Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2019


Morley Roberts’s “The Experience of Mrs. Patterson-Grundy” is an inferior potboiler, all too fit for The Strand, a middlebrow general interest periodical (Willis). It is repetitive, its characters are underdeveloped, and its jokes usually fall flat. Even the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography indicates that “[c]ritics agree that he [Roberts] wrote far too much and too quickly, his popularity with the average reader being acquired at the cost of quality” (Coustillas). The present story exemplifies Roberts’s populism, but it warrants closer consideration for two special reasons: it mocks Victorian priggishness while extolling adventurous albeit patriarchal romanticism (unsurprising, given Morley Roberts’s reputation as an avid traveler and mountaineer), and it explores the nature of play and identity fluidity, presaging the self-reflexivity of postmodern literature. Characters with suspicious names assume new personas, don costumes, invent identities for others, fumble in maintaining social illusions, and most importantly, play roles until they become those roles. Thus, “The Experience of Mrs. Patterson-Grundy” may be understood as both a proto-Baudrillardian exploration of the hyperreal in Edwardian romance and a patriarchal failure to create a gender-equitable simulation.