Henry Handel Richardson
"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.
"Ultima Thule, the final volume of the trilogy, opens with Mahony's financial ruin and explores the complete disintergration of his personality. The Australian countryside at its worst takes on almost human shapes of menace and hostility, and Mahony is finally broken as much by the country of his exile as by his own morbid sensitivity.
"This uniform edition of The Fortunes of Richard Mahony carries an introduction by Leonie Kramer, Professor of Australian Literature at the University of Sydney."
When for the third time, Richard Mahony set foot in Australia, it was to find that the fortune with which that country but some six years back had so airily invested him no longer existed. He was a ruined man; and at the age of forty-nine, with a wife and children dependent on him, must needs start life over again.
Twice in the past he had plucked up his roots from this soil, to which neither gratitude nor affection bound him. Now, fresh from foreign travel, from a wider knowledge of the beauties of the old world, he felt doubly alien; and, with his eyes still full of greenery and lushness, he could see less beauty than ever in its dun and and landscape. — It was left to a later generation to discover this: to those who, with their mother's milk, drank in a love of sunlight and space; of inimitable blue distances and gentian-blue skies. To them, the country's very shortcomings were, in time, to grow dear: the scanty, ragged foliage; the unearthly stillness of the bush; the long, red roads, running inflexible as ruled lines towards a steadily receding horizon . . . and engendering in him who travelled them a lifelong impatience with hedge-bound twists and turns. To their eyes, too, quickened by emotion, it was left to descry the colours in the apparent colourlessness: the upturned earth that showed red, white, puce, gamboge; the blue in the grey of the new leafage; the geranium red of young scrub; the purple-blue depths of the shadows. To know, too, in exile, a rank nostalgia for the scent of the aromatic foliage; for the honey fragrance of the wattle; the perfume that rises hot and heavy as steam from vast paddocks of sweet, flowering lucerne — even for the sting and tang of countless miles of bush ablaze.
From the Penguin paperback edition, 1971.
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