Arthur P Jacobs (born 1907): An Introduction

Arther P Jacobs, the only child of a post office worker and housewife, was born in 1907 in central London.  Jacobs’s autobiography, ‘Just Take a Look at These!’ is an upbeat memoir, focussing mostly on his childhood, talking about the benefits of growing up amongst the excitement of London in the 1900’s, and the benefits of being brought up in an affluent area.

Jacobs takes his readers on a journey from childhood to adulthood, his story brimming with comical and uplifting tales of childhood holidays and school life whilst also containing his political thoughts on the Suffragette movement and his World War I experience. These tales, told though Jacobs witty and imaginative narrative voice draws us as readers in, allowing us to learn about this author behind his works.

The main topic of Arthur’s memoir is the story of his childhood and growing up. He tells us of his privileged younger years, growing up in Hampstead Heath on Parliament Hill, and speaks about being very ‘fortunate’ to be allowed to roam and play as a child should despite the terror brought by World War 1 in London.

Parliament Hill 1906
Parliament Hill 1906

 

Arthur’s memoir is unique in its detail of childhood, a concept often lost once one turns into adulthood. Readers can drift away, and even be taken back reading the memories Arther has as a child, while he asks us to, ‘consider what paradise it was. All the room imaginable for the playing of games’.

Arthur’s memioir is also unique in his account of the Suffragette movement in London. As a child, he gives an interesting, yet naïve opinion on the movement. Almost humorous, he voices fears that a Suffragette may, ‘come down his chimney’ at night, symbolising the evil stigma these women were seen to have on the general public. His fun activities as a child which I have already spoken of were squashed by the Suffragettes, seen in his disappointment when the museum he visited was closed due to ‘activities of the Suffragettes’. It is interesting to see an outsider’s perspective on the movement, and especially how as a child, Arthur was influenced by the evil stereotype the media portrayed suffragette women.

Arthur also speaks about World War 1, remembering most the airships over London. He speaks of them as from the ‘blimp variety’. He also speaks about spending many a night in the ‘underground’, referring to how the London underground were used as air aid shelters during the bombings.

World War 1 blimp
World War 1 blimp

 

Growing older, he speaks about his work as a deputy cashier at a bank, later transferring his skills into the Navy, like his grandfather he talks about in his chapter, ‘naval affairs’.

So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Arthurs memoir, and think it is a brilliant, uplifting account of childhood and London, one of my favourite cities. I look forward to delving into his memoir more, and bringing more detailed accounts of his chapters forward to the Writing Lives research project.

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