The Tunnel (1919)

The Tunnel (1919) - Dorothy M. Richardson I read this in the mid-90s, but it is indicative how difficult I find Richardson's style that I remembered little or nothing of it. Indeed, it's the passing moment, the visualization and accumulation of the detail that is everything, and the plot is slight to nonexistent. Nonetheless, I will endeavour to summarize it... Miriam has her own flat for the first time; she's 21, and working as a dental secretary. Her sister Harriett is pregnant, and her sister Eve does not appear, but a former associate, Miss Dear (a nurse) does, and rather dramatically collapses into Miriam's care in the last few chapters. If Miss Dear has an illustrative function, it is as the woman who conducts her life by manipulation and guilt, particularly of men. Miriam herself is going through a strong phase of misandry: "'Man's love is of man's life a thing apart - 'tis woman's whole existence.' Byron did not know what he was saying when he wrote it in his calm patronizing way. Mr. Tremayne would admire it as a 'great truth' - thinking it like a man in the way Byron thought it. What a hopeless thing a man's consciousness was. How awful to have nothing but a man's consciousness. One could test it so easily if one were a little careful, and know exactly how it would behave..." There is much more in this vein, going well beyond feminism to a rather tedious extent. Mr. Tremayne, incidentally, is one of a number of male objects who pass through Miriam's view as potential mates, the most serious of whom is the dentist Mr. Hancock, on whom she clearly develops a bit of a crush. He hurts her feelings by withdrawing into formality when he perceives - or has it drawn to his attention by well-meaning relatives - that they are too much like friends (one manifestation of this is attending scientific lectures together). In addition, Miriam has two "new woman" friends, Mag and Jan, who share a flat; and she makes a weekend visit to the home of "Hypo Wilson", who is reputedly based on H.G. Wells (a lover of Richardson's); the portrait is not flattering at all at this point - he is drawn as a bit of a stick; a rationalist; his conversation has "chilly light." Nonetheless, Miriam appears to be charmed to be invited into a writer's circle, even though she has serious doubts about whether she's the right kind of people. Perhaps the most enduring image of this particular segment in the saga is Miriam's trip on a bicycle - she has learned to ride, and it is a new and different manifestation of the freedom she has already discovered as a single woman living and working in London.