George Acorn – Purpose & Audience (b. Late 19) – Writing Lives

George Acorn – Purpose & Audience (b. Late 19)

‘Most working-class autobiographies begin not with a family lineage or a birthdate but rather with an apology for their authors’ ordinariness, encoded in titles like One of the Multitude(1911) by George Acorn.’ (Gagnier, 1987)

Although One of The Multitude was a published piece of work, it comes with a preface explaining the reason for its publication and its writing. With this the first page is that of a Stevenson poem which describes the will power after childhood to work and the will to do what is best. Within the ‘suggestions I have written this book’ (Acorn, 1912, p. 10) it states it is describing the ‘The book is but an imperfect record, a poor thing, maybe, but ” One’s ” own ; and perhaps the public will recognize that experiences LIVED, and written down however poorly, are of more real value and interest than imaginary fictions beautifully disguised”. This explains why the writer may have been documenting his early years and as to why this record of accounts was put together, however the publisher of this book debates this. It also hints and mentions the fact ‘disguised’ maybe as it was written under a pseudonym.

He writes within the introduction as to what was on the mind of the original author when putting these accounts together, he could be someone ‘who was studying the problem in a more or less scientific spirit. He would be concerned with the economic causes of such conditions, and with the consideration of possible amendment and solution.’ (Acorn, 1912) or could debatably ‘who has had to live and work and sleep in surroundings which menaced all peace and order and decency; and who, however ardently and passionately he may have desired to escape from brutalizing conditions into a world of settled and serene life’

With both of these in mind, there is a clear understanding that the accounts are a personal touch of the authors with the idea of projecting the truth into the world. Although being a biography and addressing real life for the author, the novelistic style of the writing is intriguing for the reader and manages to keep audiences interested in this young boy’s youth and life. As well as experiences and relationships, it gives an inside view as to how the writer is addressing the issues in his mind and thoughts that he is having, it is almost a window to how he genuinely feels despite his actions and responsibilities, this is a lot clearer when addressing his thoughts within the family ‘” I am as wicked and gallows-bred as you say, whose fault is it ? Do you expect a dutiful, obedient son, when you have never taught him to respect you, or have cause for affection?” (Acorn, 1912, p. 63)

The entire book is made up of different chapters which have been named depending on what happens and unfolds with in this chapter, this again relates to how the author has written this in an almost novelistic fashion. This itself keeps readers interested with more than just an factual historical basis but on an emotional and interest in to what happens next and what the ‘plot’ or the outcome of George’s endeavours are like. With a number of different endeavours happening, it is hard to compare this to real records with the use of a pseudonym. With or without the real name of the author, there is still an emotional connection for the writer of this auto biography which resonates with the audiences and gives the novelistic retelling of his earlier years which keeps people interested and keen to find out what else he did with his creative and curious flare.


Acorn, G., 1912. One of the Multitude. London: W. Heinemann.

Gagnier, R., 1987. Social Atoms: Working-class Autobiography, Subjectivty and Gender. Victorian Studies, 30(3), p. 338.

Stevenson, R. L., 1898. Underwoods. 9th ed. London: Chatto & Windus.

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