'When Dr Walter Lindesay Richardson and Mary Bailey fell in love in 1854, they would never have imagined their letters providing a source for their elder daughter's trilogy, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony 1917–1929, let alone these letters being published in their own right. The future parents of novelist Henry Handel Richardson had come to Australia during the gold rush. They met, became engaged, then married in 1855. A year later, Walter closed his goldfields store and returned to the medical profession, specialising in obstetrics. Mary was beset by gynaecological problems after a miscarriage in 1857 and it was another thirteen years before their first daughter, Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson HHR, was born, followed fourteen months later by the arrival of Ada Lillian Lindesay Richardson. Although Walter and Mary's letters held in the National Library of Australia have been used by literary researchers, they have never before been systematically studied or published, and this has resulted in misinformation about context, people and events.
'In Marriage Lines, 'Part I: Biographical Background' reveals new research on the Richardsons' families and friends, including the early pioneer links of Walter's family to Western Australia and Tasmania. 'Part II: The Letters' contains not only all extant letters written and received by Walter and Mary, but also a significant number from Lucinda Cheyne and Elizabeth Bailey, their respective mothers, as well as others from other family members and acquaintances. Extensive notes assist in the reconstruction of the family histories and events of the period. Revealed through the book is a story familiar to many nineteenth-century Australian colonial families—arrivals and departures; scandals, hardships and deaths; and the social activities of a diverse and sometimes eccentric group of people, set against the backdrop of a developing country.' (Publication summary)