George Acorn – Reading and writing (b. Late 19th C)

 By Leah Magee

(Berthoug, 2021)

Charing Cross Road - bookshop in the 1920's! - via @markmc1 | Bookshop,  Charing cross, London history

As a genre, the working-class autobiography originates around 1800-here too the reading revolution marked a watershed, when common readers began to write about themselves. And they are often wonderfully forthcoming about their reading experiences-not only what they read, but how they comprehended and reacted to their reading.’ (Rose, 1992)

From reading One of the Multitude, there is a clear understanding from the writer that he has an extensive vocabulary and for a writer of his time and place in society. This was greatly influenced by his love for books and education. The opening of the second chapter is ‘I WAS always very fond of reading, to which my parents somewhat strongly objected’ (Acorn, 1912). This becomes a huge part of his personality and his main hobby and enjoyment, although within his memoir there are a lot of descriptions about his struggles and hardships, it also shows what great enjoyment he gets from being intellectual and skilled in literature.

Plenty of times within the recollection, throughout, George mentions by name a substantial number of authors to who he had read or enjoyed. In line with other Victorian written biographies of young men or boys, Charles Dickens was mentioned who was known to be a hugely popular writer of the time ‘Above and beyond that, Dickens played a critically important role in making the British working classes articulate. He supplied a fund of allusions, characters, tropes, and situations that could be drawn upon by people who were not trained to express themselves on paper.’ (Rose, 1992) This proving he could have been of some inspiration to George and what we wrote or read.

Rose comments on how Acorn manages style, tone, and his interpretation of texts ‘Though George Acorn grew up in poverty in late Victorian East London, he recalled that, even as a boy, he had “some appreciation of style” and a sense of literary hierarchies, “tackling all sorts and conditions of books, from ‘Penny Bloods’ to George Eliot.” He was sophisticated enough to understand that a gifted writer could draw on the conventions of trash literature and work them into a near-classic-in this case Treasure Island, which he discerningly charac- terized as “the usual penny blood sort of story, with the halo of greatness about it.” (Rose, 1992) From this we can even say that George’s taste and his opinions are of a depth that is still appreciated in modern-day literature. With his education and although he was, at the time, a lower-class he could still appreciate the texts for more than just entertainment but where they stand within the literature world.

As mentioned in other blog posts previous to this one, George mentions on a number of occasions his reading skills and how invested in his education he was. Throughout his memoir, the best days it seems he had been during his schooling and with his teachers. Wanting to be around literature and learn more, shows what an extensive reader and interest he had in language. Although ‘One of the Multitude’ is written under a pseudonym, it could be there are other items written by ‘George Acorn’ or that he later on in life did become a more published writer of such, as we have seen in his biography, he has a very intriguing way of writing and even his child-hood story is novel-like. Even though the accounts are his memories, there are many novel-like qualities, even the naming of each of the chapters are creative and fun to bring out the key qualities of each chapter.

Bibliography

Acorn, G., 1912. One of the Mulititude. 1st ed. London: Heinemann.

Anon., n.d.

Berthoug, P., 2021. Peter Berthoug. [Online]
Available at: http://www.peterberthoud.co.uk/gallery/
[Accessed 06 05 2021].

Rose, J., 1992. Rereading the English common REader” A preface to a history of audiences. Journal of the History of Ideas, 53(1), pp. 47-70.

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