Maud Clarke (b. 1887): Purpose and Audience

‘I call myself a social atom – a small speck on the surface of society’ – W.E Adams

Identifying Maud’s intended audience was difficult at first, as nowhere in her autobiography does she obviously state her purpose. As her autobiography is ‘Untitled’ she gives absolutely nothing away regarding the target audience of her memoir and we can only assume that she is writing solely for herself, perhaps a reminder of the positive and negative moments in her childhood and early adulthood.

Photograph from Maud’s autobiography of the old pubs in Tipton, West Midlands [1]
The classic autobiography tends to be a contemplation of the individual self and often focuses on the self-reflection of the author. Due to Maud’s working-class background, the fact that her memoir remains ‘Untitled’ suggests to me that she does not feel that she is worthy of naming her memoir as she is simply a normal person in society. Yet I feel otherwise, and I think that her memoir is so carefully written that it deserves all the praise that it can get as it was a truly inspiring read and I find it sad that it has gone unnoticed all these years.

Regarding her audience, she makes reference to her ‘elder grandson’ (Clarke, 1) in the opening pages of her memoir and that is probably the biggest and only suggestion that she wrote her memoir with a purpose; to preserve her life so that her grandchildren can be grateful of the life that they have now. The fact that she was also a schoolteacher contributes to her desire to ‘produce respectable and, in on way or another, improving literature.’ (Vincent, 228) This being said, her good education is very much present in the memoir as her style of writing is remarkably humble and beautiful, especially when recounting the times of her life that meant the most to her.

While she is obviously writing her memoir for herself, she perhaps unknowingly speaks for the hundreds of working-class citizens in her neighborhood at the time. She represents their struggles and their good times, showing the bonds that the children made with each other, both in and outside of school. Therefore, I can also suggest that she wrote the memoir for the families of her childhood friends, as she is able to show the readers that not all working-class environments were poor and desolate and that in fact they knew how to make the best out of a bad situation, which gives their relatives an insight into their lives, even if they did not know them.

Yet I do not find that the intended audience of the author is always the reality as I cannot imagine Maud writing her memoir for people except the ones mentioned. Yet, through the Burnett Archive, it has been read hundreds of times by complete strangers with no direct link to her or her family. It makes me feel happy that her memoir has not just been lost in the world of the internet and that it has taken on its own purpose to preserve the life of its author.

Works Cited:

Adams, W.E. ‘Memoir of a Social Atom,’ Hutchinson and Co. (1903)

Clarke, Maud. ‘Untitled.’ pp.67, Brunel University Library. (1978) Available online

Vincent, David. ‘Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class.’ Social History, 5.2 (1980): 223-247.

Images Cited:

[1] Clarke, Maud. ‘Untitled.’ pp.67, Brunel University Library. (1978)









Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.