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Saturday, 22 September 2012

Authorial anxieties

Thursday, September 22nd., Les Nefliers.

"Clayhanger" was published in England on September 15th. In U.S.A. publication is delayed about a fortnight.

This time I will make notes on the newspaper criticisms of my novel. On day of publication, two. Times very good; well written. But a half-hidden unwillingness of admiration and of subjection. This sentence is well meant but quite wrong: "Its aim, not to exalt, or essentialise or satirise, but to present, life." A review nothing like as good as that of  "The O.W.T." but still jolly good (9 inches). The other one on day of publication was in the Evening Standard. Entitled "Under the Microscope". A review full of clumsy but not malignant malice. On the whole a damn silly review (10 inches).
Day after publication. R.A. Scott James in the Daily News. "Mr. Bennett and the Ages".
Very sympathetic and appreciative. "A work that will surely be memorable." But the review was badly done, perhaps from haste. Well meant, but what damned rot and untruth. (1 col. 5 ins.)

Rolfe Arnold Scott-James (1878-1959) was an important British journalist, editor and literary critic in early twentieth-century literature. He is often cited as one of the first people to use the word "modernism" in his 1908 book Modernism and Romance, in which he writes, "there are characteristics of modern life in general which can only be summed up, as Mr. Thomas Hardy and others have summed them up, by the word, modernism". Scott-James was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford and graduated in 1901. The Dictionary of National Biography states that Scott-James "possessed a strongly developed social conscience: this manifested itself at many different points in his career in activities which, if distinct from his literary gifts, at the same time enriched them" (872). In 1914, Scott-James became the editor of the New Weekly, which did not survive the outbreak of war later that year. 
In 1934, Scott-James took over the editorship of the influential magazine, the London Mercury from 
J. C. Squire, in which he published many canonically recognized authors of modernism. The last issue of the London Mercury in April 1939 contained W. H. Auden's "In Memory of W. B. Yeats."

Perfect review in Glasgow Herald on day of publication. Nothing could be more appreciative nor show more insight than this (12 ins.). D. Mail and Observer (9 ins. and 15 ins.). Usual rot about total absence of plot, and about cinematograph, and photograph, and that book might end anywhere or nowhere. "It is unsatisfying because life is" etc. And yet in all this a note of genuine appreciation.
Today a day of mild unpleasantness. The review of "Clayhanger" in m. Guardian, though good, was not as good as I had expected. I expected the eager sympathy of G.H. Mair and Co.!

George Herbert Mair CMG (8 May 1887 – 2 January 1926) was a British journalist and civil servant
He was the son of a Royal Navy surgeon and was educated at the University of Aberdeen, Christ Church, Oxford, and the Sorbonne. In 1909 he got a job as leader writer, drama critic and special correspondent on the Manchester Guardian, and was appointed political correspondent and literary editor in London in 1911. He became assistant editor of the Daily Chronicle in 1914.

The review was signed by strange initials ending in Y. Moreover it was placed after a review of M. Hewlett by Dixon Scott.

When one thinks of the effects of World War I upon English literary culture one recalls the young war poets, who were forced into a sudden flowering and then cut off in their prime. But there was another group of English writers, rather older, whose deaths in the war curtailed careers that had already begun to take shape--writers such as the novelist Saki (H. H. Munro) and the poet Edward Thomas. Among this group was the critic Dixon Scott, whose writing provides a lively record of literary opinion in the decade immediately preceding the war and whose best essays are truly prophetic of how later generations would judge the Edwardian and Georgian writers. Walter Dixon Scott was born in a suburb of Liverpool in July 1881, was educated at local schools, took a commercial course at the Liverpool Institute, and at the age of sixteen became a clerk in the City and Midland Bank, a job he hated, though by all accounts he was good at it. While still working in the bank, Scott began to contribute book reviews and short essays to the Liverpool Courier. At the end of 1906, when he was twenty-five, Scott determined to leave the bank and make his living by journalism. For the next eight years Scott made a precarious living as a stringer for various newspapers and magazines: the Liverpool Courier, the Manchester Guardian, the Bookman, and Country Life. Unlike most aspiring British journalists who have been drawn to London, Scott believed that a provincial or rural perspective was necessary for his kind of writing, so he continued to live in Liverpool, or with his parents, who had retired to Marston Trussell, a village in Northamptonshire. Throughout these years Scott suffered constant ill health that was probably psychosomatic in origin. His letters recount episodes of emotional depression and of chronic gastric problems that could not be relieved even by surgery. In ways that he half recognized, illness was related to his painful slowness in finding the direction that his talent should go. The years 1910 and 1911 seem to have been crucial to him. His illness reached its worst, and he decided to turn from the familiar essays with which he had begun to make a reputation to critical studies of living writers. From then on he devoted most of his effort to a series of brilliant review articles, mostly in the Manchester Guardian and theBookman. Scott's work attracted the attention of editors and authors, and he seemed poised for a real breakthrough in his work when the war broke out.

Now if they had given my book to Dixon Scott. Further, the johnny deprived me almost utterly of the sense of humour and of the sense of beauty - especially in comparison with de Morgan and Wells.
En voila une affaire!
A couple of years ago I said enthusiastically that if "Cupid and Commonsense" was produced in Hanley it would play to £500 in a week. To-day I got the figures for the three performances in Hanley. Total £75 13s. 10d.
Also I made a mess of another water colour. Hence depression, though my affairs are prospering as they never prospered before. Which shows how little content has to do with prosperity.

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