The publication of Henry Handel Richardson's correspondence will be a major event in Australian scholarly publishing. It will be the first time any Australian literary writer has had his/her correspondence published in its entirety. The letters of Henry Handel Richardson - deposited in the National Library of Australia in Canberra and in the Mitchell Library in Sydney - were opened in March 1996 to unrestricted access, after a fifty-year period of closed access. The executrix of the HHR estate has determined, however, that none of the letters may be published in whole or in part until after Probyn and Steele's edition of the complete correspondence has been released. At present, there are approximately 1800 unpublished manuscript letters to and from HHR, of which at least 1000 are in her own hand. They form a correspondence between Australia, England, German, Italy and the USA for the period 1874 to 1946. Within the total number there are two quite distinct and major sub-groups, the first (1910 - 14) being a collection of both sides of the correspondence between HHR and the French translator of Maurice Guest, Paul Solanges; the second (1911 - 46) letters between HHR and Mary A.
Kernot of Melbourne. As well as the letters held in the National and Mitchell libraries, the editors possess an entire sequence of letters from William Heinemann to HHR and her husband John George Robertson detailing the publication history of Ultima Thule, the final volume of The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney, the trilogy which cemented her international reputation. They are adding to the collection almost monthly, but have reason to believe that about 90% of the extant letters are now in their possession. The letters, as might be expected, shed much new light on HHR's biography, her artistic methods, her personal life, her friendships (and antagonisms), her response to Australian readers and to expatriation, and her efforts to maintain a literary life apart from her personal life. The series includes HHR's earliest letter, her student days in Leipzig, the publication of Maurice Guest, The Getting of Wisdom, The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney, The End of a Childhood, and The Young Cosima, and her experience of life in wartime England.
Some of the most vivid letters describe her schooldays (the biographical context for The Getting of Wisdom), her memories of the Australian bush, her relationship with Vance and Nettie Palmer, her meetings with Miles Franklin, her views on contemporary writing, and life in wartime England. In particular, the letters to and from Solanges are packed with information about the writing, the autobiographical roots and the meaning of Maurice Guest. The letters to Kernot provide constant linkages between life in England and Australia during the most formative period for modern Australian literature (including the negotiations for HHR's Nobel Prize nomination).show more