Dorothy Richardson discussion

Dorothy M. Richardson
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message 1: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (nathandjoe) | 99 comments Mod
I have located copies of the following, which should arrive with me shortly:

The Adelphi Vol 1 No 11 Apr 1924
The Adelphi Vol 2 No 5 Oct 1924
The Adelphi New Series Vol 1 No 3 Dec 1930

All of which contain uncollected pieces by DR. Of particular interest to me is her essay "On Punctuation" in the April edition.

My aim is hopefully to transcribe this essay (and any of the others if they are suitably interesting) here.

Details of all her publications can be found here:

message 2: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (nathandjoe) | 99 comments Mod
Many of her reviews and essays for Close Up can be found here:

I have ordered a copy and will report back when I have read it. A significant amount can be read online with the "look inside" thingy on Amazon.

message 3: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (nathandjoe) | 99 comments Mod
My lovely Adelphi editions - filled with fantastic adverts and other goodies:

message 4: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (nathandjoe) | 99 comments Mod
Her writing on cinema can be read online here:

message 5: by Jonathan (last edited Mar 06, 2015 09:28AM) (new)

Jonathan (nathandjoe) | 99 comments Mod
Here is the text of her essay from 1924 in full for your reading pleasure:

About Punctuation

Only to patient reading will come forth the charm concealed in ancient manuscripts. Deep interest there must be, or sheer necessity, to keep eye and brain at their task of scanning a text that moves along unbroken, save by an occasional full-stop. But the reader who persists finds presently that his task is growing easier. He is winning familiarity with the writer's style, and is able to punctuate unconsciously as he goes . . . It is at this point that he begins to be aware of the charm that has been sacrificed by the systematic separation of phrases. He finds himself listening. Reading through the ear as well as through the eye. And while in any way of reading the ear plays its part, unless it is most cunningly attacked it co-operates, in our modem way, scarcely at all. It is left behind. For as light is swifter than sound so is the eye swifter than the ear. But in the slow, attentive reading demanded by unpunctuated texts, the faculty of hearing has its chance, is enhanced until the text speaks itself. And it is of this enhancement that the strange lost charm is born. Quite modest matter, read thus, can arouse and fuse the faculties of mind and heart.

Only the rarest of modem prose can thus arouse and affect. Only now and again, to-day, is there any strict and vital relationship between the reader and what he reads. Most of our reading is a superficial swift gathering, as we loll on the borderland between inertia and attention, of the matter of a text. An easygoing collaboration, with the reader's share reduced to the minimum. So much the better, it may be said. Few books, ancient or modem, are worth a whole self. Very few can call us forth to yield all we are and suffer change. Yet it is not to be denied that the machinery of punctuation and type, while lifting burdens from reader and writer alike and perfectly serving the purposes of current exchange, have also, on the whole, devitalized the act of reading; have tended to make it less organic, more mechanical.

There is no discourtesy, since punctuation has come to be regarded as invariable, in calling it part of the machinery of book production. An invisible part. For so long as it conforms to rule punctuation is invisible. After the school years it is invisible; its use, for most people, as unconscious as the act of breathing. Most of us were taught punctuation exactly as we were taught rule of three. Even if we were given some sense of the time-value of the stop and its subdivisions, the thing that came first and last, the fun of the game, was the invariability of the rules. And so charming is convention, so exhilarating a deliberate conformity to tradition, that it is easy to forget that the sole aim of law is liberty; in this case, liberty to express.

It is not very long since an English gentleman's punctuation was as romantic as his spelling. The formal law was strictly observed only by scholars. Not until lately have infringements, by the ordinary, been regarded as signs of ill- breeding. And in high places there have always been those who have honoured the rules in the breach, without rebuke. Sterne, for example, joyously broke them all, and it has been accounted unto him for righteousness. Beside him stands Rabelais, wielding form as Pantaloon wields his bladder. Were they perhaps castigated for their liberties by the forgotten orthodox of the period? Or is it that the stickler for stereotyped punctuation makes his first appearance in our own time? Why, in either case, have Mr. Wells's experiments, never going further than a reinforcement of the full-stop and a free use of the dash, been dragged into the market-place and lynched, while the wholesale depredations of Sterne and Rabelais are merely affectionately hugged? Is it because their rows and rows of dots, their stars, and their paragraphs built of a single word are so very often a libidinous digging of the reader's ribs? Because their stars wink? It is noteworthy that so long as his dots were laughter Mr. Wells was not called over the coals for mannerism. There was no trouble until those signs were used to italicize an idea or drive home a point; until they became pauses for reflection, by the reader. From that time onwards there have been, amongst his opponents, those who take refuge in attack on his method. Scorn of the dot and the dash has come forward to play its part in the business of answering Mr. Wells. Sterne and Rabelais and the earlier Wells, genially aware of the reader and with nothing to fear from him, offer open hospitality on their pages, space, while their wit detonates, for the responsive beat of the reader's own consciousness. The later Wells, usually the prey of dismay, anger or despair, handles the resources of the printed page almost exclusively as missiles, aimed full at the intelligence alone.

Of the value of punctuation and, particularly, of its value as pace-maker for the reader's creative consciousness, no one has had a keener sense than Mr. Henry James. No one has more sternly, or more cunningly, secured the collaboration of the reader. Along his prose not even the most casual can succeed in going at top-speed. Short of the casting off of burdens, the deep breath, the headlong plunge, the sustained steady swimming, James gives nothing at all. To complete renunciation he offers the recreative repose that is the result of open-eyed concentration. As aesthetic exercise, with its peculiar joys and edifications, the prose of James keeps its power, even for those in utmost revolt against his vision, indefinitely. It is a spiritual Swedish Drill. Gently, painlessly, without shock or weariness, as he carries us unhasting, unresting, over his vast tracts of statement, we learn to stretch attention to the utmost. And to the utmost James tested, suspending from the one his wide loops, and from the other his deep- hung garlands of expression, the strength of the comma and the semi-colon. He never broke a rule. With him, punctuation, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding directly from its original source in life, stands exactly where it was at its first discovery. His text, for one familiar with it, might be reduced, without increase of the attention it demands, to the state of the unpunctuated scripts of old time. So rich and splendid is the fabric of sound he weaves upon the appointed loom, that his prose, chanted to his punctuation, in an unknown tongue, would serve as well as a mass—in D minor.

Yet even James, finding within bonds all the freedom he desired, did not quite escape the police. Down upon almost his last written words came the iron hand of Mr. Crosland, sternly, albeit most respectfully, recommending a strait- jacket in the shape of full-stops to be borrowed—from Mr. Bart Kennedy. Whose stops are shouts. A pleasant jest. Relieving no doubt a long felt desire for the presence in Mr. James of a little ginger. But Crosland is austere. Sternly, with no intervals for laughter, he drags us headlong, breathless, belaboured, from jest to jest with never a smile or pause. It is his essential compactness that makes him a so masterly sonneteer. His sonnets gleam, now like metalled ships, now like jewels. Prose, in his sense, might be written like a sonnet. First the form, a well- balanced distribution of stops for each paragraph, and then the text. An interesting experiment.

As interesting as that now on trial in a prose that is a conscious protest against everything that has been done to date by the hand of talent at work upon inspiration. But the dadaists, in so far as they are paying to law the loud tribute of anarchy, are the counterparts of the strictly orthodox.

Meanwhile, for those who stand between purists and rebels, the rules of punctuation are neither sacred, nor execrable, nor quite absolute. No waving of the tablets of the law has been able to arrest organic adaptation. The test of irregularities is their effectiveness. Verbless phrases flanked by full-stops, the use of and at the beginning of a sentence, and kindred effective irregularities, are safe servants, for good, in the cause of the written word. And always there has been a certain variability in the use of the comma. As the shortest breath of punctuation it is allowed, without controversy, to wander a little.

Yet the importance of the comma cannot be exaggerated. It is the angel, or the devil, amongst the stops. In prose, everything turns upon its use. Misplaced, it destroys sense more readily than either of its fellows. For while their wanderings are heavy-footed, either at once obvious, or easily traceable, the comma plays its pranks unobtrusively. Used discreetly, it clears meaning and sets both tone and pace. And it possesses a charm denied to other stops. Innocence, punctuating at the bidding of a prompting from within, has the comma for its darling. Spontaneous commas are as delightful in their way as spontaneous spelling; as delightful as the sharp breath drawn by a singing child in the middle of a word.

Experiment with the comma, as distinct from recourse to its recognised variability, is to be found, since the stereotyping of the rules, only here and there and takes one form: its exclusion from sequences of adjectives. This exclusion suggests an awareness of the power of the comma as a holder-up, a desire to allow adjectives to converge, in the mind of the reader, as swiftly as possible upon their object. But one would expect to find, together with such awareness, discrimination. And, so far as I know, the exclusion of the comma when it is practised at all, is unvarying; the possibilities are missed as surely here, as they are in conformity to the letter of the law.

The use of the comma, whether between phrases or in sequences of adjectives, is best regulated by the consideration of its time-value. If, for example, we read:—

"Tom went singing at the top of his voice up the stairs at a run that ended suddenly on the landing in a collision with the sweep,"

we are brought sensibly nearer to sharing the incident than if we read:—

"Tom went, singing at the top of his voice, up the stairs, at a run that ended, suddenly, on the landing, in a collision with the sweep."

Conversely, if we read :—

"Tom stupid with fatigue fearing the worst staggered without word or sign of greeting into the room"

we are further off than in reading :—

"Tom, stupid with fatigue, fearing the worst, staggered, without word or sign of greeting, into the room."

Even more obvious is the time-value of the comma in sequences of adjectives :—

"Suave low toned question-begging excuses"

bears the same meaning as :—

"Suave, low-toned, question-begging excuses."

But the second is preferable.

"Huge soft bright pink roses"

may be written :—

"Huge, soft, bright, pink roses."

But the first wins.

It is a good plan, in the handling of phrases, to beware of pauses when appealing mainly to the eye, and to cherish them when appealing to reflection. With sequences of single words, and particularly of adjectives, when the values are concrete, reinforcing each other, accumulating without modification or contradiction upon a single object of sight, the comma is an obstruction. When the values are abstract, qualifying each other and appealing to reflection, or to vision, or to both vision and reflection at once, the comma is essential. If there is a margin of uncertainty, any possibility of ambiguity or misapprehension, it is best, no matter what is sacrificed of elasticity or of swiftness, to load up with commas. Or the reader may pay tax. And it is dangerous in these days of hurried readings to ask for the re-scanning even of a single phrase.

[cont below]

message 6: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (nathandjoe) | 99 comments Mod
But there is woe in store, unless he be a prince of proof-readers, for the writer who varies his punctuation. The kindly hands that regulate his spelling will regulate also his use of stops; and, since hands are human, they will regulate irregularly. The result, when the author has altered the alterations, also irregularly, sometimes reading punctuation on to the page when it is not there—is chaos.

message 7: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (nathandjoe) | 99 comments Mod
Review of Finnegans Wake - Adventure for Readers - July 1939

Having defined poetry as “the result of passion recollected in tranquillity” (the opening words here are apologetically italicized because, though their absence makes the definition meaningless, they are almost invariably omitted), Wordsworth goes on to describe what happens when the poet, recalling an occurrence that has stirred him to his depths, concentrates thereon the full force of his imaginative consciousness; how there presently returns, together with the circumstances of the experience, something of the emotion that accompanied it, and how, in virtue of this magnetic stream sustained and deepened by continuous concentration, there comes into being a product this poet names, with scientific accuracy, an “effusion”.

In Wordsworth’s own case, the product can itself become the source of further inspiration, and the presence upon the page of offspring set beneath parent and duly entitled “Effusion on Reading the Above”, affords a unique revelation of the subsidiary working of an emotion tranquilly regathered.

And while this enchanted enchanter and his successors (the greatest of whom, dead e’er his prime, produced for our everlasting adoration, effusions inspired by the reading of Lempriere’s Dictionary) sang to the spirit their immortal ditties, our novelists, following the example of their forebears, those wandering minstrels who told for the delight of the untraveled, brave strange tales from far away, wove stories whose power to enthral resided chiefly in their ability to provide both excitement and suspense; uncertainty as to what, in the pages still to be turned, might befall the hero from whom, all too soon, returning to the “world of everyday”, the reader must regretfully take leave.

With vain, prophetic insight, Goethe protested that action and drama are for the theatre, that the novelist’s business is to keep his hero always and everywhere onlooker rather than participant and, “by one device or another”, to slow up the events of the story so that they may be seen through his eyes and modified by his thought.

The first novelist fully to realise his ideal was Henry James and, by the time James had finished his work, something had happened to English poetry.

How, or just why, or exactly when the shift occurred from concentration upon the various aspects of the sublime and beautiful to what may be called the immediate investigation of reality, it is not easy to say, though a poet-novelist, Richard Church, in his recent address to the Royal Society of Literature, made, one feels, some excellent guesses as to the practical reasons for the changeover. Whereunto may be added the widespread application, for some time past, of Pope’s injunction as to the proper study of mankind.

Whatever the combination of incitements, certain of our poets have now, for decades past, produced short stories rather than lyrics and, in place of the epic and foreshadowed by The Ring and the Book, so very nearly a prose epic, have given us, if we exclude The Testament of Beauty, rearing a nobly defiant head in the last ditch of the epic form, the modern novel.

The proof, if proof be needed, of the transference may be found in a quality this new novel, at its worst as well as at its best, shares with poetry and that is conspicuously absent from the story-telling novel of whatever kind. Opening, just anywhere, its pages, the reader is immediately engrossed. Time and place, and the identity of characters, if any happen to appear, are relatively immaterial. Something may be missed. Incidents may fail of their full effect through ignorance of what has gone before. But the reader does not find himself, as inevitably he would in plunging thus carelessly into the midst of the dramatic novel complete with plot, set scenes, beginning, middle, climax, and curtain, completely at sea. He finds himself within a medium whose close texture, like that of poetry, is everywhere significant and although, when the tapestry hangs complete before his eyes, each potion is seen to enhance the rest and the shape and the intention of the whole grows clear, any single strip may be divorced from its fellows without losing everything of its power and of its meaning.

Particularly is this true of the effusions of Marcel Proust and of James Joyce. For while every novel, taken as a whole, shares with every other species of portrayal the necessity of being a signed self-portrait and might well be subtitled Portrait of the Artist at the Age of- where, in the long line of novelist preceding this two, save, perhaps, in Henry James as represented by the work of his maturity, shall we find another whose signature is clearly inscribed across his every sentence?

Reaching Finnegans Wake we discover its author’s signature not only across each sentence, but upon almost every word. And since, upon the greater number of its pages, nearly every other word is either wholly or partially an improvisation, the would-be reader must pay, in terms of sheer concentration, a tax far higher even than that demanded by Imagist poetry. And be he never so familiar with the author’s earlier work, and in agreement with those who approve his repudiation of the orthodoxies of grammar and syntax, finding, when doubt assails, reassurance in the presence of similar effective and, doubtless, salutary heresies in the practice of the arts other than literature, the heavily-burdened reader of Finnegans Wake, hopefully glissading, upon the first page, down a word of a hundred letters – representing the fall that carried Finnegan to his death – into pathless verbal thickets, may presently find himself weary of struggling from thicket to thicket without a clue, weary of abstruse references that too often appear to be mere displays of erudition, weary of the melange of languages ancient and modern, of regional and class dialects, slangs and catchwords and slogans, puns and nursery rhymes, phrases that are household words phonetically adapted to fresh intentions, usually improper, sometimes side-splitting, often merely facetious, incensed in discovering that these diverse elements, whether standing on their heads or fantastically paraphrased, apparently succeed each other as the sound of one suggests that of the next rather than by any continuity of inward meaning, and are all too frequently interspersed by spontaneous creations recalling those produced by children at a loss, bored to desperation by lack of interest and seeking relief in shouting a single word, repeating it with a change of vowel, with another change and another, striving to outdo themselves until the reach, with terrific emphasis , onomatopoeia precipitating adult interference.

Meanwhile the author, presumably foreseeing the breakdown of even the most faithful Joyceian as likely to occur in the neighbourhood of the hundredth page, comes to the rescue in the name of Anna Livia, invoked by a parody of a well-known prayer (“Annah the Allmaziful, the everliving, Bringer of Plurabilities, haloed be her eve, her singtime sung, her rill be run, un hemmed as it is uneven.”), with a chapter on the allied arts of writing and reading, here and there exceptionally, and most mercifully, explicit, preluded by a list of the hundred and sixty-three names given to Annah’s “untitle mamafesta memorializing the Mosthighest” (including Rockabill Boobu in the Wave Trough, What Jumbo made to Jalice and What Anisette to Him, and I am Older nor the Roges among Whist I Slips and He calls me his Dual of Ayessha), and one day perhaps to be translated, annotated, and issued as a Critique of Pure Literature and an Introduction to the Study of James Joyce.

The impact of this chapter, a fulfilment of the author’s prescription – “Say it with missies, and thus arabesque the page” – is tremendous, its high purpose nothing less than the demand that the novel shall be poetry. A grouped selection of caught missiles and fragments of missiles produces the following relatively coherent mosaic:” About that original hen…the bird in this case was Belinda of the Dorans, a more than quinque-genrarian…and what she was scratching looked like a goodish-sized sheet of letter paper…Well, almost any photoist…will tip anyone asking him the teaser that if a negative of a horse happens to melt enough while drying…what you get is…a positively grotesque distorted macromass of all sorts of horsehappy values…well, this freely is what must have occurred to our missive….by the sagacity of a lookmelittle likemelong hen…Lead, kindly Fowl!...No, assuredly they are not justified these gloompourers who grouse that letters have never been quite their old selves again since Biddy Doran looked ad literature…Who, at all this marvelling, but will press…to see the vaulting feminine libido…sternly controlled…by the uniform matteroffactness of a meandering masculine fist?...To concentrate solely on the literal sense or even the psychological content of any document….is…hurtful to sound sense.”

Quite as far goes Mr.Walter de la Mare, who has recently declared that “When poetry is most poetic, when it sounds, that is, and the utterance of them, and when is rhythms rather than the words themselves are its real if cryptic language, any other meaning, however valuable it may be, is only a secondary matter.”

Primarily, then, are we to listen to Finnegans Wake? Not so much to what Joyce says, as to the lovely way he says it, to the rhythms and undulating cadences of the Irish voice, with its capacity to make of every spoken word a sentence with parentheses and to arouse, in almost every English breast, a responsive emotion?

message 8: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (nathandjoe) | 99 comments Mod
Consulting once more the author’s elucidatory chapter, we find our instructions:” Closer inspection of the bordereau would reveal a multiplicity of personalities…and some prevision of virtual crime or crimes might be made by anyone unwary enough before any suitable occasion for it or them had so far managed to happen along. In fact…the traits featuring the chiaroscuro coalesce, their contrarieties eliminated, in one stable somebody…” We are urged also to be patient, to avoid “anything like being or becoming out of patience…so holp me Petault, it is not a misaffectual whyacinthinous riot…it only looks like it as damn it…cling to it as with drowning hands, hoping against hope all the while, that by the light of philophosy…things will begin to clear up a bit one way or another within the next quarrel of an hour.”

Thus encouraged, with this easily decipherable chapter’s rich treasure in hand and perceptions exalted and luminous, the reader presses hopefully onward; only to find his feet once more caught in impenetrable undergrowths, and his head assailed by missiles falling thicker and faster than before, hurled by one obviously in silent ecstasies as he watches the flounderings of his victim. Scanning and re-scanning the lines until their rhythm grows apparent, presently acquiring ease in following cadence and intonation as he goes, the reader again finds himself listening to what appears to be no more than the non-stop patter of an erudite cheapjack. Weariness returns. So what? Weeks of searching for the coalescence and the somebody?

Let us take the author at his word. Really release consciousness from the literary preoccupations and prejudices, from the self-imposed task of searching for superficial sequences in stretches of statement regarded horizontally, or of setting these upright and regarding them pictorially, and plunge, provisionally, here and there; enter the text and look innocently about.

The reward is sheer delight, and the promise, for future readings, of inexhaustible entertainment. Inexhaustible, because so very many fragments of this text now show themselves comparable only to the rider who leapt into the saddle and rose off in all directions. The coalescence and the somebody can wait. Already, pursuing our indiscriminate way, we have discovered coherencies, links between forest and forest, and certain looming forms, have anticipated the possibility of setting down upon a “goodish-sized sheet of letter paper” the skeleton of a long argument. For the present, for a first reading, the “meanderings” of the “masculine fist” are a sufficient repayment. Event a tenth reading will leave some still to be followed up; and many to be continuously excused.

Do we find it possible, having thus “read” the whole and reached the end, a long, lyrically wailing, feminine monologue, to name the passion whose result is this tremendous effusion? Finnegan, the master-mason, and his wife Annie and their friends may symbolise life or literature or what you will that occasionally calls for mourning. For their creator they are food for incessant ironic laughter (possibly a screen for love and solicitude), mitigated only here and there by a touch of wistfulness that is to reach at the end a full note. Shall we remind ourselves that most of our male poets have sounded wistful? And the women? Well, there is Emily Bronte, who, by the way, would have delighted, with reservations, in Finnegans Wake.

message 9: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (nathandjoe) | 99 comments Mod
[discussion of this may also be taking place here



message 10: by Nathan "N.R." (last edited Mar 07, 2015 07:49AM) (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 19 comments Thank you for punctuating! ( or not ! )

message 11: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (nathandjoe) | 99 comments Mod
there are some wonderfully long and twisty sentences in there! There were moments typing it up I had to stop and go back and track whether or not I had missed something....!

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