This is an excellent autobiography published in 1975 when the author was over 90 years old.
Helen Corke has an extraordinary recall of her early childhood memories and this of itself makes the book worth reading.
She was born into a reasonably well to do Victorian household but financial difficulties meant that she had to take what opportunities came her way and she became an apprentice elementary teacher.
Her account of training to teach and her insights into the workings of a system that provided schooling for the vast majority of the population are detailed and fascinating. Imagine teaching a class of fifty six pupils without any additional support workers and having to adhere to a strict and rigid curriculum with an emphasis on handwriting, arithmetic and rote learning. As Helen explains, it was impossible to know the pupils as individuals other than as a name in the register.
However, it’s Helen Corke’s relationship with D.H Lawrence which she recounts in some detail that makes this book a compulsive read.
The friendship between Helen and Lawrence was intellectual but with sexual overtones as far as Lawrence was concerned. Helen had been previously in love with her married violin teacher until his tragic suicide. Lawrence used her personal diary of the affair to inspire his novel The Trepassers and there are many parallels between fact and fiction.
Helen was also friendly with Jessie Chambers, Lawrence’s long-term lover on whom he based the character of Miriam in Sons and Lovers. In her autobiography Helen quotes from correspondence with both Jessie Chambers and Lawrence and references some contemporary poetry.