Dorothy Richardson

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This article is about the author. For the softball player, see Dot Richardson. For the community organizer, see Dorothy Mae Richardson.
Dorothy Richardson
Bedford gardens.jpg
Bedford Square, Bloomsbury. Richardson began her writing career when she lived in Bloomsbury, London.
Born (1873-05-17)17 May 1873
Abingdon, England
Died 17 June 1957(1957-06-17) (aged 84)
Beckenham, Kent, England
Resting place Beckenham
Occupation Novelist and journalist
Literary movement Modernism, English literature
Notable works Pilgrimage
Spouse Alan Odle

Dorothy Miller Richardson (17 May 1873 – 17 June 1957) was a British author and journalist. Author of Pilgrimage, a sequence of 13 novels, she was one of the earliest modernist novelists to use stream of consciousness as a narrative technique. Richardson also emphasizes in Pilgrimage the importance and distinct nature of female experiences.


Richardson was born in Abingdon in 1873. Her family moved to Worthing, West Sussex in 1880 and then Putney, London in 1883. In London she "attended a progressive school influenced by the ideas of John Ruskin".[1] 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 Hanover, 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]


In a review of Pointed Roofs (The Egoist April 1918), May Sinclair first applied the term "stream of consciousness" in her discussion of Richardson's stylistic innovations. 1863 – 14 November 1946Pointed Roofs was the first volume in a sequence of 13 novels titled Pilgrimage. Miriam Henderson, the central character in Pilgrimage, is based on author's own life between 1891 and 1915.[5]

Richardson is also an important feminist writer, because of the way her work assumes the validity and importance of female experiences as a subject for literature. Her wariness of the conventions of language, her bending of the normal rules of punctuation, sentence length, and so on, are used to create a feminine prose, which Richardson saw as necessary for the expression of female experience. Virginia Woolf in 1923 noted, that Richardson "has invented, or, if she has not invented, developed and applied to her own uses, a sentence which we might call the psychological sentence of the feminine gender."[6]


Rebecca Bowler wrote in August 2015: "Given Richardson’s importance to the development of the English novel, her subsequent neglect is extraordinary". The first few of her novels books "were received with rapturous enthusiasm and occasional confusion", but by the 1930s interest had declined, so that by 1938 "she was sufficiently obscure for Ford Madox Ford to bewail the 'amazing phenomenon' of her 'complete world neglect' ".[7] However, Richardson changed publishers and a new Collected Edition of Pilgrimage was published by Dent & Cresset Press in 1938. This edition was republished by Virago Press "in the late 1970s, in its admirable but temporary repopularisation of Richardson".[8] Now scholars are once again reclaiming her work and the Arts and Humanities Research Council in England is supporting the Dorothy Richardson Scholarly Editions Project, with the aim of publishing a collected edition of Richardson's works and letters.[9]

A blue plaque was unveiled, in May 2015, at Woburn Walk in Bloomsbury, where Richardson lived, in 1905 and 1906, opposite W. B. Yeats, and The Guardian comments that "people are starting to read her once more, again reasserting her place in the canon of experimental modernist prose writers".[10]


A much fuller bibliography can be found at: [3]


  • The Quakers Past and Present, London: Constable, 1914.
  • Gleanings from the Works of George Fox, London: Headley Brothers, 1914.
  • Pointed Roofs, London: Duckworth, 1915.[4]
  • Backwater, London: Duckworth, 1916.[5]
  • Honeycomb, London: Duckworth, 1917.[6]
  • The Tunnel, London: Duckworth, 1919.[7]
  • Interim, London: Duckworth, 1920 (serialized in Little Review, along with Ulysses 1919).[8]
  • Deadlock, London: Duckworth, 1921.[9]
  • Revolving Lights, London: Duckworth, 1923.[10]
  • The Trap, London: Duckworth, 1925.
  • Oberland, London: Duckworth, 1927.
  • John Austen and the Inseparables, London: William Jackson, 1930 (about the artist John Austen).
  • Dawn's Left Hand, London: Duckworth, 1931.
  • Clear Horizon, London: JM Dent and Cresset Press, 1935.
  • Pilgrimage (4 vols.), London Dent and Cresset, 1938 (containing *Dimple Hill published for first time).
  • Pilgrimage (4 vols.), London: J. M. Dent, 1967 (includes March Moonlight, (posthumous). In 1946 three sections were published in Life and Letters).
  • Pilgrimage( 4 vols.) (London: Virago, 1979).
  • Journey to Paradise : Short Stories and Autobiographical Sketches, London: Virago, 1989.

See also the following feminist anthologies:

  • Scott, Bonnie Kime, The Gender of Modernism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c1990.
  • Gilbert, Sandra M & Gubar, Susan Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. New York, N.Y.: Norton, c1985.

Early reviews[edit]

  • Sinclair, M., "The novels of Dorothy Richardson", The Egoist, April 1918.
  • [Woolf, V.], review of The Tunnel, (Times Literary Supplement, 13 Feb 1919); [V. Woolf], review of Revolving Lights, The Nation and the Athenaeum, 19 May 1923); both repr. in V. Woolf, Women and writing, ed. M. Barrett 1979.


  • The Times, 18 June 1957.
  • Manchester Guardian, 18 June 1957.

Bibliographical studies[edit]

  • Buchanan, Averill, Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 24, No. 1, Autumn, 2000, 'Dorothy Miller Richardson: A Bibliography 1900 to 1999', pp. 135–160.

Biographies and letters[edit]

  • Fouli, Janet (ed.). The Letters of John Cowper Powys and Dorothy Richardson. London: Cecil Wolf, 2008.
  • Fromm, Gloria G. Dorothy Richardson: A Biography. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977.
  • Fromm, Gloria G. (ed.). Windows on Modernism: Selected Letters of Dorothy Richardson. Athens, Georgia, U. of Georgia Press, 1995.
  • Gregory, Horace. Dorothy Richardson: An Adventure in Self-Discovery. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1967.
  • Rosenberg, John D. Dorothy Richardson: The Genius They Forgot. A Critical Biography. London: Duckworth; New York: Knopf, 1973.
  • Thomson, George H. Dorothy Richardson: A Calendar of the Letters. ELT Press E-Book no.4, University of North Carolina at Greenboro.

Critical studies[edit]

  • Blake, Caesar R. Dorothy M. Richardson. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960.
  • Bluemel, Kristin. Experimenting on the Borders of Modernism: Dorothy Richardson's 'Pilgrimage' . Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1997.
  • Eagleson, Harvey. Pedestal for Statue: 'The Novels of Dorothy M. Richardson. Sewanee, Tenn.: The University Press, 1934.
  • Fouli, Janet. Structure and Identity: the Creative Imagination in Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage. Faculté des Lettres de la Manouba, Tunis, 1995.
  • Hanscombe, Gillian E. The Art of Life: Dorothy Richardson and the Development of Feminist Consciousness. London: Owen, 1982; Athens: Ohio University Press, 1983.
  • Powys, John Cowper. Dorothy M. Richardson. London: Joiner & Steele, 1931.
  • Radford, Jean. Dorothy Richardson. New York & London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.
  • Staley, Thomas F. Dorothy Richardson. Boston: Twayne, 1976.
  • Thomson, George H. Notes on 'Pilgrimage': Dorothy Richardson Annotated. Greensboro, N.C.: ELT Press, 1999.
  • Thomson, George H. with Thomson, Dorothy F. The Editions of Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage: A Comparison of Texts. Greensboro, N.C.: ELT Press, 2001.
  • Tucker, Eva. Pilgrimage: The Enchanted Guest of Spring and Summer: Dorothy Richardson 1873-1954: a Reassessment of Her Life and Work. Penzance: Hypatia Press, 2003.
  • Watts, Carol. Dorothy Richardson. Plymouth: Northcote House in association with the British Council, 1995.
  • Winning, Joanne. The Pilgrimage of Dorothy Richardson. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000.

Works partially on Richardson[edit]

  • Kaplan, Sydney Janet. Feminine Consciousness in the Modem British Novel. Urbana & London: University of Illinois Press, 1975.
  • Linett, Maren Tova. Modernism, Feminism, and Jewishness. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Parsons, Deborah. Theorists of the modernist novel: James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf. Abingdon: Routledge, 2007.

Main archives[edit]

  • Beinecke Library, Yale University. A large collection of letters.
  • British Library. Letters to E. B. C. Jones; letters to S. S. Koteliansky.
  • Berg Collection, New York Public Library. Letters to P. P. Wadsworth
  • Harry Ransom HRC, Austin, Texas.
  • Library of Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Tulsa. Letters and mss.


  1. ^ Dorothy Richardson: Biography [1]
  2. ^ 'Chronology', Windows on Modernism: Selected Letters of Dorothy Richardson, ed. Gloria G. Fromm. Athens, Georgia, U. of Georgia Press, 1995 ; see also Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  3. ^ Windows on Modernism
  4. ^ Windows on Modernism
  5. ^ Windows on Modernism, xviii–xix.
  6. ^ Virginia Woolf's review of Revolving Lights. The Nation and the Athenaeum, 19 May 1923; reprinted. in V. Woolf, Women and writing, ed., M. Barrett, 1979.
  7. ^ Rebecca Bowler, "Dorothy M. Richardson: the forgotten revolutionary" Times Higher Education Supplement, 27 August 2015.
  8. ^ Rebecca Bowler, "Dorothy M. Richardson: the forgotten revolutionary"
  9. ^ Rebecca Bowler, "Dorothy M. Richardson: the forgotten revolutionary"
  10. ^ Rebecca Bowler, "Dorothy M Richardson deserves the recognition she is finally receiving", The Guardian, 15 May 2015 [2]

External links[edit]