Wednesday 26 October 2011

The Glamour of Manchester

Can there be any more unlikely title?

This little book published by the National Labour Press in 1920 makes a sterling effort to romanticise the history of the city, with gloriously cryptic chapter headings ranging from 'Dickens is inspired on oysters and champagne' and 'Ralph Waldo Emerson gives a party at Lower Broughton', to 'At Rochdale Lord Byron is very bored' and 'Charlotte Bronte has days of misery by Oxford Road'.

The book pulls no punches in the foreword, informing us brightly that 'In the winter mostly it will be raining ... [and] in summer the sun will shine with a frightful irony'. Warming to the theme, it asserts that 'with its Hulme and Ancoats and the clotted horror of Salford it will hold one as a dead man's eye...'

Not much of a start. But the author's obvious love for the city coupled with his dry wit proves surprisingly diverting, and as he sums up on the final page: 'I have written down my Manchester as I saw it. And seeing is often worse than believing'.