Friday, April 24, 2009

'Give them hell in heaven'

The Kiwi historian Mark Derby responded to my post on the late Franklin Rosemont with a tribute to the man that is so interesting and eloquent that it does not deserve to be left to languish in a comments box. As you can see from this photo, Mark was not exaggerating when he used the adjective 'hairy' to describe Rosemont.

So long, Franklin, you hairy, helpful, hallowed old wizard of the left.

I first came across fellow worker Rosement and his equally improbable and kindly wife Penelope a few years ago, in the course of researching NZ's early radical literary traditions. I was startled to discover that a vast proportion of the wave of imported leftist reading matter (and it was practically all imported) which fed the dreams and desires of the largely autodidactic radical labour movement in the early 20th century originated from a single source, the Chicago-based Charles H. Kerr publishing house. It was equally surprising to learn that the company was still vigorously extant, its original principles intact, turning out many marvellous books annually under the slogan "Subversive literature for all the family".

So I sent them my research on the NZ connection with their business, and Franklin (who had bought the company in the 70s to save it from insolvency) responded at characteristic length and generosity, sending me signed copies of several of his own works (including the biography of Joe Hill you mention above) and inviting me to contribute to a forthcoming one, a revised edition of the Haymarket Scrapbook.

So I did, and we kept in touch, sending each other good stuff we'd come across and news of our local communities. I've never had a livelier, more welcome correspondent. He usually addressed me as Fellow Worker, meaning he saw me as a Wobbly like himself, and I wish I truly deserved such a tribute.

I also wish we'd managed to meet up, and that he'd lived to finish a few more works in progress. But it would have been a tango of a tangi for old Franklin.

Give them hell in heaven, you old bugger.


Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Rosemont do any real work like work in lolly factories or freezing works like I have done??

Never mind - we also need wizards...

Charles H. Kerr eh...hmmm.....

Actually he seems like he was an interesting old bastard.

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