Tag Archives: Writers

Mini Masterpieces

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.

NHE Priestley_300pdi_1200px

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.

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A bit of GLAMour

I don’t think I have posted about GLAM before.  GLAM, the Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts, aims to bring together archivists, librarians, curators, and anyone else interested in collecting, preservation, use and promotion of literary archives and manuscripts. The importance, international appeal, market value, and intellectual property issues make these archives distinctive and exciting but often difficult to manage.  The challenge is growing, as authors communicate more via diverse digital means.  The group offers a support network and has particular projects to help e.g. on cataloguing this kind of material.  We have a meeting at the John Rylands Library on Thursday.

Special Collections at Bradford holds several literary archives, which tend to be particularly popular and offer great scope for related activities.  These include the J.B. Priestley Archive, the Jacquetta Hawkes Archive, and, coming soon, the W. Riley (Windyridge author) Archive.

English Journeying – Birmingham and Newcastle

More events celebrating the 75th anniversary edition of English Journey:

Tom Priestley and Stuart Maconie at the Birmingham Book Festival 23 October 2009

Discovery Museum Newcastle on 27 October 2009. The details aren’t yet on their website, will post link when available.

“From Bradford Moor to Silver Dale”

Some welcome recent press coverage of the work of one of the University of Bradford’s research students.  David Copeland has recently completed his M. Phil. thesis, “From Bradford Moor to Silver Dale”,  on Willie Riley, the Bradford-born author of “Windyridge” and many other bestselling tales of Yorkshire life.  Riley was extremely popular in his day, but is now little known.  David has in essence rediscovered him, finding many more published writings, locating the author’s archive, and writing a detailed biography and bibliography.  The archive will now be donated to Special Collections at the University.  David and the Special Collections staff will now work together to bring this heartwarming, life-affirming author to a wider audience.

The University’s Press release.

Article in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus 14 May 2009.

Article in the Yorkshire Post 16 May 2009.

Drawing for Peace

Peggy Smith selling Peace News

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.

Collection of the Month December 2008: Magic lanterns and Methodists

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.

“When we are listed”

Now available: latest edition of the handlist of the J.B. Priestley Archive, one of the University of Bradford Special Collections. Manuscript and typescript short stories and other pieces written by Priestley in his teens are the most exciting new addition, an intriguing glimpse into the growth of a writer. Sections 8/2 (press cuttings), 19 (biographical material) and 20 (appreciation of Priestley’s work) are growing fast. We have rewritten several sections of the list and improved layout and design to make it more user-friendly.

The handlist can be found in PDF form on the J.B. Priestley Archive web page. If you have problems accessing this file, please contact Special Collections.