The End of the Road!
I have finally completed all thirteen novels in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage – Hooray! For the most part, I’ve very much enjoyed spending the year with Miriam Henderson. The earlier novels were a complete joy – the descriptive detail and luminous prose were delightful. That said, the going got tough in places, and the novels became increasingly confusing towards the end of the series. As it is, I’ve been struggling to concentrate recently, and that probably contributed a fair bit to my lack of engagement with the final two volumes in the series.
The penultimate novel of the series started off promisingly, with Miriam taking Dr Densley’s advice of a rest cure and heading out of the city for the countryside. I’ve loved all of Dorothy Richardson’s descriptions of Miriam’s London flânerie, but there has been a fair amount of urban pacing and thinking on this journey so far, so a change of scene was quite welcome. Miriam goes to stay on a farm in Sussex with the Roscorla family. She is befriended by Rachel Mary, falls in love with Richard, and is frowned upon by the matriach, Mrs Roscorla. With all the fresh country air, flirting and fruit-picking going on, it’s all very Darling Buds of May but with added Quakerism for good measure. Having spent an inordinate amount of my childhood sitting still in Church meetings, I couldn’t bear reading the long description of the Quaker meeting. I started fidgeting about in my seat and had to flick forward for fear of starting to pace my cage like an incarcerated polar bear.
Further flirting on Miriam’s part deepens the frown-lines on Mrs Roscorla’s forehead, and it is made plain that the ‘Friends’ will not tolerate such behaviour.
I already knew that the final novel of Pilgrimage was unfinished, but I found it a very confusing read. First Miriam is in Switzerland, then she is in Brighton, then back at Dimple Hill farm with the Roscorlas. There is a new friend, Jean, who is in love with a Bishop, and another friend Olga, whose misery leads to an untimely death by her own hand. Miriam visits Michael and Amabel, whose marriage has not been happy, until they have a baby, Paul, then everything is alright again.
I can’t help wondering why she returned to Dimple Hill, after her behaviour was so clearly disapproved of – that environment would hardly promote the relaxation and recuperation she needs. To exacerbate things, a French ex-monk, Ducorry, has come to stay with the Roscorlas. Miriam is fluent in French so they spend a lot of time together, and he falls in love with Miriam. The feeling seems to be mutual, and rather than feeling trapped by the budding relationship, Miriam feels it is serious enough to need to confess about her affair with Hypo. Alas, he is unforgiving, as are the Roscorlas, who suddenly can no longer spare the room, and she has to head back to Mrs Gay’s boarding house in London.
It was an abrupt and uncomfortable ending, leaving Miriam in a state of unrest andwith no certain future. More than ever, I feel I’ve got to read Dorothy Richardson’s biography, if just to find out what happened next. The series of novels may have ended, but it would appear that my pilgrimage has not!
Thanks to Liz at Adventures in reading, writing and working from home for designing this Pilgrimage finisher’s medal. It does feel like I’ve completed a marathon – now where’s my complimentary banana and foil blanket?