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



Lawson suffered from editors and subeditors who thought that because his copy had a few spelling mistakes they could revise his poems without asking him. Denton Prout cites George Black, employed by the Bulletin, who boasted of condensing and remodelling Lawson's verse, and C. H. Bertie thought Lawson should have been grateful.18 Prout gives an example of a text before and after amendment by J. B. Dalley, and the editorial arrogance is startling.19 There is evidence of Lawson's anger at such treatment, and he complained to the editor of the Lone Hand at 'the condencing or altering, and … the mutilation of my copy'.20

Bertha complained that David McKee Wright altered without Lawson's permission, but Rebecca Wiley of Angus and Robertson claimed that Lawson had written to her that Wright was the only person he would allow to alter his words.21 T. D. Mutch wrote: 'Miss Wylie [sic] is quite correct. The alterations referred to were either made by Lawson himself, or made with his concurrence, I have seen them.'22 Certainly George Robertson, in preparing Selected Poems for publication in 1918, was most scrupulous in keeping a record of corrections by Bertram Stevens, A. W. Jose, and Wright in ink of several colours in a volume he called The Polychrome, and in his protracted and detailed letters to Lawson which show that Lawson fully considered and approved or vetoed Robertson's suggestions and Wright's amendments.23 But there were further amendments after Lawson's death, for the Poetical Works of 1925, by Wright, Robertson, and Jose; and it is in these that Wright has seemed more cavalier.

The editors of journals were less scrupulous than Robertson. Lawson laid himself open to their treatment by leaving the choice of this word or that to the editor's discretion; frequently a word is overwritten by an alternative which Lawson has neither settled for nor rejected, and sometimes underwritten by a second. In the manuscript of 'The Writer's Dream' the editor has once rejected both of Lawson's alternatives and page 144provided a word of his own, and seven other times has taken it on himself to revise a word or a phrase, though in fact four of his revisions are not used in any of the printed versions. To get back to what Lawson meant and not what the editor thought he should mean I have used the text as Lawson wrote it. Where there are alternatives—except in two cases, lines 34 and 52, where the question is one of grammar—I have used the word first written, that is on the same level as the rest of the line in which it appears (a); first alternatives, written above the line, are footnoted b; second alternatives, written below the line, are footnoted c; if either of these alternatives was used in the Bulletin, the b or c is followed by B; editorial alterations are footnoted Ed. With some variations, the Bulletin version was used in Verses Popular and Humorous (1900), the only reprinting the poem has had.* David McKee Wright and another hand, either Robertson or Jose, made some revisions, presumably for the Poetical Works, but the poem was not included in the collection: these sixteen variations from the VPH text are footnoted DMW, though five of them are in a hand different from Wright's.24 Variations in punctuation have not been noted.