Dorothy Richardson

The forgotten stream-of-consciousness trailblazer Dorothy Richardson was born on this date in 1873. When the roll-call of SoC novelists is read out, the number is generally three: Joyce, Woolf, and Faulkner. Sometimes there are objections: what about Proust, say, or Dos Passos or Nicholson Baker or this one or that one. Just not Richardson, who more or less invented the use of interior monologue (a major component in SoC) in English. True, she was almost thirty years behind Edouard Dujardin’s little gem, Les Lauriers Sont Coupe (apologies for the lack of diacritical marks), but she beat the rest of the Anglophone world off the mark.

So why forgotten? Her books don’t stay in print. There was a push in the Eighties, I believe it was, to republish the entire thirteen-volume saga, Pilgrimage in multi-novel volumes, but those went out of print. Even Dalkey Archive Press, that champion of neglected modern classics (it takes its name from a Flann O’Brien novel, for crying out loud), has failed to pick up her banner. I had a discussion with the editors there once, and I think the problem is with the copyright holder. Then there’s that thirteen volume business. Anthony Powell’s twelve-novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time, has declined in popularity in recent decades. When that was finished in the mid-Seventies, it was all the rage. Julian Barnes, I think, has a character remark that it was more or less impossible to attend a dinner party at which at least two people weren’t reading Dance, but that jibe comes from ca. 1984. Times change, tastes change. These days, one begins a novels, finds out that it has more than ten siblings, and the heart sinks. Even so, it is sad that the woman Virginia Woolf declared had discovering or inventing “the psychological sentence of the feminine gender.”

Advertisements