29 August 2008

Jean MacGibbon and Lionel Britton

Jean MacGibbon was the wife of the publisher James MacGibbon of MacGibbon and Kee, and she gives an account of their encounter with Lionel Britton (whom she rather confusingly calls one of the earliest significant working-class writers: there were several significant working-class writers in the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th centuries) in her autobiography I Meant to Marry Him1.

Both of them had been invited to a play-reading2 in a flat near Wormwood Scrubs, which Jean describes as being full of mainly elderly women. She remembers the play as being about animals fighting and having sex, punctuated by Britton's grunts and animated by his wild gestures.

Walking home with her husband after the performance, she is haunted by what she has seen, and puts her hand in James's greatcoat to protect her.

1Jean Macgibbon, I Meant to Marry Him: A Personal Memoir (London: Gollancz, 1984).
2Although she doesn't say so, the play was Animal Ideas, which was Britton's last (published) and most unsuccessful assault on the theatre. It was never performed in any theatre and Britton was reduced to performing it on his own and where he could.

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