LOOKING OUT FOR DOROTHY M. RICHARDSON

 

            My wife, Gloria G. Fromm (1931-92), was more or less the founder of Dorothy Richardson studies, although a few dedicated admirers had already done some groundwork with regard to Richardson’s multi-volume novel Pilgrimage, written over many years early in the 20th century. As a graduate student of Leon Edel at NYU in the fifties, Gloria was a beneficiary of Edel’s interest in Richardson, which eventually led to her Dorothy Richardson: A Biography, published in 1977 by the University of Illinois Press. During the years that followed, besides being an English professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (1970-92), Gloria was producing essays about modernist English writers (as well as biography) that appeared in a variety of journals, most notably The New Criterion.

 

          At the time of Gloria’s death in 1992 from the backfiring of chemotherapy for early lung cancer (itself inevitably fatal), she had been working for years on an edition of selected letters by Richardson. This mammoth volume was perhaps 95% completed  but the remaining work that George  H. Thomson and I did to finish the book was considerable. It appeared in print in 1995 as Windows on Modernism: Selected Letters of Dorothy M. Richardson, this time from the University of Georgia Press, which also (at my eager instigation) published a re-issue in paperback of the 1977 biography, with an introduction by Thomson.

 

          After Gloria’s death, George and his wife Dorothy, both retired from the University of Ottawa, had spent about a week at our home in North Barrington, Illinois, combing every inch of Gloria’s study, reading the massive pile of papers and letters, so that George could help me edit the volume of letters. Subsequently, George would someway assume Gloria’s mantle and produce a scholarly series of books of his own on Richardson’s novel, including an online calendar (i.e. a listing and dating) of all the known letters, far more numerous than what appeared in Gloria’s selection. The press of ELT, a journal of early Modernism, published these works, two in book form and two electronically. See  http://www.uncg.edu/eng/elt/index.html and http://www.uncg.edu/eng/elt/RichCalendar/Calendarindex.htm). George had hoped to produce, in association with the Dorothy Richardson Society (see below), an online edition of the actual texts of all the known letters.

 

          In 2007, realizing that my own library and file cabinets retained all of Gloria’s books, papers, and letters to her from principals in the DMR story, I decided that they needed to be rescued and given a safe home where other scholars could make use of them. On a website started by Scott McCracken (http://dorothyrichardson.org  ) as an online presence for his then newly founded Dorothy Richardson Society I told the story of what subsequently took place with all this material, which I update below:

 

DMR scholars will be interested in the availability of new materials for their work. In the fall of 2007, I donated a sizable cache of first, sometimes signed, editions of Pilgrimage to the Beinecke Library at Yale, along with some rare periodicals, autograph letters, many photographs, and whatnot. I understand that these are now available for use, though they may not as yet be catalogued.

Meanwhile, realizing I had an immense store of letters to Gloria Fromm and to me from principals in the DMR story, accumulated over a period of about forty years, I asked Tom Staley, Director of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin, whether he would be interested in acquiring this collection as a donation. When he expressed considerable enthusiasm, I saw that my work was really cut out for me, since I felt I had to read or skim the many hundreds of letters in our files before sending them off.

The riches in these letters can hardly be overstated. The writers include: Leon Edel, Norah Hickey, Pauline Marrian, Rose Odle, Evelyn and Billy Morrison, the English composer Arnold Cooke (of great interest in his own right), who did not know DMR, but who lived with Billy Morrison, whose sister did indeed know DMR from her own childhood, Sheena Odle, Gillian Hanscombe, Joan and Graham George, Roger Sauvan-Smith, Henry Savage, Virginia Smyers, Bernice Elliott, Marjorie Watts, and Owen Wadsworth. I have supplied a brief biographical paragraph for each of the correspondents. [Appended below.]

I shipped the letters to Austin in March of 2008. Scott McCracken reported to me in late summer of the same year that he has been to Austin and read all of this material. Although these letters will be available to scholars, it's worth noting that in perhaps a few cases permission from writers or their estates may be needed before they can be verbatimly used in publications.

For those who missed it, The New Yorker published a lengthy article by D. T. Max about Tom Staley and the Ransom Center in its issue of June 11, 2007. It can be read on line at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/06/11/070611fa_fact_max

 

In October of 2008, Scott McCracken sent me notice of his new on line journal, Pilgrimages: The Journal of Dorothy Richardson Studies at http://dorothyrichardson.org

Harold Fromm

October 2008 (Updated July 2017)

 

LETTERS TO GLORIA AND HAROLD FROMM BY DIVERSE HANDS

(These letters are a by-product of the work of Gloria Fromm on Dorothy Richardson, A Biography and Windows on Modernism: Selected Letters of Dorothy Richardson.)

 

March 2008

Notes by Harold Fromm

37429 S. Stoney Cliff Drive

Tucson, AZ 85739

mail@hfromm.net

http://hfromm.net/professional

 

These notes are a mixture of information from me and excerpts from George H. Thomson’s Dorothy Richardson: A Calendar of Letters at http://www.uncg.edu/eng/elt/ebooks.html

Each of us has information denied to the other. Since I knew most of the correspondents personally from frequent visits to England with Gloria, I have been able to supply insider information to supplement George’s literary history. In addition, although the rationale generating this collection is the connection of the correspondents with Dorothy Richardson, some of these correspondents do not play a role in DMR’s actual letters so do not appear in Thomson’s Calendar (from which both credited and uncredited passages in quotation marks are taken).

 

Leon Edel:

Edel was Gloria’s dissertation advisor at NYU in the late 1950s and early 1960s and the begetter of the project involving DMR. They became very good friends over the years, from Gloria’s care of their cats in the 60s to the festschrift she edited  (Essaying Biography, 1986) to celebrate Edel’s 75th birthday. There are also some letters here from Roberta Edel, shedding light on their divorce and Leon’s remarriage. A good deal of information about Edel’s professional and personal life is revealed in these letters.  Leon continued to communicate with me very sympathetically after Gloria’s death in November of 1992, as these letters reveal. He died in 1997.

 

Bernice Elliott

“Bernice Elliott (1896–1996), born in Michigan, daughter of Professor Charles Morris Elliott, had a long career as a writer and editor. She retired to Rochester, N.Y., where she lived into her 90s. She admired Pilgrimage, sought DMR’s advice, and gradually established herself as a friend.” George Thomson’s account does not include the most remarkable aspect of the Elliott story: Gloria, through considerable detective work (evident from the enclosed papers), discovered in the late 1980s that Bernice was still alive and living in Rochester. They corresponded, both with amazement at the eleventh hour contact. Gloria was determined that they meet in the flesh, so we drove east from Chicago on what was to be Gloria’s last trip, during the final months of her life. Bernice was fully compos mentis, in her late 90s, and in good physical shape. The two women talked nonstop for hours during the single day we spent with her. Gloria gave Bernice a copy of Windows on Modernism, which she eagerly read and reported her impressions to Gloria by mail. After Gloria’s death in 1992, Bernice continued to write me. When the letters stopped, Bernice was just about 100.

 

 

Joan and Graham George

 “Dr. Arthur S. Cobbledick (1871-1950) was a retired oculist who lived during the 1940s in Trevone.  He had been a friend and admirer of Walter Sickert and Sir Matthew Smith.  DMR valued his friendship and that of his daughter Joan George.” Although there is no reference to the Georges in Gloria’s two DMR books, they were long term residents of Trevone and knew most or all of the principals in the DMR story, some of whom are mentioned in this correspondence.

 

 

Gillian Hanscombe:

Gill Hanscombe was a student at Oxford in the 1970s, working on a dissertation about feminist consciousness involving DMR that issued in The Art of Life: Dorothy Richardson and The Development of Feminist Consciousness.  She went on to produce Writing For Their Lives with Virginia Smyers, dealing with women writers of the early 20th century, and a variety of other books and articles alone and in collaboration.

 

Norah Hickey:

Norah and Edward Hickey were the owners of two cottages in the little village of Trevone near Padstow in Cornwall, England. The Hickeys lived in Rose Cottage and rented Sunshine Cottage to various people, although DMR and Alan Odle were briefly able to rent Rose Cottage on several occasions.  Thus Norah became a resource for Gloria, who rented Sunshine cottage for varying but relatively short periods, which enabled her to steep herself in the ambience of the life of the Odles during World War II. These letters record the trajectory from Gloria’s meeting with the Hickeys in the mid 1960s, through our visits there together in the 70s and the eventual publication of Dorothy Richardson: A Biography in 1977.

 

Pauline Marrian:

Pauline Marrian in the early 1920s is described by Gloria as “not yet twenty, but she had read all the volumes of Pilgrimage to date—and a good deal more besides.” (Dorothy Richardson: A Biography, 143.) Pauline was herself to become a novelist and remained a thoroughly literary person. The friendship between Pauline and Gloria increased dramatically through the 70s and 80s, witness the immense number of letters. Visits to England, first by Gloria alone in the 60s and then, after our marriage in 1970, with me meant frequent meetings in the flesh with Pauline as well as most of the other correspondents represented here. As Pauline became blind in the 1980s, their correspondence continued on tape cassettes.

 

George Thomson writes:

“Pauline Marrian (1904-2000), a youthful admirer of DMR’s early novels, was introduced to her in 1920.  Determined to be a writer, Marrian’s first novel was Under This Tree, 1934, her second, Destruction’s Reach, 1935.  She then lived for several years in Hungary but returned to spend the war years in London.  After 1945 she largely abandoned a literary career and became traveling secretary to the British Sailor’s Society.  Marrian saved only a few of DMR’s letters; these she then copied with omissions, and destroyed the originals.  One original letter has survived pasted into a diary.  Four others, unseen, were left to her solicitor.”

 

Evelyn and Billy Morrison, Arnold Cooke:

“Evelyn Morrison was the young daughter of Colonel Morrison who spent the later years of World War II in Trevone. Her desire to write led to a correspondence and friendship with DMR but she seems not to have pursued writing.” Evelyn’s brother, Billy, lived with the distinguished composer, Arnold Cooke, in Five Oak Green near Tonbridge in Kent.  We sometimes accompanied Evelyn, Billy, and Arnold to concerts in London where Arnold’s music was being played. Through Arnold, we met Thea King, who played and recorded his clarinet concerto, and Herbert Howells, another distinguished British composer. I have included all the letters we received from Arnold, who survived Billy’s death from undiagnosed (until too late) diabetes. Arnold died in 2005. Evelyn vanished mysteriously from our purview. There is an Arnold Cooke website at http://www.musicweb-international.com/cooke/index.htm

 

Rose Odle:

Rose was DMR’s sister-in-law. She was not always easy to deal with and was importunate about Gloria finishing her biography while she was still alive, although unfortunately she did not live to read it. A good deal of insider information is contained in these letters. George Thomson writes:

“Rose Isserlis Odle (1888–1972) belonged to a Russian Jewish family that emigrated to England when she was 3. She trained as a teacher and in 1910 married Edwin Vincent Odle. Their children were John (1915), Elizabeth (1916) and Francis (1924). The family shared holidays with Dorothy and Alan in the 1920s and early 1930s. Rose wrote to Dorothy after Alan’s death, an extensive correspondence followed, and in the end she became Dorothy’s executor. Rose offers a fascinating account of her life in Salt of Our Youth (1972).”

 

Sheena Odle:

Sheena Odle’s husband, Francis, was the son of  Alan’s brother Edwin and Rose Isserlis Odle. (A few letters herein are from Francis.) After Rose Odle’s death, Sheena became the literary executor of the DMR/Odle estate. Francis died of a heart attack at 51 in October of 1975, not long after we met the Odles and their two sons for the first time.  There is a very affecting letter here from Sheena reporting this catastrophe. Sheena eventually moved from their house in Kentish Town (London) to Tavistock, where we also visited her. She and I corresponded for several years after Gloria’s death and then, silence.

 

Roger Sauvan-Smith

Roger, also known as Bob, was the lover of Peggy Kirkaldy for 26 years, until her death from breast cancer in 1958. Gloria’s correspondence with him seems to have started in 1986, shortly after she tracked him down. As with all of the people on this list, I met him on at least one visit to his house with Gloria (in the mid 1980s). He was a general medical practitioner and emeritus consultant in obstetrics and gynecology. He died of a stroke and chest infection on 12 June 1998

 

Henry Savage

Gloria received one letter from Savage, plus copies of two letters from Leon Edel to Savage. One of these has an addendum to Gloria in Savage’s hand. There are also two letters from Savage’s son reporting on his death.

 

George Thomson’s account reads as follows: “Henry Savage (1878–1965) English poet, was one of the young Bohemians who frequented the Café Royal after World War I. He edited The Gypsy (1915–1916) for which magazine Alan Odle was art editor and a principal illustrator. Not much is known about his relations with the Odles until he surfaced in 1946 and began writing letters to DMR with the purpose, so he claimed, of leading her through argument to assert her outlook and beliefs. DMR’s friendship with him is rather odd, given that he was a non-believer and a womanizer who regarded females rather as ornaments. Near the end of his life he retired to Tenerife.”

 

Virginia Smyers

Smyers was a young scholar (as well as a friend of Gill Hanscombe) who consulted Gloria with regard to her own hopes of putting out a selection of DMR’s letters. I am not aware that anything eventually materialized. Still, in her letters there is varied information about the world in which DMR scholars were moving in the 1980s. She was, with Hanscombe, the author of Writing For Their Lives, an account of modernist women writers. She also published the first detailed scholarly bibliography of Richardson’s novels.

Owen (Percy Beaumont) Wadsworth

George Thomson writes:

“Percy Beaumont Wadsworth (1895–1983), known to his friends as Owen, was a naive and enthusiastic admirer of modernist writers when he announced himself to DMR in 1919. A boyish 25, he aspired to be a writer. Dorothy gave him advice and he in turn supplied her with books. Through her letters we follow him on his travels to India and America and a variety of European cities. He made himself into a good journalist, shifting jobs with some frequency. His most important postings were to Prague, Berlin and London. His unpublished letters during the 1920s to his friend Michael Ross refer to several homosexual encounters in European cities. But that subject seems never to have been explicit in his enduring friendship with the Odles.”

 

Meticulously ordered by Dorothy Thomson, George’s wife, a former librarian at the University of Ottawa, this cache of  typewritten letters from Owen is not only immense but remarkable in its multitude of information about both Owen’s literary and interior lives as well as the 20th century British literary scene. Starved for love and susceptible to crushes, Owen was a very affectionate character altogether. He  was devoted to Tom Staley, who discovered Owen as a result of his own work on DMR while he was editor of the James Joyce Quarterly at the University of Tulsa. Like something out of an implausible novel, Tom is getting these letters back from Owen years later—via Gloria and me—as Director of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.

 

Marjorie Watts

Marjorie was the daughter of C.A. Dawson-Scott, founder of the International P.E.N. in 1921. Originally a club of sorts for writers, it gradually became a force for human rights as they relate to writers. Marjorie, born in 1898, married Arthur Watts, an illustrator for Punch who was killed at a young age in an airplane crash. Although Marjorie later became a probation officer, she was known to us as a center of literary activity in Hampstead. At her house we met such writers as V.S. Pritchett and Francis King. Very late in life, she wrote a biography of her mother, Mrs Sappho, published by Duckworth in 1987. She died in 1992 at the age of 94, filled with boisterous energy until the end.

 

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This amazing collection of letters provides a further development of  the DMR story and all its branching circuits and wider nets throughout the English-speaking (and not only English speaking) literary world.

 

Harold Fromm