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Richardson, Dorothy

novel account pilgrimage miriam

(British, 1873–1957)

Dorothy Richardson wrote one of the longest novels in English. Pilgrimage (1915–38) is an autobiographical account of a young woman whose wealthy family loses all its money. At the age of 17 she sets off to make her own living, first as a teacher in Germany, then as a dental secretary in London. The novel celebrates the freedom of city life in the 1890s as Miriam Henderson learns about politics, work, and love. Eventually she leaves London to spend time with a Quaker community and prepares herself to write the novel that will become Pilgrimage. The novel is atmospheric, and was the first book ever to be described as ‘stream of consciousness’. It tells Miriam's thoughts and perceptions as well as her actions and can be slow-moving in parts. It was written as thirteen separate books (collected in four volumes). Most readers prefer the first four or five books and a later book, Oberland (1927), which has a marvellous account of living in a small Swiss village in winter. For an easy introduction to Richardson, try her short stories and autobiographical sketches, collected as Journey to Paradise (1989).

Djuna Barnes, Jean Rhys, Virginia Woolf  TT

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