Who would have believed?
Something of a Legend
HHR is something of a legend, but a legend which will bring no crowds of demonstrators into the streets and stimulate no HHR Societies to pore with loving absorption over the minutiae of her life...
So wrote Professor Vincent Buckley, a poet and Professor of English at the University of Melbourne, in 1962, in his short critique on HHR in the series, ‘Australian Writers and their Work’.
In doing so he did not foresee the devotion of the people of Chiltern in saving Lake View, HHR’s home from 1876-77, from demolition, and the subsequent unbroken celebration of HHR’s birthday there from 1970 to the present day.
Henry Handel Richardson Society
Neither did he predict the gathering of six people around a kitchen table in 2008 in Chiltern, and their decision to form the Henry Handel Richardson Society of Australia, the first such society in the world, giving its members the opportunity to pore with loving absorption over the minutiae of her life, or, to put it in the words of the stated aim of that time: to celebrate and promote the writing (including music) of Henry Handel Richardson.
The Society now includes members from around Australia, as well as England, Germany, Italy and the US.
Our founding patron was Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, renowned philanthropist and patron of the arts in Victoria. On her death in 2012 she was succeeded by the film director, Bruce Beresford who directed the adaptation of HHR’s second novel, The Getting of Wisdom.
An Exciting Field of Study
Throughout her life HHR fiercely guarded her privacy. One outcome of this is the pleasure of discovery for contemporary scholars and readers of her work as more and more information about her becomes accessible in this exciting field of study.
Clive Probyn, literary executor for HHR and head of the Monash Richardson Project with Bruce Steele tells us more:
"Like HHR herself, the Society has enjoyed an international audience from the very beginning. The recent tours of Germany and England, and the visits to Australia of English and German members show the depth of this. The Society’s chief purpose is to celebrate, enjoy, read and talk about the life and works of HHR, and there are still new things to discover.
"Several ‘new’ unpublished letters have turned up in the last few years; there is fascinating work being done on contemporaries in HHR’s early life in Australia We still know too little about HHR’s life in London, and about her relationship with the two most important women in her life, her sister Lil and her devoted companion/secretary Olga Roncoroni."
"Without ever meeting HHR, Margaret Capon, her previous literary executor (now my role), ensured that the National Library, through its Manuscripts Librarian Graeme Powell, could assemble a marvellous collection of HHR’s papers, photographs, and printed material. For those who wish to pursue the interest, here is the key that opens the door to the Richardson Papers: MS 133."
What We Do
Newsletters are published 4-6 times a year and include information about and reports of HHR events, new findings on HHR, readers’ HHR stories and much more.
Contributions are always welcome from members and others with an interest in HHR.
Some comments on the newsletters from readers:
"I love the Henry Handel Richardson newsletters, a satisfying and enjoyable medley of stories, scholarship, testimonials and events - Delia Bradshaw in Melbourne, Australia. We stay tuned via the great newsletter."
- Susan and Sebastian Fink in Leipzig, Germany
"Thank you again for the seminar and for the newsletter; it's so important for me to keep updated – Claudia Milani in Milan, Italy. I am always very pleased to get the newsletter."
- Alex Cliff in Hastings, England
A recent exciting development in our work is the making of HHR apps under the guidance of Brigid Magner of RMIT.
A walking tour of HHR’s Chiltern with a map, photos and information about each site, and relevant reading from HHR texts is now available under the heading, ‘Henry Handel Richardson Walking Tours’ through the Apple Store and Google Play Store.
The Society plans to make more apps on other HHR towns.
Download the apps below:
The Society celebrates HHR's birthday at Lake View in Chiltern on 3 January each year with a picnic tea and a talk and/or HHR readings in the gardens or elsewhere in Chiltern if the weather is bad.
Annual HHR Oration
The Annual HHR Oration has been delivered at various places, including Chiltern, Maldon and PLC. Some of the Orations are available in 'Contributions' and reports of the events are in the newsletters.
Local and Overseas Tours
The Society has conducted HHR tours to various towns in Victoria, Australia where HHR spent parts of her childhood – Melbourne, Chiltern, Koroit, Queenscliff and Maldon. Overseas tours have been conducted to relevant HHR sites in Germany in 2017, and England and Germany in 2019.
Celebratory and reenactment events have been held at HHR sites in these places as well. You can read about them in our newsletters.
As part of our aim to promote the work of HHR the Society seeks to support current writers, offering awards in her name.
In 2012 and 2014 the Society conducted international writing competitions, judged by one of Australia’s most significant contemporary writers, Helen Garner. You can read reports of these in our newsletters, and the speech Helen made in 2014 about her interest in HHR in the ‘Contributions’ section of the website.
From 2017 the Society has partnered with Varuna, the National Writer’s house in Katoomba, NSW to offer a Fellowship in Short Story Writing every two years. You can read more about this under ‘Varuna Fellowship’ and in our newsletters as well as on Varuna’s website
Our Members & Readers
The Society is a vibrant mix of readers, scholars, creative artists, family and local historians, literary tourists and others drawn together by their shared interest in HHR and her work - the only requirement to join. New members are always welcome.
The majority of our members live in Australia but one of the pleasures of belonging is the chance to interact with our overseas members.
The Society has enjoyed warm-hearted and fruitful relations with fellow HHR admirers in Germany for some years, since the time Graeme and Dot Charles on holiday in Europe suggested to a young woman, a student of English Literature working at the Leipzig Museum that she should read HHR. That young woman – Susan Schaale, went on not only to read HHR but to do her thesis on Maurice Guest with the Professor of English Literature at Leipzig University – Stefan Welz.
Susan Schaale & Sebastian Fink
Susan and her husband Sebastian Fink visited Australia in 2018. Sebastian wrote of his pleasure in belonging to the Society: It's reading and writing and talking about HHR's work and the thoughts of others about it, but it's also coming together on one continent or the other, meeting whenever, wherever possible…
Professor Stefan Welz
The Society has taken great pleasure in accompanying Professor Stefan Welz in a small way as he and Fabain Dellemann did the monumental work of translating Maurice Guest into German over a number of years. Stefan and his family visited Melbourne in 2019 while he did the final work on the translation at Monash University and delivered our Annual Oration at PLC. The translation has since been published and received enthusiastic reviews.
Stefan, Susan and Sebastian, along with Irmgard Heidler from Munich were our generous hosts and guides when the Society travelled to Germany in 2017 and again in 2019 when we participated in the celebration of the publishing of Maurice Guest in Leipzig.
You can read reports of these journeys in our newsletters and in the Orations delivered by Irmgard on her visit to Australia in 2017 and Stefan in 2019.
The Society also enjoys warm and fruitful relationships with our English and US members.
Angela & Patrick Neustatter
From London, HHR’s great niece (granddaughter of Lil), Angela Neustatter and her brother Patrick Neustatter have contributed informative articles on their family links with HHR.
In 2009 they travelled to Australia to attend the annual picnic tea at Lake View. At the picnic tea Angela delivered the inaugural Society Oration on ‘The parallel lives of HHR and her sister Lil and the influence they have had on my own life’, and Patrick, a doctor himself spoke of his interest in HHR’s father as a medic. Angela and Patrick also formally presented one of HHR’s writing desks to the Chiltern Athenaeum on this visit.
They also joined us on our tours in England (2019) and Germany (2017 and 2019).
Roger & Lesley Buckley
From Cambridge Roger and Lesley Buckley joined us on the 2019 tour in London and in Leipzig and enriched our understanding of HHR’s Leipzig with their own knowledge of the composer, Delius.
In Hastings, Alex Cliff was our energetic host and arranged among many other things for us to visit Green Ridges on the 2019 tour. Alex is the great-great niece of Marie Hansen who was HHR’s friend and fellow music student at school and in Leipzig and the subject of Rachel Solomon’s Oration at PLC on 2018.
Alex continues her research on HHR and provides updates for our newsletters.
Thanks to the wonders of Zoom we've met Society member, Claudia Milani from Milan, Italy at an HHR webinar in Australia.
Claudia was introduced to Australian Literature and HHR in particular by Professor Richard Sadleir and went on to write her thesis on The Fortunes of Richard Mahony.
She included in her thesis a translation of The End of a Childhood into Italian.