It is commonly said that a man is judged by the company he keeps. If this is true for people I believe it is true for literature – a person’s being is judged by the literature which they have, and have not, read. Applying this to Albert Mansbridge was a difficult task as he seldom talks about what literature he reads and has read – he focuses more on the plight of the working class academic than he does himself.
In his memoirs, Mansbridge discusses a number of texts which he notes that he must read or that have been read. in 1895 he noted:
Books to be read Sunday afternoons:
- Green’s Short History and Penny Poets.
- Handley Morals Xtian
- Six Centuries of Work and Wages. Thorold Rogers.
- Industrial History of England.
- Stuart Mill’s Principles of Political Economy.
- Elements of Ethics. J.H. Muirhead.
- Maurice – Social Morality.
- Westcott – Social Aspects of Christianity
(Mansbridge, 1940, 35-36)
These texts which Mansbridge notes at the age of nineteen reveal to us is intellectual ambition. By educating himself and dedicating time to learning about the plight of the working class in education, Mansbridge was able to build a repertoire of understanding which would come to support his protestation of the education system, and the development of the WEA. We can see that even at a young age, Mansbridge was deeply interested in politics, ethics and the birth of Marxism.
Later on in his memoirs, Mansbridge discusses his time spent doing academic work in Oxford. He explains how he found difficulty in some of the work with which he was tasked:
My struggles with some of the papers were painful. I confess I was only comfortable in dealing with the parasangs of Anabasis, Book I, and the paragraphs consequent upon “Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est”‘ (Mansbridge, 1940, 39).
Being able to read in multiple languages (even if not wholly fluent) offers an insight into Mansbridge’s intelligence. Having left school at the age of fourteen, it is amazing to find that he was so successful in his education. Mansbridge appears to have focused his reading on canonical literature in a pursuit of achieving academic merit. By focusing on works in Latin and Greek, which were viewed as the epitome of great literature, Mansbridge builds a literary repertoire which would enable him to stand out from the ordinary working class man and woman.
We can see from the literature that Mansbridge discusses in his memoirs that he focused on labour, the working class, and education. This is no surprise considering the massive strides that Mansbridge took to further the education of working men and women, along with his challenges to the education system as a whole. The difficult and canonical literature which Mansbridge “associated” himself with are a true testament to who he was as a person – intelligent, inspired, and indomitable.
Mansbridge, Albert. The Trodden Road, London: Temple, 1940.
Six Centuries of Work and Wages. Archive. N.d. Web. Accessed 1/2/2016.