So begins Myself When Young first published posthumously, in 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. 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 an experience that provided material for her novel The Getting of Wisdom.
At school she developed into a talented pianist and tennis player. In , 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.
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She published her first novel, Maurice Guest, in , 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 to complete her research for the trilogy that would become The Fortunes of Richard Mahony.
Her final novel The Young Cosima appeared in Henry Handel Richardson died in Sussex in Learn about new offers and get more deals by joining our newsletter. The girls at the school are generally from rather wealthy families and those, like Laura, who come from less fortunate backgrounds learn very early not to divulge their circumstances for fear of ridicule.
From time to time Laura lets little snippets of information about her family slip out, and she suffers for it. In fact, these seem to be the main forces controlling the action of this book: fear of the judgements of one's peers, the desire to "fit in", embarrassment about one's family—it is shameful to have a mother who works for a living—and the desire to "better" oneself by belittling others.
None of the girls in the school, nor the teachers for that matter, come across as anything but self-serving and boorish. Even Laura, who starts out so young and strong and idealistic, surrenders to the role expected of her. Essentially, this is a story about the destruction of innocence.
Laura undergoes a form of redemption at the end of the book, convincing herself that cheating in an exam is actually God's will, and then later deciding that while she was wrong to do so, she got away with it and therefore God had no actual hand in the matter or else he would have punished her for the sin.
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A neat case of self-delusion. At the end, when Laura is walking away from the school for the last time, she is overcome with a desire to run, and the last we see of her is a rapidly diminishing form disappearing through a park. She is free at last: free of the overwhelming constrictions of the school, the teachers' expectations and the other schoolgirls' callous disregard.
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- HHR’s memoir, ‘Myself When Young’ published by Text Classics. Introduction by Brenda Niall.
The epigraph reads: Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs , IV, 7.
In , the book was adapted for the screen in a film of the same name. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For Australian film, see The Getting of Wisdom film.
The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson
Main article: The Getting of Wisdom film. The Getting of Wisdom.
Categories : Australian novels in Australia Novels by Henry Handel Richardson Australian children's novels Australian bildungsromans Novels set in Melbourne Heinemann publisher books Novels set in schools children's books Australian novels adapted into films.