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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.
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Sunday, 23 February 2020
Saturday, 22 February 2020
I found him settled in a decently large house (with several rooms about 20 feet square), with a charming wife and two children, with whom he must play every evening in the nursery from 6 to 7, inventing new games etc. Mrs. P. is a rather attractive woman, if a little older than me, and it was a pleasure to be entertained by her whilst Eden was upstairs. We were quickly on friendly terms and she was particularly interested in my life in Paris. Once or twice she have me a 'knowing' look when I referred (obliquely) to the pleasures to be had there.
On Saturday Eden and I went for a walk in the February mist. Very mild down here. Both he and his brother ask nothing better than to potter about garden and greenhouse, diagnosing the case of every plant, noting minute changes, and discussing methods of treatment. For two days a rumour that a camellia was growing in the hedge of a certain garden in a certain street excited them until they proved to themselves satisfactorily that the rumour was wrong and the camellia only a rhododendron.
Today Tillotsons offered me £60 for the serial rights of "For Love and Life". I have asked them for £80, but £60 was the price I had myself thought of.
I left Phillpotts full of desire to live in the country in a large house with plenty of servants, as he does, not working too hard, but working how and when one likes, at good rates. And an attractive wife would be good as well! It can only be done by means of fiction. Perhaps the sale of this my first serial may be considered as a step in the desired direction.
Now I am packing to go away again, somewhere warm and sunny. I feel the need for some rest and recuperation.
Friday, 21 February 2020
I have been up to my neck in the mud of work, especially proof-correcting. But I have at least got my improper novel entirely off my mind and don't want to hear anything more about it except highly favourable reviews and immense cheques.
There was a bomb on St. Pancras Hotel on Sunday night and on Chelsea Hospital on Saturday night. No official casualty figures as far as I have heard. Yesterday there was a fog. We now like fogs and rain - except on moonless nights.
Lunch with Rosher to meet Kennedy Jones at Thatched House Club. He is a Glasgow man, aged 52, with pale eyes, and when talking he screws them up a little, and looks far away as if cogitating on the most difficult and interesting aspects of what he is discussing. Largely affectation I think. He struck me as a powerful and ruthless man, but I wouldn't have any of his ruthlessness. When he was firm, I was firmer. In spite of the superior knowledge of which he boasts he has already lost two bets to Rosher about the war. I wouldn't like to be one of his 'men', but he was interesting enough to meet.
Thursday, 20 February 2020
All secure in the hotel. But terrific wind beating on the south windows and general shaking. Female anxiety is apparent. I affect nonchalance to the extent of going out for a stroll in the dark. You then see hotels from the outside. Blocks of stone and yellow light, immensely secure. Very brilliant in lower stages. The consumption of power in this town has a sort of 'damn you' quality. Aquarium a cluster of lights with its absurd little tower. Moon in cloudy sky. Little crowds at two points on the pier an example of the herd mentality in action. vast sea of foam for 200 yards out. Rows of little people in the half-distance silhouetted like a long-toothed saw against this. I find the general look of these groups of people perhaps the most interesting. So small. Waves breaking over jetty and over Marine drive. Waves coming between jetty and pier, running along wall of jetty in a line like the curves of a long ropeshaken to imitate waves. Noise of naked shingles. Plenty of suffused light about. Sheet lightning from time to time.
I wrote 2,600 words of "Clayhanger" on Friday and about the same yesterday. Good words.
This morning I carried Mrs. Granville Barker's hot-water bottle onto the pier for her. I called on them in the evening and had a bit of a yarn. Barker told me some plots of plays he had produced. He said A. Schnitzler was the best writer of one act plays, and recounted the plot of "In a Hospital". I then had a great desire to write a big one-act play. The plot of "In a Hospital" as recounted by Barker was very striking.
Wednesday, 19 February 2020
This change of scene is doing me the world of good. The only question is whether I shall be able to go back to my former way of life. Swinnerton has impressed upon me, and he is correct, that my emotional decline was due to the constant stress and antagonism arising from my relationship with Marguerite. He hasn't said as much but I am sure he thinks we should separate, if not divorce. He is right about that as well, but can I bring myself to initiate such a course? What I would really like is for Marguerite to tell me she has had enough of marriage and wants to live by herself. Am I a moral coward? Of course I am!
I have painted five watercolours since coming here. They are not good, but I have done worse and it is the activity, not the end product that matters. We have had bad weather, even very bad, but with marvellous sunsets. The weather is now improving, the barometer is rising and this morning is beautiful. I am in excellent health and I dream a lot at night. I think that is good. It is as if I am ridding myself of negative feelings. This journey has given me back my taste for travel. I would like to travel more but what bothers me is having two unused establishments. It does bother me. It makes life too complicated and it is too expensive. If I didn't have domestic expenses it would be as cheap to travel as to stay at home.
The main drawback of this hotel is that there are doors between the bedrooms, which is annoying. I have very proper neighbours who read until late at night but never breathe a word. They are a man of 40 and his wife of 30 so I speculate that my presence through the dividing door must necessarily be inhibiting their conjugal activities. Unless they are carrying on in silence. Perhaps so. That might be quite erotic as I think about it. More likely though that they come up during the day and are content to read at night. Or that they don't do anything much. They are English after all!
Tuesday, 18 February 2020
We returned home this afternoon having spent a few days in Suffolk, which was extremely wet. Everywhere rivers had burst their banks, fields had become lakes, and some roads had become streams. All the result of weeks of storms and heavy rain in the south of England. Many people it seems are in despair following the inundation of their homes. Crossing a bridge, I saw a sign below saying: "Private Property - do not cross this fence". As a fact, no fence was visible. The sign protruded forlornly from a sheet of water and the property owner presumably was in occupation of the upper floors of his water-lapped house.
I bought "Autobiography of Mark Rutherford" and "Mark Rutherford's Deliverance" in 7d. editions at the station. Started reading the latter which is very impressive and original. Fine style, no scheme of construction. As a continuous narrative extraordinarily amateurish. The man had no notion of fiction. Full of wisdom and high things. For example:
"As I got older I became aware of the folly of this perpetual reaching after the future, and of drawing from to-morrow, and from to-morrow only, a reason for the joyfulness of to-day. I learned, when, alas! it was almost too late, to live in each moment as it passed over my head, believing that the sun as it is now rising is as good as it will ever be, and blinding myself as much as possible to what may follow. But when I was young I was the victim of that illusion, implanted for some purpose or other in us by Nature, which causes us, on the brightest morning in June, to think immediately of a brighter morning which is to come in July."
Middle-aged couple in our compartment. Well and quietly dressed. Upper class. Restrained. Extremely good natural and trained manners. The woman (35) especially was charming in her admirable breeding. Evidently wealthy. They talked in such a low tone that, although the articulation was perfectly clear, one did not hear unless one listened. After about an hour the woman, reading Daily Mail, said: "What is a tympani solo?" The man made a gesture of non-comprehension. She passed him the paper. He read the passage and made a scarcely perceptible sign of ignorance. "Don't you know?" she asked quietly. He repeated the sign - would not speak (as they were not alone). Her glance seemed to say to him: "Pardon me asking you such an outlandish impossible thing." She took back the Daily Mail. I felt that this was behaviour one could only expect to see in England. I remain unsure as to whether that is a good thing or not. I wonder what they made of us?
Monday, 17 February 2020
I am chiefly occupied with the stage. I give a considerable amount of time to the Lyric, Hammersmith, where money has been lost in my absence owing to the lavish expenditure. And I am also being drawn into the production part of "Judith". I say drawn in, but in fact I am happy to be involved though I feign reticence. For a start Lillah Mc Carthy is taking the title role and I very much look forward to close observation of her in a state of undress (as much as we can get away with - she seems keen) in the climactic scene. Lillah is much taken with the play and on Tuesday last we had a three hour meeting with Eaton and Drinkwater about the rest of the cast. I think Marguerite may be a little jealous of Lillah, which isn't a bad thing.
I finished Professor Arthur Keith's "The Human Body" (Home University Library). A thoroughly sound little book, rottenly written, even to bad syntax. It is strange that these experts, such as Keith and Sidney Webb, do not take the trouble to be efficient in their first business, the vehicle of expression. I was amazed, but shouldn't have been, as to how ignorant I am about the workings of the body. We simply take it for granted, until it goes wrong, and then all we want to do is to get right again. At the moment I feel well-informed but I know that the knowledge will soon fade and become faulty.
This morning though I was feeling very well indeed. We have had quite a storm over the weekend - heavy rain and high winds. Significant flooding in some places. So, out walking I stuck to the roads and made paths and breathed deeply, and cleared my head of the various problems and aggravations, professional and domestic, of life. It was good. I strode out and covered the best part of six miles in two hours. Tired and hungry when I got back, and slept well after lunch. Ready for anything (almost) now.