Friday, April 11, 2014

Richard Hoggart's Lost City of Leeds

Today they announced the death of Richard Hoggart. He was ninety-six.  Hoggart was an academic who made a big splash in 1957 with the publication of The Uses of Literacy. In it he called upon his memories of growing up very poor in Leeds in the period between the wars.

When I was in the sixth form our English teacher recommended it because at the time there weren't any books dealing with working class life and popular culture, at least none that anyone would wish to read.

I found this copy a couple of years ago and read it again. I find the first half of it still an extraordinary reminder of the world of cobbled streets and back to backs - before TV, cars and the free movement of people changed things forever.

I've just been trying to find the bit where he describes how he used to see men pushing items of furniture across town in old prams. I can just about remember that myself.

Didn't find that but I did find a paragraph where he talks about the old sayings which, as he points out, "cluster most thickly around birth, copulation and death". One, which was apparently used to refer to the easy sexual habits of married women, goes: "A slice off a cut cake is never missed."


  1. Or as Clarence Carter put it, You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure.

  2. I've just put down Simon Hoggart's 'A Long Lunch' in which he say's that his dad original title for the book was 'The Abuses of Literacy' but thought better of it after considering it off-putting.

    Also, because of the potential for libel action vis-a-vis extracts from pulp fiction books, newspapers and magazines RH had to invent all of the purple prose he criticised including the pulp title 'Death Cab for Cutie.'

  3. Death Cab For Cutie, indeed. Every little thread you pull in the tapestry that is the Beatles story leads to another story.

  4. Must try get hold of a copy. I enjoyed reading Keith Waterhouse's City Lights in which he captured much of the atmosphere and speech of Leeds of the 1940s and 50s. A lot better than Alan Bennett, I thought.