13 February 2009

The Work of Lionel Britton: Chapter 2: What Lionel Britton Is Up To

I have adapted the title of this chapter from ‘What Evolution Is Up To’, one of Lionel Britton’s chapter titles in Hunger and Love, as an indication that the content essentially concerns the long evolution of his novel. I discuss the problems that Britton had completing his work, the difficulties he had with publishers, how and why he changed Hunger and Love from its earliest surviving state through to the first edition, and conclude with Britton’s attitude to censorship.

The history of Hunger and Love is relatively long, and the first point to be borne in mind is that, although it was published in the early 1930s, it is in fact a work of the 1920s. A typewritten two-thousand-word biography of Britton by his P.E.N. friend Erik (later anglicized to ‘Eric’) Warman claims that the novel took a total of eight years to complete, adding: ‘About a quarter of this time was given over to revision for he is not easily satisfied with his work. Usually he expects to retain and revise a manuscript for at least a year after it is finished’1 Britton’s own comments on this subject strongly indicate that revision was of constant importance to — and difficulty for — him. In a letter to his close friend Sinead Acheson, Britton writes about explaining to Bernard Shaw the problems he had with a later book:

'He asked me how I was getting on and I told him things were a bit difficult because I took so long over everything, and the trouble was that I learnt as I went along, and by the time I’d spent a year over a work I knew so much more than I did at the beginning that I had to start all over again'.2
In some typewritten autobiographical notes, Britton appears to take his problem lightly, saying that the German edition of Hunger and Love was ‘so long translating, owing to Lionel Britton trying to get the translators to write it his way instead of theirs, that the Nazis won the race and it never appeared’.3 (He would of course have been unaware that Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists had been cut by about half its original length by Jessie Pope for Grant Richards, but Britton’s reaction can be imagined.)

Britton himself, then, was obviously to a large extent responsible for the delayed publication of his work, but this was also partly because he was obsessed with the question of it being his own work, as opposed to how others wanted it to appear. As Warman notes of the British edition of Hunger and Love, publishers ‘wanted to shorten it […] or to make it respectable, or both’. Britton’s response to the publishers was: ‘you don’t want to publish my book, […] you want to publish something that is not my work at all’.4 This remark is important to any understanding of Britton’s stance towards authorial possession: his words were virtually the only thing he owned, and he was not prepared to allow the dominant class to take them from him. Aware of the anarchist Proudhon’s dictum, Britton believed that property is theft; he considered his words to be part of his existential integrity, and believed self-expression to be more important than the publication of an inauthentic work. Anyone wanting to interfere with his writing is seen as directly attacking his life. His ideas belong not only to himself but to the people of the future: if the bourgeoisie changed his novel in any way, that property would in effect be stolen. It is in this context that the following outburst in the Clarion should be read, rather than as a violent threat: ‘Cut it for me, would they? I wonder how they would like me to cut their throats?’.5 It is almost as though the narrator of Hunger and Love, during one of his more extreme outbursts, has gained control for a moment. The paragraph below, written in a letter to Herbert Marshall shortly before the publication of Hunger and Love in the U. S. A., and concerning its future North American publication by Harper, gives a clear picture of Britton’s concerns:

'Harper’s man couldn’t bind himself over this side to have the book printed verbatim in [the] U.S.A. so I had to insert a clause in the agreement that I could refuse to give them the book unless they did. Very much disturbed about it. Didn’t like the great Harper’s being dictated to over a first novel. Never before happened in their experience. I told him it was an unusual first novel. Didn’t half make him wild.'6

Apart from the typesetting, there do not appear to be any differences between the British and the American edition: it seems that Britton’s wishes were respected.

Constable had already experienced Britton’s hostile attitude to cutting when they were considering publishing Hunger and Love in Britain. They had sent him a list, more than four pages long, of deletions they considered necessary before publication could begin. Some of their objections were, or at least purported to be, purely factual — any mention of Baldwin’s pipe in the Edwardian era was anachronistic, the expression ‘piddle complex’ was inaccurate because ‘a dog does this to find his way home. No complex; common-sense’, and they affirmed that Darwin had withheld publication of Origin of Species ‘in order to make his hypothesis water-tight’ rather than to make more profit, as Britton had claimed.7 They also disliked Britton’s repetitions and found his long philosophical digressions unnecessary. In all, they wanted to cut the typescript by about a quarter. Financial considerations obviously entered into their thinking because, at over seven hundred pages, Hunger and Love was very long as well as unusual. Britton began to write his responses to the required deletions. To the instruction ‘omit notes and preface’, he wrote that the notes were ‘never intended’, to the question ‘is distribution necessarily destructive?’ he wrote ‘No of course not’, and then simply wrote ‘No’ to all the required omissions on the rest of the page. It seems that at the beginning he was responding defensively and argumentatively, but he did not trouble himself to make a response to any of Constable’s requirements on the following pages: he had already read enough. And Michael Sadleir’s letter to Britton the following month confirms that, as a result of a long conversation between Britton and Constable’s Mr Tilby at the Constitutional Club, the publishers had withdrawn their provisional acceptance of Hunger and Love.8 C. E. M. Joad said of Britton, ‘Like most geniuses, he has refused to alter so much as a line, a colon, or a comma of his work’.9 Britton became noted for his attitude, to such an extent that most newspaper articles about him (and there were many: Britton made very good copy) would usually mention this refusal to delete anything. One newspaper had as a sub-title of one of its articles ‘Lionel Britton, the Author Who Won’t Be “Cut”’.10

On Britton’s death in 1971, Herbert Marshall repeated this story in a press release duly quoted in the regional newspaper: ‘He would not allow a single comma to be altered from his original text, so eventually quarrelled with his publisher, who refused to publish the vast, lengthy work without some editing and thus it remained until his very death.11 Nevertheless, in one newspaper article, Britton had attempted to dispel the myth that he never listened to advice on cutting his work, stating that he had written Spacetime Inn eight times and had ‘altered and cut it in the light of criticism received from friends’.12 It was the perceived arrogance of publishers that Britton was railing against, because they represented the bourgeois profit world that he so detested.

When Britton told Putnam about Constable’s rejection of his novel, it appears that he only mentioned their objection to the size of the book because Constant Huntington tells him: ‘of course, when people were holding pistols at your head to make you cut it, just on the ground of bulk, as the price of acceptance, you naturally dug yourself in and resisted to the death’.13 But Hunger and Love, of course, did not die. This was Huntington’s third letter to Britton, and Putnam had agreed — initially apparently unconditionally and without argument — to publish the manuscript in the same state as Britton had given it to them, but subject to any emendations he chose to make. Britton was evidently making final revisions to Hunger and Love about the time of Huntington’s letter, and there is even a comment on it in the published book, where the narrator says ‘I did this lying on my belly in Green Park in shirtsleeves in 1930, revising a manuscript written nearly four years before’ (p. 492).

And Putnam, or Huntington to be more exact, believed that Hunger and Love was an exceptional work. Before Russell wrote his Introduction to the book Putnam were apparently considering one of their own, written by Huntington. Several introductory pages have survived, and although the end is missing they contain at least two thousand words full of portentous praise: ‘The author himself has not called the book a novel, though he plainly regards it as the starting-point of something new in literature, and perhaps as the beginning of that new development to which the novel must finally come’.14

No part of the first draft of Hunger and Love survives. In an article in a 1934 issue of Pitman’s Journal of Commercial Education Britton reveals, ‘Hunger and Love was written in shorthand mostly in buses or at Lyons. I am sorry to say I destroyed the original MS. There was such a lot of it, and life was difficult in those days’. 15 However, excluding a bound proof copy which is almost identical to the final copy (hereafter FC), the LBC holds two other pre-publication copies in different states. The later one is a double-spaced mimeograph (hereafter MG) that Putnam sent Britton in three separate volumes16 It contains a few revised chapter titles, a number of deletions (sometimes where Britton is unclear about specific factual details), additions, and a very large number of changes in punctuation; otherwise, it is quite close to the FC, and there is no difference between the chapter titles in the MG, the revised MG (hereafter MG(R)), or the FC. Britton’s typescript (hereafter TS) is an earlier single-spaced draft that contains many differences from the FC, including many changes to the content and a number of chapter title alterations.17 Sometimes, Britton appears to be unsure about chapter titles, so omits them when typing and later adds them in pencil, or occasionally he crosses out typewritten titles and inserts new ones. There are thirty-six chapters in the TS and forty-two in the FC.

I now analyse several chapter title changes between the TS and the FC, suggesting reasons for them. Appendix 1 contains details of all title changes, including differences in punctuation where significant.

Chapter 1 of the TS, as in the FC, is entitled ‘The Rat Comes Out of his Hole’. However, the chapter title list (being the only prelim of the TS, and which was compiled at several different dates) refers to an earlier title, ‘Pot’erbs, Poetry and Smells’, which seems to encapsulate Arthur’s life adequately.18 There is the poetry and the literature he is maniacally reading in his pursuit to ‘get a mind’, the pot herbs he sells in the greengrocer’s and the pervasive unpleasant smells of his lodgings and the streets he wanders around. Superficially, the original title perhaps seems superior to the new one, although the rat leaving his hole — an image also used at the end of Animal Ideas — represents the first movement towards the slow evolution to a new civilisation. Throughout Hunger and Love, animal imagery is used for the representatives of British society, as they in turn, Britton believes, treat the working classes like animals. Arthur is an example of those classes, and his frantic attempts to educate himself are a huge effort to change his lowly status to one higher up the evolutionary scale. ‘The Rat Comes Out of his Hole’ is consequently a very appropriate title for the beginning of the novel.

Chapter 3 was originally entitled ‘The Sack. And Paradise’ (TS(R) pp. 18–34), and is among several other chapter titles added in pencil after the chapters had been typed. Later, however, Britton crossed out ‘And Paradise’ to create a new chapter, ‘Paradise’, on page 25. The point at which the chapters are separated corresponds exactly to the divisions between ‘The Sack’ and ‘Columbus of the Mind’ in the FC (TS pp. 12–21, FC pp. 22–35). It is not difficult to understand why Britton made this decision because these two chapters are strongly autobiographical and represent an important turning point in Britton’s and Arthur’s intellectual education: this is a fictional representation of the time that Britton was dismissed from his employment at the greengrocer’s and started work at the University Book Co., when he more fully immersed himself in the world of books.19 This was when Britton became acquainted with the penny dumps on the book barrows in Farringdon Road, although the date is slightly later in the novel. The change of chapter title is also significant. ‘Paradise’ may emphasize the narrator–protagonist’s feelings, but perhaps the religious connotations are too strong for an atheist like Britton, and ‘Columbus’ indicates the exploratory task Phelps is undertaking. And the finally revised title allows Britton to insert the crucial word ‘Mind’, being the second of three chapter titles towards the beginning of the book which contain that word.

The chapter title change from ‘x and y’ to ‘Nose Drip and Knowledge’ is also significant. Whereas ‘x and y’ presumably merely refer to Arthur’s early struggles with algebra, the signification becomes extended to the learning process in general with the word ‘Knowledge’, incorporating the many other areas of education which Phelps is battling with. The ‘Nose Drip’ also brings in the human element, with Phelps not only mentally battling to learn but battling with the elements in the winter as his cold hands hold a book on his way back from a publisher after having collected some books for the shop. It is an enduring image and a striking one that many critics were left with after finishing the book. For Britton, it was an image of himself that would not leave him, and it is significant that the title, as it were, fleshes Arthur out more.

Two chapter title alterations are an indication of the movement towards colloquialization which is such an important issue in the difference between the content of the TS and the FC. ‘Knackered’ and ‘Love in the Lavatory’ were originally entitled ‘Where We Stand’ and ‘W. C.’ respectively. ‘Knackered’, although now an inoffensive slang word, would perhaps have been thought slightly risqué in the 1930s. Here, the reader is clearly intended to see an analogy between Arthur and the blinkered carthorse walking along the well-trodden path of trade. But what makes the title ‘Knackered’ so effective is that the signification operates on three levels: firstly the horse is being taken to the knacker’s yard, secondly this is because it is ‘knackered’ (or terminally exhausted), and finally there is also in the title, as in the text itself, an allusion to the horse’s neutered testicles (or ‘knackers’). Linked to this is the understood but unwritten analogy between the lack of sexual potency of the horse and the virtual celibacy of the unmarried working classes which Britton saw imposed by the dominant ideology.

Finally, the original chapter title ‘Dans Cette Galère’ alludes to the expression ‘Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère?’, a well-known quotation from Molière’s Les Fourberies de Scapin once in common use to question the reason why someone should find himself or herself in a particularly unpleasant situation.20 Louis MacNeice, for instance, used a similar expression in 1928 in a postcard to ‘one of [his] fellow Old Marlburians’ during a tedious liner cruise with his father.21 Britton’s appropriation of the expression for a chapter title is interesting; ‘galère’ is French for a sailing galley, and can be used figuratively to indicate an unfortunate situation, originally that of a galley slave: Britton appears to be underlining the fact that Arthur is a ‘slave’. But perhaps he abandoned the idea of using it because he thought it nevertheless sounded too pompous, and Herbert Marshall’s pre-publication comments on the novel, in an article in New World written in the style of Britton himself, gives the best explanation of the effectiveness of the change of chapter title to the simpler, and far more direct, ‘Why?’: ‘you don’t want disease, unemployment, unhappiness, repression of your urgings and your love. But THEY HAPPEN. They are CAUSED! […] In the name of the human race, WHY?’.22

All in all, the chapter titles indicate a move away from the academic and towards the more colloquial. They emphasize what Britton is doing to the book as a whole: they reflect a use of English more attuned to the working-class experience of it. And the titles are also a little mischievous: there is far more to Arthur than desperate bookishness and anger with the status quo, and Hunger and Love is filled with passages of mischief and humour as well as anger.

To move to the text itself, the overall impression the TS gives is of a patchwork, something to which Britton was continually making amendments. Some pages have obviously been added, some have been removed and retyped, and a number of pages — often used with either a different typewriter ribbon or a different state of the same ribbon — consist of two or three pieces of paper glued together. The largest number of added pages makes up the chapter ‘Romance and Reality’, which Britton wrote after the other chapters, and this concerns how the narrator sees ways in which the Establishment masks the truth from the population.

It is evident from all of this, then, that the TS was constantly evolving, with Britton making frequent alterations by deleting old paragraphs or pages and inserting new ones, although not necessarily in the same places. There is much in Hunger and Love which is autobiographical, so much that, apart from the names of his characters, it is sometimes difficult to know what is fictional. But the reader discovers almost nothing of Arthur’s life before the book begins. One very good reason for this is that Britton was consciously writing a ‘working-class’ novel, which will be discussed in the next chapter. In order to make Arthur’s working-class credentials watertight, and to highlight the gradual process of his education, Arthur more or less starts from an educational tabula rasa. The passage below provides an obvious example of Britton excising an incongruous reference to Arthur’s past. Near the beginning of the TS he deleted several paragraphs which deal with Arthur from a particularly personal angle, and an example of the differences between the TS and the TS(R) is shown below:

'The cause of his general loneliness, so far at any rate as male friends went, was simply that he was rather more intelligent than his fellows {& that his parents, while they lasted, had been better off }; such chance acquaintances as he made were lacking in sympathy, and remained casual. Society makes very little provision for "society" in his class […]' (TS(R), p. 21). There is no mention of Arthur’s parents in the FC.

One of the principal differences between the TS and the FC is in the punctuation: in the TS, Britton tended to use long, sprawling sentences punctuated by semicolons, colons and/or commas. While correcting the MG, though, he began excising a large number of ‘accidentals’ in order to create more sentences. The following passage, with a comparatively short sentence for Britton, is a typical illustration of his former style, where Arthur discusses his greengrocer employer:

'He did not feel the awe he was intended to, but sometimes he felt envy; he had rather an honest turn of mind, but there were times when he felt he would have liked to buy dear and sell cheap for himself; and when you became Mayor you could swank like hell' (TS p. 4).23

Ignoring the obviously incorrect order of ‘dear’ and ‘cheap’ (which Britton later corrected) and the interesting transformation from third to second person (a device of Britton’s which I shall comment on later), in the MG(R), as in the FC, each comma and semicolon is replaced by a full stop: from one sentence, five are created (FC p. 4).

Also part of the revision process is the breaking up of a large number of long paragraphs to turn a single line, phrase, or word into a whole paragraph, along with the creation of many one-word sentences. The general content of the consecutive paragraphs below exists in the TS, but does not appear in the same form in the FC:

'They did you out of the sun.
They gave you eight more shillings a week.
Girls there used to be in that other shop.
You were middle class now.
"Boy" then' (FC p. 270).

Here there are five separate facts springing into Arthur’s consciousness, five details broken into short, separate lines. One of the effects of this is to aerate the text, to create a greater impression of readability.

The rest of this chapter involves the changes in the ‘substantives’ from the TS to the FC. In spite of the many differences between these two states, there is no significant difference in word count between the single-spaced four-hundred-and-fifteen-page TS and the seven-hundred-and-five-page FC. In the interests of legibility — Britton was a rather poor and often erratic typist — all obvious typographical errors (he very rarely made any obvious orthographical ones) in all quotations I give have been silently corrected, although I have retained all the original punctuation.

Occasionally, Britton writes an ambiguous passage and corrects it later: for instance, he writes the sentence ‘The old man used to look in now and again, and then it seemed he was always in the way’ (TS p. 3). In the FC, ‘he’ is changed to ‘Arthur’ for clarity of understanding. Sometimes, changes are made where formerly there was clumsiness, such as ‘nd so you pass/ {You go} out/,/ into London’ (TS p. 227, FC p. 334). On many more occasions, the changes are purely aesthetic. In the following example, the original sentence was grammatically accurate and unambiguous, but here it is improved: ‘Less work for you /to do/, less trouble for me’ (TS p. 7, FC p. 8); the simple omission of two brief words creates a more symmetrically structured pattern. To take another example, one paragraph in the TS simply begins ‘Trodden off by feet’ (TS p. 156). The sentence is retained in the FC, but in front of it Britton later inserts: ‘And down here the pavement wears and is replaced, wears and is replaced again’ (FC p. 217). This is almost poetic in its rhythmic repetition. The emphasis is on the slow movement of time and its effects, which is one of the themes of the book as a whole.

Study of both the TS and the FC shows that there are many examples of emendations which attempt to use a more everyday language, such as when a sentence concerning the grocer’s shop is changed: ‘unless there were string bags /in evidence/{about }’ (TS p. 3, FC p. 4). ‘In evidence’ sounds a little incongruous, too formal for the occasion, and certainly too formal for Arthur. A similar emendation appears later: ‘A certain slight sense of his environment /percolated/ {oozed through} the upper crust of his consciousness’ (TS p. 9, FC p. 11). It is often impossible to distinguish the aesthetic changes Britton was making from the general colloqualizing of the text. Throughout the book, there are examples of this new style, in which, for example, ‘Youngster’ is changed to ‘kid’ (TS p. 4, FC p. 5), ‘head’ to ‘napper’ (TS p. 345, FC p. 589), and ‘Throw out your mouldy pennies!’ becomes ‘Throw out your mouldy coppers!’, with an obvious pun on a common slang term for policemen (TS p. 255, FC p. 381). When Arthur gets a half-holiday, his response in the later state is more in character with working-class speech: ‘By the Lord, this was aristocratic!’ (TS p. 26) becomes ‘Say, bo! can you beat it? This is life!’ (FC p. 23). The past tense has gone, the language invites reply, and the general effect is participatory. The effect of the colloquialization is to create a more credible — indeed a truer version of — Arthur.

Another example of the colloquialization is illuminating. In a passage in the TS which is without doubt autobiographical, and which is in the main omitted in the FC, the narrator explains his thoughts on religion:

'Having been forced in his ‘youth’ to go to church, the first act of his ‘manhood’ -- the freedom from restraint which comes of eating bread bought with one’s own money -- was to eschew, renounce and abandon all thought for or semblance of religion, as he imagined; at any rate, all conscious or willing obedience or respect' (TS p. 20).

The phrasing is certainly a little clumsy, therefore one of the reasons for excision, but the equivalent of this in the FC is very different and much blunter: ‘Arthur Phelps had had enough of religion at school. In common with all the other boys of the school he had pulled the plug on all willing obedience or respect’ (FC p. 16). The self-important, tautological language has been replaced, and ‘had enough’ and ‘pulled the plug’ are more direct and conversational than ‘eschew, renounce and abandon’. Britton’s thesaurus has its powerful moments, but this is not one of them. The consequences for the reader’s relationship with Arthur are plain — the narrator is speaking with his own (or rather Arthur’s) voice.

Another change is to give a greater impression of immediacy, of which the following is an example. In the TS:

'Going upstairs with his tin of Globe Polish in his hand, and his polishing rags, to do those infernal brasses, he saw a sixpence lying on the stairs. Where it came from, nobody knows to this day; it just lay there and shone, and he picked it up and put it into his pocket' (TS p. 58).

In the FC, this changes to:

'You are going upstairs with tin of Globe Polish and polishing rags to do those infernal brasses; and what is that on the stairs, Arthur, in that corner? That’s it! It’s a sixpence. I don’t know how it got there. You don’t know how it got there. It lay there and shone. You picked it up and put it in your pocket' (FC p. 65).

Of obvious significance here is that the narrator has changed his address to Arthur from the third to the second person. Furthermore, the narrator questions him, leads his gaze to the very spot where the sixpence lies; and Britton enhances this immediacy in a small way by adding exclamation marks (such as the one above) to his novel, but more importantly he devises other ways of developing the narrator’s depiction of Arthur. Repetition is one of the ways the narrator emphasizes his didactic points, how he shows that all learning (including evolutionary learning) is usually achieved through constant repetition, but repetition is also effective to emphasize a psychological point. In the above episode with the sixpence, the TS states ‘The truth is, that he was a thief’ (TS p. 58). Britton had obviously placed a comma in a rather unorthodox place to emphasize the fact ‘that he was a thief’, but the use of the comma-free repetition in the FC produces a more dramatic effect: ‘Thief thief thief thief thief thief’ (FC p. 65). The repetition can be read either as an insistent and direct mocking of Arthur by the narrator, or as part of the internal monologue. In this latter reading, it is the absence of commas that strengthen the sentence as the repetition of the word ‘thief’ brands itself into Arthur’s consciousness. Another notable use of repetition is in a much more positive context; in response to a statement from Sarner: ‘Arthur, I want you to take this parcel. Wait for the money’, which will take him out of the claustrophobic confines of the bookshop, the simple reaction of the Arthur of the TS is to think ‘Freedom!’ (TS p. 149). In the FC, though, Arthur is (at least mentally) rather more ecstatic: ‘Freedom, freedom, freedom! Open air. Freedom!’ (FC p. 207). The language here is more in keeping with the reality of Arthur’s enthusiasm, a more direct representation of what he thinks, and in the context is much more humorous.

The passage below is a clear example of another style of Britton’s:

'And here’s you, as cold as hell. Stuck up in /the/ shop all day, earning /someone else’s/ {old Sarner’s}living, nd having to/ hand{ing} over /the/ best books in /the/ shop{,} /to do it: books you really would like to have kept to have had a peep into yourself. Some/ great lout/,/ comes in{,} nd/ yanks ’em off. nd b/{B}y /the time/ dinner {time}/hour comes you/ have to use both hands to /help you to/hold /the/ pencil /to/ enter /them up/ in /the/ till-book{.}/;-- oh hell,/ {Ain’t } it /i s/ cold!' (TS p. 152, FC p. 212).

The movement of the revisions is towards the ‘head-line abbreviation’ Russell spoke of in the Introduction to the book, and the emendations are typical of the many thousands that became part of the FC (FC p. vii). In under one hundred words in the TS (later emended to about fifty in the FC), Britton has omitted the definite article six times, and ‘some’ and ‘he’ once. The two instances of ‘and’ become submerged in a more staccato narrative. The narrator says ‘oh hell, it is cold’ (Britton frequently uses spaced letters, as opposed to underscoring, to denote the use of italics) in the TS, although this is a little quaint and perhaps slightly artificial. The final version, ‘Ain’t it cold!’, with a colloquial rhetorical question replacing the pure statement of ‘it is’ seems to invite the reader into the narrative, the continuation of the exclamation mark in place of a perhaps strictly grammatically correct question mark again lending the passage a greater immediacy, charging it with a greater impact as the narrator moves away from the formality of language conventions. The use of the second person permits a greater flexibility, giving the narrator a more intensive access to the workings of Arthur’s mind than the use of the third person would have allowed. It also brings the reader more directly into contact with the protagonist.

Another paragraph also shows one extension of this editing process: ‘/You l/{L}ook at / phrase couple of times/, memorise /it/, nd then/ go about /the/ shop{,} do/ing the/ bourgeois job/;/{,} when /you’ve got the/ phrase thoroughly in/to your head/ {napper}, have another peep’ (TS p. 345, FC p. 589). In this passage, the reader’s perception of Arthur is caught up with the narrative style, and again the writing appears as if it expresses the way Arthur thinks. Britton has cut phrases to include only a minimum of words for intelligibility and deleted articles he believes to be superfluous. More importantly, the second person has been excised on three occasions. It is as though the narrator is merging with Arthur, making the passage read much more immediately than the previous one, and again this is an issue I shall deal with more fully in Chapter 5, on ‘Outsider Modernism’.

A final example of the above phenomenon is in the ‘Why?’ chapter. In the course of an ‘open-air parliament’ at Speakers’ Corner, when asked which authority Arthur’s views come from, the narrator transgresses the conventional sentence structure, even to the point of taking the clipped nature of his usual remarks to greater extremes. He asks four questions in a short space:

'What mean, authority? Will what say be different if stick name on? Same after as before. Give name,—how know name said what you said? or if say,— how know name mean what you meant? If not reasonable out own head, no use out someone else’s' (FC p. 286).

This is a variation of the ‘head-line abbreviation’, and again despite the truncation no meaning is lost but the writing is more casual in effect and more idiosyncratic. Also, by excising most of the pronouns, there is again a tendency for the language to merge into a vague oneness. And the voice that Britton arrives at through the revision process seems fresher than the slightly stilted use of the former narrative voice in the TS. Frequently, as Britton changed the wording of Arthur’s reactions to his appalling life, the anger intensifies.

As Britton wrestles with the process of colloquializing Hunger and Love, of investing it with more linguistic freedom, he is moving away from the self-consciously literary writing of the early days of the novel, and the sniping at institutions intensifies. Interjections are part of the sniping, and Britton frequently uses them, perhaps in the form of a sentence, a phrase or simply a single word added to the original TS. For example, in the TS he asks, ‘[W]hat’s the structure of society got to do with you?’ (TS p. 253), to which he later adds ‘Haven’t you got your nose-bag?’ (FC p. 376).

Putney Hill is one of Arthur’s Sunday haunts, where he goes during the brief time that he has free. And at the end of his day the intensified anger between the TS and the FC is quite evident, as in this example: ‘/Going/{You are coming }down Putney Hill, /night coming on;/{homewards to the rent-sneaks, } tradewards/./ {to the profit-sneaks, away from freedom, the open-air and life; the sun has gone, and night has come on}’ (TS p. 163, FC p. 229). His anger obviously grew as he relived the scene through the revision process, and the additions are a major improvement: the reader is given Arthur’s opinions about landlords and his boss, and can form an accurate idea of his growing resentment towards the injustice of society.

Sometimes, the narrator’s additions to the FC are casually bitter and cynical, as when he contemplates his boss Murdoch’s annual earnings, where he adds two sentences:

'/Twenty-/{Two thousand }five hundred pounds is quite a lot/,/{.} /but then the man really does nothing for it and it doesn’t strike/{Yet somehow it never struck} you as a lot/,/ because it is /so/ very little /in comparison with the/{for an} income/s/ of the do-nothing class/;/{. You took it as natural. Isn’t that what you went to Sunday School for? }. (TS p. 225, FC p. 330).

Religion is seen as the opium of the working classes, designed to control by stupefaction. Britton’s targets vary around the same circle, and very often the narrator finds something to add to an observation, and this is more often than not a howl of abuse aimed at the Establishment. Where a comment might be very bluntly — almost neutrally — expressed in the TS, in the FC it is much more fully developed.

To give a more recent example, an episode in the working-class writer James Kelman’s A Disaffection (1989) clearly shows in a few sentences the kind of transformation that was taking place in Britton’s typescripts. In disillusionment, the protagonist Patrick Doyle abandons his job as a schoolteacher; in many ways he is tired of his current life, but above all he is tired of leading it according to the rules of the Establishment. As he parks his car on his way to visit his brother, something happens to the narrative voice:

'He patted the car bonnet en route to the pavement where he proceeded to traverse the flagstones up the stairs and into the closemouth. Traversed the flagstones up the stairs and into the bloody closemouth. Is this fucking Mars! Traversed the fucking bastarn [sic] flagstones onto the planet fucking Vulcan for christ sake’'.24

Patrick is depressed and angry, and becomes even angrier when he finds himself adopting the middle-class discourse, using expressions such as ‘en route to’ and ‘proceeded to traverse’. The comments that follow disrupt this artificiality or pretentiousness and introduce a working-class discourse into the narrative: in so doing, the movement is away from a world which to the narrator appears be on another (even non-existent) planet. Britton is doing a very similar thing, although unlike Kelman he had more difficulties with the censors.

Britton was very much aware of the presence of the censor, and his opinion of the censorship of stage nudity, for example, is plainly expressed in a stage note in Brain. More than a century before, Martin Shee spoke of making changes to his play Alasco (1824) as of someone ‘cooking his conceptions to the taste of authority.25 Britton, especially as one who compared books to mind food, would have sympathized with this view: he saw the taste of authority as extremely bitter, which is clear from the following stage direction digression in Brain:

'[A young man] is quite naked, but owing to a convention obtaining to-day among town councillors and clergymen that other people’s bodies are also obscene, the actual player will presumably be wearing skin tights. The implied insult to the rest of the world does not come from the author, nor, I should think, from any management courageous enough to produce this play. In print, the man is naked'.26 The above comment also links with my comments on nakedness in Chapter 6.

Remaining on the subject of theatre censorship but even more relevant to Hunger and Love because this concerns Britton’s use of language, which was seen by some as offensive, a letter concerning a licence to perform Spacetime Inn at an unnamed location is indicative of both his tact, and at the same time of his reluctance to be censored. In answer to the Assistant Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, granting him permission to stage the play if he omits a number of offending words, Britton agrees to replace five instances of the word ‘Christ’ with ‘gawd’, three ‘bastards’ and one ‘sods’ with ‘swine’’, and an ‘arse’ with a ‘bottom’. He then makes a few attempts at a kind of plea bargaining: he wonders if, having agreed to forsake a few ‘bastards’ for ‘swine’, the Examiner of Plays (the Lord Chamberlain’s appointee) will relent and allow him to use the word ‘bloody’ twice on two of the same pages because ‘It is a strong situation, and it becomes silly unless a strong word is used’.27 He also points out that the Examiner of Plays appears to have overlooked one mention of ‘sods’, and offers to delete it, only immediately to request that he be allowed to retain ‘bloody insides’ because ‘they really are bloody when they are torn out’. Such niceties appear farcical today, of course, and it is difficult —perhaps impossible — to imagine Britton taking his letter entirely seriously, but, along with its apparent good humour, it must have been written with considerable irritation, if not anger.

But this kind of bargaining was not particularly unusual during this period. The above is an example of the kind of stage censorship that existed in the UK until 1968, when the Lord Chamberlain’s Office was closed down. With Putnam and the novel Hunger and Love, Britton initially had no obvious problems with censorship, although — perhaps unsurprisingly — the book was banned in what was then the Irish Free State.28 The sensibilities of the reading public were not protected by an equivalent of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, and all of the words Britton was forced to delete from the stage performance of Spacetime Inn were, as in the book itself, included in Hunger and Love. The language in the novel was possibly a little strong for 1931, but not especially so, although it is quite clear that Britton exercised some degree of self-censorship: he knew that there were limits beyond which he could not go.

Certainly the ‘All Balls’ chapter received more criticism than any other. Warman teasingly refers to it as ‘a certain chapter’, and reveals that the printers were very squeamish about it. The MG contains a large number of blue and red pencil marks, often ticked down the margins, and is one chapter that Britton left virtually untouched in his revisions. According to Warman it was the printers who objected to the chapter, and claims that Britton then forced the publishers to find new printers.29 But that was still not the end of the matter; Putnam later raised objections to Britton’s insistence that they use chapter headers on each page:

'Had long argument with Putnam over ALL BALLS chapter heading. […] Putnam’s first tried to persuade me not to have chapter-headings at top of page. […] Then it came out that what they really wanted was not to have ALL BALLS on page after page. Very good selling point, the bloody fools. However, they thought it salacious and didn’t want make [sic] money that way. I sympathise with them so far, but me salacious!'.30 In the FC the chapter headers are not capitalized, but this is a minor detail because Britton took obvious delight in seeing ‘All Balls’ as a chapter header.

Britton used scarcely any censorship between the TS and the FC: on the contrary, he intensified the risqué language and the anger. He appears to have exploited Putnam’s more sympathetic disposition to the utmost, or at least to have taken it as far as he thought it would go. As examples of the intensification, he changed ‘godstruth!’ (TS p. 258) to ‘Bleedin’ Jesus’ (FC p. 386), and, with a possible allusion to Tressell, ‘ragged-eyed blighter’ (TS p. 203) becomes ‘ragged-arsed loungers and scroungers’ in a paragraph that includes the same compound adjective three times, along with ‘ragged-arsedness’ (FC p. 297). The paragraph below, which is highly critical of a number of figures of authority, does not exist in any form in the TS:

'All balls they are, and mankind is expected to do reverence to them. See this fellow here?—he’s a horse-hair wig; see that chap?—he’s a pipe; see this one?—he’s a stand-up collar; that chap’s an eyeglass; this one is a nickname, that one is an attitude. You look at them and wonder what they would do without their balls' (FC p. 379).

Figures of authority, as in the quotation from the ‘All Balls’ chapter above, clearly dwell in a metonymic universe according to Britton: they are figures of ridicule, having no more substance as human beings than the objects they are represented by. And by moving along his chamber of horrors, pointing out his exhibits in the process, Britton borders on the surreal. Perhaps the fact that the suggestions in the chapter that ‘All Balls’ referred to the pursuit of golf, rather than being Britton’s judgement of ‘respectable’ society as a whole (which it undoubtedly was), are the only things that allowed it through the censorship net.

Bishops, judges, mayors and teachers are all obvious targets, although in the TS there is hardly any mention of royalty in the book. Britton again appears to be fully aware of the limits of his attacks, or perhaps to be more exact of his publisher’s limits. That Britton detested the monarchy is without question — like the tramp, he considered everyone who did not have a bona fide occupation, by his understanding of the expression, to be a parasite. However, his absence of attack on the monarchy seems to be an intentional omission. There is no mention of the euphemistic ‘His Nibs’ in the TS, although Britton says in the FC: ‘Even His Nibs has to do something to keep alive at all — if it’s only breathe. […] If His Nibs doesn’t work he must have somebody to work for him. He couldn’t even write a cheque if somebody didn’t make the ink’ (FC p. 376). It seems reasonably clear that His Nibs is the king, although Britton has left sufficient ambiguity in the remark to permit it to pass any censor. In effect, though, these oblique references amount to self-censorship of the offending expressions, while at the same time the ambiguity is something he can hide inside, with impunity. Interestingly, the FC contains a sentence ‘We allow—how long shall we allow?—the disease blotches to represent mankind.’ In the corrected MG the question between the dashes above has been added, although a comment after ‘disease blotches’ ‘—kings, bishops, prime ministers—’ has been deleted (MG(R) p. 414, FC p. 238). There is no coloured pencil mark in the margin: the assumption must be that this is another example of Britton’s self-censorship. Perhaps the fear of another prison sentence — this time for treason — really was too much for him.

Putnam printed the manuscript verbatim, even incorporating Britton’s obvious typographical errors: there is, for example, a reference to ‘Stopford Brook’ as well as the correct ‘Stopford Brooke’, and ‘trouser’ is used twice for ‘trousers’ (FC pp. 39, 59, 131).

There are, then, a large number of differences between the early draft of the TS and the FC. One way in which Britton is altering the novel is aesthetically: the long sentences, often joined by semicolons or colons, now become separate sentences, infelicities of expression are altered, and Britton makes corrections to any factual inaccuracies. At the same time, he colloquializes his language. In so doing, he is creating a more lifelike and believable Arthur, someone whose thoughts appear on paper as though in segments as they are actually thought, and not in the artificial manner of a grammatically correct sentence. One remarkable difference between the language of the TS and that of the FC is the degree of intensity of the language itself, particularly the insults towards those in authority: Britton seems to be working towards the means in which to express a working-class voice.

1 Erik Warman, ‘Life and Lionel Britton’, typescript, [1932 (?)], [pp. 2–3], LBC, Box 6, Folder 1.

2 Lionel Britton, letter to Sinead Acheson, 26 October 1935, LBC, Box 2, Folder 12.

3 Lionel Britton, ‘Lionel Britton’, typescript, p. [2].

4 ‘Life and Lionel Britton’, p. [3].

5 Lionel Britton, ‘The Mind of a Ragamuffin’, Clarion, May 31, p. 139, LBC, Box 12, Folder 10.

6 Lionel Britton, letter to Herbert Marshall, 5 December 1930, LBC, Box 2, Folder 3.

7 S. Looker, letter to Lionel Britton, 19 December 1929, LBC, Box 2, Folder 2.

8 Michael Sadleir, letter to Lionel Britton, 11 January 1930, LBC, Box 2, Folder 2.

9 C. E. M. Joad, ‘Future of the Human Race: “Brain” — A Brilliant Dramatic Philosophy of Life’, Sunday Referee, 27 April 1930, [n. pg.], LBC, Box 12, Folder 11.

10 Anonymous, ‘G. B. S. and Eve in a Play: The Audience Requested to Laugh at It: Road Smash Symbol: Lionel Britton, the Author Who Won’t Be “Cut”’, Star, 3 August 1931, [n. pg.], LBC, Box 12, Folder 10.

11 ‘Forgotten Genius Ends his Days at Margate’.

12 Anonymous, ‘Mr. Shaw as a Critic: Cryptic Comment on Work of Fellow Author: Potted History’, [n. pub.], [n. d.], [n. pg.], LBC, Box 12, Folder 10.

13 C. J. Huntington, letter to Lionel Britton, 2 June 1930, LBC, Box 2, Folder 3.

14 [C. J. Huntington], ‘Hunger and Love’, typed Introduction (fragment), [c. 1930–1], LBC, Series II: Drafts, Box 2, Folder 2.

15 Anonymous, ‘Mr. Lionel Britton’, Pitman’s Journal of Commercial Education, 2 June 1934, p. 395, LBC, Box 6, unnumbered folder.

16 Lionel Britton, ‘Hunger and Love’, MG, Volume I, [n. d.], LBC, Series II: Drafts, Box 2, Folders 3–4; Lionel Britton, ‘Hunger and Love’, MG, Volume II, [n. d.], LBC, Series II: Drafts, Box 3, Folders 1–3; Lionel Britton, ‘Hunger and Love’, MG, Volume III (one of two), [n. d.], LBC, Series II: Drafts, Box 3, Folder 4; Lionel Britton, ‘Hunger and Love’, MG, Volume III (two of two), [n. d.], LBC, Series 2: Drafts, Box 4, Folder 1; Rebecca Gorski, ‘Scope and Content Note’, ‘Hunger and Love Materials’, p. 1, 2004, LBC.

17 Lionel Britton, ‘Hunger and Love’, TS, [n. d.], LBC, Series II: Drafts, Box 4, Folders 2–3. Some emendations are made to the TS in pencil, and when referring specifically to these revisions I shall use the abbreviation TS(R). In discussing the different states of the novel, text within the double forward slashes // indicates an omission, and when used within the brackets { } indicates an addition.

18 Lionel Britton, ‘Hunger and Love’ Series II: Drafts, p. [i ], Box 4, Folders 2–3.

19 S. W. Heaton, letter of reference about Lionel Britton, 18 November 1918, LBC, Box 2, Folder 2.

20 Molière, Les Fourberies de Scapin (Paris: D. Thierry, C. Barbin and P. Trabouillet, 1682; repr. Gallimard, 1978), Act II, Scene VII.

21 Selected Prose of Louis MacNeice, ed. by Alan Heuser (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), p. 222.

22 ‘Towards the Human’.

23 Lionel Britton, ‘Hunger and Love’ MG, p. 4, LBC, Series II, Box 2, Folder 3.

24 James Kelman, A Disaffection (London: Secker & Warburg, 1989), p. 252.

25 Dominic Shellard and Steve Nicholson with Miriam Handley, The Lord Chamberlain Regrets…: A History of British Theatre Censorship (London: The British Library, 2004), p. 4.

26 Brain, p. 74.

27 Assistant Comptroller [name obliterated], Lord Chamberlain’s Office, letter to Lionel Britton, 18 December 1933, LBC, Box 14, Folder 9; Lionel Britton, letter to Lord Chamberlain’s Office, 27 December 1933, LBC, Box 14, Folder 9.

28 Anonymous, ‘Censorship Act: Latest List of Banned Books’, Cork Weekly Examiner, 14 March 1931, [n. pg.], LBC, Box 12, Folder 10.

29 ‘Life and Lionel Britton’, p. [3].

30 Lionel Britton, letter to Herbert Marshall, 5 December 1930, LBC, Box 2, Folder 3.

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