Reading & Writing

‘There must be a bullet hidden away here somewhere and I’d be making it if I had not already shot my bolt over bullets.’

As we are aware the institutions of education played an important part in Hughes’ development as a young man, he appears to take education and is able to write considerably well. As someone from a working-class background he receives a good education attending grammar school where he will have a received a good level of literature. Although he describes his initial experiences with reading and writing at Poniciau School where his first experiences of literature were through ‘thick, green, hard backed books.’ Although Hughes cemented his education with literature in school it was his use of reading as a hobby outside of school that is particularly interesting. Hughes discusses how he found ‘great solace’ in magazines of the time such as ‘The Wizard’ and ‘The Hotspur’ as well as ‘The Gem’ and ‘Magnet’ as well as magazines that we are far more familiar with in the 21st century such as Marvel. Hughes emphasises his love for The Wizard magazine describing it as a ‘great literacy feast about to burst upon the schoolboy reading public.’ (13) The magazine was published as part of a British Story paper by D.C Thompson & co and according to the magazines from cover the magazine featured ‘Hand Coloured Real Photos.’

“Peg’s Paper, that was a real load of tripe”

Film Fun, featuring Charlie Chaplin

As we are aware Hughes has a huge interest in football, judging by the magazine cover it is to see how the magazine appealed to him. He says himself that he ‘collected the glossy photographs of sporting favourites.’ (13) Author Ross McKibbin discusses ‘The habit of reading magazines and calling them ‘books’ was acquired at school, even by a large proportion of grammar school boys. And the ‘books’ they overwhelmingly read were the boys ‘and girls’ tuepenny magazines’ (Mckibbin, 1999, 497) Mckibbin later refers to Wizard Directly as it was read by half of ‘grammar school boys and two thirds of senior school boys’ (497) Later stating that the magazines ‘were as close to a universal literature as England had.’ (497)

Hughes also refers to the magazine ‘Film Fun’ which was established in the 1920’s which took a satirical look at celebrity culture in the early twentieth century. Hughes portrays the image of how he used to ‘laugh at Charlie [Chaplin]’ and the way he used to pull lamp posts back just as if they were made of Indian rubber.’ (13) Despite refereeing us to texts that can be read as fun and light-hearted, Hughes is able to shift his tone and discuss literature that he had more of seriousness and importance about it. He discusses magazines such as ‘John Bull’ as a political magazine, something as we already know Hughes likes to be very much aware of the political goings on in Britain. Hughes describes the magazine as ‘fierce in it denunciation of any deviation from the accepted standard of the mores, ran a kind of gamble.’ (56) as well as its;

anxiety to expose corruption and vices of the day.’ (54)

Judging from the magazines and newspapers being read by Hughes is obvious that such work had an effect on him and his own style of writing. He takes a relaxed take on his own work and is able to drop in the odd quip for good humour. It is worth pointing out that despite his grammar school education, Hughes use of magazines towards his social standing, the magazine featuring his favourite sports starts from the world of boxing and football, sports that are engrained on working class culture, and magazine covers featuring believers in socialist issues like Charlie Chaplin featuring on the main page. The form of literature read Hughes may not be seen as academic form of scholarly reading, but it is literature that has helped form his beliefs regarding his social and political attitudes


G. Clifton Hughes. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 4  2.426

Mckibbin, Ross. Class and Culture: England 1918-1951. Oxford UP. New York. 1999

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