Henry Handel Richardson and Olga Roncoroni 1919-24: An Entanglement
Keywords:Henry Handel Richardson, Olga Roncoroni, Medico-Psychological Clinic, Dalcroze Eurhythmics, psychoanalysis
Olga Roncoroni’s essay in Henry Handel Richardson: Some Personal Impressions is the only first-hand account of how she and Henry Handel Richardson became ‘entangled.’ However, it does little to explain why Richardson sacrificed so much of her own life, including the writing of The Way Home between 1919-24, for her new and younger friend. Gaps in Roncoroni’s memoir and the destruction of private papers have enabled speculation about Richardson’s motivations in assisting Roncoroni and the nature of Roncoroni’s character. This essay considers previously unexamined materials from the Medico-Psychological Clinic, the London School of Dalcroze Eurhythmics, and Queenswood School to paint a broader picture of Roncoroni and her activities during this period and the years immediately following. In addition to Richardson’s correspondence and Roncoroni’s memoir, this analysis exposes the extent of Roncoroni’s mental health issues, Richardson’s burden of care, and the circumstances that allowed Richardson to resume her writing life while continuing to support Roncoroni. Consequently, the prevailing characterisations of Richardson as self-serving and dominant and Roncoroni as entirely dependent on and preoccupied with Richardson is reconsidered. In this way, Dorothy Green’s largely overlooked or misconstrued understanding of the two women and their relationship is also reaffirmed and developed. The conclusions of this study pave the way for a re-evaluation of subsequent aspects of Richardson’s biography, including her relationships and disturbances to her writing patterns.
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