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

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Wednesday, 21 November 2018

A great success

Sunday, November 21st., George Street, London.

Dress rehearsals of "Milestones" on Thursday and Friday. They were a great success, in fact very great - except the song-singing which was rotten. I took a rug and a hot-water bottle with me but the theatre was warmed so not needed. St. John Ervine was there for the Observer, and sat next to me. There is no doubt that he was profoundly impressed. Of course he remembers it from the first incarnation, but he vouchsafed that he considered it as pertinent to 1920 as it had been to 1912. The first performance was last night. I took Bertie Sullivan and Legros. Much real enthusiasm. But by last night I had got tired of the play and went home gloomy. Gloominess seems to be my regular state at the moment.

Marguerite is away in Scotland at the moment on a recitals tour. Apparently her 'focus' is on Baudelaire. I should think this may be the first time that Baudelaire has been heard in Scotland. Of course I have been encouraging her in her declamatory efforts, and indeed she has some ability, but I honestly doubt enough to stimulate a paying audience. We shall see. She has some idea of a tour to America, but I doubt it will survive Scotland.

I introduced Legros to English clubs yesterday and he was immensely struck. "Quelle la vie charmante!" he said at the Garrick, where all the members chaff each other.


Tuesday, 20 November 2018

On the novel

Tuesday, November 20th., Cadogan Square, London.

E.M. Forster is a first rate novelist and an acquaintance of mine. He has recently published a book  "Aspects of the Novel" based on a series of lectures given at Cambridge. To my mind Forster is less like a lecturer than any lecturer ever was before. He is colloquial and glories in being so. He is larkish, witty, humorous, epigrammatic, full of sly fun. He laughs at himself, the public, the 'big guns', the entire art of fiction. He has praised me handsomely and then, writing of "The Old Wives' Tale" stated that "it misses greatness" - knocking me out in three words! I forgive him for that. After all I might say the same about "Howards End".

What endears me to Forster more than anything is his eager admission that he is only a 'pseudo-scholar'. I have hitherto concealed the fact that I too am only a pseudo-scholar. I will try no more. I state exultantly that I am a pseudo-scholar. 

As regards the novel, Forster decidedly knows what he is talking about; he knows in a manner and with an understanding possible only to a creative artist and impossible to any real scholar, because no real scholar can be also a creative artist. Nobody intelligent enough to be interested in the higher manifestations of the art and craft of fiction could read his book without pleasure and profit.

I was particularly taken by his observations on the question of plot. He says: "A plot is a narrative of events with the emphasis on causality." It is not the same as a story. Thus, 'The King died and then the Queen died' is a story. 'The King died, and then the Queen died of grief' is a plot. It would be difficult to be at once more illuminating and more succint.

My friend Mr. Frank Swinnerton is reported to have been engaged (perhaps an engagement not quite amounting to a betrothal) for years upon a work on the English novel. I have been pining for that work as it is certain to be good. But if it is better than Forster's it will be good with a profane adverb. Forster has to a considerable extent assuaged my longing for the thesis of Swinnerton. The latter may be well advised to stay clear of Forster's book so as not to feel unduly discouraged.


Monday, 19 November 2018

Carpe diem

Friday, November 19th., Cadogan Square, London.

Danzig Stamps – Gaiety TheatreWe went to the Gaiety Theatre to see "Just a Kiss". A rotten musical play, with a terrible chorus, and not enough music. Ranalow, the chief singer and a fine singer, had only one song to sing. happily he is also a fine actor (though untutored).

It all seemed to me to be a bit sad. Generations of actors and actresses (in that same theatre, or at one on the same site) always talking and singing of love and fornication and kisses and drink, and always in a piffling childish way. 

Later - I wrote the above about two hours ago,and as I read it now it comes home to me how dissatisfied I am and how old I feel. There is nothing really amiss with "Just a Kiss". The audience seemed to love it. The problem is in myself. The world seems a flat, grey, uninteresting place and I wonder why I bother to get out of bed every morning. Well, in fact I know why - because I need to make more money to sustain my existence of constant conspicuous consumption! I look back to my time in London thirty years ago. Life seemed to be a great adventure, and joyful, though I had only a small circle of friends, and very little money. And again in Paris, though I was better known, I had time for myself and a genuine pleasure in work. Even just a few years ago, after Marguerite and I separated, I felt alive and vigorous. Enough of the moaning! The only person to blame is me, and the only person who can change things is me! What do I declare in my self-help books? Each new day life begins afresh - carpe diem.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

A good friend

Friday, November 18th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

I spent Wednesday evening with Emile Martin. I should say he is the best friend I have made in Paris. We seem to get on well together, chatting amiably about life and, in particular, women. Emile is older than me and rather experienced. He has put me in the way of several 'obliging' young women, thereby advancing my education considerably. I think that at first he thought I was atypical in my naivety, but I have convinced him that most young middle-class provincial Englishmen (and probably Londoners as well) are just as ignorant and bumbling as myself. He shrugs gallicly.

He explained to me pretty fully the financial working of his club, the Cercle de la Rue Volnay. It had 1,800 members who pay 150 francs each. But the expenses are 600,000 francs a year; the rent is 100,000. The deficit is chiefly made up by the club's profits on baccarat. he seems to be au courant of everything. I hope one day to have the same casual confidence of manner.

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Last night Brieux's "La Petite Amie", in 3 acts at the Comedie Mondaine. It wa astonishing to me how this play 'got hold' of the crowded audience. Tears and violent applause were plentiful. It is not a good play, in my opinion, but it is tremendously effective, and sometimes extremely true.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Increasing irrationality

Tuesday, November 17th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Bertie Sullivan was here the other day. He is doing the same sort of thing at Brightlingsea as I am doing here (Military Representative). He told me of astonishing 'coincidences' at Brightlingsea. How, on the same day, the Customs' Officer's telephone wouldn't work, signalling was thought to be seen from the second martello tower (belonging to a suspicious family) on Beacon Hill, and a man had seen bubbles (indicative of a submarine) in B'sea reach, and two other coincidences which I forget. Next day the Blackwater was 'swept' by the new apparatus for a submarine, also the Colne, but naught was found; and that in fact there was nothing in the whole thing. All hysteria of course. And on top of that there will be people who, for reasons of their own, report 'suspicions' against people they dislike. We will have to be very careful about that sort of thing.

He told me that the Wallet was being closed by a boom. The War Office theory was that if an invasion was to be attempted it would be within the next fortnight. He said there was absolutely no co-ordination of effort against an invasion, and in particular no co-ordination between Army and Navy. Yet almost in the same breath he gave me two instances of the Admiralty informing the War Office of certain facts. Irrationality is on the increase.

He told me that Brightlingsea had between 8 and 9 percent of its population in the forces. As sergeant of special constables his difficulty was the sheer stupidity of people. Men kept writing week after week that Brightlingsea waterworks ought to be guarded etc., and at last demanded a military guard for it. In the end I think they got it but I'm not sure. Sullivan agreed with me that the chance of invasion was nil. Also he couldn't see the use of more new armies beyond what we have in training, as we couldn't arm them etc., etc. He said Kitchener didn't believe in invasion.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Thinking about things

Thursday, November 16th., Fulham Park Gardens, London.

Today is published my third book, "Polite Farces". (Lamley & Co. 2/6 net.). And tonight, by coincidence, I made the first real start of the final writing of "Anna Tellwright". I worked from 5 to 12 p.m. and wrote 1,000 words, first-rate stuff.

I was out strolling this morning. There are really three 'types' of strolling as far as I am concerned: concentration on getting ideas; paying close attention to surroundings, people and places, a sort of 'here and now' experience; just drifting, a sort of semi-dream state. That's what I was doing this morning and I think it cleared my head so as to work better this afternoon and evening.

I have noticed lately, and again this morning, that I discover a tune going on in my head. Sometimes I can trace its origin back to something I have heard, but often it appears as if unconsciously. It is distinctly 'heard'. Occasionally it is annoying, but not often. As soon as I concentrate on something it disappears so I conclude that it is my brain somehow filling a vacuum caused by an absence of sensation. This idea led me to reflect on mental imagery. I have little or no visual imagery which discussion with others leads me to think is unusual. My thinking is decidedly aural. I wonder then if others 'think' as I do, or maybe there are people who think entirely visually. I can't imagine what that would be like. And instead of hearing tunes in the mind they may see images, or even have olfactory experience. Who knows?

Thursday, 15 November 2018

A wet promenade

Monday, November 15th., Villa des Nefliers.

RDV N 7 etape 2/1A grand, wet, gloomy, foggy day. I went out at 4.30 for a walk for an hour and a half, and it rained nearly all the time. But I was only a little damp under my waterproofs. As somebody once told me: "There is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing". It was dark when I re-entered the town from the Carrefour de l'Obelisque, and got from under the dripping trees. I was damp but I stood, chilling, to look at the bookshops. During this promenade I cleared my ideas considerably for the novel of which I still lack a title.

This morning I received a copy of the third American edition (the first printed in America) of "The Old Wives' Tale". Very ugly, and they have had the damned cheek to put "A novel of life" on the title page.