Anyone coming to “A Child in the Dark, and a Foreign Father” before reading any of his other works would almost certainly come away with a distinctly different impression of the type of writer Henry Lawson was than those who concluded their survey of his literary output with this story published in 1902. The sentence construction is uncharacteristically complex and the style unsuited for oral readings. That and the lack of Lawson’s trademark sense of humor make this entry in the canon unusually bleak, but no less powerful and readable because of its experimental feeling.
Lawson had, in fact, originally conceived the idea of a darker and more profoundly emotional semi-autobiographical examination of the relationship between a child and parent with the potential for expanding it into novel length. That decision, had it been carried out, would have been the culmination of the way that “A Child in the Dark, and a Foreign Father” stands out as almost entirely unlike anything else Lawson became famous for.
The story initially published on December 13, 1902 under the title “A Child in the Dark: A Bush Sketch” in Bulletin and then collected in the volume Triangles of Life a decade later.