Pilgrimage (Vol 3: Deadlock, Revolving Lights, The Trap)

This begins to feel like a slog. Books 6,7, and 8 of the series, and we travel further into Miriam’s mind as she jumps from thought to thought, not stopping to tell us where she is or with whom. She continues to wander around London, enjoying her midnight walks and seclusion in coffee shops, flaunting her independence and rejecting marriage offers. In the last book, she gives up her room to move in with another woman to save money, a flimsy curtain strung up across their bedroom to give the illusion of privacy. When, on the first night, Miriam and Miss Holland disagree about the pleasantness of rattling windows, Miriam knows she’s in a bad situation. It’s also an ill omen that Holland does not enjoy Donizetti’s comforts like Miriam, lounging on the red velvet sofa while enjoying a late night snack and coffee. Meanwhile, the poet Yeats apparently lives in the building behind them, peepable from Miriam’s window. If you can wade through the somewhat incomprehensible streams of consciousness, there are delightful tidbits of Miriam’s feminist rage.

From Deadlock, Miriam discovers one of her employers reading an outrageously sexist book:

Lovely Woman, by T.W.H. Crosland. Why so many similar English initials? A superfluity of mannishness. An attack of course; she scanned pages and headings; chapter upon chapter of peevish facetiousness; the whole book written deliberately against women… The usual sort of thing; worse, because it was colloquial, rushing along in modern everyday language and in some curious way not badly written. Because some women had corns, feminine beauty was a myth; because the world could do without Mrs Hemans’s poetry, women should confine their attention to puddings and babies. The infernal complacent cheek of it. This was the kind of thing middle-class men read. Unable to criticize it, they thought it witty and unanswerable… It ought to be illegal to publish a book  by a man without first giving it to a woman to annotate.

From Revolving Lights, in conversation with Hypo Wilson (e.g. HG Wells):

‘Nonsense, Miriam. Girls with quite good brains and abilities will marry anything; accept its views and quote them.’

‘Yes; just as they will show off a child’s tricks. Views and opinions are masculine things. Women are indifferent to them, really. Any set will do… It is that women can hold all opinions at once, or any, or none. It’s because they see the relations of things which don’t change, more than things which are always changing, and mostly the importance to men of things men believe.

Further musings:

Why cannot men exist without thinking themselves all there is?… [Men] never are. They only make or do; unconscious of the quality of life as it passes… Men have no present; except sensuously. That would explain their ambition and their doubting speculations about the future. Yet it would be easier to make all this clear to a man than to a woman. The very words expressing it have been made by men.

On Miriam’s void when in the room with the Lintoffs and Michael:

There was no pressure in the room; no need to buy peace by excluding all but certain points of view. She felt a joyful expansion. But there was a void all about her. She was expanded in an unknown element; a void, filled by these people in some way peculiar to themselves.