[E. V. Knox, editor of Punch.] Untitled Autograph Essay criticising parenting in 'the age of the child', and 'old men' behaving like 'toddlers'.

E. V. Knox [Edmund George Valpy Knox; pen-name 'Evoe'] (1881-1971), editor of Punch, 1932-1949, essayist, poet and humorist
Publication details: 
Without place and date. [London, 1930s or 1940s?]
SKU: 23222

See Knox's entry in the Oxford DNB, along with those of his father and three brothers. 8pp, 4to. Paginated and complete; on eight leaves held together with a rusting paperclip. In fair condition, aged and creased. A fair copy, with occasional emendations. There is no indication that this essay was published. A polished piece of writing by an accomplished essayist, lightly humorous but with serious intent, Knox's aim being to put forward the view that modern childhood is more self-indulgent than that of previous generations, and results is the self-deceit of adults who have never grown up. Knox sets out his case at the start: 'This is the age of the child. | If I have heard that sentence once, I have heard it a thousand times, but I doubt whether most people who use it realise what it means. It is a confession of decadence and despair. | To being with, if our age is an age of children, it means that children are growing rate. You cannot place eight or nine olive branches (as they used to be called) on marble pedestals and admire them the whole day long. They keep hopping off the pedestal and making a hideous din. It is the solitary child surrounded by fifteen stuffed animals which is adored.' 'The modern child', he writes later, 'as far as I can see, has no future before it. It does not want to grow up. Why should it? There are no restrictions or limitations placed upon its happiness. Grown ups surround it like a gang of fawning slaves. Why should it be willing to throw aside its position of independence and imperious sovereignty, and pass into servitude? It has its dances and suppers, and razzles along in its own little motor car.' There are occasional references to Knox's own childhood, most notably the following passage: 'I always wanted - I aspired, I may say - to be a tram conductor. I never have been a tram conductor, and I never shall be, now, except perhaps during a general strike. Well. I dont want to be a tram conductor. But the hope, the joy of aspiration, while they lasted, were splendid enough. The prohibitions that restricted from time to time my use of a sofa and a bell with a string tied on to it as a tram were easily endured. They were much more easily endured than the prohibitions which prevent me now from doing a hundred and one things that I want to do.' The last third of the essay is devoted to mocking 'three old men' with whom Knox 'lunched recently'. 'They were all striving to be as jolly as schoolboys, and bantering each other with the jokes of childish days. They all danced nightly, patted tennis balls over nets, pranced when possible at the edge of the ocean foam, and strove in every way to imitate the example of their youngers and betters.' His companions were 'anxious about their waists', exercised and 'sipped tonic water'. He concedes that he 'may be exaggerating a little' when he states: 'One of them, so far as I remember, had to be hung every day by his feet from the ceiling, and there slowly turning round, puffing out his cheeks from time to time, and performing fantastic movements with his arms, recover the lithe grace of the nursery. Another was pickled in brine for one hour every morning, and wallowed one hour every evening in mud.' These men, Knox believes, have 'no consolations. Infancy over, the best of life is past. [...] Parenthood has thrown over its privileges, its pleasure in authority and control.' He concludes: 'I pity the young of to-day. | While there is yet time, cannot we begin to check them a little, to institute a campaign of Stop, Bertie! or Hush, Angela!! When you grow up you can say or do things like that, but now you are only a child - and then offer to Angela and Bertie some mild inducement to grow up at all? And at the same time, shall we not discover, those of us who have done it, some faint excuse for having grown up ourselves? | There should be a quid pro quo in childhood and age. Childhood is in any case, it seems to me, the happier condition.' From the E. V. Knox papers.