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Clayhanger Trilogy

Clayhanger, Hilda Lessways, These Twain, The Roll Call

a series of three novels by Arnold Bennett. Clayhanger (1910), set in the Five Towns (the ‘Potteries’ in Staffordshire), tells the story of the boyhood and young manhood of Edwin Clayhanger, son of the autocratic and strong-willed printer Darius Clayhanger who is determined that Edwin shall follow him into the printing works rather than pursue his own bent as an architect. The novel opens as Edwin leaves school at the age of 16, and describes his abortive rebellions and eventual acceptance of his fate, as he takes over the business on his father's death. The provincial Methodist background, Darius's penniless childhood and his rescue from the workhouse, and the growing prosperity and cultural aspirations of the family are described in sharply observed cumulative detail. The novel provides a wealth of accurate documentation about the manners and industry of the region; its characters include the handsome and domineering Auntie Hamps, Big James the printer, and various members of the socially superior Orgreaves family. Hilda Lessways (1911) describes the efforts of independent fatherless Hilda to make a career for herself as a journalist; her impulsive (and, as it turns out, bigamous) marriage to the romantically shady lawyer George Cannon; their life together as proprietors of ‘Cannon's Boarding House’ in Brighton; his exposure and flight; and her renewed interest in her former admirer Edwin Clayhanger. These Twain (1916) covers the ups and downs of the lively and often tempestuous marriage of Edwin and Hilda (who now has a son from her first liaison); her semi-accidental sighting of Cannon in Dartmoor prison; and the death of Auntie Hamps. The Roll Call (1918), a less successful sequel, follows the career of Hilda's son George as a London architect, and ends as he enlists in the army.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Cheltenham Gloucestershire to Cockermouth Cumbria