E.Robinson (b.1894): Purpose & Audience – Writing Lives

E.Robinson (b.1894): Purpose & Audience

“I jotted down in my diary from time to time various happenings then came to mind” (p.76) is how E.Robinson draws his memoir to a close. Robinson was in no rush to complete his work, with a writing period lasting 10 years, leaving a strong sense of ambiguity around the autobiography. He does not speak of anything which happens during the decade of working progress, from 1960 to 1970, so it asks the question for what reasons has Robinson written down his life story for publication.

backcoverRobinson lived through such events as the turn of the 20th Century, two World Wars and the Suffrage Movement, so his writing is full of detailed accounts of different historic occasions. The opening to his memoir however is not reminiscent of these events, but he starts from the beginning of his life, and slowly works his way through the decades leading up to 1960. He mainly focuses on the period behind 1905 and 1920, where he took his first steps into employment and served in the Army.

Robinson’s tone is still highly informative, with an attention to detail an important factor in his work even though he was at the age of 66 when he first begins his memoirs,. He writes not knowing who the audience may be, as people from a variety of different angles and approaches would be able to look at his work and it hits such a broad spectrum. The fact Robinson spent 10 years writing the autobiography, and as he states only jotting things down from time to time, you would expect the work to be very disjointed and lacking chronological order, yet his writing is very well structured and easy to follow.

The life story Robinson tells of would be of great interest to survivors of the First and Second World War, as he depicts what life was actually like for men returning from serving their country. Although Robinson was released from his duties on medical grounds, the mental scars of battle are still fresh in his description, which people who have served in the forces would be able to relate to. Academics interested in the effects of war on an individual would also find Robinson’s work of interest, as they would be able to find out information from someone who was first-hand experience of life in the trenches. His description of war is very open and honest, not hesitating to include the minor or gory details, such as when a fellow soldier gets shot through the head.

Horse Tram, St James's Road, Peckham (c.1912)
Horse Tram, St James’s Road, Peckham (c.1912)

Robinson’s childhood takes place in an era of mass unemployment and economic uncertainty, which he talks of within the text. His inclusions of certain events through his youth, mainly his first steps into employment, are very informative of the difficult circumstances a teenager faced in trying to find work. This may be of interest to a scholar who is researching employment in the early 20th Century, as Robinson undertakes a few minor jobs before joining the postal service.

The idea of politics and class is an important factor in Robinson’s work and both are factors which shaped him and his lifestyle. He was born into very much a working family; however he found himself more in a middle class background during his adulthood. He never changes his mentality though, as he still installs working class values onto his writing and does not take anything he has earned for granted. Through his working class background he also was a strong supporter of the Labour Party, as their social democratic views were shared by the majority of families who struggled against poverty. The connection between the working class and the Labour Party can be seen within the autobiography and may come in useful for academics studying such areas as the history of political parties and the stance taken by different social classes in the earlier 20th Century.

Overall, it seems Robinson’s main purpose for writing his autobiography ‘I Remember’ was to create an informative piece of work depicting the lifestyle of a man from a working class background. His optimism and clarity towards the major events within his life make the text and easy, yet knowledgeable read. Scholars and academics from different fields, such as politics and history, would be able to use Robinson’s memoirs and find research to use for their own work



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