In her writing, Florence does not focus on own her own habits and beliefs, and gives little insight into this theme. However, in not including her own religious/political beliefs or detailed descriptions of her habits, Florence does not try to influence or change our beliefs. Instead she aims to simply write with passion about her own life as well as that of her family in order to reflect and enjoy.
One belief Florence does include in her autobiography is Vegetarianism perhaps developed from her love for animals and nature. Florence’s first mention of Vegetarianism is early on in the memoir when she would of been only around 7 or 8 years old when she recalls her Uncle coming to stay to look after them whilst their mother and father were away. Florence tells us he was a vegetarian and describes how he was having trouble with her younger brother Albert who would not eat his dinner because Uncle had cooked the veg with the skins on: “a thing he always did being a true vegetarian” (11).
“Now the boys are married we have become vegetarians. John has never been fond of meat so we please ourselves now. We enjoy this way of living, the meals are delicious, I like cooking and am thinking of writing a recipe book” (46)
Florence tells us that she and John decided to become vegetarians later on in life after their children were married and settled, adding how much they are enjoying this new way of life. Although she discusses her vegetarianism in her memoir, Florence doesn’t push her belief onto the reader or try and influence our own opinions instead she simply states: “I like to serve different meals each day it is surprising what I make one has to have a flare for it. I try to have fresh food and eat it as soon as soon as it is cooked. I make all my own soup which John loves. When he is designing I am in the kitchen doing the same with food. When I was a school girl I won a certificate for the top girl for cooking, so now I have more time for it I just love it trying out new dishes”. (46)
We can also read Florence’s love for children as a habit or belief. Beginning with her love for her siblings, followed by her love for her job as a nurse-maid to the love she describes raising her own children, Florence’s passion for children is obvious. In her memoir she describes how “watching the boys grow up were the happiest times of my married life I wish I could have it all over again” (49). Florence even describes her eldest son Richard as similar to her as they are both “passionately fond of babies and animals” (49).
Florence briefly mentions her love for Natural History however this is reflected more so through her sons and their interests. The 1870s onwards saw the rise of mass entertainment with the introduction of bank holidays and the rise of seaside resorts for working classes. Leisure becomes a marker of class – what Pierre Bourdieu calls ‘social distinction’. Florence mentions a caravan they used to own in Sussex and how they spent all their weekends and school holidays down there walking around nature reserves so the boys were able to learn all about nature. We can read her love for nature and her passion for teaching her children to love nature as one of her habits in life.
Although Florence does not write in detail about her habits and beliefs she still gives us small inclines into what she enjoyed most in life. If she appeared to be writing with a more obvious motive or audience in mind she probably would have included a more opinionated insight into her beliefs and habits in an attempt to persuade the reader, but instead we are able to enjoy Florence’s memoir for what it is: a memoir on her life.
181 COOTER, Florence Anne, ‘Seventh Child’, MS, pp.71 (c.71,000 words). Brunel University Library found in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989)