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Richardson, Henry Handel


Subject Literature » Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature

Key-Topics migration, sexualities

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405192446.2011.x


Henry Handel Richardson (Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson) wrote her novels, short stories, and music as an Australian expatriate, and although the style of her fiction responds to and belongs with the European tradition of literary realism (Flaubert, Zola, Stendhal), most of her subjects are not European. Her pseudonym and her residence in Germany and England occluded her identity and delayed her recognition in Australian literature: she was hardly known in her own country until the international success of Ultima Thule in 1929 , which won her the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal. She was born on January 3, 1870 at Blanche Terrace in what is now East Melbourne, the first of two daughters of Mary Bailey and Walter Lindesay Richardson, an Edinburgh-trained doctor drawn to emigration by news of the 1851 gold rush in Ballarat. Ethel and her sister Ada Lillian (Lil) received the best available education at the Presbyterian Ladies’ College, where Ethel excelled academically in English, history, and music. Walter's death in 1879 prompted Mary to take her daughters to Germany to pursue their musical education, leaving Melbourne on August 3, 1888. Just as her second novel (The Getting of Wisdom , 1910) is based on her own adolescence in Victorian Melbourne, so her first novel ( Maurice Guest , 1908 ) recasts her adult experience at the Leipzig Conservatorium for Music, where ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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