Advertisement

The Literature of Labour: Collective Biography and Working-Class Authorship, 1830–1859

  • Richard Salmon
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)

Abstract

This chapter examines the role of collective biography, a genre comprising brief didactic and inspirational sketches, in the narrative construction of working-class authorship during the mid-nineteenth century. In the three decades separating G. L. Craik’s The Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties (1830) from Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help (1859), collective biographies of writers (chiefly poets) affiliated to the ‘labouring class’ flourished. Focusing especially on the work of Edwin Paxton Hood (1820–85), whose books include The Literature of Labour and Genius and Industry, the chapter assesses the ways in which these biographical compendia challenge prevailing assumptions about the division between manual and mental work, yielding new insights into the labour of literature.

Keywords

Authorship Collective biography Genius Knowledge Labouring class Poetry Self-help Work 

Works Cited

  1. Burnett, John, David Vincent, and David Mayall (eds). (1984) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated Critical Bibliography. Volume 1: 1790–1900. Brighton: The Harvester Press.Google Scholar
  2. Carlyle, Thomas. (1888) ‘Corn-Law Rhymes’, in Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, vol. 3. London: Chapman & Hall, 157–80.Google Scholar
  3. Carter, Thomas. (1845) Memoirs of a Working Man. London: Charles Knight & Co.Google Scholar
  4. Cooper, Thomas. (1885) ‘Letters to Young Working Men’, in Thoughts at Fourscore, and Earlier. A Medley. London: Hodder and Stoughton.Google Scholar
  5. Craik, George Lillie. (1830–31) The Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties; Illustrated by Anecdotes, 2 vols. London: Charles Knight.Google Scholar
  6. Cross, Nigel. (1985) The Common Writer: Life in Nineteenth-Century Grub Street. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Forster, John. (1850) ‘The Dignity of Literature’. The Examiner [London]. 19 January: 35.Google Scholar
  8. Giddins, George H. (1886) Edwin Paxton Hood, Poet and Preacher. A Memorial. London: James Clarke & Co.Google Scholar
  9. Hood, Edwin Paxton. (1851) The Literature of Labour; Illustrious Instances of The Education of Poetry in Poverty. London: Partridge & Oakey.Google Scholar
  10. ——— (1852a) The Literature of Labour; Illustrious Instances of The Education of Poetry in Poverty. 2nd edn, Revised, Corrected, and Materially Enlarged. London: Partridge & Oakey.Google Scholar
  11. ——— (1852b) Genius and Industry: The Achievements of Mind Among The Cottages. 2nd edn. London: Partridge & Oakey.Google Scholar
  12. ——— (1858) Self-Formation: Twelve Chapters for Young Thinkers. 3rd edn, Revised and Greatly Enlarged. London: Judd & Glass.Google Scholar
  13. ——— (1861) The Peerage of Poverty: Or, Learners and Workers in Fields, Farms, and Factories. Second Series. London: Judd & Glass.Google Scholar
  14. Rose, Jonathan. (2001) The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Salmon, Richard. (2013) The Formation of the Victorian Literary Profession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Smiles, Samuel. (1847–48) ‘Poets of The People’. Howitt’s Journal of Literature and Popular Progress, vols 1–3.Google Scholar
  17. ——— (2002) Self-Help, With Illustrations of Character, Conduct, and Perseverance, ed. Peter W. Sinnema. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Southey, Robert. (1925) The Lives and Works of The Uneducated Poets, ed. J. S. Childers. London: Humphrey Melford.Google Scholar
  19. Tyrrell, Alexander. (1970) ‘Class Consciousness in Early-Victorian Britain: Samuel Smiles, Leeds Politics, and the Self-Help Creed’. Journal of British Studies, 9 (2): 102–25.Google Scholar
  20. Vincent, David. (1981) Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Working Class Autobiography. London: Europa Publications Limited.Google Scholar
  21. Waithe, Marcus. (2013) ‘The Pen and the Hammer: Thomas Carlyle, Ebenezer Elliott, and the “Active Poet”’, in Class and the Canon: Constructing Labouring-Class Poetry and Poetics, 1780–1900, ed. Kirstie Blair and Mina Gorji. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 116–35.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Salmon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeedsLeedsUK

Personalised recommendations