The Fullness of Life: Autobiography of an Idea

‘The Fullness of Life: The Autobiography of an Idea’ is an unpublished manuscript by Jack Lindsay in which he analyses his own writings by reference to the development of his thinking about culture and politics.  This is a different text from his study of political theory, Marxism and Contemporary Theory, which is sub-titled The Fullness of Life.

Provenance of the Manuscript

The typescript was discovered by Philip Lindsay when he and his sister, Helen were sorting Meta Lindsay’s estate in Maid’s Causeway, Cambridge in 2010. While clearing out a cupboard Philip found the typescript pushed to the back in a plastic grocery shopping bag. With it was a letter dated 30 July 1996 from Jack’s literary agent, Murray Pollinger to Meta Lindsay explaining that he had found this typescript during a ‘big clear-out’ and that he remembered Jack ‘asking me to offer it to publishers many years ago.’ He recalls that ‘nobody was interested’ and adds that ‘in these difficult times it will be an impossible proposition’.

The typescript survived the moves from Castle Hedingham in Essex to Cambridge, where Jack and Meta had lived in two different homes.  There is no evidence that any other attempts were made to publish the typescript.

After its discovery by Philip I was given the opportunity to read the manuscript and discovered it to be an intellectual autobiography or auto-exegesis of over 120,000 words.  It is written from the perspective of a Marxist critic of the 1970s, which accords with the timeline given by the chapters, with the final chapter labelled ‘X. The 1960s’.  It is an artefact of that time; an example of mid-20th century Marxist analysis that predates the poststructuralist thinking of the later 20th century, which was also grounded in Marxist thinking but differed from earlier Marxist analysis in the ways that it conceptualizes power, agency and individual subjectivity. The manuscript also reveals the influence of Jack’s specific history and interests on his work – or, at least, Jack’s own understanding of those influences – and so is an invaluable resource for the researcher attempting to understand his work.

Because of the importance of the manuscript as an extended example of Lindsay’s own thought and also because it demonstrates the cultural and political preoccupations of leftist intellectuals of the early to mid 20th century, it seemed important to make the work available publicly.  At the same time, the niche nature of the research subject suggested that it was unlikely to find a publisher, particularly one able to publish the manuscript at an affordable price.  With the support of the Lindsay family I was able to prepare the manuscript for open access publication online.

Editing the Manuscript

The manuscript, numbered to page 247, was typed on Lindsay’s portable typewriter, used on many of his letters and other scripts, with the uneven key strike that was typical of the machine and its user; the idiosyncratic pressure on certain keys that makes the typescript produced directly from the machine unique to that writer. When amendments were required, Jack has either typed ‘x’ over unwanted letters and words, which was a common mode of editing at the time, or crossed out and amended words by hand in his tiny hand-writing. In some places, where a more sustained revision was required, he has added in sections of text or whole pages to the typescript.

The typescript is also rough bound in three sections using pronged metal binders – a round base with two longish metal prongs passed through holes punched in the pages and then through a slotted metal top piece and turned back. Around these Lindsay bound brown cardboard covers, attached to the typed pages with masking tape. On the front cover he hand-printed in capitals and right justified the title and authorship: ‘THE FULLNESS OF LIFE/ AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA/ JACK LINDSAY.’ Below this and also to the right side of the cover is his address stamp: 40, Queen St./ Castle Hedingham/ Halstead, Essex.

The manuscript pages are Quarto (10×8 inches) sized, rather than the now familiar A4, with the page number typed by Jack on the top right of each page, quite close to the top edge of the page. The lines of type are not justified or controlled in any way mechanically or electronically, so that sometimes words spill over the edge of the page and have to be completed by hand, or they cling to the extreme right-hand side of the sheet. It is a very workmanlike and idiosyncratic manuscript, more so than digitally-produced script.

On the first page of the manuscript Lindsay has pasted a typed note: ‘If so wished, the work could be illustrated with photos, some reproductions of works by N.L. and so on.’ Below this is pasted a printed note to prospective publishers from Murray Pollinger, giving his contact details, indicating that this was the typescript sent to them for appraisal. In the right hand corner of the page, below Pollinger’s card, is Lindsay’s address stamp, with his name handwritten by the author above.

The idea to include photographs and reproductions of work by Norman Lindsay (N.L.) suggested that this might be a later version of Lindsay’s autobiography. Turning the page, however, revealed a Foreword that explicitly contradicted this notion. It starts with these words:

I have written some other biographical works; but this book attempts something quite different. It starts off from a day in 1919 when I took an oath of total resistance to the world about me … And it traces the efforts to live up to this resolution in changing situations, changing phases of development.

Lindsay goes on to specify that social context (‘outer events’) is cited only if it relates to the development of his ideas (‘inner struggles’), and that the focus of this study is his own intellectual, political and moral development, as it is revealed by his writing. He adds: ‘As I am thus dealing primarily with my ideas, their changes and their continuity, I have had to deal with my writings, in which at each phase the ideas were set out or incarnated.’ Wary of distorting the significance of the earlier work by summarising it from a later and different perspective, he notes that he has quoted extensively from the works themselves because ‘thus could a direct impact from the period be gained.’

The Chapters are as follows:

  1. First Stages
  2. Franfrolico Press
  3. Down to the Earth of History
  4. Marxism Discovered
  5. The War
  6. Cultural Upsurge and Cold War
  7. Contradiction and Unbalance
  8. Politics as a Means to Culture
  9. Break and Renewal
  10. The 1960s

In almost 250 pages of his characteristic single-spaced typescript Lindsay maps his transformation from Romantic to bohemian to socialist and Communist Party member. At the same time, he traces a consistent thread through the development of his ideas which is his conception of the individual as a sensuous, feeling and thinking being and of art as one of the key means by which to address and engage this embodied individual.

Presentation on the site

As editor, I have chosen to provide readers with the best possible access to both the original manuscript and the edited typescript.  Each chapter is presented separately in both forms:

  • Manuscript scan:  a professionally produced scan of the original typescript, with all of Jack’s revisions visible.
  • The Fullness of Life, [Chapter], ed. Anne Cranny-Francis:  an edited transcript of the scanned pages, reviewed by reference to the original manuscript.

I have attempted to present here an accurate version of the manuscript for use by scholars and others interested in Jack Lindsay’s work.  Please let me know if you find any typos or have any queries about the text.

Anne Cranny-Francis


Front matter

Chapter 1

The cover of the typescript and opening pages, including the ‘Foreword’ explaining its purpose as an auto-exegesis

Manuscript Scan, Front Matter
The Fullness of Life, Front Matter, ed. Anne Cranny-Francis


Chapter One: First Stages

Chapter 1Chapter 1:  Jack’s earliest literary influences – World War I –  university and the W.E.A. –– Sydney & Norman Lindsay – publishing work begins – Vision journal – writing begins with poetry, essays, verse and book, Dionysos: Nietzsche contra Nietzsch

Manuscript Scan, Chapter 1
The Fullness of Life, Chapter 1, ed. Anne Cranny-Francis

Chapter Two: Fanfrolico Press

006.tifMove to the UK with Fanfrolico Press – William Blake: Creative Will and the Prophetic Image – periodical, London Aphrodite – horror at the English class system – interest in timespace – anti-academician manifesto, ‘The Modern Consciousness’ – sexual ethic – relationship with Elza de Locre

Manuscript Scan, Chapter 2
The Fullness of Life, Chapter 2, ed. Anne Cranny-Francis

Chapter Three: Down to the Earth of History

006.tifFanfrolico fails – self-psychoanalysis – three itinerant years – returns to classical studies & writes historical novel, Rome for Sale influence of Marx’s 18th Brumaire – anthologies of Latin translations – embraces alternative medicine, yoga & vegetarianism – Roman novel trilogy – historical novels and short stories – search for totalising vision

Manuscript Scan, Chapter 3
The Fullness of Life, Chapter 3, ed. Anne Cranny-Francis

Chapter Four: Marxism Discovered

006.tifReading Marx and Lenin – Spanish Civil War – writing about fascism – books about Giordano Bruno; the English Revolution; Renaissance thought – combining Freud and Marx – Short History of Culture – rejected domination of Communist Party – mass declamations – modern and historical novels, essays, and historical studies – first direct contact with the U.S.S.R. – called up for war service

Manuscript Scan, Chapter 4
The Fullness of Life, Chapter 4, ed. Anne Cranny-Francis

 Chapter Five: The War

006.tifPosted to the Army Signal Corps – wrote poetry and several novels – called to the War Office in London – wrote plays to entertain the troops; included antifascist message – championed grass-roots community cultural activity – writing mass declamations and plays after the war, including Robin of England about Robin Hood

Manuscript Scan, Chapter 5
The Fullness of Life, Chapter 5, ed. Anne Cranny-Francis

 Chapter Six: Cultural Upsurge and Cold War

006.tifFore publications & journals, Our Time and Seven scriptwriting and theatre work – meets Ann Davies – Agony of Greece – Communist Party politics – Cold War & surveillance – Paris & Meetings with Poets Culture – experiments with the novel – Life of Dickens Marxism and Contemporary Science – 1948 Peace Congress, Warsaw 

Manuscript Scan, Chapter 6
The Fullness of Life, Chapter 6, ed. Anne Cranny-Francis

Chapter Seven: Contradiction and Unbalance

006.tifFore Press fails – starts Meridian Press – editing work for Bodley Head – Arena – reading Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts – Pushkin celebrations in Russia in 1949 – CP(GB) criticise Marxism and Contemporary Science writing historical novels  Cold War influence on publishers – the British Way novels – denounced by T.L.S. – working on Byzantine history 

Manuscript Scan, Chapter 7
The Fullness of Life, Chapter 7, ed. Anne Cranny-Francis

Chapter Eight: Politics as a Means to Culture

006.tifJournals, Arena Circus  socialist literature – visits to Eastern Europe & stories of repression  move to Castle Hedingham Ann’s death – journey to Italy – writes The Writing on the Wall about Pompeii – to Moscow for Fielding memorial and Second Writers Congress – spectre of Stalin – criticises mechanistic teaching of Marxism  Hungarian uprising & repression – the Angry Young Men playwrights – Life of Meredith

Manuscript Scan, Chapter 8
The Fullness of Life, Chapter 8, ed. Anne Cranny-Francis

Chapter Nine: Break and Renewal

006.tifKruschev revelations about Stalinist repression – Lindsay stays in the C.P. – 1959, 3rd Writers Congress in Moscow – Lindsay’s critique of writing under Stalin – continues British Way novels – autobiography, Life Rarely Tells – revises his Short History of Culture – The Death of the Heromostly about the painter, David – rejects atomic power – writing popular history books

Manuscript Scan, Chapter 9
The Fullness of Life, Chapter 9, ed. Anne Cranny-Francis

Chapter Ten: The 1960s

006.tifCriticism of science and of ‘Progress’  impact on socialist societies –novels of everyday life and about Roman history – studies Graeco-Roman papyri & writes about Roman Egypt – translates Giordano Bruno – lives of Turner, Cézanne and Courbet – analysis of post-1945 world: commercialisation and alienation; socialist bureaucracy – argues importance of personal initiative & participation – final self-analysis

Manuscript Scan, Chapter 10
The Fullness of Life, Chapter 10, ed. Anne Cranny-Francis