Whereas my previous blog focused on Thomas’ experiences of family life during his childhood, this one will focus on adult life as he forms a family of his own. Not much of Thomas’ account mentions the topic of young love or relationships etc as he chooses to focus on his academic career which he appears to be most proud of. The information that he does tell is on a need-to-know basis, only giving strictly facts about the duration of his two marriages and the amount of children he had whilst being silent on his duties as a husband and a father.
Prior to going into his home life, he begins with a disclaimer: ‘Here I must impose some account of my domestic life during these years’. (14). It appears like Thomas is hesitant to reveal much about his personal life but feels it is necessary to as it was happening simultaneous to his career and is as much a part of his life.
His first marriage lasted six years before her death in 1899, and during that time had two girls and one boy. What I find interesting is how he chooses not to provide a name for his wife or a cause of death whilst he gives the names of all three of his children and informs us that his son, Arthur died of pneumonia. Whilst it is expected for Thomas to be more informative about his family, it raises questions such as why he does not go into detail. Could his marriage have been a disaster? Could his wife had been a negative influence on his life? Or is it simply to protect the identities of those he loved because he wanted he regain some part of his private life?
This does not appear to be an isolated incident, it tends to be common in working-class memoirs written by women to ‘refer far more frequently to their husbands or lovers and children (their personal relationships)’ whereas men ‘refer more to their jobs or occupations (their social status)’ (355). Considering the restricted gender roles at the time it is no surprise that this is the case, men were socially considered to be the main providers of income in the household whilst women tended to housekeeping duties such as cooking, cleaning and childbearing.
David Vincent seems to think it is due to the fact ‘they do not seem to feel that their relationship with their children had any measurable effect on their moral personality’ (231). It may be due to the lack of contact he had with his children due to spending the majority of his time as a ‘Master of Method’ at a new Day Training College in Cardiff that Thomas did not feel much emotional attachment to his children which is reflected in the ‘marked disparity between their attitude towards their childhood and that towards the bringing up of their children’. (230).
It is always important to remember that whilst what the author of an autobiography says is important, it is what is left out that says more about the type of person they are. With this in mind, Thomas’ priorities lies with his studies and sadly not with those who are close to him.
Thomas Raymont. Memories of an Octogenarian 1864-1949. Found at The Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, at Brunel University.