Arthur Gill. (b.1887): Purpose and Audience

Leeds 1900
Arthur’s days of familiarity as a child in 1900s

“Whole districts have been demolished and re-built, and one get the impression of living in another town altogether. But changes are inevitable, and we ourselves change as the years go by – let us “hope for the better.”

LEEDS 1954
Arthur recalls desolation and change.

Something which is very inspiring about Arthur’s writing was his ability not to dwell on the hardships he faced. In his memoir he touches briefly on his emotional breakdown, however does not go into explicit detail. This is something which is very intriguing, although Arthur’s memoir is quite factual in his account of life. Of course, we the reader can guess how he must have been feeling at each point, one does feel that Arthur’s approach to writing his memoir was a very English ‘stiff upper lip’ approach.

Arthur’s life was a relatively happy one, he had down spells such as his emotional breakdown and leaving his young family for war, these difficult periods in Arthur’s life must have prompted a lot of mixed emotions, however Arthur very much kept his emotions in check throughout his memoir, never giving too much away. Making one wonder, who was the memoirs really intended for? Who was Gill’s intended audience?

There is real sense of nostalgia within the memoirs; Arthur is recalling memories from what seems like a better time, speaking of days that have passed with a sense of romanticism. Was Arthur writing for the next generation, giving us a piece of his life, and era? Was Arthur allowing the reader to step into his world, if only for a short period?

Even Arthur’s recollections of war were not overtly unpleasant, but there is a sense of loneliness as Arthur recalls writing to Ellen. More so as he waits for his unit to be ‘demobbed’ before Christmas 1916, those particular memories for the reader displayed a sense of seclusion and isolation.

WW1 - lonely
‘Ellen has kept these two little epistles all these years as keep sakes, and it is amusing to read again my flowery language to my lady- love.’ (P.74)

Nonetheless, those memories although marred by loneliness were not necessarily unpleasant, which makes the reader question, was he writing for himself? Trying to recapture the happiness of past memories, to hold and cherish one last time.

There is one aspect of Arthur’s life which displays a more emotional side, when Arthur writes about his wife Ellen. Arthur’s love for her is very evident, his constant in a world of uncertainties and war. Arthur recalls memories of himself and his wife with a great deal of fondness and love.

Old love letter
One of Arthur’s joys was re-reading his ‘flowery language of love’ he sent to Ellen throughout their life together. Their love kept him going through his lonely years at war.

A real working class hero, Arthur’s life was made up and characterised by many different things, aspects and people. An ordinary man, with a reasonable education, and a good grasp of language lived his life the way he wanted. ‘Reminisces of a cobbler’s son’ is the story of Arthur’s life told aloud for all to read, in a relatable manner, our narrator reminds himself of his ups and downs, the goods and the bad, and imparts his wisdom to us. Perhaps to Arthur his writing was for everyone, his memoir was his legacy and a gift to the generation to come.


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