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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.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Ennui

Friday, September 2nd., Les Sablons.

I did no work since Monday.

On Tuesday I went to Paris. Lunch at Martin's (his cousin Eugene was there). I met Lee Mathews at Hotel St. James at 6.10. We discussed plays and his projects till 7.20. Caught 7.55 home, for  bread and milk at 9 p.m. I bought nothing.
See also, 'French excursion' - 
September 24th., http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/friday-september-24th.html

Couldn't work next day or yesterday. Not sure why. Sometimes one is oppressed by a sense of pointlessness; why make another effort, or even exert oneself to be pleasant? Fortunately, with experience comes the knowledge that the feeling will pass and life will resume its normal optimistic course. In the meantime go through the motions.
So, I resumed "Seeing Life in Paris" this morning, and did 1,200 words.
Yesterday afternoon I just did a New Age article. 

By first post I received news that Pinker could sell serial use of "The Honeymoon" toMcClure's Magazine for £200. I cabled to accept, provided dramatic rights not jeopardised.

Additionally for September 2nd., see 'Death by drowning' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/death-by-drowning.html

"Received a letter from my mother today (dated August 30th.) informing me of the death by drowning of my sister Tertia's fiance, Willie Boulton."

Monday, 1 September 2014

Home?

Saturday, September 1st., Comarques.

Comarques, where I lived for some years, is a Queen Anne House , in pale red brick, delightfully situated in a large garden in the country in a quiet corner of Essex. 
I once wrote to Mrs Herzog, an American friend, that "we now possess an early Queen Anne house near the Essex coast and in February are going to install ourselves there definitely for everlasting; our deaths will one day cause a sensation in the village which we shall dominate, and the English villagers and gentry will wonder, as they stroll through the deserted house, why the madman had three bathrooms in a home so small; they will not know that it was due solely to a visit to the USA ..."
Regrettably, my talent as a clairvoyant was not nearly as great as my talent as a writer!


Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken. The door at the rear of the house is covered by a moulded canopy
with an inscribed plaque reading ‘Enoch Arnold Bennett, Author lived here 1913 – 1921.

I took a month's holiday ending yesterday. We went to spend two days at the Schusters during it, and I saw the first batch of the American Army from the windows of the Yacht Club.

American soldiers in France 1918
During World War I, the first 14,000 U.S. infantry troops landed in France at the port of Saint Nazaire. The landing site had been kept secret because of the menace of German submarines, but by the time the Americans had lined up to take their first salute on French soil, an enthusiastic crowd had gathered to welcome them. However, the "Doughboys," as the British referred to the green American troops, were untrained, ill-equipped, and far from ready for the difficulties of fighting along the Western Front.

Health not very good during it, but a distinct benefit as regards the outlook on work actually in progress. I made some advance in watercolours, and more still in monotypes. 
One of my landscapes
I didn't read a lot. Hardy's "Pair of Blue Eyes", full of fine things and immensely sardonic. Last month I dined at Barrie's in London with Thomas Hardy and his wife. Hardy was very lively, talked like anything! He has all his faculties unimpaired. Quite modest and without the slightest pose. Later G.B. Shaw and the Wellses came and Hardy seemed to curl up from fatigue. He became quite silent. The spectacle of Wells and GBS talking firmly and strongly about the war, in their comparative youth, in front of this aged, fatigued and silent man - incomparably their superior as a creative artist - was very striking.

Also read Murray on Euripides - formless but gradually getting at something. 

Reminiscences of Tagore - good. 

"Duchesse de Langeais", quite a major work, which thoroughly held me.

La Duchesse de Langeais is an 1834 novel by French author Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) and included in the Scènes de la vie parisienne section of his novel sequence La Comédie humaine. It is part of his 1839 trilogy Histoire des treize: Ferragus is the first part, Part Two is La Duchesse de Langeais and Part Three is The Girl with the Golden Eyes. It first appeared in 1834 under the title Ne touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe) in the periodical L'Écho de la Jeune France.

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

Introspection

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.