As published in Whispering Dust (Heathen Edition):

While researching another Heathen Edition, we happened upon the title of this book — Whispering Dust — and were immediately intrigued. Enough so that we sought out the book and, after reading the first few chapters, found ourselves delightfully charmed by its humor and poeticism. Who was Eldrid Reynolds, exactly, and why aren’t more people aware of this book? we asked ourselves — and that’s when we realized this novel was destined to join the Heathen family.

Dora Eldrid Reynolds was the daughter of artist, poet, and author Amy Dora Reynolds (1860–1957) who wrote 42 novels and one book of verse using the nom de plume Mrs. Fred Reynolds. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that Eldrid, as she was known, surely knew a thing or two about the craft of writing when she set out to pen novels of her own, and, we might add, at a fairly young age, starting with her now insanely difficult to locate first novel Red of the Rock, published in 1911 when she was just 21 years old.

Her second and, sadly, final novel — the one you now hold in your hands — was published in November 19131Books Received. (1913, November 15). The Saturday Review. (p. 625). when she was only 24.

History doesn’t tell us much about Eldrid, but we do know that she was born sometime between July–September 1889 in Headingly, Leeds, Yorkshire, and an article that was syndicated in several newspapers during the first year of Whispering Dust’s release gives us probably the only biographical sketch currently available today:



Both Versatile and Strong

Young English Author Especially Gifted With Talent Along Many Lines Other Than Writing

Eldrid Reynolds, the young English woman who is the author of the novel Whispering Dust, belongs to an old Yorskshire family, and numbers among her ancestors Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer,2Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845), known as the “Angel of Prisons,” was an English prison reformer, social reformer, philanthropist, and Quaker instrumental in the 1823 Gaols Act which mandated sex-segregation of prisons to protect female inmates from sexual exploitation. the poet Bloomfield,3Robert Bloomfield (1766–1823) was a working-class shoemaker who achieved brief fame as a poet. and James Ward4James Ward (1769–1859) was an English painter and engraver. and George Morland,5George Morland (1763–1804) was an English painter. both noted as painters. Miss Reynolds spent her childhood on the wide, heather-covered Yorkshire moors and the wild Cornish coast. The passion for space, freedom, and the immensities which she voices in Whispering Dust is doubtless the result of her early environment.

The book itself is the result of a winter on the Mediterranean and in Egypt, but the heroine, who after thirty years of cramping duties as “a curate’s daughter and a curate’s niece” longs to accomplish something, can by no means be identified with the author. Miss Reynolds has accomplished a great deal in less than thirty years. She created stories before she could read; wrote, acted, and produced plays for home and school before she reached her teens; published her first novel, Red of the Rock, at twenty. She has a decided talent for drawing and singing and her favorite recreations show that she can be by no means a dreamer. Among them are riding, sailing, fishing, dancing, winter sports, caravaning, amateur theatricals, photography, painting, drawing, and singing.



Additionally, our research led us to some interesting information concerning her and her mother: They had settled together in Bordighera, Italy, near Nice on the Italian Riveria, but had miscalculated the seriousness of hostilities in the lead up to World War II and were taken into custody by Italian authorities on June 10, 1940, when Italy declared war on England.

Relocated approximately 30 miles east of Naples, to the province of Avellino, they were interned and placed under house arrest in the mountain village Mercogliano, where they remained until Avellino was liberated by the advancing United States Fifth Army in September 1943. It would take another 18 months before they could leave Italy, finally making it back to England on April 24, 1945.

Eldrid never married and died on the Isle of Wight on September 28, 1958, a little over a year after her mother’s passing.

For reasons unknown, she never published another novel after Whispering Dust, which is surely a shame. Perhaps, she may have been deterred by the critical response to this novel, as it seems most critics at the time of its release tried to hang a “romance” label on it when it’s quite obvious viewed through the lens of today that Miss Reynolds’ nearly romance-less prose is far more in-line with, and was slightly ahead of, the modernist literature movement that exploded after World War I.

It’s certainly not “modern” to the extent of the writings of, say, Virginia Woolf, but absolutely leans in that direction as evidenced by the heroine Naomi’s ambling and elliptical inner monologues addressed to “You” as she progresses through Egypt in search of what she can only inadequately express as “Space” with a capital S.

And to cement the fact that this is not a romance, she peppers her prose with blatant clues such as, “. . . romance and I have had nothing to do with one another” and “romance when it came was this foolish mockery” and “is it only habit that keeps Romance going in the world?” A contemplation on romance — maybe — but certainly not a romance outright.

As for the text, we have updated several hyphened words to reflect their modern usage: to-day is now today, to-night has become tonight, and so on.

We have also combined and condensed the book’s original 28 footnotes with our own since most of the originals were translations or explanations of Arabic words or phrases, which we have sometimes expanded on, and because a few of the originals were duplicated. In addition to those originals, we have added over 180 footnotes of our own for a grand total of 212, which we believe will prove useful as most of the story takes place in Egypt and delves into a fair bit of Egyptology.

We’ve also added some period-specific images to help better establish how two of the story’s locations appeared at the time of this book’s original publication in 1913.

Finally, we are very much in agreement with a notion found in Frederic Taber Cooper’s introduction: “There can be no half measures in any reader’s attitude toward this book: it will either leave you cold, speaking to you in an unknown tongue, or else you will hail it with delight, as one of those rare and delicious discoveries, to be lingered over and reverted to, again and again, with ever new and infinite appreciation.”

We are most assuredly of the latter because we’ve found that this book has lingered with us long after finishing it.
Additionally, Mr. Cooper is exactly right when he states: “Do not be impatient with its subtle vagueness, do not be in too great haste to pluck out the heart of its mystery. . . .”

Eldrid herself even pinpoints, we believe, why one should avoid haste while reading this book when she says: “We move slowly. ‘El agela minin esh Shaitan,’ the Arabs say.”

A phrase that translates as: Haste is from the devil.

A phrase certainly worthy of rumination. . . .

With that, we leave you.

Allah salimah.


Whispering Dust by Eldrid Reynolds (Heathen Edition)