‘I must hasten to add that we were much luckier than many other children, being blessed with splendid parents, who always kept us clean, well-fed, clothed and shod, I’m sure at great sacrifice to themselves.’ -Charles Whiten Sanderson (1)
Praising his parents, Rebecca and Jonathan Sanderson, Charles reflects on his life growing up in Sutton-in-Ashfield and the family home he cherished. Family life and childhood is a predominant theme throughout Charles’ memoir. Charles’ memoir is a fantastic 120 pages and roughly 60 of those pages Charles reminisces about life as a child in the 1900s.
Charles recalls his memory of his first family home. ‘My first recollection is of the terraced house that his family occupied. It had a communal backyard with a solitary standpipe to serve several families’ (15). The ‘communal backyard’, is a reminder of his family’s working-class background, mentioning the other families they shared with, it illustrates to the reader how life was for a working-class family in the Twentieth-Century!!
When Charles was four, the family moved to a different house where Charles continued to grow up. ‘I was only 4 years of age when we moved from there to a better place.’ (15), referring to a ‘better place’, one can only assume that Charles and his family’s quality of life increased. Painting a picturesque childhood home.
David Vincent discusses the important of family experience in his work ‘Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class’. In his essay, Vincent claims.
‘What these writers had to say about each facet of their family experience was controlled by how they conceived its relationship to the overall structure of the life history they were attempting to communicate’ (Vincent, 229).
Applying this to Charles’ memoir, I think it is obvious that Charles and his family experience held great significance to his life and this aspect of his life is hugely remembered and praised in his memoir. Home and family life is extensively discussed in Charles’ memoir. Although he claims that his father disciplined him and his siblings, ‘My father was a stickler for discipline’ (23), he assures the reader that this was because his father wanted the best for his children. ‘We had a great deal to thank our parents for. Father was the driving force…he was determined, if possible, that his children should have something better.’ (61). with his father supporting all his children to the best of his ability, it resonates how important home and family was to the Sanderson family.
Another working-class autobiography, which has family as a focal point, is Mary Bradbury (blog post by Jonny O’Sullivan). Like Charles, Mary also has a close relationship with her parents. Halfway through his memoir, Charles delicately recount the loss of his mother and commemorates her as a wonderful parent. Admitting he has said very little about his mother so far, he writes a touching tribute, which whole-heartedly makes up for her absence in his writing so far.
‘She was a good, straight-forward woman…a simple loveable woman…the steady hand that guided everything… she was a true disciplinarian, but a tower of strength…she was the rock to which each of us was anchored’ (74).
This loving and simple tribute to his mother demonstrates completely how much Charles appreciated his family and upbringing. This close-knit family life is clearly embedded in Charles as he reflects on meeting his wife and having children of his own. ‘My own good fortune to share with my wife the pleasure of bringing up our own little brood. (23). endearingly calling his children his ‘little brood’, Charles follows his father’s example and becomes a strong provider for his wife. ‘I therefore made what provision I could to ensure that, should anything happen to me, my wife would not be in need’ (76).
The importance of family to Charles is present in his memoir; it is outstandingly clear to me that home and family life is crucial to Charles as he protects his wife and raises a family with her. ‘We were rewarded with a daughter…We were to have two more children, and we saw them all grow up and marry. We spent many more years happily together’ (77-110). Although he only mentions his married life briefly in comparison to his childhood, Charles only speaks fondly of his wife and children and as mentioned in my ‘Purpose and Audience’, because of this close and happy relationship, it thankfully (on my behalf!) lead Charles to write his memoir.
Sanderson, Charles Whiten. ‘Half a Lifetime in the 20th Century’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies. University of Brunel Library. Special Collections. 688.
688 SANDERSON, Charles Whiten, ‘Half a Lifetime in the 20th Century: A Book of Memoirs’, TS, pp.115 (c.78,000 words). Extracts published in Mansfield and North Nottinghamshire Chronicle Advertiser (Chad), 13 March – 31 July 1980 (Sutton-in-Ashfield Library). Brunel University Library.
 Sanderson, Charles Whiten. ‘Half a Lifetime in the 20th Century’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies. University of Brunel Library. Special Collections. 688.
 Bradbury, M. My End is My Beginning, Burnett Archive 2:871 1973
 Vincent, David. ‘Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class.’ Social History, 5.2 (1980): 223-247.
‘The Family Home’ Nicholson, William. Pallant House Gallery. https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-family-home-230332/view_as/grid/search/keyword:family-home-1579609/page/1