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Pilgrimage IV: Oberland; Dawn's Left Hand; Clear Horizon; Dimple Hill;… (1967)

por Dorothy M. Richardson

Séries: Pilgrimage (IV; 9-13)

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'Pilgrimage' was the first expression in English of what it is to be called 'stream of conciousness' technique, predating the work of both Joyce and Woolf, echoing that of Proust with whom Dorothy Richardson stands as one of the great innovatory figures of our time. These four volumes record in detail the life of Miriram Henderson. Through her experience - personal, spiritual, intellectual - Dorothy Richardson explores intensely what it means to be a woman, presenting feminine conciousness with a new voice, a new identity.… (mais)
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The last of the four chunks into which Pilgrimage is usually divided takes us through five short novels and brings Miriam's story up to mid-1909, so that we leave her when she's had her first pieces of fiction accepted by magazines and has started work on a novel.

Oberland takes up the story directly from where we left it in The Trap, with Miriam on holiday for a couple of weeks in a ski-resort that sounds rather like Mürren or Wengen, but she gives it the generic name "Oberland", a word which in the following books becomes a metaphor for the sort of English upper-class life that involves looking down from a great height on the peasants in the valley below.

In Dawn's left hand and Clear horizon she's back in London, still working for the dentists but now back with Mrs Bailey again, the flat-share with Selina having been declared a failure. She's stalked by a new character, a lovely, somewhat theatrical young woman called Amabel, who won't take no for an answer, but soon transfers her passion for Miriam into suffragette activism, and has to be visited in Holloway. Meanwhile, the affair with "Hypo" (Wells) comes to its predictable conclusion in the whitespace between two paragraphs (in the first they are eating soup, in the second they are putting their clothes back on), leaving her feeling somewhat battered.

In Dimple Hill, Miriam follows her doctor's advice to take six months off: after misleading us with a delightfully irrelevant parody of the opening page of an E M Forster novel (three women disagree about the proper way to visit a cathedral; an enigmatic young man, never seen again, sits in the corner of a railway carriage reading what may be a missal) Miriam finds herself staying with a Quaker family in a country house in Sussex. There's a kind of Northanger Abbey thing going on as Miriam is gently but firmly made to align her idealised preconceptions about Quakers with reality, but it's all done in the gentlest possible way, and she is left still very drawn to their way of life. (And to the idea of marrying one of them...). I think this was my favourite part of the whole sequence.

The last part, March Moonlight, is also one of the shortest, and it is probably the hardest of all to read, since Richardson has refined her technique down so far that almost all the redundant information that normally guides us through a narrative has gone. We have to struggle with working out who the characters are, there are frequent unannounced changes of setting, the present-tense "I" voice is taking over more and more of the work from the impersonal narrator, Miriam makes serious plans for her life that are upset at the last minute and abandoned without further discussion, and it all feels as though it's happening at frantic speed. It's impressive writing, but not fun in the way Dimple Hill was.

Still, overall, this was a fantastic novel, one I wish I'd known about much sooner. And I'm definitely going to have to re-read it sooner or later! ( )
  thorold | Jun 2, 2020 |
This last volume includes the five novels Oberland, Dawn's Left Hand, Clear Horizon, Dimple Hill and March Moonlight.

Oberland was different from all the rest of the Pilgrimage novels up to this point as it is about a vacation Miriam took to the Swiss Alps. Instead of going around London, this was focused on the natural beauty of Switzerland, with some focus on her interactions with the other people staying at the lodge. And her great love of tobogganing!

Dawn's Left Hand was kind a vague novel which had Miriam spending time with Hypo and his wife, and with Hypo alone, and also getting to know Amabel.

In Clear Horizon, Miriam continues her relationship with Amabel, meets with Michael again and introduces Amabel to Hypo. Amabel gets arrested while participating in the suffragette movement. Miriam asks a doctor she had turned down romantically for help with her sister, who is sick. The doctor confirm she needs surgery. Miriam is of course aghast as her sister and her husband have fallen on hard times and there is no money for an operation. The doctor has actually found another doctor who will perform the surgery for free and a Florence Nightingale Home where her sister can stay for practically nothing. Spoiler alert: The doctor also diagnoses Miriam with a nervous breakdown. It has been referenced from time to time that Miriam stays up all night, and gets up very early, and doesn't eat very well, and I guess this is what it has resulted in.

Dimple Hill sees Miriam taking a six-month sabbatical from work; she travels around and stays at several different hotels/boarding houses, at first traveling with friends, and then later staying with a family of Quakers that Michael recommended. She really enjoys her time there, practically becoming an honorary Quaker.

In the last novel, March Moonlight, which was published posthumously, Miriam takes a few breaks from Dimple Hill, the Quaker farm, to go back to London, to visit Amabel and Michael, and then when she goes back to Dimple Hill, she hears that someone else will be coming in September, an ex-Catholic priest, also suffering from a nervous breakdown. And in the meantime, Miriam needs to leave Dimple Hill for a while because Miss Rescorla will be away for a while - I guess she can't stay there if she's the only female? So Miriam stays in what I would characterize as a YWCA. When Miriam goes back to Dimple Hill, she finds that the French ex-Catholic priest, Charles, is already there. She takes the opportunity to speak French to Charles, which he really appreciates and she leaves her book, Modern Thought, out for him to discover, and they proceed to have lots of discussions about it. Spoiler alert: Charles declares his love for her, and she has to leave Dimple Hill because the Rescorlas won't let them both stay under the same roof after Charles tells them he loves her. Miriam confesses something to him (maybe about her affair with Hypo?) and she leaves and doesn't come back.

The end of the book has Miriam taking up lodging at another boarding house, with the plan to make her living by writing, and living very frugally.

My overall thoughts on the entire work:

Four books actually, and more than 2100 pages, of living inside Miriam Henderson's mind in this stream of consciousness work, encompassing 13 novels. I'm glad for the experience of reading this work, but it was not an easy or fast read. It was difficult to follow who was who and to actually understand at times what was happening. At the time of its publication (over several years), her critics didn't suspect it was based on the author's life. I had to read a lot of reference material to understand the actual events taking place

Full of excruciating detail of people, their clothes, houses, furniture, the London streets, and nature, it went very slowly, Still I was interested in what it was like for a single woman to live and work on her own in London in the early 1900s. To attend lectures, read, and learn and question others about philosophy, to travel to Switzerland, live with a Quaker family, fall in love and have men fall in love with her, and to always stay single and live as independently as possible. ( )
  LisaMorr | Mar 15, 2020 |
Pilgrimage is a 13 volume, 2110 page novel published between 1915 and 1967. From what I’ve found it is currently out of print, but fairly easy to access through used copies of Virago Modern Classics which published the work in 4 volumes. Originally, each volume was published individually until Dimple Hill, the 12th volume. It and the final installment, March Moonlight, were only published in full volume sets.

Pilgrimage is highly autobiographical. It follows the interior thoughts and experiences of Miriam Henderson, a young woman starting out in the world. I believe it covers her life from about age 17-30. Miriam leaves her home when her family falls on hard times financially to become a teacher in Germany. She teaches in different locations for the first few novels and then becomes a secretary at a dental office in London. While in London, she truly finds her confidence in being an independent and single woman. She explores the city and finds a deep connection to the city itself. As the book progresses, she develops her skill as a writer, begins and ends relationships with several men, and travels, gaining a wide array of experience.

The plot in the novel is buried deep within Miriam’s experience. Her reactions and thoughts are always primary, sometimes (often) to the point that the plot is undiscernible. This can be frustrating. Characters come and go sometimes without introduction and even large life events aren’t spelled out. Both her mother’s death and her first sexual experience I had to go back pages later and say, wait - what???

As such, this is not an easy reading experience. The book meanders and definitely loses its way, especially, I felt, later in the work. I think that by about half way through these novels, Richardson knew NO ONE was reading anymore and was truly writing for herself. I wonder if anyone was editing at all. Also, the book is unfinished which feels frustrating at the end of 2000 pages. I’m not sure Richardson ever intended to stop writing Miriam’s life experience.

All that said, I still highly recommend reading this. I thought a lot of the writing and ideas were truly groundbreaking. I’ve never read anything quite like this, and I’ve read Proust, Woolf, Faulkner, some of Joyce so I did have plenty to compare it to as far as interior, stream of consciousness writing. At her best, Richardson writes beautifully and intelligently, with great insight into the female experience. There is a definite feminist slant to her writing. There are certain scenes (Miriam exploring London on bicycle) that I will never forget.

If I were to be honest, I think you can get an excellent feel for Richardson’s talent and importance by reading the first 4 novels in this series of 13. I recommend those without reservation. And if you are a completist like I am, then by all means, read the whole thing. But I definitely recommend trying this neglected novel. I think it deserves to be read. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Nov 21, 2019 |
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TO VIOLET (Dawn's Left Hand)
TO S. S. KOTELIANSKY (Clear Horizon)
TO JOHN COWPER POWYS (Dimple Hill)
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Of the early twentieth-century English modernists, there is no one who has been more neglected than Dorothy Miller Richardson. (Introduction)
The sight of a third porter, this time a gentle-looking man carrying a pile of pillows and coming slowly, filled her with hope. (Oberland)
He had said the train, as if there were no other. (Dawn's Left Hand)
Between herself and all that was waiting to flow in and settle upon this window-lit end of the long empty room, was the sense of missing Lionel Cholmley. (Clear Horizon)
Why pounce upon the cathedral? (Dimple Hill)
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This Work collects the ninth through thirteenth novels in Dorothy Richardson's "Pilgrimage" Series: Oberland (1927), Dawn’s Left Hand (1931), Clear Horizon (1935), Dimple Hill (1938), and March Moonlight (1938). Please distinguish between this collection and individual novels (especially the fourth novel in the Series, The Tunnel, which might be described as "Pilgrimage 4"). Thank you.
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'Pilgrimage' was the first expression in English of what it is to be called 'stream of conciousness' technique, predating the work of both Joyce and Woolf, echoing that of Proust with whom Dorothy Richardson stands as one of the great innovatory figures of our time. These four volumes record in detail the life of Miriram Henderson. Through her experience - personal, spiritual, intellectual - Dorothy Richardson explores intensely what it means to be a woman, presenting feminine conciousness with a new voice, a new identity.

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