Reading and Writing – Writing Lives

Reading and Writing

Although Edna Bold does not reference many writers that she is interested in, or any books that she has found brilliant enough to include a mention in her memoir, she does include subtle references throughout the entire memoir that many readers would just look over.

Firstly, the first thing that Edna chooses to include throughout the memoir after the title and foreword is the poem stated above, named ‘I remember, I remember’, published by Thomas Hood in 1950. However, Edna has named her first chapter ‘Happy and Glorious’, this leads readers to believe that the entire memoir will be of a joyful and celebrated tone. Due to Edna including this poem in the very beginning of the text, it leads readers to understand that she is fond of Thomas Hood and his poetry. She continues by saying: ‘If Thomas Hood’s sun ever shone, it certainly never peeped, nor his roses, violets and lily cups grew near the smoke-blackened walls of our house’ (page 1). Edna is linking her life to Thomas Hood’s life, from what he describes throughout the poem. To begin her memoir, Edna has to read the words of the poem very closely as it is almost a guide to what she has to do to begin writing. For example, Edna has to ‘remember the house where I was born’ to allow all of her memories to come flooding back.

Image of T.S. Eliot

Similar to Jack McQuoid, Edna first mentions the famous author, T. S Eliot, in her memoir on page 60 when she states: ‘”Macavity, Macavity, there’s no-one like Macavity” wrote T. S. Eliot, and might well have substituted Miss Buys-Y-Man, there’s no-one like Miss Buys-Y-Man, had he known Maud Buys-Y-Man.’ (page 60). She includes the chapter title ‘Miss Buys-Y-Man’ when referring to similarities between the person who T. S. Eliot is talking about in the quote and Maud Buys-Y-Man.

Image result for robinson crusoe
Image of Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe.

Edna also found it important enough to include a reference to Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe. She says, ‘Each year we had the choice of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Bean Stalk, The three Bears, Goody Two Shoes, Puss in Boots, Mother Goose, Robinson Crusoe, etc., etc. We were allowed one pantomime, sometimes two. With the exception of Robinson Crusoe, the magic and splendour of these spectaculars brought glamorous dreams, but in the case of Robinson the very epitome of horror filtered through into my first nightmare.’ (Page 13).

Edna decides to include a quote from Robert Stephenson in her memoir to allow her to strengthen her point and beliefs on work. She says, ‘I believes with Robert Stephenson that “A man’s true life for which he consents to live, lie all together in the field of fancy. There is no exemption from the quest for truth nor from the drudgery imposed by the acceptance of the accidental conditions to which it has pleased God to call us.”’ (Page 36). Robert Stephenson has been described as being the greatest engineer of the nineteenth century. The fact that Edna is even reading about him, and his life, allows one to believe that she is very bright and clever, and definitely not like your normal housewife. This can be linked to my Education and Schooling blog post on Edna’s adult experiences that can be found here.

Although Edna does not simply state her favourite writers as such, she does allow the reading and writing that she carries out to influence her memoir in a massive way, it allows her to become more knowledgeable. I can only assume that her reading from a young age allowed her to gain entry into the types of education she has gone through, for example, she was deeply surprised in herself when she found out that she has gained acceptance into University.

Map of Beswick, Manchester 1900’s.

This type of education allowed Edna’s blog to be a lot more interesting than other people’s memoirs who cannot read or write. Edna includes many literary devices throughout her memoir, for example, she says ‘We lived on a main road that ran like an artery through the district of Beswick and wound one way to the city of Manchester’ (page 2). The use of this simile allows readers to become more engaged in the reading, and allows the memoir to enhance the emotions and feelings that gives the reader a vivid sense and idea of how the streets were situated where she grew up.


Bold, Edna. ‘The long and short of it. Being the recollections and reminiscences of Edna Bold’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:85, available at

NB: all pictures and images have links of their source.

Proof read by Beti and Shauna.

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