Who put the B. in J.B.?

We’re often asked about J.B. Priestley’s middle initial, so we thought we’d share our knowledge.

B is for BOYNTON!

Priestley, JB Chapman of Rhymes tp cr 2

Young John Priestley, known as Jack to his friends and family, adopted the B and the Boynton in his teens, growing up in Bradford before the First World War.  J. Boynton Priestley, 5 Saltburn Place, Bradford, Yorks was “added hopefully” to his juvenilia: scribbling books of closely-written poems, stories and essays and neat typescripts typed up for him by kind girls.

PRI7_6_10juvenilia3So why did Jack decide to use this extra name?  Partly to distinguish himself from other John Priestleys (not an unusual name in his family or the region.  His grandfather was John, his father,  Jonathan).   The addition also gave him a more suitable, interesting, distinctive name for a writer.

So why did he choose “Boynton”?  We don’t actually know.  There is a village of that name in the East Riding of Yorkshire, near Bridlington.  Could Jack have seen the village on a family holiday to that popular seaside resort?  However he came by the name, B for Boynton served Jack Priestley rather well as a pen-name and he was to be J.B. Priestley for the rest of his literary career …

B1253_between_Bridlington_and_Boynton_-_Geograph_-_301466

The road to Boynton … (the B1253 between Bridlington and Boynton, by James Exon, licence CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sources and credits:

I am indebted to James Ogden for the suggestion that Jack found Boynton on a family holiday in Bridlington (“The name Boynton” p. 27-28, J.B. Priestley Society Newsletter, no. 24, Autumn 2011).

The road image is from the SABRE website, a vast compendium of images of Britain’s roads – the Roader’s Digest.

Priestley wrote about the juvenilia in the Swan Arcadian section of his memoir, Margin Released.  He gently mocked the literary pretensions of his teenage self, including the pompous pen-name, comparing J. Boynton to an “eighty years old retired clergyman” and sarcastically observing that “J. Boynton makes a bold frontal attack on his subject.”  Other than the hint of pretentiousness, he doesn’t actually explain the purpose or origin of the name.

The two reasons listed above come from an interview with Jacquetta Hawkes  cited in Vincent Brome’s biography of Priestley (Hamish Hamilton, 1988).  Jacquetta, J.B.’s third wife, would be likely to know and the reasons make perfect sense to me.

“Boynton” though awaits further explanation!

 

Brontes, Bollywood and JB: welcome to the Lit Fest!

Did you know Bradford has its own Literature Festival?  Over a hundred events celebrating the written and spoken word, from 15 to 24 May 2015, in a host of venues around the city.

The Festival has a distinctively Bradfordian flavour:

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Bradford Reflections, by Tim Green – licence CC BY 2.0

  • Venture into the Undercliffe necropolis – at twilight …
  • Rediscover famous Bradfordians Humbert Wolfe and William Rothenstein and the city’s forgotten Jewish heritage
  • Explore the incredible textiles of India and the riches of Urdu poetry
  • Find out how Bollywood films portray male (often shirtless) beauty and style

Not to mention colleagues from Peace Studies at the University sharing their fascinating research: Dr Munro Price on Napoleon‘s downfall and Professor Paul Rogers discussing the rise of ISIS.

For venues, prices, tickets etc and many more events, check out the full programme on the Festival website.

Bright Days and Cream Teas: the Joy of Waiting

The Joy of Waiting, a new album by Manchester musician and writer Sara Lowes, features songs inspired by J.B. Priestley, and in particular his interest in time.  The titles?  “Bright Day“, “The Chapman of Rhymes” and “J.B. Priestley”!

Sara Lowes Joy of Waiting

Sara’s music is difficult to categorise – you will have to hear her for yourself – but this description from Q Magazine will give you an inkling of her style:

“A voice somewhere between Alison Goldfrapp and Joni Mitchell, and songs that veer between folk, Brill Building pop and Dexys Midnight Runners-esque soul”.

J.B. Priestley Society members get a treat at the Society’s AGM on 11 April as Sara is to be our very special guest.   Not to mention a luxury afternoon tea.  Bliss!

Check out Sara’s website to hear her songs and find out more.

Robert Dell, Our Man in Geneva

Originally posted on The Eleventh Hour:

Here in Special Collections we are always telling students that the power of archives comes from the fact that they were generally not produced with any consideration for how they would be seen in the future. Rather, they were working records produced at a given moment in history for contemporary purposes. I came across a letter recently that reminded me of the truth of that.

NAF 3-3-1-20-18 Letter from Dell, SignatureRobert Dell wrote to Winifred Gordon Fraser in 1935 from Geneva discussing Nazi Germany and the difficulties facing German refugees. The letter is a prime example of how archival sources put us back in the shoes of those living through the historical events we study, and how they can put a human face on world affairs.

Dell was a journalist, then working as a Foreign Correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, but intriguingly his career had already included co-editing The Burlington Magazine and being an art…

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Jacquetta updates!

Originally posted on Celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes:

Coming along to our fantastic free event exploring Jacquetta’s Mount Carmel experience on 18 March?  All welcome and there is still room!  Register and find out more here.

Yesterday Dr Christine Finn was interviewed on BBC Radio Jersey: she discussed Jacquetta’s Jersey archae0logy and some exciting news about her authorised biography – you can listen to the interview on the iplayer (up till 10 April).  Christine’s piece is about an hour into the broadcast.

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Happy International Women’s Day!

Originally posted on The Eleventh Hour:

We’re a day late, but by a lovely coincidence I stumbled across some files relating to feminism yesterday in the Mitrinović Archive and it seems too good an opportunity to miss! In the 1940s some of the women in Mitrinović’s circles set up their own sub-group, Anthropo-Femina of the New Atlantis. They met for discussions and organised public lectures with a variety of invited speakers. They also seem to have joined in the celebrations for International Women’s Day, if the presence of this pamphlet in their files is anything to go by.

NAF 3-2-2-6-3 International Women's Day programme, 1946

I hadn’t realised that International Women’s Day had such a long history, nor that Mitrinović’s associates Winifred Gordon Fraser, Violet MacDermot, Louise Hughes and others not only considered themselves to be feminists in the 1940s, but established a group to study subjects and issues that they thought were of particular interest to women. I’m still cataloguing these…

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Holden’s Ghosts

Meet one of the men who made 19th century Bradford.  Bradford industrialist Sir Isaac Holden (1807-1897) was a self-made man, rising from poverty to great wealth thanks to the invention of the square motion comb.  Holden’s Ghosts, by Sir Isaac’s descendant Tony Holden, is the first ever biography of this remarkable character, and draws extensively on the Holden Papers in Special Collections to tell the story.

IsaacHolden2_crThe book has plenty to offer readers interested in the history of Bradford, the wool industry, Victorian social and family life, late 19th century politics (Sir Isaac became an MP) and even French history (he set up factories there).  It can be bought online as a Kindle edition.