Australian Scholarly Editions Centre Projects (ASEC)

The Academy Editions of Australian Literature

Maurice Guest

by Henry Handel Richardson
Edited by Bruce Steele and Clive Probyn

General Editor Paul Eggert

First novel by one of Australia's greatest writers, set in the musical world of turn-of-the-century Leipzig, and first published in 1908. The Academy Edition, published in 1998, incorporates previously unpublished text from the complete manuscript held in the National Library of Australia.

Henry Handel Richardson's first novel, Maurice Guest (1908), proved too big and too controversial to be published as she intended. Heinemann, her publisher, insisted on her cutting 20,000 words and made several attempts to tone down its language. In the event, this autobiographical novel set in the musical culture of 1890s Leipzig, where Richardson was a student from 1889 to 1892, won both criticism and acclaim in Europe and America.

Its extraordinary heroine, Louise, is Australian; its conflict lies between the demands of music and eros (both conventional and bohemian); and it turns a critical eye on contemporary European theories of Art and the Artist. Its international cast of music students includes English, Americans, Germans and Australians. They perform, debate, love, drink and play in the musical shadows of J. S. Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Richard Strauss and Bizet while struggling with the philosophical and literary heritage of Nietzsche and Jens Peter Jacobsen. As a devotee of Russian and French realism, Richardson knew that her novel broke the mould of contemporary English fiction.

Here, restored for the first time, is the complete novel as she wished to see it published, fully annotated and complete with the history of its writing, publication, and reception in Europe, America and Australia. Also included is an account of its translation into German and French, drawn mostly from unpublished sources. An Appendix illustrates what happened to the text in 1929 when pressure was again brought to bear on Richardson to rewrite certain passages. A map of Richardson's Leipzig illustrates the careful topographical detail on which the novel rests. A portrait of Richardson, contemporary with the period of the novel's composition, is also published here for the first time.

A preview of the Academy Edition can be downloaded here (with Adobe Acrobat):

Maurice Guest Cover

About the Author

Born in Melbourne in 1870, Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson, took the name Henry Handel Richardson from 1908 when Maurice Guest, her first novel, was published. Taken to Europe in 1888, she spent many years in Germany, afterwards living in England from 1903 till her death in 1945. She was also the author of The Getting of Wisdom, the trilogy, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, short stories and other writings.

About the Editors

Clive Probyn is Professor of English at Monash University, Melbourne. He has published books, articles and editions on a wide range of English literature (including Jonathan Swift, Henry and Sarah Fielding, James Harris, and on the eighteenth-century novel).

Bruce Steele was formerly Associate Professor of English at Monash University, and is the editor of four volumes in the Cambridge edition of the Works of D. H. Lawrence (including Lawrence's Australian novel, Kangaroo, 1923). He is also a noted Melbourne musician.