Thursday, April 9, 2015
alone, I grew calm
It might be simpler to say that perception in Dorothy Richardson's work is aligned with will, though this will never shows its real character to anyone outside the human being whose exercise is its life; to others it can be understood as stubbornness or as intelligence. It never tries to control or force anyone because it is the most undictatorial will in the world, and you could even call it anti-dictatorial, for freedom and calm are two of the conditions it is working for, and dictators are never free or calm.
Miriam knows that her job is perfect because it absorbs her intelligence and attention without asking her to be in command. The wage is enough to keep her living independently and that is what she wants. More money would be fine but not supremely important. It's not worth the price.
(This will is clear about its priorities, which translate themselves into all areas, so that the money-feeling, when she applies it to the women's independence movement -- this is in the very early 1900s -- becomes disquiet and conflict, because, a woman who has the vote, will she be distracted by the requirements of command, and drawn away from her essential absorption in the world, a problem that Richardson sees afflicting men, who are too tempted by grand sentences and falseness when they write -- their style -- she believes -- the elegant, forceful, exciting style and appealing contrived plottishness -- is a peacock symptom, "lollipops for children," and the only way to write closer to the world as it is, is to avoid it ...)
I have seen the form of a will like this in characters before, I tell myself; and think of Louie in The Man Who Loved Children, who practises her self-determination without knowing why (anticipating that it will be useful), and Lucy Snow in Villette, who is watching everyone from a position apart, and aware of being apart, and feeling in herself the work that she does to defend that apartness, since it is her nature -- "Once alone, I grew calm, and collectedly went to work" -- but Miriam in Richardson's book is the one who invents an articulate purpose for the Lucy-like nature, though this higher calling is internal, and rescues no one except her; and is unable to rescue them.
So Richardson has two points to make about this kind of will: 1., it is the most precious thing in the world, and 2. it is useless.