‘Looking through time itself’: Henry Handel Richardson and the haunting of Lake View

Brigid Magner

Thank you to Graeme Charles for offering me the chance to speak to you today. I have to say at the outset that I’m not an HHR expert – I’m really a tourist in the area of HHR studies. At present I’m writing a book on literary places in Australia. One chapter of the book involves a discussion of sites associated with HHR. Today I would like to focus on themes of haunting through an examination of texts, objects and practices that enable visitors to Lake View to engage in imaginative time travel.

Haunting necessarily involves a consideration of the ways in which the past interacts with the present. A ghost is essentially a figure from the past which reminds us of what has gone before. But the term ‘haunted’ does not always refer to ghosts as such. It can also refer to a ‘haunted’ state which can either be a pleasant communion with a bygone spirit, or it might entail distress and anxiety. It can also refer to the old ‘haunts’ of notable individuals.

During my research into literary tourism, I have discovered that haunting or haunted-ness is a common aspect of the presentation of literary houses yet the term is not always used in a literal sense. Hilary Iris Lowe in her discussion of Mark Twain’s former residence Quarry Farm, observes that fellows working there frequently say that the place is ‘haunted’ by the ‘spirit’ of Twain but they hardly ever mean that it is ‘actually haunted’. Instead, they are referring to the mingling of presences at Quarry Farm both past and present, real and imaginary (Lowe 153).

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