At the beginning of the previous century the ‘hitherto secret forces of the Universe’ were tamed, sufficiently to give rise to radio broadcasting, and about a hundred years ago the masses began to listen reverentially to the words of the few. As grandfather observed in an essay:
He wrote these lines in 1928 – oblivious to just how ‘common-place a thing in our lives’ broadcasting would become, and radio’s now only a tiny part of it.
The essay is ‘On Public Speaking’ and (in addition to helpful suggestions for success, such as ‘Stand up, speak up, shut up’!) is full of observations about speakers such as Mr Gladstone, Lord Rosebery, Lord Balfour, Lord Charles Beresford, Lord Birkenhead, Lord Curzon; Lloyd George; Stanley Baldwin; Fridjiof Nansen (Norwegian explorer and Nobel Prize winner), and actors including Sir Charles Wyndham, Edward Compton, Sir Henry Irving, and a sweet reference to a speech by Anna Pavlova. He was there. He saw all these people. They were real? But surely they’re just history book characters! I remember getting a similar shock once years ago, when I saw footage on TV of George Bernard Shaw – someone who seemed buried in the mists of time, and there he was on the screen – moving!
The thing I’m finding so enriching about reading grandfather’s essays (three more scanned today – getting there!) is the context – what was happening in the world during the time he was writing.
I’m also amazed at how emotional it can be – I got a bit teary over a rusty paper clip on the essay, which clearly hadn’t been removed since it clipped the papers together 85 years ago. Then a full-blown weep ensued when I read another essay in which his love of his birthplace just shines though – even his fellow SES critics felt it:
I never knew any of my grandparents, so it’s very special to have these documents – although it’s an odd feeling, getting to know a relative in this way. Typically, at the end of the essay – he takes a wry pleasure in a typo…