Henry Handel Richardson: Biography

Henry Handel Richardson

03 jan 1870

Henry Handel Richardson was the chosen pen name of Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson, and Australian author born in 1870. She is the second cousin twice removed of the famous author Iris Murdoch. Richardson was born in East Melbourne into a once-wealthy family who had fallen on hard times. She was raised in various different towns and cities across Victoria before being sent to boarding school in Melbourne when she was 13.

Richardson married John George Robertson in 1894, and moved to London with him in 1903. She briefly moved back to Australia to conduct research for one of her books, but apart from this short stay she spent the rest of her life in England.

Richardson’s most celebrated work is The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, a trilogy of novels about the fall from grace of a successful Australian businessman. It was partly inspired by Richardson’s own family life, and the way in which her once-prosperous family lost most of their assets. Her other works include Maurice Guest, Australia Felix, The Way Home, Ultima Thule (Winner of the Australian Society Gold Medal in 1929) and The Young Cosima. She also published four collections of short stories during her lifetime, along with a memoir entitled Myself When Young which was published in 1949.

Richardson developed cancer and died in March, 1946 in Hastings, England. Her ashes were scattered with her husband’s at sea. Many of her private correspondences and writings were destroyed upon her death, as per her wishes.