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The story has a certain charm. The man goes from city to city either by hopping onto trains, walking, or some other means. At one point he and some companions buy a house boat which makes its way down the Mississippi River. He also manages to get on board freighters which take livestock across the Atlantic to Europe.
Initially, I thought this would be a book about being some kind of begging hobo, but he is equally a working man. In both cases, he is able to meet his daily needs. His companions help him when he is in need, and he returns the favour. He is able to save money until his friends, who cannot, need his help.
For the most part, up to almost the half way mark of this autobiography, the book has been generally enjoyable. A nice break from Stephen King's The Dark Tower series of which I finished the fourth book late last week. That was until I ran into some pretty heavy hitting racist comments:
Having been to the theatre, and being on my way back home late at night, half a dozen men, whom I scarcely had time to recognise as negroes, sprang from a dark corner, and, without saying a word, or giving the least chance of escape or defence, biffed and banged at my face and head until I fell unconscious at their feet. Their motive, without a doubt, was robbery, but having my money concealed in a belt next to my body, they had to be satisfied with a five cent piece, which was all my pockets contained. Such brutal outrages as these are seldom committed by white men, who having the more cool courage, demand a man's money at the commencement, and do not resort to violence, except it be their victim's wish. But this not very intelligent race half murder a man without being sure of anything for their pains.Reading that passage was quite painful. The pages go on about the horrors of negro criminality. Later, there are more depressing passages about dirty Jews and such.
These unsightly passages of prejudice and racism are not prevailing throughout. Maybe it's better to see them than not, so as to get a proper taste of what those minorities had to suffer through (and still do).
In his attempt to tramp across Canada, he falls in trying to jump into a train. As a consequence, he loses his leg after or before the knee, and nearly his life. After recovering, he returns to England and suffers some years of want: tramping, begging, selling trivial things such as shoelaces, to make his ends meet. He was a recipient of a small inheritance from his grandmother. That, together with the pennies begged and 'earned' here and there, he manages to save enough money to purchase 250 copies of a book of poems he wrote.
He slowly sends them away freely to contacts he has made over the years, and the media, and slowly gains the respect of a noteworthy poet (not mentioned) whose opinion makes him celebrity enough to give him the life of the poet he aspired to become.
Mostly I enjoyed this book, with the major caveats mentioned about racism.