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190 REVIEW The Fortunes of Henry Handel Richardson Vincent Buckley. HENRY HANDEL RICHARDSON. Australian Writers and Their Work. Melbourne: Lansdowne P, I962. Henry Handel Richardson's friends as well as students of the English novel will be glad to see Vincent Buckley's HENRY HANDEL RICHARDSON, a 36-page booklet, though Mr. Buckley's opinion of her will somewhat dampen their gratification. The key to his attitude appears in his first sentence: "Henry Handel Richardson is 'an Australian Classic'...but...while her work wins respect from Australian literary men, it evokes little passionate affection." Though conceding that the majority of critics would place her amongst the three or four most important Australian novelists, he suggests three possible reasons for her present status as one of the forgotten figures of modern literature: her novels are out of fashion, she seems un-Australian to Australians, and the passage of thirty years has shown how limiting her creative defects are. Though Mr. Buckley's life sketch of HHR-based on her fragmentary autobiography, MYSELF WHEN YOUNG, and Palmer's HENRY HANDEL RICHARDSON: A STUDY— is at once highly informative, terse and readable, its three pages seem insufficient to explain the questions which naturally arise about a novelist whose fiction adhered rather closely to the actualities of her life. From the corpus of HHR's work, Mr. Buckley chose to discuss MAURICE GUEST (1908), THE YOUNG COSIMA (1939), THE GETTING OF WISDOM (I9IO), and THE FORTUNES OF RICHARD MAHONY (1917-1929), omitting THE END OF A CHILDHOOD (1934) as "hardly worth critical discussion since it is so plainly marginal to her achievement." This omission seems a pity inasmuch as the novel reveals the charmingly humorous side of HHR, especially in several excellent sketches of adolescent girls. Mr. Buckley deems MAURICE GUEST a "lop-sided half-grown giant" with an inadequate perspective on human lives and with a disconcerting blend of naturalistic exposition, romantic novelese, and precise diction. Perhaps he is correct. If so, one is uncertain about how to account for the eight pages he devotes to this novel, as opposed to the three and a half pages he allots to THE GETTING OF WISDOM, which he rates a minor masterpiece. In his view, THE YOUNG COSIMA—a biographical novel about the unusual relationship between Richard Wagner, Cos i ma Liszt von Bulow, and Hans von Bülow—is worth'discussion only because it corrects the imbalance and imprecision of MAURICE GUEST. He calls it a "nonentity" and a "circulating-library dream of genius." Mr. Buckley is also displeased with HHR's detailing of THE FORTUNES OF RICHARD MAHONY, an interpretative rendering of her father's life against the background of changing Australia during its gold-rush and colonial days between the I850's and l870's. He calls this trilogy an impressive failure and a monument to the inflexibility of the naturalistic method: in his view the author aims at surface realism and sometimes succeeds admirably, but she lacks the dramatic propriety for avoiding sentimentality and excess detail. Several weaknesses in Mr. Buckley's study should be noted. First, he used the MillerMacartney bibliography of Australian literature in totaling her separate works. Since this listing is far from complete, one questions why he did not use the authoritative and relatively full bibliography at the end of MYSELF V/HEN YOUNG or else the annotated bibliography by Maria S. Haynes. Second, the death of John Turnham, which Mr. Buckley praises as "the finest single episode" in the trilogy, occurs in THE WAY HOME and not in ULTIMA THULE, where he places it. Third, Mr. Buckley's "Selected Bibliography" is faulty in showing THE YOUNG COSlMA as published in 1934 rather than in 1939 and in 191 omitting HHR's "Some Notes on My Books," her own story of her writing career. Certainly, HHR has not yet received full critical justice. Purdue University (Cte««imet Campus) Verna D. Wittrock BOOKS RECEIVED Listing here does not preclude the publication of a review in a future issue of ELT. Publishers receive two copies of the review. Beebe, Maurice. IVORY TOWERS AND SACRED FOUNTS: THE ARTIST AS HERO IN FICTION FROM GOETHE TO JOYCE. NY: New York U...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 190-191
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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