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


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Monday, 31 December 2012

A quiet year?

Monday, December 31st., Hotel du Rhin, Paris.

A material year. Largely occupied with intestinal failure and worldly success. By Chetham Strode's direct treatment of massage and vibration I am now almost cured of intestinal caprices, but I shall ever be feeble in that quarter.
All my five later plays have been performed this year. About 1,155 performances altogether. I received (less agents commissions) about £16,000 during the year, which may be called success by any worldly-minded author. It is apparently about as much as I had earned during all the previous part of my life. And I bought a car and a yacht and arranged to buy a house.
We came to Paris to finish the year, after I had written one quarter of my serial story for Harpers. This gave me the chance to heighten the plane of the rest of the novel. We stay at the Hotel du Rhin, and pay 50frs. a day for a fine ground-floor flat. Most exhausting holiday, in spite of the extreme excellence of the food in this hotel.
Gold scarce in Paris, on account of Balkan War and on account of fear of a big war in the spring. Nearly all change given in silver.
I wrote a comparatively few words during the year. About as follows: "The Regent" 80,000. "Those United States" 35,000. Harper's serial 25,000. Articles 20,000. Total 160,000 without counting Yacht Log, Journal and a fair quantity of notes. Possibly 200,000 in all. But then between April 1st and October 1st I did practically nothing.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Back to Burslem

Friday, December 30th., Burslem.

I left Paris last Wednesday week, and stayed two nights with Wells. I read the typescript of the first part of his new novel "The Comet". He said that his financial position was becoming more and more secure.


In the Days of the Comet "William “Willie” Leadford is a brash and rebellious young socialist smitten with a young woman named Nettie, whom he has grown up knowing since childhood. Both are a part of the English lower classes at the dawn of the 20th century at a time when England and Germany have gone to war. As the story unfolds a comet has been observed on a collision course with the Earth. More distressing to Willie, Nettie has run off with another man named Verrall. Willie, still living at home with his mother whom he treats poorly, is enraged and vows to take revenge on the runaway couple. After days of fruitless searching he comes upon the young couple and suddenly begins firing off shots and running after them as they flee. Just before catching up to the lovers, Willie trips and falls unconscious. The comet has smashed into the Earth and a green vapour is released putting everyone to sleep until three hours later when the change in the atmosphere has dissipated. The world awakens in an altered state. Humankind has a new socialist view on life and strives now to create a utopian order by righting the wrongs of the past. The war between Germany and Britain is immediately ceased. Soldiers can't even remember why they are lying on the ground with rifles next to them! Slums are being torn down to make way for safe and humane housing for the poor under-class. Several days later Willie comes upon Verrall and Nettie admitting his previous anger and rage. All is forgiven and Nettie even suggests she share the two men in her life rather than have to do without either one. Willie however, now feeling empathy and love for his mother, returns home to be with her. Life is now peaceful and everyone is equal to one another thanks to the effects of the comet's collision with the Earth."


I came to Burslem on Friday.
I ought to have gone to Philpotts's today but was stopped by a wire yesterday.
Walking through the town yesterday I saw two childs' funerals exactly of the same kind; a procession of five or six pairs of women in black with white trimmings; two pairs carried the small oak coffin which was covered with wreaths and which they held by white cords over their shoulders. Immediately behind the coffin, the chief mourners, in one case a man and a woman. The coffin occurred about the middle of the procession. These little forlorn, smug processions ambling towards the cemetery were very curious.


The use of toxics like lead and arsenic in glazes, smoke from the kilns, and the dust-filled air of Victorian “pot banks” resulted in an average life expectancy of 46 among pottery workers in 1900. Stoke-on-Trent also endured Britain’s highest infant mortality rate at that time. Health inspectors of the time noted a high rate of “lowered intelligence” among the population, the result of environmental conditions for a workforce that included 50 percent of the towns’ women, most of whom would have worked while pregnant.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Bugger Bournemouth

Wednesday, December 29th., London.

Bournemouth yesterday.

Bournemouth Pier in 1909
I shall never forget the appalling sensation of  turmoil and jolly, rough manners I had during lunch at the Hydro. A huge place. Crammed dining room. Strident orchestra (women), rushing waiters of both sexes. Heaps of food but no service. Patron et patronne very good-natured. The whole crowd out for a lark, and enjoying the infernal vulgar din. A grand fancy dress ball the night before. What must it have been like?
After seeing this and the town I decided absolutely against Bournemouth. It was symbolic that I couldn't even get China tea there. Six hours in train. I got back to the hotel at 7.30.
I had spent a day and a pound in discovering that Bournemouth was impossible.

The Durley Dean Hotel, Bournemouth Hydro and Durley Gardens were erected in 1904. Over the next ten years it was variously known as the Durley Dean Mansions Hotel and Hydro, and Durley Dean Hydro, eventually becoming the Durley Dean Hotel. The 1913 Bournemouth Guide describes it as being "luxuriously furnished on the bracing West Cliff, the healthiest position in Bournemouth with farm produce supplied by its own farm and having the most up-to-date hydro in the South of England offering Turkish, Russian and sea water swimming baths. There are two hundred rooms, and electric passenger lift, and the hydro motorbus will meet any train on receipt of a postcard."

Friday, 28 December 2012

An architectural experience

Tuesday, December 28th., London.

Yesterday morning I went over the Wesleyan Westminster building with Rickards. he is now gradually getting hold of me again as a great artist.

Rickards and Lanchester - original design conception
With regard to the building - cornices, showing horizontally through scaffolding. Huge upright girder half way through a doorway. Huge tripod of derricks going up through reinforced concrete floors, and so on. Iron tufted bars for reinforced concrete. Pools of water. Going up and down ladders. Cement-y dirt and mud. Sticky feeling on hands afterwards. Vibration of talking in crypt-like basement. Sound of people in street talking as if in building. Sounds of water and mysterious sounds actually in building. Whole structure penetrated by ventilation flues - looked like Oriental places for chucking down women - into underground rivers. Contractors' and architects' offices on entering. Clothes and boot brushes. Effect of grand staircases sketched out in stone and brick. The centre of the building was only a vast emptiness, with a long iron girder poised on either side - supporting, ultimately the galleries. Blue light, distinctly blue, coming down into basement through holes.

The Methodist Central Hall Westminster is a multi-purpose venue in the City of Westminster, London. It serves primarily as a Methodist church and a conference centre, but also as an art gallery and an office building (formerly as the headquarters of the Methodist Church of Great Britain until 2000). It contains twenty-two conference, meetings and seminar rooms, the largest being the Great Hall. 
Central Hall was funded between 1898 and 1908 by the "Wesleyan Methodist Twentieth Century Fund" (or the "Million Guinea Fund", as it became more commonly known), whose aim was to raise one million guineas from one million Methodists. The fund closed in 1904 having raised 1,024,501 guineas (£1,075,727). Central Hall was to act not only as a church, but to be of "great service for conferences on religious, educational, scientific, philanthropic and social questions". Central Hall hosted the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. It was designed by Edwin Alfred Rickards, of the firm Lanchester, Stewart and Rickards. Although clad in an elaborate baroque style, to contrast with Westminster Abbey, it is an early example of the use of a reinforced concrete frame for a building in Britain. The interior was similarly planned on a Piranesian scale, although the execution was rather more economical. The hall was eventually finished in 1911. The domed ceiling of the Great Hall is reputed to be the second largest of its type in the world. The vast scale of the self-supporting ferro-concrete structure reflects the original intention that Central Hall was intended to be "an open-air meeting place with a roof on".


Thursday, 27 December 2012

A fateful interest

Thursday, December 27th., Cadogan Square, London.

Kingsway Theatre. "Twelfth Night". When I took my friends into box, there was not a soul in the stalls; two people came in half way through 1st act. Handfuls of people in other parts of the house. The fist effect was pathetic. The comic actors had a tendency to hurry. This went off. Excellent performance. Audience very appreciative. I enjoyed it more than the other two performance which I had seen. Then we went behind to Dorothy Cheston's room, and heard about things. At first they said "We'll just run through it." But D. said "A.B.'s in the house." "That's someone to play to anyway," said Viola Tree. At one point Viola Tree slipped into her part in "Midsummer Night's Dream", but slipped out again.





Viola Tree (1884 – 1938) was an English actress, singer, playwright and author. Daughter of the actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree, she made many of her early appearances with his company at His Majesty's Theatre. Later she appeared in opera, variety, straight theatre and film.



The whole performance was very good. The thing was caused through the most amateurish advertising. The troupe had to laugh. Dorothy Cheston went off quite merrily with Pat Warren and Richard to the Savoy for a bite of supper. I came home with Claude Warren and put her and her bag into a taxi for Paddington. She would arrive at Henley 1.17. Quelle vie! Curious that D.C. seemed to see nothing queer in the statement that the company decided to play up because I was there.

Dorothy Cheston


I have recently been assisting Donald Calthrop in his Shakespeare productions. To my mind he is a wonderful producer. I put Dorothy Cheston on to him; she had acted for five years in the U.S.A. but couldn't get a decent job here. On the strength of what I said he actually gave her the part of Viola, without ever having seen her act! It was a frightful risk; but I knew she would come through, & she jolly well did; & has had some great notices.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Conspicuous consumption

Sunday, December 26th., London.

Two thoroughly bad nights over Christmas, full of the church clock.
Still I wrote over 4000 words of my novel in 3 days, with lots of preoccupations.
I gave my Christmas dinner last night at Claridge's. Marguerite, Legros and Lorna Lewis who told me she was twenty and a half, and Welsh. A vast crowd; the two lounges added to the restaurant. many family parties. Impossible not to contrast this show with the financial crisis now existing. A crude contrast of course. But interesting to think of the apprehensions in the minds of many hosts there. Think also of all those who, having survived the war, struggle just to make ends meet let alone aspire to elaborate Christmas celebration.
Crackers, paper caps, and much throwing of paper missiles.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Tea and poetry

Tuesday, December 25th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

War. Only about half a pint of methylated spirits left in the house. Marguerite decided to keep this in stock for an emergency of illness etc. Wise. So I can no longer make my own perfect tea at what hour I like in the morning. And this morning I had poor servant-made tea. However there is a hope of me getting some other heating apparatus.
Je me suis recueilli somewhat yesterday for my novel, with difficulty. I re-read some of it in typescript and thought part was dullish and part interesting. Reading "Georgian Poetry 1916-1917" seemed to buck me up to raise the damned thing to a higher plane than it has yet reached save in odd places here and there.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/9546
Sir Edward Howard Marsh KCVO CB CMG (1872 – 1953) was a British polymath, translator, arts patron and civil servant. He was the sponsor of the Georgian school of poets and a friend to many poets, including Rupert Brooke and Siegfried Sassoon. In his career as a civil servant he worked as Private Secretary to a succession of Great Britain's most powerful ministers, particularly Winston Churchill. He was a discreet but influential figure within Britain's homosexual community.

Soldiers were noisy outside during the day. Mason came for lunch and stayed until after nightfall. He rode off in falling snow, having made Richard a present of all the chemical reagents which he had ordered for him.

I read a lot, all I shall read, of Saintbury's "History of the French Novel". Very prolix, and bursting with subordinate sentences and clauses, but containing plenty of useful information; also it shows that he does understand something of the craft of novel writing. His tracing of the development of the technique of the novel in the 17th century is interesting, and, to me, quite new. The amount of this old man's reading is staggering.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Five Towns people

Thursday, December 24th., Burslem.

I came to Burslem yesterday afternoon with Tertia and William and a headache.
Went out this morning and saw numbers of people.
Walking to Hanley this afternoon I was struck by the orange-apple cold Christmas smell of grocers shops.
Thomas Arrowsmith called on John Beardmore for a subscription to the Burslem Wesleyan Chapel. Beardmore declined to contribute, and explained how he was losing money on all hands and had in fact had a very bad year. He went to such lengths of pessimism that Arrowsmith at last interrupted:
"If things are as bad as that Mr. Beardmore," he said, "we'll have a word of prayer," and without an instant's hesitation fell on his knees.
Beardmore began to stamp up and down the room.
"None o' that nonsense," he shouted. "None o' that nonsense. Here's half a sovereign for ye."


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Eating companions

Thursday, December 23rd., London.

Tuesday night Rickards dined with me, we went to "The Blue Bird" at the Haymarket, and then to Gambrinus, where he ate an enormous sandwich and drank stout. He talked about himself the whole time, except when the curtain was up, from 6.40 to 12.15. Of course this exasperated egoism was painful as a disease to witness, but his talk was exceedingly good and original. Artistically and intellectually I don't think he has gone off.


E. A. Rickards (1872 - 1920). Born in Chelsea, London, he was apprenticed to architect J Lovell at the age of 15. After studying at the RA Schools he worked for a number of architects, including Leonard Stokes and George Sherrin and William Flockhart for whom he designed the lantern on the dome of the Brompton Oratory, London (1894). In partnership with H V Lanchester and James Stewart , he won the competition for Cardiff City Hall and Lawcourts (1899-1903), one of several of the firm's huge Neo-Baroque buildings. A frequent designer of public monuments he collaborated with Harry Bates on the Lord Roberts Monument, Calcutta (1894-8) and, after visiting Vienna, published The Art of the Monument (The Builder, 28 May, 1910). He collaborated with Poole again on public sculpture at Bristol, a public fountain (1907) and a statue of King Edward VII (1913), for which Rickards designed the pedestal, and the Lord Roberts Memorial, Glasgow (1916), which was a copy of the Roberts Monument in Calcutta on which Poole had assisted Harry Bates . They also produced the monument to World War I air ace Captain Albert Ball VC at Nottingham (1918). Rickards volunteered for service in World War I but was invalided back to England in 1916. His final architectural work was done for the war effort and included the Army Transport Depot, Slough (1918-19).



I originally met Rickards through the Marriotts at a musical evening. He is four years younger than me but precocious! Like Wells and myself he has had to struggle for his education and professional training. Rickard's impact on me has been powerful, and can be traced in many of my novels. He opened my eyes to the world around me, and fostered my passion for construction, my fascination with the way things are done. He is a real architect, with public buildings to his credit, and a respect for art as well as business. Like me he is something of a showman! Rickards accompanied me on my first trip to Paris and proved an excellent guide. The only problem is that he keeps me up talking into the early hours of the morning when I would really prefer to be asleep.

To lunch at Wells's. He and I talked his scandal from12.15 to lunch time. Robert Ross, the Sidney Lows, Mrs. Garnett, Archer and the young Nesbit girl who was mad on the stage. I liked Ross at once. I got on fairly well with Archer. He bluntly asked me why I had said in print that he and Walkley were the upas-trees of the modern drama. So I told him, less bluntly. I consider that he has no real original ideas of his own. I mean to cultivate Ross.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Turn of the year

Saturday, December 22nd., Brudenell Hotel, Aldeburgh.

Shortest day of the year yesterday, and my sixtieth birthday today.
I have often imagined staying here but always felt it was a bit on the posh side (not to mention expensive!). But Susan booked a two night stay as a special birthday treat, and here we are.
Lovely suite on the third floor; sea within spitting distance; great breakfast; hot, deep bath - wonderful!
Rained all day, often heavily, but still enjoyed a walk along the beach this morning at Minsmere. Grey-brown sea; big waves breaking in foam on the beach; eyes narrowed against the wind-driven rain; a powerful sense of being thoroughly alive.
Light lunch on the pier at Southwold; peered in the windows of the posh shops; guffawed at the house prices; general feeling of self-satisfaction.
Champagne this evening, and feeling thoroughly relaxed - if this is "later life", I'm glad to have got there at last.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Haig & Co.

Friday, December 20th., Yacht Club, London.

Welcome to Sir Douglas Haig and 4 carriages full of Generals yesterday.

Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig of Bemersyde, (1861 – 1928) was a British senior officer during World War I. He commanded the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from 1915 to the end of the War. He was commander during the Battle of the Somme, the battle with one of the highest casualties in British military history, the Third Battle of Ypres, and the Hundred Days Offensive, which led to the armistice in 1918. Although a popular commander during the immediate post-war years, with his funeral becoming a day of national mourning, Haig has since the 1960s become an object of criticism for his leadership during the First World War. Some dub him "Butcher Haig" for the two million British casualties under his command, and regard him as representing the very concept of class-based incompetent commanders, stating that he was unable to grasp modern tactics and technologies. 
However, Major-General Sir John Davidson, one of Haig's biographers, praised Haig's leadership and since the 1980s some historians have argued that the public hatred in which Haig's name had come to be held failed to recognise the adoption of new tactics and technologies by forces under his command, or the important role played by the British forces in the Allied victory of 1918, and that the high casualties suffered were a function of the tactical and strategic realities of the time.

Vast crowds in front of Reform Club. Girls at windows opposite covered their shoulders in the cold with national flags. Reform full of women, boys, and girls. In ground floor room, East, grave members standing on table-clothed tables in front of windows (me too) and in front a dame covering the throats of two small boys. All front windows of club occupied by women. Roadway kept by very few police. Roadway sprinkled with gravel. Cheering in distance. Handkerchiefs taken out. One or two mounted policemen on fine horses. Then a sort of herald in a long hat. Handkerchief waving, cheering, louder and louder. Then the four carriages, 3 in first carriage and 4 each in the other 3. Generals wore no overcoats. One or two bowed and smiled. Gone in a moment and we all jumped down and turned away. Such was the welcome to Haig and Co.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/22367966?searchTerm=Field+Marshal+Douglas+Haig

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Long-repressed instincts

Sunday, December 19th., Chelsea.

A story told to me today reminded me of a confidence of my Aunt's, made some years ago, concerning my maternal grandfather. It was given in the horrified tones of a daughter whose Puritan susceptibilities had been lacerated. My grandfather, it appears, at the age of seventy and odd, and after having been a long time a widower, began to pursue servant girls upon the outskirts of Burslem; and not all the shocked remonstrances of his daughters could bring him back to the narrow path. He never succeeded in enchanting any of these girls, but the intention was, I was told, only too obvious. It is curious that at such a time of life, the long-repressed instincts of a man who had lived as a strict Wesleyan-Methodist, should at last have become unmanageable. Shortly after the episodes of the servant girls he married a buxom woman forty years his junior, a plump-faced pleasant woman who had the greatest difficulty not to call me "Mr. Arnold."

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Fine young men

Tuesday, December 18th., Yacht Club, London.

To lunch at the Reform Club, where I joined Robert Ross who had two young poets, Robert Graves and Philip ---- (I forget his name and am not even sure if he is a poet). I was very pleased with both these youths. Lately I am more and more struck by the certainty, strength, and unconscious self-confidence of young men, so different from my middle-aged uncertainty and also my lack of physical confidence in my own body.

On July 24, 1895, Robert Graves was born in Wimbledon, near London. His father, Alfred Perceval Graves, was a Gaelic scholar and minor Irish poet. His mother, Amalie von Ranke Graves, was a relation of Leopold von Ranke, one of the founding fathers of modern historical studies. One of ten children, Robert was greatly influenced by his mother's puritanical beliefs and his father's love of Celtic poetry and myth. As a young man, he was more interested in boxing and mountain climbing than studying, although poetry later sustained him through a turbulent adolescence. In 1913 Graves won a scholarship to continue his studies at St. John's College, Oxford, but in August 1914 he enlisted as a junior officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He fought in the Battle of Loos and was injured in the Somme offensive in 1916. While convalescing, he published his first collection of poetry, Over the Brazier. By 1917, though still an active serviceman, Graves had published three volumes. In 1918, he spent a year in the trenches, where he was again severely wounded.

In the afternoon two and three quarter hours hard, in which I wrote 1,200 words of "The Pretty Lady".

Monday, 17 December 2012

Indian ideas

Thursday, December 17th., Vevey, Switzerland.

In the basement of this hotel, very dark and with windows that look on a wall that supports the earth, is the laundry, where human beings work all day at washing linen. We live on top of all that, admiring fine literature, and the marvellous scenery. And today, the cloud scenery, floating above the lake and below us, was especially marvellous.

Vevey is one of the “Pearls of the Swiss Riviera”. Its lakeside location with breathtaking views of the Alpine panorama, its extraordinarily mild climate, the vineyards, numerous excursion destinations in the region and proud paddle-wheel steamers on the lake characterise this town by Lake Geneva.

http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/vevey.html
The library I brought away with me consists of 35 volumes in all but the only books that I do mean to read are "Les Origines", "Confessions of St. Augustine", and "Le Hasard au Coin du Feu". The rest are simply brought in case I might want something. It is the surest way to avoid reading. And I should like to avoid reading for about a month. Today I began a story.

A youngish Englishman with his wife, and a boy of about ten. I saw a large red book on their table at dinner, and this intrigued me. I talked to the man after dinner. Indian Civil Service (anyhow, something in India). A brick-coloured face. Monotonous voice. Tall and thin. Takes The Times. Very cautious in his statements. Talking about India, he said the hotels were pretty bad, but not dear, and that travelling was not at all impossible. As to the administration, he said that 'we had been treating them too kindly, and they didn't understand it.' Exactly, to a word, the phrase one hears and reads in novels, etc. Still, when I said we had no moral right in India at all; that it was simple cheek on our part, he quite agreed.
He was also sympathetic towards the Indian princes and aristocracy. He said he had read in the train the whole of the previous night, except about half an hour. I began to brighten up at this and approached the book. But it was only a feeble popularisation of the court life etc. of Queen Anne. The next day he appeared with another red book - Marie Corelli's "In Holy Orders". I then gave up hope. Tonight I asked him what he thought of Morley's speech on the Indian situation.

Lord Morley was Secretary of State for India. On the occasion of the 50th. anniversary of the assumption by the Crown of the Government of India, a policy of representative institutions was outlined as an ideal to be aimed for.

He said that he had only read the summary of it. I said I had read it all. He said very cautiously, that 'they seemed to be going on the right lines'; but evidently he had large reservations to make. He talked about the mistake of regarding India as one nation, and about the difficulties caused by religion and caste. He agreed that the partition of Bengal was a mistake. He did not say what he thought of Macdonnell's speech advising the reintegration of Bengal. 'Pretty good man, Macdonnell, isn't he?' I said. He hesitated a long time and then reluctantly said 'Yes'. He said Macdonnell was very good in India, but was not liked. He surprised me by saying that Lord Curzon had a tendency in any dispute between an Englishman and a native to take the side of the native. He - it seemed to me - condemned this as one of Lord C's gravest mistakes.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Clayhanger's footsteps

Thursday, December 16th., Burslem.

Yesterday morning I did part of the walk that Clayhanger must do as he comes finally home form school in the first chapter of "Clayhanger". The original bridge over the canal, where Edwin and The Sunday had their 'spitting' contest, has long since been demolished and replaced by the modern one visible in this photograph. To the right, on the Porthill side of the canal, was (and maybe still is) McGuinness's scrap yard where I often used to scavenge for parts for my old bangers. The canal-side building is very slowly crumbling, but has retained its structural integrity remarkably well considering.



Slight signs last night on the part of the wire pullers to soften down my manifesto, but I refused to do so. It went to press today.

Religion plays quite a part in "Clayhanger", in the sense that Edwin is in reaction against his conventional methodist upbringing. He never actually declares himself to be atheist, and would probably use the term 'humanist' as a self-descriptor if alive today. I was put in mind of this listening to the new President of the British Humanist Association on the wireless this morning; a man with a Christian mother and a Shia Muslim father; a scientist, who has rejected religion but embraces an optimistic and compassionate view of human potential. I am thinking about joining.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Exhilarating young women

Tuesday, December 15th., Thorpe-le-Soken.

London yesterday. Visit to L. G. Brock, secy. of National Relief Fund at 3 Queen Anne's Gate. Formerly house of Sir E. Grey.
I then went to inspect establishment of Womens Emergency Corps at Old Bedford College, Baker St. Miss Ashwell in charge.

Actresses Lena Ashwell, Gertrude Kingston and sisters Decima and Eva Moore reacted rapidly to the outbreak of war by forming the Women’s Emergency Corps, recruiting women for all kinds of war work and to replace the men who would soon be needed abroad. Notices were sent to all the daily newspapers calling women to a public meeting at the Shaftesbury Theatre at 3pm on August 7th, 1914. The corps stated aim was to compile a register of all women and their particular skills, who wished to help the war effort. Any woman volunteering would be required to state in specific terms what work she was capable of and what she was prepared to undertake. The register would then be made available to any authority requiring such services. On the first day, many hundreds volunteered, and within two months the number had reached six thousand. Within a year, the number had topped twenty thousand and the corps could boast amongst its officers the Duchess of Marlborough and Viscountess Castlereagh - who had taken over as Colonel-in-Chief. The corps objective was to provide women to help in all sorts of emergencies and to utilise the abilities and energies of their volunteers in the best possible way. Among the numbers enrolled were over one thousand interpreters, many with as many as four languages. Many of the volunteers could ride and look after their own horses, drive motor cars or even motorcycles, and do the running repairs, and so on. Many had knowledge of agriculture or husbandry and offered to cultivate waste pieces of land to grow vegetables or raise stock for food supplies. Many were nurses, and a few women doctors, who said that they were prepared to follow the troops to the front lines to care for the wounded. In addition, there were dispensers, caterers, cooks and secretaries. Only the most efficient were accepted since it was the aim of the corps that it should only be made up of women who were capable of actively taking up the work they had promised themselves for. Nor was the rifle forgotten, with many of the women spending time on the firing ranges learning to handle rifles and other firearms. Some proved to be remarkably good shots, and all were prepared to defend their homeland if the Germans ever invaded.

Vast effect of femininity. A general exhilarating effect. The young women badged as messengers, standing in two lines in outer entrance hall, earnest, eager, braced, made a specially characteristic feminine effect. One stopped me at once as I entered, and asked me if she could do anything for me, and then if I was A.B.
I returned by 5.30 train.

Friday, 14 December 2012

A little decadence

Wednesday, December 14th., Les Sablons.

I worked at "S. and P. Love" till 1.30 Monday night; beginning at 3.30 in the afternoon, and I recommenced early on Tuesday and had got to the end of the first part by midday. I slept a long time after lunch and woke up with the first headache I have had for months. I went down To Rachilde's reception at the Mercure de France to meet Davray. He took me to an old bookseller's named Lehec, in the rue St. Andre des Arts. We could scarcely get into the shop for books. Lehec told us he had a hundred thousand; the place smelt of damp paper. He was an oldish thin man, wearing a hat and a black smock like a French child's pinafore.
I wanted a good copy of "The Memoirs of Fanny Hill". He had a copy upstairs in his flat. He took us up, in the dark, to the third storey, and having opened the door made us enter quickly lest his cat should escape. When he had struck a light we saw the cat - a superb Persian. A curiously arranged flat, small, very clean and bourgeois. It reminded me of what Sister Glegg's might have been - in "The Mill on the Floss". here again, all was books. He at last, after searching through several portmanteaus full of bawdy English books, found a fine edition of "Fanny Hill" in two volumes. I have since read this work. It is certainly a masterpiece of pornographic literature.

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (popularly known as Fanny Hill) is an erotic novel by John Cleland first published in England in 1748. Written while the author was in debtor's prison in London, it is considered "the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel." One of the most prosecuted and banned books in history, it has become a synonym for obscenity.

Davray and I went back to the Mercure and met the usual crowd. But Henri de Regnier, tall, thin; grey, severe, and looking quite the Norman aristocrat that he is, was there - talking to Georgette Leblanc. The latter is decidedly very beautiful.

Georgette Leblanc (1875 – 1941) was a French operatic soprano, actress, and author. She became particularly associated with the works of Jules Massenet and was an admired interpreter of the title role in Bizet's Carmen. For many years Leblanc was the lover of Belgian playwright and writer Maurice Maeterlinck, and he wrote several parts for her within his stage plays. In the last few decades of her life she turned to writing, producing two commercially successful autobiographies and several children's books and travelogues.

Davaray told me that to have de Regnier dangling his legs from a corner of a table and talking obscenities in his calm exquisitely polished way, was a delightful experience.


Henri François Joseph de Régnier (1864 - 1936) was a French symbolist poet, considered one of the most important of France during the early 20th century. He was born at Honfleur (Calvados) on the 28th of December 1864, and was educated in Paris for the law. In 1885 he began to contribute to the Parisian reviews, and his verses were published by most of the French and Belgian periodicals favourable to the symbolist writers. M. de Régnier married Mlle Marie de Heredia, daughter of the poet José María de Heredia, and herself a novelist and poet under the name of Gérard d'Houville.


Rachilde gave me some madeira which did not arrange my deranged stomach. Davray was depressed, so I asked him to come and dine with me and Emile Martin. We met Martin at the Cafe Riche, where I had an absinthe. I could not judge whether or not it did me good. We dined at the Restaurant Italien in the Passage des Panoramas: a plain looking place with a bad atmosphere but a magnificent cuisine and good Chianti. We ate enormously, and drank also, and the whole bill was 17 fr. 30. Martin who is tremendously au courant, puts Notta's, Laperouse, and this restaurant as the best in Paris for a moderate purse.
Afterwards we didn't quite know what to do, and Martin suggested that we should go down to Port Maillot and see the cafes frequented by chauffeurs and their mistresses. Ca nous changera un peu. We went, wandering down through the Palais Royal and then taking the Metro. We got a good cafe but it was empty, and we saw only one chauffeur and he hadn't a mistress.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Military manoeuvres

Wednesday, December 13th., Thorpe-le-Soken.

Lieut. R. of a mobile A. Aircraft unit stationed at Thorpe, came for tea. He said he carried £15,000 worth of stores. He said that after big raid at Hull end of last year about, when Mayor of Hull had been assured that Hull was one of the most heavily defended places, and a Zep dropped 15 bombs in the town, the population afterwards mobbed officers, and A.A. officers coming into the town had to put on Tommies' clothes. Also that Naval Unit was telegraphed for and that when it came with full authorised special lights, the population, angry at the lights, assaulted it with stones and bottles and put half of it in hospital, and had ultimately to be kept off by the military.
He outlined complex administrative system of the unit, and showed how utterly and needlessly idiotic it was. He told me how he had been sent to some golf links with a big mobile gun, and had put gun into a good spot where it interfered with play on first hole, the officially indicated position being a bad one. The affair was urgent as a raid was expected that night. He successfully repulsed various complainants from golf club; but next morning an Infantry officer came specially down from War Office, with instructions (positive orders) that gun must be moved. R. gave reasons against. Infantry officer: "I don't know anything about artillery but that gun has got to be moved. It is my order to you." In order to fix gun in inferior official position, R. indented for railway sleepers to the tune of £127, and got them. Meanwhile the golf club professional had told him that it would be quite easy to modify the course.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

On 'modern' poetry

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

I have been reflecting, in the pages of the Evening Standard, on 'modern' poetry.
Thinking afresh about the situation of modern poetry on the map of modern literature, I doubt a little if modern poetry is on the map at all! Thousands of people will argue for and against the value of a modern novel, but only tens of people will argue, even mildly, for and against the merits of modern poetry. To be 'up-to-date' on modern novels is deemed to be important; nobody, however, is going to worry himself about not being up-to-date concerning modern poetry.
The reason, in my opinion, is that modern poetry has been revolutionary. The new poets have grown absolutely sick of the old material, and their impatient verve chafed under the old forms. So the new poets scrapped the old material, and stretched the old forms till they snapped like elastic bands. That, roughly, was the revolution. The British public is not partial to revolutions. It believes that your revolutionary is most effectively dealt with by leaving him alone!
T.S. Eliot is arguably the most influential of the 'modern' poets, though I have never been able to understand why. I have read I don't know how many times his celebrated poem, The Waste Land, at the mention of which every younger poet bows the head in awe, and I simply cannot see its beauty. I don't say it has no beauty: I say merely that I can't see its beauty. I once asked Eliot whether his explanatory notes to The Waste Land were not a pulling of the public leg? I seriously thought they were. He seriously assured me that they were not. I bowed the head!

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in Missouri on September 26, 1888. He lived in St. Louis during the first eighteen years of his life and attended Harvard University. In 1910, he left the United States for the Sorbonne, having earned both undergraduate and masters degrees and having contributed several poems to the Harvard Advocate. After a year in Paris, he returned to Harvard to pursue a doctorate in philosophy, but returned to Europe and settled in England in 1914. It was in London that Eliot came under the influence of his contemporary Ezra Pound, who recognized his poetic genius at once, and assisted in the publication of his work in a number of magazines, most notably "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in Poetry in 1915. His first book of poems, Prufrock and Other Observations, was published in 1917, and immediately established him as a leading poet of the avant-garde. With the publication of The Waste Land in 1922, now considered by many to be the single most influential poetic work of the twentieth century, Eliot's reputation began to grow to nearly mythic proportions; by 1930, and for the next thirty years, he was the most dominant figure in poetry and literary criticism in the English-speaking world. As a poet, he transmuted his affinity for the English metaphysical poets  and the 19th century French symbolist poets into radical innovations in poetic technique and subject matter. His poems in many respects articulated the disillusionment of a post-World-War-I generation. As a critic also, he had an enormous impact on contemporary literary taste, propounding views that, after his conversion to orthodox Christianity in the late thirties, were increasingly based in social and religious conservatism. He became a British citizen in 1927. T. S. Eliot received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948, and died in London in 1965.

Well, I could make many more comments. And I am very interested in the subject, for at one period I underwent a spell of verse writing myself (it nearly killed me). But I will refrain. I will only say that I have been much impressed by Monro's anthology of Twentieth Century Poetry. I read it with increasing respect and pleasure. It no doubt comprises some poor, and more doubtful, poems - but on the whole its contents are surprisingly beautiful. There are more good poets around than I had supposed. Twentieth Century Poetry is the best anthology of the moderns that I have seen. It ought to sell. If it sells it will be talked about. If it is talked about the cause of poetry will be advanced.

Harold Edward Monro (1879 – 1932) was a British poet, the proprietor of the Poetry Bookshop in London which helped many famous poets bring their work before the public. Monro was born in Brussels, but his parents were Scottish. He was educated at Radley and at Caius College, Cambridge. His first collection of poetry was published in 1906. He founded a poetry magazine, The Poetry Review, which was to be very influential. In 1912, he founded the Poetry Bookshop in Bloomsbury, London, publishing new collections at his own expense and rarely making a profit, as well as providing a welcoming environment for readers and poets alike. Several poets, including Wilfred Owen, actually lodged in the rooms above the bookshop. Although homosexual, he married before World War I, but he and his wife separated and were divorced in 1916. In 1917, he was called up for military service, a very unhappy experience for him. His health soon gave way, and he returned to run the Poetry Bookshop in 1919. In 1920, he married his long-standing assistant, Alida Klementaski. Their relationship seems to have been an intellectual rather than a physical one. Monro continued to suffer from alcoholism, which contributed to his early death.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Potteries politics

Saturday, December 11th., Burslem.

Yesterday morning I read my political manifesto to Dawson and Edmund Leigh with great effect.
The printing of it was put in hand instantly.
I went to meet Marguerite at Stoke, 3.35. Appalling weather.
I slept part of the time on the sofa.
Having been occupied with politics more or less for two days, I quite forgot to take current notes. I pulled myself together and began again this morning.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Ideas and arrangements

Tuesday, December 10th., London.

We went looking at private hotels today. Quite horrified by a decent one in Queen's Gate. Pail on stairs. Yet comfortable. But too horribly ugly and boarding-house-y. I had begun by putting cost at £40 a month. I then dropped it to £25, under Marguerite's influence. It must now go up to £30 or £35. Lunched at Harrods Stores; crammed; had to wait a minute for a table.




Home in petrole-ous omnibus.




This morning I walked 5 or 6 miles through Roehampton and Barnes. Impressed by the cleanliness, order and sober luxury of all the dwellings I saw.
I found most of the plot for a humorous novel; I hope to find the remaining part of the plot tomorrow.

Sharpes and Chapman here last night. I asked C. what Lane would say if I asked him to publish a book of poems. He instantly said: "He would say: 'Give me your next three novels and I'll publish your poems.' "

We all dined at Sharpe's on Monday. A musical evening, of which the features were Sharpe's interpretations of Ravel, and Cedric's imitation on his 'cello of a motor-bus starting in Putney High Street.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Self-examination

Wednesday, December 9th., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

I have just finished reading J.M. Barrie's account of his mother, "Margaret Ogilvy". This book is a picture of a grave, mighty, passionate family of men and women.
 <http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/342>

This little book, is Barrie's adulatory account of his mother's life and his relationship with her, published after her death in 1896. It's a fairly maudlin read, but tells us much about Barrie's early emotional life. J. M. Barrie was born in the village of Kirriemuir, in Forfarshire (now Angus), the son of a handloom weaver. His mother, Margaret Ogilvy was the daughter of a stonemason. The couple had ten children, of whom Barrie was the ninth. Jamie, as he was called, heard tales of pirates from his mother, who read her children adventure stories in the evenings. Barrie's father Barrie rarely makes any appearance in his autobiographical works, and in this book is only mentioned at the very end. Before her marriage, Margaret Ogilvy belonged to a religious sect called the Auld Lichts, or Old Lights, and many of the stories concerning it inspired Barrie's later work. When Barrie was seven, his brother David died in a skating accident. David had been the mother's favourite child, and his death plunged her into the depression from which she never fully recovered. Apparently, her only comfort was in the thought that David would never grow up and leave her and it is suggested by some that this thinking may have inspired Barrie's creation of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. Barrie tried to comfort his mother and gain her affection by dressing up in the dead boy's clothes, but for a period after David's death she took little interest in him or anything else. This book memorialises the obsessive relationship which over time grew up between them, a relationship which remained a strong influence throughout Barrie's life.

Instinctively, and all the time, I was comparing it with my own, and in particular comparing Margaret Ogilvy and J.M. Barrie with my mother and myself. Again and again, I had to acknowledge inferiority - inferiority of essential 'character', apart from inessential talent - a lack of bigness, and a presence of certain littlenesses. yet at the same time, I found us sturdy enough not to be ashamed of shortcomings. What we are, we are! "I exist as I am, that is enough." To hold such a creed religiously is in one way to be great.
A proud and self-unconscious self-esteem; that is what few people have. If at times it deserts me amd mine, it always returns the stronger for having retreated. We are of the North, outwardly brusque, stoical, undemonstrative, scornful of the impulsive; inwardly all sentiment and crushed tenderness. We are of the North, incredibly, ruthlessly independent; and eager to say "Damn you" to all the deities at the least hint of condescension.
When I was only an assistant-editor, on leaving the office I could forget the office with absolute certainty and effectiveness. Now that I am editor, do what I will, watch myself as I may, the office dogs me everywhere, night and day.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Heavyweight literature

Thursday, December 8th., Cadogan Square.

Feuchtwanger came for tea at 4.40. Also Hugh Walpole.


Feuchtwanger and cat
Lion Feuchtwanger (1884 – 1958) was a German-Jewish novelist and playwright. A prominent figure in the literary world of Weimar Germany, he influenced contemporaries including playwright Bertolt Brecht. Feuchtwanger's fierce criticism of the Nazi Party—years before it assumed power—ensured that he would be a target of government-sponsored persecution after Adolf Hitler's appointment as chancellor of Germany in January 1933. Following a brief period of internment in France, and a harrowing escape from Continental Europe, he sought asylum in the United States, where he died in 1958. Feuchtwanger is often praised for his efforts to expose the brutality of the Nazis and occasionally criticized for his failure to acknowledge the brutality of the rule of Joseph Stalin.

Dorothy came in at 4.45 from her matinee.
Feuchtwanger looks just like a cat. He talked about himself almost the whole time. But Dorothy, when she came, put him on to the subject of me, and kept him there. He is certainly very intelligent.

I was writing today about Disraeli, who might have become even a greater journalist than he was a novelist; only, he put his journalism into his fiction.




I have just had Endymion in "The Bradenham Edition" (Peter Davies, 10s.6d.), with a very Guadellan prefatory adornment by Philip Guedalla.


The Bradenham edition is handsome and imposing. It is too imposing. It is almost exactly the size of a volume of the Dictionary of National Biography. Why should a novel be as unwieldy as a work of reference? This book cannot be held in one hand for reading. It could not be read in bed without employing a system of cranes. Why do publishers insist on ignoring the important fact that a book exists to be read in comfort, not merely to be beheld with pride on a shelf?

Friday, 7 December 2012

French and English Girls

Wednesday, December 7th., Les Sablons.

I came down to Les Sablons yesterday. A magnificent tempest began about noon and is just now dying. When I went out this morning in my big overcoat into the rain and wind, I felt how splendid it was to be in the country. Last night was absolutely black.
I went to have tea with Mrs. Spear and found all her three daughters there. The two eldest, aged about 18 or 19, are charming. There are, I suppose, no such French girls. The French girl is sacrificed to the French woman - and no doubt the French woman is worth the price. I had an extraordinarily rich tea of home-made jams and cakes. I was very facetious, I don't know why, and I made them laugh continually. It is very satisfying and contenting to make young girls laugh by simple means. I stayed two hours.
I went on pretty well with "S. and P. Love" today.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Influences

Monday, December 6th., London.

On Saturday night I finished my second book, "The Art of Journalism for Women".
<http://www.fullbooks.com/Journalism-for-Women.html>
This afternoon, reading in the New Review (which this month ceases to exist) the conclusion of Joseph Conrad's superb book, "The Nigger of the Narcissus", I had a mind to go on at once with my Staffordshire novel, treating it in the Conrad manner, which after all is my own, on a grander scale.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Another sort of life

Sunday, December 5th., Burslem.

I happened to see Conrad and Hueffer's "Romance" at Frank's at lunch today, and I took it to read. I read about 20 pp. after lunch before the gas stove in the bedroom, but I doubt if I shall get much further in it.
<http://archive.org/details/romancenovelbyjo00conruoft>

Also I doubt if I shall read much more of J.S. Mill's "Autobiography" here. I cannot read in Burslem. All I can do is go about and take notes. My mind is in a whirl all the time. I have only been here 5 days, and yet all Paris and Avon seems years off; I scarcely ever even think of these places and my life there. Sometimes by accident I speak to myself or one of the children in French.

Yesterday I got back from Manchester for lunch. Then a long yarn at Dawson's, recounting the glories of the Manchester Guardian. Yesterday, in Manchester to 'look over' the newspaper, was one of the most agreeable days I have ever spent in my life. The fact is that this sort of thing is the real reward for having written a few decent books.

Maud came, and talked opera rehearsals from the point of view of a minor principle. Then I sent for Russell and he came at 9.30. Frank and his crowd called at 11.30, and we all went to Frank's. I came home at 12.50 and slept very dreamlessly till 7. The sanatogen cure, which I began on Wednesday, is already working.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/5447147

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A patriotic concert

Friday, December 4th., Thorpe-le-Soken.

Patriotic concert last night in the village schoolroom. Full. All the toffs of the village were there. Rev. Mathews and family dined with us before it. Most of the programme was given by soldiers, except one pro. It was far more amusing than one could have expected. Corporal Snell, with a really superb bass voice, sang two very patriotic, sentimental songs, sound in sentiment but extremely bad in expression. They would have been excruciating in an ordinary voice; but he was thrilling in them. Our Lieutenant Michaelis (a young Australian R.E. officer who is living with us at the moment) was there, after mining the roads, together with a number of his men. The great joke which appealed to parsons and everyone was of a fat lady sitting on a man's hat in a bus. "Madam, do you know what you are sitting on?" "I ought to. I've been sitting on it for 54 years."

This morning, with an endorsement by G.B.S. himself, I received a suggestion from Mark Judge that I should edit Shaw's Manifesto for volume publication.
My considered view is as follows:


"Mr. Bernard Shaw's "Common Sense About the War" is the talk of the town, and it deserves to be. One of its greatest values is its courage, for in it Shaw says many things no one else would have dared to say. It therefore, by breaking the unearthly silence on certain aspects of the situation, perhaps inaugurates a new and healthier period of discussion and criticism on such subjects as recruiting, treatment of soldiers and sailors' dependents, secret diplomacy, militarism, Junkerism, churches, Russia, peace terms, and disarmament. It contains the most magnificent, brilliant, and convincing common sense that could possibly be uttered. No citizen, I think, could rise from the perusal of this tract with a mind unilluminated or opinions unmodified. Hence everybody ought to read it, though everybody will not be capable of appreciating the profoundest parts of it.
Mixed up with the tremendous common sense, however, is a considerable and unusual percentage of that perverseness, waywardness, and harlequinading which are apparently an essential element of Mr. Shaw's best work. This is a disastrous pity, having regard to the immense influence and vogue of Shaw, not only in Germany, but in America, and the pity is more tragic as Shaw has been most absurd about the very matter which most Englishmen regard as most important, namely, Great Britain's actual justification for going to war.
Mr. Shaw's manifesto is lengthy and it will no doubt be reprinted in book form. I repeat what I said in my first paragraph as to the major part of it, but I assert that the objectionable part of the manifesto is so objectionable in its flippancy, in its perversity, in its injustice, and in its downright inexactitude as to amount to a scandal. Mr. Shaw has failed to realize either his own importance or the importance and very grave solemnity of the occasion. The present is no hour for that disingenuous, dialectical bravura which might excusably relieve a domestic altercation. Before reprinting Mr. Shaw should, I suggest; seriously reconsider his position and rewrite."

<http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13635/13635-h/13635-h.htm>



The outbreak of war in 1914 changed Shaw's life. For Shaw, the war represented the bankruptcy of the capitalist system, the last desperate gasps of the nineteenth-century empires, and a tragic waste of young lives, all under the guise of patriotism. He expressed his opinions in a series of newspaper articles under the title Common Sense About the War. These articles proved to be a disaster for Shaw's public stature: he was treated as an outcast in his adopted country, and there was even talk of his being tried for treason. His dramatic output ground to a halt, and he succeeded in writing only one major play during the war years, Heartbreak House, into which he projected his bitterness and despair about British politics and society.

Monday, 3 December 2012

A winter funeral

Saturday, December 3rd., London.

I decided at early morn to go to Gladys Beaverbrook's funeral today. I drove off in the car at 1.40, and got to Mickleham, scene of the funeral, at 2.25. So I drove on to Dorking and through Dorking and came back, the car having taken a wrong turning, just as the hearse and procession was arriving at the lych-gate of the churchyard.

Mickleham Church
I went in and Castlerosse joined me, and I saw Baxter, Blumenfeld, James Dunn, Raymond Thompson, and a whole lot of Max's secretaries, clerks, etc. etc. The entrance of the coffin, covered with really magnificent wreaths, was moving. Max was leaning on young Max's arm, and looked quite old. Chopin's funeral march - not equal to Handel's. "Abide With Me" at the end. This hymn is quite a good poem. Then the coffin goes out again, and a scene of terrible damp cold at the graveside, and our hats off, and Lord Ashfield only just up that day from a chill. These funeral rites in an English winter are absolutely barbaric. I met Max at the gate, and was so moved, unknown to myself till the moment came, that I could not speak to him.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Being 'in it' or 'out of it'

Wednesday, December 2nd., Paris.



It snowed all yesterday morning. I walked out three miles in it to make purchases; amongst other things the Mercure de France where I found 3 pages concerning myself by Davray, - all that was most amiable and appreciative, and yet sober too.

<http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb34427363f/date1903>




I dined with C.L. at Maire's, corner of Boul de Strasbourg, and really enjoyed myself. The place is very chic, and I hit on a Burgundy at 3.50 which was really fine. Naturally, I drank too much of it. I finished the dinner with 'fruits refraichis', refreshed, that is, with abundant liqueurs such as Kirsch; I also had a little cognac. The consequence was that I was extremely unwell in the night. However, the attack, which in other days would have lasted 48 hours, cleared away this morning, and I was able to go out and buy a closed French stove - 45 francs, second hand, a bargain. I now hope to get, and keep, the appartement warm.

After the dinner, Antoine's. And I saw for the first time, Henri Becque's famous "La Parisienne".


Henry François Becque (9 April 1837 – May 1899), French dramatist, was born in Lille. In 1867, he wrote, in imitation of Lord Byron, the libretto for Victorin de Joncières's opera Sardanapale, but his first important work, Michel Pauper, appeared in 1870. The importance of this sombre drama was first realized when it was revived at the Odéon in 1886. Les Corbeaux (1882) established Becque's position as an innovator, and in 1885 he produced his most successful play, La Parisienne. Becque produced little during the last years of his life, but his disciples carried on the tradition he had created.


Suzanne Devoyod 1867-1954


A play perfectly simple, but exquisitely constructed. Only one important character - played really with genius by Mme Devoyod. Yes, genius. The play is well entitled. This is the Parisienne, even the woman. And it is human nature with all its sins presented without the slightest ethical or didactic tendency - with an absolute detachment from morals. It is certainly one of the great plays of the period. I learnt a lot from it, not only in technique, but in the matter of fundamental attitude towards life.



"La Parisienne," which had its first performance in 1885, was a bitter pill to the public. Nobody questioned its wit. It was admitted that the diabolically clever dialogue of the first scene, leading up to the thunderbolt discovery that Lafont is not Clotilde's husband, but her lover, was alone worth the price of admission. But the critics, most of them, thought that Becque had slandered the Parisian woman. Someone said that the title of the play should be changed from "La Parisienne" to "Une Parisienne"; but what the temper of the time could not forgive was the ruthlessness with which Henry Becque tore the veil of romance from illicit love--from adultery, if you please--and put it on the prosaic basis of every-day marriage. That was too much. However, the conventional naughty triangle of the French theatre, after the presentation of "La Parisienne," was done forever.

I have spent a good part of today in staring at my new stove.

I hate, now, having any evenings quite free, with no society. It is on these evenings, although I amuse myself with writing letters and reading, that I feel 'out of it'. And that phrase expresses the whole thing. 'Out of it.' What it is I don't exactly know.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Theatrical evening

Thursday, December 1st., Paris.

I worked yesterday. I had been searching for two days for the idea for my next chapter, and found it towards evening on Tuesday.

In the evening 'L'Escalade' by Maurice Donnay, at the Renaissance. This is quite a minor piece, with insufficient material, and what material there is, not too well arranged. It is surprising to me how a man like Donnay could let such work go out of the manufactory. Guitry and Brandes were magnificent, full of distinction; Guitry's son had also his father's distinction.

(Charles) Maurice Donnay (1859 – 1945) was born of middle-class parents in Paris. His father was a railway engineer and initially Donnay followed a similar profession, studying at the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in 1882. With Alphonse Allais, Donnay started by writing material for the celebrated cabaret le Chat Noir. Donnay made his serious debut as a dramatist on the little stage of the Chat Noir with Phryne (1891), a series of Greek scenes. This was followed by Lysistrata, a four-act comedy, which was produced at the Grand Théâtre in 1892 with Mme Rejane in the title part. With Amants in 1895 he won a great success, and the play was hailed by Jules Lemaître as the Berenice of contemporary French drama. His plays were performed by famous actors including Cécile Sorel, Réjane et Lucien Guitry.


Lucien Germain Guitry (1860 – 1925) was a French actor. In 1885, while living in Saint Petersburg, he appeared at the French (or Mikhaylovsky) Theatre. His son, the future actor, writer and director Sacha Guitry, was born in Saint Petersburg and named in honour of Tsar Alexander III. Lucien met the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and his brother Modest, and became good friends with them. 
He became prominent on the French stage at the Renaissance theatre in 1897, then at Porte Saint-Martin theatre in 1900, and the Variétés in 1901. He was a member of the Comédie-Française, but resigned in order to become director of the Renaissance, where he was principally associated with the actress Marthe Brandès, who had also left the Comédie. Here, in a number of plays, he established his reputation as one of the greatest contemporary French actors in the drama of modern reality.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Sailing for home

Thursday, November 30th., Lusitania at sea.

The Dorans, T.B. Wells, Inglish, John Macrae, Davis, and May Preston came to see me off; not to mention several reporters and photographers. The Lusitania left at 9.30 a.m., having been delayed half an hour waiting for the mails. I met the Forbeses on board about 11, and Edgar Selwyn at lunch. Mrs. Selwyn much later. These two had gone to bed at 2.15.

Edgar Selwyn and Margaret Mayo Selwyn
Edgar Selwyn (1875 – 1944) was a prominent figure in American theatre and film in the first half of the 20th Century. He co-founded Goldwyn Pictures in 1916. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Selwyn flourished in the Broadway theatre as an actor, playwrightdirector, and producer from 1899 to 1942. With his brother Archie Selwyn he founded the theatrical production company The Selwyns which produced plays on Broadway from 1919 to 1932. The Selwyns owned several theatres in the United States. Selwyn also worked in Hollywood, producing and directing eight films between 1929 and 1942. In addition, he wrote two screenplays and many more films were adapted from his original plays. He died in Los Angeles, California.

Either they or the Forbeses had received a lot of fruit and flowers, and Forbes had installed a supply of champagne at the foot of the table in ice. I helped to consume everything except the flowers. I had, nevertheless, previously sworn neither to drink nor smoke on board. But having drunk, I thought I might as well buy the best cigar and the oldest brandy on the ship; which I did, and stood liqueurs round. This was after dinner. Perhaps I was coming it a bit strong?

I was overcome by sleepiness both before and after lunch, and also before dinner; the air gave me a headache. I was very gloomy, spent all afternoon alone and had tea alone, and wondered what the hell was the matter with life anyway. I was all right after I had tasted champagne again.


We spent the whole evening in talking "shop", Edgar Selwyn being the quietest. Boat rolled, always. In the middle of the night she rolled so much that she overthrew my red clock. Also fiddles on the tables, last night at dinner. Quite unnecessary, but it is probably a dodge to convince passengers that they are good sailors. No fiddles on at breakfast this morning, when they were necessary and crockery was rattling and crashing about all over the place. 

The Titanic and her sister ship Olympic were an answer to the Cunard Line's speed queens Mauritania and Lusitania - here we see the "Lucy" resolutely knifing her way through an Atlantic swell. In fact, Titanic could never have beaten her rivals' records. A fast ship means a slender hull, and while Cunard's ships were racers, they suffered from a tendency to roll and pitch wildly in rough seas. The wider, more stable and slightly slower White Star Line sisters focused instead on luxurious comfort. But for those seeking the fastest passage across the Atlantic, especially in the calmer summer months, Mauritania and Lusitania were hard to outclass.



The Selwyns and the Forbeses had parting gifts which they displayed, but I also had a parting gift, which I did not display. It was an article for desk use, in silver, heavy and elaborate, engraved with my name, and the card on it bore the following words: "Thank you for all the delightful things you have written and are going to write during the coming year." George Doran will think he can guess the woman it came from at first guess. He couldn't. But he might guess it in three perhaps. And I had five letters from other ladies, chiefly hating "Hilda Lessways", but nevertheless all rustling with flattery.