Poverty With Complete Liberty

This past few weeks (it’s a very large book) I’ve been reading Carrington’s Letters, edited by Anne Chisholm. It’s a huge wealth of letters sent by the artist Dora Carrington (pictured, 1893-1932) who had one foot in and one foot out of the Bloomsbury Group. It’s wonderful. At times it’s naively funny in a Diary of a Nobody sort of way. At other times it’s tremendously revealing of the way artists think (then as now) as well as of the foibles of this particular time and place. A brilliant book.

Anyway, all I wanted to share with you here at our Escapology blog is this funny passage written just after Carrington’s husband, Ralph Partridge, was fired from Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press for being the worst. Carrington writes haughtily:

The Tidmarsh Press will be better because Ralph will have free hand to do what he wants. He will work for himself at his own hours. He can hardly make less money than he did with the Woolfs […] and after all, poverty with complete liberty is worth more than a safe income of £300 a year (not that he got that with the Woolfs) in a business in London, with the dreary prospect of 2 or 3 months freedom every year…

A footnote from editor Chisholm then clarifies that “This notion of setting up another Press came to nothing.”

Hah! There’s so much to say, isn’t there? I mean, she’s right about threadbare freedom beating a stiff day job, but her imaginings are a bit dreamy.

One has to begin somewhere though and it’s a shame when dreams come to nought, so I’m tempted to rename my own up-and-coming small press “the Tidmarsh Press” to avenge Carrington belatedly. Then again, it would be avenging Ralph really, which I don’t particularly want to do since he was such a boorish and proprietorial twerp.

But also, hang on, “2 or 3 months freedom every year”? In a London business? I’m not sure if such long periods of leave were standard practice in clerical jobs of the time (surely not) or if the Woolfs were excellent bosses or if Carrington just doesn’t know what normal leave from a pen-pushing job might be. I expect the latter but I honestly don’t know. If two or three months could be standard vacation today, I’m not sure I’d bother with Escapology anymore!


Alas, we’re not there yet. If you want to escape a “safe income” and contemplate the prospect of “poverty with complete liberty,” please read my books I’m Out and The Good Life for Wage Slaves.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

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