J.B. Priestley was a superlative and prolific essay writer. Getting started as a professional author after the First World War, he produced hundreds of pieces for newspapers and periodicals. These were often in a belles-lettristic style which was even then falling out of fashion: “personal in tone but elaborately composed”, whimsical, mannered, self-deprecating. But the demands and restrictions of such writing helped Priestley learn his craft. Gradually he found his natural voice, a style which appears personal, even chatty, but which is really carefully thought out and precise.
By the end of the 1920s, as Susan Cooper observed, Priestley was “writing as well in [essay] form as any man alive and a great many dead”. His journalism, his broadcasts, and much of his non-fiction – in fact, many of his finest works – have the same mix of precision and personality as his essays. Priestley wrote in essay form to share what delighted him; to reflect on society, culture and politics; to publicise his opinions – and sometimes to have a good grumble.
It is therefore a joy to report that a new collection of Priestley’s essays is about to appear in print, under the excellent title, Grumbling at Large. The volume should be a Delight to own and to read, as its publisher, Notting Hill Editions, specialises in essays and pays great attention to design, typography etc. I love their typographic covers!
But how to condense a lifetime of miniature gems into one slim volume? The editor, Valerie Grove, has had a difficult task. I’ll be keen to see if my favourites (“Gin and Tonic” and “Quietly Malicious Chairmanship“) have made it in!
Quotations from Margin Released and J.B. Priestley: portrait of an author.
Peggy Smith selling Peace News
A unique and fascinating glimpse at the personalities involved in 1930s politics, pacifism and the arts will be on show at Gallery II at the University of Bradford from 6 March – 3 April 2009. The exhibition, curated by Alison Cullingford, shows pencil drawings made by Peggy Smith while she was working freelance for newspapers in the 1930s. Peggy Smith was a dedicated peace campaigner, who worked for the League of Nations Union in the 1920s, was one of the first women to sign the Peace Pledge in 1936, and sold Peace News on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields for many years, as seen in this image. The exhibition will be the first time most of these original sketches have been shown in public.
The sketches are held by the Commonweal Library and are cared for by Special Collections at Bradford.
Like Brushes with Peace, which we blogged about last year, the show highlights the rich heritage of peace art at the University and at Bradford’s Peace Museum.
Image courtesy P. Connett.
Posted in Images, Peace
Tagged 1930s, Archives, Art, Artists, Bradford, Drawings, Exhibitions, Gallery II, League of Nations, London, Musicians, Newspapers, Peace, Politicians, Sketches, Writers
New on Special Collections web: the Joseph Riley Archive. Joseph Riley (1838-1926) came to our attention as the father of Willie Riley, author of “Windyridge” and other popular novels set in Yorkshire, but his archive is fascinating in its own right, full of detail about Bradford life and the Methodism that was so important to him. His career took him from poverty (he started work at seven) to great success in the stuff trade and magic lantern business, but he faced many setbacks, and ultimately bankruptcy. The global nature of the Bradford wool trade and the resulting cosmopolitan attitude of Bradford business is reflected in Riley’s account of a business trip to Constantinople.
Posted in Bradford, Collection of the Month, Literature, Religion, Riley, Willie, Yorkshire
Tagged Archives, Autobiographies, Bradford, Diaries, Families, Journals, Magic Lanterns, Memoirs, Riley, Windyridge, Wool, Writers