“Mother used to sit and write it at night when she couldn’t sleep”
The memoir of Lucy Luck is one of great interest, written towards the end of her life. The reason behind Lucy’s decision to write her memoir is never disclosed by Lucy herself. Instead Lucy’s daughter suggests why her mother wrote her life narrative, in her short but impactful memory of her mother writing: “Mother used to sit and write at night when she couldn’t sleep.” Lucy’s daughter alludes to her mother’s writing of her memoir as a cathartic act, turning to writing when she cannot sleep. Writing seems to have allowed Lucy the opportunity for personal reflection. This purpose adds to the reading experience, as it allows the reader to feel more connected to Lucy. We can imagine her sitting at night writing down her memories, a deeply personal way of composing her memoir. However, there are moments in Lucy’s memoir that indicate how she was writing with a reader in mind through such statements like “I must tell you (2).” When writing these statements Lucy must have been writing with a sense of familiarity towards the reader due to her friendly and intimate tone.
The publication of the memoir The London Mercury is highly intriguing. The newspaper was created by J.C Squire with the aim of being a varied literary magazine. It contained prose, poetry and more. The inclusion of Lucy’s memoir in such a publication highlights the scope of the newspaper and Squire’s expansive understanding of literature. Unfortunately the volume of the newspaper that Lucy’s memoir was published in cannot be accessed, as it has not been digitized. As we do not have the original version of the memoir, written in Lucy’s hand, we do not know if had been edited for publication. This itself reflects the casual consideration for working-class writings that have rarely been considered worth publishing and preserving.
The copy of the memoir held by the Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography is in fact an abridged and typewritten version of the one serialised in the London Mercury between November 1925 and April 1926. It is unclear however, whether the amendments made to the Burnett version were correcting the typist’s errors or were correcting Lucy’s original expression.
The title of a memoir is an aspect that can largely go unnoticed; however they can be equally as revealing in relation to how the writer feels about their own memoir. Lucy’s being a short memoir is reflected in the title. Indeed the titles of working-class memoirs can themselves be revealing, as Helen Rogers and Emily Cuming point out: “some of the titles of the autobiographies make reference to what the authors perceive to be the amateur quality of their accounts, or their brevity [such as] Lucy Luck’s suitably alliterative title ‘A Little of My Life (Rogers, Cuming,2019,184).” However, it is unclear if Lucy herself wrote the title of her memoir or if it was composed after her death by J.C. Squires when he published the autobiography four years after her death. This uncertainty adds to complexity of Lucy’s memoir and makes it all the more exciting explore.
Lucy’s autobiography, then, is one that has reached a variety of audiences but was a memoir that is composed without a particular audience in mind. It is a particularly important memoir for very few autobiographical writings seem to have been written by working woman in the nineteenth century, or at least have survived: “only one in ten nineteenth-century workers memoir’s were written by women (Rose1992, 51).” Lucy’s memoir is layered with interesting and complex elements when exploring the purpose of her memoir and her audience.
Cuming, Emily and Rogers, Helen. Revealing Fragments: Close and Distant Reading of Working-Class Autobiography. Journal of Family and Community History (2019)
456 LUCK, Lucy, ‘A Little of My Life’, edited by J. C. Squire, London Mercury, Vol. xiii, No.76, Nov 1925-Apr 1926, pp.354-73. Extract in J. Burnett (ed.), Useful Toil. Autobiographies of working people from the 1820s to the 1920s (Allen Lane, London, 1974), pp.68-77.
Making Britain. The London Mercury. http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/makingbritain/content/london-mercury
Rose, Jonathan, ‘Rereading the English Common Reader: A Preface to a History of Audiences.’ Journal of the History of Ideas. 53. 1 (1992): 47-70 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2709910
Sir J. C. Squire (Sir John Collings Squire) Biography.
Sir J. C. Squire (Sir John Collings Squire) Biography – (1884–1958), (Sir John Collings Squire), New Age, New Statesman, London Mercury, The Three Hills, American Poems – JRank Articles http://www.jrank.org/literature/pages/5852/Sir-J-C-Squire-(Sir-John-Collings-Squire).html#ixzz6tQfMgkDT
Modernist Magazines Projects. The London Mercury image.
John Squire Image. Poetry Foundation.