1830-1940 (Wellington Club of Printing House Craftsmen, Wellington, [1940]), P-237.

Henry Lawson to Jack Louisson, 3 January 1900, Alexander Turnbull Library Q 091, Sydney Bulletin Writers, vol. i, p. 170.

page 187own play. Walter Woods, probably having heard directly from Mills-or from Lawson-wrote in the Hobart Clipper (4 December 1897, p. 5): 'Before leaving Wellington [Lawson] will probably revise and locally color some dramas for Bland Holt, who is now playing in the windy city.' Mills may have been unaware of Pinter's Son Jim. But the story of Lawson touring with Holt is doubtful since a letter of Lawson's to his mother implies that he stayed in Wellington during Bertha's pregnancy.*

Mr J. E. Traue of the General Assembly Library, Wellington, has provided me with this note on Bland Holt's itinerary:

Bland Holt's season in Wellington was from Wednesday, 17 November to Wednesday, 15 December, 1897. He arrived in Wellington on the Rotomahana from Lyttelton on 17 November (N.Z. Times, 16 November 1897). According to the N.Z. Times (15 December) the company was to leave for Palmerston North on the 16th December. We do not have the relevant provincial newspapers for 1897 but my guess is that the itinerary was Palmerston North, Whanganui, New Plymouth (the railway ran from Wellington as far as New Plymouth).

The company arrived in Onehunga from New Plymouth on the Mahinapua on 24 December and opened an extended Auckland season on 27 December. The season finished on 29 January, 1898, and the company left for Gisborne, Napier and Wellington.

It would be a reasonable guess that if Lawson did accompany Holt it was no further than New Plymouth, and that he returned to Wellington about Christmas. Holt was back in Wellington by 16 February, since Lawson wrote to his mother on that morning that he had to meet Holt in the afternoon for a decision on work Lawson had done for him. Presumably the decision was Holt's rejection of the play or his handing it back for revision.

Possibly Lawson did go so far as Auckland, content to leave Bertha in his aunt's care and to return before her confinement. Their son 'Jim' was born 10 February 1898, the day of an earthquake which caused Emma Brooks to take the first boat back to Sydney. According to Bertha, Lawson was offered another Maori school, near Auckland, but turned it down. Henry, Bertha, and 'Jim' left Wellington on the Tarawera on 12 March 1898 and arrived in Sydney on 17 March.

Three months before he sailed for England in April 1900 he wrote to Jack Louisson: 'I'd like to take a run over and see old friends and shake hands with old enemies (if any) before I go-but am afraid I won't be able to afford it'. He asked Louisson to shake hands for him with 'T.L.', presumably Tom Mills, to make up the quarrel.

The Dixson Collection at the Public Library of New South Wales holds an undated manuscript, 'The Blanky Papers, II, His Coloured Country', in which Lawson comments adversely on 'flax-sticks', that is New Zealanders, whom he finds mean and conceited and clannish and calls mongrel Scotsmen. I have referred earlier to his memory in 1921 of his 'exile in Toadyland-New Zealand'.

Henry Lawson to Jack Louisson, 3 January 1900, from North Sydney, Alexander Turnbull Library, Q 091, Sydney Bulletin Writers, vol. i, p. 170.

Henry Lawson, Verse and Prose, MS. Q 39, pp. 144ff.