Jo Winning at the Harry Ransom Research Centre, Texas

This summer I have been on a Research Fellowship at the Harry Ransom Center, at the University of Texas in Austin working on the Dorothy Richardson Editions Project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The Ransom Center has one of the most extensive collections of modernist papers, manuscripts and artefacts in the world. It is a place where the materiality, and indeed the fragility (more of that in a moment…) of art, literature and photography becomes overwhelmingly obvious.

I have working on the papers belonging to the historically-overlooked female modernist author Dorothy Richardson, contemporary of Virginia Woolf but a minimally-discussed peer by comparison. Together with colleagues from the Universities of Birmingham, Queen Mary and Oxford, I am undertaking to produce a new critical edition of the 13-novel series Pilgrimage (which will be published in 6 volumes by Oxford University Press) and, for the first time, a 3-volume annotated edition of all of Richardson’s correspondence, letters which begin in 1900 and take her through to her last shaky missives in 1952. It is a huge undertaking but the grain and texture of it will add to our understanding of the cultural contexts of modernism in the first decades of the twentieth century, and of the warp and weft of the networks of cultural production through which modernism comes to be, will be invaluable.

Richardson wrote a great deal: the vast fictional structure of Pilgrimage, its 13 novels fictionalising her own journey from youth to middle-age and the act of writing; short stories, articles and reviews; and letters, by the dozen, to a wide range of correspondents. The letters tug the researcher who must date and annotate them (which is to say, in this instance, me) across a sweeping landscape of experience and cultural references, from high-end French perfume, to art cinema in the 1920s, to the first English translations of Proust, to the name of horses running at Newmarket as racing tips. Interpretative and ethical questions start to spill and multiply as I begin the process of editing. What is the benefit of tracing the detail of a life, and the other lives to which it connects intimately and intellectually, now gone? What do I hope to contribute to our present in reconstructing the lives of writers and artists and the complex relation of their lived experience to their aesthetic objects? What is my ethical relation to the secrets and repudiations embedded in the lives and texts I am researching? Above all else, the archival research I am doing has made me think about fragility. The fragility of the materials I am handling. The letters are sometimes faded, ripped, stained by the rust of paperclips or the mottled brown of age. And the fragility of communication. Did a recipient comprehend the nuances of emotional or intellectual content of a letter’s message, both its overt and its occluded meanings? And then the fragility of my own powers of interpretation, can I hold my own assumptions in check and not be misled by my own frame of reference and experience? An object I came across in my first week of research brings to mind the fragility of the literary object as it continues its life beyond the metaphorical and literal death of the author (Richardson died in 1957). I chose not to carry my 4-volume edition of Pilgrimage across the Atlantic thinking I would pick up the copies available in the University of Texas Library. Pulling the ‘local’ edition off the library shelves I found in my hand the frankly hilarious Popular Library edition of Pilgrimage

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in New York in 1976. Hilarious in the sense that the editorial packaging of the novels – a cover which connotes an altogether different genre (I will leave readers to make their own interpretation of what I mean here) and a description of Richardson’s dense experimental oeuvre as ‘a towering novel of female revolution’, coupled with Rebecca West’s exclamation ‘a miracle!’ – seems rather misguided to say the very least.  One wonders what mid-1970s readers, aflame with second wave feminist awareness or other liberationary political understandings, thought they were about to encounter when they brought the book home, probably not the intricacies and challenges of stream-of-consciousness technique which greeted them on the first page and beyond. Richardson’s experimental modernist novels here seem so fragile in their mis-packaged state, so vulnerable to the torsions of advertising and the literary marketplace in a later twentieth-century decade at such a huge cultural remove from the early twentieth-century decades of their making. Pilgrimage undergoing its own pilgrimage after Richardson, and after modernism.

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Richardson and the Little Review

Following a lead sent our way by Dr Clare Hutton from Loughborough University, some new Dorothy Richardson letters have surfaced. The letters come from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s archive of the New York-based modernist magazine, the Little Review, and relate to Richardson’s publications in this important periodical.

Richardson first appeared in the Little Review at a crucial time in its history. The magazine had serialized successive episodes of James Joyce’s Ulysses from March 1918, but in May 1919 a new issue of the Little Review was seized by the US Post Office on grounds of the obscenity of Joyce’s text – the January issue of the same year had also suffered the same fate. The magazine resumed for its subscribers in June 1919 with a number of important changes: readers were urged to ask ‘the government to reimburse you for your losses’ for the confiscated issue; the London editor, Ezra Pound, had ‘abdicated and gone to Persia’; his replacement was John Rodker; and readers could enjoy a new serialised novel alongside Joyce’s – Interim, the latest volume of Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage.

In April 1918 the Little Review included an important piece of Richardsonia – and an important piece of modernist theory more generally – when it published a version of May Sinclair’s seminal review, ‘The Novels of Dorothy Richardson’ (the original of which was published in The Egoist in 1918), the first known application of the term ‘stream-of-consciousness’ to the content of a novel. By publishing Sinclair’s piece, the magazine acknowledged Richardson’s position as a literary innovator. Richardson’s letters to the Little Review reveal that the feeling was mutual: in one letter, Richardson modestly declined to submit any writing as ‘I have nothing that from the L. R. standpoint is not perfectly orthodox and commonplace’. At the same time, however, in April 1919, when Richardson wrote to propose the serialization of Interim, she flagged up the novel’s content rather than its experimental form: ‘I think, it may be helped out by the fact that it contains a thread of transatlantic (Canadian) interest.’

When Interim appeared in the Little Review, it was immediately clear that Richardson’s latest novel accorded with the magazine’s stated aim to make ‘no compromise with public taste’. In Interim, Richardson initially adopted a method of notating dialogue that resembles Joyce in extremis – the normal run of line breaks and inverted commas is replaced with unbroken strings of dialogue, sometimes separated by long dashes. Critics have been baffled, however, about Richardson’s decision, halfway through Interim, to revert back to the conventional method for representing dialogue. Given the absence of a handwritten manuscript, some critics have put this change down to a kind of artistic losing-face. But the Little Review letters contain a fascinating ‘Memorandum for printer’s reader’, which – read one way – might just return Interim’s changing appearance on the page to the realms of an unequivocal aesthetic decision. In her ‘Memorandum’, Richardson urged: ‘Please have all dialogue as it is in the typescript i.e. sometimes as part of the text, sometimes between “dashes” & occasionally spaced-out & with (or without) inverted commas.’ Punctuation, too, is to be adhered to ‘most carefully’, ‘safeguarding the sometimes unconventional presence, or absence, of the comma.’ All of which aptly sums up the appearance of Interim in its final form.

At the moment, I am working my way through the early volumes of Pilgrimage, collating variants between different editions. As commas are added or removed between editions, or are left in when they would not survive the attentions of a more dogmatic editor, I have begun to see Richardson’s punctuation through an almost mystical lens. While it’s perhaps not healthy to speculate too wildly about Richardson’s designs – especially given the relative paucity of documentary evidence surrounding the genesis of Pilgrimage – there are few more pleasurable aspects of editorial work than to track the subtle changes, the fluctuations of shading and nuance, that arise as an author revises a text. And Richardson’s ‘Memorandum’ in particular gives cause to take seriously her punctuational oddities, and to look for the changes in literary effect and meaning that emerge as she moves her commas or about, or changes her speech marks. Richardson’s 1924 essay ‘About Punctuation’ already looked like a revealing interpretative key to her contemporary novels, but with these new letters emerging from the archive, we have even further confirmation of the intricacies of Richardson’s experimental practice.

Adam Guy

 

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HD Fellowship at the Beinecke

Rebecca Bowler

Last year, I was lucky enough to be awarded the H.D. Fellowship in British or American Literature, and I spent the whole of September at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, which has the largest collection of Richardson’s letters and other materials. The fellowship is named after the American Imagist poet Hilda Doolittle, who wrote under the name of H.D. and was a close friend of Richardson.

The photocopies and microfilm copies of the letters that the project has are wonderful resources, but nothing can beat holding the originals in your hands, and squinting hard at words that Richardson scribbled hastily, trying to work out what they can possibly say. A lot of the transcription issues for letters in volumes one and two for the upcoming Collected Letters have been resolved, and we have now another resource: close-up and full page photographs of many of the letters in the Beinecke (including the faded pencil scrawls and water-damaged ink letters that were previously incredibly difficult to decipher).

The H.D. and Bryher Papers are also exciting treasure troves of material. One postcard I found in there, sent from H.D. to Bryher from Switzerland, was previously unknown to us. It features one of Alan Odle’s rather wonderful elephant sketches, a note from H.D. which reads ‘From “the slopes of paradise”’, and a handwritten message from Richardson to Bryher: ‘Salut!’ There are many letters from this period, when Richardson and H.D. are staying together in Switzerland, in which H.D. gives Bryher ‘dirt’ on the various goings-on: what Dorothy ‘Rat’ Richardson said in the hotel bar; how she held forth in ‘her best style’; and stood the flowers Bryher sent her up in her cup of tea on her table in a cafe, shocking H.D. and waiters alike.

The H.D. Fellowship has been incredibly useful (and enjoyable!), both for the project and for my own research. I’m grateful to the staff at the Beinecke, who were unfailingly helpful and friendly, and to Yale University for the award. There was much work done, much delicious food eaten, and many exciting places explored. Here’s to the next Beinecke trip!

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The Bee Garden

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Dorothy Richardson’s first home in Abingdon, Berkshire.

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Two New Letters to Robert Neumann

Rebecca Bowler

The name of Robert Neumann crops up in Dorothy Richardson’s letters time and time again. He was known principally to her as the author of Die Macht, which she translated and which was released as Mammon in 1933. Soon after the publication (and subsequent disappearance) of Mammon, on the 18th of February 1934, Richardson wrote to Bryher recommending that she call on him: ‘I’ve just heard from Robert Neumann (Die Macht) that he arrives to-day in London for a few days. Do go and see him[ ]or talk with him over the telephone, (in English). He is altogether a delightful and charming creature and will give you the latest news from Vienna, where he knows every body’. It seems that Bryher did just that, for a couple of weeks later, Richardson writes to inform her that ‘Robert Neumann writes to me about a little lady who called on him: Mrs Bryher. “I saw her eyes & I asked her if she were a poet. But she was perhaps too shy to agree. You are all too shy in this country.”’ When trawling through the transcripts of these letters, this quoted portion from a missing Neumann letter intrigued me. They must have been writing to each other often in the 1930s. Later in March 1934, in fact, she mentions that she has heard again from Neumann, in a letter to Bryher: ‘about whose eyes of a poet he continues to rave’. There is a gap, and then in 1937 she reports that the Neumanns came to tea, and a good time was had by all.

A certain amount of searching revealed that an archive of Robert Neumann’s letters were in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, but there was no catalogue online. A very helpful librarian in the Rare Book and Manuscript department however, searched the boxes and came up with two letters from Richardson: both from 1944. The existence of these letters, more than ten years after any necessary professional correspondence must have taken place, points to an enduring friendship, albeit one with a very long gap in communication. The first letter, dated 26th October, begins with Richardson’s characteristic excuse for lapses in letter writing: ‘for years past, life has not been just one thing after another, but always several things at once, with countless preoccupations as background’. She asks, mistakenly, whether the ‘“Rolly”’ mentioned in Neumann’s letter is his son, prompting, presumably, the response that no: Rolly is the nickname he gives his wife. The son, whose schooling at a Quaker school Richardson remembers being discussed over tea in 1937, died in 1944: shortly before Neumann and Richardson resumed correspondence.

The first letter is primarily a writer’s letter to another writer. Richardson thanks Neumann for the two books he has sent her, at different times: Scene in Passing (which she loved: ‘One could get inside it & live there’), and The Inquest, his newest. She has not only engaged with the texts themselves, but with the reviews of them. She begins with a compliment as to the English of the German speaking Neumann (Scene in Passing and Inquest were Neumann’s first publications in English): ‘I find your so inclusive mastery of our strangely-mingled tongue quite amazing’. However, she has reservations as to the essential Englishness of the supposedly English characters in the later novel. The Times Literary Supplement had reviewed Inquest earlier in October and concluded that Shilling, the protagonist, was unconvincing: ‘it was a mistake to make Shilling English […] for there is very little that is English about him’.1 Richardson agrees: You have now been with us for longer than it took Renier to discover that the English are human.2 Your Shilling is amply that, but is not English. The otherwise inadequate Times Lit. reviewer is right there’.

Richardson’s second letter is different entirely. There is more news, and responses to news: she tells Neumann about the circumstances under which she and Alan lost 32 Queen’s Terrace, and is interested in Neumann’s tales of wandering in Wales. She sympathises with the sad news that Neumann’s son ‘Heini’ had passed away, but goes on to assert that in grief, the gift of ‘imaginative sympathy’ is given. The phrase ‘imaginative sympathy’ (and its partner phrase ‘vicarious living’ or ‘vicarious experience’) is a favourite of Richardson’s, and moves her to write an exposition as to the busy and stressful nature of her own life: as if she sees an opportunity for Neumann to exercise this ‘imaginative sympathy’ (which, she carefully points out, he had ‘already’). The pressures of keeping home and seeing friends, Richardson explains, leave her little time to write:

‘Nearly the whole of my time this last five years has gone to housewifery. I’ve written just half a book, several sonnets & a few short things, & the equivalent of several volumes in the form of letters. Sometimes I pine for a wife & a secretary. And then, again, I don’t. Or at least for a “servant”. And then, again, no. One might as well have a permanent guest. Even a deaf-mute makes demands, perhaps more searching than those of one differently afflicted. Friends we have, in this London-crowded area, popping in from morn till eve. [inserted above line: Delightful. But, in some cases, a time-consuming trial.]’

This section of the letter is very similar in style to one Richardson wrote to Veronica Grad in 1930 in which she exhorts ‘Vera’ to ‘Imagine the drain of domesticity’ and also the mental and physical drain caused by the need to be sociable: ‘With the complication that everybody, nearly enough, is apt to be reproachful. It staggers me. The absence in almost everybody of the imaginative faculty. […] You are not of those & you have imagination. So you will understand that a visit, even to one’s best friends, can be a tax beyond one’s strength’. It is striking that Richardson can write in almost the same way about the demands of her life fourteen years apart, and to two very different friends.

The first Neumann letter, written as a way of getting back in touch, is formal and writerly. The second is sociable and more personally revealing. It reads, tantalisingly, as though the renewed acquaintance between the two writers could be about to launch into a much closer friendship, but unfortunately, there are no more letters extant. We cannot know whether more letters were exchanged, or whether Richardson lapsed again: unable to find time to write amidst the ‘housewifery’ of her wartime life.

1. Review, Times Literary Supplement, 14 Oct 1944, p. 497. Quoted in Nicole Brunnhuber, The Faces of Janus: English-Language Fiction by German-Speaking Exiles in Great Britain, 1933-1945 (Bern: Peter Lang, 2005), p. 91.

2.  Gustaaf Johannes Renier wrote a book entitled The English: Are They Human? (London: Williams and Norgate, 1931).

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Pilgrimages 4 2011

Coming soon… Pilgrimages issue 4, with the following great line up:

PILGRIMAGES: A JOURNAL OF DOROTHY RICHARDSON STUDIES

NUMBER 4, 2011

CONTENTS

Scott McCracken, Editorial

ARTICLES

Jennifer Cooke, Dorothy Richardson, Queer Theorist

Harriet Wragg, ‘Like a greeting in a valentine’: Silent Film Intertitles in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage

Eva Tucker, Why Won’t Miriam Henderson Marry Michael Shatov?

Lauren Curtwight, Scattered Vision and Silent Masks: Dorothy Richardson’s Critical Perceptions on Race

George H. Thomson, The Perne Sisters and Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage

Mhairi Catriona Pooler, Of Language, of Meaning, of Mr. Henry James

Claire Drewery, The failure of this now so independently assertive reality’: Mysticism, Idealism and the Reality Aesthetic in Dorothy Richardson’s Short Fiction

REVIEWS

Juliet Yateson on Maren Tova Linett, Modernism, Feminism, and Jewishness

Rebecca Bowler on Claire Drewery, Modernist Short Fiction by Women: The Liminal in Katherine Mansfield, Dorothy Richardson, May Sinclair and Virginia Woolf

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Third International Richardson Conference Report

Scott McCracken

The third Richardson conference organised by the Richardson Society took place at Birkbeck College on 16-17 September 2011. This was the longest event organised by the Society thus far, stretching over two days by popular demand. We were lucky enough to be in the beautiful Keynes Library at 46 Gordon Square, in the heart of Bloomsbury and only a few yards away from ‘Tansley ‘Street.

The conference began with a keynote paper from Clare Drewery (Sheffield Hallam University), ‘“The Failure of this now so independently assertive reality”: Metaphysics, Transition and Contingent Identity in Dorothy Richardson’s Shorter Fiction’. Clare’s paper highlighted the neglect of Richardson’s shorter fiction by most critics and this became an important reference point for discussions later in the conference. A panel on Richardson and the “Marriage Question’ followed after lunch. Juliet Yates (Keele University) gave a lively presentation,  ‘Her Hand in Marriage: representations of marriage in Pilgrimage. The novelist, Eva Tucker, followed with an eloquent talk, Why Won’t Miriam Marry Michael Shatov?’, on how her personal reading of Pilgrimage’ had changed over the years.

Part of the aim of the Society has to been to get Richardson back into print and to publish unpublished materials. Scott McCracken gave a presentation on progress with the Collected Letters, which will be published in three volumes by Oxford University Press. Scott expressed his gratitude to the long years of work by scholars who have made the edition possible. He acknowledged Gillian Hanscombe and Gloria Fromm’s pioneering work, and most recently the achievements of George Thomson in compiling the Calendar of Letters and making transcripts of the manuscripts. Scott reported that photocopies of most of the letters are now available for students and scholars to consult at Keele, by appointment. Scott also reported that a proposal for a critical edition of Pilgrimage has also been submitted to OUP and we are waiting for the readers’ reports. A question and answer session followed with the other editors, Deborah Longworth, Laura Marcus, Joanne Winning. George unfortunately could not be with us this year.

The day finished with a showing of Borderline, the film produced by the Close Up group and Laura Marcus led the discussion that followed. Dinner was spent in the now traditional location, Sardo, on Grafton Street, as near in spirit and location to ‘Donizetti’s’ as we can get.

Saturday opened with a keynote paper by Jennifer Cooke (Loughborough University), ‘Dorothy Richardson, Queer Theorist’. The response to the paper was enthusiastic and it provoked a lively discussion. The morning was completed by a panel on ‘Silence’ in Richardson. Annika Hagström (Lund University) gave an original reading of the silence that lies between and behind the lines of Pilgrimage in ‘Dorothy Richardson and the Poetics of Silence’; and in a paper that made connections with the discussion on Borderline the previous day, Harriet Wragg (University College London) explored the significance of Richardson’s work on intertitles,‘“[L]ike a greeting in a valentine”: Silent Film Intertitles in Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage’.

The final panel on Richardson and ‘Impressionism’ renewed the theme of the visual. In two interlinked papers, Rebecca Bowler (University of Sheffield), discussed Richardson’s relationship with Henry James in ‘Reading Henry James: Perception and Representation as the Double Impression’; and Yvonne Wong (University of Durham) in ‘“Everyday Life is Precisely What Life Is”: An Impressionist Reading of the Ordinary in Pilgrimage’ took us through the interconnections between French impressionism and Richardson’s work. At this point, all the questions and themes the conference had raised were re-debated until the hardiest Richardsonians were compelled to leave the building and re-assembled in a local pub. Although not before the organisers and Birkbeck College had been heartily thanked.

Discussions about the next biennial conference took place throughout the two days. It was agreed that the next event in 2014 should have a broader theme and bring in other scholars. Two main ideas emerged. First, that we should have a conference on Richardson and philosophy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Second, that we should have a conference on the long modernist novel, a conference that would of course put Pilgrimage at its centre, but which would focus on comparative work on Richardson and Proust, Joyce, Dos Passos, Musil. Keynote speakers would be carefully chosen to ensure Richardson’s centrality to this significant twentieth-century form was not forgotten.

Both ideas were warmly received and the Society decided to start with the “Long Modernist Novel’, probably in July 2013.

Selected papers from the conference will be published in the Richardson journal.

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Did Dorothy Richardson and H. G. Wells in the Bracken?

In her review of David Lodge’s new work of bio-fiction about H.G. Wells, A Man of Parts, Claire Harman asks if, as Lodge apparently depicts, Wells actually had ‘sex with Dorothy Richardson in the bracken’ ? Well there is certainly no evidence that she did in her semi-autobiographical masterpiece Pilgrimage, where sex with Hypo Wilson, the character widely regarded as representing Wells, is a distinctly underwhelming experience for the heroine, Miriam. There’s nothing in the letters, although what happened to the bulk of the Wells-Richardson correspondence remains a mystery. Gloria Fromm’s biography of Richardson records nothing so racey. She describes the affair as ‘stemming less from sexual passion than from a half-admiring love and a clash of wills’ and their sexual encounters as ‘low-keyed’. But do Wellsians have a different story? And would we believe them if they did?

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The Ottawa Archive

Scott McCracken

The first of three large packages has just arrived at Keele. Back in January, I made a trip to Ottawa to see George Thomson, a long-planned visit to have a look through George’s papers, which he has generously offered to put at the disposal of the whole team editing the Richardson correspondence. After a long delay at Philadelphia, I arrived very late in Ottawa, but George was there to meet me and drove me to my hotel. Because of the lateness of my arrival, proper conversation had to wait until the next day, but once begun it didn’t really stop. For three days, we talked incessantly about Richardson, the letters, Pilgrimage, politics, and life in general. We only really stopped to eat, when George took me out to a selection of local restaurants, in which he was always greeted by name. George’s basement is an Aladdin’s cave of Richardsonia. Box files of letters, filing cabinets of papers and articles, maps of the coast around Trevone, periodicals, and books. All neatly shelved in rooms where the walls are hung with George’s fine collection of contemporary Canadian art. When it came to select items for the Letters project, I felt like Francis Drake looting the riches of the New World. As some of the material was passed to George by Harold Fromm perhaps a better of way of putting it was that the Richardson Society has inherited the legacies of two great Richardson scholars, George H. Thomson and Gloria Fromm. The material will be invaluable to Richardson scholars.  Once it has all arrived and has been sorted out it will be available to the editorial team and other Richardson scholars.

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Where was Dorothy Richardson born?

Scott McCracken

I have been contacted by the Vale of White Horse District Council who ask if I know where Richardson was born. I discover I don’t exactly. Gloria Fromm’s Biography is not specific. Dorothy Richardson lived the first few years of her life in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, on the Crescent next to Albert Park. By the 1881 census, the family had moved to Worthing in Sussex because of her father Charles Richardson’s financial difficulties. I put my ex-colleague who lives in Abingdon onto the case. A Swift scholar, he shows the acuity one would expect and a remarkable adeptness at sleuthing. Not put off by my misdirections, he comes up first with an article about the sale of the Richardson’s family business, which turned Mr Richardson into a gentleman of leisure:   From the 1871 census he finds that Charles and Mary, her mother, are living in Marcham Road, which runs into Ock Street where the shop was. He then obtains the birth certificate, which just says ‘Albert Park’ as date of birth. Afterwards he spends some time pondering the ethics of looking into the back gardens of Park Crescent to see if anything matches up to the family picture in Fromm, which features Dorothy as a baby. Very quickly, however, the search bears fruit. After consulting the Abingdon town archivist, he discovers the house is 18 Park Crescent, now owned by Abingdon School. It has already been suggested for a blue plaque in the Autumn 2001 Newsletter of the Abingdon Area Archaeological and Historical Society. It turns out this is not the house in the picture, which he speculates might belong to the grandparents. According to the Abingdon town archivist, the photograph looks as if it was taken at the back of one of the houses in Marcham Road. The Park Crescent house would have paid ground rent to Christ’s Hospital, which has an archive, which it may pay to investigate. However, that will have to wait until I can get down there. If Charles Richardson rented the house from the house’s owner, it may reveal nothing at all.

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