Welcome to our blog!

It's better than a bat in the eye with a burnt stick!

This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

And make sure to visit The Arnold Bennett Society for expert information and comment on all aspects of the life and work of AB.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Mixed response

Wednesday, July 21st., Cadogan Square, London.

We went to the Ruth Draper matinee. A packed and putrid matinee audience at the Garrick, nearly all women. Laughing in all the wrong places - giggling, whispering. Tea-drinking. Ruth is very clever. She is a wonderful imitator, but not much of a creator. Some things however, such as the Englishwoman showing her garden were splendidly cruel. Others feeble and formless. The observation seems to be exact but superficial. She is highly skilled and looks nice.

Ruth Draper (1884 -1956), American monologuist and monodramatist whose art was acclaimed throughout the United Statesand Europe. Draper was of a well-to-do family. Her career grew from a habit of writing sketches about persons she knew or had observed and performing them at parties. In 1911 she began performing professionally at clubs and schools. In 1917 Draper made her New York debut as a monologuist in a programme of one-act pieces, all of which were failures except for the one she had written entitled The Actress. She thereafter performed only her own material. Her London debut in 1920 in a bill of her own works was a great success and established her as the pre-eminent practitioner of her art. Draper’s monologues and monodramas were delicately crafted works that revealed a deep understanding of human character, which she conveyed with great skill and deft suggestion. She used a minimum of stage props, no scenery, and little in the way of costume change, yet she could people the stage at will. Her repertory eventually grew to 39 pieces with such titles as Three Generations at a Court of Domestic Relations, At an English House Party, The Miner’s Wife, A French Dressmaker, Opening a Bazaar, In County Kerry, The Italian Lesson, At an Art Exhibition, and Vive La France. In them she conjured up some 58 principal characters, endowing each with full individuality. A command of languages and dialects played a large part in her characterizations as well. 

I am still reading "Sous le Soleil de Satan". It is definitely not good, but I mean with Gods' help to finish it. Unintentional irony there, as the devil is a character in the book which has caused a stir in France.

"Under Satan's Sun", by Georges Bernanos is a powerful account of intense spiritual struggle that reflects the author's deeply-felt religion. The work develops a theme that persistently inspired Bernanos: the existence of evil as a spiritual force and its dramatic role in human destiny. This haunting novel follows the fortunes of a young, gauche, and fervent Catholic priest who is a misfit in the world and in his church, creating scandal and disharmony wherever he turns. His insight into the inner lives of others and his perception of the workings of Satan in the everyday are gifts that fatefully come into play in the priest's chance encounter with a young murderess, whose life and emotions he can see with a dreadful clarity, and whose destiny inexorably becomes entangled with his own. A film based on the novel won the Palme d'Or prize at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Simple pleasure

Monday, July 18th., Brittany.

My sister Tertia told me once that my mother, on seeing "Carmen" at Hanley Theatre said: "I don't like that woman at all". Just the sort of thing she might say!

It rained all day yesterday, and was raining heavily when we went to bed. Rain appalling. The employes du Louvre discovered the gramophone at night and danced to it.

By the way, the chief point about the gramophone performance was the intense and simple pleasure of the people in it. The two men bent over the instrument smiling as they might have done at a baby that was crooning. How I envy people who are able to immerse themselves without self-consciousness in the moment. For myself I find that I cannot get beyond thoughts of my own dignity, and appearance, which of course I know rationally is of no interest to anyone but myself. I am afraid that self-consciousness will be a burden to me throughout my life, unless it falls away as I descend, heaven forbid, into senility. Rather dark thoughts for a holiday - must be the effect of the weather!

Additionally for July 18th., see 'A matter of loyalty'

While all this is going on I have more trouble to contend with from my wife. She resents my 'other' life in London and fails to understand that I have an immense amount of work to do and considerable responsibility. Hence she contrives problems to gain my attention. For example, she has conceived a thorough dislike for our gardener Lockyer and is manoeuvring to have him replaced: what a time to become preoccupied with such trivia! I have written to her as follows:

Thursday, 17 July 2014


Sunday, July 17th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Yesterday at 7 p.m., after a week of slogging, I finished "Hugo" which I think is my eighth novel. I have got that off my mind and now this morning I lose a front tooth, just to be supplied with a new worry. 

Five years ago I would have looked on my life, as I am living it now, as the ne plus ultra of paradisiacal bliss, but I am no more content than I ever was. In fact life is a devilish odd thing. I think I have learned more about it in the last three years than ever I knew before. I have books planned that will keep me employed till the end of 1906. But if I am any happier than when I used to cycle down to Farnham & Witley after a week of rottenness in Fleet Street, I do not know it. My belief is that some people are born happy and some aren't. 

I like Paris tremendously. Indeed I can't imagine myself living in any other city. It has spoilt me for London. What I secretly desire is a fine house in the seaside country near Folkestone for the summers, and this flat (which suits me excellently) for the rest of the year. And these things I must have and will have!

Additionally for July 17th., see 'Adrift in Austria'

I went out and bought some cigars. About 4.30 went up to Hoher Salzburg. A very Margate-ish crowd; indeed the same sort of crowds everywhere. They stream into the town daily. Coming home, I met Kommer; or rather he stopped me and offered me a piece of paper. For a second I didn't know him. He had inquired at all the hotels for me (including this one) without success. He had then gone to the police, who informed him at once thatE.A.B. was staying at the Oesterreichischer, and gave him a bit of paper to that effect; this was the paper he was exhibiting to me in the street.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A stiff climb

Thursday, July 16th., Oesterreichischerhof, Salzburg.

Salzburg from the Kapuzinerberg
Walked up to the top of the Kapuzinerberg yesterday afternoon. The entrance begins only about three minutes from this hotel, and the distance of climbing is only about a mile I should think. But it is very stiff work indeed. The path is stepped and tended and signposted with great Teutonic care and thoroughness. Some English say it is too well done. How absurd! (In the war we copied everything but German thoroughness - I mean in the press) These signposts indicating distance in time are most useful. At the top (it took me an hour with frequent rests) a cafe, tout arrange, for tourists, with 'fine' views of the Alps. These aussichts of Alpine stuff leave me definitely rather cold. Visited the Kurhaus on the way back to the hotel. Vast and gloomy - especially the restaurant where an 'Alpine evening' was to take place last night. Feared it and avoided it, and dined at the Mirabell Garden Restaurant where I had also lunched. At lunch, Jerskny, director of the Blue Bird troupe had a table with several of his artistes; they were extremely jolly and giggled like anything.

At night: music. Waltzes and operatic selections. Electric light; hence theatrical trees; dogs playing with each other; outsiders staring; girls carrying beer all the time; a girl wheeling round and round a thing like a perambulator containing all sorts of confectionery; she did this for two hours and was still doing it when I left.

I finished Hamsun's "Segelfloss Town" last night. It does not hold together very well, and is inferior to his best work; the interest is allowed to shift too much from character to character. The characters are apt to appear and then fade. But it contains four really splendid things, and some fine humour and ditto wit. There is a tirade against actors and actresses which is devastating funny and true. The translation is very good indeed.

Additionally for July 16th., see 'Home from the front'

I returned home from the Front yesterday, after two nights in London at the Savoy. By the evening I had dealt with all the arrears.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Drama in Brittany

Friday, July 15th., in Brittany.

Fete yesterday. Alcock left at 5 p.m. in a most ancient wagonette, and we drove with him to the top of the village. Although there were three windows open in the wagonette it was hotter inside than outside - stuffy. Horse-collars of straw; harness chiefly of rope. In speaking of the horses Alcock again called them 'cat's meat'. In the morning we went sailing for one and a half hours - only 5 francs. We were carried into a small boat, and then rowed to the smack, which was in the charge of two men. 

After dinner I walked about a mile up the estuary of the Penze on the sands, and back, and then up to the village. Chinese lanterns, band, dancing, silhouette of large church, silhouettes of figures, Bengal fires, very noisy fireworks. Hotel very bright with lanterns. Parading about in adjacent lanes, the Parisians and other visitors, arms entwined sometimes, women in white wool loose jackets, as in Switzerland in winter. Moon through clouds. Not quite dark. I came home at 9.50 quite recovered, and read "Eugenie Grandet".

We were wakened up in the night by a very heavy thunderstorm. The thunder really was dramatic; quite as good as Drury Lane.

Additionally for July 15th., see 'Busy in Salzburg'

The scenery around is wonderful. There must be about a dozen 10,000 ft. mountains in the region. But we soon tired of this imposing, picturesque scenery. It is as if it was done on purpose - some tour de force of a creator. Sunday was a fete day here - the fete of the fire brigades. They came from all around including adjacent Germany. The cafe-restaurants were full of firemen, in poor ill-fitting uniforms, at lunch. Procession very long. Full of engines and ladders, and one very old engine, and banners and bands. One brigade was headed by a girl in white; at least she seemed to be a girl; but she might have been the wife of the huge, framed, glittering man who was walking by her side. The affair had a certain medieval or renaissance quality, but lacked both vitality and efficiency. After it we drove in a little victoria to see the castle (Lustschloss) at Hellbrun, a few miles off, along a monotonous road, chiefly quite straight. This castle has lovely gardens; but the 'practical joke' quality of the fountain-work (designed to soak the king's guests by surprise) and the childishness of the working, water-driven models in the garden, gave you a sinister insight into the mind of a foolish king.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Bastille day

Thursday morning, July 14th., Bastille Day, Rue de Calais, Paris.

Although I rested well last night, I heard the music of the feteeach time I wakened, so at 4 a.m. I persuaded myself to get up and take a look at it. There was one roundabout going in the Place Blanche. Everything else was closed. A bright, hot morning. All the greatrestaurants de nuits were closed, but one cafe, the Coquet, next to the Cyrano, was open and had tables in the street. The stout lady in the cash-desk seemed just as usual. The 'place' was thick with serpentins. A few cabs waiting about, and a few idlers like myself. The women on the roundabout screamed just as they always do. They did not look very tired. There were four on one pig.

I then went towards the Opera. I saw that the footpaths were swept by women in blue - with magnificent carriage and figures. I suppose that is due to the magnificent gesture of the broom. On the Boulevard des Italiens, three of them abreast were sweeping the broad trottoir. It was  fine sight. At the Opera a large crowd for the matinee gratuite had already gathered - some hundreds; policemen to keep order.

This was the real people - dirty, stinking, brutal, importunate; the scum! nearly all men but just a few women. Some persons were lying asleep on the pavement. I noticed many other early morning items and fete day items: such as omnibuses passing, full of policemen in spotless white trousers; a cavalry officer in full splendour walking to his rendezvous; many people beginning the day's enjoyment on their way to railway stations etc.; the women dozing in the newspaper kiosks awaiting the morning papers; a youth walking along the middle of the road smoking a pipe a yard long; a drunken man trying to get up a fight with a barman concerning a small tricolour which he carried. Many bars were open. I returned home at 5.5 and wrote this at once.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Strange ideas

Saturday, July 10th., Cadogan Dquare, London.

Y. came at 6.55, leaving a bag marked in large letters "Foreign Office". In some talk after dinner I found that he had strangely unscientific ideas. Some pamphlet of Haldane's had actually persuaded him that there was a prospect in the future of making synthetic babies, and he really believed that some very low form of animal life had actually been made by synthesis. He stuck to it. It had not occurred to him that any such feat would have made an absolutely unique stir in the world, and make such a step in knowledge as no other step could be compared to. He began to argue like this: "But nobody thirty years ago would have believed about wireless." He hadn't seen that the two things were not comparable, wireless being purely a mechanical affair. In short I was shocked by his attitude. later, he gave in.

Additionally for July 10th., see 'Meeting Miss Thomasson'

I went to tea at Miss Thomasson's on Saturday and met Hofbauer one of the most famous young painters in Paris today. A handsome, very blond man of about 30, and fully aware that he is handsome. Vain, and yet charmingly so, and not too much so. He spoke scarcely any English, and had better manners than most painters. Afterwards at the Cafe de Versailles, Kelly told me that he was inordinately and devilishly clever, but idle; also that his big picture in this year's Salon, 'Coin de Bataille', bought by the state, was painted quite without models.