'Henry Handel Richardson' was the pen-name of Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson, who was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1870. Her father was a medical graduate of Edinburgh University, and her mother was the daughter of a Leicester solicitor; they married after migrating to Australia during the Victorian goldrushes. After her father's death in 1879, her mother worked as a postmistress in country towns, but later she was able to take Ethel and her sister Lilian to Europe, to study music at Leipzig. Ethel, who became a skilled pianist, married John George Robertson, a science graduate turned philologist. Robertson was appointed Professor of German and Scandinavian Languages and Literatures at London University in 1903, where he became one of the foremost scholars of his day. By this time Ethel had begun to write, having given up all thought of a musical career. Her first novel, Maurice Guest, was published in 1908 and had a number of imitators. Her second, The Getting of Wisdom, published in 1910 was described by H. G. Wells as the best school story he knew. Her most important work was The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, published in three volumes, comprising Australia Felix, The Way Home and Ultima Thule, from 1917 to 1929.
After the death of her husband in 1933, Richardson moved to a house near Hastings with her devoted companion Olga
Henry Handel Richardson's The Getting of Wisdom is the coming-of-age story of a spontaneous heroine who finds herself ensconced in the rigidity of a turn-of-the-century boarding school. The clever and highly imaginative Laura has difficulty fitting in with her wealthy classmates and begins to compromise her ideals in her search for popularity and acceptance.