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:
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.