Ethel Florence Lindesay Robertson Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

When Sinclair Lewis said in 1941 that The Fortunes of Richard Mahony was “a truly major work of fiction of the twentieth century,” he was giving belated recognition to one of the most neglected novelists of modern times. Henry Handel Richardson was the pseudonym of Ethel Florence Lindesay Robertson (also known as Henrietta Richardson), born in Melbourne, Australia, on January 3, 1870. When Richardson was four, her father, a successful doctor and investor, lost most of his money and fell gravely ill; he died five years later. These events, which traumatized the young Richardson, would later supply material for her novels.{$S[A]Robertson, Ethel Florence Lindesay;Richardson, Henry Handel}

After her education in Melbourne, she went to Germany, where she studied to become a concert pianist. In 1895 she married J. G. Robertson, who in 1903 became professor of German literature at the University of London; Robertson’s intellectual and moral support helped Richardson to overcome the difficulties inevitably besetting a female novelist in the late nineteenth century. Turning from music to literature, she published at widely separated intervals the novels that have caused her to be hailed since her death as among the most distinguished of Australian novelists.

An uncompromising realist, she made the facts of her family the facts of her fiction. Her first novel, Maurice Guest, is the story of a musician who suffers ostracism for...

(The entire section is 463 words.)