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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.
Friday, 29 March 2019
Tuesday, 26 March 2019
I don't think I will continue with "The Accident" until after my Greek cruise. I haven't got the ideas very clear yet for Part II, and there is no hurry. And I have heaps of other work to do. I might do two short stories beside all my articles by Good Friday. And I could return to the novel with a fresh mind on my return. I think it might make a radical difference to the end of the novel. I have speculated before that the context (psychological) in which one writes makes a difference to the 'tone' of the writing. This is now decided.
I have been sleeping better lately. The other night I had 6 hours unbroken. Felt quite groggy when I woke up, but definitely beneficial. Last night was only fair, vitiated by over-smoking. However at the end I received from God, or somewhere, just over two and a half hours of unbroken sleep, and at 5.45 accordingly felt restored to health. So much so that before dressing I wrote a little opinion, at the request of the Sunday Express, about the pirating of Joyce's "Ulysses" by one Samuel Roth. Into this I contrived to insinuate the opinion that Joyce is a very important figure in the evolution of the novel.
Tomorrow I start for Greece, hoping for some warmth, some wine, and a complete change of scene.
Monday, 25 March 2019
I spent a lot of yesterday afternoon in the Louvre picture galleries trying to get into a frame of mind sufficiently large and expansive for the creation of the central idea for my sensational romance. Many would-be artists copying. The chief result was a bad nervous headache, which did not, however, prevent me from eating well. I went to bed at 10, and had the idea for the 'scene' of the book in the middle of the night. How does this happen I wonder? Is part of our brain still working on a problem whilst we are otherwise asleep? Or perhaps more likely the total relaxation of sleep results in a sort of vacuum of the mind which is instantaneously filled by an idea as we turn our first thought back to the problem.
Just now I am spending several days in the utmost tranquility. I have gradually seen that my sensational yarn must be something remarkably out of the common, and therefore I must take the greatest care over the conception. I found that ideas for it did not come easily. I did not nowever force them. Then I had the idea for the 'scene' of the book. Then I thought I would buy and read Gaboriau's "Le Crime d'Orcival", of which I have heard so much, and see whether that would conduce to a 'flow' in me, as Balzac always does. It did, at once.
It is I think the best elaborate long detective story that I have read. It contains much solid and serious stuff, is extremely ingenious and well-planned, and has real imagination. I have been reading this during the day and correcting proofs at night. My sensational work does not and would not in the least resemble Gaboriau's, and yet Gaboriau has filled me with big epic ideas for fundamental plot - exactly what I wanted. The central theme must be big, and it will be; all the rest is mere ingenuity, wit and skill. I have not yet finished reading the Gaboriau book. I read it and think of nothing, not asking notions to come; but they come and I am obliged to note them down.
The weather being extremely uncertain I have been unable to go out much, and so my existence has been quite extraordinarily placid. I go to bed one night, and then the next night, and there seems scarcely five minutes in between. Of course I am alone here in Paris, and I doubt anyone would notice my absence if I continued my 'hermit' existence. Quite comforting in a way. Also liberating. Suppose I conceived a crime and carried it out. Perhaps to carry out a crime isn't so dissimilar from constructing a plot for a book once the original conception is made. Perhaps I have read too much Gaboriau!
Sunday, 24 March 2019
Arrival of four books today ordered from the Mercure de France, nicely bound. Astonishing how much simple and perfect joy can be bought for 15 fr. 60 c.! The anticipatory pleasure of unwrapping the parcel is almost worth that. And then to caress and smell the books ... I don't buy half enough books! Marguerite asked me today, playfully, how I would choose if the choice was between her and new books. I gave her the answer she wanted of course. The real answer I kept to myself.
My "Books and Persons" articles are just starting in the New Age. I am using the pseudonym Jacob Tonson. "Buried Alive" is to be published soon. I have struck into a golden vein of productivity.
Fine walks in the forest. Sunshine. Warmth. Cutting new books. A good patch of "The Old Wives' Tale". Disgust at the opposition lying in the Peckham election. Great fun in reading the account of the 200 million franc krach by a financial swindler in all the papers today. Another slice of my article on London stage. Embroidery design for Marguerite. Thus my day.
Saturday, 23 March 2019
We brought Knoblock to town yesterday morning in the car. Previously I had got rid of the temporary cook, who only arrived on Saturday - drunkard! Increasingly difficult to manage things at Comarques and do my work. Especially as Marguerite seems to find problems everywhere she looks. I think she forgets that there is a war on.
I had lunch at the Reform where I met Clutton-Brook. We had a good talk. I think he is the most educated person, except perhaps H.G., that I have yet met. I stayed in all afternoon reading Hueffer's "When Blood is Their Argument", which is not good.
Then to the premiere of Barrie's revue "Rosie Rapture" which was good here and there, but conventional. Not very well received though tons of flowers for Gaby Deslys at the end. Apparently Barrie wrote it specially for Deslys who seems to me better noted for her physical charms than for her histrionic talents. I must admit she has rather shapely legs. Apparently she was making $4,000 a week in the U.S.A. before the war. Gordon Selfridge, who is known to be having an affaire with Deslys, was in a box with his family. Bit rich I thought. On entering the theatre I was greeted by cries in the pit of my name. I think this never before happened to me. I was rather put about but tried to appear nonchalant. Much difficulty in getting car after the show. Wet night.
Also met Vedrenne, Algar Thorold, Spencer and Charlton, editor of Sunday Pictorial, who said he was, and really seemed to be, very pleased with my article last week. He said that circulation of their second number was a million and a half. Probably an exaggeration, but I couldn't help feeling impressed. Good news for me in any case.
Friday, 22 March 2019
According to the Swedish betting, this is the day, at the latest, on which the German Fleet ought to come out. Strange thing to bet on. Wonder if any of the German admirals have money down?
I received a letter from General Martin, Chief Military Representative for Essex Emergency Committee in case of invasion, this morning asking me to give him a few more copies of the Tendring Division Instructions, drawn up by me, to be used as a guide for other Divisions. I thought ours were very late, seeing that the W.O. Instructions were revised over six months ago. Also it seems strange that the W.O. should depend on the chance of the Instructions in one Division being competently drawn up, for the example of others. You would have thought that the Central Emergency Committee would have drawn up a model set of Instructions. However the letter shows that literary merit is appreciated, even in military circles.
I am working hard to keep the Wounded Allies Relief Committee in funds, though the difficulty of doing so increases every week. General appeals to the British public are now become almost useless. I have obtained over £5,000 out of the U.S. public and believe there is potential for a great deal more if I can hit on the best way. To that end I am sending some pamphlets to Mrs Herzog, my primary contact in America, in hope that she will be able to do more on the spot than I can do at a distance. She is a most determined lady
My liver is even worse than usual at the moment. In fact the doctor came to see me today. It was not my own doctor who is in bed with asthma brought on by overwork. He sent a locum who is a Medical Officer on sick leave from the Front. He has had inflammation of the small intestine for a year and cannot cure himself, so I am not too hopeful that he will be able to help me.
Thursday, 21 March 2019
I went to see Docteur L. yesterday. He has a flat on the entresol in the Rue Marboeuf, en plein quartier chic. The door was opened by a rather agreeable girl who politely picked up a pencil which I dropped. She showed me into a fairly spacious waiting-room horribly and characteristically furnished. A crimson plushy carpet all over the floor, a set of chairs and a sofa all in their housses; a modern Louis XVl table richly gilt and fairly well made, bearing old copies of L'Illustration and La Vie en Plein Air. A huge lamp standard in a corner; a piano with draped back; a column surmounted by a specimen of art nouveau statuary; to wit a withered tree, with a huge rock near it, the rock cut in the form of a face, as big as the tree - all in bronze. Two pairs of double doors heavily draped. Odd statuettes and signed photographs of men. I would have preferred to have spent the waiting time in company with the young woman but she did not re-appear. Her role in the establishment did not become clear.
The doctor surprised me by appearing through doors where I had not expected him. A man about 30, hair and beard sticking out, slightly stiff in manner but improving later. Beyond muttering the word "Vallee" he made no reference to the introduction which I had to him. He evidently sprang from the lower middle-class and was unable to rely on his manners.
He took me into his consulting room, a room more frankly and awfully art nouveau than the waiting-room, but less distressing because it was all in one scheme and showed some sense of design. I soon found that he knew his business; but with that he proved to be somewhat vain and self-important. he wrote out his prescription at excessive length, and drew me the design of a canule. He couldn't help referring to that design twice afterwards, as it were fishing for praise of his ability to draw at all. However he was extremely practical. I should say he would be a brute in hospital and a brute with women. But in some ways I did not dislike him. He is an arriviste and quite young.
It was an odd consultation. I was somewhat embarrassed and pretty stiff myself. I must have seemed rather foolish to him, a stereotypical Englishman in Paris. I know that I can appear to be pompous and prickly; several friends have hinted as much. I find myself immediately on my guard with strangers, especially men of my own age, and engage in a pointless verbal fencing match which does me no favours at all. I am better with women. Or perhaps they are just more tolerant.