The Prototype of Richard Mahony
Probably the most important of Richardson's sources for The Fortunes of Richard Mahony are those about which least is known. The 'old letters and diaries' used to reconstruct the life of her father, Dr Walter Lindesay Richardson, have not come to hand, and are possibly lost. An annotated Bible which was still in H.H.R.'s possession when she wrote Myself When Young has not been traced. Although she always insisted that her portrait of Richard Mahony was 'imaginary', Richardson finally admitted that the facts of her father's life 'provided some sort of scaffolding for Richard Mahony's story'. What sort of scaffolding? It is true that many details and events are presented with an almost finicky concern for literal accuracy; but there are certain illuminating aspects of her father's life that the author has not emphasized, others that she has not mentioned. The aim of this essay is to enquire what Richardson actually knew about her father; and to ask, if she knew more or other than what is included in the Mahony trilogy, for what artistic purpose has she deviated from the path of literal accuracy?
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