Love on the Dole in Sheffield: a Unique Story (Part Two)

Professor Chris Hopkins of Sheffield Hallam University continues his account of Love on the Dole in Sheffield.

Sheffield was unique in having the serialisation of the novel (described in Part One) and the play version of Love on the Dole in the public eye at the same time. The play adaptation (made by Greenwood with Ronald Gow) was as great a success as the novel when produced in 1935. Two separate companies toured simultaneous productions until 1937 and Greenwood said that by 1940 three million people had seen the play (letter to the Manchester Guardian, 26/2/1940). Productions went to almost every city and most towns in Britain. For example, during 1936 alone their venues (normally for a week of performances) included places such as Barrow, Birmingham, Brighton, Brixton, Cambridge, Cardiff, Douglas (Isle of Man), Eastbourne, East Ham, Edinburgh, Finsbury Park, Folkestone, Gateshead, Hackney, Keighley, Leeds, Lewisham, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, New Cross, Penge, Plymouth, Poplar, Rotherham, Scarborough, Sunderland, Swansea, Walthamstow, and Woolwich.[i]

The play came to the Sheffield Empire in April 1935 and again in August that year. The Sheffield Daily Independent noted the ‘coincidence’ that the work was simultaneously on the stage and page in the city, and saw the two different versions as reinforcing each other’s impact, while unmistakably advocating the superiority of the novel version it was serialising:

It is interesting to see these Hanky Park personalities, of whom we are reading each day, come to life on the stage. This tragic picture of unemployment with its leavening of humour is but the outline. The complete canvas is found in the book (23/4/1935, p. 6).

The article then went on to argue that the play’s impact in London was bound to differ from its impact in Sheffield. For London audiences, the play had novelty, for while the capital had not been completely immune to unemployment it had no experience of long-term worklessness, of ‘the abandonment of hope in a poverty-stricken industrial area’. In Sheffield the ‘picture is not so unfamiliar’. A review of the production of the play at the Sheffield Empire published by the Daily Independent on 27 August 1935 also claimed that the city, like others in the north, had an affinity with the circumstances portrayed: ‘a poignant tragedy of the evils of unemployment, true to life in many of our large manufacturing towns.’(p. 7). There was a further production of the play at the Attercliffe Palace in May 1939 by a touring repertory company, the Charles Denville Players. A review in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph praised it as a ‘clever performance’ of this ‘pitifully human’ and ‘popular’ play (9/5/1939, p. 3).

Sheffield took other kinds of notice too of Love on the Dole. On 29 April 1935 the Daily Independent reported that the play (and there is reference to their serialisation too) had formed the basis for a sermon by Canon A J Talbot Easter at St Paul’s church. The Canon argued that the story was the result of ‘bitter experience of life’ and that ‘it did not invite one to draw conclusions but placed certain people before the audience and asked them to understand their point of view’. In fact, he said that the story itself ‘had all the essentials of a sermon’. Thus, the work showed that ‘love on the pictures was not the same as love on the dole’ and the vicar also drew the conclusion that Greenwood implied betting to be ‘a mug’s game’ (p. 7). [ii] The Vicar of St Philip’s in Sheffield (presumably the church formerly on Infirmary Rd / Penistone Rd) hit the national press when the Daily Mirror reported under the headline ‘Vicar defends Love on the Dole’ that the clergyman had criticised the Sheffield County Court Judge Essenhigh for pronouncing that men on the dole should not marry. The vicar, Reverend G E Needham, said that having failed ‘to deprive unemployed men of football and the cinema’, they were now to be deprived of love and marriage (20/2/1939, p. 2). The headline implies that Greenwood’s story is so well-known that its themes need no more introduction: it is part of a public conversation about unemployment in which the Sheffield vicar is taking part. The same can be said of a reference to Greenwood’s work by the Sheffield Central Conservative MP on 19 July 1938, titled: ‘Love on the Dole plea by City MP’ (p. 7). Mr W W Boulton said that there had been some improvements in unemployment benefit schemes, but called for more to be done for young workless men who had married and were struggling to care for their families adequately on current levels of public assistance.

Love on the Dole was also seen nationally as drawing attention to a number of northern cities which were dealing with the consequences of unemployment. While much local press coverage of the serial and play in Sheffield suggests a place split between those with experience of unemployment and those for whom it is news from another world, one article in the Daily Independent on 13 May 1935 picks up a national story which firmly casts Sheffield as a whole city in distress. Again, the story concerns a clergyman inspired directly by (the play of) Love on the Dole, but this time it is the London-based Reverend Pat McCormick, who in an appeal broadcast by BBC radio from St Martins-in-the-Fields, proposed a scheme for southern families to help struggling northern families by ‘adopting’ them. The scheme was to include ‘Sheffield, Newcastle, Hull, York, Carlisle, Oldham, Chesterfield, Darlington, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Manchester, Salford, Gateshead, Warrington, St. Helens, Widnes, and a number of hard-hit areas in South Wales’ (p. 1).

I do not know if the serialisation was the publishing success the Daily Independent’s editors hoped for (I notice Reading Sheffield interviewees did not recall the novel), but Love on the Dole seems to have remained a topic of interest in the city in the next few years, with, as we have seen, further press notice. The city certainly suffered from poverty and unemployment in the mid-thirties, and at least until serious rearmament started in 1936, so it is not surprising to find that Greenwood’s novel and play were of interest. Orwell noted in The Road to Wigan Pier in 1936 that ‘towns like Leeds and Sheffield have scores of thousands of “back-to-back” houses which are all of a condemned type but will remain standing for decades’ (Kindle edition location 698). He also noted that conditions in the city were mixed, partly because of its role in rearmament: ‘Even in Sheffield, which has been doing well for the last year or so, because or wars or rumours of war … the proportion … is one in three workers registered as unemployed’ (location 994). There were significant marches against unemployment and especially the effects of the Means Test in the city in January 1935 and a particularly large demonstration on 6 February of the same year when conflict between the police and a large crowd of up to 100,000 protesters was reported by the Daily Herald (7/2/1935, p. 1). The Sheffield Daily Independent naturally also covered the events of the day under the headline: ‘Police Clash with Workless’ (7/2/1935, p. 1). The paper reported that the demonstration outside the City Hall became violent due to a misunderstanding among the marchers that the City Council had rejected a proposal to seek government approval to reduce benefit cuts in the city. In fact, the Council had just voted to approve this measure and there was a subsequent repayment of some reductions to unemployment benefit in the city on the initiative of the City Council, with the permission of the Ministry of Labour.[iii] Publication of the serial suggests the radical and topical sympathies of this widely-read Sheffield paper, as well perhaps as its eye for commercial advantage in giving relatively cheap and wide access to a current best-seller which could very reasonably be seen as being a popular and entertaining, as well as morally, socially and politically serious, work.

Chris Hopkins is the author of Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole: Novel, Play, Film, Liverpool University Press, 2018 and editor of the Walter Greenwood: Not Just Love on the Dole web/blogsite:


[i] The list of venues given here is not exhaustive, but all the evidence can be found in the issues of The Stage in its ‘On Tour’ feature; information referred to here is from the 1936 issues for 9/1, 27/2, 5/3, 16/4, 11/5, 25/5, 11/6, 18/6, 16/7, 13/8, 20/8, and 10/9. Accessed via the Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive (online: ProQuest <http://www.proquest.com/products-services/eima.html> accessed 15 May 2016).

[ii] St Paul’s, sited near what is now the Peace Gardens, was an eighteenth-century foundation, sold by the Church of England and demolished in 1937 (see: http://chrishobbs.com/sheffield/stpaulschurchsheffield.htm).

iii] See Stephanie Ward’s book, Unemployment and the State in Britain: the Means Test and Protest in 1930s South Wales and North-Eastern England, Manchester University Press: Manchester, 2013, Kindle edition, locations 4048 and 4230. This account of the protests in Sheffield on 6 February 1935 draws on a booklet published by Sheffield City Libraries in 1985: Bill Moore’s All Out! The Dramatic Story of the Sheffield Demonstration Against Dole Cuts on February 6th 1935. For further detail see also John Stevenson and Chris Cook, The Slump: Britain in the Great Depression (Jonathan Cape 1977; third edition Pearson Education, 2010, Kindle edition Routledge 2013, location 5157).

Love on the Dole in Sheffield: a Unique Story (Part One)

Professor Chris Hopkins of Sheffield Hallam University looks at how Walter Greenwood’s 1933 novel, Love on the Dole, came to Sheffield.

1933 First edition dust jacket cover of Love on the Dole 

Love on the Dole is the story of the Hardcastle family and their neighbours in a specific and poor part of Salford known as Hanky Park. Mr Hardcastle is a miner and Mrs Hardcastle a housewife; their son Harry works first at a pawnshop and is then an apprentice engineer, while their daughter Sally works at a textile mill. Neighbours include the helpful Labour activist and qualified engineer Larry Meath, as well as a group of older women who both help and exploit for their own gain the other inhabitants of Hanky Park. Mr Hardcastle and Harry and then Larry all lose their jobs as the slump bites. The characters represent a working-class society and economy that is always fragile, and which is then further fractured by the consequences of the Depression after 1929 and intensified by the coalition National Government’s cuts to unemployment benefits in 1931.

Walter Greenwood’s novel was a phenomenon when published by Jonathan Cape in 1933: it immediately became a best-seller and was praised by newspapers across the political spectrum for the way in which it drew attention to the worsening situation of the unemployed in already impoverished communities. It sold 46,000 copies by 1940, as well as being much borrowed from public libraries.[i] The West Riding County Council’s 11th Annual Library Report named Greenwood’s novel as one of the most borrowed fiction works in the region, as the Sheffield Daily Independent reported on 28/10/1935. Sheffield’s influential City Librarian, J P Lamb, also named Greenwood in a report on the value of fiction (‘classical’ and the more contemporary fiction which he called ‘semi-standard and popular’) in the city’s libraries report in 1936-37:

the semi-standard group includes … scores of modern writers of considerable gifts – Vera Brittain, Ethel Mannin, Russell Green, P. Bottome, E. Boileau and W. Greenwood – for example … they give mental refreshment to highly intelligent and well-read library-borrowers, they are ‘introductory readers’ to those newly finding an interest in reading … they widen vocabulary, extend horizons, stimulate ideas, and often add factual knowledge.[ii]

But in one respect Sheffield was unique in its reception of Love on the Dole. It was the only city in the UK where the entire novel was serialised in a newspaper, nearly two years after its first publication. Between 15 April and 21 June 1935, an episode from the novel was published daily by the Sheffield Daily Independent, with an introduction to the whole serial the week before. The daily publication took place over sixty-seven days and was clearly a substantial commitment of column space and resources – the paper must have paid a considerable fee to the publisher (and/or author) for this best-seller, suggesting confidence that Sheffield readers would want to read every episode (and be more motivated than usual to buy the paper everyday?).

The paper’s readers were warmed up for the forthcoming serialisation every day for five days (9 to 13 April 1935) by short pieces stressing the authenticity, daring and entertainment value of the novel. The first was headlined ‘Realism of Love on the Dole’ and made the grand claim that the novel was likely to prove ‘one of the most impressive and enthralling serialisations ever published in the pages of a newspaper’ (p. 7). The piece then argued that the story’s power came from both the real-life experience of Greenwood and the way in which this compelled him to become an author:

The story is not a figment of the imagination of a writer who has seen good copy in unemployment, but real life as it has been experienced by the author himself, and has so moved him that it compelled him to enter a new realm – the realm of authorship – so that he could reveal to the world the tragedy of existence now being faced by thousands of men and women who, like himself, are “on the dole”.

The (unsigned) article then promised that readers will be ‘held’ and ‘enthralled’ by the novel, but warns them that they may also be shocked: if the ‘colours are vivid, the outlines are true’ (the same article was republished on 10 April by the paper). The next introduction was headed ‘Why You Must Read Love on the Dole’ and suggested that responses from Sheffield readers would depend on their own experiences: ‘to many readers this book will come as a startling revelation – others will realise how true it all is’ (11/4/1935, p. 4). On Friday 12 April came another reminder that this was an unusual novel which had ‘won fame in a day’ for its ‘unknown author’: ‘you cannot afford to miss any portion of this sensational serial, so if you have not yet ordered the Daily Independent to be delivered to you each morning, do so at once’. Finally, on Saturday 13 April readers were reminded that this ‘outspoken novel’ would begin on Monday: ‘one of the most outspoken and sensational documents that has ever appeared as a serial in a newspaper’ (p. 8). The paper was clearly very keen to collect an audience for its investment and/or to promote public awareness of the profound and long-lasting effects of worklessness and poverty (though, as we shall see, this was not unknown territory for the city).

The following week the opening chapters indeed appeared, starting on 15 April 1935 (on p. 11). Slightly oddly, an introduction to each of the main characters, pretty much in the same form as a cast list for a play only appeared on 20, 22 and 24 April (perhaps so anyone who had missed the first chapters could catch up?). Some of the interpretations here are of interest in using descriptions which do not occur in the text of the novel. I think these are the interpretations of an editor or sub-editor of the paper, giving a sense of how one Sheffield reader at least envisaged the characters. Sally is described as ‘a full-lipped belle of the slums’, Mrs Hardcastle as a ‘dour mother of two’, Ned Narkey as the ‘giant, rough and rude libertine of the back alleys’, Harry as one ‘to whom weariness of a drab little life has been realised too soon’, while Larry Meath is said to be a ‘quiet intelligent artisan, with the instincts of a Labour leader’. Finally, what were often referred to in reviews as the ‘chorus’ of older women (Mrs Nattle, Mrs Doorbell and Mrs Jike) are described as ‘part of the human flotsam and jetsam of the district’. The two individual female characters are seen stereotypically and oddly (and more negatively than in many reviews, which see both as mainly heroic), while the older women are seen as more helpless than they are in the novel (they are more properly seen as having a curious if small privilege from drawing pensions and running small and semi-legal private ‘enterprises’). More typically of other reviews of the novel, Ned is seen as an obviously undesirable, sexually unrestrained and brutal type of working-man, Harry as a youth whom the current system has betrayed, and Larry as the best sort of ‘respectable’, self-taught, working-class intellectual. The text of the novel was identical to that of the published novel, except that sometimes daily titles for each instalment were added, as well as numerous sub-titles, again presumably by a Sheffield sub-editor. These seem to be added a little inconsistently, and perhaps depended partly on space / type-setting considerations. Some titles are the same as the novel’s original chapter titles, but others, including all the sub-titles, are new additions. So Sheffield Daily Independent readers received the novel via captions such as: ‘Puzzled and Cheated’, ‘His World Upset’, ‘A Million Mysteries’, ‘Paradise Lost’, ‘Travesty of Love’, ‘Where Lovers Meet’, ‘Things is Bad’, ‘Wives Who Go Out to Work’, ‘Beauty in the Slums’, and ‘When a Girl is Moody’. Though the novel already sought to entertain as well as enlighten, these sub-titles do perhaps present the story as even more like popular newspaper or magazine fiction than the original novel, with their quite frequent invitations to engage with mystery, romance and melodrama.

Here is Part Two.

Chris Hopkins is author of Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole: Novel, Play, Film, Liverpool University Press, 2018 and editor of the Walter Greenwood: Not Just Love on the Dole web/blogsite


[i] Richard Overy, The Morbid Age: Britain and the Crisis of Civilization 1919–1939 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010; first published by Allen Lane, 2009), p. 71. The sales figures come from the University of Reading Special Collection, Jonathan Cape Archive, Mss 2446 (endnote 80 to Overy’s Chapter 2).

[ii] The 80th Annual Sheffield City Libraries Report (1936–37), ‘The Reading of Fiction’, was located and drawn to my attention by Val Hewson – the full report can be read on the Reading Sheffield website: <https://www.readingsheffield.co.uk/the-reading-of-fiction-sheffield-citylibraries-80th-annual-report-1936–37/>, accessed 4 January 2018.

Domestic Goddess, 1930s Style

As Theresa May settles into Downing Street and Hilary Clinton campaigns for the White House, anyone travelling in time from the early 1930s would be surprised by the changes in women’s lives.  In the UK of the 1930s, after all, the vote had been extended to all women aged over 21 as recently as 1928*; women in the professions were relatively rare; and marriage was still the usual destination (despite the shortage of men after the slaughter of the First World War).  Women were routinely expected to stop working on marriage (why, supported by their husbands, would they need jobs?) and in some cases, such as teaching and the civil service, were required to do so#.  Looking after husband, children and home was the norm.

 

It seems that, whatever else has changed, the provision of advice on home-making is a constant.  Today, the main channel tends to be television, with Kirstie, Nigella, Sarah and the rest appearing on our screens and producing tie-in books etc.  In the 1930s, women may have looked for advice to books from the local library if the following (to us, rather patronising) paragraph from Sheffield Libraries’ occasional magazine, Books and Readers, is anything to go by.

Is the housewife paying greater attention to details in the home nowadays? It is difficult to say as we have no comparative details on which to base a statement.  But it is revealed from the issue of 12,632 books on domestic economy from the Libraries last year that the women of Sheffield are not ashamed to confess that they find need for help and guidance in domestic affairs.  It is very gratifying to think that even in the prosaic details of housekeeping the Public Library is having a very considerable influence. “Feed the brute” has always been a fairly popular maxim, but “feed the brute intelligently and in improved surroundings” is better still.

The books on offer included, for example: Dinners Long and Short (1928) by A H Adair; What Shall We Have Today (1931) by X M Boulestin; and Feeding the Family: Hints for the Intelligent Housewife (1929) by M L Eyles.  ‘Feed the brute’, by the way, was a well-known phrase from Don’ts for Wives (1913) by Blanche Ebbutt.

(Licensed under Creative Commons)

(Licensed under Creative Commons)

What was the life of a 1930s housewife? It depended on your place in society.  Working class wives and mothers had no help, other than perhaps their daughters (not sons – they were generally exempted from household chores).  In the Depression of the 1930s, many such women were struggling to keep their families together.  Middle and upper class women, who were perhaps the only ones who had the time or energy to borrow books about housekeeping, had it better, managing the household and directing servants or perhaps just a daily.  The servants doing housework were usually women, of course.

A wartime housewife (1941) (public domain)

A wartime housewife (1941) (public domain)

But, whoever did the work, it was hard grind, without the labour-saving devices and products we take for granted.  When, in 2011, Proctor and Gamble challenged some bloggers to live the life of a 1930s housewife for a day, they commented on: the length of time it took to make three meals from scratch; the drudgery of the laundry without a washer-dryer or even a spinner; and using vinegar and newsprint to clean windows and lemon and baking powder to clean floors.  Here is a typical account.  Or if you want read some (roughly) contemporary accounts, there is: Love on the Dole (1933), by Walter Greenwood, about the Salford slums; South Riding (1936), by Winifred Holtby, where the Holly family struggle to survive; or House-bound (1942), by Winifred Peck, about a middle-class woman who struggles to do her own housework during WWII.

* From 1918, women over 30 and property owners could vote, but this excluded about 60 per cent of the gender.

# In the UK, the marriage bar for teaching was abolished in 1944, for the Home Civil Service in 1946 and for the Foreign Service in 1973.  Equal pay was a dream until the 1970 Equal Pay Act, and for some women it still is.

The Reading of Fiction (Sheffield City Libraries, 80th Annual Report, 1936-37)

We agreed that the novel is absolutely the only vehicle for the thought of our day. (Joseph Conrad, 1924)

The benefits of reading novels (and even of reading in general) have long been debated.  For some fiction is a clear waste of time, but for others an education, an entertainment, an escape.  There are people who have never touched a novel, at least since leaving school, and there are people who always have at least one close at hand.

For Reading Sheffield, we asked our interviewees if they were ever made to feel guilty about reading.  The majority said no, with many talking about encouragement from parents and teachers.  But some became readers against the odds:

If I picked a book up to read she’d say, ‘Put that down and come and help me do so-and-so.  You’re wasting your time and my time’.  You know.  So she’d always find me a job to do. (Doreen Gill)

‘Did anyone make you feel that reading was a waste of time?’  ‘Uh, yeah, I think so.  My mum was a very practical person, she were always busy doing something.’ (Dorothy Norbury)

And some liked reading but preferred fact to fiction:

I’ve always preferred fact over fiction.  Fiction is, in my opinion, very nice and you can lose yourself in fiction, but at the end of the day, you come back to fact and it’s nice to read about people who have started and had an influence on the world one way or another, whether they’re famous or not so famous. (Peter Mason)

I liked History – I’ve always slightly thought that novels are a waste of time in that … I suppose, indirectly, you learn things but … I got more out of biographies and history books. (Peter B)

In Sheffield, the City Librarian, J P Lamb, and the Council’s Libraries, Art Galleries and Museums Committee had their say about reading novels in the annual report for 1936-37.

There are many misunderstandings about the place of prose fiction in the work of a public library, and it is felt that an examination of some of them might suitably be made in this report.  Prose fiction today provides one of the most common means by which social, political, religious, and other ideas and beliefs are given to the people.  The novel also offers a suitable framework for the presentation of history, and there are many cases of books issued during the past few years which have given such clear and vivid pictures of political and social events that they are used as historical and social source books.  Indeed, so valuable is the novel form for work of this kind that many biographies are now written in a style which makes it difficult to decide whether they should be classed as biography or fiction.  Even the least pretentious novel gives ideas and mental pictures to the reader, and to this extent allows him to project his mind beyond his limited environment.  If, as some people seem to wish us to believe, the reading of novels is not a good thing, this should surely also be true of other imaginative literary forms such as poetry, drama, and essays.  But as all educational institutions, particularly those concerned with higher education, give considerable time in their curricula to attempts to train young people in the appreciation and understanding of imaginative works in all these forms, it would appear that these are considered by educationists to be an important part of the process of education.  It is difficult then, to see why the intellectual value of the issue of fiction from libraries should not be looked upon as equal, if not superior, to much of what is classed as non-fiction.

It may be that those who decry the issue of fiction believe that public libraries issue only the more popular type.  A test of this was recently made in the Central Lending Library.  All the fiction stock was divided into two groups – 1. Classic and standard literature; 2. Semi-standard and popular; – and a test of issues was made on this basis.  No less than 41.38 per cent. of the fiction issued from this library was found to be in the first group.  If the system of classification were based on the quality instead of the form of such books, these issues would have been recorded in the literature class.  The division of fiction into such groups is by no means an easy task, and probably no two persons would agree about the placing of certain modern writers.  The semi-standard and popular group includes such novelists as  H. E. Bates, Hans Fallada, Winifred Holtby and G. B. Stern.  The quality of the work of some of the writers included in this group might be considered by some critics to be high enough to justify their inclusion among the standard writers.  H. E. Bates, for example, steadily gains in reputation among discerning people, and his writings already have a high place in the regard of good judges of literature.

Despite the difficulties attendant on any attempted classification of values in the writing of novels, it is felt that this experiment has been worth while because it has made possible an authoritative statement of a fact already known to the [Council] Committee – that a very considerable proportion (approaching 50 per cent.) of the fiction issued from the libraries is definitely of a high standard.  It should not be assumed, however, that the remaining items are of poor quality.  The semi-standard group includes, in addition to those mentioned above, scores of modern writers of considerable literary gifts – Vera Brittain, Ethel Mannin, Russell Green, P. Bottome, E. Boileau and W. Greenwood – for example.  There are, of course, works by writers of action and problem stories in this group.  These books have a definite, if limited, place in the library organisation.  They give mental refreshment to highly intelligent and well-read library borrowers, they are “introductory readers” to those newly finding an interest in reading, and they are “escape” literature to those who are mentally and physically jaded.  They widen vocabulary, extend horizons, stimulate ideas, and often add factual knowledge, and there is a good deal to be said for a well-known lecturer’s remarks at a library lecture, that “even Edgar Wallace may be discovered and hailed by a literary critic of 100 years hence as having possessed gifts of characterisation, humour, and literary skill which give him a secure place in the literary text-books of the future.”

I have not (yet) discovered what prompted this outburst in an official report.  Had some august person expressed disquiet in the national press perhaps?  Or had a local councillor muttered something after finding novel-reading in his household?  Or was there research showing that fiction was generally a bad thing? (At all events, these all sound like openings for novels to me.)

Whatever the reasons behind it, the statement of support is fascinating for:

  • its conclusions that (i) ‘the intellectual value of … fiction from libraries [is] equal, if not superior, to much of what is classed as non-fiction’; and (ii) novels which are not, in the terms used here, ‘classic’ or ‘standard’ can still have considerable merit and may one day be acclaimed
  • the experiment dividing the fiction stock into classic/standard and semi-standard/popular. 41.38 per cent of fiction issued came from the first group, suggesting a taste among ordinary readers for great literature (or at least a willingness to try it). But we have no details of this experiment, to indicate scale etc.  A librarian friend, by the way, says that similar experiments have been attempted – something else to look up…
  • the assessment of authors of the day as ‘semi-standard’. Perhaps now we would say ‘middlebrow’.  Who is included, how selected and how viewed today (if at all) are all intriguing:

H E Bates, described here as ‘steadily [gaining] in reputation among discerning people’ but perhaps best known now for television’s Ma and Pop Larkin

Hans Fallada, the German novelist who is enjoying a revival for novels such as Alone in Berlin and The Drinker but who also attracts controversy for staying in Nazi Germany

Winifred Holtby, the Yorkshire writer whose most famous novel is South Riding.  She has been praised by our Reading Sheffield interviewees for describing a Yorkshire they recognise

G B Stern, whose novels were often apparently partly autobiographical. Try The Matriarch

Vera Brittain: her novels are now forgotten but the non-fiction Testament of Youth is a classic. She gave one of Sheffield’s ‘Celebrity Lectures’, on ‘The World Today’, on 13 February 1936, in what is now called the Library Theatre, to an audience of 470

Ethel Mannin, the novelist and travel writer. Perhaps she came to mind because on 16 November 1936 she had visited Sheffield to open the local exhibition for Sheffield Book Week

Russell Green: perhaps the least remembered of all this list, he wrote several novels and edited Coterie and New Coterie, early 20th century journals championing modernist poetry

Phyllis Bottome, best known now for the novel, The Mortal Storm. This was filmed in 1940, with James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, and is an early anti-Nazi film

Ethel Boileau, a favourite of the mother of one of our interviewees, Sir Norman Adsetts. Furrowed Middlebrow quotes some reviews and adverts here, including this for The Map of Days: ‘Romance novel of a modern Lancelot, a giant of a soldier, an ardent lover—destined to live and love greatly, and to have a strange power over women. Includes elements of second sight, mysticism, and the First World War.’

Walter Greenwood, author of Love on the Dole (1932) about working-class life in Salford in the early 20th Working class life in Sheffield was probably not much different.

Edgar Wallace, the prolific writer of thrillers including the Four Just Men and Mr J G Reeder series. Seventy-eight years after the annual report (‘even Edgar Wallace may be discovered and hailed by a literary critic of 100 years hence’), Edgar Wallace is remembered but not yet celebrated.