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

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Friday, 25 April 2014

Out of the war

Wednesday, April 25th., Yacht Club, London.

I wrote the last scene but one of "The Roll Call" today and was exhausted. Lunched alone at crowded Reform Club.

I walked down past Buckingham Palace this morning. Two naval petty officers outside in full fig, and their women. A police superintendent (?) and a policeman at gates. Former said to latter: "We'd better be getting 'em in," and then, to the sailors, "You decorations? Come on. Come along. Come on," curtly, as if they had done some deed suspicious, and not valorous. The sailors talked with their women for a few moments, and then went obediently within the precincts. They were two roughish, short, thick-set chaps. I wonder what they had done to earn their decorations?

Called at Reform Club, where I spent 40 minutes with Wells and an American journalist-lecturer-professor named Macdonald, over here for the New York Nation. Wells was talking about the after-war exacerbationary reaction on nerves, which would cause rows, quarrels, etc. unless it was consciously kept well in hand, and Macdonald said that a year or so after the San Francisco earthquake prominent S.F. men would disappear; they were in sanatoria, etc. Also lifelong friends, such as business partners, would quarrel over some trifle, each go to his solicitor, and never speak to one another again.

Additionally for April 25th., see 'In Arcadia'

Then begins a hundred mile drive across the Pelponnesus Peninsula to Nauplia. A crow would measure the distance as forty miles; the odd sixty are made up in loops and hair-pin turns. The scenery is consistently stupendous. This region is the original Arcadia, where the Athenian met the great god Pan and concluded a bargain with him. Considered as Arcadia the countryside is not in the least what it decently ought to be. A few small poplar trees of tender green, some olives, some cypresses, some belled goats, but in the main untilled and very desolate slopes! Plainly many groves must have vanished since Pan helped to win wars, because he could not possibly have stayed in a province which as it now stands must be excessively unsuited to the happiness of persons of the Pan temperament.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


Thursday, April 24th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Finished "War and Peace" on Tuesday. The last part of the Epilogue is full of good ideas the johnny can't work out. And of course, in the phrase of critics, would have been better left out. So it would; only Tolstoy couldn't leave it out. It was what he wrote the book for. The first part of the Epilogue is as good as anything. All that domesticity is superbly rendered, with a natural and yet ruthless vivacity. The Battle of Borodino is fine. The Rostov family is fine. And many of the 'set' descriptions of Russian life - such as the wolf-hunting on the Rostov estate. I wanted to write one of the same dimensions, and the final thrills of it did inspire me to a good basic scheme for the foundations of the third "Clayhanger".

I am just finishing instalment three of the Harper serial (out of eight). It is sound but not brilliant. Returns of "Great Adventure" at Kingsway going up. Over £150 a night now. Could scarcely be better.

The Velsa arrived at Brightlingsea from Ostend yesterday. We drove to Harwich yesterday afternoon, and saw the Gothenburg steamer. I wanted to go on it, but wasn't sure what country Gothenburg is in. 

Began to read correspondence of Flaubert yesterday. Letters at age of 9 and 10 are remarkable.

Finished "Cannibals of Finance" yesterday. A naive and rather impressive book, confirming one's view of the autocracy that rules U.S.A.

Finished also the Webbs' book on Highways. This is an absolutely efficient work.

Additionally for April 24th., see 'Understanding life'

The Webbs live in a house entirely constructed of Blue bricks, a marvel of ingenuity recalling the labours of beavers and coral insects. I get on very well with the Webbs but they do not understand (what I call) life. Squire, now editor of the New Statesman, wants me to gather material on the Russian situation. He also is an A1 chap. But he is a vegetarian & he doesn't understand life either. And either he or his wife doesn't understand shirts!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Moving around

Sunday, April 23rd., Whitehall Court, London.

Irene Rooke
I lost my notebook of the Potteries, and only began a new one two or three days before I left. On Tuesday the 11th. I went to Manchester to stay with Mair till Thursday. I met the usual fine crowd and also Stanley Houghton, who impressed me; and Irene Rooke, currently playing in Miss Horniman's company at the Gaiety, whom I liked; and in particular a certain Hughes, of Sherratt & Hughes, the largest booksellers in Manchester, who told me he had sold 950 copies of "Clayhanger", and over 400 of the cheap edition of "The Old Wives' Tale" in three weeks (I think).

Irene Rooke (1878 - 1958) was an English theatre and film actress from Bridport, Dorset, England.

Marguerite came to the Potteries on Thursday. On Saturday we went down Sneyd Deep Pit, and on Monday to Rode Heath. We came to London on Tuesday, and Marguerite went direct to Pinner. I came to Whitehall Court, and what with the Authors' Club, and the N.L.C. next door, and a fine bedroom on the 7th. storey, I ought to be comfortable.

I took up Hilda Lessways again on Thursday afternoon, and shall finish reading what I have written this morning. better than I expected. There are some smashing pages. If only I can give it a sufficiently brilliant ending! 

I met Rickards at the Cafe Royal where we had a good dinner in the most horrible atmosphere. He was expecting friends who did not arrive.  Later, there we were at the Palace music-hall to see the Russian dancers. Pavlova is really very good. She was dancing the dying swan when a feather fell off her dress. Two silent Englishmen. One says: "Moulting". That is all they say. The Galsworthys were there. Also a half-caste tart whom Rickards sleeps with at present. He says that she is very fine and that her shoulders are a very beautiful colour. I told him that I have always wanted to sleep with a negress. He offered me the half-caste. I took fright and went no further. We did not get into conversation either with the Galsworthys or with the whore. 
For more on Rickards see 'Eating companions'

I am talked about a great deal in this club. Indeed I am its star member. I constantly come across couples whispering: "He ... The Old Wives' Tale ... Very good ... Very fine". And they fall into embarrassed silence when I approach.

Max's caricature was reproduced in yesterday's Manchester Guardian. It is not very good.

Additionally for April 23rd., see 'Sailing East'

I didn't have a great deal of sleep, but felt that I had had enough sleep.
Sore throat which I might have cured if I could have stopped smoking; but I couldn't. The thing would have been much more serious to make me give up this habit even for a time.
I thought about an article on Syracuse; so soon I was determined to write it today.
I was chatting with the Chief Officer on the poop before 6 a.m. Perfect morning. Saw one sail, a brig, about ten miles to the north going westward. Saw nothing else all day. There was a slant of wind, and I reckon that the ship was making 3 or 4 knots under sail only. Four sails set, 2 topsails, 1 top stay-sail, the sky sail and three jibs.
Bridge has been played nearly the whole day. And it has been a simply magnificent day.
Captain Davies said that he was not a yacht-captain but a captain in a yacht. Well, the yacht shows it.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Great art

Thursday, April 22nd., Cadogan Square, London.

Headache all day, chiefly owing I think to the one and a half glasses of Pommeroy and Greno champagne that Beaverbrook gave me. At first I thought I could think (novel), but I couldn't. I meant to go out for an aimless walk, and then I saw that it was the private view of the Seurat pictures at the Lefebre Galleries, so I went there. The Seurat pictures want a lot of seeing to appreciate. In the big picture "Poseuses", one thing that strikes you is the loving patience of the execution - equalling Memling's, e.g. The pictures were badly framed, but according to Seurat's own ideas. 

Seurat, Les Poseuses
The Lefevre Gallery was established on 26th April 1926 by Mr Alex Reid and Monsieur Earnest Lefevre, two of the most eminent dealers in French Impressionist and Modern art in the United Kingdom at the time. Its first premises were in King Street, St. James’s; eventually moving to Bruton Street, London until its closure in April 2002. Alex Reid had been trained in Paris with Theo van Gogh at Broussod and Valadon and had lodged with Theo’s brother Vincent; there he was first introduced to Impressionist paintings. Between 1889 and 1926, he dealt from his gallery in Glasgow and then moved to London. On joining forces with his main competitor Lefevre, the gallery began life and he sent his son A.J. McNeil Reid to run the show. The gallery continued to exhibit Impressionist and Modern art, with such groundbreaking shows as 'George Seurat' in May 1926, ‘Henri Matisse’ in June 1927, ‘Degas’ June 1928, ‘Modigliani’ in March 1929, ‘Pablo Picasso’ in June 1931, ‘Renoir’ June 1935, ‘Cezanne’, July 1935, ‘Dali’June/July 1936, ‘Francis Bacon’ in 1945, ‘Calder’ in January 1951, ‘Balthus’ in January 1952, ‘Kandinski’ in 1972, 'The Complete Sculptures' of Degas in 1976, Picasso Sketchbooks in 1994 and many others.

Then I walked down Piccadilly criticising new architecture, to the Yacht Club, where Eric Pinker lunched with me, and gave me news about myself and my market. He had hopes of a play or so being sold. 

I am soon to be sixty and yet I still need to work relentlessly to maintain my style of life. Why? Partly it is habit, and I have expensive women to keep, and I have come to feel it is somehow expected of me. The lifestyle has become part of my identity. But of course I do like all the attention and excitement. I doubt that I will ever be able to step-back into a more modest way of living which would allow me more time to myself.

Then I went to the New Gallery to see the new Jannings film, "Vaudeville". It is very fine, despite a simple and rather crude story. All the pictures make 'designed pictures'. I should say the prisoners' exercise was inspired by Van Gogh. Even the empty interiors are like Cezanne. The close-ups are wonderful in design. This is where Charlie Chaplin is utterly beaten by the German film. Jannings is an exceedingly fine actor too and puts Jack Barrymore right under. The film lasted ninety minutes without a break. I should have liked a break.

Varieté / Variety / Vaudeville is a silent German film directed by E.A. Dupont and starring Emil Jannings and Lya de Putti. Originally premiering in Berlin at the end of November 1925, it was a UFA production noted for innovative camera work and a risque, melodramatic storyline. Two inmates are on their break in the jail courtyard when one of them, Boss (Emil Jannings), is called to the director's office. Boss' wife has appealed his case, asking for a pardon. Sentenced for murder, Boss has been in prison for ten years, but he has never revealed the motives of his crime. Finally, he explains what happened back then. He used to be a famous trapeze artist, but after a horrible accident he can no longer perform. His will broken, he scrapes through life as the owner of a show booth in Hamburg's St. Pauli district. One day, a sailor brings a beautiful young dancer to his booth. Boss falls in love with the sultry Berta-Marie (Lya de Putti) and leaves his wife and child for her. Together, they get jobs with another circus performer and enjoy great success as a trio. But when Boss finds out that Berta-Marie is betraying him with their partner, he kills his rival and reports himself to the police. After ten years, Boss is released. In this picture there is a marvellous wealth of detail; the lighting effects and camera work cause one to reflect that occasionally the screen may be connected with art. While there may be some speculation concerning the appeal of this striking piece of work there is no doubt regarding its merit. Scene after scene unlocks a flood of thoughts, and although the nature of the principal characters is far from pleasing; the glimpses one obtains are so true to life that they are not repellent. Emil Jannings fills the principal rôle and is theatric at times, but his performance is a masterly one.

Additionally for April 22nd., see 'Lunch with the Great Beast'

In response to a telegram I went to lunch with Aleister Crowley and his wife (Kelly's sister) today at Paillard's. he had been made a 'Khan' in the East, and was wearing a heavily jewelled red waistcoat, and the largest ring I ever saw on a human hand. I rather liked him. He said some brain specialist had told him that what made a great brain was not the number of facts or ideas known, but the number of facts or ideas co-ordinated or co-related. I said: "Of course."

Monday, 21 April 2014


Monday, April 21st., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

We went to London on Thursday. I for dinner at Omar Khayyam Club. Interview with Pinker who lunched with me, and told me privately of his scheme for increasing dramatists' royalties according to length of run. This at Reform Club.

Exhibition of Max Beerbohm's cartoons at Leicester Galleries. Crowd. I was at once recognised  - with a certain lack of politeness - by two men. I was ill all day. Probably liver - anyhow pains in back - very mysterious and disconcerting. Bad night. Same illness on Friday complicated by dyspepsia. I went to Leicester Galleries and bought my caricature. Then to Agnew Galleries to see alleged finest collection of watercolours by Turner ever got together. I thought both the Blue and the Red Righi rather over-praised, and I preferred the "Scarborough" picture - marvellous microscopic figures of women in the foreground. A few loud-voiced English upper-classes patronisingly present. This show superb, but still I left it with slight disappointment - a flat feeling, a suspicion of prettiness and academicism. Perhaps, had I been feeling better, my pleasure in the show would have been enhanced.

Lunch alone at Reform. Ill.

Additionally for April 21st., see 'Illumination in Syracuse'

I knew nothing of The Clouds except its title and the outline of its plot. My mind was a clean slate. The first impression was not good, for I certainly could not admire the scenic background. But as soon as the piece actually began, within two minutes of the opening, I had the exciting joy of new perceptions about classical drama. Obviously the thing was being very well done. I could hear every word plainly across a space of some seventy five yards - and in the open! (Oh, West End of London, where I must strain my ears at a distance of ten yards and withal be resigned to miss much!) The austere simplicity of the construction of the play, the rise and fall of its emotion, its disdain of what we call realism, and its respect for that truth which the West End of London will not tolerate save under compulsion - these matters were rendered movingly plain to me.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Machine Stops

Friday, April 20th., Cadogan Square, London.

I walked to Dr. Griffin's to have my heart examined. He told me he had "no fault whatever to find" with my heart. Also that my arteries were those of a man of 40, and my blood pressure just a trifle below normal. I had the examination solely to satisfy Dorothy.

E. M. Forster has a new volume of short stories, "The Eternal Moment", which can only fortify his reputation as an imaginative writer. It comprises remarkable things and one quite startling thing - "The Machine Stops". This tale, of the far future, is in the vein of H. G. Wells when he is fantastic. I think that if Wells had not written "When the Sleeper Awakes" and "Tales of Space and Time", etc., etc., it would never have occurred to Forster to write "The Machine Stops". Mr. Forster has done the fantastic before but never with such complete success. Indeed Mr. Wells might have been content to sign "The Machine Stops".

It is original; it is full of imaginative invention; it hangs together; it is terrible (but with a hopeful close); it is really impressive in a very high degree. It ought not to be missed. If the majority of readers who like this sort of story are not enthusiastic about "The Machine Stops", then I will enter a retreat for critics who have prophesied falsely, and in future write nothing but reviews of seventeenth century versifiers whom nobody except their editors has ever heard of. The title of the book itself is the title of the last story, and one may surmise therefore that this story is the author's favourite. If so, I disagree with the verdict of the author, though "The Eternal Moment" is fine and extremely subtle. The whole small volume (half a dozen tales) is excellent.

Additionally for April 20th., see 'Getting it right'

Yesterday I began to think that the tone of the end of my novel wouldn't do.
So, I spent the day, exhausted, partly in dozing and reading, and one and a half hours at barbers, and generally thinking over climax, which I ultimately got right.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Famous in Florence

Tuesday, April 19th., Pension White, Florence.

By dint of taking one room in the Uffizzi and resolving to look at every picture in it without exception, I saw things I should never have seen otherwise. Including an Adam & Eve of Cranach not specially remarked in Baedeker, and skied. In another room I discovered for myself the exceeding beauty of the small Dutch pictures.

Adam and Eve is a double painting by German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach the Elder, dating from 1528, housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Italy. The two biblical ancestors are portrayed, in two different panels, on a dark background, standing on a barely visible ground. Both hold two small branches which cover their sexual organs. Eve holds the traditional apple, with the snake coming to her from above from the tree of life. Adam is shown in a relaxed posture, his right elbow lying on the left border of his panel.

A complete change in the weather. Sunshine quite blinding, and yet a wind-chill in the shadows. I did three full hours on "Clayhanger" before breakfast, and was then exhausted for the day. Disgusted with my sketching.

I saw the town between 5 and 6 and had a drink in the Piazza Signoria. It is agreeable to be able to contemplate the Perseus of Cellini while drinking a quina-vermouth. 

At Vieusseux's library, on changing my book this afternoon, the attendant said it was known in Florence, Florence being a cosmopolitan place, that A.B. the author was staying in the town. He then became enthusiastic about the demand for my books, & lyrical about the number of Tauchnitz copies of them that Vieusseux possessed. He said he knew them all from the first, "The Grand Babylon Hotel", and to prove his bona fides he began reeling off the Tauchnitz series numbers of them. So I rewarded him by shaking hands with him, whereat he was well content.

The Gabinetto Scientifico Letterario G. P. Vieusseux, founded in 1819 by Giovan Pietro Vieusseux, a merchant fromGeneva, is a library in Florence, Italy. It played a vital role in linking the culture of Italy with that of other European countries in the 19th century, and also became one of the chief reference points for the Risorgimento movement. It began as a reading room that provided leading European periodicals for Florentines and visitors from abroad in a setting that encouraged conversation and the exchange of ideas. A circulating library with the latest publications in Italian, French and English was installed next to the reading room.

Additionally for April 19th., see 'Kaiser in the offing'

Dr. Slimon reports to me that at the meeting of Chairmen of Emergency Committees and Military Representatives at Chelmsford on Friday, which I could not attend, under the chairmanship of General Paget, Paget insisted on the strong probability of an invasion between Harwich and Maldon in July or August.
The naval opinion at Harwich, I hear, is that Harwich Flotilla could not deal with the covering ships of an invading force, and that, so far as the Navy was concerned, the force would land, and the convoy be taken in the rear. It is also said that the German submarines are trying to  mine the course of the proposed expedition, and that we are sweeping their mines and mining contra.