Verbena Daphne Brighton (B. 1915): Purpose & Audience – Writing Lives

Verbena Daphne Brighton (B. 1915): Purpose & Audience

In her memoir, Verbena Brighton does not mention who she has written her memoir for. There doesn’t seem to be a specific purpose for her memoir, other than to serve the purpose of an autobiography. Verbena is descriptive in every aspect of her childhood life, proving very informative for anybody interested in researching 1920’s Britain. However, on the opening page of her published memoir she states:

“This book is dedicated

to Bunny

who has done so much

for Gissing Church”

The reading audience is unaware who Bunny is, but it would be assumed that Bunny is a member of her Norfolk community who dedicates herself to the local church.

mill in norfolk

This picture is taken from Nuts ‘N May A Childhood In Norfolk Village in which Brighton wrote ‘This is Gissing Mill taken in the early part of the century but was pulled down in the 1940’s.’

Lots of detail is included when describing her home and school buildings in her memoir, so this could be a useful, informative piece to read if interested in 20th Century British architecture. She explains in her opening paragraph that her house was built in the late 17th century; “of wattle and daub, which we were told was a mixture of cow dung and clay. It was a farm house, but was later divided to make two cottages.” Verbena describes the location of her home as secluded and situated in pleasant Norfolk countryside, which to the reader sounds like an idyllic place to spend childhood.

Brighton’s memoir would be particularly interesting to people who have an identity with Norfolk as a place. As she includes specific detail to the area of Norfolk and buildings within it, I think her memoir was written for the purpose of local reading. As her memoir was published, it indicates that Brighton was writing this for a wider audience than just family members. The significance of dialect included in Brighton’s memoir suggests that it was produced for local readership also:

“I’m gorn to tell your mother when you git home.” (p. 16 Nuts ‘n May)

The penultimate chapter of Brighton’s memoir is titled “The Village”. This chapter describes her village in Norfolk, supporting the idea that Verbena Brighton published her memoir for local readership.

Also included in her memoir, Brighton pays attention to detail when it comes to dress. Her memoir could be of purpose for many interested in the history of fashion, who wanted an insight to what type of clothes were worn by working- class men and women.

Brighton’s memoir could be aimed at a wide audience of people. Generally, as she doesn’t state who she has written this for, it could be read by anybody. Her variety of chapters range from ‘School’ to ‘Christmas Eve’. As Brighton includes a lot of dialect in her chapters, her memoir has a very authentic tone. When reading it, the reader feels as if they are familiar with her as she describes the strong Norfolk accent on many occurrences.

In her Christmas chapter, Brighton includes the letter in which she wrote to Santa Claus and the letter in which she had received back. She also includes hymns and Christmas Carols that were sung. With so much detail included about her excitement for Santa Claus to arrive, I as a reader felt this excitement with her! Brighton uses capital letters to express her excitement as she opens this chapter; “THE DAY WE HAD BEEN WAITING FOR.”  (P. 101) Brighton explains her Christmas traditions, it is interesting to witness how commercialised Christmas has become compared to the 1920’s in Britain. Brighton and her siblings were thrilled with excitement due to the rich food they were treated to and a box of colouring pencils. Christmas was not dominated by thousands of toys.

“…then home to a beautifully cooked dinner of Roast Leg of Pork, Brussel Sprouts, Potatoes baked in their skins, butter pudding and the most delicious gravy that ever was. And then the plum pudding with the sixpences hidden in it, these had been sent by Cousin George.”

Brighton names a lot of her Chapters after months of the year such as “The Seasons. January- February- March.” In these chapters, she pays attention to detail when she describes the changing of the seasons; “Life was so beautiful with the rime frost on the trees and thank goodness we had a mile to walk to school.” (P. 40) The details of the weather and seasonal changes could be of interest to people who are researching Norfolk or interested in Britain’s changing weather conditions over the past centuries.

There is a synopsis located on the back of Brighton’s published memoir stating:

“When Verbena Brighton, known as Daphne, came back to live in

Norfolk at her retirement, she found it a pleasant occupation ‘just

for the fun of it’, to jot down a few memories of her childhood

days in the village of Gissing. ”

Brighton herself explains that the purpose of her memoir was for pleasure.

Brighton, Verbena Nuts ‘n May (Brighton: Norfolk) 1990

Pictures: Brighton, Verbena Nuts ‘n May (Brighton: Norfolk) 1990


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