'Trespassers will be prosecuted': Dorothy Richardson among the Fabians.
Pilgrimage is, of course, a magnum opus, a complex (perhaps in some ways unwieldy) text that exceeds discrete or definitive interpretation. It is, above all, a novel of development, amplified by its narrative construction--largely mimetic of a mind in action--creating the effect of a continuous refinement of ideas in progress. Given its complex narrative structure and the proliferation of competing philosophical discourse in the text as a whole, it is unsurprising that Pilgrimage has not previously been read in the light of Richardson's engagement with Fabianism or, specifically, with her belief in land reform. This is, however, to miss a perpetual element of Pilgrimage; (5) land reform is a significant aspect of an evolving egalitarian vision and Richardson's protagonist, Miriam Henderson, never abandons it. Disregarding this strand of the work is to ignore a central tenet of the Fabian push towards the equality espoused by, for example, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, both of whom were Richardson's literary and, for a time, ideological contemporaries. By setting Pilgrimage in a Fabian context and among the work of these writers it is, in fact, possible to explore the group's attack on the private ownership of land at the beginning of the twentieth century. Furthermore, those aspects of Pilgrimage that address the Fabian call for land reform are changed into political critiques centred on furthering the idea of a spatially re-arranged future. In essence, this particular facet of Richardsons writing assumes an additional, and specifically political, dimension.
It is, of course, difficult to unpick the points of separation and connection between Richardsons fictional practice in the creation of Miriam Henderson (the mediating consciousness at the heart of the book) and Richardsons own experience. Clearly Richardson, the author, and Miriam, the narrator, are not simply interchangeable. Indeed, Miriam is largely the ironical vehicle through which Richardson traces her evolving philosophies, often with a self-reflexive mockery alert to the passing enthusiasms of youth, and one therefore wholly appropriate for a retrospective, semi-autobiographical work. Nonetheless, Pilgrimage suggests obvious comparisons between the experiences of its author and narrator. Like Richardson, Miriam attends Fabian meetings and her journalism is encouraged by her Fabian friend Hypo Wilson, a thinly-veiled reconstruction of H. G. Wells. The timbre of Miriam's narration is also at times unmistakably that of Richardson when, for example, political earnestness is tempered by irony: 'I write about socialism in an anarchist newspaper.' (6) Issues pertinent to Fabianism surface periodically throughout this multi-volume work as Miriam identifies herself as a political journalist, 'an anti-vivisectionist', (7) an 'intermittent' (8) feminist, a woman attracted to the simple life and, finally, as a vegetarian. This draws together the various strands of humanitarian reform central to the early twentieth-century Fabian agenda, and brutal separations between author and narrator (as well as simplistic generic distinctions like 'political history' and 'experimental literature') become distinctly blurred. As Hanscombe points out, Richardson's Pilgrimage 'discloses a peculiar integration of life experience and artistic realisation,' though this integration is decidedly 'uneasy'. (9) In a sense then, we can interpret the Fabian aspects of the text only through an acceptance of Miriam as a literary construct, situated by Richardson in a shifting historical context of developing ideals that depict Fabianism as part of a dialogic process through which Miriam creates her own world-view, with land reform unshakably at its centre.
Naturally, the progress of this world-view and of those Fabians concerned with land reform at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is a response to earlier developments. These included the changing conceptions of material space prompted by the acts of enclosure, industrialisation and the geographical expansion of capitalism. (10) These changes created territory, whilst the spread of new scientific agricultural methods sought to eradicate the unpredictability of the land. Under capitalism, the earth became more than a natural resource; it became a source of profit. In Britain, industrialisation instigated spatial re-organisation as the working classes were drawn to the towns in search of work. Internationally, by the end of the nineteenth century, imperialist world powers had reshaped the map and surface of the planet. Richardson's airing of utopian ideals and simplified ways of living in Pilgrimage may be regarded as a response to these spatial changes, whilst extracts from the text offer an implicit challenge to the emerging, and often alienating, shifts in the cultural and material value assigned to land.
Even if the Fabian agenda was the maturation of earlier eras, by 1900 there were still no socialist countries. As Tony Wright explains, however, there was the confident expectation that there soon would be. Fabianism, Wright argues, offered one model for a socialist future and was constructed 'out of an assortment of intellectual ingredients, notably from the nineteenth-century doctrines of positivism and utilitarianism, and out of the politics of advanced radicalism' until it became, 'the main school of British reformist socialism'11 in the early twentieth-century. Rejecting Marxism's revolutionary class action and believing that the forces of individualism were on the run, the Fabians offered a scheme of'resolute constitutionalism' (12) that would increasingly capture the state for collectivist purposes. Characterised by the desire to engage with the diverse and unconventional, socialism at the fin-de-siecle and into the twentieth century was eclectic, able to encompass theosophy, the arts and crafts movement, collective ways of living and vegetarianism. All were key components of an evolving political vision. As A. R. Orage (the editor of The New Age) argues:
Morris had shed medieval glamour over... [socialism] with ... Newsfrom Nowhere, Edward Carpenter had put it into sandals ... Keir Hardy had clothed it in a cloth cap and a red tie. And Bernard Shaw, on behalf of the Fabian Society, had hung it with innumerable jingling epigrammatic bells. (13)
Richardson's dalliance with the Fabian ethos reflects the diversity of these affiliations. In Pilgrimage she largely eschews Shaw's 'jingling and epigrammatic bells' however, and instead opts for modernist indirection although, as befits polemic, she switches in the early volumes to dialogue and declarative statement to discuss Fabian ideals and the restructuring of the land. Narrative ambiguity is therefore absent when the immorality of monopolistic land ownership is (along with 'Rent as a clutching monster astride... civilization') (14) the 'one article of the Lycurgan faith' of which Miriam has no 'doubt'. (15)
H.G. Wells (Richardson's sometime lover) (16) is similarly direct in defining the Fabian enterprise, even if his strident challenge for the Fabian leadership ('his dictatorship ... refused' (17) as Richardson remembered it in 1950) was ultimately unsuccessful. Nonetheless in 1906, the year of his rejection by the Fabians, Wells argues in Socialism and the Family, 'We want to get the land out of the control of private owners ... not in order to ... hinder development, but to rearrange these things in a saner and finer fashion'.18 Wells' views were, of course, highly influential at the time (19) and though Richardson was largely unknown (and Pilgrimage never a best seller) both are clearly 'on' the land reform 'message' in the early nineteen hundreds. They were not, however, the first political thinkers to consider the emancipation of the land as 'saner and finer'; the argument against private property cuts across political ideologies and has a history too long to explore here. There are highlights however. Adam Smith (1723-1790), for example (whose Whig background made it unlikely he would hold Tory sympathies), had previously suggested, 'In Europe the laws of primogeniture and perpetuities of different kinds, prevent the division of great estates, and thereby hinder the multiplication of small proprietors'. (20) In 1851 Herbert Spencer (the social theorist from a radical and non-conformist background) published his first major work, Social Statics, and argued that landlordism was contrary to moral law: 'exclusive possession of the soil involves a landowning despotism.' (21) Moreover, between 1874 and 1875 a detailed scrutiny of the ownership of land was commissioned by Parliament in response to complaints about the continuing decline of small-scale land ownership and the monopolistic implications of primogeniture. The findings were published in The Great Landowners of Britain and Ireland (1878) by the Tory land reformer, John Bateman, (22) revealing a pattern of land ownership apparently untouched by a century of industrialisation and by half a century of market economics. (23) In 1879 the American economist Henry George published one of the most influential books on the topic, Progress and Poverty, and (as Fromm notes) Richardson was particularly attracted to his unorthodox views. This included his proposal that a 'single tax' be levied on the value of land rather than on labour or capital, (24) whilst George's argument that land belonged equally to all humanity held particular appeal for the young Richardson: 'I gazed at Henry George' she recalls in a 1944 letter, 'we were all ardent land reformers.' (25)
Building on these and earlier political opinions, at the beginning of the twentieth century the Fabians added their specifically socialist voice to the general attack on the aristocratic monopoly of land and this became one of their core principles. Ultimately, the private possession of land became firmly associated with 'Unsocialism' (26) and this remained an issue for radical politics right up to 1914. Underpinned by her reading of George, in Pilgrimage Richardson's support was unequivocal and, on this topic, her voice seemingly conflated with that of her narrator: 'Trespassers will be prosecuted', Miriam remarks, 'always makes me furious'. (27)
In the 1890s the leadership of the Fabians was in the hands of Sidney Webb and there was a corresponding Fabian boom. Nevertheless, George Bernard Shaw is probably its best known member. Appearing, in 1925, in Richardson's 'The Trap' (without the usual cloak of fictional anonymity) Shaw is, 'The darling. Religiously enduring. Coming to Lycurgan gatherings as others go to church.' (28)
Richardson was right to emphasise the 'religious' dimension of Shaw's Fabianism, even if Miriam's tone here is distincdy amused. From the outset Shaw's zeal in support of social justice was preeminent and this ethical stance was underpinned by an acknowledgement of a divisive class system that separated society into an educated elite and a largely (at least formally) uneducated mass. (29) Taking on the mantle of moral authority, in Shaw's early tract, The Fabian Society (1892), (30) for example, he outlines the ethical underpinnings of Fabianism and highlights the breadth of the initial enterprise: 'by 1883 we were content with nothing less than the prompt reconstruction of society in accordance with the highest moral possibilities.' (31) The definition of 'moral' may be vague here, but the ambition was transparent. The intention was to create a classless society in which men and women would form themselves into communes, work for the common good and share all the products of their labour. These ideals and Shaw's evangelical fervour were infectious and, as Miriam notes, 'enduring', but the reality of achieving these lofty aims was somewhat problematic. Consequently, the topic was hotly debated in the various 'drawing-rooms' (32) of its early members who, almost exclusively, shared Shaw's literary leanings and his 'bias and intellectual habits.' (33) These drawing-room debates were valuable however, since they could not be 'too irreverent or too critical.' (34) It was wholly unacceptable to be self-righteous; the Fabians could not, apparently, 'help laughing' (35) at themselves.
Familiarity, intellectual rapport and a privileged (if narrow) class perspective evidendy helped cement this political coterie, just as these factors underscored its developing ideology. In Pilgrimage Miriam considers herself a 'poor law' (36) outsider and so is able to offer a less assimilated and, frankly, far less rosy opinion. Rather than inclusive, affable members of the literary intelligentsia, Miriam regards the Fabians as a clique; in short, 'a secret society. (37) She is also a good deal more ambivalent when interpreting the laughter. It is the urbane pose of the merely fortunate, and by 1925 when Richardson published 'The Trap', Miriam had identified this posture as, 'the Lycurgan tide of amused superiority to everything on earth.' (38)
Although offering different understandings of the roots of political consensus and of Fabian humour, on land reform Richardson and Shaw are united. It is appropriate, therefore, that in order to create an overview of his economic theory in 'The Economic Basis of Socialism' (1899) (39) he uses a spatial trope, unwittingly employing the narrative method deployed in Pilgrimage since, Richardson argues, 'We all live under a Metaphorocrasy' (40) in which the nature of thought depends upon the source of one's metaphors. Shaw's preference for a spatial lexis to communicate his understanding of economics does indeed betray the centrality of land reform in his political thinking. Tike Richardson, it also highlights his literary instinct; this is a 'trope' in which, Shaw notes, there 'lurks a little unsuspected poetry. (41)
Richardson's persistent spatial rhetoric in Pilgrimage intentionally taps into the commonplace language through which the world is often interpreted and, inherently, keeps the apportioning of space (as land) at the forefront of the reader's mind. Similarly, Shaw spreads the Fabian word through an apt and accessible spatial idiom. It is worth quoting him at length:
To the minds eye of the astronomer the earth is a ball spinning in space without ulterior motives. To the bodily eye of the primitive cultivator it is a vast green plain, from which ... wheat ... can be made to spring. To the ... city man this vast green plain appears as a great gaming table.... To the economist ... the green plain is a sort of burial place of hidden treasure. (42)
Men, he continues, desire that the 'capricious gifts of Nature might be intercepted' and distributed justly 'according to the labour done by each in the collective search for them.'43 Shaw argues, 'This desire is Socialism.' (44)
Shaw's discussion foregrounds man's ineptitude in attempting to tame nature --with a significant and capital 'N'. Personified, the land's unpredictability (its 'caprice') outwits man at every stage so that individual speculations of profit and loss are untenable as well as unequal. His argument may begin with the idea of non-territorial space, 'the vast green plain of a country virgin to the spade' (45) (none can be trespassers here), but the debate evolves into a political attack upon the hierarchical organisation and exploitation of the earth under capitalism--an argument pertinent pre- and--post the early-twentieth century.
In essence, Shaw's economic equation is that the exclusive ownership of land is the ultimate social 'evil', (46) springing from the desire of the 'first colonist.' (47) Its possession underpins all individualist societies; it is enshrined at the heart of legal systems; it skews man's connection with the earth and directs all his personal and collective relationships. In Pilgrimage Richardson's protagonist offers a similar, if simple, summation: 'Absolute property in land', said Miriam to the sunlit snow, 'is a crime'. (48)
It is clear that for Richardson and her Fabian contemporaries monopolistic land rights are a particular target since their 'crime', both historic and contemporaneous, is to perpetuate entrenched social inequalities. This is evident even in the nomenclature through which property is distinguished. Accorded a superior status from the feudal Middle Ages onwards, property in land was, and still is, called real estate. Everything else is described as 'liquid assets'. This particular spatial taxonomy only serves to exemplify what Richardson and Shaw already knew; that the centrality of land in their society's thinking and structure was both incipient and ingrained. It is therefore no co-incidence that (in 1903) Richardson gravitated, as a forthright 'single-taxer', (49) to the Brentwood home of the Daniels to discuss the necessity for land reform.
Richardson and Shaw both also knew, of course, that the ramifications of a land owning monopoly extended far beyond its capacity to infiltrate language and influence thought--significant though this is. On a daily basis, this spatial imbalance proliferated and maintained inequitable social distinctions and aided capitalist exploitation. It was also instrumental in prompting and sustaining harmful economic migration. 'Private Property' (50) has 'forgotten' (51) the working man, Shaw argues. 'On the roads' he is 'a vagrant', (52) off the road 'he is a trespasser ... the disinherited son of Adam.'53 Fundamentally, the workingman has become either tenant or 'tramp.' (54)
As a form of economic migration 'tramping' was a commonplace idea in the early twentieth century and was exemplified by writers of all kinds. Jack London, for example, published his observations of life as an undercover tramp in the British capital in 1903 in The People of the Abyss, (55) William Henry Davies published his Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (56) in 1908 recording similar experiences in America. In the same year Margaret Loane produced 'The Manufacture of the Tramp' in From Their Point of View (57) and suggested the tramp was a product both of British social mismanagement and working class indolence:
One of the social causes for the multiplication of tramps is the mistaken preference ... for 'cheap labour'.... Another is ... that so many people just above the poverty line have no realisation of the burden thrown upon the community by the existence of such a large and almost unproductive class. (58)
One suspects that Loane's profession as a district nurse (she is certainly 'bracing' here) led her to this uncompromising analysis. Certainly Shaw's comments (in his preface to Davies's Autobiography of a Super-Tramp) that its author is 'no propagandist of the illusions of the middle-class tramp fancier' (59) can be applied to Loane too. Shaw is not censorious here however, but applauding. Whilst the perils of economic migration generated by the inequalities of land distribution are not to be ignored, all romantic illusions about the tramp must be dismantled.
Richardson appears to have been in essential agreement and in 1919 she fictionalised the vagrant in 'The Tunnel' deliberately destroying the myth of the honourable, nomadic worker. Without property or land, Richardson's tramp is simply menacing. A thoughtless trespasser, he is characterised through negativity; he is an aimless wanderer, stumbling and drunken. (60) For a young, defiant ('new') woman cycling alone on a country road he is an obstacle to be negotiated rather than a man to be respected as a free, industrious and noble spirit. The fear of him had, thinks Miriam, 'been all the time at the edge of the zest of her ride.' (61) In Pilgrimage the tramp may be reminiscent of Shaw's 'disinherited son of Adam', but this is of the decidedly alarming, rather than merely post-lapsarian variety. It is also to be expected that a narrative focused on female experience should here engage in gender politics. Richardson's tramp is a timely, if resented, reminder that women (however 'new') are rarely spatially free. Miriam is quick to explain that, 'Women can never go far' without 'the protection of men.' (62)
Clearly neither Miriam nor the Fabians were middle-class tramp fanciers. Preferring pragmatism to revolution and practicality to abstraction, they believed land reform was the answer to divisive economic migration and to societal unease. The Fabians tailored their propagandist literature accordingly. In their tract, To Provident Landlords and Capitalists (1885), for example, the author suggests,
The Fabian Society ... beg to recommend ... [the] earnest support ... [of the land owning classes] for ... the parceling out of waste or inferior lands among the labouring class, and the attachment to the soil of a numerous body of peasant proprietors. (63)
This reconfiguration would create work, food and a spatial share in society for those condemned to tramping.
The Fabians were not naive however, and although they acknowledged the sympathy of those who were land-owning socialists (particularly in Wells's satirical This Misery of Boots (1905), (64) they did not believe that landowners would willingly relinquish their finest property. As their ideas developed, some Fabians considered compensation as apossible means of social leverage. Being strictly anti-revolutionary they were nonetheless forced to rely on the ethical imperatives underpinning their arguments and on a form of rhetoric that sometimes can only be regarded as crude (and in this case capitalised) brinkmanship:
THE PEASANT PROPRIETOR, HAVING A STAKE IN THE COUNTRY, WILL, UNLIKE THE LANDLESS LABOURER OF TO-DAY, HAVE A COMMON INTEREST WITH THE LANDLORD IN RESISTING REVOLUTIONARY PROPOSALS. (65)
Other tracts dealing with the redistribution of land are less belligerent, but the message is unwavering. The author of Capital and Land, (66) for instance, argues that the activities of the English and Scottish Fabian societies 'have now converted an immense body of public opinion to the Socialist view' of the 'urgent necessity for Nationalisation of the Land.' (67) As one of these converts, in Pilgrimage, Miriam added her voice to the debate, arguing in 'Oberland' against the consequences of economic migration and human exploitation: 'No one ought to have to pay for the right to sit down on the earth. No one ought to be so helplessly expropriated that another can buy ... and use him up'. (68)
The Fabians were not content with emancipating the land and restructuring it to eradicate human exploitation: they also aimed to re-organise agricultural food production. Emerging from the National Food Reform Society, the Fabians rejected factory-produced food in favour of a simple diet based on the natural products of the land. Importantly, since eating is politically symbolic, they also lauded vegetarianism.
The Fabians were not, of course, solely responsible for the growth of this movement at the beginning of the twentieth century but they were an influential voice, and on this topic Richardson was one of their noteworthy speakers. By 1907 a plethora of journals dedicated to vegetarianism had emerged. These included: The Animals Friend, The Vegetarian, The Vegetarian Messenger, The Humane Review, Ye Crank (to which Richardson regularly contributed) and The New Age (69)--the latter (afavourite journal of the literary avant garde) established by A. R. Orage and Holbrook Jackson in 1907 under the wing of the Fabian Society. (70)
Vegetarianism was taken up by the majority of Fabians and literature to support this choice was published and circulated by them. To this end in 1913 Richardson translated, from French, Paul Carton's Consumption Doomed, (71) and Some Popular Foodstuffs Exposed (72) for a Fabian publishing house--headed by her friend Charles Daniel. In 1914 for the same publisher she also translated, from German, Man's Best Food: An Enquiry into the Case for a Non-Flesh Diet (73) by Gustav Kruger. And, in the unlikely publication, The Dental Record, Richardson discusses food reform, pacifism (linking male 'brutality and carnivorousness' (74)) and the influence of diet on teeth, (75) examining Charles Mercier's Diet in the Causation of Mental Disease under the snappy heading, 'Meat and Madness.' (76)
As early as the 1890s vegetarianism had, in fact, become a key component of the socialist philosophy because of a perceived connection with psychological as well as public health. Not only this, a meat free diet was considered a matter of financial probity as Henry Salt, the author of The Logic of Vegetarianism, pointed out in 1906: 'The oftener we go to the vegetable world for our food ... the oftener we go to the first, and therefore the cheapest source of supply.' (77) Vegetarianism seemingly had much to commend it and inexpensive, nutritious, and preferably meat-free, food found its place at the heart of the Fabian project. From one of the earliest Fabian tracts (A Manifesto (1884)) it is clear that diet and class inequalities were thought to be inextricably linked to the apportioning of agricultural land. The 'most striking result of our present system of farming out the national land ... to private individuals', writes Shaw, 'has been the division of Society into hostile classes, with large appetites and no dinners at one extreme, and large dinners and no appetites at the other.' (78) Agricultural reform was therefore considered an effective remedy to a series of social problems, and these ideas underpin several Fabian initiatives.
This general improvement in diet, for example, became one of the vital projects undertaken by the Fabian Women's Group. Florence Daniel (whose friendship with Richardson was built on mutual simple life sympathies and admiration for Henry George's land reforming plans) (79) writes in Ye Crank (1907) that eggs are 'The bridge that carries the ... flesh eater' (80) and 'beer drinker over from a carnivorous to a non-carnivorous diet.' (81) Nutritional improvement underpins Mrs. Reeves's well-known tract, Family Life on a Pound a Week (1912), (82) the culmination of a four-year study of a working class London community where the Fabian women recorded the daily budget of thirty families and the distribution of meat within them. In fact, this study helps put into perspective the relative affluence of Richardsons Miriam in Pilgrimage, whose (Fabian-inspired) pleasure in a small egg and roll and butter at an A.B.C.' (83) is associated with simple life impoverishment: 'she was going to live, in freedom [in London], hidden, on her pound a week.' (84) The inherent irony as the narrative voice slips into free indirect speech here underscores the point that rather than penury this is, in fact, virtual luxury.
It becomes increasingly clear nevertheless that, although the Fabian group was almost solely vegetarian by the mid 1880s, vegetarianism was merely one facet in its wider attempts at social engineering. Vegetarianism provided an easily achievable means of minimising one aspect of inequality; by practising this form of frugality (prior to the re-organisation of agriculture) the Fabians were able to establish immediately a sense of political solidarity with the working classes.
Seen as part of a much larger philosophy, Fabian vegetarianism is not only a matter of expense and small-scale equality; the plight of animals is allied to wider political notions and to the necessity of social reform in general. As Salt argues:
Humanitarians, socialists, vegetarians, anti-vivisectionists, teetotallers, land-reformers, and all such seekers of human welfare ... [must recognise] that each of their... efforts is but a detail of the whole work of social regeneration. (85)
Rather than distinct ethical notions rooted in competing political agendas, it is more accurate to regard these ideals as a synthesis of mutually affirming principles each leaching into the other, growing out of the periods before the early twentieth century, culminating in Fabianism, their legacy reverberating today.
Richardsons Pilgrimage, with its broad historical scope depicting political tensions and ethical symbiosis, illuminates the distinctions, intersections and flash points that naturally occur in any vibrant democratic society. Miriam, subjected to authorial irony, is the perfect conduit to explore this complexity at the level of the individual, and the book becomes an experimental account that captures central political complications as ably as, for example, The Food Reformers' Year Book and Health Annual for 1907 in which articles on vegetarianism, land reform, anti-vivisection, and Shaw's essay 'The Diet of Super-Man' (86) appear alongside advertisements for 'simple life' hotels in the newly-established 'utopian' garden cities of Hertfordshire. (87) These affiliations are diverse and connections between them can appear tenuous, but all are predicated on alternative spatial relations, egalitarian ideals and the search for simpler ways of living. These are philosophies that the young Richardson adhered to and that her biographer later identified quite simply as 'land and meat and the virtues of brown bread.' (88)
Although Richardson treats Miriam with irony, there remains an unmistakable admiration for the possibilities of the simple life in Pilgrimage. This resonates throughout Richardsons evocation of the relatively austere Tondon life that Miriam insists she adores. Simple and, in particular, utopian values also emerge in Miriam's experience of a Quaker commune at Dimple Hill, whilst aspects of a wider socialist ethos are apparent in more covert ways; in Miriam's dislike of privilege and in the general egalitarian tenor and drive of the discussion. Indeed, through a single female perspective, Richardson reveals even the smallest shifts in her protagonist's political thought during the years 1915 to 1938, (89) sometimes in successive sentences. The popularity of individual ideologies fluctuated throughout this time and Miriam's allegiances mirror this. Buffeted by competing philosophies, she flirts with Gladstonian ideas, considers them expedient, and only half in jest defines herself as 'a Tory and an anarchist by turns'. (90) She discusses ethical philosophy, Tolstoy and socialism with Michael Shatov. She fraternizes with Russian revolutionaries. She attends Fabian lectures and is sometimes perplexed, sometimes infuriated, by them. Nonetheless, her difficult friendships with Miss Dear and Selina Holland are brought about by an attraction to Fabianism, sometimes captured in a Fabian idiom: 'You and I are ... gutter-snipes, poor-law children, underpaid wage-slaves without security or prospects'. (91) Miriam's sympathy and empathy are mediated through egalitarian principles too. Her passionate relationship with Amabel is instigated by shared Fabian curiosity. It is without regret, however, that Miriam notes, Amabel's socialism was out and out' (92) and therefore able to evolve into militant acts in support of female suffrage in a way that her own profoundly sceptical brand of socialism cannot. Still, Miriam confronts a landowner in 'Oberland' (1927) arguing evangelically for the abolition of rent and for a more egalitarian restructuring of the land.
Since the Quaker episode at 'Dimple Hill' (1938) is towards the end of Pilgrimage and the reader is now acquainted with the variable philosophical trajectory Miriam has followed throughout it, we sense that (like full-blown Fabianism) the 'utopian' Quaker idyll will prove inadequate. And it does. The Quaker farmers meet with Miriam's disapproval for one specific and, by now, predictable, reason. They are 'part of the world-wide army ceaselessly toiling over the centuries, without whom secure, smooth-lawned enclosures would never have come into being.' (93) And later, Miriam regrets wasting the opportunity of telling her favourite Quaker, 'that no labour should be hired, that ... payment in wages rather than shares created a wrong relationship.' (94) Effectively, Miriam's surrender to this particular collective is endangered by her firm (and in this case Fabian) belief in land reform: 'Threatened by the approach of the doctrines of Lycurgan socialism, marching upon her embodied in the persons of those she had heard give voice to them.' (95)
We should not, then, underestimate the significance of Pilgrimage as oral history; individual Fabians were clearly important to Richardson and to her fiction. She was, of course, a professional critic and this seems particularly true when among the Fabians. That Richardson should have her narrator identify the group as 'certainly not the poor of the neighbourhood' (96) in their 'massed intellectuality' (97) is, of course, no surprise. But, it is striking that Miriam considers them 'a league to arrest cruelties. But a cold ... jesting league ... hard as thought, cynical as paganism... cultivating a wit that left mankind small and bleak.' (98) Fabian men, Miriam tells us, trade ideas in a sophisticated form of prize fighting and, whilst she can revel in the company of leading members of the Fabian Women's Group, she is appalled that the majority of these women spend their time 'posing ... and consciously shining' (99) at parties, 'Making havoc and complications.' (100)
It would seem, therefore, that although Hypo Wilson finally succeeds in seducing Miriam, she is never wholly seduced by Fabian socialism and certainly not by the Fabian set. There may be early 'moments of passionate conviction', (101) but Fabian ideology is essentially unsatisfying. It is, Miriam states, 'the divergences of ... several minds, leaving one in possession of neatly sorted samples of socialism, disquietingly irreconcilable.' (102) Fundamentally, although Miriams egalitarian beliefs remain firm, she is unable to relinquish her faith in individuality. The Fabians are mere 'idealists, blind with the illusion that humanity moves with one accord', (103) when in fact, Miriam argues, 'Each one moves singly.' (104) Politically, this commitment to individualism emerges in the belief that, 'To join the movement of others is harmful until you have moved yourself.' (105) Since ideas are generated by individuals, Miriam is certain that the personal is far more important than the structured abstractions of political, or statist collectivities. 'Individuality cannot be negative', (106) she asserts, 'socialists ... seem ignorant of humanity ... It's individuals who must change, one by one.' (107) Political ideals must, simply, 'come afterwards.' (108)
What, then, are Richardson's politics in reality and in her work? At times her philosophy seems akin to that of Oscar Wilde's provocative The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891) which advocates the value of isolation and non-capitalist individualism --'With the abolition of private property ... we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism.' (109) Or perhaps we might align Richardson's politics with that of anarchism or Benjamin Kidd's Social Evolution (1894), (110) since we know this is 'the first book that struck ... [her] sideways.' (111) Certainly, Kidd's rejection of collectivity and socialism in favour of political individualism was likely to strike the right Richardson note, and undoubtedly Kidd's influence persisted. Even in 1950 after re-reading the book, Richardson was filled 'with deep joy' (112) and remained impressed: 'The book might have been written yesterday.' (113) We already know that she admired the politics of Henry George, and that she appears to have been working out aphilosophy that could resolve the tensions between individual agency and collective action throughout her life. Because, however, a shifting consciousness mediates the myriad philosophical ideas in Pilgrimage, any attempt to draw absolute conclusions about the final destination of the political discourse at work in this text is problematic. Richardson was a widely read autodidact; Miriam was her means of expression. Any effort to attach an all-encompassing political 'label' to either Richardson or her narrator is likely to be exceeded by the complications and interpretative process of the text itself. We are left simply with Miriam's own perceptions of socialism and all we can be sure of is that ultimately Fabianism is insufficient:
The street lights of that coming [socialist] time might throw their rays more liberally, over more beautiful streets. But something would be lost. In a world consciously arranged for the good of everybody there would be something personal ... without foundation ... like a non-conformist preachers smile. (114)
Richardson's protagonist comes to regard Fabianism as an idealistic attempt at social engineering, and one that is fundamentally flawed in its devaluation of the individual: 'I feel they are marching, in ... battalions, in the wrong direction.' (115) Towards the end of Pilgrimage Fabianism may be superseded by the attractions of Quaker ideology, but the simple life Miriam experiences here relies on assimilation to a shared ethos and to the collectivity integral to a co-operative. Also, at best, Quakers are ambivalent about land reform; they are soon discarded. Miriam retrenches to London and to individualism. It is, she argues, the one thing that is not suspect.
In Pilgrimage Fabianism is exposed and rejected, but egalitarian sympathies are intact, as is Miriam's unswerving belief in land reform. With the passage of time Miriam's socialism becomes a matter of conscience no longer communicated in direct statements suggestive of political rhetoric, but by oblique reference. Even if for a time Richardson was curious about the possibilities of Fabianism, it is clear from her depiction of Miriam that she was not convinced of its worth. These reservations are communicated through Miriams ironic descriptions, tetchy asides and allusive patterns of thought. And, essentially, these reflect a meticulous defense of 'autonomy' that refuses all collectivities, since these are irreconcilable with an individual 'perception of truth.' (116) Moreover, in reality (and even though Richardson changed her political mind in the course of her life), as early as 1907 she had already outlined the seeds of her approach to the socialist ethos by airing it in her journalism for Ye Crank: 'Socialism ... is not a movement, or at any rate only very incidentally a movement. Primarily it is a state of mind.' (117)
Richardson's literary imagination reveals the limits of her socialism as much as her position among the Fabians. Nonetheless, the text clarifies key Fabian concerns and sheds light on those involved with their dissemination. Furthermore, at the age of seventy-one, Richardson is clearly nostalgic when she remembers without regret the day she gazed 'incredulously' at the writing of Henry George and became 'a land-reformer.' (118)
Pilgrimage is innovative, complex and modernist; its value could lie in this alone. Its aesthetic is daring and was considered original at the time of its conception. Our occasional critical fixation with discussing narrative experimentation and literary form in isolation, however, sometimes blurs those historical continuities that are amongst the most significant and perennial. In fact, the narrative construction--aping a mind at philosophical work--may seem at first merely politically capricious, but this marriage of form and evolving thought is largely why the text remains compelling and topical. Its emphasis on the development of a consciousness in search of an adequate understanding of the world (the 'gestalt' (119) of a long life) is timeless. Moreover, whilst the emancipation of the land may have had its political heyday, Richardson's text illuminates the foundations of some of our own philosophical and ecological ideals. And indeed, the consequences of particular spatial arrangements, the realities of economic migration and of contested spaces are as pertinent today as ever. It would be a pity to recognise the formal and ideological complexity of Pilgrimage, and then ignore, or worse, dismiss this.
University of Cambridge
Address for Correspondence
Dr Isobel Maddison, Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge, CB3 0BU.
(1) See Dorothy Richardson, 'Revolving Lights' (1923), Pilgrimage, vol. 3 (London, 1979), p. 287. All subsequent quotations are from this edition.
(2) Gloria Fromm, Dorothy Richardson: A Biography (Urbana, 1977), p. 38.
(3) Virginia Woolf claimed that, in Pilgrimage, Richardson had invented 'the psychological sentence of the feminine gender'. See Virginia Woolf, 'Romance and the Heart' (1923), rept, Contemporary Writers (New York, 1965).
(4) See Gillian E. Hanscombe, The Art of Life: Dorothy Richardson and the Development of Feminist Consciousness (London, 1982).
(5) Richardsons writing has been discussed in respect of its representation of material, psychological and symbolic space. See Elisabeth Bronfen, Dorothy Richardson's Art of Memory: Space, Identity, Text, trans. Victoria Appelbe (Manchester, 1999).
(6) Richardson, 'The Trap' (1925), Pilgrimage, vol. 3 (London, 1979), p. 495. All subsequent quotations are from this edition.
(7) Richardson, 'Interim' (1919), Pilgrimage, vol. 2 (London, 1979), p. 414. All subsequent quotations are from this edition.
(8) Richardson, 'Dimple Hill' (1938), Pilgrimage, vol. 4 (London, 1979), p. 504. All subsequent quotations are from this edition.
(9) Hanscombe, Richardson, p. 33.
(10) See Edward Carpenter The Village and the Landlord (London, 1907).
(11) Tony Wright, Socialisms: Old and New (London, 1996), p. 10.
(12) Ibid., 'Resolute constitutionalism' is George Bernard Shaw's phrase.
(13) Samuel Hynes, 'Orage and the New Age', Edwardian Occasions: Essays on English Writing in the Early Twentieth Century (London, 1972), p. 42. See William Morris, News from Nowhere: Or an Epoch of Rest: Being Some Chaptersfrom a Utopian Romance (London, 1891).
(14) Dorothy Richardson, 'Oberland' (1927), Pilgrimage, vol. 4 (London, 1979), p. 54. All subsequent quotations are from this edition.
(16) It is well-known that H.G Wells was an advocate of 'free love' and was involved with several literary women.
(17) Gloria Fromm, Windows on Modernism (London, 1995), p. 632.
(18) Herbert George Wells, Socialism and the Family (London, 1906), pp. 21-2.
(19) Fromm, Richardson, p. 46.
(20) Quoted from Helen Bosanquet, The Family (London, 1906), p. 149.
(21) Herbert Spencer, 'Social Statics', Herbert Spencer: Collected Writings, ed. Michael Taylor, Vol. III. (London, 1996), p. 125.
(22) John Bateman, The Great Landowners of Britain and Ireland: A List of all Owners of Three Thousand Acres and Upwards (London, 1878).
(23) Jose Harris, Public Lives, Private Spirit: Britain 1870-1914 (London, 1994), pp. 100-101.
(24) Fromm, Windows, p. 2.
(25) Fromm, Windows, letter to Bryher, 25 Feb. 1944, p. 490.
(26) George Bernard Shaw, 'The Economic Basis of Socialism', in Fabian Essays in Socialism (1889), rept,. Democratic Socialismin Britain: Classic Texts in Economic and Political Thought 1825-1952, ed. David Reisman. vol. 4 (London, 1996), p. 4.
(27) Dorothy Richardson, 'Deadlock' (1921), Pilgrimage, vol. 3 (London, 1979), p. 113. All subsequent quotations are from this edition.
(28) Richardson, 'Trap', p. 496.
(29) See John Carey, The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia, 1880-1939 (London, 1992). Carey argues that in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries the mass became regarded as a challenging presence. He suggests that the division of society into the intellectually elite and the masses was based upon fears of a population explosion and ideas including those of Nietzsche in The Will to Power (1901) who argued that a declaration of war by higher men was needed.
(30) George Bernard Shaw, The Fabian Society: What it has Done; & How it has Done It (London, 1892).
(31) Ibid., p. 3.
(32) Ibid., p. 4.
(33) Ibid. At this time the Fabians had 40 members.
(36) Fromm, Windows, letter to Vincent Brome 16 Jan 1950, p. 632.
(37) Richardson, 'Clear Horizon' (1935), Pilgrimage, vol. 4 (London, 1979), p. 328. All subsequent quotations are from this edition. This is the observation of Hypo Wilson with which Miriam agrees.
(38) Richardson, 'Trap', p. 422.
(39) Shaw, 'Economic', p. 4.
(40) Dorothy Richardson, 'March Moonlight', Pilgrimage, vol. 4 (London, 1979), p. 607. All subsequent quotations are from this edition. Extracts from 'March Moonlight' were first published in Life and Letters in 1946. 'March Moonlight' was published posthumously in the 1967 omnibus edition.
(41) Shaw, 'Economic', p. 4.
(42) Ibid., p. 3
(43) Ibid., pp. 3-4.
(45) Ibid., p. 4.
(46) Ibid., p. 27.
(47) Ibid., p. 4.
(48) Richardson, 'Oberland', p. 54.
(49) Fromm, Richardson, p. 42. The Daniels named their son Henry George after the American land reformer.
(50) Shaw, 'Economic,' p. 8.
(54) Thomas Wright, The Great Unwashed: By the Journeyman Engineer (London, 1868), p. 256.
(55) Jack London, The People of the Abyss (London, 1903).
(56) William Henry Davies, The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (London, 1908).
(57) Margaret Loane, 'The Manufacture of the Tramp', From Their Point of View (London, 1908), pp. 1-21.
(58) Loane, 'Tramp', pp. 11-12.
(59) Davies, Autobiography, p. xiii.
(60) Dorothy Richardson, 'Tunnel', (1919) Pilgrimage, vol. 2 (London, 1979), p. 232. All subsequent quotations are from this edition.
(61) Ibid., p. 231.
(62) Ibid., p. 233.
(63) To Provident Landlords and Capitalists (London, 1885), p.l.
(64) Herbert George Wells, This Misery of Boots (London, 1907).
(65) Landlords, p. 2.
(66) Capital and Land (London, undated). This tract, No 7, was probably published in 1888.
(67) Ibid., p. 1.
(68) Richardson, 'Oberland', p. 54.
(69) Listed in H.B. Amos, The Food Reformers' Year Book and Health Annual 1907 (London, 1907).
(70) Antony Alpers, Ihe Life of Katherine Mansfield (London, 1980), p. 108. After Jackson left the periodical in 1908, Orage lost his Fabian backers and it was out of their dissatisfaction that the New Statesman was founded in 1913.
(71) Paul Carton, Consumption Doomed: A Lecture on the Cure of Tuberculosis by Vegetarianism Delivered to the French Vegetarian Society trans. Dorothy M. Richardson, Healthy Life Booklets 7 (London, 1913).
(72) Paul Carton, Some Popular Foodstuffs Exposed trans. Dorothy M. Richardson, Healthy Life Booklets 11 (London, 1913).
(73) Gustav Kruger, Man's Best Food: An Enquiry into the Case for a Non-Flesh Eater, trans. Dorothy M. Richardson (London, 1914).
(74) Dorothy Richardson, 'Comments by a Layman', The Dental Record 38 (1918), 110-112. Quotation p. 110.
(75) Ibid., Richardson, 'Comments by a Layman', The Dental Records (1919), 136-138, and Richardson, 'Diet and Teeth', The Dental Record?)! (1912), 553-556.
(76) Richardson, 'Comments by a Layman', The Dental Record 36 (1916), 247-248.
(77) Henry S. Salt, The Logic of Vegetarianism: Essays and Dialogues (London, 1906), p. 77. Salt is quoting Sir B. W. Richardson.
(78) George Bernard Shaw, A Manifesto (London, 1884), p. 1.
(79) Fromm, Richardson, p. 42.
(80) Florence Daniel, 'Eggs, Milk and Soap', Ye Crank 5 (1907), 306-311; p. 308.
(81) Daniel, Crank, p. 308.
(82) Mrs. Pember Reeves, Family Life on a Pound a Week (London, 1912).
(83) Richardson, 'Tunnel', p. 259.
(84) Ibid., p. 29.
(85) Salt, Vegetarianism, p. 101.
(86) George Bernard Shaw, 'The Diet of Super-Man,' The Food Reformers' Year Book and Health Annual 1907, ed. H.B. Amos (London, 1907), p. 23.
(87) Amos, Food Reformers. See also Ebenezer Howard, Tomorrow: A Peacful Path to Real Reform (London, 1898)--a key utopian work that became the blueprint for the garden city movement. The first garden cities were Hampstead, Letchworth and Welwyn.
(88) Fromm, Richardson, p. 42.
(89) Pilgrimage is a retrospective account written between 1915 and 1952.
(90) Richardson, 'Revolving', p. 253.
(91) Richardson, 'Dawn's Left Hand' (1931), Pilgrimage, vol. 4 (London, 1979), p. 184. All subsequent quotations are from this edition.
(92) Richardson, 'Horizon', p. 343.
(93) Richardson, 'Dimple', p. 445.
(94) Ibid., p. 513.
(95) Ibid., p. 445.
(96) Richardson, 'Deadlock', p. 156.
(98) Richardson, 'Trap', p. 475.
(99) Richardson, 'Revolving', p. 353.
(101) Richardson, 'Horizon', p. 341.
(102) Ibid., p. 339.
(103) Richardson, 'Trap', p. 475.
(106) Richardson, 'Deadlock', p. 150.
(107) Richardson, 'Revolving', p. 374.
(108) Richardson, 'Trap', p. 475.
(109) Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism, 1891 (London, 1988),p. 13.
(110) Benjamin Kidd, Social Evolution, 1894 (London, 1898).
(111) Fromm, Windows, letter to Henry Savage, April 1950, p. 637.
(114) Richardson, 'Revolving', p. 235.
(115) Richardson, 'Dimple', p. 549.
(116) Hanscombe, Richardson, p. 36.
(117) Dorothy M. Richardson, 'A Last Word to the Odd Man about Socialism', Ye Crank 5 (1907), 180-82. Quotation p. 180.
(118) Fromm, Windows, letter to Bryher, 25 Feb 1944, p. 490.
(119) Hanscombe, Richardson, p. 33.
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|Publication:||Literature & History|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2010|
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