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“Scholarship Boys” in Twilight: The Memoirs of Six Humanists in Post-Industrial Britain

  • D. L. LeMahieu

Abstract

The memoirs of six “scholarship boys”—Richard Hoggart, Frank Kermode, Eric Hobsbawm, Harold Perkin, A. H. Halsey, and Brian Magee—reveal the deeply varied experience of academically gifted working- and lower-middle-class males in the twentieth century. The arc from social outsider to cultural prominence drew upon a commitment to humanism acquired in their youth. Scholarship boys navigated the crosscurrents of post-industrial culture in many ways but shared an unwillingness to accept uncritically the sophisticated reductions of postmodern theory and the “creative destruction” of neoliberal practice. The life writing of these figures reveals the often-concealed subjectivities behind academic success, including the desire in old age to honor the lived worlds of their youth. Humanism remained a continuing though not always dominant strain in post-industrial culture.

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1 Hoggart, Richard, The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life with Special Reference to Publications and Entertainments (New York, 1970), 242. Variously defined, “scholarship boys” have been part of British history for hundreds of years.

2 Cited in Hoggart, Richard, A Sort of Clowning, 1940–1959 (New Brunswick and London, 1994), 206.

3 Hoggart, Richard and Williams, Raymond, “Working Class Attitudes,” New Left Review 1, no. 1 (1960): 26.

4 Jones, Ben, The Working Class in Mid-Twentieth-Century England (Manchester, 2012), 3, 4–13.

5 Jones, Working Class, 201.

6 On the subject of life writing, I have found helpful Birkerts, Sven, The Art of Time in Memoir (Minneapolis, 2008); Gornick, Vivian, The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative (New York, 2001); Yagoda, Ben, Memoir: A History (New York, 2009); Anderson, Linda, Autobiography, 2nd ed. (London, 2011); Smith, Sidonie and Watson, Julia, Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives. 2nd ed. (Minneapolis, 2010); and Couser, G. Thomas, Memoir: An Introduction (Oxford, 2012).

7 Yagoda, 7.

8 See Pedersen, Susan and Mandler, Peter, After the Victorians: Private Conscience and Public Duty in Modern Britain: Essays in Memory of John Clive (London, 1994), 128. For generational studies, see among many others: Mannheim, Karl, Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge (London, 1952); Wohl, Robert, The Generation of 1914 (Cambridge, 1979); and Jaeger, Hans, “Generations in History: Reflections on a Controversial Concept” in History and Theory 24, no. 3 (1985): 273–92.

9 Steedman, Carolyn, Landscape for a Good Woman (London, 1986).

10 Hobsbawm, Eric, Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life (New York, 2002); Kermode, Frank, Not Entitled: A Memoir (New York, 1995); Perkin, Harold, The Making of A Social Historian (London, 2002); Halsey, A. H., No Discouragement: An Autobiography (Houndmills, 1996); Magee, Bryan, Clouds of Glory: A Hoxton Childhood (London, 2003); Magee, Bryan, Growing Up in a War (London, 2008); Magee, Bryan, Confessions of a Philosopher: A Personal Journey through Western Philosophy from Plato to Popper (New York, 1997); Hoggart, Richard, A Measured Life: The Times and Places of an Orphaned Intellectual (New Brunswick and London, 1994). Note that the American edition of Hoggart's autobiography combines the three books published in Britain into one volume while retaining the same pagination. The titles of these volumes are A Local Habitation: 1918–1940; A Sort of Clowning: 1940–1959; and An Imagined Life: 1959–1991. In all notes, I cite the first words of the British title, followed by the page number.

11 Here are the years of birth: Hobsbawm, 1917; Hoggart, 1918; Kermode, 1919; Halsey, 1923; Perkin, 1926; Magee, 1930.

12 Halsey, A. H., Heath, A. F., and Ridge, J. M., Origins and Destinations: Family, Class, and Education in Modern Britain (Oxford, 1980), 24, 26. These authors create two cohorts for this group (1913–22 and 1923–32) but also combine the two for analytical purposes on page 33.

13 Ortolano, Guy, The Two Cultures Controversy: Science, Literature and Cultural Politics in Postwar Britain (Cambridge, 2009), 16.

14 For a good introduction and definition of a very large topic, see Davies, Tony, Humanism, 2nd ed. (London, 1997).

15 On this issue, see, among many others, Toews, John E., “Intellectual History after the Linguistic Turn: The Autonomy of Meaning and the Irreducibility of Experience,” The American Historical Review 92, no. 4 (1997): 879907; Martin Jay, “Speaking Azza,” London Review of Books 24, no. 23 (28 November 2002): 32–34; Mei, Todd S., “Commitment and Communication: The Aesthetics of Receptivity and Historicity,” Contemporary Aesthetics 4 (2006), http://www.contempaesthetics.org.

16 On the intellectual origins of Thatcherism, see Cockett, Richard, Thinking the Unthinkable: Think Tanks and the Economic Counter-Revolution, 1931–1983 (London, 1995) and Jones, Daniel Stedman, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, 2012). For a recent re-valuation of Thatcherism, see Jackson, Ben and Saunders, Robert, eds., Making Thatcher's Britain (Cambridge, 2012). See also Moore, Charles, Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography. From Grantham to the Falklands War (New York, 2013).

17 See, among many others, Easthope, Antony, British Post-Structuralism Since 1968 (London, 1988); Rose, Margaret A., The Post-Modern and the Post-Industrial: A Critical Analysis (Cambridge, 1991); Selden, Raman, ed., The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 8, From Formalism to Post-Structuralism (Cambridge, 1995); Knellwolf, Christa and Norris, Christopher, eds., The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 9, Twentieth-Century Historical, Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives (Cambridge, 2001); and Stevenson, Randall, The Oxford English Literary History, vol. 12, 1960–2000: The Last of England (Oxford, 2004). For a skeptical evaluation of postmodern trends, see Marwick, Arthur, The Sixties (Oxford, 1998), especially 288–358.

18 See, among others, Turner, Graeme, British Cultural Studies: An Introduction (London, 1990); McGuigan, Jim, Cultural Populism (London, 1992); Inglis, Fred, Cultural Studies (Oxford, 1993); Chun, Lin, The British New Left (Edinburgh, 1993); Dworkin, Dennis, Cultural Marxism in Postwar Britain: History, the New Left and the Origins of Cultural Studies (Durham, 1997); Laybourn, Keith, Marxism in Britain: Dissent, Decline and Re-emergence, 1945–c.2000 (London, 2006); and Matthews, Wade, The New Left, National Identity and the Break-up of Britain (London, 2013).

19 Hoggart, Local Habitation, 206–08; Imagined Life, 83.

20 Halsey, No Discouragement, 5.

21 Perkin, Making, 155.

22 Hobsbawm, Interesting Life, 313.

23 Franklin, Cynthia G., Academic Lives: Memoir, Cultural Theory, and the University Today (Athens, 2009), 9. See also the comment by Cornell West quoted in Robbins, Bruce, Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (London, 1993), 3.

24 Hobsbawm, Interesting Life, 223.

25 Hoggart, Local Habitation, 25.

26 Ibid., 175.

27 Ibid., 179.

28 Ibid., 182.

29 See Owen, Sue, ed., Richard Hoggart and Cultural Studies (Houndsmills, 2008). See also Collini, Stefan, English Pasts: Essays in History and Culture (Oxford, 1999), 219–30.

30 Kermode, Not Entitled, 6.

31 Ibid., 15.

32 Ibid., 31.

33 Ibid., 83.

34 Ibid., 250.

35 Ibid., 51.

36 Ibid., 53.

37 Magee, Clouds, 207.

38 Ibid., 119.

39 Ibid., 235.

40 Ibid., 122.

41 Ibid., 213.

42 Magee, Confessions, 9–10.

43 Magee, War, 157.

44 Ibid., 208–09.

45 Ibid., 218.

46 Magee, Bryan, Aspects of Wagner (London, 1968); Magee, Bryan, Wagner and Philosophy (London, 2000); Magee, Bryan, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer (Oxford, 1997). Magee also wrote extensively on Karl Popper. See, for example, Magee, Bryan, Karl Popper (New York, 1973).

47 For his work as a broadcaster, see Magee, Bryan, The Television Interviewer (London, 1966).

48 Hobsbawm, Interesting Life, 93, 95.

49 Ibid., 97, 133, 135.

50 Ibid., 24.

51 Ibid., 73–74.

52 Stefan Collini, Independent, 14 September 2002; Anderson, Perry, “The Age of EJH,” London Review of Books 24, no. 19 (3 October 2002): 3.

53 Halsey, No Discouragement, 15.

54 Ibid., 23.

55 Ibid., 43.

56 Ibid., 19.

57 Ibid., 57.

58 Ibid., 53.

59 Perkin, Making, 9, 16.

60 Paul Smith, “Professor among Professionals,” Times Literary Supplement, 13 June 2003.

61 Perkin, Making, 40, 41, 46.

62 Hoggart, Sort of Clowning, 243. On this issue see Sue Owen, “Hoggart and Women” in Owen, ed., Hoggart, 227–42.

63 Halsey, No Discouragement, 235.

64 Halsey, A. H., A History of Sociology in Britain (Oxford, 2004), 127.

65 Perkin, Making, 44.

66 Kermode, Not Entitled, 121, 166.

67 Hoggart, Sort of Clowning, 183 and following.

68 Hoggart, Uses, 242.

69 Kermode, Not Entitled, 57.

70 Magee, War, 206.

71 Halsey, No Discouragement, 19.

72 Kermode, Not Entitled, 102.

73 The bibliography on masculinity has become immense. I have found particularly useful Connell, R. W., Masculinities, 2nd ed. (Berkeley, 2005). See also Skelton, Christine, Schooling the Boys: Masculinities and Primary Education (Buckingham, 2001); Skeggs, Beverley, Formations of Class and Gender (London, 1997); Roper, Michael, Masculinity and the British Organization Man Since 1945 (Oxford, 1994); Mac an Ghaill, Mairtin, ed., Understanding Masculinities: Social Relations and Cultural Arenas (Buckingham, 1996), especially 203–17. Nayak, Anoop and Kehily, Mary Jane, eds., Gender, Youth and Culture: Young Masculinities and Femininities (Houndsmill, 2008); Donaldson, Mike, “What is Hegemonic Masculinity?Theory and Society 22 (1993): 643–57; and McDowell, Linda, “Masculine Discourses and Dissonances: Strutting ‘Lads,’ Protest Masculinity, and Domestic Respectability,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 20 (2002): 97119.

74 Rose, Sonya O., What is Gender History? (Cambridge, 2010), 109. See also the review essay by Francis, Martin, “The Domestication of the Male? Recent Research on Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century British Masculinity,” The Historical Journal 45, no. 3 (2002): 637–52; and Roper, Michael, “Slipping Out of View: Subjectivity and Emotion in Gender History,” History Workshop Journal 59, no.1 (2005): 5772.

75 Kermode, Not Entitled, 218.

76 Kermode, Frank, History and Value: The Clarendon Lectures and the Northcliffe Lectures, 1987 (Oxford, 1988), 101.

77 Kermode, Frank, The Art of Telling: Essays on Fiction (Cambridge, 1983), 67.

78 Kermode, Frank, The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative (Cambridge, 1979), 126.

79 Hoggart, Imagined Life, 217–51.

80 Perkin, Making, 133.

81 Magee, Bryan, Men of Ideas (New York, 1979); Magee, Confessions, 403–11.

82 Perkin, Making, 149. See Perkin, Harold, The Origins of Modern English Society, 1780–1880 (London, 1969).

83 Perkin, Making, 207. See Perkin, Harold, The Rise of Professional Society: England Since 1880 (London, 1989).

84 Perkin, Making, 221.

85 Ibid., 127–28.

86 Ibid., 222–24; 258.

87 Halsey, No Discouragement, 105.

88 Ibid., 228.

89 Ibid., 233.

90 Ibid., 174.

91 Ibid., 117.

92 Hobsbawm, Interesting Times, 264, 267, 271, 275. See Hobsbawm, Eric, Jacques, Martin, and Mulhern, Francis, eds., The Forward March of Labour Halted? (London, 1981).

93 Hobsbawm, Interesting Times, 273, 274, 276, 279, 281, 418. See also his more recent work: Hobsbawm, Eric, How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism (New Haven, 2011), especially 344–419.

94 Hoggart, Imagined Life, 265–66. The definition of Thatcherism remains contested. See especially the essays in Jackson, Ben and Saunders, Robert, eds., Making Thatcher's Britain (Cambridge, 2012).

95 Hoggart, Sort of Clowning, 78; Hoggart, Imagined Life, 265.

96 Magee, Confessions, 28, 326.

97 Kermode, Art of Telling, 8.

98 Kermode, Not Entitled, 260.

99 Kermode, Frank, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (Oxford, 2000 [1966]).

100 See Deutscher, Penelope, “Beauvoir's Old Age,” in Card, Claudia, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir (Cambridge, 2003), 286304.

101 Kermode, Not Entitled, 83.

102 Hoggart, Local Habitation, 121.

103 Perkin, Making, 10.

104 Magee, War, 21.

105 Halsey, No Discouragement, 9.

106 Hobsbawm, Interesting Times, 39–40.

107 Williams, Raymond, The Country and the City (New York, 1973).

108 Williams, Raymond, Border Country (London, 1960).

109 LeMahieu, D. L., “Honest to God and the Discourse on Patriarchy in Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain,” Christianity and Literature 51, no. 1 (2001): 4951.

110 Hoggart, Uses of Literacy, 52.

111 Hoggart, Imagined Life, 300.

112 Magee, Clouds, 342.

113 Ibid., 55–56.

114 Ibid., 37, 341.

115 Magee, Confessions, 79; Magee, Clouds, 13.

116 Hoggart, Sort of Clowning, 220.

117 Kermode, Not Entitled, 154–56.

118 Hobsbawm, Interesting Life, 1–2, 6–7.

119 Hoggart, Local Habitation, 4.

120 Hoggart, Imagined Life, 288, 294–95, 299.

121 Halsey, No Discouragement, 2.

122 Ibid., 3.

123 Ibid., 4.

124 Magee, Clouds, 133–34.

125 Magee, Confessions, 292, 229fn (Larkin quotation), 260–61, 460. Larkin appealed to an entire generation of British intellectuals.

126 Perkin, Making, 296–97. See also Perkin, Harold, The Third Revolution: Professional Elites in the Modern World (London, 1996).

127 Kermode, Not Entitled, 262–63.

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