Alfred William Eustace - Oil on gum leaves
Night at the Museum

Alfred William Eustace - Oil on gum leaves
Alfred William Eustace - Oil on gum leaf

Outdoor Exhibition - A typical trolley from the Chiltern Goldfields
Typical trolley from the Chiltern Goldfields

A Collection of photos of soldiers from the WW1 Honour Roll
Photos of soldiers from the WW1 Honour Roll

Athenaeum Collection - A set of Gold Weighing Scales from the Gold Rush Era
Gold Weighing Scales from the Gold Rush


Henry Handel Richardson (1870-1946)

Henry Handel Richardson (1870-1946)RICHARDSON, ETHEL FLORENCE LINDESAY ('HENRY HANDEL') (1870-1946), novelist and short story writer, was born on 3 January 1870 at 139 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, Melbourne, elder daughter of WALTER LINDESAY RICHARDSON (c.1826-1879), M.D., and his wife Mary, née Bailey. They had migrated to the goldfields in the early 1850s and lived at "Lakeview" in Chiltern when she was 6 to 7½ years of age. At the age of 9, her father died at Koroit, Victoria and at 10 she moved with her mother and sister to Maldon.

She was a boarder at the Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne from 1883 to 1887 after which in 1888 at the age of 18, she left Australia with her mother and sister, supposedly for one year.

However, she studied the piano in Germany from age 18 to 22. Whilst there, she met John George Robertson, later Professor of German at London University, who she married in Dublin in 1895, aged 25.

The first nine years of marriage were spent in Germany. Her book "Maurice Guest" was started there in 1897. In 1904, she and her husband moved to England.

"Maurice Guest" was published in 1908, however Henry Handel Richardson's French publisher, who did not know that she was a woman, thought the novel controversial and had Henry Handel Richardson rewrite parts of it, the result being 20,000 words deleted. It is now believed similar cuts were made to her more famous novels.

Chiltern Atheneaum Museum"The Getting of Wisdom" was published in 1910 and eventually made into a film starting John Waters and Barry Humphries.

"Australia Felix" was published in 1917, "The Way Home" in 1925 and "Ultima Thule" (which means "the ends of the earth") in 1929. Interestingly, there is an "Ultima Thule Creek" at Alexandra, Victoria, where gold was also discovered. Overall, three novels, which made up "The Fortunes of Richard Mahony", took 20 years to write.

"Ultima Thule" was an overnight success and quickly ran into several editions. The Trilogy was a best seller. Henry Handel Richardson became the first Australian novelist to achieve real recognition overseas. Her works were also the first to be translated into several European languages.

Henry Handel Richardson was not only a novelist. There were many sides to this remarkable woman. She was very slender and 5ft 4 ins. tall. Henry Handel Richardson was a fine tennis player, a great walker, she could read French and German and to some extent, Danish. Few know she also wrote beautiful music. It was said that she "had a gift — her music has distinction — her songs very moving". She composed at least 60 items, but never wrote her own lyrics. At most times she set her music to her favourite poems.

Henry Handel Richardson's husband, John George Robertson, died of cancer of the colon in 1933 and a year later, she moved to a part of Sussex. It was here that her last novel, " The Young Cosima" was completed.

Henry Handel Richardson died of cancer of the colon, as had her mother and husband, on 30th March 1946. Her autobiography "Myself When Young" was published after her death.

Reprinted from Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition More

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