‘The End of a Childhood’ by Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson…I Mean Henry Handel Richardson


‘The End of a Childhood’ by Henry Handel Richardson (Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson)   (1934) – 76 pages


How I do hate the ordinary sleek biography. I’d have every wart and every pimple emphasized, every murky trait or petty meanness brought out. The great writers are great enough to bear it.”

These are the words of Henry Handel Richardson, a woman writer from Australia who lived from 1870 to 1946. Yes, woman writer, for like George Eliot, she wrote under a male pseudonym.

Mrs. Richardson applied this principle of exact unrelenting truth she stated above to her own fiction. Her masterpiece, completed in 1929, is ‘The Fortunes of Richard Mahony’, a trilogy of novels, which tells the story of a family living in the gold fields of frontier Australia, immigrated from Ireland, having to cope with the devastating effects of the young doctor father’s severe mental and physical deterioration from syphilis. You can feel for the young mother and her children having to face the growing ostracism by her neighbors caused by her husband’s bizarre behavior. Of course, the doctor’s patients drop away after several of his episodes, and the family is reduced to poverty. I’ve read It is based quite closely on Mrs. Richardson’s own childhood. This is one of the world’s greatest works of literature.

The stories in ‘The End of a Childhood’ are about this same mother Mary and her two children Cuffy and Lucie after the husband and father Richard Mahony has died. A reader unfamiliar with the work of Richardson can fully appreciate these related stories in ‘The End of a Childhood’ without knowing the background of the characters, but for those of us who have read ‘The Fortunes of Richard Mahony’ trilogy these stories are extra special. The stories bring back characters we know and care about.

Mary Mahony speaks of her children thus:

In other words, they both were very highly strung, and in consequence, the strain of his illness, and the unhappy years preceding it, had told on them more severely than if they had been ordinary children.”

No writer is better than Richardson at capturing the poignancy of those tragic and not-so-tragic incidents that occur during a normal lifetime. A neighbor lady caring for the children during their mother’s sickness, says the following to Cuffy:

Well I know this, my boy, there’s precious little of your poor Ma in either of you. It’s your Pa you take after, both of you, more’s the pity. He was just such another. What she had to put up with, her life long, simply doesn’t bear telling.”

I can never get enough of the story from the ‘Fortunes of Richard Mahony’ trilogy. It is amazing how vividly I remember the plight of the Irish family of Richard Mahony out in the Australian bush in Ballarat.


Grade:    A




9 responses to this post.

  1. Looking forward to reading this one myself! 😀

    Liked by 1 person


    • HI kaggsy,
      It is a good short read of four related stories, all based on the same characters that are in the trilogy ‘The Fortunes of Richard Mahony’, but you don’t have to read the trilogy to appreciate the stories. Many have also read her school novel ‘The Getting of Wisdom’.

      Liked by 1 person


  2. Posted by mikewalmer on November 17, 2020 at 1:33 AM

    So pleased this was such a welcome return to Mahony-territory for you Tony. Grateful for your coverage.

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: