Violet Austin (1910-1983): Purpose and Audience

Violet Austin seems to have written her memoir as a reflection of her happy childhood, and makes very few references to her adult life. Austin explains that during her childhood her parents did not have much money, but this did not stop her from having a very happy childhood. She makes references to today’s society not appreciating the smaller things in life such as the family grocers, which have been replaced by super and hypermarkets. Austin may have been writing for her family members, such as the granddaughter she mentions in her concluding paragraphs.

The memoir’s tone is informal and has a relaxed conversational feel to it, as if Austin is speaking to her family and friends. Austin structures her memoir in chapters, which have been named after aspects of her life such as school and recreation. Thus the memoir often lacks chronological order, which suggests it was not meant to read by a wider audience.

Austin paints a vivid depiction of Slough, so she may have been writing for people interested in the history of the town. She explains in great deal some key parts of its history such as Sir William Herschel, discoverer of the planet Uranus, who lived in Slough. She also explains how ‘the producer of the famous Cox’s Orange Pippin Apple lived just outside Slough’ in Colnbrook. He grew the apple at Turner’s Nursery, pictured below. The first chapter of her memoir is even called ‘local history, which highlights her own attachment to the town where she had always lived.

Austin also reflects on her memories of the First World War, including the death of her eldest brother, who was a soldier and the general strike during which the local communities gathered together to help each other. This widens her audience even further as it gives those interested in British history a first hand account of some of the key events that occurred.

Turner's Nursery 1910
Turner’s Nursery 1910

Whilst Austin’s purpose and audience are not explicitly stated in her memoir it can be interpreted that she meant them to be read by those close to her, due to her informal tone. She may have wanted to donate a record of her life and the events that occurred during it. It is also not clear how long Austin spent writing her memoir so we are unable to know how much thought went into the process, in terms of structure and who her intended audience is.  Austin also broadens her readership by connecting the history of her town to the national history as well as working class history. She portrays her individual history as well as the history of the local community against larger historical landscape.

 

Austin, Violet, ‘Untitled’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:22

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