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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.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Americans

Wednesday, December 13th., Cadogan Square, London.

Though I have sinned in that way myself quite a number of times in the last twenty years, I still object to authors writing prefaces, forewords, or introductions to the books of other (living) authors. A book should not be led into the ring like a performing horse at the circus. Nevertheless I do take notice of prefaces etc. The names of certain introducers would inhibit me from ever opening a book introduced by them. The names of other introducers, on the contrary, fascinate me as a snake is (falsely) reported to fascinate a bird.

T.S. Eliot has recently prefaced a book called "This American World" by Edgar Mowrer. Mr. Eliot is American, but probably less so than any American now on earth. Henry James was less American than Mr. Eliot, but carried his Europeanisation to excess. He was more European than Europeans. To be more royalist than the king implies a lack of tact.

Image result for mowrer american worldMr. Eliot is a fine poet and also a fine critic, if dry and over-dispassionate. There must be something in any book that he ceremonially sponsors. And there is a great deal in "This American World". Indeed it is one of the most enlightening and frankest books on American psychology that I have ever read; and, apart from a few too perky brightnesses, it is well written. I may say that if a European author of reputation had said half as much as Mr. Mowrer says in criticism of the American mind, international complications would have quickly ensued. Mr. Mowrer prophesies that American ideals will ultimately rule the entire world. I think he may be right.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Brutish indulgence

Tuesday, December 12th., Cadogan Square, London.

If a set of young men from the East End or from some provincial centre of Association football had gone in mass formation to Twickenham football ground last Monday, and by force and rowdyism rendered impossible the playing of the inter-Varsity match, there would have been a loud outcry in the papers, and in all polite circles, against their ill-mannered lawlessness. The police courts would have been densely populated next morning, and the non-payment of fines imposed would have ended in many doses of imprisonment.

Yet such conduct would have been no worse than the conduct, on that same day, of undergraduates from our ancient universities, which conduct began with processions on the tops of dining tables in fashionable restaurants and ended in the breaking up of a performance in at least one West End theatre. And which conduct occupied only a few inches of space in the papers and was forgotten by an enlightened public in less than twenty four hours. It was generally understood that university rowdyism in London had been finished for ever by certain outrageous destructive antics last year. Not so.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If years of education at public schools and universities result in exhibitions of loutish violence which have no equal in Great Britain, what are we to think of the real value of such education? Whatever young men (and increasingly young women) are taught at universities, they are not effectively taught either decency or good manners, or self-control, or respect for the elementary social rights of others. They apparently are taught to behave like savages, and to be proud of it. The immediate cause of these disgraces is of course simple drunkenness, senseless and brutish indulgence in alcohol. The excuse offered for the youths is that they are young. Which plainly implies a theory that we ought not to expect citizens to be decent, civilised and law-abiding until they have reached the age of at least twenty one. Is this a tenable theory?

It is the sheer hypocrisy which annoys me most. We live in a country which is deeply divided along class lines, and that division is maintained by the organs of government, religion and the press. The 'entitled' have the best of everything, and the rest do what they can with the crumbs. Surely it would not be unreasonable to expect the toffs to demonstrate their superiority by behaving decently? I don't advocate revolution but just occasionally I wish that something would upset the status quo.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Fallen heroes

Saturday, December 11th., 12B George Street, London.

Yesterday lunch with Thomas Vaughan, partner in god knows how many theatres, Marguerite and Gilbert Miller also. This lunch must have cost Tommy £10. The beefsteak was a failure.

Last night a dinner, organised by Albert Rutherston to Nigel Playfair, to mark his departure to the U.S.A. to produce "The Beggar's Opera" there. Milne was in the chair and made a brilliant sort of speech full of jokes proposing Nigel's health. The speeches were too few, and too short, and after them there was an anticlimax.

This morning at 12.30 I finished the writing of my first film. I have temporarily called it "The Wedding Dress". It has taken 25 days, out of which I was ill on 7 days and did nothing whatever. I should estimate that the MS is about 10,000 words. I heard recently that Shaw had received a film offer of £10,000 per original film, he to furnish two films a year. I was told that he intended to accept. I would. It strikes me that films may be the future for writers who are less concerned for their artistic integrity and more for their bank balance. That said, it is early days; who can say whether, in the future as the medium develops, films will not be seen as works of art in their own right.

I am taking an interest in a scheme to help disabled soldiers and am trying to involve Lord Rothermere. I am a sort of intermediary on behalf of Reeves-Smith, the managing director of the Savoy Company, and Alfred Scott and his wife. If I can persuade the Mirror (through Rothermere) to get involved then the prospects are good. Since the war ended I have been trying off and on to raise the public's awareness of the difficulties faced by disabled ex-soldiers. They are thrown on the world not because the state has done all it can or ought to do for them, but because the army has no further use for them. After being called heroes in the newspapers they are dismissed from the service of the state while the nation is still in their debt.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Intimations of mortality

Sunday, December 9th., 97, Chiltern Court, London.

Image result for chiltern court londonI like it here. I have been sleeping better than I have for ages. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Dorothy. She claims that vibrations from the underground (we are above Baker Street station) are disturbing her at night. She told Frank Swinnerton that the vibrations "go right up my rectum". Interesting turn of phrase. I regret to say that, in my opinion, she is oversensitive; highly strung. To be honest it is getting on my nerves. She was the one who spotted this flat in the first place, and now she wants to move. Something is being done here every day to make the place more to our liking, but things always remain to be done. I hesitate to estimate the cost. I've only had one or two bills yet. The affair is like a diarrhoea of money.


I have been thinking about mortality and Prospero's words in Act 5 of "The Tempest" came to mind:

Go quick away: the story of my life

And the particular accidents gone by

Since I came to this isle. And in the morn

I’ll bring you to your ship and so to Naples...
And thence retire me to my Milan, where

Every third thought shall be my grave.

I had to look it up to get the words right. But they speak to me now, in my sixties, as never before. How quickly my life seems to have passed. And I find myself thinking often about death. Not in a self-pitying, negative sort of way; I don't fear death, it is the dying that bothers me a bit. I feel that I could face death with equanimity if only I could be sure that it would be pretty quick. It is the thought of steady decline, failing health, brain softening and eventual dependance that upsets me when I think about it. My intention is to take poison when I feel the time is right, but how to judge? And should I tell my family? I have told them of my intention but I'm not sure they believe it. The question is whether or not I should tell them the time has come, or just do it. I think overall the latter is best.

Last week I was at Ethel Sands' and had a great pow-wow with Virginia Woolf. Other guests held their breath to listen to us. Virginia is alright (as high-brows go!). She taunted me with believing her to be 'refined'. Well, if she isn't refined then I don't know who is.


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Justice dispensed

Thursday, December 9th., 179 Waterloo Road, Burslem.


Yesterday I sat with Dawson and Cartledge on the magistrates bench. I made some notes. One hopeless case showing the criminality of the criminal system. A woman who had been in and out of prison since 1876 (when I was nine!), and she got another month. Probably she is inured to the system by now and really knows nothing else, but surely something could have been done all those years ago to divert her from this waste of a life. No doubt drink has become a factor and yet I feel confident that it is a consequence, not a cause. If someone took the trouble to really dig into her past, the circumstances of her birth and childhood, I would bet that the odds were stacked against her from the start.

I didn't really want to sit up on the bench. The body of the court would have been fine for me, if not better, but Dawson insisted and he is my primary source of information for "Clayhanger". He is a decent man, and so seems Cartledge, but how pompous and self-righteous they appear when hearing the cases and doling out punishments. It is not for me. Of course the Sentinel reported that I had been on the bench. They would.

Image result for "Grand Theatre" Hanley historyI was at the dentist on Tuesday and now have a gold filling. The gold shines in my mouth. I suppose I will get used to it. I am picking up a lot of useful material and getting ideas. I went to the Grand after dinner yesterday and was profoundly struck by all sorts of things but especially the clog dancing. Its significance had never occurred to me before. I thionk I could do something on it for the Nation. And maybe I could work somthing into "Clayhanger". Towards the end I came across Warwick Savage and walked home with him. This was a pity because I had got into an extraordinary vein of 'second sight'. I perceived whole chapters. Of all the stuff I made sufficient notes.

Enthusiastic letter from Lee Matthews about the play. Let us hope that his enthusiasm is well founded.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Jaegerish

Image result for J C Squire "new statesman"Monday, December 8th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

I finished the second yachting article for the Century on Friday afternoon. Saturday morning je bricolais, arranging books etc. Enjoyable. Something I don't do often enough. There are few things in life more satisfying than arranging one's books.

J.C. Squire came on Saturday. Long hair, Jaegerishly dressed. But sound, competent, honest in argument. He was highly in favour of Webbs etc., and said the New Statesman was going on excellently, as to finance. He is from a wealthy background, but joined the Social Democratic Foundation which had been led by figures like Eleanor Marx. He met his wife through the SDF. At the time New Statesman was launched, he was a working literary journalist, and he became its first literary editor. He could not appreciate Tailhade's verse. Left this morning. Very Jaegerish.

To day I went to Dereham in Norfolk to take possession of a Fitzroy barometer I had ordered from a scientific instrument maker there. I went myself, on invitation, so as to see over the factory, and it was extremely interesting. All the parts of the barometer are made there, and there is a 'shop' for each part of the process - wood, brass, glass, packing etc. The general manager told me he had started as a civil engineer but had been in the scientific instrument business for over 30 years. Clearly very proud of the standard of workmanship in his factory. And quite right to be. It is a beautiful instrument as well as being useful. I shall enjoy checking it every day when I am home.


Thursday, 7 December 2017

Newspapers

Image result for beaverbrook express
Beaverbrook
Thursday, December 7th., Cadogan Square, London.

Max recently bought the Evening Standard and I have hopes that he will make something of it. I wrote recently offering him a few suggestions. But what concerns me at the moment is the Express and I am gathering my thoughts to write about that.

The fact is that I can't understand the paper's current policy, nor do I know anybody who can. It seems that the editorship (Max?) have conceived two policies, and haven't chosen between them. No doubt Max would say they are not mutually exclusive, and perhaps they are not, but I doubt that it is politic to run two war-cries side by side. They have an 'Imperial' policy and an 'anti-labour' policy and in order to back the latter they encourage voters in certain circumstances to vote against the former. Quite possibly there is a third unstated policy which is to bring down Baldwin at any cost.

I don't think that the Express has yet justified its Imperial policy. For example they have not disposed of the British criticism that the colonies want something for nothing, or something positive in exchange for something highly problematical. Nor have they answered the criticism that Colonial preference will still the retail price of goods affected by it just as high as if there were no Colonial preference. Nor have they done anything to soften the British impression (doubtless false) that the colonies are a damned grasping lot of coves.

I may also mention headlines. Considering that they have an immense psychological effect I think the Express should be handling its headlines better than it has been of late. As for the Daily Mail, I can remember in the popular press no such sustained exhibition of dishonest fatuity as it has given to the world during the last fortnight.