Richardson Hall is named in honour of Henry Handel Richardson (H.H.R.), the prominent Australian
author who adopted her male pseudonym in 1908 and used it constantly (even in private) until her death,
in preference to her own Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson.
Henry Handel Richardson was born in Melbourne at 3 Blanche Terrace, believed to be now 171 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, and the elder daughter of Walter Lindesay Richardson, who died when she was only 9. Her early years were punctuated by constant moves due to the fluctuating fortunes of her father, and ranged from Brighton and Hawthorn to Chiltern, Queenscliff, Koroit and Maldon. Between the ages of 12 and 16 she attended Presbyterian Ladies' College, where it became clear that she was talented in both literature and music. After leaving college, she, her mother and sister rented houses in Richmond and in Kambrook Road near the Caulfield Racecourse before leaving in 1887 for Leipzig to further her musical education.
While in Leipzig, Henry Handel Richardson became engaged to J.G. Robertson, who was studying literature at the University. Through him, and the University library, she was able to indulge her passion for great literature, and read voraciously. After a long engagement (due to shortage of money), they married in December 1895, and lived in Germany until 1903 when Robertson was appointed Professor of German
Literature at the University of London. Except for short holidays abroad, including one six-week visit to Australia in 1912, Henry Handel Richardson spent the rest of her life in England.
She was naturally shy and nervous, and consequently disliked being interviewed or having to make public appearances, a characteristic that was often mistaken for aloofness. Photographs usually made her look severe but she had a lively sense of humour and always enjoyed a good joke.
In the early years of her marriage she commenced work on her first, and possibly her finest novel, Maurice Guest, set in Leipzig and re-creating vividly the passions and drama of the student life she knew so well. By the time it was published in 1908, she had begun The Getting of Wisdom (her favourite amongst her books), based on her experiences at P.L.C. 1917-1929 saw the publication of the three
separate volumes of her most famous work, known collectively as The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, an imaginative re-creation of her father's life. Only with its publication was Henry Handel Richardson's skill as a novelist finally acknowledged.
A collection of her short stories and a fragment of what was to have been the continuation of the Mahony saga appeared in 1934 as The End of a Childhood; and five years later she completed her last novel, The Young Cosima, dealing with the involvement of Cosima Liszt with Hans von Bulow and Richard Wagner. Her unfinished biography, Myself When Young, published posthumously in 1948, completed her output. After her husband's death in 1933, Henry Handel Richardson became increasingly withdrawn, and with her secretary-companion, Olga Roncoroni, lived quietly on the south coast of England until her death in 1946. Her own and her husband's ashes were finally mingled and scattered over the waters of the English Channel.
The School of English, Commmunications and Performance Studies at Monash University has been at the forefront of studies into the life and work of Henry Handel Richardson, with Professor Cluve Probyn FAHA and Professor Bruce Steele leading the Monash Henry Handel Richarson Project (see link below).
Maurice Guest 1908
The Getting of Wisdom 1910
Australia Felix 1917
The Way Home 1925
Ultima Thule 1929
The Fortunes of Richard Mahony 1930 (Comprising the novels: Australia Felix, The Way Home and Ultima Thule)
The Young Cosima 1939
Short Story Collections
Two Studies 1931
The End of a Childhood 1934
The Adventures of Cuffy Mahony 1979
The End of Childhood: The Complete Stories of Henry Handel Richardson 1992 edited by Carol Franklin
Myself When Young 1948 (unfinished)
BiographyHenry Handel Richardson and some of Her Sources 1954 by Leonie Kramer
Henry Handel Richardson 1961 by Vincent Buckley
Myself When Laura 1966 by Leonie Kramer
Ulysses Bound 1973 (revised 1986) by Dorothy Green
Henry Handel Richardson 1985 by Karen McLeod
Henry Handel Richardson: Fiction in the Making 1990 by Axel Clark
Henry Handel Richardson: A Life 2005 by Michael Ackland
Henry Handel Richardson's biography at the ANU's Australian Dictionary of Biography: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/richardson-ethel-florence-lindesay-henry-handel-8202
The Monash University Henry Handel Richardson Projects (http://adm.monash.edu/records-archives/archives/memo-archive/2004-2007/stories/20071107/henry-handel.html)
The National Library of Australia's Collection of Henry Handel Richardson's papers: http://nla.gov.au/nla.ms-ms133