When a young lawyer known as Barty Paterson took some of his poems to a newspaper editor in 1886,he didn’t think his ‘fractured verses’ would stand the test of time. Fortunately the editor thought differently and began a publishing career that hasn’t ended. Banjo Paterson wrote poems, stories, articles and novels. His song ‘Waltzing Matilda’ is more loved than the Australian national anthem, and his face graces the ten dollar note.
Banjo: The Man Who Wrote Waltzing Matilda offers an insight into the man who became Australia’s best-loved poet, from his birth in rural NSW in 1864 through his childhood and education, his career as a lawyer, his personal life, his travels and, of course, his writing. The life of his famous contemporary Henry Lawson is also shared, in a way that allows comparison and explores their relationship. Similarly, the life of ‘Breaker’ Morant, who was also a friend of Paterson’s, is also touched on. But of course this is Paterson’s story, and so it is he who is the main focus, leading to an understanding of his influences, his life and his work.
This is an accessible biography, sure to appeal to lovers of Australian literature and history.
Banjo: The Man Who Wrote Waltzing Matilda, by Paul Terry
Allen & Unwin, 2014
Available from good bookstores and online.