Barbara Baynton

Barbara Janet Baynton (née Lawrence; 4 June 1857 – 28 May 1929) was an Australian writer known primarily for her short stories about life in the bush. She published the collection Bush Studies (1902) and the novel Human Toll (1907), as well as writing for The Bulletin and The Sydney Morning Herald. She was a shrewd manager of her second husband's estate, owning properties in Melbourne and London. She acquired the title Lady Headley from her third marriage to Rowland Allanson-Winn, 5th Baron Headley, but never wrote under that name.

Barbara Baynton
Barbara Baynton, about 1892
BornBarbara Janet Lawrence
(1857-06-04)4 June 1857
Scone, New South Wales, Australia
Died28 May 1929(1929-05-28) (aged 71)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Period19th century
Alexander Frater
(m. 1880; div. 1890)
Thomas Baynton
(m. 1890; died 1904)
Lord Headley (m. 1921)
RelativesJo Gullett (grandson)
Henry Gullett (son-in-law)

Early years

Baynton was born in 1857 at Scone, New South Wales, the daughter of Irish bounty immigrants,[lower-alpha 1] John Lawrence and Elizabeth Ewart. However, she claimed to have been born in 1862 to Penelope Ewart and Captain Robert Kilpatrick, of the Bengal Light Cavalry.[1]


The fictional narrative of her birth gave her "entrée to polite circles as a governess" and, in 1880, she married Alexander Frater, the son of her employers.[1] They soon moved to the Coonamble district, and had two sons and a daughter. However, Alexander Frater ran off with her niece,[2] Sarah Glover, in 1887, and Barbara moved to Sydney and commenced divorce proceedings. A decree absolute was granted 4 March 1890.

On 5 March 1890, she married Dr Thomas Baynton, a retired surgeon aged 70 years who had literary friends. Beginning in December 1896, she began contributing short stories to the Bulletin. Six of these were published in 1902 in London by Gerald Duckworth and Company Ltd under the title of Bush Studies because Mrs Baynton had been unable to find a publisher for them in Sydney. Alfred Stephens, a close friend, reviewed the book in the Bulletin and stated: 'So precise, so complete, with such insight into detail and such force of statement, it ranks with the masterpieces of realism in any language. Percival Serle, however, found that The building up of detail, however, is at times overdone, and lacking humorous relief, the stories tend to give a distorted view of life in the back-blocks.

Baynton's husband died on 10 June 1904 and left his entire estate to her. She invested in the stock market, bought and sold antiques, and collected black opals from Lightning Ridge.[1] She also became chairman of the Law Book Company of Australasia. In 1907, her only novel, Human Toll, was published, and in 1917 Cobbers, a reprint of Bush Studies with two additional stories, appeared. During World War I, she lived in England.[3]

In February 1921, Baynton married her third husband Rowland Allanson-Winn, 5th Baron Headley; she was subsequently styled "Lady Headley". He was a convert to Islam, but she did not adopt his religion. In 1925, the couple separated and she returned to Melbourne where she lived in the suburb of Toorak. The split was reputedly due to her husband's refusal of the throne of Albania. Baynton died in Melbourne on 28 May 1929. She was survived by her third husband and her two sons and daughter by the first marriage. Her daughter Penny Frater married politician and journalist Henry Gullett; a grandson Jo Gullett also entered politics.[3]

Selected works


  • Human Toll (1907)


  • Bush Studies (1902)
  • Cobbers (1917)

Major individual works

  • The Chosen Vessel (1896) - short story
  • Fragments: 1 Day-Birth (1899) - poem
  • A Dreamer (1902) - short story
  • Billy Skywonkie (1902) - short story


  1. Immigrants who were offered free passage by entrepreneurs who were paid an amount (i.e.bounty) per person for the eligible immigrants they brought into the colony, usually in shiploads


  1. Carter (2003) p. 13
  2. Baynton, Barbara (2012). Bush Studies. Text Publishing House: Melbourne. p. xii. ISBN 978-1-92207-949-7
  3. "Baynton, Barbara Jane (1857–1929)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 1979.


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