HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

The Young Rebecca: Selected Essays by Rebecca West, 1911-17 (1982)

by Rebecca West

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
852313,019 (3.71)15
A collection of Rebecca West's early journalistic writings reveals her clarity of mind, severity of wit, and relevancy in today's modern world   In this collection of early writings, beginning when Rebecca West was just eighteen years old, Jane Marcus sheds light on one of the foremost feminist and political thinkers of our time. West's essays, reviews, and public correspondence tackle many subjects, including politics, suffrage, education, morality and ethics, the arts, and social figures of the day. Her writings offer a glimpse of the real Rebecca--not some stuffy suffragette, but a vibrant, funny, provocative, and brilliant woman whose determined pen strokes outwit her contemporaries and remain inspiring today.   A feminist to the core, West parried with her readers, other writers, and a culture slow to accept change.   This ebook features an illustrated biography of Rebecca West featuring rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the Department of Special Collections and University Archives, McFarlin Library, at the University of Tulsa.… (more)
None
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 15 mentions

Showing 2 of 2
Imagine if a teenager from a provincial background in the remote north, having dropped out of high school to devote her energies to activism for the biggest grass-roots protest movement of the day, were to start telling the world's great thinkers and statesmen where they have been going wrong all these years...

It's very tempting to make clumsy comparisons between Rebecca West's first, dynamite-laden, ventures into political and literary journalism in the early 20th century and our problems of a century later, and to reflect on how little has changed in the self-interested thick-headedness of the older generation and their (our) refusal to listen to rational argument and see the need for urgent change in the world.

Obviously, in reality, much has changed in the world since then. No paper these days would dare to print anything as outspoken as a Rebecca West book review uncensored: if they weren't sued for defamation by the author they would at least be permanently blacklisted by the publisher and lose all their advertising. They would never employ an underage contributor without a single formal educational qualification to her name, and if by some chance she did manage to get her political articles published, the world would be much more interested in seeing photographs of her Smooching with Famous Author than in the substance of her arguments...

This collection is divided roughly fifty-fifty between book reviews and political essays, mostly from 1911-1913 when it looked as though the women's suffrage campaign was close to a breakthrough, but carrying on into the war years (when her journalism was slowed down a bit by being out of London and looking after her young son).

On the literary side, everyone from Hall Caine, Strindberg and Mrs Humphrey Ward to forgotten popular novelists of the time gets a thorough pasting. Arnold Bennett, D H Lawrence and Ford Maddox Ford (Hueffer) are the only writers who get anything like thoroughly positive reviews (and in Bennett's case it's obviously at least in part done to provoke, because everyone else looks down on him). Other writers she admires, like Hardy and H G Wells, still get taken to task for major flaws in their books, especially in their representations of women. It's typical of her that she's just as savage with Wells after they became lovers as she was before they met: it clearly would never have crossed her mind to allow the person to get mixed up with the book.

The political articles are mostly about feminist issues and the suffrage campaign — West clearly has a huge amount of respect for the individual campaigners and takes every opportunity to remind us of the way they are being mistreated under Asquith's hard-line approach, but she also makes it clear that she feels the WSPU under the Pankhursts has made a disastrous strategic error by focussing on direct action by a small group of hardcore middle-class activists rather than building up mass working-class support and forcing the unions and the Labour Party to listen to women workers. (The collection also includes a biographical essay about Mrs Pankhurst written twenty years later, in which West acknowledges the huge contribution she and her daughters made to getting the suffrage campaign going, but maintains her reservations about the way the movement developed.)

Reading her account of the political manoeuvring around the suffrage issue, in particular the repeated betrayals of trust by Lloyd George, Ramsay McDonald and others and the way it all got tangled up with Ireland, it's again hard not to make comparisons with more recent events in the UK...

One constant theme in the essays is that the most urgent issue for women is not the vote, or access to higher education and professions, but equal pay. The fiction that women are only working to support themselves, and therefore don't need to earn as much as male "breadwinners", is what pushes so many women workers into hunger and poverty. Especially relevant in West's day, since this was before statutory old age pensions came in for most people, so many "single" women were actually supporting elderly parents by their work, whilst married women and widows were likely to be supporting children and often also unemployed or disabled husbands.

We also get some engaging diatribes about the arrogance of charitable trusts that see domestic service as the only career the girls in their care should be trained for, and about the urgent need for decent accommodation for young working women that treats them as responsible adults, away from the patronising evangelical monopoly of the YWCA. West has fun repeatedly puncturing the bubble of "the white slave trade", a form of crime that the press, Parliament and pressure groups spent endless amounts of time devising remedies for, even though there was no good reason to believe that it had ever existed.

It's fun to go back into these issues, some still active and relevant, others long-settled, but the real interest of course is West's devastatingly clear ability to set out her arguments on paper. She can be calm, passionate, funny, sophisticated or faux-naive as the occasion demands, but she always gets her message across to the reader and leaves you wondering how anyone could possibly disagree. As with all politically engaged writing, you have to remind yourself that the people who disagree probably never bothered to read it. Asquith might perhaps have had someone in his office look through the Freewoman, but he certainly never had it propped up against his coffee-pot in the mornings... ( )
1 vote thorold | Jun 19, 2021 |
I'd give this 6/5 stars if I could. Rebecca West was writing political articles since she was 19 (puts my life in perspective). Though it's easy to skim over the politics of the day, West constantly argues for women's rights and socialism (in fact, she argues that they are intertwined). Her writing is smart, funny, and, at times, snarky. It's a bit disconcerting to see that a lot of the rhetoric regarding women, particularly by the anti-suffragists, has not changed a century later. A great deal of her arguments can be made today. Definitely a must read for anyone interested in 20th century history, feminism, politics, and West. ( )
  Sareene | Oct 22, 2016 |
Showing 2 of 2
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

A collection of Rebecca West's early journalistic writings reveals her clarity of mind, severity of wit, and relevancy in today's modern world   In this collection of early writings, beginning when Rebecca West was just eighteen years old, Jane Marcus sheds light on one of the foremost feminist and political thinkers of our time. West's essays, reviews, and public correspondence tackle many subjects, including politics, suffrage, education, morality and ethics, the arts, and social figures of the day. Her writings offer a glimpse of the real Rebecca--not some stuffy suffragette, but a vibrant, funny, provocative, and brilliant woman whose determined pen strokes outwit her contemporaries and remain inspiring today.   A feminist to the core, West parried with her readers, other writers, and a culture slow to accept change.   This ebook features an illustrated biography of Rebecca West featuring rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the Department of Special Collections and University Archives, McFarlin Library, at the University of Tulsa.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Current Discussions

None

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.71)
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5 1
3 2
3.5
4 2
4.5 1
5 1

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 202,107,720 books! | Top bar: Always visible