Goodbye Charles: Researching Writing Lives

To be presented with the opportunity to research the life of a common, working-class writer is one that I do not believe I will ever forget. It has been an inspiring journey and I have greatly enjoyed getting to know Charles the way I feel I have. Once I came across Charles’ memoir, I knew he was the writer I wanted to research.

Initially, I did find it to be a long process to read through Charles’ biography as all of his notes were handwritten. This meant that over 100 pages of handwritten notes had to be transcribed. It was quite a challenge but an experience I find myself being grateful for. I felt throughout the transcribing process, I truly got to know Charles on a deeper level. As a writer myself, I find handwriting to a uniquely beautiful thing about being human and having access his on such a large scale was something I am thankful to have had the opportunity to experience.

Researching Charles and learning about the experiences of his early childhood made me feel as though I knew him on a personal level. The child-like voice he mimics of his younger self allowed me to feel as though I was going through these experiences with him. I was unaware of the harsh expectations that most men of this time had for the sons. Having his childhood cut short with the birth of his severely disabled sister gave me insight into a situation I never truly understood before. In hindsight, it would have been an incredible to have been given the opportunity to meet him. I enjoyed reading his writing and his wit, often laughing aloud to some of the things he had said.

My experience researching Charles’ life has taught me a lot of things. It has allowed me an understanding of a family dynamic much different than my own. It has enabled me to know what it was like to be a part of a society that, despite being only 100 years older than our own, had diverse expectations. Life in the time Charles grew up in, functioned in such a way that its almost alien to our own. As a woman, I found it immensely intriguing the differences in how women were represented in the early 1900s. Charles’ recollections on his mother and his aunts are very unalike the women of our modern-day society.

Charles’ life and experiences have definitely allowed me to feel as though I have contributed to public history. He talks in great detail about the houses and towns he has lived in throughout his childhood. However, when I have attempted to research some of these places, especially Hawkhurst, there is limited information available. I like to think that through publishing these blogposts about Charles’ experiences, it provides a clearer image of Hawkhurst and Surrey in the early 1900s.

Initially, social media was difficult for me to use. However, I soon realised the benefits of sharing snippets of Charles life through tweets. It allowed me to engage with other researchers and get more of an idea of the type of content I should be looking at in terms of secondary sources. I feel it is also a beneficial way of promoting my blog posts and the writing lives website, as twitter has millions of users from all of the world. It is a definitely an excellent way to start engaging a readership.

I had never before kept a blog, outside of a Tumblr account for my own entertainment. I thoroughly enjoyed the blogging experience and I feel that it is something I would like to do as I continue my education. Being a writer myself, it is a huge benefit to be able to use a blog in an engaging and entertaining way and I feel it could open many opportunities in the future.

This project has meant a great deal more to me than I had thought it would when I chose the module. I feel that I truly know Charles on a personal level after reading his experiences and researching his life. This is definitely an experience I would recommend for anybody with an interest in history or writing. It is such a unique experience to research the life of a common person. To be given the opportunity to read a reflection of somebody’s life, no matter what they choose to do with it, is a beautiful thing. As humans, we experience life in different ways, and I feel it is a wonderful prospect to understand a stranger’s perspective on what their life has been.

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