Dorothy Edwards (Welsh novelist)

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Dorothy Edwards (18 August 1902 – 5 January 1934), was a Welsh novelist of the early 20th century, associated with David Garnett and other members of the Bloomsbury Group.

Upbringing[edit]

Edwards was born at Ogmore Vale, Glamorgan, the only child of Edward Edwards and his wife Vida.[1] Her father was headmaster of Tynewydd School, Ogmore Vale, where her mother had also worked before her marriage.[1] Edward Edwards was a significant person in the Independent Labour Party and the co-operative movement.[1] Through him, Dorothy came into contact with notable socialists, including Keir Hardie and George Lansbury. At nine years old and dressed all in red, she welcomed Hardie onto the stage in Tonypandy during the national coal strike of 1912.[1] Dorothy was taught to believe that a revolution was at hand and that class and gender-based divisions would soon crumble.[1] However, as Flay points out, her father's occupation in a safe and quite well-paid job meant she was set apart from the rest of the community.[2] She was not taught the Welsh language as a child, although her parents probably spoke some.[1]

Dorothy won a scholarship to Howell's School for Girls in Llandaff, where she was a boarder. She then read Greek and philosophy at the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, later to become Cardiff University. Flay describes her as part of a circle of ambitious, unconventional women.[1] By this time, her father had died and she lived with her mother in Rhiwbina. A short engagement to her philosophy lecturer, John MacCaig Thorburn, came to a difficult end.

Writing[edit]

After graduating, Edwards set aside her early ambition to become an opera singer, but neither did she follow her parents into teaching. (Flay describes her as having an excellent singing voice.)[1] She took a part-time, temporary job to supplement her mother's pension, and went on working on her short stories.[2] Several of these short stories appeared in literary journals. Three stories, 'A Country House', 'Summer-time', and 'The Conquered', were contained in The Calendar of Modern Letters. Rhapsody, published in 1927. This comprises these stories, plus seven others she had written or revised during a nine-month visit to Vienna with her mother. In 1928 came a short novel, Winter Sonata. Flay describes this as restrained, multi-faceted and structurally innovative, deconstructing social and gender hierarchies in its picture of an English village in winter.[1] Both Rhapsody and Winter Sonata describe contemporary British women's marginalization.[1]

In the late 1920s, Edwards struck up a close friendship with the Bloomsbury author, David Garnett, who dubbed her his "Welsh Cinderella" and introduced her to the other members of the Bloomsbury Group, including the artist Dora Carrington. In the early 1930s, she agreed to live with Garnett, his wife Ray and their family. In exchange for providing child care, she received board, lodging, and a place to write. The publisher, E. E. Wishart, offered her an advance on a new volume of stories, including "The Problem of Life", "Mutiny" and "Mitter". However, tensions developed between Garnett and Edwards. Her London friends grew weary of her outspokenness and what they saw as her Welsh provincialism.[3] Edwards was aware of her socially inferior position, still held her father's teachings in reverence, and was increasingly attracted to the Welsh nationalist movement. Flay describes her as riddled with guilt at leaving her mother with a hired companion, frustrated at her dependence on the Garnetts, and reeling at the end of a love affair with Ronald Harding, a married Welsh cellist.[1]

Suicide[edit]

On 5 January 1934, having spent the morning burning papers, she threw herself in front of a train near Caerphilly railway station. She left a suicide note stating: "I am killing myself because I have never sincerely loved any human being all my life. I have accepted kindness and friendship and even love without gratitude, and given nothing in return."[4] She was cremated at Glyntaff, Pontypridd, on 9 January. Her mother died later in the same year.

Although "Mutiny" and "The Problem of Life" were published in Life and Letters To-day in 1934, Edward's works were largely forgotten. owever, Virago Press reissued Rhapsody and Winter Sonata in 1986, and there has been a revival of interest in her life and works.[1] Edwards wrote a short story, "The Conquered", which was included in A View Across The Valley, an anthology re-claiming female Welsh nature writers.

Works[edit]

  • Rhapsody (1927) (short stories)
  • Winter Sonata (1928)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Dorothy Edwards". www.oxforddnb.com. Retrieved 2016-01-15. 
  2. ^ a b Flay, Claire (2011). Dorothy Edwards. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 9. ISBN 9780708324400. 
  3. ^ "University of Reading | Archive and Museum Database | Details". www.reading.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-01-15. 
  4. ^ The Daily Mirror, 10 January 1934, p. 5.