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Memento : Issue 16
january 2001 memento 17 T he true identity of Henry Handel Richardson is no longer a secret, but she remains an intriguing figure in Australian literary history. Maurice Guest, The Getting of Wisdom and The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney are just some of the titles published under the well-known pseudonym adopted by Ethel Robertson (nee Richardson). By good fortune, we hold correspondence relating to her manuscripts in our files on Australia House, London during the 1960s. This Australia House series (A3211) contains almost 20 years of correspondence, from High Commissioners Jack Beasley to Alexander Downer, father of the current Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. Correspondence detailing the purchase and transfer of Richardson's manuscripts from London to Canberra is amongst these papers. In original manuscript and typescript letters from Richardson's executor, Olga Roncoroni, to National Library representatives in London we find matters relating to the manuscripts themselves as well as personal descriptions of Richardson's health. It's not surprising that this series contains a wealth of gems, considering Australia House has been the home of the Australian High Commission in London for over 80 years. Other unusual documents in this series relate to the filming of a Barry McKenzie film in Australia House, and the donation to Australia of William Longstaff's painting Midnight at Menin Gate. Files on topics ranging from art shows to nuclear energy may be found throughout this series. Major and minor trade issues are covered here, from GATT negotiations to the question of whether a British market existed for Australian snap- frozen kebabs. Like precious gems, these fascinating records have been carefully examined and valued through our ongoing collection review process. It's clear that the surprises in our collection come in all shapes and sizes. Whatever your interest, you're bound to find some treasure at the Archives! High Commissioner JA Beasley in front of Australia House, London, 1946. NAA: M1409, 34 High Commissioner JA Beasley meeting the British Rugby League team before they depart for Australia, 1946. NAA: M1409, 38 A number of records from Australia House provide a rare insight into the values of the time. They include recruitment files showing different wages for males and females for exactly the same work; a query as to whether a scholarship student may be admitted to Australia because 'she is from Nigeria and of fully non-European descent'; and an application form to attend the Queen's garden party which asks, together with the usual personal details, whether applicants have ever been involved in any divorce proceedings.