12 September 2022
Recording of the week: Childhood memories of D. H. Lawrence
This week’s post comes from Sarah Kirk-Browne, Cataloguer, Digital Multimedia Collections.
One of the most exciting things about exploring the sound archive is all the unexpected things you stumble across. While researching the Nottinghamshire dialect, I listened to this recording of Mr Arthur Sharpe (British Library reference: C707/190).
Arthur Sharpe was a Co-op grocery manager, recorded for an oral history project in 1971. The Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918 project made recordings of speakers from a range of backgrounds talking about their memories from the late 19th and early 20th century.
Most of the interviews in the collection follow the same structure: with questions about parents, home life, school and employment. They provide a lot of insight into life at the time, plus plenty of linguistic interest too. However, on the final tape with Mr Sharpe the interviewer goes off-topic to ask him directly about something alluded to in some of his earlier answers: how did you know D. H. Lawrence?
What follows is a personal description of his connections with the Lawrence family, with D. H. Lawrence being his close neighbour and sometime teacher. In the clip you can hear Arthur’s anecdote about a disagreement with a schoolmate, which D. H. Lawrence calmly resolved.
Somewhat sadly, recordings of this kind are as close as we are going to get in terms of audio documentation of D. H. Lawrence himself. Despite his living well into the era of recorded sound, it seems there are no extant recordings of his voice.
The Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918 collection - often known as ‘The Edwardians’ - was a pioneering project co-ordinated by Paul Thompson, Thea Thompson (who also published as Thea Vigne) and Trevor Lummis at the University of Essex.
Over 500 audio interviews were conducted across all of the UK with people from a range of socio-economic backgrounds and occupations. The collection provided the source material for Paul Thompson’s 1975 classic book The Edwardians: the Remaking of British Society, and Paul then became one of the pioneers of oral history both in the UK and internationally.
All of the recordings in this collection are available at the British Library, and transcripts can also be consulted at the UK Data Archive at the University of Essex.