ESSAY Steven Lovatt

NWR Issue 113

Looking for Dorothy Edwards

It’s essential to the narrative microclimates of Dorothy Edwards’ stories that nothing very much seems to take place in them, but if the phrase ‘to take place’ were interpreted literally, then it might also signi- fy – in the horticultural sense of ‘take’ – the idea of becoming rooted or established somewhere in particular. And in this sense too, her stories give the impression of never quite taking place. Tony Brown notes their ‘curiously non-specific locations’, while Christopher Meredith refers simply to ‘Edwardsland’, a moniker which humorously figures her story collection, Rhapsody, as a theme park, where the ‘theme’, presumably, is human misery.

But care is needed. The title of Edwards’ unpublished poem, ‘Sunday in Ilkley’, suggests that she had no aversion to using and naming real plac- es. Certainly it would be unwise to assume that the stories’ locations are entirely fantastic. If that were true, it would contradict the well-founded critical consensus that there is much more of Edwards’ life in her fictions than first appears; but enough is known about her movements to encour- age occasionally rewarding detective work about the locations that in- spired her. So, for example, the clifftop ruin in ‘A Garland of Earth’ is certainly Dunskey Castle in Wigtownshire, which Edwards visited in the mid 1920s. Any attempt to account for the peculiar detachment of the Rhapsody locations, and the spiritual restlessness of their characters, by reference to Edwards’ own life must inevitably be more speculative, but I think that it’s possible to venture helpful forays in that direction.


previous essay: The Accidental Thread
next essay: The Ape on the Rock


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