Ultima Thule: Being the Third Part of The Chronicles of the Fortunes of Richard Mahony

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William Heinemann, Limited, 1929 - Fiction - 345 pages
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1929. Ultima Thule is the final volume in Henry Handel Richardson's (Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson) The Fortunes of Richard Mahony trilogy. It is without question Richardson's most important work. Her brilliant analysis of human inadequacy, of the gulf between the ideal and achievement, and of the complexities of circumstance, environment and human frailty, 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 opens with Mahony's financial ruin and explores the complete disintegration 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.

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About the author (1929)

An expatriate writer, Henry Handel Richardson wrote one of Australia's classic works, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony (1917--1929). The three novels that make up this trilogy, Australia Felix (1917), The Way Home (1925), and Ultima Thule (1929), unfold the saga of Richard Mahony, a character loosely based on Richardson's physician-father. The trilogy is often labeled---not always in a complimentary manner---as "naturalistic," a literary form not currently popular. In recent years, however, readers have begun to approach it in different ways. For example, feminist critics have called attention to the novels' strong women, who provide the strength for the new nation. The trilogy has also been examined as an incisive psychological study of failure revealed through the complex character of Mahony. The novels are so rich in texture that they can also be read as late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century social history, depicting as they do day-to-day life in the goldmining town of Balaraat and the colonial city of Melbourne. Richardson was born in Melbourne, but after her father's death her nearly destitute mother took up the duties of postmistress in a country town. At the age of 13, Richardson became a boarder at the Presbyterian Ladies' College in Melbourne. The experiences there she later used as the basis for The Getting of Wisdom (1910), which was turned into a highly successful film that helped to revive interest in Richardson's work. After graduating from this preparatory school, she received a musical scholarship to provide for further training in Leipzig; her mother had hopes of a career for her daughter as a concert pianist. Later Richardson would use her experiences in Germany as the basis of her first novel, Maurice Guest (1908). Instead of pursuing a concert career, however, Richardson married a Scottish professor of German and settled in London, remaining there and in the English countryside until her death. She returned to Australia only once or twice after her departure as a young girl; but in her imagination she must have gone back many times. In recognition of her literary achievements, Richardson was awarded the Australian Gold Medal and the King George Jubilee Medal.

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