Frank George Marling (1863-1954): Reading and Writing – Writing Lives

Frank George Marling (1863-1954): Reading and Writing

Frank mentions reading a few times throughout his memoirs. He does not write about great novels or poems that he enjoyed, like Dora R. Hannan or Frederick Charles Wynne do, but he does mention reading and writing briefly. Even though reading may have been a great interest to some authors, others simply focused on other aspects of their life. Frank, for example, chose to write about his childhood life, so it is uncertain as to whether he was an avid reader later on in his life or not. This is similar to John Shinn (1837-1925), as he too does not mention any reading habits or interests he had. Instead, John writes more about his childhood and love for music (Flanagan, 2017).

‘Easter and The Great Exhibition’; The Illustrated London News; Saturday, 19th April, 1851; British Newspaper Archives.

On Sunday Evenings we were privileged to look at bound volumes of “The Illustrated London News” for 1851. That was the year of the Great Exhibition. My father went up to London to see it and all that year took in the aforesaid weekly paper and had them bound into two volumes. What splendid books they were! […] I can see the pictures now, the wonderful crystal palace in building […] “Derby Day” with its crowd of coaches and many miscellaneous conglomeration of conveyances making for Epson, the Northfolk Giant, scenes from the French Revolution, these stand out prominently (pp.60-2).

Frank’s enthusiasm for reading and looking at these books supports the popularity of books and literature at the time. Jonathan Rose writes about “the reading revolution” of 1800, where there was an increase in “the production and consumption of books” (1992, pp.47-8). Rose also states that reading became an activity that was practiced “daily” rather than being a “special occasion” (1992, p.48). Frank appeared to have read as part of a special occasion, rather than regularly. However, as previously stated, Frank only writes about his reading habits as a child. Therefore, it can not be fully stated whether he read more regularly in his adult life or not. 

Frank also mentions reading lessons at school, and was punished for not finding his place! (See my Education and Schooling post): We were having a reading lesson, each one following on where the previous one left off. For some reason the class was very inattentive. about the third boy did not know his place where to read, I was a long way down the list and never dreamed my turn to read would come without my knowing where to read! Boy after boy failed to take up the thread and at last I too was unable to do so! (pp.74-5).

Burr, John; The Incorrigible; Manchester Art Gallery; 1879.

As also stated in my Education and Schooling post, Frank was more interested in subjects such as geography, and was very good at arithmetic (pp.79-80). Therefore, his interest in literature is not very prominent according to his memoirs. It was more of a special occasion for Frank as a child, rather than a regular pastime.

Frank divides his memoirs into parts one and two, and then chapters about different parts of his life. The second part, “Reminiscences (vol.2)” (pp.117-166), includes details about a piece of writing he was asked to do for the Sharpness Union Church (p.156).

I have dealt with the history of the Sharpness (Newtown) Union Church in my booklet entitled “The First Fifty Years of Sharpness Union Church 1880-1930” which I wrote in 1930 at the request of the Ministers and Deacons, so there is no need to repeat it here (p.157).

As he mentions, Frank had written this in 1930, meaning he would have been aged 67 years. I managed to find details of this piece of writing online, which includes a transcript of the booklet and an image of Frank and his wife –  He writes about the history of the church and the building of it, as well as the members of the church. Frank goes into great detail and writes, similar to his memoirs, in a very fond and nostalgic tone – as he worked there for over 50 years of his life.

I have been asked to write a history of Sharpness Union Church, of which I have been a member since its foundation fifty years ago. I have preserved a few records, but nothing like sufficient to make the story complete. The indulgence of those who will fail to find herein what they would wish to see is earnestly asked for. I trust enough is set down to enable them to fill the gaps. F.G. Marling, Esk House, Wotton-under-Edge, July, 1930 […] Those of us who remember SHARPNESS NEW DOCKS in the making, recall with a smile the story of a honeymoon couple who drove in a trap from Coaley to Sharpness to celebrate the wedding day. Arriving within a mile of the prospective Port, to a place where the road forked, they enquired of a man who was breaking stones by the roadside, which was the way to take […]  .

Frank was a dedicated member of the Sharpness Union Church, and worked at the Sunday School there for more than 50 years, which is why he was asked to write about the church. Read more details about Frank’s time working at the church in my next post: ‘Life and Labour’.

Also, if you would like to learn more about different authors and their reading habits and interests, have a look at the ‘Reading and Writing’ section!


  • Burnett, John (ed.) Useful Toil: Autobiographies of Working People from the 1820s to the 1920s. London: Routledge, 1994.
  • Daish, L. (2018). Frederick Charles Wynne: Reading and Writing. 15 March. [blog]. Available at: /reading-and-writing/frederick-charles-wynne-reading-and-writing (Accessed: 23/03/18).
  • Elliott, I. (2018). Dora R. Hannan: Reading and Writing. 8 March. [blog]. Available at: /reading-and-writing/dora-r-hannan-reading-and-writing (Accessed: 23/03/18).
  • Flanagan, A. M. (2017). John Shinn (1837-1925): Reading and Writing. 24 March. [blog]. Available at: /reading-and-writing/john-shinn-1837-1925-reading-and-writing (Accessed: 23/03/18).
  • Frank G. Marling: ‘The First Fifty Years of Union Church, Sharpness 1880-1930,  published by T & W Goulding, Printers and Publishers, Nelson Street, Bristol, 1930. In Barton, R. ‘Sharpness Union Church (1880-1930). Available at: (Accessed: 22/03/18).
  • 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

Images used

  • Burr, J. (1879). ‘The Incorrigible’. Manchester Art Gallery. [artwork]. Available at: (Accessed: 25/03/18).
  • The Illustrated London News. (1851). ‘Easter and the Great Exhibition’. Saturday 19th April. [Article]. The British Newspaper Archive. (Accessed: 22/03/18).

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