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Sunday, 7 October 2012

George Sturt and me

October 7th., Trinity Hall Farm

George Sturt wrote to me today as follows:
"If you had read between the lines with any discernment, you'd have been blushingly disowning my implied flattery instead of attacking me with a bludgeon. You have my full permission to go to the Devil."

I fear that my last letter to him may have touched a nerve!

All this arises from a letter he wrote me in September containing his comment and opinion following publication of "Anna". In fairness he did say it was 'good', but then proceeded to find spurious fault which rankled with me. So I replied as follows (extracts only):
"I am glad to be able to praise your article in this month's Cornhill with less reserve than you praise my novel ... Your explanations of the partial failure of my novel are all wrong. The partial failure is not in the novel but in yourself ... I have not studied characters 'as though they were animals at the zoo'; I have studied them as though they were human beings ... what astounds me most is your remark that I refuse to be emotional, that I am unimpassioned. The book is impassioned and emotional from beginning to end ... It is a singular and surprising thing, but your taste in imaginative work is crude and unreliable. I don't believe you have any genuine critical standard."

I suppose that our friendship is an unlikely one. We met in the home of James Conway Brown in Richmond, Surrey. Perhaps, on reflection, I enjoy the association because of my superior vigour; I love to try my ideas out and Sturt is sufficiently unchallenging for my purpose. I suppose that I do most of the work in the relationship because it suits me to do so - I drag a rather querulous, difficult, self-satisfied Sturt behind me. I do like him though, and I intend that we remain friends in spite of this spat.

George Sturt was born in Farnham in 1863 and originally prepared for a career in teaching. On his father’s death in 1884, however, Sturt had to take over the running of the family wheelwright’s business in East Street. Sturt’s true ambition was to become a writer and he found his success in sensitive but unsentimental depictions of rural life in and around the Bourne where he lived. His first success, under the pen name ‘George Bourne’, was The Bettesworth Book (1901) which centered around the character, ‘Bettesworth’ who was his odd-job man and gardener. Other similar books followed. 'The Wheelwright 's Shop' (1923), a vivid account of the work and workmen was an immediate success. George Sturt's final published work was 'A Small Boy in the Sixties' (1927) in which he recorded details of his early life as a boy growing up in Farnham. He died the same year.

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