By Leah Magee
From the ratty ways of the east end, is the biography One of the multitude (Acorn, 1912)was written throughout his life starting around the late 19th century, it follows him from cradle to his mid-life time. Published under the name George Acorn at the beginning of the book we are explained that this is not the name of the original author and all sources will be based on this pseudonym. ‘although the author of it is not personally known to me.’ (Acorn, p. 12)
Written from his perspective and describing the experiences he lived through as well as the feelings he felt at the time, he gives a real insight to what the lower classes experienced around this time, this giving us eyes, ears and a mind of a young boy who was living during such a time, during his early years. Many of his ‘firsts’ are experienced and explained during the writing of this memoir.
One of the multitude also illustrates the different relationships of the time which George had established and how emotions were tied to these. The relationship with his parents, or lack thereof, the inspiration of his teachers and the childish jealousy he felt towards some of his peers. Within the memoir there is nothing short of description and character building around each of the friends and peers George has in his life, with each encounter is a development and allows him to reflect on where he is, what he wants to do and where he wants to be going.
Although a biography there is also a story telling element to the style which George writes this autobiography in, an in-depth description of his thoughts and feelings towards people, especially on an intellectual level. Unlike the common portrayal of the working class of the east end, George is extremely intelligent even as a young boy, he describes his want to read and write more and become a man of the world and culture. Even the style which he describes his opinions of people in his life, how he pulls apart their relationship and his thoughts about them, is extremely thorough and justified, proving people of his age, class and time were in fact educated and intelligent which goes against the grain.
Above all, One of the multitude manages to tie a time with faces, relationships and real life experiences all the way through the lives of those living through the late 1800’s. Taking away the significance of the country but scoping this down to an individual learning from his trade, moving around and learning from job and expanding his skills, in an emotive and descriptive way. So follow on with this journey as we go through the memoir by ‘George Acorn’ and see how his job, his family and his life develop from start to finish, to see what we can learn from him and get a real experience and idea of the early years of boy in the 19th century.
Acorn, G., 1912. One of the multitude. 1st ed. New York: London, W. Heinemann.