'A passionate and controversial novel set in turn-of-the-century Europe
'Henry Handel Richardson’s debut, published in London in 1908, is set in the music scene of Leipzig, a cosmopolitan centre for the arts drawing students from around the world—among them Maurice Guest, a young Englishman, who falls helplessly in love with an Australian woman, Louise Dufrayer. Maurice Guest is the story of this overwhelming passion.
'The novel was deemed too controversial to be published as Richardson intended, and she was forced to cut twenty thousand words from the original manuscript and tone down its language.' (Publication summary)
Louise Durant is a rich young woman who follows the man she loves (and hopes to marry) to Zurich, where he has travelled to finish his study of the violin. Complications arise when a fellow piano student at the conservatory falls madly in love with Louise. The violinist loves his music first and Louise second, while the pianist loves Louise first and his music second. Louise must ultimately choose which man she wants. Inspired by Henry Handel Richardson's 1908 novel, this Hollywood adaptation see the story end happily, which is not the case in Richardson's novel.
Nettie Palmer hails Henry Handel Richardson as a gifted and important writer. She discusses The Getting of Wisdom at some length, pointing out that it was Richardson's understanding of female psychology that revealed that the writer was in fact a woman.
Palmer describes Ultima Thule as a 'work of genius' and comments on an article in a London paper entitled 'Melbourne Woman's Leap to Fame' – Palmer points out that the leap took twenty years.
Palmer also notes that the first two novels in Richardson's eventual trilogy The Fortunes of Richard Mahony : Comprising Australia Felix, The Way Home, Ultima Thule are now hard to obtain, especially the first, Australia Felix, as it was published during the war. She expresses the hope that Heinemann will produce an omnibus of the trilogy.