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Myself When Young: Text Classics by Richardson, Henry Handel
ISBN 9781925773958 – Text Publishing – The Text Publishing Company Paperback 192 pp – August 2019
Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson was born into an affluent Melbourne family in 1870. Her father Walter was a doctor of medicine. When Richardson was nine he died of syphilis after being admitted to Melbourne’s Kew mental asylum. His illness and suffering had a huge impact on his family.
After his death, Richardson’s mother took her children to Maldon where she worked as the postmistress. Richardson was sent to board at the Presbyterian Ladies College in 1883-an experience that provided material for her novel The Getting of Wisdom. At school she developed into a talented pianist and tennis player.
In 1888, she travelled to Europe with her mother and studied at the Leipzig Conservatorium where she met John George Robertson, a Scottish expert in German literature. The pair married and settled in London. She published her first novel, Maurice Guest, in 1908, taking the pen name of Henry Handel Richardson (which she used for all of her books).
Richardson made her only journey back to Australia in 1912 to complete her research for the trilogy that would become The Fortunes of Richard Mahony. Her final novel The Young Cosima appeared in 1939. Henry Handel Richardson died in Sussex in 1946.
The unfinished autobiography of one of the great Australian novelists-Henry Handel Richardson, the pen name of Ethel F. Lindesay Robertson. From the author of The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney and The Getting of Wisdom, comes this lively and revealing self-portrait of the artist as a young woman.
It has never been my way to say much about my private life. Rightly or wrongly, I believed this only concerned myself. And I trusted to my husband to supply, on my death, any further information that might be asked for. Now that he is gone, however, there is no one to take his place, and so I propose to jot down a few facts about myself, and memories of my childhood, which may possibly be of interest to some who have read my books.
So begins Myself When Young (first published posthumously, in 1948) Henry Handel Richardson’s frank and engaging account of her childhood living in the post offices of various rural towns, her adolescence at boarding school in Melbourne that would form the basis of her much loved novel The Getting of Wisdom, her time in Leipzig studying music and her early years of marriage. With insights into the inspiration for some of her most famous characters, and comments on the response to her depiction of those characters and events following the publication of her early novels, Myself When Young is not only a marvellous account of a life, but a fascinating companion to the fictional works of one of our greatest novelists.