About Henry Handel Richardson
Henry Handel Richardson, the nom de plume of Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson, (3 January 1870 - 20 March 1946) was an Australian author born in East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia into a then prosperous family which later fell on hard times. Ethel (who preferred to answer to Et, Ettie or Etta) was the elder daughter of Walter Lindesay Richardson (c. 1826–1879), M. D., and his wife Mary (née Bailey 1835-1896). The Richardson's had one other child, another daughter, Ada Lillian (Lil) (1871-1944).
The family lived in various Victorian towns, as well as Melbourne itself, during Richardson's childhood and youth. These included Chiltern, Queenscliff, Koroit and, most happily, Maldon, where her mother was postmistress. Richardson left Maldon to become a boarder at Presbyterian Ladies' College (PLC) in Melbourne in 1883, attending from the ages of 13 to 17. (This experience was the basis for The Getting of Wisdom, a coming of age novel admired by H. G. Wells.)
She excelled in the arts and music during her time at PLC and her mother took the family (her father having died in 1879) to Europe in 1888 to enable Richardson to continue her musical studies at the Leipzig Conservatorium. She set her first novel, Maurice Guest, in this city.
The Fortunes of Richard Mahony is Richardson's famous trilogy about the slow decline of a successful Australian physician and his family due to his character flaws and brain disease. It was highly praised by Sinclair Lewis, among others.
Richardson also wrote a single volume of short stories and an unfinished autobiography that greatly illuminates the settings of her novels, although her Australian Dictionary of Biography entry asserts that it is somewhat unreliable.
Richardson married J. George Robertson, a Scottish student of German literature in 1894. They moved to London in 1903, where Robertson had been appointed to a chair of German at the University of London as a Professor of German Literature.
She returned to Australia once, in 1912 for several weeks to research family history for her trilogy The Fortunes of Richard Mahony before returning to England where she lived for the rest of her life.
Richardson died of cancer on 20 March 1946 in Hastings, East Sussex, England. Her cremated remains were scattered at sea, along with her husband's who had died in 1933 . They had no children.
Bibliography - Published Works by Richardson
- Maurice Guest (Heinemann, 1908)
- The Getting of Wisdom (Heinemann, 1910)
- The Fortunes of Richard Mahony: Australia Felix (Heinemann, 1917)
- The Way Home , the second part of The Fortunes (Heinemann, 1925)
- Ultima Thule, the third part of The Fortunes (Heinemann, 1929)
- The Fortunes of Richard Mahony (the trilogy) (Heinemann, 1930)
- Two Studies (Ulysses Press, 1931)
- The End of a Childhood and Other Stories (Heinemann, 1934)
- The Young Cosima (Heinemann, 1939)
- Myself When Young (Heinemann, 1948)