28 December 2008

Harold Pinter

The death of the major British playwright Harold Pinter has led to many more articles than when this supporter of the now virtually non-existent British left won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The above link is to his biographer Michael Billington's article in this Saturday's Guardian

17 December 2008

Lionel Britton's Brain

Lionel Britton’s plays Brain and Spacetime Inn are are very unusual for several reasons, but in particular because they are science fiction plays. As an indication of the reason for this, Clute and Nicholls, in their Encylopedia of Science Fiction, quote science fiction editor Roger Elwood on the physical limitations which the theatre poses for the genre: ‘Writing an sf play is a bit like trying to picture infinity in a cigar box’; they also state that ‘the first significant original plays appeared in the 1920s and 1930s’, claiming that Shaw’s Back to Methuselah (1921) was the first science fiction play to be concerned with evolution. Back to Methuselah is thematically and structurally similar to Brain, and certainly to some extent Britton took Shaw’s play as his model: he includes a quotation from Shaw’s Preface on the verso of the half-title pageof Brain, and the drama critic Hannen Swaffer — whose review of the play is quoted in one of the advertisement pages at the back of Hunger and Love — notes Shaw’s influence: ‘Fancy a young man starting where Shaw left off!’ (p. [707]).

There are a number of dramatic elements in Brain, such as the light show during the funeral of the Philosopher and the Librarian of the British Museum, the violent change of power at the end of Act II, and the apocalyptic climax of the play, but although some of the dialogue is also dramatic, the general emphasis is on the didactic; there is little character development and most of the characters are types. Of primary importance is the message, which is that without co-operation, as opposed to competition, the world cannot survive.

Brain is the theatrical realization of the ideas outlined or hinted at in Hunger and Love; it isin three acts and is set in several different periods in the future. Act I (c.1950–2100) begins with a conversation between the Philosopher and the Librarian, in which there is an exposition of the ideas in an unpublished manuscript which strongly resembles Hunger and Love, which, following the death of the author, was presented to the British Museum in 1950; both men die in a car accident the same evening and the manuscript remains uncatalogued and unnoticed. The next scene then shifts to 2100, when the earth is still run by the business world and central government; Britton makes use of the animal imagery prominent in Hunger and Love in order to emphasize his points: in the first scene, we are told that ‘private enterprise makes for isolation like wild beasts’, and that ‘the beast type of man is still in control; they occupy all the high places’. The 2100 world of Brain shows Britton’s anti-government ideology in practice; Brookes, a prominent member of the Ideas Club, is preparing to make a proposal after the discovery of the forgotten manuscript, and begins by outlining the problem:

‘Human nature grew by co-operation, private interest is anti-human, it will destroy human nature unless some means can be found by which it can itself be destroyed.’

The main point of interest in these lines is the way in which the tenses proceed from the past, to the present, and to the future. ‘Human nature’ is thought to be the product of many years of co-operation and signifies a more enlightened, and more honest, period in history; the private interest now dominating life is divisive and works against human interest; human nature will be destroyed by it unless its advance can be stopped. Brookes is in effect saying the same thing as the narrator of Hunger and Love, namely that the evolution of humanity is now in reverse: the slow movement towards a utopian society is changing into its opposite. Brookes’s proposal leads to the clandestine establishment of the Brain Brotherhood, the purpose of which is to build a giant brain in the Sahara, containing all the knowledge in the world. An idea similar to this is also put forward in Hunger and Love, and incidentally seems in part to anticipate the Internet, or the Internet of the future: ‘Why can’t all the books be stored in one big building, properly classified and indexed and catalogued, so that anybody who wants anything at all can get it at once: write, telephone, call, — get it immediately’ (pp. 295–96).

Act II is set in the twenty-fourth century and mainly concerns the consternation of the business community and the government over the increasingly powerful Brain Brotherhood, which many doctors, scientists, writers, engineers, and the working classes have joined; members of the organization, who receive no money apart from any needed for use in contact with the outside world, are seriously affecting the efficient running of the business community. Any attempts to prevent a company’s shipping orders from reaching the Sahara, for instance, are blocked by Brotherhood infiltrators. The Prime Minister feels increasingly isolated and, ironically, is beginning to feel like an outsider himself. He says, ‘Laugh at me if you like, but it is as if we are becoming outcasts from the world’, and believes that the existence of an Anti-War League means that the ‘good old days are gone’. But the inexorable power of the Brotherhood is such that even members of the government have applied to join it, although without success apart from one exception: the Fourth Minister (one of the few ‘human’ politicians) has been approved for admission largely because he has written a socialist play and is a lover of the arts. He has a vision of the future world: ‘I have the feeling that in […] ten years […] the life of Ministries and Governments will have passed away, and we who now possess power and eminence will have become outcasts in a darkness outside the human sphere.’ Predictably, the government decides to dispense with his services, although his expectations of the future are realized: by the end of the act, the world outside the Brain Brotherhood is in chaos before the people take over.

In Act III, all the action is in the far future; money no longer exists and crime too appears to be a thing of the past; there are no more wars, no private property or distinct classes, and unpleasant jobs are shared equally between everyone; each individual is working towards the improvement of society; disease has been eliminated, and even a sneeze causes alarm; sexual inhibitions are a thing of the past and monogamy is not the norm, although the few who choose to live in a permanent relationship usually have ‘side-mates’; applications have to be made to begin a ‘propagating union’, and it is unusual for a couple to be allowed to have custody of their own children.

Brain is a centralized computer and has become the new God, as indicated by the capitalization of ‘It(s)’, and It lists tasks from an intricate network of activities more or less freely chosen by the people. Anyone with a strong research project can be chosen by Brain to take a ‘B. C.’, meaning ‘Brain-controlled’ research towards a goal which will benefit society; following that, the highest accolade is to be allowed to work within the Brain itself.

The language used in Brain reflects the changed society; because the emphasis is now on the nature of the activity performed, the play is punctuated by references to ‘Regulars’, ‘Compulsories’ and ‘Playgames’; oaths have changed focus and emotions such as anger, annoyance or surprise are often conveyed by expressions such as ‘Mankind!’, ‘Race!’, ‘Co-operate!’, ‘Humanity!’ or ‘Struggle!’: in a world where the old God has no meaning, blasphemies are replaced by invocations of co-operative activity.

The ageing process, though, has not been arrested, and those unfit for work because too old are painlessly put to death. Wild-Eye is an elderly character in Brain who has to undergo the Death Test (a kind of measurement of people’s readiness for ‘euthanasia’), but he is not in pain and does not want to die: quite simply, he is becoming surplus to the needs of society and although he receives a temporary reprieve, his time to die will soon be ordained by Brain. Towards the end of the play, Brain says that it is imperative to gain ‘spacetime control’ in order for the world to survive and other Brains to continue elsewhere. However, ‘the human’ is too late, and as It says just before a star destroys the earth:

‘A thousand million years life was on earth, there was time for men to come together, the human to have evolved sooner, like beasts they preyed on one another, the human idea was not born. […] all worlds might have worked together, all consciousness grown into a unity, we might have called on other worlds…had we been human sooner…like beasts they preyed on one another, isolated in immensity, one man sapped the strength of another. Where there were two strengths there was less than one. […] Too late, too late!’

In the light of the above, of interest is the article 'UN is Told that Earth Needs an Asteroid Shield: Scientists Call for £68m a Year to Detect Danger, and More for Spacecraft to Defend against It' which appeared in the 9 December Observer of this year:

9 December 2008

Songs of Love and War: Afghan Women's Poetry, ed. by Sayd Bahodine Majrouh


I wouldn't normally pay things like this much mind, but this is so relevant, and so worthy, that I can't not. A short time ago, a message to my last post provided a link to Rubia, a project by Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE). The website says:

'Rubia 2009 Afghanistan calendar features Afghan women's poetry collected throughout the valleys of eastern Afghanistan and refugee camps of Pakistan by the late poet Sayd Bahodine Majrouh.

The calendar, designed by Beth Gottschling, showcases Rubia embroidery, and photographs by Beth Gottschling, Rachel Lehr, and Anna Lehr Mueser. All proceeds support Rubia's work in Afghanistan.

All of the landays in the calendar are reprinted with permission from Songs of Love and War: Afghan Women's Poetry, Edited by Sayd Bahodine Majrouh, Translated by Marjolijn De Jager, Other Press: New York, 2003.'

Atiq Rahimi and Sayd Bahodine Majrouh

It seems odd to say that someone who is called Afghanistan's 'only great postmodern writer' is obscure, but this is just what the poet Sayd Bahodine Majrouh (1928–88) is in England at least, and I suspect in many other countries too. Atiq Rahimi (winner of this year's Prix Goncourt with Syngué Sabour: pierre de patience) writes about his literary hero in this month's Magazine littéraire. He remembers picking up his Ajdahaï khodi (roughly 'The Dragon of the Self' or 'The Self Dragon') at 15 and greeting it with incomprehension, but nevertheless feeling that it had a magnetic power. He had the same feelings about the banned book after the Soviet invasion, when he was fortunate enough to rediscover it in a cardboard box of his father's: Majrouh had been an active member of the resistance against the invasion; but after being advised to read Carl Gustav Jung's Man and His Symbols, he understood that Majrouh was writing about the collective unconscious.

Majrouh was born in Afghanistan, received his doctorate in Montpellier, France, and taught Literature in Kabul before becoming Governor of the Province of Kapiça. Following the Soviet invasion, he went into exile in Pakistan, where some years later he was machine-gunned to death by Islamists in Peshawar.

Rahimi says that Majrouh lived beyond political, ethnic, linguistic or philosophical barriers. He is most noted for Ego Monstre, a large work in two volumes.

Mahjrouh first wrote Ego Monstre in Persian, re-wrote (not translated) it in Pashto, and almost completely re-wrote it in French. And the books are different, Rahimi says, 'not to adapt his writing and his thought to another culture and vulgarise it. Far from it. He was re-thinking and re-writing his texts to bring out another dimension to his works […]. His intensely visionary writings, though rooted in the contemporary history of Afghanistan, can never be reduced to present-day anecdotes. In everything he wrote, History becomes transformed into ‘epic fable’, and human tragedy into myth. In this way, his works become universal and timeless.’

Unfortunately, virtually none of his poetry is at present available in English. The Library of Congress redirects the name ‘Sayd Bahodine Majrouh’ to Majrūḥ, Bahāʾ al-Dīn, which is the only name the British Library recognises.

(My translation from the original French.)

4 December 2008

James Kelman's Kieron Smith, Boy

The Saltire Society's Scottish Book of the Year 2008 went to James Kelman's Kieron Smith, Boy. This novel, considered by a number of critics to be Kelman's best, was not even included on the Man Booker longlist this year, although Kelman's A Disaffection was shortlisted for the Booker in 1989, and his How Late It Was, How Late won the Booker in 1994. Sin comentario.

28 November 2008

Robert Burns’s Schooldays

Robert Hughes posts a correction, and an apology:

Several sources are clear that Robert Burns, the Scottish Bard, went to school in Kirkoswald at 17 years of age, and as he was born in 1759, my previous post obviously was wrong on a vital date; so humble pie to be eaten and spank me if you can catch me.

Burns died at 37 years of age after a prodigiously (re)productive career: some accounts suggest that 'By the end of his short life he was to have fathered fourteen children, nine of them out of wedlock, by six different mothers'.

He also gave Scotland hundreds of poems and songs, interweaving traditional tunes, an original use of vernacular dialect, and his own colourful observations of nature; human, animal and social.

Was 'Rabbie' Burns a subversive or a social climber?

Did he make accessible the Scots dialect, or slaughter the English language?

Was he a virile perpetuator of his race and genes, or a vile wanton rake?

Did he deserve an Oscar or an ASBO?

Controversial however he may be, there is a more prosaic question: did he know my ancestors?

He was an almost exact contemporary of my great-great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Nimmo, who was born in the parish of Kirkoswald less than a year before Burns. It might be a stretch to suppose that Thomas could have attended school with Rabbie, but there were enough younger siblings to make it likely that at least one of them studied with him, and in any case it is impossible to believe he did not know of the Nimmos of Auchenblain, whatever may have been his opinion of them.
One Burns-related website tells of a Jean Kennedy, a ‘gentlewoman’ who was running a pub, and William Fergusson inherited Auchenblain by marrying a Jean Kennedy.

Henceforth there is a cascade of names which seems to resonate between the Burns story and that of my Nimmo ancestors, see The Burns Encyclopedia. This link handily indexes many of Burns’s friends and acquaintances.

There are many Fergussons, (and Fergusons), and then Erskines, and Miss Erskine Nimmo.

A rather striking record from the Scotland census of 1861 shows the following people at 9 Brisbane St, Greenock:

Robert Candlish, aged 16, born in St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh. (A James Candlish was a boyhood friend of Burns, and indeed a best friend.)

Elizabeth Mary Chalmers, aged 32. (This unfortunate woman was to die a month later, and it seems likely that the census achieved a snapshot of a gathering at her deathbed. She was the daughter of Elizabeth Smith, neé Nimmo.)

Richard Chalmers, also aged 32, born in St Cuthbert’s Edinburgh, who was an English teacher. (Four Chalmers are listed in the index, including a close Ayrshire friend of Burns.)

Thomas C. Chalmers, aged 14, a ‘scholar’, born in St Cuthbert’s Edinburgh, described as a ‘brother’, so possibly a young brother of Richard.

Elizabeth Smith, ‘factor’s wife’, aged 62. (My great-great-great-grandmother. She was born Elizabeth Nimmo in 1796, and the little porkie-pie about her age was typical of ladies in her day. On her marriage in 1825 she was approaching 30, and it would have been natural to shave off three years or so. Her daughter and her sister were both called Catherine Erskine, and her grandson Arthur Britton gave Harding as a middle name to his own son. There is no other known candidate to be Elizabeth Nimmo at the relevant time.)

A Catherine Saw and an Agnes Saw were servants in the household.

Apart from Catherine and Agnes Saw, all the others had surnames which figure in the Robert Burns story.

Elizabeth Nimmo of course was a Smith by marriage: to my great-great-great-grandfather James Smith, born in Birmingham. Researching someone of that name is a bit like looking for the third nematode on the left in the Jurassic ooze.

However, another very great friend of Robert Burns was James Smith, a linen draper, and although this guy died young in Jamaica, it is perfectly possible that other family members later appeared in Birmingham.

James Smith of Birmingham was normally described as a ‘factor’, and I would welcome an exact estimation of what that signified at the era in question, but his son Frederick Sutherland Smith is in the 1871 census as a ‘factor and agent in cloth trade’. At the time he was occupying Wickhamford Manor with his own large family, and that property is still notable today as a large country hotel; so he was either going through a purple patch in the cloth trade or doing a nifty line in house-sitting.

Where did Elizabeth Nimmo meet James Smith? I doubt she was down in Birmingham to bask in the bright lights. Her daughter Elizabeth Mary, (whom I have mentioned as suffering an untimely death in Greenock), was first married to Robert Nimmo Nicholson, the son of a farmer near Greenock and his wife Abigail McRae…yes you’ve got it, Nimmo!

They liked to keep it in the family these people, and that is why it seems so probable that James Smith was actually of a Scottish family himself, and perhaps the same family as the James Smith of Robert Burns’s acquaintance. Certainly the trade seems to be the same.

(A small aside: Lionel Britton, who was Elizabeth Nimmo’s great-grandson, wrote Hunger and Love, which could be seen as a tirade against trade; yet not only was James Smith unquestionably in trade, (cloth or not), but another of Lionel’s great-grandfathers – James Britton, also of Birmingham – was in trade, the only doubt being whether he was a leathercutter, an ironmonger or both; and yet another great-grandfather – Samuel Thomas Senior of Redditch – had needed sixteen bodyguards to protect him from stonethrowing townspeople after he had industrialised the needle-manufacturing process there. Trade, trade, trade…it wasn’t about what other people were doing, it was about what his own people were doing.)

Was there a circle involved with Robert Burns who still cohered, (hung out together, if you prefer,) nearly seventy years after the Bard’s death? Or is it just a coincidence that all these names crop up together, and that the common thread of Ayrshire seems to link them?

Robert Burns experts to the rescue here please!

24 November 2008

José Saramago on Democracy

Nobel laureate José Saramago, the 86-year-old Portuguese writer who divides his life between Lisbon and Lanzarote, says in an interview with Maya Jaggi in the Guardian Review of 22 November 2008: 'I'm doubtful of democracy. [...]. Participation in political life is insufficient. People are called in every four years, and in between, the government does what it wants. That's not specific to Portugal'. Saramago describes himself as a 'hormonal communist – just as there's a hormone that makes my beard grow every day', and says of Barack Obama: 'It's a beautiful moment, democracy in action, when millions were mobilised – including people who had never voted before – for a new candidate, and a black candidate at that. It's a kind of revolution.' I doubt if many people saw it as a revolution, but the general idea is understood. Anyway, for an interesting interview on a major writer whose first job was as a car mechanic, this is Maya Jaggi‘s interview with José Saramago.

23 November 2008

Auchenblain, and the family legend

Robert Hughes posts on his family history:

My great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Robert Nimmo the Younger of Auchenblain had at least nine children, of whom perhaps the first was Thomas, born 21 February 1758, who later became an apothecary in Greenock.

Thomas was the father of at least eight children himself, the youngest daughter being Elizabeth Nimmo, my great-great-great-grandmother, and the great-grandmother of Lionel Britton, the ‘lost genius of the nineteen-thirties’, who is now receiving renewed attention.

Auchenblane, (which seems to be the preferred modern spelling, another alternative used in the past being Auchinblain), is a property at GB Grid ref. NS 261 079, a mile or so east of Kirkoswald, Ayrshire, in the direction of Maybole.

A Google Earth image shows the property today unchanged from its appearance on a map of 1859, so some things have endured in 150 years of turbulence!

Thomas Nimmo died at Greenock on 3 August 1834, according to the Greenock Advertiser of 7 August 1834, by courtesy of the Watt Museum, Greenock.

Fowler’s Commercial Directory of 1831–32 mentions him as a ‘druggist’ at 63 Dalrymple St, Greenock, with a house in Ann St.

His wife was Elizabeth Harding, although a birth record for one of their children gives her as ‘Hardy’.

Looking at the site Scotland’s People, it would seem that in the eighteenth century ‘Harding’ was almost invariably rendered as ‘Hardie’ or ‘Hardy’, while later the form ‘Harding’ emerges more commonly; or Scotland was invaded by Hardings around the turn of the century, and someone needs to show evidence of that before I would believe it.

My great-uncle Lionel Erskine Nimmo Britton used to assert that he was a fourth cousin of the Earl of Mar and Kellie, so was he?

His grandmother Catherine Erskine Smith was the daughter of Elizabeth Nimmo, and almost certainly named for Elizabeth’s elder sister Catherine Erskine Nimmo.

The Erskines are the family of the Earls of Mar and Kellie, but where is the connection?

It does not seem to be on the Nimmo of Auchenblain line, as none of the likely parents of Thomas Nimmo seem to trace back to the Erskines, but these Ayrshire burial records from Kirkoswald are interesting:

'Robert Nimmo, formerly residing in Auchenblain, died 11th May 1786, Junior/Younger.'

'Robert Nimmo, formerly residing in Auchenblain, died 3rd April 1806, Old/Elderly man'.

Did Robert Nimmo the Elder outlive Robert the Younger by twenty years?

Where then is the elusive Erskine connection?

Elizabeth Harding herself is a complete mystery, as there appear to be no records of her marriage to Thomas Nimmo, or of her birth. She died in Greenock on 19 July 1841, but the 1841 census was taken a few weeks earlier, and there is no trace of her. Furthermore, her daughter Catherine Erskine Nimmo died apparently unmarried on 28 July 1848 at 19 Brougham St, Greenock, but there is no trace of her either. There are some known issues with the 1841 census, but they do not affect this area at all. What does happen very frequently with the census and indeed other records, is that there is a mistranscription; or alternatively people are just not called what we expect, e.g. Thomas Nimmo’s eldest daughter Jean married John Nicholson in 1804, but her marriage record makes her Jane.

(On the other side of my family there is a record of a Jane McCallum, who was my Auntie Jean!).

Could anyone shed light on the mystery of Elizabeth Harding?

There remains the small chance that the link to the Erskines is through Auchenblain, but in any case the story of this property is interesting in itself.

It appears to have once belonged to the Fergussons, but the testament of Thomas Nimmo, recorded on 11 Dec 1834 at Paisley Sheriff Court, suggests that he owned a good part of it at that date.

He leaves, to his son Robert Nimmo, M.D., (who in fact tragically died at Messina, Sicily a mere two years later):

'the forty shilling land of Easter Auchenblain, the ten shilling land of M[---?] and the thirty shilling and fourpenny land of Rottonmiss and Mosside presently possessed by John Nicholson with the Mansionhouse of Auchenblain and h[aile?] houses, luggings, yards, Parks, P[arks?], mosses, muirs, meadows, ...'

He also leaves a hundred pounds a year to his wife Elizabeth Harding, (interesting that she should be named in this fashion: but I have examined the notion that she was in fact married to someone else, and doubt if there’s anything in that), stipulating also that out of the estate his daughters should each be paid a thousand pounds, (and there are four named), apart from the eldest, Jean, who is separately provided for as she is married to John Nicholson, who ‘possesses’ part of Auchenblain.

Without hearing from a Scottish property lawyer who wishes to wade through the eleven pages of the will itself, I surmise that Thomas conceived himself to be a man of substance, even if he wasn’t.

This account of the parish of Kirkoswald from 1837 is interesting.

Note that ‘Dr Nimmo’s heirs’ have property worth about 80 pounds a year, which doesn’t seem much in relation to the disbursements required by Thomas’s will; but perhaps those very provisions depleted the resources of the estate?

I would love to hear from the present owners of Auchenblane, (are you relatives?), and from anyone who can shed light on the issues raised here.

Are there any Erskine anoraks who can tell us how Elizabeth Nimmo was descended from that family?

Other families associated with Auchenblain besides Fergusson (William Fergusson is said to have inherited the property by marriage to the daughter of a John Kennedy), are Leggat or Legat, Hendry, and of course Nicholson.

Note also the Burns connection in the Kirkoswald link. The old Scottish Bard was at school in Kirkoswald in 1786, and knew a Miss Erskine Nimmo in Edinburgh. We suspect Robbie Burns knew the Nimmo family; can anyone corroborate this?

17 November 2008

Wolseley, Saskatchewan, and George Albert Thomas

Robert Hughes continues to excavate his past. He writes:

'Wolseley, in Canada's prairie province of Saskatchewan, had a population of something over a thousand in 1916, and was growing rapidly as migrants flooded into the West: two of them my great-great-uncles George and Frank Thomas.

Frank Thomas, born in 1876, arrived in Canada with his wife and two boys in 1911, and by 1916 was established in Wolseley working as a nurseryman in forestry.

George Thomas was officially Samuel, like his father and grandfather, but presumably things had become too complicated when his father could not shake off the "Sam Thomas Junior" handle, and so this young fellow became George.

By 6th March 1920, when he arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick, on the ship "Scandinavian", he was no longer Samuel but also no longer young; proposing to make a new life farming in Saskatchewan at nearly 48 years of age.

In 1906 he had married Ethel May Morris, who had been brought up near Frome in East Somerset, the daughter of a gardener on a large estate; and who was later known by the family as Aunty May.

Ethel May followed her husband across the Atlantic a month later, landing at Halifax, Nova Scotia from the 'Carmania' on 5th April 1920. With her was a five-year old boy called George.

We had thought that there may well have been no children of the marriage between George and Ethel May, but we were wrong: this child turns out to have been George Albert Thomas born Coventry, Warwickshire, on 25th Feb 1915, their son.

My cousin David Guillaume now remembers an occasion, soon after the Second World War, when Aunty May was showing some photographs to his Aunt Louise at her flat in Alcester. He remembers the expression: “he was already in the air force when the war started”.

This was very likely to have been George Albert Thomas, and as I can find no record of him being a casualty, he is quite likely to have survived the war, although that is not certain, and we all know how high was the attrition rate among airmen.

Of Frank Thomas' sons, we know what happened to Cecil, (born 1905): he had no children of his own, but adopted Jason in 1964; eventually dying aged around ninety.

Samuel Francis Thomas, already known as Frank by the 1916 census of Saskatchewan, and born Upper Ipsley, Worcestershire, on 10th Nov 1900, was said to have married the daughter of a pig-farmer, but we do not know if there were any children.

So if we have Canadian cousins out there, descended from either Frank, (Samuel Francis), or George Albert, we would love to hear from you!'

12 November 2008

British Working-Class Fiction and Lionel Britton’s Place in It


The text below is the third chapter of my thesis, and any reference to 'LBC' is an abbreviation of the Lionel Britton Collection held at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, USA. I am particularly grateful to the staff of the Special Collections Center there for their invaluable help. Apologies for any mis-formatting in the transference of this chapter to my blog.



British Working-Class Fiction and Lionel Britton’s Place in It

In this chapter my intention is to establish Lionel Britton’s position in relation to working-class fiction, which I define as a literature — mainly in the form of novels here — which reflects working-class experience and is almost invariably, either implicitly or explicitly, in opposition to the middle-class status quo. With the exception of two translations of books from the original Russian by other writers, all of Britton’s published work was in the 1930s, although Hunger and Love was mainly written in the 1920s. For this reason, I restrict the fictional works compared and contrasted with Britton’s to those published during the inter-war years. I avoid the word ‘proletarian’ because it is now a dated expression, and was already regarded as such some years ago by one of the foremost authorities on working-class literature, H. Gustav Klaus, who describes it as being ‘on the retreat’ (1). But during the period under consideration it was very much in vogue, and Hunger and Love itself, on the rear cover of the paperback edition of Brain, is advertised as: ‘A great proletarian novel revolutionary in form and content’ (2).In its place I shall use the term ‘working-class’ as an adjectival, and the plural ‘working classes’ as a phrase which perhaps better describes their heterogeneous nature, and which also allows for the inclusion of minor non-manual categories of work. I sometimes use the expression ‘internal working-class’ — which was probably first used, although not defined, by Raymond Williams — to describe work written by people from working-class backgrounds with the interests of the working classes at heart (3). No matter how much or how little the boundaries between the working classes and the middle classes may have blurred between the inter-war years and the present day, it was then a time of great poverty for the working classes in general, and the emergent literature is a reflection of this.


The bulk of this chapter is the analysis of several working-class novels, and a few short stories in passing, in order to elucidate some ways in which these works are similar to and different from Britton’s novel. I describe this literature as a sub-genre because it is operating within the framework of the dominant bourgeois novel and shares many features with it; the essential differences are thematic, and I therefore deal with the books thematically, referring to certain frequent working-class preoccupations, although it is not always possible to separate one preoccupation neatly from another. I conclude the chapter by briefly relating the realism of the working-class novel to working-class autobiographies, briefly explaining how Hunger and Love differs so much from other novels of its kind.

But I begin by giving a sweeping overview of working-class literature from the early nineteenth century, drawing on recent research over the last thirty years or so, continuing with a more thorough analysis of the working-class fiction of the inter-war years, and the prolific 1930s in particular. The main aim in this drive towards recovering lost working-class works of fiction was to salvage work long forgotten as a result of the dominance of the middle-class canon: as late as 1985 Klaus noted that, in spite of some research and conferences on the subject, it was an area which was still ‘virtually ignored by literary scholars’ (4). With the exception of perhaps four canonical working-class writers — Robert Tressell, Walter Greenwood, James Hanley and Lewis Grassic Gibbon — it was as though there had never been any others.

The beginnings of working-class fiction are far from easy to ascertain, although it would perhaps be logical to take 1832 as a starting point, as Ian Haywood does in Working-class Fiction (1997), because that is the date of the Reform Bill, when the government rejected calls for an extension of the franchise to the working classes; E. P. Thompson believes that the making of the working classes began as a result of this rejection: ‘In every manufacturing district a hundred experiences confirmed the new consciousness of class which the Bill had […] so carefully defined’ (5). Chartist groups emerged, as did a number of working-class Chartist poets, although Klaus notes that ‘the novel [was] very much a minority form, and particularly so during the first Chartist decade (1837–47)’ (6). And although there were some Chartist novels written by middle-class writers such as Thomas Frost, G. W. M. Reynolds and Ernest Jones, there were hardly any internal working-class Chartist novels, and even of those few a novel by the significant working-class writer Thomas Cooper, Martha Vicinus notes, ‘has not survived’ (7). Ian Haywood calls Thomas Martin Wheeler’s highly significant Sunshine and Shadow (1849–50) ‘the first truly working-class novel’, and understandably dismisses Godfrey Malvern (1843) by Thomas Miller, the (incidentally non-Chartist) former basket maker and childhood friend of Cooper’s, because it is ‘not about the working class’; however, he does not mention Miller’s earlier Gideon Giles: The Roper (1841), which not only has working-class protagonists, but also contains some criticism of the inconsistent labour laws of the time (8). Essentially, Gideon Giles is not directly oppositional and contains some sentimentality which Louis James mentions, although James has a certain enthusiasm for a book which without doubt represents a significant beginning in the history of the internal working-class novel (9).

A number of novels published around the middle of the nineteenth century — such as Disraeli’s Sybil (1845), Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848) and North and South (1855), and Dickens’s Hard Times (1854) — addressed the ‘Condition of England’ question by concentrating on the plight of the working classes, and some of these writers certainly influenced a number of internal working-class novelists: Haywood sees Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole (1933), for instance, partly as a ‘reworking’ of Mary Barton (10)

Later in the nineteenth century, significant bridges were being built between different political minorities: a number of middle-class women writers drew attention to the similarity between the position of women in general and that of the working classes. Ann Ardis writes about the forgotten Lady Florence Dixie’s Gloriana: or, the Revolution of 1900 (1890), a utopian novel in which a woman posing as a man becomes an M. P., reveals her true identity when threatened, and unites two minority groups (women and the working classes) in a bloodless revolution in which she becomes the head of state (11). And Brunhild de la Motte writes of the ‘striking phenomenon’ of working-class socialism supported — obviously to varying degrees — by such middle-class novelists as Constance Howell, Clementine Black, Emma Brooke, Gertrude Dix and Margaret Harkness (12). Harkness is the most well known and probably the most influential in this list; a rector’s daughter to whom Engels wrote an important letter which I refer to in greater detail in the next chapter, she spent some time among the poor in Whitechapel and wrote several novels on the plight of the working classes; John Goode writes an article on her, and Ingrid von Rosenberg also discusses the novels of Harkness — along with those of W. E. Tirebuck (who was ‘born in Liverpool in “humble circumstances”’) — in relation to French naturalism (13). (It was not until towards the end of the nineteenth century and into the beginning of the twentieth that the ‘slum novel’ by naturalistic writers such as George Gissing and engine-fitter’s son Arthur Morrison appeared.)

H. Gustav Klaus has been mentioned previously, and his contribution to the recovery of working-class literature is of great importance: he was one of the first people to take a special interest in this field, and has written or edited several books on the subject. Between the beginning of the twentieth century and World War I, there were several internal working-class novelists, some of whose works Paul Salveson investigates in his essay in Klaus’s The Rise of Socialist Fiction, thus contradicting the belief by some critics that there were no other working-class writers between the beginning of the twentieth century and 1914. Salveson not only speaks of the popular Allen Clarke (perhaps better known as ‘Teddy Ashton’), but also of other forgotten ‘members’ of the ‘Lancashire school’ of novelists who were encouraged by Clarke’s socialist vehicle Northern Weekly, particularly Arthur Laycock (son of the Chartist poet Samuel), John Tamlyn, and Fred Plant (14). In the same book, J. M. Rignall analyses The Handloom Weaver’s Daughter (1904) by the former factory worker James Haslam (another writer with associations with the Lancashire school), and Edmund and Ruth Frow give a brief account of mill worker Ethel Carnie Holdsworth’s life and work (15).

A few words, too, must be said about D. H. Lawrence (also mentioned in more detail below), whose novel of working-class life in a mining town — Sons and Lovers (1913) — influenced a number of working-class writers, not least Walter Brierley and F. C. Boden; both of these novelists lived near Eastwood where Lawrence was born, where he spent his youth, and on which he modelled Bestwood in his novel.

The year after the publication of Sons and Lovers, the only novel by Robert Tressell was published posthumously. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (1914 (abridged edition) and 1955 (complete edition)), even when originally heavily edited by Jessie Pope for Grant Richards, became a seminal novel of working-class literature, and was long associated with the socialist principles of the original Labour Party (16). It is appropriate that Alan Sillitoe, the writer of the even better known internal working-class novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958), wrote an Introduction to a recent edition; and it is interesting to note that Sillitoe recalls being given Tressell’s book by a wireless operator who described it as ‘the book that won the ’45 election for Labour’ (17) This comment is obviously rather hyperbolic, but it is nevertheless indicative of the immense importance of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, which is incidentally different from the vast majority of working-class works in that, like Hunger and Love, it too contains strong elements of humour.

Of the 1920s, Andy Croft quotes the miner Harold Heslop, speaking at the Conference of the International Union of Revolutionary Writers in 1927: ‘proletarian art in Great Britain is in a very backward condition — and is in fact hardly begun’ (18). Heslop’s use of the word ‘art’ no doubt alludes to literature more than any other discipline, and few internal working-class novels emerged in this decade, although among the small number that did are James C. Welsh’s The Underworld (1920) and The Morlocks (1924), Ellen Wilkinson’s Clash (1929) and Harold Heslop’s The Gate of a Strange Field (1929) (19). The date that Carnie Holdsworth’s This Slavery (1925) was actually written is open to question. Klaus finds that it ‘clearly bears the mark of an earlier, in fact, pre-war composition’, and John Lucas also suggests that publication of the novel was delayed; but Pamela Fox is less sceptical about a discrepancy between the date of writing and publication, believing that the novel shows ‘a narrative structure characteristic of later, class-conscious fiction’ (20).

Klaus’s above quotation is in a chapter in which he analyses some neglected working-class novels from the 1920s, including some already quoted above (21). More significantly, in Tramps, Workmates and Revolutionaries (1993), Klaus re-published — along with works by a few writers who were to become well known in the 1930s — short stories from a few very obscure working-class writers of the decade, notably Dick Beech of Hull and R. M. Fox of London (who, like Britton, was imprisoned as a conscientious objector and also visited Russia) (22). Klaus’s criteria for inclusion in his anthology are that none of the writers comes from the professional classes and that none of them received a public school or an Oxbridge education, although he admits that some readers might be ‘surprised, or alarmed’ by his inclusion of D. H. Lawrence and Katherine Mansfield (23). Lawrence certainly came from a working-class background and so can with some justification be called a working-class writer; but Mansfield, whose father was a very successful businessman occupying a high position in New Zealand society, appears to be very much out of place in the company of ex-sailors and miners. But neither Lawrence nor Mansfield is in need of the recovery that is Klaus’s stated principal aim: both authors are far from forgotten. Klaus admits that stories of the working classes are not representative of Mansfield’s work, and appears to include her ‘Life of Ma Parker’ short story more because of its ‘power of empathy’ with a working-class woman than to redress the sex balance due to the shortage of working-class women writers in this anthology (24). But there are nevertheless two (albeit very brief) stories by internal working-class women writers — Carnie Holdsworth’s ‘The Sheep’ and Hannah Mitchell’s ‘May Day’ — included in Klaus’s book (25).

The reasons for this lack of women writers are obviously complex and largely irrelevant to this thesis, although Pamela Fox may well be close to the truth of the matter when she speaks of working-class fiction ‘traditionally operat[ing] as a masculine genre, largely concerned with “public” and transformative experience’ along with ‘the overall masculinization of the Left’ (26). And Rebecca O’Rourke also has a strong argument when she writes of the male ‘catalysing experiences’, particularly unemployment, which ‘generated writing’, as opposed to the experiences of women, who are perceived as ‘most fully of their class when silenced’ (27). The lack of representation for women in working-class fiction is in part compensated for by the feminism in Grassic Gibbon’s A Scots Quair (1932–34), about which Alison Lumsden, for example, has recently written (28).

Until relatively recently, there was a surprising general ignorance of the existence of working-class fiction. At a Brighton Workers’ Educational Association lecture in 1940, Virginia Woolf said: ‘Take away all that the working class has given to English literature and that literature would scarcely suffer; take away all that the educated class has given, and English literature would scarcely exist’ (29). Woolf was not speaking of any particular period in literary history, although she had just lived through the 1930s, a decade in which internal working-class literature burgeoned. Valentine Cunningham does cover a number of working-class writers, and although most of them he only mentions in passing, he at the same time acknowledges the importance of the authors’ revelations and the regional diversity of their work. However, he gives most of them little critical coverage and, in spite of finding ‘fine and moving’ elements in Lewis Jones’s two novels, he appears to apply the comment below to many working-class novels in general:

'They nevertheless do not altogether avoid the faults of their sort: triteness and melodrama of plot, sentimental class chauvinism about workers, urgent dogmatisms, as well as a tendency to make the workers, especially members of the Communist Party, into men and women of excessive heroism and unbelievably steely militancy' (30).

In general, the impression has to be that Cunningham is being dismissive of working-class literature.

Haywood names eighteen novelists that ‘any survey must include’ (31). His list appears to be in random order, so I re-list the authors geographically: James Barke, Joe Corrie and Lewis Grassic Gibbon (Scotland), Ralph Bates (Swindon), Simon Blumenfeld, Willie Goldman and John Sommerfield (London), Walter Brierley and F. C. Boden (the East Midlands), B. L. Coombes — who in fact never published a novel — and Lewis Jones (South Wales), Walter Greenwood, Jack Hilton (the Manchester area), Leslie Halward (Birmingham), James Hanley and Jim Phelan (Liverpool), Harold Heslop (the north-east), and Frank Tilsley (the north-west). Understandably, Ellen Wilkinson seems to be excluded because her only imaginative work after the 1920s was the crime novel The Division Bell Mystery (1932), although a few significant names could be added to the above list, such as William Holt (Yorkshire), the déclassé John Hampson (Birmingham), and Jack Jones (South Wales). (Gwyn Thomas’s novels were not published until some years after the 1930s, and Kate Roberts’s Feet in Chains was not translated into English until some time later either.) Interestingly, six of the writers Haywood lists were miners at some time, if not for the major part of their working lives.

Below I give a brief survey of the critical works about the working-class literature of the 1930s. I have mentioned some of them previously because most of them relate to a much broader period, and only one of these works specifically concerns only the 1930s.

One of the first books to cover a substantial number of working-class writers (along with a number of middle-class ones) is David Smith’s Socialist Propaganda in the Twentieth-Century British Novel (1978) (32). It is relatively short and contains a chapter on A Scots Quair, although it was perhaps unique at the time in that it also included a chapter specifically relating to the works of a number of internal working-class writers of the 1930s (33).

Worpole’s Dockers and Detectives (1982) is also a significant early contribution to the recovery, and although its spectrum is broad it contains a section on the non-realist work of Jim Phelan, George Garrett, and James Hanley and a chapter largely concerned with the fiction of the East End in the 1930s (34).

Gustav Klaus’s first English book on the subject is the previously mentioned The Socialist Novel in Britain, the title itself revealing how broad an area he covers; nevertheless, one contribution involves Ramón López Ortega’s exploration of the use of language in a number of the working-class novels of the 1930s (35). Klaus’s The Literature of Labour is even more extensive in that it covers two hundred years of working-class fiction, and also analyses songs, poems, and the documentarism of the 1930s and 1940s, although more relevant to the internal working-class fiction of the 1930s are two particular chapters: one on the work of Harold Heslop, and another analysing several working-class novels published in 1936. As with his essay on 1920s novels in The Socialist Novel in Britain, though, where works by the middle-class H. R. Barbor and Mary Agnes Hamilton are included, Klaus here too finds it necessary to analyse non-working-class writers sympathetic to the working-class cause, provoking Peter Hitchcock to ask: ‘In what way can the specificity of working-class fiction be addressed if it is not written by the working class?’ (36). This seems to be a crucial point, but is not a problem which arises in British Industrial Fictions (2000), edited jointly by Klaus and Stephen Knight with the principal purpose of drawing attention to the industrial and geographical diversity of working-class fiction, as the pluralized title indicates (37). There are three chapters in this book which are relevant to the period on which this thesis concentrates: Simon Dentith’s ‘Tone of Voice in Industrial Writing in the 1930s’, which is primarily concerned with Love on the Dole; Rolf Meyn’s ‘Lewis Jones’s Cwmardy (1937) and We Live (1939)’, and John Fordham’s ‘James Hanley’s The Furys: Modernism and the Working Class’ (38). Also edited by Klaus and Knight is ‘To Hell with Culture’: Anarchism and Twentieth-Century British Literature (2005), in which two essays cover a separate aspect of working-class literature in the 1930s: William K. Malcolm’s, which extends his exploration of Grassic Gibbon’s anarchism briefly touched on in A Blasphemer & Reformer (1984), and Raimund Schäffner’s analysis of anarchism in the Spanish Civil War represented in Ralph Bates’s Lean Men (1934) and The Olive Field (1936) (39).

To return to other contributors to the critical work on working-class fiction, and necessarily backtrack a few years, Jeremy Hawthorn’s The British Working-Class Novel in the Twentieth Century (1984) concentrates on individual working-class writers, although the contributors tend to adhere to the working-class canon: A Scots Quair and Love on the Dole are analysed, for example, and Lawrence is also covered (40). As if to redress this canonical imbalance, Graham Holderness’s article, ‘Miners and the Novel: From Bourgeois to Proletarian Fiction’, speaks of a ‘dangerous concentration on a handful of texts which already seem doomed to canonization as the great tradition of proletarian fiction’ (41). Perhaps a little surprisingly, though, he includes Lewis Jones along with Tressell and Grassic Gibbon in this canon, but then goes on to analyse Walter Brierley’s more obscure Means Test Man (1935) (42).

It would be very difficult not to mention Andy Croft’s role in the general recovery of working-class writing: his Red Letter Days: British Fiction in the 1930s, along with his other critical work, is another vital part of the move to recover forgotten working-class texts. His Preface is in part a criticism of what for him (in the early 1980s) was a limited and limiting list of books accepted into the Labour Party’s collective heart; the Preface is also in part a mission statement of what his book is, namely:

'[A] contribution to the process of restoration, to help make forgotten achievements known and available, to paint in some of the faces removed from the picture, to lengthen the reading-lists, widen the syllabuses, open the book-boxes of the canon, still largely untouched by all the energetic republishing' (43).

The reference to ‘paint[ing] in some of the faces removed from the picture’ is an obvious allusion to Stalin’s attempts to airbrush the likes of Trotsky from history, and the analogy fits particularly well with the effective disappearance of working-class writers from literary history. Nevertheless, the project sounds a little over-ambitious, although Croft was writing at a time when the British left was strong and there was a great optimism, this being when publishing houses such as Virago, Lawrence and Wishart, and Caliban were introducing forgotten texts to a new public.

Today, though, many of these new publications — a large number of which contained informative new Introductions (some by Croft himself) with biographical and bibliographical details of the authors — are now out of print, and some are even more difficult to find than the first editions. Red Letter Days is an extended version of Croft’s PhD thesis of 1985, obviously with a more popular and polemical slant, and wears its political heart on its sleeve. Unfortunately, as with almost all critical works up to this date, in both the thesis and the book, working-class writers mingle freely with middle-class socialist sympathisers, often unannounced, and it is by no means clear from which class a writer originates; furthermore, the (often very obscure) books are frequently mentioned some chapters later on, with no reminder of their author, and titles in the Index are given under the name of the author as opposed to the title of the novel: this is a major critical work about 1930s working-class fiction, but unfortunately the overall effect is confusing.

Finally, Ian Haywood’s brief study, Working-class Fiction: From Chartism to Trainspotting, in the ‘Writers and their Work’ series, is necessarily limited in size, although unlike Red Letter Days it does restrict itself to internal working-class writers, making it a very valuable general reference guide. Working-class Fiction is a whistle-stop tour of the sub-genre from the 1840s to the 1990s, and although its principal strength, perhaps, is in its analysis of long-forgotten works by writers such as Thomas Martin Wheeler and Allen Clarke, the inter-war years are given a significant coverage which occupies almost fifty pages, and although ten of those pages are dedicated to Love on the Dole, five to well-known works by James Hanley, and a few to A Scots Quair, many other authors are included. One point of interest is that Haywood’s book contains a paragraph about one of the few white-collar writers of the working classes, Frank Tilsley, although only A Plebeian’s Progress (1933) is dealt with out of several novels that Tilsley wrote in the 1930s (44).

The most significant point about these critical works — at least for the purpose of my thesis — is that Lionel Britton, who wrote so extensively of Arthur Phelps’s exclusion, is himself almost completely excluded from all of the critical works on working-class literature. There is no mention of Britton in Worpole, Hawthorn or Haywood. Perhaps somewhat bizarrely, in his Introduction to Socialist Propaganda in the Twentieth-Century British Novel, David Smith excludes Hunger and Love from his catalogue of socialist propaganda because it ‘rail[s] against the system […] but […] fail[s] to proffer any radical alternative’ (45). Croft lists a number of objections to Smith’s excluding such people as Britton and Greenwood (who is also excluded by Smith for the same reason), concluding with: ‘Above all, [Smith’s] criticism fails to take into account the psychological and the political effects of unemployment upon the unemployed themselves, fails to recognize the experience of defeat that is involved’ (46). Britton’s novel clearly signals a belief in the importance of a kind of anarchist society as opposed to the cut-throat individualism of the existing competitive one, and goes to some lengths to suggest alternatives to the prevailing discourse; it seems likely that Smith excluded Hunger and Love because the narrator is not committing himself (or the protagonist) to any specific (party) political line.

Britton does not appear in the Index of Red Letter Days, although the book does have two very brief endnotes concerning Hunger and Love: the first is about Britton’s exclusion from Smith’s book, the other Garry’s negative review of it in the communist Daily Worker mentioned in Chapter 1 (47). In passing, Valentine Cunningham mentions ‘Lionel Brittan’ (sic), although he only does so as an introduction to commenting on Orwell’s nostalgie de la boue (48). But the most extreme case of Britton’s exclusion must be in Stuart Laing’s article in Frank Gloversmith’s Class, Culture and Social Change (1980), where a four-line quotation is given from Orwell’s 1940 radio broadcast. The radio programme is relevant to this chapter as it is about the working-class novel, and in it Orwell specifically singles out Hunger and Love — with some reservations — as ‘an outstanding book’ of the sub-genre (49). It is remarkable that Orwell remembers the book so vividly from when he reviewed it for the Adelphi almost ten years previously, but it is even more remarkable that Laing simply refers to the quotation — which is exclusively about Hunger and Love — as concerning ‘one particular novel’, and mentions neither the author nor the title (50). And yet it can be argued that Britton had an influence of Orwell’s work; Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936) has a number of moments which could easily have been inspired by Britton, although the example below from Coming Up for Air (1939) seems to bear the distinct hallmark of Britton’s writing style: the enumeration, the (rather ironically intended in this case) conspiracy theory and the sense of urgency all suggest a pastiche of Britton’s Hunger and Love:

'And all the soul-savers and Nosey Parkers, the people whom you’ve never seen but who rule your destiny all the same, the Home Secretary, Scotland Yard, the Temperance League, the Bank of England, Lord Beaverbrook, Hitler and Stalin on a tandem bicycle, the bench of Bishops, Mussolini, the Pope—they were all of them after me. I could almost hear them shouting:

"There’s a chap who thinks he’s going to escape! There’s a chap who says he won’t be streamlined! He’s going back to Lower Binfield! After him! Stop him!"' (51).

There is a very strong case for including Britton as a writer of a genuine working-class novel. Those who had seen him as well as read him accepted automatically that he was an important working-class writer: Jean Macgibbon calls him ‘one of the earliest significant working-class writers’, and similarly, the novelist and acquaintance of Britton, Mollie Morris, called him ‘a proletarian visionary’ (52).

And Britton was of course seen as working class by newspaper reviewers and critics. William Empson calls Hunger and Love ‘one of the few ostensibly proletarian works of any energy that England has to show’, although he believes that Britton really wants ‘the opportunity not to be proletarian’ (53). J. F. Horrabin is much more positive about Britton’s working-class status, claiming that Hunger and Love ‘is as proletarian, as real-true-proletarian, as The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists or Singing Jail-birds’ (a play by Upton Sinclair), and Philip Henderson also agrees with this, linking Britton to two canonical working-class writers: ‘The novels of Lionel Britton, James Hanley and Walter Greenwood may be taken as fairly representative of the voice of the emergent British working class to date’ (54).

In what has survived of a long commentary on Hunger and Love that was written by Constant Huntington as an Introduction to the novel before Russell wrote his, there is the following observation:

'Lionel Britton comes of the lower orders of which he writes, so that he is obviously speaking of the things he knows. This authentic character of the book has indeed been commented on almost without exception by every reviewer and everyone who has read the book' (55).

Huntington makes no exaggeration here, and words such as ‘true’ and ‘authentic’ abound in reviews of Britton’s work.

Britton too associated himself with the working classes: the titles of two articles he wrote, ‘An Errand-Boy’s Philosophy’ and ‘The Mind of a Ragamuffin’, are revealing: he is associating two ‘types’ — normally linked with a low level of the working classes — with cerebral matters (56). In these articles, Britton states that he believes that the main obstacles to the intellectual development of the working classes are people in a position of authority, and says of his childhood: ‘I did not like everyday life. […] They wanted to force me to accept it. I despised them. But most of all I despised them because they insisted that I — we — must not be intellectual’ (57). Britton is adopting a stance that aligns himself with the working classes, at the same time as he is occupying a political position which assumes that the intellect is the main weapon for them to use against the middle classes. As he reveals a few days later of his former school, ‘elementary education seemed to me one wild shriek of fear lest we should become too clever for them’ (58).Britton admits that he may not then have been able to express this idea in quite the same words as he can now, but that he ‘could not help sensing something’. He is evidently constructing an autobiographical basis on which to found his conspiracy theory. He intended his work to reach a large audience, and in a letter to Acheson from Moscow states: ‘I can’t write for a few individuals, but only for the masses. Of course, in England I should say “the world”, but that’s not an idea that’s very understandable in Russia (59).

But my main concern in this chapter, as previously stated, is to address the similarities (and differences) between Britton’s work and that of other working-class writers. In his short study of James Kelman, Klaus, through a process of detailing the features usually associated with working-class literature but which are missing from Kelman’s post-industrial writing, comes close to listing most of the key features of the working-class inter-war novel (and other periods) in general:

'[O]ne looks in vain here for the exceptionally gifted working-class figure, the fighter for the Cause, the working-class hearth and home, the diurnal family life, the archetypal industrial setting, the communal action that were the stock-in-trade of the traditional working-class novel' (60).

With the obvious exception of the very gifted Phelps, who was also a kind of fighter for a cause, the same comment about Klaus’s list could be made about Hunger and Love: there is certainly no domestic cosiness, no industrial setting, and very little communal action. To these absences, though, Klaus adds the features which are present in Kelman’s work: ‘the workless and the homeless, the casually and the menially employed, the cadgers and the dodgers, in short the powerless marginalized section of the working class’. It would be very easy to argue a case to include Phelps and some characters in Hunger and Love in these groups.

Before moving into an analysis of my chosen texts, it is first advisable to point out that, although I have stated that working-class literature is essentially oppositional, there are some works by internal working-class writers that act against this general rule. Caradoc Evans’s My People (1915) is a bitter attack on the Welsh and is described as ‘savagely bleak’ by Rhys Davies in his idiosyncratic part-autobiography, Print of a Hare’s Foot (1969); furthermore, Richard Llewellyn’s How Green Was my Valley (1939), in essence a sentimental novel, contains non-, indeed anti-, oppositional material which is critical of trade unions (61). There was never a homogeneous working-class school of writing, even if some writers may have felt obliged to adhere to the Soviet line for fear of exclusion.

In order to establish ways in which Hunger and Love is similar to the working-class literature of the time, I shall examine several areas, not all of which are mentioned in Klaus’s James Kelman, but which are nevertheless prominent in this literature: the description of work, unemployment and money, the treatment of gender and birth control, reading, shame and the feeling of being watched, and the criticism of society as a whole. The main novels I refer to are Wilkinson’s Clash, Harold Heslop’s The Gate of a Strange Field, Walter Brierley’s Means Test Man (1935) and Sandwichman (1937), Frank Tilsley’s The Plebeian’s Progress and She Was There Too (1938), and James Hanley’s Drift (1930) (62). None of these works is a ‘canonical’ working-class novel Significantly, as with Hunger and Love, all have some autobiographical content, sometimes very strongly so.

One of the earliest articles that was part of the recovery of working-class fiction was Roy Johnson’s ‘The Proletarian Novel’, which in spite of some criticisms of working-class literature does make a very valid point. After stating that the ‘novels’ Means Test Man and B. L. Coombes’s These Poor Hands (1939) — the latter of which Coombes sub-titles ‘The Autobiography of a Miner Working in South Wales’, and which Andy Croft labels a ‘documentary’ — ‘fall into the trap of being over-naturalistic accounts of life in mining communities’, Johnson concedes that ‘most middle-class writers have excluded from their novels the subject which dominates much working-class fiction — work itself’ (63). One central function of working-class literature is evidently to redress this balance.

In a chapter concerning the working-class novel, it is hardly possible to ignore the contribution of many writers to the literature of mining because so many novels concern this industry and are frequently set inside the pit in many scenes. Arthur Phelps, who works in the book trade throughout almost all of Hunger and Love, has no obvious immediate relevance here, although Britton calls one of his chapters ‘Mind-Mining’ in self-conscious acknowledgement of the fact that he is actually writing a working-class novel, albeit with the emphasis on cerebral matters (pp. 7–11); furthermore, Britton’s interest in dramatizing Gwyn Jones’s mining novel Times Like These (mentioned in the Introduction to this thesis) indicates an interest in working-class literature in general. Another mining novel is Harold Heslop’s first book to be published in Britain, The Gate of a Strange Field, which is a good example of the concerns of the working-class literature of the time, and which was written at about the same period that Britton was working on Hunger and Love.

Among the similarities between Hunger and Love and The Gate of a Strange Field are the love of freedom and the idea of work as slavery. At the beginning of Heslop’s novel, fourteen-year-old Joe Tarrant is understandably only dimly aware of the horrors of repetitive work: ‘He did not know that the shackles of industry had him fast. He was not conscious of the term, slavery’ (64). And like Harry Hardcastle in Love on the Dole when he begins working at Marlowe’s engineering factory, Tarrant’s youthful enthusiasm makes him initially consider his first job to be an adventure, a kind of exploration. But a little time later, when Tarrant describes the beginning of his day down the mine itself, there is no longer any sense of adventure:

'Having received his lamp he proceeds to the inner room where he is given an identification token, a piece of metal upon which is inscribed a number, which he gives back on ascending the pit. Then he passes the lamp tester. Here the lamp is blown so as to make sure that there is no access between the outer atmosphere and the flame, except by the correct place. Then the lamp is put into a gas chamber where it is extinguished. It is then re-lit and the miner is at liberty to pass through the ventilation doors leading to the actual mine-head' (65).

The passage is part of a brief switch to the present tense to convey a sense of both immediacy and regularity, although the frequent use of the passive voice makes it much more powerful, accentuating an impression of impersonal, almost de-personalized, bourgeois formality underlined by such words as ‘proceeds’, ‘ascending’ and ‘extinguished’. It is almost as if the narrator is describing a scientific experiment, or the actions of automata. The really chilling presence in the passage, which is enhanced by the oddly ceremonious language, is not fully expressed, although the identification token (which bears an impersonal number rather than a name) makes it plain: there is an ever-present possibility of death in the miner’s world. Furthermore, the above quotation also obviously records an autobiographical experience; Heslop worked at Horton colliery in South Shields for fifteen years, and the reference to pit ponies putting their heads deep into their water troughs to avoid the dust and beetles on the surface is another example of a special kind of knowledge. This is insider knowledge, perhaps appearing in a detailed list or a sequence of numbers, and it is frequent in working-class fiction. Phelps has access to this kind of knowledge, such as in his detailing of book sizes and conditions: ‘the interminable cr. 8vo, roy. 8vo, 12mo, old calf re-backed, fine tall copy, few worm-holes in margin’ (p. 350).

And in the working-class novel, it is not only work that is detailed and catalogued in this fashion: often, the slender means by which the working classes live and eke out their existence is seen in the overriding importance of money, with every penny being vital. In She Was There Too, money becomes a prime concern as Ethel Reynolds approaches the end of her pregnancy. She writes a meticulously itemized list of expenses which is read by her husband Joe:

'Rent was at the top: 14/6; Coal, 2/9; Bread, 2/6; Meat, 3/6; Milk, 1/10; Vegetables and fruit, 2/3; Laundry — bed things, 3/3; Gas meter, 2/-; Electric meter, 1/-; Fish, 1/2; Groceries 6/5. Insurances, 1/2; Papers, 10d.; Clothing club, 2/-. That came to £2.5.2. Underneath, Ethel had written: Shoe repairs, 2/3; Flannel, 3/-' (66).

Means Test Man too is full of small details similar to those found in Hunger and Love and She Was There Too, particularly relating to money. Jack, for example, finds that he can avoid paying the tuppence stamp duty levied on withdrawals in excess of two pounds from ‘the Co-op’ by simply withdrawing only £1 19s 11d. And on buying mother-of-pearl buttons from Woolworth’s, the change he receives from a one pound note is detailed exactly: ‘a ten-shilling note, four florins, a shilling, a sixpence, a threepenny-piece and a penny’ (67). Money is often represented metaphorically or symbolically, but here its pure materiality, its vital importance, is dwelt upon. And the narrator also dwells on the frugality of the Cooks’ existence, detailing exactly how they spend the twenty-five shillings and threepence ‘dole’ money Jack is given each week, including Jane buying off-cuts of meat on Saturdays, and waiting until the final hour to buy perishable foodstuffs because she knows that the seller, fearing having ruined stock on his hands by Monday, will be forced to lower the price.

Stealing is a possible short-term escape from money problems, and Tilsley’s protagonists in The Plebeian’s Progress and I’d Do It Again (1936) show very different attitudes towards the subject (68). In the former, Allen has attempted to steal before, although his conscience defeated him; at the accountants where he works, he steals ten shillings from the safe but then puts the money back, immediately criticizing himself for doing so: ‘He laughed shortly: inverted kleptomania!...What a weak-kneed simp he was! An unpractical dreamer; a third-rate nonentity; a coward, coward, coward!’ (69). This is similar to two occasions in Hunger and Love: when Arthur is forced to end his employment with Skillick, he also secretly pays back the price of two books he has stolen, and in an incident mentioned in the previous chapter, in which he takes a sixpence from the stairs, Arthur’s guilt is so strong that he feels obliged to pay it back indirectly by claiming fewer expenses for bus fares. But it is his repeated words, echoing Allen’s internal monologue, which are more memorable than his actions: ‘Thief thief thief thief thief thief’ (p. 65). Allen’s stealing leads to destitution, murdering his wife, and being consequently hanged, but the anonymous first-person narrator in I’d Do It Again feels no such guilt; it seems almost as though the later novel were written to dispel any suggestion that The Plebeian’s Progress is a warning about the negative consequences of stealing because in this the serial thief not only escapes with impunity, but would, as the title suggests, readily repeat his crimes.

Inevitably, as in so many working-class novels, there is a debilitating spell of unemployment in The Plebeian’s Progress, when the novel echoes some of Phelps’s problems with his worn-out clothes, even when he is employed: the nails in Allen’s worn-out shoes cause him discomfort when he walks, Anne darns his socks many times over, and uses newspaper to prevent the bones in her corsets from cutting into her flesh. Absurdly, the need for economy defeats even the possible escape by suicide in ‘The Cleft Stick’, the eponymous short story in Greenwood’s book in which Cranfield is only intermittently employed; the maddened, poverty-stricken Mrs Cranfield lays her head in the oven and realizes that she has not turned on the gas: ‘She would turn on the gas, die, and would not be able to turn it off again … and the gas would still be escaping, costing money, until someone should come in to turn it off. “No, no,” she repeated, shaking her head: “I couldn’t afford it”’ (70).

Working-class literature frequently depicts a world in which shame and degradation battle with pride. When unemployed, Arthur Gardner in Sandwichman insists on still paying in full for his board at home, which means making use of his meagre bank savings. And the means test man, a major source of shame, plays a role in both of Brierley’s early novels. As the narrator observes of the means test man on being ordered to leave by Gardner’s extremely proud stepfather:

'On occasions he had had people who refused to answer some of the questions, or disclose particulars of income, but they usually did it merely with words and a tone which said plainly that if benefit could come to them only through uncovering the nakedness of their living, they’d do without it' (71).

In this case, the nakedness is obviously figurative and relates to the exposure of limited financial resources. But in Means Test Man, an analogy is made between the means test and the literal sense of nakedness. As the title of the novel suggests, the means test man has a greater significance than in the earlier book, and the revealing of Jack and Jane’s expenses has a devastating effect on Jane: ‘She felt sick, full of misery and shame, as if she were standing naked before decent men and women’ (72). Phelps, though, would never have made such an analogy: he sleeps naked and is happy to do so; and as mentioned previously, Britton’s (partial) utopia Brain is peopled by gladly unclad characters, and Britton himself delighted in nakedness and used to boast, for instance, that he never wore pyjamas. (On the same theme, it is also significant to see how differently public nakedness is treated by Grassic Gibbon and Rhys Davies as well as Britton, as discussed in Chapter 6.)

Sometimes partly associated with shame is the frequent concern of characters in the working-class novel that they are being watched. Pat Barker’s aptly titled The Eye in the Door (1993) has some instances in a prison cell where the warder’s spy hole is mentioned, and in A Question of Conscience: Conscientious Objection in the Two World Wars (1997), Felicity Goodall quotes former prisoner Harold Bing: ‘the warder could come along and open the spyhole and spy on you at any time to see what you were up to so that you had the sense of being watched the whole time’ (73). Quite possibly, Britton experienced similar events while he was in prison and attempted to reproduce the sensation in Hunger and Love, where Phelps is fully aware that his activities are being spied on, and the reader sees intimations of Foucault’s panopticon: ‘old Morning-Suit, when he’s not nosing round, sits in glass cage at one end where he can see your every movement. Nowhere to hide’; for Phelps, of course, the problem of being watched extends to any figure of authority (p. 588). And this feeling is to some extent based on reality as opposed to an irrational fear of persecution: in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, for example, this normally occurs in the workplace, when the men have to appear never to be taking an unscheduled break, and constantly have to ensure that they are not caught slacking by employers or foremen. Certainly the unemployed are not exempt from this treatment, as Brierley makes clear in Means Test Man, where the narrator is speaking about the employment bureau: ‘the very presence of the manager or supervisor brought a silence about the rank, there was a kind of fear that a word might bring official eyes on them to their detriment’ (74). For Joe Rourke in Drift, who is also unemployed, it is mainly his parents who watch him: ‘My mother! And father! […] acted like dirty low-down filthy spies — watched my every move’ (75). And it is not only his parents who watch him. As with Phelps, the feeling that there is ‘nowhere to hide’ cannot be shaken off, perhaps particularly when Rourke strives to disengage himself from the tyranny of the religious hypocrisy of his parents, such as during the memorable scene when he is engaged in sex with his prostitute lover:

‘"Well!" He heard a great voice, a voice of bronze which seemed to strike the earth with a great metallic clang. Again it sounded in his ears. "Well!" Ah yes, he knew that voice — he could see that face, he saw that arm. That was God! He had not escaped. He had been seen' (76).

It is significant that religion should be presented here as an obstacle to sex, because throughout Drift there are various references to gender in relation to Rourke and religion: he is seen as not being a man because he will not stand up to his parents’ religious obsessions. At one point in the book, Rourke says: ‘I am a Catholic no longer, but a man at last’ (77). The words are in vain, though, because his inability to forget either his religion or his parents ultimately leads to his lover leaving him.

Gender is a major concern throughout the literature of the pre- and post-war period. The New Woman and the push for the enfranchisement of women had been seen as a threat to patriarchy, but it was perhaps particularly during World War I and its aftermath that women were considered to be more threatening than ever. During the war, many women had been employed in occupations often formerly reserved exclusively for men; the franchise was extended to a limited number of women in 1918, with equal enfranchisement with men following ten years later. In the critical feminist trilogy No Man’s Land (1987–94), Gilbert and Gubar note the effect of women’s increasing freedom on the male-authored literature of the time: ‘Images of impotence recur with unnerving frequency in the most canonical male modernist novels and poems’ (78). They also say that ‘the war functioned in so many different ways to liberate women’, which is indisputable, although not necessarily in the same ways with different classes (79). Because of the strong working-class emphasis on gender stereotypes, changes were arguably more strongly felt by the working classes, and these gender differences are logically reflected in working-class literature. Areas in which this has a special concern for the working classes include unemployment and the attendant lack of money, and birth control (or the lack of knowledge of it). In Means Test Man one of the unemployed has a feeling of uselessness: ‘Ar reckon it’s the rottenest thing ert. Yo dunna know wot ta dew’ (80). Unemployment has an emasculating effect which is plainly visible in Jack Cook: ‘About all his movements there was the gentleness of a woman, on his face as he arranged the bed-clothes was the pleasurable love-of-caring one sees in a mother’; and those still in work regard him in the same light: ‘To the miners he would have become a woman’ (81). For his wife, only working men seem to be real.

In Hunger and Love, though, it is not unemployment that defines Phelps’s gender problems: it is simply that women are always in a superior position to him, whether it is Miss Whyman teasing him sexually and earning more money than him, the various prostitutes with whom he comes into contact, or his girlfriend Doreen whom he will never be able to marry because he will never find himself in a financial position to be able to support a wife. Early in the novel, he contents himself with surreptitiously buying Photo Bits every Saturday and locking himself in his room with it: ‘gloat in secrecy, imaginary nudity: sham, substitute stuff’, and his later dalliances with prostitutes are seen to be equally inauthentic (p. 71).

Birth control in the internal working-class novel is an interesting source of comment on the nature of gender and class, and is the source of much discord between the sexes. Dora Russell was a prominent advocate of birth control in the inter-war years, particularly among the working classes, and mentions that the M. P. and novelist Ellen Wilkinson was also interested in the subject (82). It was common for birth control advocates to sell pamphlets such as Margaret Sanger’s Family Limitation (c. 1914) in London, and the mention in Wilkinson’s Clash of ‘The inevitable mild middle-class lady’ giving out ‘leaflets on birth control’ is evidently indicative of the mood of the period (83). Also, a number of birth control clinics were established in British cities, although for various reasons ignorance of the issue continued to exist, and the women of the working-class Yorkshire town of Shireport in Clash — based on Middlesborough, where Wilkinson’s parliamentary seat was, and where the fictional union organizer Joan Craig has been sent — anxiously inform Craig of this. One of them says: ‘What the women in this place want is to know how to stop having any more babies while we’re all so poor’, and another blames socialist M. P.s for being worried about losing the Roman Catholic vote, which is something Sheila Robotham mentions in her biography of Stella Browne, A New World for Women (1977) (84). Essentially the problem is perceived as a question of class, as one of the working-class women in Clash says to a middle-class woman: ‘Your class keep us women in ignorance and then you treat us as though we had committed a crime when we have another baby that you won’t tell us how to prevent’ (85). (The above observation is very similar to Britton’s comment on education in general, and the paradoxical nature of the middle-class discourse in relation to the lives of the working class here is very close to that of Phelps’s and one of Jean Rhys’s protagonist’s mentioned in Chapter 5.)

Frank Tilsley mentions birth control in at least two of his novels of the 1930s. In The Plebeian’s Progress, Allen leaves his bride Anne for about fifteen minutes without telling her where he is going, but he sees ‘big glass bowls of coloured water’ in an unidentified shop, and this, added to the knowledge that he avoids it because there are customers in it, and avoids another because of the female assistant in it, are the only indications that he wants to buy a packet of contraceptives from a barber’s shop (86). This behaviour could be dismissed as a simple representation of sexual inexperience in the 1930s, but Allen never really exhibits much ‘masculinity’ in the novel, particularly in the early part of the book. He considers Anne to be unusually ‘frigid’, and for a time the pair lapse into an almost sexless marriage, quite the reverse of what Allen had foreseen: ‘He had imagined her tender, submissive (God knows what he’d been dreaming about), and himself exultant, masterful’ (87). She Was There Too — the title of which is a reference to conception — is much more concerned with birth control, and more revealing from the point of view of gender difference. Ethel is terrified of becoming pregnant, an event which would reduce the Reynolds to even greater poverty, and it is the cause of much conflict when she does become pregnant: ‘You and your lies — and me, believing them, that’s what I can’t get over! […] Trust you! Well, I did, and this is what I’ve got — […] Three months gone, the doctor says’ (88). After consulting a few self-opinionated neighbours about the matter, Ethel decides that abstaining from sex is the best action to take in the future. Being generally more dominant than her husband Joe Reynolds, this has a strong effect on his psychology: Reynolds of course takes his problems to work with him, as the internal monologue makes quite clear: ‘What did she think he was? A cissie?’ (89). He is thinking this in the factory, and it is an impression more than reinforced when one of the (male) factory workers, on seeing Reynolds’s initially abysmal attempts to display his strength by bending a six-inch nail with his bare hands, adopts a simpering voice and says ‘Oh, I say, […] aren’t you strong! […] I could fall for you in a big way’, and when Allen immediately tells him to shut up, the unnamed man grins and says ‘I adore bullies […] I do wish I was your wife!’ (90). Playful male banter this may be, but it is also making a comment on Reynolds’s perceived emasculation, and Reynolds is very soon ready to leave his wife because he does not consider his marriage to be any longer valid. In George Garrett’s short story ‘Firstborn’, Harry too initially has an uncooperative wife who is equally frightened of pregnancy; he roars ‘Bed! What use is a bed to me?’ to her. He is nicknamed ‘Playfair’ by his work colleagues because of his habit of repeating his sexual entreaties out loud to himself when at work (91).

There is a reference to the lack of access to birth control information in Hunger and Love, although it is more concerned with sex outside of marriage, and is unsurprisingly incorporated into the narrator’s conspiracy theory. Walking down Guilford Street one evening, Phelps notices the Foundling Hospital: ‘That is for the love children. […] The bourgeoisie […] built the stone walls and took [them] in. Do for cannon fodder’ (p. 412). But the issue appears to be more complex than this, as Phelps begins to understand when he continues his walk and reaches a urinal in Gray’s Inn Road: ‘STICK NO BILLS. They have their decencies — or is it merely — birth-control? Rubber goods would perhaps limit syphilis; is that perhaps why?’ (p. 413). The reasoning behind this is not entirely clear, but the initial suggestion could be that Phelps believes that the Establishment is discouraging contraception in order to control births through death by syphilis. It is perhaps more coherent, though, that Phelps thinks that the Establishment needs to preserve the status quo by encouraging an ideology which upholds the importance of the family, an institution it considers necessary for social and political stability; sex outside of marriage is a threat to the containment of that stability, so Phelps wonders if, instead of encouraging pre- or extra-marital sexual activity by advertising contraceptives, the fear of sexually transmitted diseases is a deterrent, and thus a better way to maintain the social order.

Sex and books are difficult to balance for many male characters in the working-class fiction of the inter-war period, and the question of gender is also significant in this area. Women were newly emancipated in some respects, and writers too felt somewhat liberated from the old taboos regarding the mention of sexual matters. Rhys Davies claims that D. H. Lawrence told him: ‘All you young writers have me to thank for what freedom you enjoy, […] for being able to say much that you couldn’t even hint at before I appeared. It was I who set about smashing down the barriers’ (92) Lawrence is in the background of many working-class novels as a kind of literary godfather. Set just a few miles from Lawrence’s native Eastwood, Walter Brierley’s Sandwichman is self-consciously inspired by his work, and the protagonist Arthur Gardner, like Phelps, has overwhelming thoughts of sex which interfere with his reading. Gardner works as a miner and he is also studying two days a week at Trentingham University College, which is modelled on Nottingham University College where both Brierley and Lawrence studied. Following an intense sexual encounter with his girlfriend, ‘[a]t Trentingham the next Monday, [Gardner] felt the interference and was astounded’ (93). The narrator, voicing his thoughts, says of Gardner’s girlfriend, ‘Nancy was like some of the women in [Lawrence’s] books […] sex-driven out of all balance. […] It would have to stop’ (94). It is one of the many examples of forthright females and timid males that are present in working-class literature, and this instance leads to the general emasculation of Gardner: he can only cope with the problem by accepting that a sex life is completely incompatible with his studies, and so he forgoes further sexual activities in favour of reading for his college work.

Reading is vital to many many working-class protagonists, although Gardner’s stepfather is an additional problem: enraged by his stepson’s attempts to educate himself, he asks, ‘Does ’e think the damned ’ouse is made for ’im and ’is studying?’, and frequently interrupts Gardner’s reading to force him to work in the garden (95). (A similar experience to this is a factual one Jonathan Rose writes about in relation to the difficulties many young (male) readers experienced with their uncomprehending parents: Vernon Scannell’s father saw reading as effeminate — a belief which was by no means uncommon — and often told his sons to put down their books and go out and chop down some trees. But as there were no trees in the neighbourhood and the family did not have the necessary tools, Scannell understood this to be ‘some kind of metaphor’ .) (96) Gardner’s studies also interfere with his work in the mine, where he recites ‘poems and chunks from Shakespeare and Chaucer’ (97). He is ‘getting a mind’ as Phelps calls it, and which the narrator describes as ‘hungry for learning’; he feels that his work is ‘an obstruction to his real self’ and that ‘He must get free, must get to a satisfying level of all books and continuous teaching’ (98). The analogy between these words and Phelps’s furiously striving towards ‘the human’ is evident. And Gardner’s intellectual hunger leads to his dismissal from the mine: like Phelps, he is caught reading a book, and as a result of causing an accident in an inattentive moment, he is considered too much of a liability to work in the mine. Gardner joins the many working-class fictional characters in the ‘dole’ queue.

Joe Rourke also improves himself by reading, although his main impediments to ‘getting a mind’ are his parents in particular. Rourke’s father Mick is perhaps as much against the ‘filth’ that he reads — such as Zola and Joyce — as against anything that is likely to give his son independent thoughts; Rourke is reduced to hiding books in his room to prevent his parents from burning them. It is bliss for him to be on his own, when he can read in peace and educate himself: ‘At last! To be alone! Alone! He flung down the paper. From his pocket he took a book. It was a pamphlet by Paine. He read on, little thinking of the time’ (99). The above quotation reads very much like something that Phelps would have said, and much like Phelps’s bosses, Rourke’s father disapproves of intellectual pursuits: when his son is forced to deny that he has been ‘reading one of those dirty books’, he says, ‘I was not reading at all, […] I was just thinking — that’s all’, to which his father retorts, ‘That’s as bad as reading’ (100). His father is having difficulties with his own thoughts, but one of them involves a conspiracy theory which puts reading at the root of his son’s problems: ‘Ever since he got in with that friend of his, who’s been lending him books, well — I don’t know what’s come over him, I don’t indeed,’ and he tells his wife Martha that he will kill Rourke for not following ‘his beautiful religion’ (101).

Allen too is a ‘gluttonous reader’ who ‘haunt[s] the local public library and grub[s] in a world of theories and ideas’; but this causes him to feel uncomfortable with his lowly position in life: ‘More and more he chafed at the commonplace demands of his own existence’ (102). There is often a psychological clash when working-class ideology confronts middle class ideology, the latter of which frequently exudes an air of daunting solemnity, such as the occasion when Allen says his marriage vows at the register office. He feels as though he were guilty of an unnamed crime. The situation is almost Kafkaesque:

'He was held by the man’s keen grey eyes: mesmeric. Felt suddenly guilty. The whole atmosphere reeked of legal affairs. Important. To what weighty things was he making testimony? Already he had probably said too much — he half expected to be suddenly accused of something — the tall man to shut his book with a bang, leap for the door, and turn the key in the lock' (103).

Of note here are the two short, laconic sentences, ‘Felt suddenly guilty’, and ‘Important’, both of which eliminate the subject, and the second of which very briefly summarizes the sense of the occasion, in so doing investing the word with a distinct atmosphere of menace. It is an alien, bourgeois moment that Phelps would fully recognize, and even the structure of the sentence ‘To what weighty things was he making testimony?’ underlines the solemnity of the middle-class discourse infiltrating Allen’s mind. This is how the bourgeois world, with its different rituals, its ceremonies, and its frightening vocabulary, perpetuates itself and all the institutions it supports. One of Allen’s reactions is to try to ignore it, although Phelps frequently resists it with a strong mental rejection.

But in Means Test Man the middle-class world is seen as a way to escape from the poverty of unemployment, and Jane Cook forbids her husband to speak in dialect to their son John because ‘at home, at least, he must know that there was another language’, and that without using it ‘there would be small chance of his escaping from the poverty and dullness which even now he was beginning to see limited him’ (104). Jane sees entrance into the middle class as an escape, but if the narrator of Hunger and Love says at times that Phelps has desires to be middle class, or if it is suggested that he thinks this, it is only irony: the novel is a very strong criticism of the bourgeoisie, and it is clear that ultimately a classless society is sought.

Jane’s anger with her family’s financial situation is not quite focalized politically, although a few sentences reveal her thoughts to be approaching political criticism:

'She had read the report of the new Unemployment Bill going through Parliament, then she had turned over the sheet and seen a picture of a cabinet minister on the beach at Brighton. […] A suggestion of wildness had swept her and behind her hate and anger was a strong activity reaching out towards something definite' (105).

The ‘something definite’ is never reached, and Jane simply blames ‘the system’, her hatred being sometimes directed at her husband, sometimes at herself. Phelps and Allen, on the other hand, have similar strong socialist ideas and try to influence others with them; but, also like Phelps, Allen realizes that the task is colossal, and there is an echo of Phelps’s irony in his thoughts: ‘They knew what they were talking about; didn’t they read the newspapers?’. The narrator continues, ‘Allen tried to protest what a farce it was to expect anything even faintly resembling a reasonable exposition of Socialism to appear in a newspaper’ (106). The propaganda machine rules, and the people Allen argues with believe that people are naturally competitive, naturally selfish. Allen, on the other hand, believes, as does Phelps, that ‘human interest’ — perhaps almost identical to Britton’s idea of ‘the human’ — involves co-operation, and that bourgeois civilisation is retrogressive.

And just as Hunger and Love contains a number of presumably autobiographical observations about how employers devise new schemes to save money — such as Sarner paying Phelps a little more so he can eat elsewhere at lunchtime instead of consuming the business’s gas by eating his food in the bookshop basement — The Plebeian’s Progress has similar anecdotes. Allen works at Bratwell & Gordon’s, where he learns about the penny-pinching activities of various clients of theirs. At one firm, for instance, the ten-minute tea break is moved to the afternoon, in so doing taking ten minutes per week from every employee because they do not work on Saturday afternoons; by opening the office thirty minutes earlier and closing it thirty minutes earlier, electricity is saved during the winter months; and by including an element of cleaning duty in new employees’ job descriptions, the boss saves money by making two cleaners redundant. This is a very similar world to that of Phelps’s ‘profit-sneaks’ (p. 229). Working as he does for a firm of
accountants, Allen discovers a great deal about how various businesses are run, which is in reality an effective way for the narrator to criticize corrupt business practices, such as tax evasion by filling in falsified forms: again, this appears to be reminiscent of Sarner’s secret activities behind his locked door. Politically, then, Allen’s ideas are very similar to Phelps’s, such as when he says: ‘Only the State should have the power of investing money and employing men. Not until then will employment be employment and not exploitation’ and he sees the negative side of having money: ‘Money is poisonous in two ways — it poisons those who have it and it poisons those who haven’t’ (107). Ultimately, as with the narrator of Hunger and Love, Allen sees the whole financial system as corrupt:

'Marvellous how we all stuck it — knowing, as almost everybody of any intelligence at all did know, that the whole trouble was the way industry was tied to this vicious, obsolete financial system which converted the work of the world to the enrichment of the few and the poverty of the many. However much we disagree on remedies, we nearly all agree on the cause' (108).

There are no direct attacks against politics in Drift, although Rourke has socialist friends whom he has met at the Labour club; rather, the attacks are focused on religion, and Catholicism in particular. Rourke is very much a loner like Phelps, and as Fordham says of his writing in general, ‘the shared struggles of early youth, membership of gangs, a sense of belonging […] is triumphally repudiated in Hanley’ (109). Right from the beginning of the book, throughout which Joe expresses doubts because of the ideas implanted by his pious parents, there exist the desires to excoriate religion, as in: ‘He wanted there and then to shout aloud — ‘I do not believe — I do not believe’ (110). Rourke believes that Catholicism is at the root of the problems: ‘He did not want to remain a Catholic, because it was no more than a scheme to keep poor people and rich people apart’ (111). The narrator of Hunger and Love also attacks religion, although the targets are much broader and he believes that all institutions as part of a vast conspiracy:

'But the ordinary shopboy gets robbed of all excuse for wanting to live, long before he starts work at all. In the school. Education Act, 1870. In the home. Englishman’s home is castle, family foundation of State; authority, parent foundation authority Government employer. Do this, he doeth it. Why?' (p. 78).

The expression ‘Englishman’s home is castle’ is evidently another ironic use of platitudionous language. And the word ‘doeth’ is obviously intended as an example of biblical language, religion of course being one of Phelps’s pet hates. But perhaps more revealing for the narrator is the archaic nature of the word itself, the fact that ‘Do this, he doeth it’ is an automatic response: it is similar to the father’s automatic touching of his cap to figures of authority or saying ‘sir’ to his general practitioner mentioned in one of Britton’s unpublished plays, ‘O. H. M. S.; or, How to Make God’ (112). They are social atavisms which he is pleased to note that his son will never have to use: ‘They made me do it all my life, but it’s something if I best ’em with my own blood’ (113). Institutions, whether Althusser’s ‘State Repressive Apparatuses’ or ‘Ideological State Apparatuses’, enslave the subject, but the response to Phelps’s response is to question the situation which allows it: ‘Why?’.

In Chapter 1, I dealt with the question of critics’ reception of Hunger and Love as a working-class novel, but have said nothing of the reception of Britton’s work by working-class writers. Of the eighteen novelists listed by Haywood, only comments about Britton by two of the authors appear to have survived. Simon Blumenfeld’s protagonist Alec in Jew Boy (1935) is very disparaging towards Britton (and the recent plays of Bernard Shaw), and pretends to believe that Shaw is dead and that Britton is now writing under his name: ‘If you take the trouble to compare [Shaw’s On the Rocks (1933) and Too True to Be Good (1932)] with Lionel Britton’s Brain and Spacetime Inn, you’re bound to see that they’re written, all four, by the same verbose, muddled, amateur sociologist’ (114). The other one of the eighteen had met Britton, and his reaction to him could hardly be more different (or more eulogistic). Frank Tilsley was well-acquainted with Britton’s ideas: Britton was once ‘good enough to cart me around London and listen talk’ (sic), as Tilsley phrased it in an undated letter to Britton (115). Tilsley claimed to have read Hunger and Love three times, along with ‘a few other books, biological etc., rising out of it’, and rather naively asks Britton where he can obtain his plays without buying them; he calls Britton ‘a cross between a 20th century Darwin and Marx, although, of course, more important than both together’.” Tilsley’s suicide in 1957 was reported in the Times, and the obituary is perhaps something like Britton would have wished for his own: it spoke of Tilsley’s ‘lively fidelity with which the author caught the everyday life of ordinary men and women’ (116).

I have examined several features of working-class literature in the present chapter, particularly in relation to Lionel Britton, and what is quite evident in these writings is the need to tell stories about working-class life with as much authenticity as possible, and to depict it in opposition to the middle-class stories that were previously available to the reading public, to an increasingly highly literate working class. What is obvious is that the cataloguing, the description of work, the lack of money and effect on the individual and the family are crucial in this literature. The association of this writing with realism or naturalism, the attempt to represent a situation as it actually ‘is’, is clear. Most comments on and analyses of working-class literature are rooted in presuppositions of realism. Croft links extreme realism to autobiography. In the Introduction to his thesis, he says: ‘The novel was a relatively accessible form for the putative working-class writers to adopt, since it permitted an autobiographical structure and a naturalist style’ (117). David Bell agrees with this when he says that ‘The traditions of working-class writing were essentially autobiographical. Because of this tradition few working-class Bildungsromane were entirely fictional’ (118). Although both comments ignore the strong autobiographical content also prominent in middle-class writers of the time, there is certainly a rich element of autobiography in working-class writing. Taking Haywood’s list of internal working-class writers in the 1930s as an example, it is significant that at least half of them of them wrote autobiographies or part-autobiographies: B. L. Coombes (mentioned above), Willie Goldman, Walter Greenwood, Leslie Halward, James Hanley, Harold Heslop (also mentioned above), Jack Hilton, Jim Phelan and Frank Tilsley (119).

John Fordham argues that Hanley’s working-class fiction takes Zola’s ‘bourgeois dissidence’, with its emphasis on the sordid and the violent, and arrives at a position in which the traditional boundaries between the autobiographical and the fictional become less distinct. Furthermore, he holds that ‘of greater importance is that realist accounts of working-class experience are creating a political opposition to a dominant bourgeois culture which inevitably represents “‘the great and important’ as the privileged auto/biographical subject”’ (120).

Almost all of the working-class writers of the 1930s wrote novels that were strongly autobiographical, and at least half of them wrote representations of some stage or stages of their lives. Essentially, this was oppositional writing, against the grain of the dominant culture. Lionel Britton, born into a middle-class family, was originally part of that dominant culture. He was a solicitor’s son with a wealthy family on his mother’s side, although various circumstances reduced him to earning a meagre living first as a grocer’s assistant when he was about twelve, and then as an assistant in a bookshop. Because he did this for so many years, it would be difficult to withhold the label ‘working class’ from him, and it could be argued, as Alan Sillitoe says of Robert Tressell, that Britton was ‘grafted on to working-class life through family misfortune’ (121).

Writing of class and autobiography, Julia Swindells, a researcher with a strong interest in marginalized groups in society, draws special attention to such groups:

'Autobiography now has the potential to be the text of the oppressed and the culturally displaced, forging a right to speak both for and beyond the individual. People in a position of powerlessness — women, black people, working-class people — have more than begun to insert themselves into the culture via autobiography, via the assertion of a ‘personal’ voice, which speaks beyond itself' (122).

The strongly autobiographical Hunger and Love can certainly be seen as a ‘text of the oppressed’, but at the same time it is a working-class novel like no other. A number of stock preoccupations, such as money, poverty, and an intense criticism of the status quo are present, but it is also a novel which shows great contempt for novelistic conventions. Perhaps half of the book is taken up with the ideas of the narrator, often shown as digressions, such as the incident in which a customer enters the book shop and the narrator says to Phelps: ‘You look round the shop, and wipe him out of existence’ (p. 233). There then follows a long series of thoughts on evolution, social cohesion and the vision of a classless society. The customer is forgotten because he is unimportant: the narrator has only used him as a catalyst with which to release a train of thoughts. The narrator’s ideas on this issue are evident, for instance, when Phelps and his friend Montague are considering writing a novel and they chance upon an acquaintance who has written one, and who seems to have the same ideas as Britton about literature:

‘Plots? my lordie! If you wait till you get a plot, you’ll never write at all. Life doesn’t consist of incidents — not human life; thinking’s the biggest part of life since we grew to be human. Ideas are the formative force of civilisation. You’re alive: just tell yourself how it feels; everyone’ll be interested to know’ (p. 430).
The message is clear: the events which make up the conventional fabric of novels, the realistic elements, for instance, of the working-class novel, are in the end not realistic at all. And it is this which makes the message a very modernist one.


1 The Socialist Novel in Britain: Towards the Recovery of a Tradition, ed. by H. Gustav Klaus (Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1982), p. 1.

2 [Lionel Britton (?)], Brain, rear cover.

3 Raymond Williams, ‘The Welsh Industrial Novel’, in Problems in Materialism and Culture: Selected Essays (London: Verso, 1980; repr. 1989), pp. 213–29 (p. 217).

4 H. Gustav Klaus, The Literature of Labour: Two Hundred Years of Working-Class Writing (Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1985), p. ix.

5 Ian Haywood, Working-class Fiction: From Chartism to Trainspotting (Plymouth: Northcote House, 1997); E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London: Gollancz, 1963; repr. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980), p. 908.

6 The Literature of Labour, p. 50.

7 Martha Vicinus, The Industrial Muse: A Study of Nineteenth Century British Working-Class Literature (London: Croom Helm, 1974), p. 121.

8 Working-class Fiction, pp. 11, 161 n. 6; Thomas Miller, Gideon Giles: The Roper (London: Haywood, 1841; repr. Routledge, [n. d.]).

9 Louis James, Fiction for the Working Man 1830–50: A Study of the Literature Produced for the Working Classes in Early Victorian Urban England (London: Oxford University Press, 1963; repr. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), p. 123–24.

10 Working-class Fiction, p. 49.

11 Ann Ardis, ‘“The Journey from Fantasy to Politics”: The Representation of Socialism and Feminism in Gloriana and The Image-Breakers’, in Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals: British Women Writers, 1889–1939, ed. by Angela Ingram and Daphne Patai (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, (c. 1993), pp. 43–56.

12 Brunhild de la Motte, ‘Radicalism — Feminism — Socialism: The Case of the Women Novelists’, in The Rise of Socialist Fiction 1880–1914, ed. by H. Gustav Klaus (Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1987), pp. 28–48 (p. 29).

13 John Goode, ‘Margaret Harkness and the Socialist Novel’, in The Socialist Novel in Britain, pp. 45–66; Ingrid von Rosenberg, ‘French Naturalism and the English Socialist Novel: Margaret Harkness and William Edwards Tirebuck’, in The Rise of Socialist Fiction, pp. 151–71 (p. 160).

14 Paul Salveston, ‘Allen Clarke and the Lancashire School of Working-Class Novelists’, in The Rise of Socialist Fiction, pp. 172–202.

15 J. M. Rignall, ‘Struggles of the Past: Brushing History against the Grain’, in The Rise of Socialist Fiction, pp. 99–120 (pp. 105–09); Edmund and Ruth Frow, ‘Ethel Carnie: Writer, Feminist and Socialist’, in The Rise of Socialist Fiction, pp. 251–66.

16 Robert Tressell, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (London: Richards (as ‘Robert Tressall’), 1914; rev. and repr. Lawrence & Wishart, 1955; repr. Paladin, 1991).

17 Alan Sillitoe, Introduction, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, p. 7.

18 Red Letter Days, p. 31.

19 James C. Welsh, The Underworld: The Story of Robert Sinclair: Miner (London: Jenkins, 1920; repr. 1923); James C. Welsh, The Morlocks (London: Jenkins, 1924); Ellen Wilkinson, Clash (London: Harrap, 1929; repr. Virago Press, 1989); Harold Heslop, The Gate of a Strange Field (London: Brentano’s, 1929; repr. New York: Appleton, 1929).

20 The Socialist Novel in Britain, p. 94; John Lucas, The Radical Twenties: Aspects of Writing, Politics and Culture, (Nottingham: Five Leaves Publications, 1997), p. 158; Pamela A. Fox, ‘Ethel Carnie Holdsworth’s “Revolt of the Gentle”: Romance and the Politics of Resistance in Working-Class Women’s Writing’, in Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals, pp. 57–74, (pp. 73–74 n. 13).

21 H. Gustav Klaus, ‘Silhouettes of Revolution: Some Neglected Novels of the Early 1920s’, in The Socialist Novel in Britain, pp. 89–109.

22 Tramps, Workmates and Revolutionaries: Working-Class Stories of the 1920s, ed. by H. Gustav Klaus, (London: Journeyman Press, 1993).

23 Tramps, Workmates and Revolutionaries, p. 1.

24 Tramps, Workmates and Revolutionaries, p. 2.

25 Tramps, Workmates and Revolutionaries, pp. 87, 141–2.

26 Rediscovering Forgotten Radicals, pp. 60, 71.

27 Rebecca O’Rourke, ‘Were There No Women?: British Working Class Writing in the Inter-war Period’, Literature and History, 14 (1988), 48–63 (pp. 50, 52).

28 Lumsden, Alison, ‘“Women’s Time”: Reading the Quair as a feminist text’, in A Flame in the Mearns: Lewis Grassic Gibbon: A Centenary Celebration, ed. by Margery Palmer McCulloch and Sarah M. Dunnigan, 13 (Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2003), pp. 41–53.

29 ‘The Leaning Tower’, p. 112.

30 Valentine Cunningham, British Writers of the Thirties (Oxford: Oxford University Press,1988), p. 309.

31 Working-Class Fiction, p. 48.

32 David Smith, Socialist Propaganda in the Twentieth-Century British Novel (London: Macmillan, 1978).

33 Socialist Propaganda in the Twentieth-Century British Novel, pp. 57–76.

34 Ken Worpole, Dockers and Detectives: Popular Reading: Popular Writing (London: Verso, 1982).

35 Ramón López Ortega, ‘The Language of the Working-Class Novel of the 1930s’, in The Socialist Novel in Britain, pp. 122–144.

36 Peter Hitchcock, Working-Class Fiction in Theory and Practice: A Reading of Alan Sillitoe (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1989), p. 7.

37 British Industrial Fictions, ed. by H. Gustav Klaus and Stephen Knight (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000).

38 Simon Dentith, ‘Tone of Voice in Industrial Writing in the 1930s’, in British Industrial Fictions, pp. 99–111; Rolf Meyn, ‘Lewis Jones’s Cwmardy and We Live: Two Welsh Proletarian Novels in Transatlantic Perspective’, in British Industrial Fictions, pp. 124–36; John Fordham, ‘James Hanley’s The Furys: Modernism and the Working Class’, in British Industrial Fictions, pp. 112–23.

39 William K. Malcolm, ‘Art for Politics’ Sake: The Sardonic Principle of John Leslie Mitchell (Lewis Grassic Gibbon)’, in ‘To Hell with Culture’: Anarchism and Twentieth-Century British Literature, ed. by H. Gustav Klaus and Stephen Knight (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2005), pp. 35–50; William K. Malcolm, A Blasphemer & Reformer: A Study of J. Leslie Mitchell/Lewis Grassic Gibbon (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1984), pp. 18–21; Raimund Schäffner, ‘Ralph Bates and the Representation of the Spanish Anarchists in Lean Men and The Olive Field’, in ‘To Hell with Culture’, pp. 66–81; Ralph Bates, Lean Men: An Episode in a Life (London: Davies, 1934); Ralph Bates, The Olive Field (London: Cape, 1936; repr. The Hogarth Press, 1986).

40 The British Working-Class Novel in the Twentieth Century, ed. by Jeremy Hawthorn (London: Arnold, 1984).

41 Graham Holderness, ‘Miners and the Novel: From Bourgeois to Proletarian Fiction’, in The British Working-Class Novel in the Twentieth Century, pp. 19–34 (p. 19).

42 Walter Brierley, Means Test Man (London: Methuen, 1935; repr. Nottingham: Spokesman, 1983).

43 Red Letter Days, p. 10.

44 Frank Tilsley, The Plebeian’s Progress (London: Gollancz, 1933; repr. Severn House, 1976).

45 Socialist Propaganda in the Twentieth-Century British Novel, p. 2.

46 Andrew Croft, ‘Socialist Fiction in Britain in the 1930s’, University of Nottingham PhD thesis, 1985.

47 Red Letter Days, pp. 93, 266.

48 Valentine Cunningham, British Writers of the Thirties (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 245.

49 A Patriot After All, pp. 295–99 (p. 297).

50 Stuart Laing, ‘Presenting “Things as They Are”: John Sommerfield’s May Day and Mass Observation’, in Class, Culture and Social Change: A New View of the 1930s, ed. by Frank Gloversmith (Brighton: The Harvester Press, 1980), pp. 142–60 (p. 144).

51 George Orwell, Coming up for Air (London: Gollancz, 1939; repr. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962), pp. 173–74.

52 Jean Macgibbon, I Meant to Marry Him: A Personal Memoir (London: Gollancz, 1984), p. 108; Mollie Morris, ‘When All the Trees Were Green’, unpublished autobiography in the possession of Barbara Cast, [c. 1980s], p. 38.

53 William Empson, ‘Proletarian Literature’, Scrutiny, March 1935, 332–38 (p. 335), LBC, Box 12, Folder 11.

54 J. F. Horrabin, ‘“Hunger and Love”: A Real Proletarian Novel’, Plebs, September 1931, pp. 210–11; Philip Henderson, ‘The Crisis in Twentieth-Century Literature — IV: Middle-Class Communists and Proletarian Writers’, Eleventh Hour, 12 June 1935, pp. 91–92 (p. 92), LBC, Box 12, Folder 11.

55 [C. J. Huntington], ‘Hunger and Love’, p. [6].

56 Lionel Britton, ‘An Errand-Boy’s Philosophy’, Star, 29 April 1930, [n. p.], LBC, Box 12, Folder 11; ‘The Mind of a Ragamuffin’.

57 ‘An Errand-Boy’s Philosophy’.

58 ‘The Mind of a Ragamuffin’.

59 Lionel Britton, letter to Sinead Acheson, 17 July 1935, LBC, Box 2, Folder 12, pp. [2–3].

60 H. Gustav Klaus, James Kelman (Tavistock: Northcote House, 2004), pp. 5–6.

61 Caradoc Evans, My People: Stories of the Peasantry of West Wales (London: Melrose, 1915; repr. (with short title only) Bridgend: Seren, 1987); Rhys Davies, Print of a Hare’s Foot: An Autobiographical Beginning (London: Heinemann, 1969), p. 116; Richard Llewellyn, How Green Was my Valley (London: Joseph, 1939; repr: Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1951).

62 Walter Brierley, Sandwichman (London: Methuen, 1937); Frank Tilsley, She Was There Too (London: Collins, 1938); James Hanley, Drift (London: Partridge, 1930).

63 Roy Johnson, ‘The Proletarian Novel’, Literature and History, 2 (1975), 84–95 (p. 90); B. L. Coombes, These Poor Hands: The Autobiography of a Miner Working in South Wales (London: Gollancz, 1939); Red Letter Days, p. 91.

64 The Gate of a Strange Field, pp. 13–14.

65 The Gate of a Strange Field, p. 24.

66 She Was There Too, p. 96.

67 Means Test Man, p. 176.

68 Frank Tilsley, I’d Do It Again (London: Collins, 1936; repr. Baker, 1969).

69 The Plebeian’s Progress, p. 147.

70 Walter Greenwood, The Cleft Stick; or, ‘It’s the Same the World Over’ (London: Selwyn & Blount, 1937; repr. New York: Stokes, 1938), p. 60.

71 Sandwichman, p. 254.

72 Means Test Man, p. 261.

73 Felicity Goodall, A Question of Conscience: Conscientious Objection in the Two World Wars (Stroud: Sutton, 1997), p. 28.

74 Means Test Man, pp. 168–69.

75 Drift, p. 246.

76 Drift, p. 105.

77 Drift, p. 180.

78 Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, No Man’s Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century, 3 vols (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987–94), I: The War of the Worlds, 35.

79 No Man’s Land, II: Sexchanges (1988), p. 318.

80 Means Test Man, p. 172.

81 Means Test Man, pp. 9, 23.

82 Dora Russell, The Tamarisk Tree: My Quest for Liberty and Love (London: Elek, 1975; repr. Virago Press), p. 173.

83 Clash, p. 26.

84 Clash, pp. 245, 248; Sheila Rowbotham, A New World for Women: Stella Browne: Socialist Feminist (London: Pluto Press, 1977), pp. 48, 36.

85 Clash, p. 247.

86 The Plebeian’s Progress, pp. 96–97.

87 The Plebeian’s Progress, p. 107.

88 She Was There Too, p. 49.

89 She Was There Too, p. 212.

90 She Was There Too, p. 213.

91 George Garrett, ‘Firstborn’, Adelphi, 8 (1934), pp. 180–87; repr. in The Collected George Garrett, ed. by Michael Murphy (Nottingham: Trent Editions, 1999), pp. 32–40 (p. 35).
92 Print of a Hare’s Foot, p. 138.

93 Sandwichman, p. 42.

94 Sandwichman, pp. 48–49.

95 Sandwichman, pp. 78–79.

96 Jonathan Rose, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (New Haven, CT: Nota Bene, 2001; repr. 2002), p. 179.

97 Sandwichman, p. 20.

98 Sandwichman, pp. 72, 49.

99 Drift, p. 27–28.

100 Drift, p. 52–53.

101 Drift, p. 126.

102 The Plebeian’s Progress, p. 30.

103 The Plebeian’s Progress, p. 91.

104 Means Test Man, p. 22.

105 Means Test Man, p. 102.

106 The Plebeian’s Progress, p. 37.

107 The Plebeian’s Progress, p. 138.

108 The Plebeian’s Progress, p. 142.

109 John Fordham, James Hanley: Modernism and the Working Class (Cardiff: University of Wales, 2002), p. 34.

110 Drift, p. 21.

111 Drift, p. 127.

112 Lionel Britton, ‘O. H. M. S.; or, How to Make God’, unpublished typescript, [n. d.], p. 15, LBC, Series II: Drafts, Box 10, Folder 9.

113 ‘O. H. M. S.’.

114 Simon Blumenfeld, Jew Boy (Cape: London, 1935; repr. Lawrence & Wishart, 1986), p. 245.

115 Frank Tilsley, letter to Lionel Britton, [1930s], LBC, Box 2, Folder 28.

116 Anonymous, ‘Frank Tilsley’, Times, March 18, 1957, p. 10.

117 ‘The Socialist Novel in the 1930s’, p. 3.

118 David Bell, Ardent Propaganda: Miners’ Novels and Class Conflict 1927-1939, Umeå Studies in the Humanities, 125 (Umeå: Umeå University, 1995), p. 117 n. 11.

119 Willie Goldman, East End my Cradle: Portrait of an Environment (London: Faber and Faber, 1940; repr. Robson, 1988); Walter Greenwood, There Was a Time (London: Cape, 1967); Leslie Halward, Let Me Tell You (London: Joseph, 1938); James Hanley, Broken Water: An Autobiographical Excursion (Chatto & Windus, 1937); Jack Hilton, Caliban Shrieks (London: Cobden–Sanderson, 1935); Jim Phelan, The Name’s Phelan: The First Part of the Autobiography of Jim Phelan (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1948; repr. Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1993); Frank Tilsley, We Live and Learn (London: Labour Book Service, [1939]).

120 James Hanley, p. 29.

121 The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, p. 8.

122 Julia Swindells, The Uses of Autobiography (London: Taylor & Francis, 1995), p. 7.