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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.
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Thursday, 5 December 2019
No artist can rightly be only an artist. When he has finished a day's work of sincere creation he must be a merchant. Therefore he ought to learn how to be a merchant efficiently - that is to say how to sell his goods in the largest possible numbers and at the highest possible price consistent with honesty. Artists yearn to be appreciated; at least all the ones I have met do. It may be that there are artists hidden about the world who have no interest in the appreciation of their art by others, they are content to create in secret. This strikes me as a sort of onanism, but I have no objection in principle, though I would contend that no-one can sincerely regard himself as an artist who is unwilling to subject his art to public scrutiny. In fact, can art be art if it is accessible only to its creator? This is a matter too deep for me.
In any case, the best proof of appreciation is the receipt of cheques, notes or coin. If people genuinely appreciate a thing they will pay money for it to the extent of their means. If not, not. A comfortable earned income should be a matter of pride to an artist. It is to me! Artists who affect to contemn a comfortable income, when they can't make it, are nincompoops in addition to being liars.
Wednesday, 4 December 2019
Today I began work on the film and other things, though short of sleep. Pressure of financial responsibilities means that I have to work well or not. But I have felt worse than this!
I took Marguerite this afternoon to see Japanese prints at the British Museum, and was more impressed than the first time even. Of course the mummies held Marguerite on her way through their rooms. She is obsessed when she sees them by the fact that they once lived, loved etc. Sentimental twaddle. To be just she showed just as much interest in the Greek sculpture. We were struck anew by the size and grandioseness of the B.M. It is a very efficient affair. Crowds of people, especially girls, most of them uncomprehending. Experts giving popular lectures.
i was thinking later about the mummies. Is it morally defensible to dig up and put on display human remains, however old they are? As I understand it these people believed that they had to preserve their bodies so as to have an after-life. They would be horrified to find themselves being gawked at by crowds of sensation seekers. The more I think the less satisfactory it seems to me. Perhaps I shall compose an article on the subject.
Tuesday, 3 December 2019
My health is in the main very good, with slight stumbles. After much searching and disappointment I have taken a house in Cadogan Square (No. 75). It is not so central as this but it is the best I could get. There were no flats that would suit me. It is a large house and I am subletting the top floor (4 small rooms) to my secretary Miss Nerney and her mother. It will be an immense advantage to have my secretary on the spot, and the arrangement seems to suit them as well. Miss N. is much attached to me and, frankly, I would be lost without her. She has been with me for eight years now and I often reflect that it a good job she is not an attractive woman (sexually speaking) as we are thrown a good deal together. As far as I can tell she has no sexual interest in men at all.
Much excitement in the press about the discovery of a Pharaoh's tomb in Egypt - name of Tutankhamun apparently. It seems that Lord Carnarvon and a Mr. Howard Carter, professional archaeologist, have been searching for this tomb for several years and are at last successful. The Times seems to have the best source of information, apparently Carter himself. As I understand it much work has been undertaken to clear a way through to the sealed tomb which was entered by Carter just a couple of days ago. Though it has been entered in antiquity by tomb robbers it seems that there is a great deal relatively undisturbed, and, particularly, an inner chamber where they hope to find the mummified body of the pharaoh himself.
All very exciting. Just the sort of thing Haggard would write about, though his protagonists would only have come to the tomb after surviving immense challenges in an alien landscape and would probably make their entrance at dead of night with only a flickering candle for illumination. I jest! The whole business has stirred my imagination and I feel that I would like to see some of the marvels of Egypt myself. In fact, given my changed domestic situation, this would be a good opportunity, but I am commited to the new house with its attendant costs and responsibilities. Oh to be at liberty!
Monday, 2 December 2019
Browsing in my library last evening I took up Hardy's "The Woodlanders" and began to read. Two hours later I came to my senses and went off to bed. To my mind it is the most successful of Hardy's novels; successful in the sense of style, construction, characterisation, 'pattern'. "Far From the Madding Crowd" is a close second and, for dialogue alone, is the superior. Of course Hardy had his faults, as have we all, but what interests us with Hardy, as with Shakespeare, is not his defects, but his positive qualities. There are times when he shows a sustained power of writing which has not, in my opinion, been surpassed by anybody anywhere.
His observation of the natural world is remarkable to my mind. Perhaps those persons brought up in a rural world are naturally more aware of the vegetable and animal life which surrounds them, but I cannot think there have been many, if any, observers more subtle than Hardy. When his characters go off into the woods, which would merely be a setting for plot development for most authors, they enter a new world, a sort of magic kingdom for those with eyes to see. And Hardy had the eyes, and used them. And what is more he had the language to communicate what he saw to we lesser mortals. I like to think that I am observant, but to read a passage of Hardy is rather dispiriting.
When I last saw him, in London, Hardy was nearly eighty, a spare man, very young and active indeed for his age, who chatted and chattered away quite cheerfully and - thank heaven - quite ordinarily. He talked about anything, and nothing long. He had authority, but did not show it, perhaps hardly felt it. No nonsense about him. No pose. No secret but apparent preoccupation with the fact that he was the biggest living thing in English literature. It was a large gathering, no chance of a tete-a-tete. He knew who I was but never said if he had read any of my books. I desperately wanted to ask him, but had no opportunity and, in any case, would I have wanted to risk having him cast about for something politely vague to say? Best to remain in ignorance.
Sunday, 1 December 2019
Arrived here last night. Noted for thrird novel in the trilogy the scene on the train, and Shields' dentist scene. All in my special notebook. Stoke station was packed with people and so was the loop line train.
Weather is wild. Glass lower than it has been all this year I think. I have been put in the big bedroom because Marguerite is expected on Friday. I am a little apprehensive about her advent. There is a good deal of semi-concealed nervousness about her and indeed she will certainly seem a rather exotic creature here amongst the potbanks. Florence has prepared a whole programme of introductions for next week - engagements every evening.
My mother seems fairly well though she cried this morning during breakfast because Frank wouldn't buy her exactly the kind of coal she needs. I have my meals with Frank and his family. One of the children is ill in bed. I risked going to look at him, but didn't get too close. Apparently there is a lot of flu about at the moment. "People are dropping like flies" Frank said. It was only nine degrees acording to the thermometer in my bedroom this morning so I fear getting a chill on the liver.
More tooth problems so I went to the dentist first thing. Spent an hour and a half there. He put a filling in a cavity. I have to go again on Monday. I have started taking Sanatogen Tonic wine, Shuff recommended it to me. Says it will be good for my nerves when I over-work. Quite a pleasant taste I find.
In the meantime I am going to a grand municipal dinner this evening; at least, grand by Burslem standards. I have also been asked to give out prizes at the Art School and make a speech on socialism. I refused.
Saturday, 30 November 2019
Gide has the idea that I have developed a new 'manner', and perhaps he is right. There were symptoms of it I think in "The Pretty Lady", but it is not emerging in my new book which is a light one. After writing sixty books one cannot change one's manner I find simply by taking thought. However, I feel encouraged to be more experimental, less circumspect, more challenging.
My film is progressing. As a first effort in this new medium I don't expect much of it, but when I have broken down the outer-defences of 'the trade' I hope to do something better. In France, Manoire's transalations of my books appear to be doing well. Most recently "Clayhanger". The firm of Bernard Grasset is to publish several. I understand that "These Twain" is to appear in the Revue de Paris, no doubt with the usual terrible cuts, but it may enhance my reputation and increase sales of the books. "The Price of Love" is to appear in a thing called La Revue de la Semaine of which I have never heard.
Friday, 29 November 2019
I didn't finally wake up until 7.58, a very rare occurence, as I had had very few breaks during the night. I don't expect I shall ever have another uninterrupted night's sleep, at least not in this life. So I was calmly browsing in the Daily Mail when I came across an article by Birkenhead on me, in which he practically accused me of lying. The toad. I went downstairs and wrote my reply to Birkenhead in the form of a letter to the Mail. When I took it to Miss Nerney she said that the Mail had phoned for an article: so I crossed out the Sir and Yours Truly, and called it an article, and charged £60 for it. I could do with a few more eminent persons taking a public stance against me!
A beautiful day at last, after so much rain. I had to get out this afternoon and walked up to Kensington Gardens. I walked right round the Serpentine, glanced at the Albert Memorial, and came home feeling revitalised and refreshed. Everywhere I walked people were smiling because of the sun. It was rather cold and I fancy there may be frost tonight.
The other day Eric Kennington was here and showed me Lawrence's £30 book, "The Seven Pillars". It is not very good book-making; very fine illustrations in it, many of them coloured, and lots of lovely drawings by Roberts. But most of the illustrations are thoroughly out of place in the book and spoil the look of it. It seems that Lawrence has kept Kennington and Roberts, not to mention Wadsworth, pretty busy on it for several years.