Dorothy Richardson - The thirteen magnificent novels that comprise Pilgrimage are the first expression in English of what it is to be called 'stream of conciousness' technique, predating the work of both Joyce and Woolf, echoing that of Proust with whom Richardson stands as one of the great innovatory figures of our time

Pointed Roofs
Dorothy Richardson, Pilgrimage: Pointed Roofs: A Classic Novel, Broadview Press, 2014. [1916.]
dorothyrichardson.org/


The first chapter-volume of Dorothy Richardson’s thirteen-volume novel series Pilgrimage, Pointed Roofs is a coming of age story. The protagonist is Miriam Henderson, seventeen years old. Pointed Roofs tells the tale of Miriam’s first adventure as an adult, teaching English at a finishing school in Hanover, Germany. Though the tale is simple, it is not simply told; to capture the intensity of Miriam’s seemingly mundane experiences, Richardson developed a new narrative technique labelled “stream of consciousness” by the author May Sinclair. Pointed Roofs is a compelling account of a young woman’s dawning consciousness of what it means to be independent, an individual, and a woman in the early twentieth century.
This Broadview Edition places Richardson’s inventive narrative technique in the context of early twentieth-century literary modernism, showing the “startling newness,” in May Sinclair’s words, of Richardson’s writing. Letters from Richardson to friends, publishers, and critics show the complex relationships between her work and life.


“At last! An accessible, affordable, expertly edited and annotated version of Pointed Roofs. Stephen Ross and Tara Thomson guide readers through the most beloved volume of Pilgrimage, which takes us from the girlish intimacies of heroine Miriam Henderson's late Victorian home, through her experience of familial bankruptcy and disgrace, to her self-imposed exile and employment as an English teacher among Germany's pointed roofs. Thanks to Broadview Press, all students of modernism can now discover England's answer to James Joyce: Richardson's first chapter-volume in her ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman.’” - Kristin Bluemel


“This Broadview edition of Dorothy Richardson’s Pointed Roofs is something of a landmark in contemporary modernist studies. It offers an attentively edited text, with the explanatory notes that one would expect of a Broadview Edition, opening up to students an understanding of Richardson’s writing without taking away from its seductive ambiguity. The appendix material is extremely well judged, and is particularly successful in demonstrating what an important figure Richardson was, and from just what heights her reputation had fallen. Now a new generation of Richardson readers will have access to a readable, affordable, and well-contextualized edition of this first chapter-volume of Pilgrimage. I have no doubt that this edition will inspire many of its readers to seek out more of this extraordinary modernist innovator’s work.” - Bryony Randall




The thirteen magnificent novels that comprise Pilgrimage are the first expression in English of what it is to be called 'stream of conciousness' technique, predating the work of both Joyce and Woolf, echoing that of Proust with whom Dorothy Richardson stands as one of the great innovatory figures of our time. These four volumes record in detail the life of Miriram Henderson. Through her experience - personal, spiritual, intellectual - Dorothy Richardson explores intensely what it means to be a woman, presenting feminine conciousness with a new voice, a new identity.


Pilgrimage: Pointed Roofs By Dorothy Richardson Often credited as the first stream-of-consciousness novel in English, Dorothy Richardson's Pointed Roofs (1915) is the first of thirteen books comprising Pilgrimage, a multivolume novel to which Richardson devoted herself until her death in 1957. Pilgrimage follows the life of its protagonist, Miriam Henderson, from March 1893 through the autumn of 1912, and Pointed Roofs covers the first four months of this time period. Dorothy Miller Richardson (17 May 1873 – 17 June 1957) was a British author and journalist. Richardson was born in Abingdon in 1873. Her family moved to Worthing, West Sussex in 1880 and then Putney, London in 1883. At seventeen, because of her father's financial difficulties she went to work as a governess and teacher, first in 1891 for six months at a finishing school in Germany. In 1895 Richardson gave up work as a governess to take care of her severely depressed mother, but her mother committed suicide the same year. Richardson's father had become bankrupt at the end of 1893. Richardson subsequently moved in 1896 to Bloomsbury, London, where she worked as a receptionist/secretary/assistant in a Harley Street dental surgery. While in Bloomsbury in the late 1890s and early 1900s, Richardson associated with writers and radicals, including the Bloomsbury Group. H. G. Wells (1866–1946) was a friend and they had a brief affair which led to a pregnancy and then miscarriage, in 1907. While she had first published an article in 1902, Richardson's writing career, as a freelance journalist really began around 1906, with periodical articles on various topics, book reviews, short stories, and poems, as well as translation from German and French. During this period she became interested in the Quakers and published two books relating to them in 1914. In 1915 Richardson published her first novel Pointed Roofs, the first complete stream of consciousness novel published in English. She married the artist Alan Odle (1888-1948) in 1917 – a distinctly bohemian figure, who was fifteen years younger than her. From 1917 until 1939, the couple spent their winters in Cornwall and their summers in London; and then stayed permanently in Cornwall until Odle’s death in 1948. She supported herself and her husband with freelance writing for periodicals for many years. In 1954, she had to move into a nursing home in the London suburb of Beckenham, Kent, where she died in 1957.      


 
I suppose I’m cheating a bit here since Pilgrimage is really 13 short novels, not one; but Pilgrimage is a sequence of novels in the same way that Marcel Proust’s Recherche is—indeed, Richardson began writing the first volume of Pilgrimage before Swann’s Way was published in 1913, even though it appeared after. And Richardson was grouped among such formative modernist writers like Proust and Joyce in her lifetime, garnering the respect of Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, William Carlos Williams, and others.
For those readers whose knowledge of modernist fiction begins with Joyce or Woolf, do yourselves a favor and read one of the most original works of modernist fiction—and, sadly, one that is out of print… although Oxford University Press will be bringing all the volumes of Pilgrimage back into print beginning in 2018. A sequence about protagonist Miriam Henderson’s experience of life, running the gamut from everything and nothing, from life and love and loss and the trappings yet simultaneous freedom of female identity, Richardson’s Pilgrimage is one of the first examples in English of innovative shifts in point of view, the use of interior monologues, the emphasis on fragments above all else. Pilgrimage should be all of our journeys, really; I guarantee if you begin with Pointed Roofs, the first volume, you will continue on your way through the rest of Miriam’s pilgrimage through life… likely long before Oxford has had a chance to bring the other volumes back into print. - K. Thomas Kahn


A hundred years ago, Gerald Duckworth’s publishing company brought out a little book by an unknown writer about a student teacher in Germany. It was called Pointed Roofs, and its author was Dorothy M Richardson.
The story was narrated entirely through the consciousness of the heroine, Miriam Henderson, and readers and critics alike were both bewildered and excited. A reviewer in the Manchester Guardian, for example, although sure that the novel was “almost startlingly original”, could not pin down why, concluding rather helplessly: “It is a novel that no sensitive reader will forget. Its charm cannot be communicated.”
The novel was the first of a series called Pilgrimage, a gigantic 13-volume semi-autobiographical narrative that became a byword for introspective modernist experimentation. It was the first novel to be labelled “stream of consciousness”, in a review by May Sinclair – a phrase that had been popular with psychologists for some time but hadn’t yet been applied to literature. Richardson hated the phrase, saying that “amongst the company of useful labels devised to meet the exigencies of literary criticism it stands alone, isolated by its perfect imbecility”. Unfortunately for Richardson, however, the phrase stuck. The stream of consciousness novel acquired genre status.
Other modernist writers found their work lumped in with Richardson’s. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, for example, was reviewed as extending “the method of Miss Dorothy Richardson”; and by the late 1920s four names were invariably linked: James Joyce, Woolf, Marcel Proust and Richardson. All, readers were told (again in the Guardian, in 1930), were “explorers of a province of consciousness”. DH Lawrence, among others, found this self-absorption easy to mock: “‘Did I feel a twinge in my little toe, or didn’t I?’ asks every character in Mr Joyce or Miss Richardson or Monsieur Proust.”
Unlike her more famous contemporaries, Richardson was, all her life, desperately poor. Her father became bankrupt when she was only 17, and she left home and took up the post of student teacher at a school in Hanover, an experience she later describes in Pointed Roofs. Richardson’s subsequent experiences are also charted in Pilgrimage: Dorothy-Miriam teaches at a school in north London, then as a governess in a private house, and then becomes a dental secretary on Harley Street. She meets socialists and anarchists and Zionist Russian Jews and suffragettes. She attends lectures and learns how to ride a bicycle. She has affairs with married men and with women; she almost becomes a Quaker but then becomes a writer instead. At no point in all these adventures does she have any money. She lives on her bread roll and cup of coffee in an ABC cafe, and the lunch her dentist employers provide as a perk of the job. Her novels are not only remarkable works of modernist experimentation, they are a slice of history: the real struggles and the real joys of a solitary female worker in turn-of-the-century London.           
The post-Pilgrimage Richardson was no better off. She divided her time between off-season Cornwall and off-season London, and she supplemented the tiny income she gained from her novels with translations and articles. Her fiction suffered.
In 1934, Richardson’s friend SS Koteliansky wrote to her and asked what would persuade her to change publishers. Duckworth, he claimed, wasn’t doing enough to promote the successive volumes of Pilgrimage. Richardson replied that what she really wanted, what would really get her lifework the attention she felt it merited, was a collected edition. Kot took her at her word, and got her a contract with Dent & Cresset. The collected Pilgrimage was published in 1938; Virago Press republished this version in the 1970s, as part of their commitment to the rediscovery of neglected female writers. Now, a project is underway to publish Pilgrimage again, in a scholarly edition with Oxford University Press. Today a blue plaque is to be unveiled at Woburn Walk in Bloomsbury, where she lived, opposite Yeats, in 1905 and 1906. People are starting to read her once more, again reasserting her place in the canon of experimental modernist prose writers. - Rebecca Bowler


In the 19th century it was common for English ladies who were educated but impoverished to venture abroad to earn their keep as teachers and governesses. Charlotte Brontë did so, and her experiences formed the basis for two of her novels. About fifty years later, Dorothy Richardson, third of four daughters of a financially ruined gentleman, also went to the Continent to teach and turned her experiences into an autobiographical novel, Pointed Roofs. But Richardson continued to chronicle her life's experiences, eventually producing thirteen novels which she collectively called "Pilgrimage."
Richardson's fictional self is named Miriam Henderson. Leaving school at age seventeen, "she wondered and wondered. What was she going to do with her life after all these years at the good school?... It was there she belonged." Much to her surprise, Miriam's application for a teaching position at a school in Germany is accepted. She doesn't even know where she is going or what she will be expected to do. But on her arrival in Hanover, Germany, she is enchanted with the city and relieved to learn that she is expected only to tutor four German girls on English pronunciation and vocabulary at a finishing school where most of the students are English.
Miriam is entranced with the German girls, who seem to have every attribute she regretfully lacks. They were "placid and serene, secure in a kind of security Miriam had never met before." They played the piano and sang with an innate feeling for the spirit of the music that none of the English girls could match. And they were physically beautiful in a natural, artless way that Miriam "wished all the world could see."
Miriam's time in Germany is not free from conflict and sorrow, mostly the products of Miriam's own self-doubt and uncertain future. Her thoughts are recorded in what was then a new narrative technique: stream of consciousness. Pointed Roofs is, in fact, considered the first English-language novel to use stream of consciousness. But compared to other novels in this form, Pointed Roofs is not at all difficult to read. The language is simple and straightforward, and while sentences may be long, individual thoughts are clearly separated with ellipses.
Dorothy Richardson had the misfortune to publish a novel praising the German people and culture just as England was fighting a desperate war against Germany. This may be one reason why she isn't better known and more widely read. But Pointed Roofs is by no means just a novel about national characteristics--that is only a small part of it. It is chiefly a novel showing us a woman's view of life as she interacts with other women in a context free of masculine judgments, standards or measures. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series. - Steven Davis @ amazon.com




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Dorothy Richardson

The idea of the flâneur was born in Paris nd was first referred to by Baudelaire.  However, London writers have long used the device of the casual wanderer of the capital’s streets, the loiterer, the observer, as a means of exploring London and the inhabitants of her streets.  Dickens, Gissing, Morrison all wrote about life on London’s streets through characters who wandered them on foot.  Dorothy Miller Richardson, however, was the first writer to create a female central character, Miriam Henderson, who freely walked and explored London’s streets.  In doing so, Richardson created the first, and arguably still the best-realised, flâneuse in London literature.
  Dorothy Richardson is generally not regarded as a major figure in the canon of English literature.  However, for the early part of her career she was seen as a leading female modernist and an equal of Virginia Woolf.  But, despite her early success, Richardson’s reputation has sadly not proved to be as enduring as that of Woolf.

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Richardson was born in 1873 and brought up in Putney.  She enjoyed an apparently conventional middle-class upbringing until her father was declared bankrupt when she was seventeen and she had to leave home to take up work as a governess.  While Richardson was still very young her mother began to suffer with increasingly severe bouts of depression which eventually led to her death by suicide in 1895.  Richardson moved to Bloomsbury the following year and, while working in a dental surgery by day, she began to write in her spare time and soon started to have short stories, reviews and poems published in a number of periodicals.
  Richardson’s major achievement is the sequence of novels known as Pilgrimage.  The series is, in every sense of the word, Dorothy Richardson’s life’s work.  Through its thirteen volumes she charts the life of a young woman called Miriam Henderson; a protagonist whose life story very much mirrors the course of Richardson’s own.  The Tunnel is one of the key works of the series and, in many ways, the most engaging and certainly the most accessible to the modern reader.
  Dorothy Richardson spent most of her adult life in London and this is reflected in the setting of the majority of the volumes of Pilgrimage.  The title Pilgrimage is a metaphor for a quest and, in setting most of the series in London, Richardson presents the city as a labyrinth waiting to be wandered and explored.  Pilgrimage is Miriam’s journey; an intellectual, psychological and spiritual journey in which her outer quest is matched by an inner one.



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The Tunnel is the fourth volume in the series and covers the period of Miriam’s arrival in London at the age of 21.  Reflecting Richardson’s own life, she takes a room in a house in Bloomsbury and starts work as a receptionist at a dental surgery.  In the first three volumes Miriam worked as a live-in governess, but The Tunnel marks her first step towards complete independence.  In taking a room of her own, Miriam finally confirms her break from the conformity of the life that was expected of her; that is to live in her father’s home until she married, as would be the case with her sisters.  This step out into the world marks her downward mobility from being a gentleman’s daughter to becoming a working woman. 
  But Miriam’s world is not limited to her room in a Bloomsbury lodging house.  She attends lectures and plays and becomes interested in literature and politics.  Throughout the course of The Tunnel Miriam reads avidly, seemingly looking behind the words of the novels she reads to find submerged meanings.  But gradually Miriam begins to focus on the words themselves, almost as if she is switching from looking at the reflection in a mirror to looking at the mirror itself and at its frame. She struggles with the canonical texts of science and literature, rejecting the standard masculine approach but finding it difficult to develop an understanding of a feminist alternative.  Pilgrimage represents Miriam’s (and by implication Dorothy Richardson’s) journey to a greater understanding of herself and of female consciousness in general.
 

The Tunnel opens with Miriam taking a room of her own in Bloomsbury.  The room is cramped and dreary, but to Miriam it represents the freedom she longs for:
    She closed the door and stood just inside it looking at the room.  It was smaller than her memory of it.  When she had stood in the middle of the floor with Mrs Bailey, she had looked at nothing but Mrs Bailey, waiting for the moment to ask about the rent.  Coming upstairs she had felt the room was hers and barely glanced at it when Mrs Bailey opened the door.  From the moment of waiting on the stone steps outside the front door, everything had opened to the movement of her impulse.  She was surprised now at her familiarity with the details of the room . . . that idea of visiting places in dreams.  It was something more than that . . . all the real part of your life has a real dream in it; some of the real dream part of you coming true.
  The focus of The Tunnel constantly moves from Miriam in her room to Miriam in the world outside.  Whilst having a room of her own to retreat to gives her the space for personal growth and spiritual reflection, the world outside, and the freedom to roam through it, gives Miriam the opportunity to develop a new social identity.  The Tunnel represents a journey for Miriam; digging down through the influences of the past to reach a different, perhaps truer, version of herself that she hopes to achieve at some point in the future.  She travels through this ‘tunnel’ with hope of there being light at the end of it; even when the light is not yet discernible.  Miriam urges herself forward with the faith of the true pilgrim and with the conviction she will emerge into a place where all is brighter and clearer.
  In a key section of The Tunnel, Miriam resumes contact with her old school friend, Alma.  Through her she meets Alma’s husband, a writer known as Hypo G Wilson.  Wilson is clearly based on HG Wells, with whom, we now know, Richardson had a short-lived affair.  In fact, it is suggested that Richardson became pregnant by Wells, though she had a miscarriage before full term.
  In essence, Richardson’s London represents the maternal, and The Tunnel marks the development of a feminist critique of the patriarchal world Miriam lives in.  It is her break from the lingering influence of her father.  When she is away from London she longs to return to the city’s embrace:
  No one in the world would oust this mighty lover, always receiving her back without words, engulfing and laving her untouched, liberating and expanding to the whole range of her being. . . She would travel further than the longest journey, swifter than the most rapid flight, down and down into an oblivion deeper than sleep. . . tingling to the spread of London all about her, herself one with it, feeling her life flow outwards, north, south, east and west, to all its margins.
    Up until this point the notion of a psychological journey, a pilgrimage, had been seen by writers in entirely male terms.  The development of psychological theories and the increased freedom for women to wander through the modern city fed into the fiction of Richardson, and indeed that of Virginia Woolf.  
 
Miriam’s new work is hard, the hours long and the pay is just a pound a week but, again, it represents freedom for her, and the chance to establish an independent life free of the influences of her background.  The journeys to and from work, sometimes by omnibus and at other times on foot, quickly become the highlight of Miriam’s day.  She drinks in the ever-changing sights and sounds of the city and absorbs them into her being:
Strolling home towards midnight along the narrow pavement of Endsleigh Gardens, Miriam felt as fresh and untroubled as if it were early morning.  When she got out of her Hammersmith omnibus into the Tottenham Court Road, she had found that the street had lost its first terrifying impression and had become part of her home. 
 
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Piccadilly Circus, c1900
 On one of  Miriam’s many walks through the West End she encounters several old men wandering about, slowly and alone, like superannuated flâneurs, ‘still circulating, like the well preserved coins of a past reign.’  She reaches Piccadilly Circus and stops to enjoy its ‘central freedom’, but moves on when she spots Tommy Babington, a former acquaintance.  Babington is strolling along with an expressionless face and the dandified clothes of a flâneur.  They exchange a momentary glance of recognition:
  She rushed on, passing him with a swift salute, saw him raise his hat with mechanical promptitude as she stepped from the kerb and forward, pausing an instant for a passing hansom.
  Miriam does not wish to engage with Tommy.  She does not want his attention, or his protection; she wishes to enjoy walking alone on the same terms as him, or any other male flâneur.  And perhaps it is not coincidental that Richardson has them meet at Piccadilly Circus.  Piccadilly is not a crossroads but a roundabout, a place where one encounters and re-encounters other people, as well as aspects of one’s own self; and at the very centre of this place is Eros.  Miriam continues her walk; expressing a preference to walk the ‘winding lane’ of Bond Street rather than endure the ‘two monstrous streams’ of traffic on Oxford Street, the former perhaps being more conducive to quiet reflection.
  Later that same evening, Miriam encounters a grotesque and dishevelled old woman shambling along in the gutter in Cambridge Square.  They steal a glance at each other and Miriam experiences an odd, chilling moment of recognition ‘it was herself, set in her path and waiting through all the years.’  This is one of several instances where Miriam stares into a face she seems to recognise and which suggests an inner searching for alternative possibilities on her journey of self-discovery; a glimpse of the self she was, the one she will become, and the other possibilities that may never come about.
 
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Dorothy Richardson with Alan Odle
  Miriam’s struggle to establish an independent life for herself frequently requires her to cross boundaries of gender and class.  Richardson’s descriptions of Miriam’s walks through London in The Tunnel constantly involve her in crossing roads, bridges and railway lines, as if to mirror her crossing of boundaries in her inner pilgrimage.  Yet she finds the solitude of the street strangely soothing and less challenging than the other encounters in her life: ‘She went out into its shelter’.
  Richardson’s Miriam Henderson wanders through London’s streets both physically and imaginatively.  Her propensity to walk the streets alone marks her out as an outsider.  She finds herself attracted to the company of other outsider characters.  Two Russian Jews whom she meets in Bloomsbury, Mr Mendizabel and Michael Shatov, play an important part in her development.  She finds herself attracted to their otherness and finds she shares with them an enjoyment of wandering the city’s streets, particularly at night.
  But not all parts of fin de siècle London are places women could safely or comfortably visit.  For women such as Miriam, greater freedom in some ways brought with it greater isolation as she found the spaces of the city open to her to be selective, limited, and fragmented from one another.  Female earnings were still very low and working women not supported by their family, even educated ones, could only afford the most basic of accommodation.  Both the street and her own room were important to the female writer in early twentieth-century London; the one for exploration and the other for reflection.  Miriam found both of these in Bloomsbury with its myriad rooms to let and boarding houses.  
  As if to reflect the ever-changing nature of the modern city, The Tunnel is written in a style that is very different from anything written before.  Richardson’s contemporary, May Sinclair, described it as a ‘stream of consciousness’ novel, a term which Richardson never fully accepted.  She was dissatisfied with the form of both the romantic and the realist novel.  She wanted to write a novel based on her own life experiences, but to transmute it into something different by seeing it through the eyes of her protagonist, Miriam.
  Miriam’s voice was to replace Richardson’s.  But clearly, there was still a narrator behind that voice.  Richardson’s great achievement was to develop a new way of expressing her responses to the world that she saw about her.  She was a modernist and a feminist.  The Pilgrimage series has been described as the first full-scale impressionist work.
  By the time The Tunnel was published in 1919, the early interest in Richardson’s writing had begun to wane.  Though she ploughed on with nine further volumes of Pilgrimage, these sold few copies and she had to earn her living as a writer through journalism and reviews.  Indeed, Richardson enjoyed a moderately successful second career as a film reviewer.  She married the artist, Alan Odle, in 1917 and continued to write up until her death in 1957.
  Female modernist writers like Dorothy Richardson, were until recently, largely ignored by the predominantly male establishment of literary criticism.  It was not until the 1970s, and the growth of feminist criticism, that writers such as Richardson were given their due credit. 
  Pilgrimage as a whole is the story of Miriam Henderson’s inner journey, her psychological, political and spiritual development.  The Tunnel is a key work in this series in that it charts Miriam’s new, independent life in London.  And it is London that is at the core of Richardson’s work. - 
Bobby Seal


Pilgrimages: The Journal of Dorothy Richardson Studies




The Tunnel


The Tunnel is the fourth volume in Dorothy Richardson’s novel series Pilgrimage. The series, set in the years 1893-1912, chronicles the life of Miriam Henderson, a “New Woman” rejecting the Victorian ideals of femininity and domesticity in favour of a modern life of independence. In addition to the formal and stylistic innovations in The Tunnel, its attention to women’s experience of modernity is groundbreaking. It chronicles Miriam’s working day as a dental receptionist and her forays into the public space of cafés, city streets, and political and intellectual talks. Richardson matches her focus on Miriam’s consciousness with remarkable detail, giving the narrative a powerful realism.
Contemporary reviews (including those by Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield), personal letters, and Richardson’s essays on modernism, feminism, and aesthetics place this important novel in context.


“Published in 1919, in the wake of the Great War, The Tunnel explores the mental world of words. This edition gives Richardson’s spatial understanding of consciousness the capacious intellectual framework to match. Editors Stephen Ross and Tara Thomson have brilliantly contextualized this novel with notes, introduction and supplementary texts that exhibit a deep knowledge of, and passion for, modernism in all its facets. The Broadview Edition of The Tunnel bristles with intelligence.” - Irene Gammel


“This new edition of The Tunnel marks an important moment in the history of modernist studies. Dorothy Richardson has long been credited as one of the pioneers of modernist prose.  Her thirteen-volume work, Pilgrimage, was as important as James Joyce’s Ulysses or Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu in setting the agenda for twentieth-century fiction. Yet the lack of a good critical edition has made her almost impossible to teach. At one stroke, Stephen Ross and Tara Thomson have changed all that. This edition comes with a clear, informative, critical introduction, excellent explanatory notes, and invaluable appendices. At last, Richardson can reach the audience she deserves.” - Scott McCracken


When Dorothy Richardson was living out her last days in a nursing home during the 1950s, her attendants dismissed her claim to have been a celebrated novelist as a senile delusion. But the frail octogenarian had in truth once dazzled Modernist contemporaries including Virginia Woolf with her innovations in prose fiction. Jenny McAuley writes.

Dorothy Richardson’s crowning achievement was Pilgrimage, a sequence of thirteen semi-autobiographical novels – the first of which, Pointed Roofs, was published 100 years ago, in 1915. The novels narrate the career of Miriam Henderson, a young woman writer at the turn of the twentieth century – taking in her first jobs as a governess and secretary, experiences in London literary circles, and a relationship with a married male author (based on Richardson’s own affair with H. G. Wells).
Thanks to the efforts of feminist scholars since the 1970s, Richardson’s work has never again been so much neglected as it was when she died, aged 84, in 1954. The Virago Press reissued Pilgrimage in 1979 in four paperback volumes. A Dorothy Richardson Society, which publishes a journal of Richardson studies, was established in 2007.
The stages in the growth of Miriam’s feminist consciousness are registered through shifting first- and third-person perspectives, and through language that reflects Miriam’s struggle to articulate her changing ideas in its deliberate vagueness and discontinuity The centenary of Pointed Roofs (1915), the first Pilgrimage novel, has provided a new impetus for the Richardson revival. A commemorative blue plaque has been unveiled at Richardson’s former residence in London’s Bloomsbury district – and readers can now also explore Richardson’s life and friendships in a new online exhibition of her manuscript letters, just launched by the Dorothy Richardson Society. 2015 has also seen the publication of The Lodger, Louisa Treger’s novel based on Richardson’s life.
richardson pilgrimage
Although non-academic readers have rarely been able to encounter Richardson’s fictions at first-hand since the 1980s, this situation is changing. Broadview has published new editions of two Pilgrimage novels, Pointed Roofs and The Tunnel. A major edition of Richardson’s works is also in preparation at Oxford University Press. While this inevitably lengthy project remains in progress, though, here are some reasons why new readers impatient to experience Pilgrimage should keep looking out for those Virago paperbacks in charity shops and libraries.
The sheer scale of Pilgrimage could offer an exciting new challenge to readers who have relished the richly descriptive, multivolume auto-fictions of Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard. Among the greatest pleasures of Pilgrimage is the meticulous detail with which Richardson evokes the atmospheres and material culture of Miriam’s late-Victorian and early-Edwardian London, a now-lost world of gaslit streets and genteelly-decayed boarding-houses.
Richardson’s resistance to realist narrative conventions, and her virtuosic experiments with language, should meanwhile appeal to fans of Ali Smith and Eimear McBride. The stages in the growth of Miriam’s feminist consciousness are registered through shifting first- and third-person perspectives, and through language that reflects Miriam’s struggle to articulate her changing ideas in its deliberate vagueness and discontinuity. At other moments, the narrative conveys ‘breakthroughs’ in Miriam’s awareness, as she launches – in thoughts or speech – into sustained, precise analyses of new ideas and situations.
Richardson’s frank exposures of Miriam’s lurking racist, and even sexist, prejudices in some of these speculative passages may unsettle contemporary liberal sensibilities. It is part of the honesty of Richardson’s narrative, however, that it confronts the confusions and bad faith that have become masked by the conventions of polite conversation, and even the thought-patterns, that Miriam’s generation has inherited.
It is just such moral honesty, and the sometimes uncomfortable self-awareness it can bring, that enable Miriam’s most important realisation: ‘Greater than the sadness of not being good, more thrilling, was the joy of feeling ready to take responsibility for oneself’.  - Jenny McAuley
Pilgrimage, opening pages

Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957), now largely ignored but once regarded as one of the most important of modernist novelists, was a pioneer of the stream-of-consciousness technique.  Her thirteen-novel project, Pilgrimage, is a prime example of modernism at its finest and most maddening: dilatory in its pacing, challenging in its form, and concerned above all else with the faithful representation of the (oftentimes dull) whims of everyday consciousness.
Richardson was born in Abington, Oxfordshire in 1873.  Due to her family’s financial difficulties, she was forced to find employment at the age of 17, working as a governess and then later as a dental assistant.  This experience would provide fodder for Richardson’s depiction of her heroine’s ventures into the working world in Pilgrimage.
While in London working at a dental office, Richardson came into contact with a number of literary and cultural figures.  She began writing freelance for the Dental Record and other publications.  Her first two books, the 1914 The Quakers Past and Presentand the 1915 Gleanings from the Work of George Fox, were non-fictional works concerned primarily with religious history.
In September of 1915, the first volume of Pilgrimage, entitled Pointed Roofs, appeared, introducing the figure of Miriam Henderson to English letters.  Richardson’s prose was experimental, relying upon long lists and paratactic sentences to map the consciousness of a young woman serving as a tutor-governess at a German boarding school.  Not nearly as formally challenging as her own later work, this first novel was still a daring first step: in writing a female Bildungsroman, in believing that the mind of a young, working class girl was itself a worthy topic for fictional exploration, Richardson helped lay the ground for experiments by other writers such as May Sinclair and Virginia Woolf.
Richardson continued working tirelessly on Pilgrimage, with new volumes coming out almost yearly.  In 1918, May Sinclair wrote a laudatory review of Richardson for the Little Review, comparing Richardson’s new novel with James Joyce’s recent A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  In this review, Sinclair used the term “stream of consciousness” to describe Richardson’s novelistic technique; this was the first time the term had been used to describe the fictional representation of the mind.  Throughout much of the early twentieth century, Richardson was paired with Joyce and Woolf as one of the originators and developers of this most modernist of techniques.
Richardson’s personal life was fraught with difficulties.  In 1917, she married the artist Alan Odle.  She would go on to have an affair with H.G. Wells, resulting in a pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage.  Her books were not as well regarded as those of Woolf or Joyce, and she struggled to make ends meet throughout her entire writing career.  She died in 1957, her reputation having waned while those of other modernists waxed.  Richardson remains the most forgotten of the early and innovative practitioners of the stream-of-consciousness method. - Anthony Domestico

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