Leonard Ellisdon (1885-1968): Purpose & Audience – Writing Lives

Leonard Ellisdon (1885-1968): Purpose & Audience


“When a nonentity such as I presume, at an advanced age, to invade the realm of letters with little if anything in the way of literary ammunition, he should at least be armed with a good excuse. Mine is as follows”

Ellisdon names himself as a nonentity, stressing his ordinariness and how his writing needs an excuse to be put down on paper, for its poor quality and unimportant status like many working class autobiographers. Ellisdon nonetheless is modest, but humorous with it, making you want to read on.Throughout reading Ellisdon’s memoirs, it became apparent that the audience was a wide one. Anyone could enjoy the funny depictions that Ellisdon creates. However he had a strong purpose for starting to write. Ellisdon was forced to retire in 1957 following a stroke. This reason is something extremely admirable that catches peoples attention for just that reason solely.

The autobiography and funny snippets in to Ellisdon’s life  are great inspiration and motivational boosts for the audience who have dealt with a similar fate. At the end of the collection of memoires Ellisdon still manages to make light of the situation even if the topic is a morbid one.


Leonard W. Ellisdon had suffered a severe stroke, resulting in a three month stint in hospital, where after he had expected to return to his previous life. However he “had had his lot” and discovered his return to work and ‘normal’ life was to be only a pipe dream. This series of unfortunate events would maybe stop life all together for some men, as the realisation of not settling back into the “real world” might cause a devastating affect. Unable to carry on his hobbies such as playing the choir singing and the piano which he could no longer play due to his right arm and hand being damaged by his stroke, he began jotting down, slowly and painfully some events of his early life.

‘The autobiographers insisted upon their own histories, however difficult it was to write them, and they unanimously state that their reasons for writing are functional rather than aesthetic: to record lost experiences for future generations; to raise money; to warn others; to teach others; to relieve or amuse themselves; to understand themselves’(Gagnier, 342)

In the preface for Starting at Victoria Ellisdon states that “If my efforts bring a smile to any lips, or encouragement to anyone afflicted with a disability, then I am well rewarded”. His purpose essentially is to bring happiness to anyone reading his work. One  main audience that Ellisdon requires is anyone who has gone through the same unfortunate, unfair occurrence as attaining a disability. Ellisdon will become a massive influence and huge motivation for people who are struggling with daily life, and has become a massive example for other people, whether they are going through the same situation with a disability like Ellisdon or merely looking for encouragement and confidence to start writing.

Scholars will also be interested in the working class stories that Ellisdon has informed us about, giving them help with there work on the working class education, family and life. This autobiography is an inside story of what life was actually like for a young boy growing up to a man in the early to mid 20th century. Scholars might particularly like to use this kind of writing as it is more personal and a primary source. There are also people generally interested in the towns they were born in and looking back in time to the early 20th century, Brixton, London being one is found very interesting to many readers.

motivationThis unfortunate happening was something that pushed Ellisdon to start his memoirs, and if not they would of never been written. Family friends and his doctor motivated Leonard to continue his writing. They found his memoirs enjoyable and found his writings amusing and humorous. This shows how important an audience can be for autobiographers. If people are willing to read your writing and find it interesting, there are probably many others who will do too. People talk about the works they have read, word of mouth playing a huge part of spreading the word of a new autobiography. New people knowing about Ellisdon’s autobiography accomplishes his hope that he states in his preface, and if people like reading his life stories in general that’s a good motivational boost. Each memory Ellisdon jotted down were encouraged to link each together to try and create some sort of book of life stories for people to read.

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