AUSTRALIA FELIX book cover   Australia Felix
Henry Handel Richardson

Cover: detail from Australian Gold Diggings by an unknown artist

Dustjacket synopsis:
"The Fortunes of Richard Mahony was originally published as a trilogy between 1917 and 1929. It is without question Henry Handel Richardson's most important work, and Richard Mahony, a complex portrayal of Richardson's own father, is the first substantial character in Australian fiction. Richardson's brilliant analysis of human inadequacy, of the gulf between the ideal and achievement, and of the complexities of circumstance, environment and human fraility, make her one of Australia's most distinguished novelists. In The Fortunes of Richard Mahony she brings together knowledge of a significant period of Australian history, an understanding of human weakness, and a grasp of the principles and techniques of the best European and Russian writers of the nineteenth century.

"In Australia Felix, the first volume of the trilogy, Mahony's personal history is closely interwoven with the history of the colony of Victoria at the time of the Ballarat gold rush. Colonial life, although the source of his prosperity, becomes for Mahony the prime cause of an incurable dissatisfaction with his lot. The trilogy is continued with The Way Home and Ultima Thule.

"This uniform edition of The Fortunes of Richard Mahony carries an introduction by Leonie Kramer, Professor of Australian Literature at the University of Sydney."

First Paragraph

In a shaft on the Gravel Pits, a man had been buried alive. At work in a deep wet hole, he had recklessly omitted to slab the walls of a drive; uprights and tailors yielded under the lateral pressure, and the rotten earth collapsed, bringing down the roof in its train. The digger fell forward on his face, his ribs jammed across his pick, his arms pinned to his sides, nose and mouth pressed into the sticky mud as into a mask; and over his defenceless body, with a roar that burst his ear-drums, broke stupendous masses of earth.

His mates at the windlass went staggering back from the belch of violently discharged air: it tore the wind-sail to strips, sent stones and gravel flying, loosened planks and props. Their shouts drawing no response, the younger and nimbler of the two he was a mere boy, for all his amazing growth of beard put his foot in the bucket and went down on the rope, kicking off the sides of the shaft with his free foot. A group of diggers, gathering round the pit-head, waited for the tug at the rope. It was quick in coming; and the lad was hauled to the surface. No hope: both drives had fallen in; the bottom of the shaft was blocked. The crowd melted with a "Poor Bill God rest his soul!" or with a silent shrug. Such accidents were not infrequent; each man might thank his stars it was not he who lay cooling down below. And so, since no more washdirt would be raised from this hole, the party that worked it made off for the nearest grog-shop, to wet their throats to the memory of the dead, and to discuss future plans.

From the Penguin paperback edition, 1971.

This page and its contents are copyright 2001-06 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: January 1, 2006.