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Coal, correspondence, and nineteenth century poetry : Joseph Skipsey and the problems of social class

Tait, Gordon James


Gordon James Tait


Katharine Cockin

Daniel Weston

James Procter

Ella Dzelzainis


This thesis explores the life and work of the poet and coal miner Joseph Skipsey (1832-1903) by examining his correspondence with some of the most notable cultural figures of the late-Victorian period. This work is, as far as I am aware, the first modern single-author study of a working-class writer who was a coal miner, the first full modern examination of a nineteenth-century working-class poet from North-East England, and one of the first detailed analyses of a working-class writer’s correspondence. Through archival discovery, close readings, and examinations of the reception of Skipsey’s poetry, this thesis argues that the writing of working-class individuals is shaped by their social class, and what Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) describes as cultural and social capital. These forms of capital determine the reception working-class writers receive within literary culture and, in turn, reinforce the authority of middle-class writings about working-class lives that allows them to become unchallenged orthodoxies. This thesis reveals previously unknown areas of Skipsey’s life and work, challenging and destabilising previously held beliefs, questioning assumptions regarding patronage, and, ultimately, revealing Skipsey a more active agent in the construction of his career than previously supposed. The thesis examines Skipsey as not just a representative of his class and industry, but as an individual writing poetry from personal, instead of communal, experience.


Tait, G. J. (2018). Coal, correspondence, and nineteenth century poetry : Joseph Skipsey and the problems of social class. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date May 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jun 7, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jun 7, 2023
Keywords English
Public URL
Additional Information Department of English
The University of Hull


Thesis (3 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2018 Gordon James Tait. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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