Bart Kennedy


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Arthur Conan Doyle (1859—1930) writer

H. G. Wells (1866—1946) novelist and social commentator


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(1861–1930) married (1897) Isobel Priestley (d. late 1920s). Born in Leeds and brought up in Manchester, he was sent at the age of 6 to work in a cotton mill, under the half-time system, in which children went to school when not working. He worked in mills and machine shops until he was 20, then became a sailor. He wrote in Who's Who that he then became ‘a labourer and a tramp in the United States; lived and fought with Indians; gold-mined up in Klondyke long before the gold rush; became an opera singer and an actor … drifted into writing.’ His fiction is semi-autobiographical, and interesting for its cinematographic, unornamented technique, emphasizing the feelings of the narrator at the passing moment. A Sailor Tramp (1902) begins with two drifters in Texas riding trains. One is English and gets work as a docker, then cutting sugar-cane. This was followed by A Tramp in Spain (1904) and A Tramp's Philosophy (1908). Slavery: Pictures from the Depths (1905) is an angry, impressionistic account of the childhood of a working-class boy, left alone by a working mother, with scenes in the workhouse, in the factory, in the militia, which ends with a final vision of workers' revolution. In 1921 he founded a weekly called Bart's Broadsheet. In supporting his application to the Royal Literary Fund, A. Conan Doyle called him ‘a man who has narrowly missed greatness’ and H. G. Wells said he had ‘a secure place in the mixed treasurehouse of English literature’. He got a grant, even though it was alleged that his wife (who had worked on the Review of Reviews) could not keep a female servant in their house in Reigate because he was not to be trusted. After the death of his wife his health failed and he spent his last months in the mental hospital in Haywards Heath, where he died.

From The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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