Friday, December 28, 2012

Old Cleveland - Local Writers and Local Worthies 1886 W.H. Burnett

In the last post on his site we talked about Tweddell's 1872 book The Bards and Authors of Cleveland and South Durham, of which only one volume of 37 writers was ever published. There was of course the promise of a 2nd and 3rd volume at a later date. It seems (from volume 1) that the 2nd volume was only awaiting enough subscribers to make publication viable! As no second or third volume ever appeared and no notes have turned up, I am assuming any follow up work that Tweddell did do was lost posthumously in the Stokesley floods of the 1930's when the cellars of Rose Cottage (Town House) were flooded. Great shame as Tweddell had at least another 100 local writers lined up for the follow ons!

William Hall Burnett 1841 - 1916
However, in 1886, William Hall Burnett - the editor of the (Middlesbrough) Daily Exchange (based at the Middlesbrough Exchange) and a poet and author in his own right, came up with a book now long out of print and largely obscure of which part of it was a kind of follow on to Tweddell's book, with Burnett's own thoughts on some of the writers discussed and introducing others to the pantheon, some Tweddell planned to cover in subsequent editions and some not mentioned.

It is a marvelous work in its own right and makes another great contribution to our knowledge of the lost literary history of the Tees, North Yorkshire area.

First, though, we explore some of the connections between Tweddell and Burnett, before detailing the Burnett's Local literary pantheon.

Who Was William Hall Burnett 1841 - 1916?

"Burnett was a Journalist, newspaper owner and editor, born in Stokesley in 1841. The son of Hannah Burnett, an agricultural labourer, Burnett's talents as a writer and public speaker were recognised at a young age. By the age of 10 he was a popular elocutionist, and by age 13, he was self-taught shorthand writer and correspondent for the York Herald. In c. 1860, he was given the editorship of the Middlesbrough Weekly News and Cleveland Advertiser, a paper which, with the help of business partner, William Wilkinson, he bought outright in 1865 from its then owner, Joseph Gould. "
(Quote from Tony Nicholson - from a webpage now deleted apparently).

Although W.H. Burnett ran the only Conservative paper in Middlesbrough (a predominantly Labour town), the evidence is of a mutual respect and admiration of each other's work. Their mutual love of and interest in the literature, both national and literature is evident by these books and Burnett included both George and Elizabeth Tweddell (Florence Cleveland) in his 1877 anthology of local dialect poetry - Songs and Sketches in Broad Yorkshire 1877 W.H. Burnett in which Burnett says of Elizabeth Tweddell's work

The Editor makes no pretense that
the whole of the Poems given are excellent poetry;
or that the prose is all that could be desired from
a literary point of view; nevertheless, he thinks
that some of the pieces given, especially those
from the writings of Mrs. Tweddell, will bear a
favourable comparison with the best local poetry of
such writers as Waugh, Brierley, and Eccles.

Preserving the Cleveland Dialect
Both the Tweddell's and Burnett were concerned about preserving the local Cleveland dialect, that were, in their life time, already dying out. 

George had published the work of John Castillo (The Bard of the Dales) on Castillo's death, translating the poems into the Cleveland dialect. Castillo was of Irish decent but grew up in Lealholm, where he worked as a Stonewaller and became methodist priest as was as notorious for his verses. He was well published in his life but Tweddell's volume was in part designed to help preserve knowledge of the Cleveland dialect via poetry. This was followed by Elizabeth Tweddell (Florence Cleveland's) popular work Rhymes and Sketches in a Cleveland Dialect (available as pdf file on this blog).

In fact, as Paul Tweddell wrote in his forth coming genealogical study of the Tweddell family Poor Lives, but Full of Honour -  George Markham Tweddell recieved a certificate awarded by the King of Denmark, on behalf of the Royal Nordic Old Language Society in 1867 for his work on the Cleveland dialect. 

A translation of the certificate reads - 
"The Royal Nordic Old Language Society has adopted Mr George Markham Tweddell FSA (Edinburgh) of Stokesley in the county of York as a full member, as the society honours a man who is able and willing to advance its aims. Approved at the Society's meeting in Copenhagen on the 15th Jan 1867"

Tweddell's membership of the Royal Nordic Old Language Society was down to a wealthy landowner / poet John Reed Appleton, who George had met while walking the Cleveland hills, and who became a walking companion and benefactor. Appleton (who George writes about in Bards and Authors) proposed Tweddell as a member of the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland, and the membership of the Nordic society followed. The Nordic Society was established in 1825 initially to study and publish (according to Paul Tweddell on the Tweddell History site the early Icelandic Sagas. Paul says "by 1850 it had broadened its interest to include any language related to Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish or any Germanic dialect. The Cleveland dialect betray its danish origins." ....

"The Tweddell's work was transcribed from Cleveland dialect into written form in a consistent manner, suggesting they intended to standardise it. This applies too to George’s publication of the works of the local poet, John Castillo (1792-1845) and to the collection of the poems in W.H. Burnett in his 1887 book Songs and Sketches that use the same transcription style. The latter also includes a version of the famous Lyke Wake Dirge from William Walbran’s Redcar Guide of 1848 changed to conform to the Tweddell format."

Cleveland Ironstone Mining Union
Both Tweddell and Burnett had ran newspapers in the area, both were born in Stokesley North Yorkshire, with Burnett being 18 years younger than Tweddell. Both were living in Middlesbrough during the  1860's, around the printing and publishing industry. Recently, David Burnett,decedent of William Hall Burnett got in contact. David is currently researching  his ancestor's very interesting history, and so soon there will hopefully be a lot more information about Willian Hall Burnett available. Although it is currently off line, historian Tony Nicholson, who has long had a great interest in George Markham Tweddell, especially in relation to Tweddell's influence on the Cleveland Ironstone Miner's Union, published some of Burnett's newspapers on line. These seem to have disappeared now unfortunately but on the page it noted that W. H. Burnett, in addition to the Daily Exchange and the North Ormesby News (c 1867) created a sister paper The Guisborough Exchange (1871) aimed at the Ironstone Mining Communities of East Cleveland.
Tony Nicholson writers :
Despite his own Conservative politics, Burnett entered into a Faustian pact with Joseph Shepherd, the charismatic leader of the Cleveland miners. Shepherd promised to sell Burnett's paper throughout the mining district if Burnett promised to print his letters and support the new union. Predictably, their agreement lasted little more than a few months, and the honeymoon ended acrimoniously when Burnett refused to print one of the letters."

William Hall Burnett 1886

The whole book, mostly available now from antiquarian bookshops or local reference libraries, covers more than just local writers of the past. The second section of the book covers Local Worthies such as Bolckow and Vaughan.

However in the first section - Local Writers, W.H. Burnett covers the following local writers which he prefaces with this -

A Plea for Local Writers - Antiquity of Literature - Influence of Association. 
Writing in 1886, he says "There is no doubt that a series of very profitable papers may be written on the subject of our local literature. Few book readers, and still fewer newspaper readers, are aware of its extent and importance. For a quarter of a century past I have been in the habit of collecting the works of local writers, which have been a source of great interest to me, and have afforded much valuable information and knowledge which could have been obtained from no other source, and which indeed has been invaluable at times in various circumstances in which I have been placed. The query may be put at the outset "Are there any local writers?
Middlesbrough is so new a town that it's very newness is apt to limit and circumscribe our vision, until we may practically come to think that all our interest and endeavour in enshrined in the material works that we see around us. Indeed we are all of the opinion of Mr fallows, the historian of Old Middlesbrough, expressed in a sense different to that we are considering, that in Middlesbrough we have no past at all
In the first chapter on the Celtic bard Aneurin who wrote the Gododin, who, Burnett says, "must, in the old Celtic days, have been resident within this immediate district." he seems to imply that far from the area being a cultural desert "we may fairly claim that hereabouts English Literature had its first beginning. It is a fair conjecture that the first English epic poems were strung together line by line and verse by verse by a bard who, wandering amongst the valleys of the swale, might now and again visit the fair plain of Cleveland in the golden east. To aneurin is ascribed the important fragment of Celtic literature, The Gododin, being a lament for the dead who fell in battle of Cattraeth, indentified with Catterick in Yorkshire, where the Cymry met the advancing and invading Teutons at the 'confluence of rivers' and fought with them unsuccessfully for seven days..."

Here's Robin Williamson of the Incredible String Band with the Gododdin to music.

"the warriors marched to Cattraeth with the day;
In the stillness of night they had quaffed the white mead;
They were wretched, though prophesied glory and sway..."
From the Gododin (sometimes spelt Gododdin)

W.H. Burnett includes the following in his pantheon of local writers - 

Early Writers
Gododin (Aneurin)
Beowulf  (associated with Hartlepool (The Heart) and Loftus (alleged that Beowulf was buried on Boulby Cliff).
Caedmon (Whitby / Lealholm) (also written about by Tweddell in Bards and Authors)

Middle Age and Later Writers
Gower the Moral (Sexhow Near Stokesley) / Stittenham. Also written about by Tweddell and engages with Tweddell's belief that Gower was local to the area.
Roger Ascham  Kirby Wiske(also written about by Tweddell)
Bishop Brian Walton (also written about by Tweddell).
Sir Thomas Chaloner (again also written about by Tweddell) But offering his own perspective or taking issue with Tweddell.
Henry Foulis (again written about by Tweddell)

Modern Writers
Thomas Pierson (Tweddell included Pierson in his Tractates but not Bards and Authors)
Joseph Reed (Stockton Playwright) (Tweddell earmarked Reed for a future volume of Bards and Authors)
Edward Marsh Heavisides (Tweddell covered Heavysides and mentions Edward, but planned to give him a chapter in the second volume of Bard's and Authors.
John Hall Stevenson (of Crazy Castle - Skelton Castle - friend of Lawrence Sterne and the Eugenius in Tristram Shandy.  Again earmarked for the second volume of Bards and Authors and mentioned in Tractates I think.
John Castillo (Bard of the Dales) - (again covered by Tweddell also)
John Walker Ord (again covered by Tweddell)

Tweddell and Burnett together formed an impressive argument, with commentary and examples, for the existence of an important literary tradition in the Tees / North Yorkshire area going back to at least 500AD and, in part, forming the early English Literary Cannon. Their books together (which are complementary) deserve further study and research. The writers written about in these two books are only some of the many writers from the area's past and many more have emerged since. They show that there is certainly a much more interesting literary history in the area than has previously been recognised.

Here is an extract of Old Cleveland pdf of the Local Writers by WH Burnett, in the hope that it will stimulate more research and study of the area's local literary history -

To download the file - click the arrow which takes you to Google Drive 
When it opens - click the black arrow screen left to download to your computer or for some - Click File and then click download in the menu and the tick Save.

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