Seek the whole truth and through the maze
of dangerous and delightful days
follow the thread that yet can save
and guide through the deceitful cave
where minotaurs, confronted, fail,
into bare light, which sets us free.
Jack Lindsay, ‘Again to my Daughter Helen’
Jack Lindsay was a prolific writer, who published in a range of forms and genres, including fiction and non-fiction – poetry, play-scripts, translations, and novels, as well as essays, biographies, histories – about a variety of fields of knowledge, including classical studies, literature, visual art, history, archaeology, anthropology, science, philosophy and politics.
As his Bibliography records, he published over 160 books and this does not include hundreds of poems, reviews, and essays. Nor does it show his work as a publisher and editor for a number of journals of literature, art and politics, where he put into practice his ideas about the role of culture in society and the relationship between culture and politics.
Jack Lindsay did not just write for a living; in many senses, he lived his life on the page.
THE FULLNESS OF LIFE
This is nowhere more evident than in his auto-exegesis, ‘The Fullness of Life: The Autobiography of an Idea’ where Lindsay traces the development of his thinking by reference to his work as a writer and editor. The typescript of 122,671 words is presented here as separate chapters, with a scan of each chapter of the original typescript accompanied by an edited transcript.
The typescript was discovered by Philip Lindsay when he and Helen Lindsay 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 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 Fullness of Life is an auto-exegesis, a study by Lindsay of his own writings and how they reveal the development of his thinking up until and including the 1960s. The Chapters are as follows:
- First Stages
- Franfrolico Press
- Down to the Earth of History
- Marxism Discovered
- The War
- Cultural Upsurge and Cold War
- Contradiction and Unbalance
- Politics as a Means to Culture
- Break and Renewal
- 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.