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Britten, Lionel. A Collection of Manuscripts and Typescripts. 1930-1935.

4to and 8vo. Manuscripts and typescripts of his first three major works, comprising the author's working carbon typescript of his play Brain: A Play of the Whole Earth (1930), revised throughout, the upper cover titled in his hand and marked "Britton's Copy"; typescript of his novel Hunger and Love (1931), with some corrections; and the autograph manuscript of Spacetime Inn (1932), written in pencil and set out as a fair copy, but with subsequent revisions, inscribed by him in ink "To O. Diplock/ the man who really wrote it/ and his wife... Lionel Britton/ Sept.15.1932"; together with the first edition of Brain, inscribed "To/ Nora Cutting/ first English woman amateur film director... this Brain from one of the Wild Men/ Lionel Britten/ 25th May 1930"; and of Animal Ideas (1935), inscribed by him to "Dip and Nora", some dust-staining, etc., typescripts unbound, the last item slightly damp-stained.

'A BRAIN IS CONSTRUCTED IN THE SAHARA DESERT – PRESENTLY IT GROWS LARGER THAN THE DESERT' – literary works by the 'proletarian' visionary Lionel Britton. His play Brain was published in 1930; with a prefatory note stating that "A Brain is constructed in the Sahara Desert – presently it grows larger than the desert – out of pure mechanism, by the whole of the human race. It controls the whole activities and does all the thinking of the world...". From the timings pencilled into his typescript, it appears that Britton was envisaging a broadcast performance. Thanks in part to Bernard Shaw, Brain caused a considerable stir; the influential critic Hannen Swaffer describing it as 'The most highbrow play ever produced in England'.

Hunger and Love (1931) followed. It has been described as 'a semi-autobiographical account of the intellectual development of the working-class orphan Arthur Phelps' and 'a long inter-war howl of contempt for the rule-makers and the people whom the narrator considers to be the war-mongers, the perpetrators of a vast conspiracy' (Tony Shaw, The Work of Lionel Britton: Chapter I: Hunger and Love and the Critics, blog, 16 February 2009). Bertrand Russell contributed a preface describing it as 'a very remarkable piece of work... filled with a splendid rage against the humbug, the cruelty, and the moral degradation of the possessing classes'. In the last of his famous 'Books and Persons' columns for the Evening Standard, Arnold Bennett felt moved to write his review in a pastiche of Britton's style: 'Bourgeois dinner. Next day I resumed. Page after big page. I reached page 705. The last. But why the last? "Well", said I, to the invisible Lionel Britton, who was rushing through the ether as inconceivably fast as I was, "I've read your novel, Lionel Britton"'. George Orwell thought the book 'entirely sound' as a 'social document', although not so much a novel but more 'a kind of monologue on poverty'. And, as Shaw observes, even as late as 1940, ten years after his review, Orwell specifically singles out Hunger and Love in one of his broadcasts as 'an outstanding book' of the sub-genre.

Hunger and Love was followed by a second play (the autograph manuscript of which is included here), Spacetime Inn (1932). This 'expounds a vision of things derived in part from the theories of J W Dunne, though the main dramatic interest lies in the interactions of Eve, the Queen of Sheba, Queen Victoria, Karl Marx and George Bernard Shaw, as they explore the interstices of the pub that has become their world' (sf-encyclopedia.co). Britton's papers are held by Southern Illinois University.

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