“I was actually responsible for some arches on a church in Marsham Street, of which I was very proud.”
When we talk about the working class man we often also talk about the sense of pride that comes with a hard days work. What I want to discuss in this post is really that. Todd was clearly a man who was very proud of his work and who gained great satisfaction from it. This is the sort of thing that I believe we still see today. Working class pride is something that has probably been passed down generation to generation and it is clearly evident in Todd’s memoir. Whereas work can often be viewed in terms of hardship and suffering and Todd does discuss some of the tougher aspects of a very physical job, it seems more that work is a source of pride. A sense of belonging almost comes out of his work. Maybe Todd even felt more at home at work than he did with family and that might be suggested by his choice not to include any outside contextual information about himself. Maybe work was all that was important to him? I doubt that, however.
His actual declaration of pride in the above quote serves but to underline what we can all sense anyway. Despite his reasons for writing the memoir being stated as having a basis in history, I don’t think that we can fully rule out his somewhat “selfish” reasons for writing. Reasons that have their basis in pride. He obviously wants to show case his achievements and the fact that he is writing this memoir in his older age means that we really can consider the memoir a telling of the story of a life’s work. His work is wrapped up in his identity, his persona.. it really is almost as though A.W Todd exists in no other sense than as a working class working man.
I believe his pride extends to actual memoir as well. Though working class literary merit had already been established by this point anyway, he probably was rather proud of his achievement here. It was such a difficult task to undertake and he has done it very well. He leaves no stone unturned, rubbish pun absolutely intended, and has produced a rather whole and conclusive account of what being a stonemason during the early part of the 20th century was like.
Very well done, Todd.
‘A.W. Todd’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 2:1030