Eleanor Farjeon, the Strike and the War

I heard a good talk at Sheffield Hallam yesterday, by Catherine Clay of Nottingham Trent University, on Eleanor Farjeon and the poems she wrote (as ‘Chimaera’) for the feminist weekly Time and Tide in the twenties.
One thing I learned was that Farjeon also wrote verse for left-wing papers like the Herald, under the name of ‘Tom Fool’.
I’m interested in the way that literary representations of the General Strike of 1926 often refer to the Great War as an earlier event that defines the meaning of the later one. Generally such representations are unsympathetic to the miners, contrasting the national unity of the War years with the disunity caused by industrial unrest. In Philip Gibbs’s Young Anarchy (1926) the volunteer undergraduate strike-breakers who manned the buses and other essential services are explicitly compared with the brave young men who willingly enlisted for their country’s sake in 1914.
It is interesting to see Farjeon, in a poem written for the strikers’ newspaper The British Worker for May 8th using the memory of the War in quite a different way, reminding workers that government promises were broken after the War, and suggesting that they will not be honoured now:

farjeon

Catherine Clay revealed that during the strike, Farjeon withdrew her labour from Time and Tide, so that no weekly poem appeared. Instead she wrote poems like this for the British Worker. Just a gesture, perhaps, but one that few left-wing writers were willing to make, I think.

5 Comments

  1. Roger
    Posted March 7, 2014 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    “the General Strike of 1914”

    er…

  2. Posted March 12, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    She also wrote as ‘Tomfool’ for the Daily Mirror, and there’s a collection under that name

  3. Posted March 12, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Sorry. Of course it was the Herald. the book is called Tomfooleries, and here’s a poem called ‘An Echo from Galilee’ based on this: “Mr. Lloyd George, in the House of Commons: “We could have said to Germany – ‘Go, and sin no more’.” (Loud laughter.)”

    I have a slow and simple mind,
    It has to be confessed;
    My education is the kind
    Which lawyers call ‘Non est’.
    So, Mr. George, pray tell me, do
    (And NOT in metaphor),
    Who WAS the MAN you quoted, who
    Said “Go, and sin no more.”

    Oh, was it someone who advised
    This course and only chaffed?
    Or was it someone you despised,
    Since everybody laughed? –
    Someone with whom you disagree,
    Whose words you would deplore,
    If to the German nation he
    Said “Go, and sin no more.” –
    Yea, David, and to Me and Thee
    Says, “Go, and sin no more.”

    • Posted March 14, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for this, Bill. I think the ‘Tom Fool’ poems seem generally to have been more hard-hitting than the ‘Chimaera’ ones she wrote for ‘Time and Tide’. I’ve ordered ‘Tomfooleries’, to take a look at them.


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