Thursday, July 24, 2014

Author Biography: Henry Handel Richardson

Henry Handel Richardson has been calling to me from the library shelf for a long time and I've known that one day I would read The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney - that time has come.

If I thought (I did) Henry Handel Richardson had the ring of a fine literary gentleman I was in for a surprise for Mr.R.was actually Miss R.

Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson was born on the 3rd January,1870 in East Melbourne,Australia into a then prosperous family which later were to fall on hard times. She was the elder daughter of Walter Lindesay Richardson M.D. , and his wife, Mary.

Between 1883 - 1887 she was a boarder at the Presbyterian Ladies' College in Melbourne where she excelled in the arts and music. In 1888 her mother (her father died in 1879) took Ethel and her younger sister,Ada,to Germany so Ethel could continue her musical studies at the Liepzig Conservatorium. It was in Germany that she would meet the young Scottish science graduate, John George Robertson, who would become her husband in 1895. 

Ethel only returned to Australia once, in 1912 for a short visit to research her book, so it's understandable that she said " I have no desire to be marked for life as an Australian writer." Unfortunately an unavoidable label when that country is your birthplace and the setting for your books.

She began writing what was to become 'one of Australia's greatest literary achievements' in 1910 -  an account of the birth of the Australian nation on the goldfields of Victoria told through the story of a character loosely based on the life of her father Walter Richardson.
First published as a trilogy - Australia Felix, The Way Home, Ultima Thule - in 1930 the three volumes were brought together under the one title The Fortunes of Richard Mahony.

Ethel Richardson died in 1946 in England.

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