2015 seems to have been very much the year of novelist Dorothy Richardson. Author of the pioneering sequence of novels known as “Pilgrimage, and an often unacknowledged early instigator of the stream of consciousness technique, Richardson has long been beloved of readers of modernist feminist literature and lauded amongst those circles. These year has seen her finally getting her due for the innovatory techniques and general genius of her writing, culminating in a high-profile novel of her life, “The Lodger” by Louisa Treger.


Dorothy Richardson by Man Ray

So when the lovely Jane at Beyond Eden rock mentioned on the LibraryThing Virago group that she planned to read the sequence, one a month over the next 13 months, and that anyone was free to join in what was a relaxed and low-key readalong., I jumped at the chance

It’s a long, long time since I read the whole sequence – I still have my lovely Virago set from the 1980s – but Richardson has been coming back onto my radar for a while. In fact, Middle Child’s dissertation a few years ago featured comparisons of Richardson and Woolf, and at the time I bought her a complete set of the Virago volumes (which I hope she’ll hold onto, as they’re hard to find now and very lovely).

Richardson was a fascinating woman; born in 1873, her early years were characterised by a close family life somewhat blighted because of her father’s financial problems. She worked as a Governess and teacher, initially in Germany, but later had to give this up to look after her mother. The latter suffered from severe depression and eventually committed suicide. Richardson later worked for a dental surgery, and then began to associate with other writers including Wells and the Bloomsbury group. Fascinatingly, she had a brief affair with Wells, which was followed by a miscarriage, and Richardson never appears to have had children. Her writing career took off in the 1900s and “Pointed Roofs” was published in 1915. In 1917 she married the artist Alan Odle, a somewhat unusual figure who was 15 years her junior and they lived in London and Cornwall for most of the rest of their lives. Odle died in 1948 and Richardson in 1957.

Dorothy Richardson and Alan Odle

Dorothy Richardson and Alan Odle

You might be forgiven for thinking, from all the hoo ha online, that nobody had even thought about Dorothy Richardson during the previous few decade, but that’s far from true. Virago’s sterling work in reissuing the series shouldn’t go unnoticed, particularly as they collected together the final volumes in the sequence for the first time, and the books were one of their flagship publications in the early years of VMCs. However, there were people striving for recognition of her work before that – for example, I recently tracked down a 1973 book “Dorothy Richardson: The Genius They Forgot” by John D. Rosenberg, and a quick look at her Wikipedia entry reveals numerous critical studies.

So although Dorothy Richardson might seem to be an author who’s ripe for rediscovery, some of us have been aware of her for a long time! I’m particularly keen to read “The Lodger” and author Louisa Treger has been kind enough to provide a beautiful review copy. So there’s never been a better time to re-read Dorothy Richardson, and if she’s new to you do join in – the “Pilgrimage” books are a wonderful experience which will stay with you!