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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, 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.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Byways of literature

Tuesday, November 29th., Paris.

Dinner at Mrs. Devereux's last night. Schwob there. (See 'Parisian Life' - September 27th.) We talked a good deal about Meredith, and Schwob showed an extraordinary knowledge of the byways of English literature. He said Meredith was certainly the son of a tailor and quoted a passage from "Peter Simple" where two characters go to "Meredith the tailor", and he said this was George's father. It appears that Meredith now talks in aloud voice, but continually interrupts the conversation by talking to himself, mere senility of course, a 'softening of the brain'. He has 'ataxy' or something of one leg and limps and always tells any visitor that he had the misfortune to hurt his ankle that very morning. Schwob heard this from Oscar Wilde and didn't believe it. However, when Schwob called on Meredith, sure enough he had hurt his leg that very morning. Schwob's enthusiasm for Meredith's last book was magnificent. He looked ill, but he was in his best form, and speaking beautiful English.

George Meredith (1828-1909) was a major Victorian novelist whose career developed in conjunction with an era of great change in English literature during the second half of the nineteenth century. While his early novels largely conformed to Victorian literary conventions, his later novels demonstrated a concern with character psychology, modern social problems, and the development of the novel form that has led to his being considered an important precursor of English Modernist novels. Meredith was born in Portsmouth, England. His father inherited a seemingly prosperous Portsmouth naval outfitters and tailor shop from Meredith's grandfather. Meredith was sent to private schools and quickly learned to say nothing of his family's position, instead encouraging the assumption that he was of the gentry. Meredith remained secretive about his origins all his life, and much is unknown about his childhood because of his unwillingness to disclose details of this period. As he entered his early twenties, Meredith began writing poetry, influenced in particular by John Keats and Lord Tennyson. Meredith's lifetime of reticence about his early years carried over into a stolid refusal to discuss his first marriage, which was a failure. He lived alone or with male friends for years, but married again in 1864, and settled at Box Hill, Surrey, where he lived the rest of his life. As a part-time reader for Chapman and Hall publishers, Meredith was able to observe literary trends and to employ them in his early novels. Once he despaired of reaching a large audience, Meredith began to write primarily to please himself and the small circle of admirers who had defended and praised his works from the first. It was then that he found his works more popular than at any other time in his career. Meredith was most concerned with writing psychological novels that portrayed the tangled motivations of individuals and explored the disparity between the public and private aspects of self. At the time of his death Meredith was considered one of England's premier men of letters. In the years since, his critical reputation has undergone several reassessments, although he has never enjoyed the resurgence in general popularity enjoyed by such Victorian novelists as Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope. However, as has been true throughout the history of commentary on Meredith, there remains a dedicated group of admirers who contend, with J. B. Priestley, that Meredith's difficult style, requiring as it does the full and undivided attention of the reader, paved the way for the public acceptance of much subsequent serious fiction, helping to shape "the modern attitude towards fiction and the modern novel itself."

Mrs. Devereux had been to hear the trial of a crime passionel. A man had cut his wife's throat with a razor from ear to ear, but, through some fortunate movement of the woman, had only severed the skin. "A close shave!" said Schwob at once. I could see that he was extremely pleased with this really admirable comment. He beamed after he had said it.

On Monday I was trying to find a leading idea for the concert scene in "Sacred and Profane Love", but could not. I read late, and dreamed about the scene all night, and got it all mixed up, and generally wasted a vast amount of energy with no result at all. Today I continued to search after that idea with no success. I stayed late at Mrs. Devereux's and then read a lot afterwards, and I didn't go to bed till nearly two. I dreamed of the chapter all night and woke up at 6.30 after which I didn't go to sleep again. Today, I received the "Fantasia" of Chopin from Tertia. This is the clou of the chapter if only I can make it so. (see 'Love in Liverpool' - September 19th.)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Uncanny things

Sunday, November 28th., London.

Talking about things uncanny, Webster said that the weirdest thing of all was the vibrating cry of the snipe on the moors at night - a cry which you hear, faint and wavering, in the distance, and which the next second has shot past your ears in the darkness. This bird is also called the bog-bleater; Webster said that its cry had been termed "the wail of a lost soul", and that the name was justified. There is nothing more horribly scaring, and the awfulness of it cannot be conceived by those who have not heard it. He described it effectively as "the last cry on earth", and related how, as a child, he had been lost all night on the Westmorland moors; his terror of the invisible snipes shooting across the waste with their awful cries; and his terror of stepping into a bog.
Then he told me of his sole experience of ghosts. On a hill near Milnthorpe is a ruined cottage, said to be haunted. A man and his wife had lived there, and one night the man, being called away, gave a gun into his wife's hands for her protection and told her to shoot anything that appeared. Before he had proceeded far, he recollected that he had left something behind him, and returning to his cottage was shot by his wife. Hence the ghost.
It seems that Webster was walking late in a dark lane near the ruin - a lane with a dreadful reputation for spirits - when he saw a sombre figure in front of him. It advanced to within a few paces of him, and then grew large and wide, till it towered above him. Then it collapsed and Webster was standing in the middle of it. At last it edged away from him, face upwards, with a curious backward motion on hands and feet. As soon as it had moved, Webster turned and ran two miles to the nearest humanity ... He was a child, and thinks now the appearance was merely a subjective hallucination, but at the time nothing could have been more real to him.
Webster related these stories with extraordinary graphic effectiveness.  As he spoke of the terrors of the bog-bleater and his night on the moor, I had one of those periodical glimpses which are vouchsafed to me occasionally, of the vast crowd of wonderful sensations and experiences that a dweller in towns, like myself, is debarred from .... A night on the moors, alone, with the snipe winging and crying about one .... The townsman can scarcely imagine it!
All this leads me to think of ghost stories, but I hardly think I have the sort of imagination to produce one effectively. My particular favourite is Dickens' "The Signalman". I cannot read it without a chill passing along my spine, my breathing becoming shallow and my heart starting to race! Dickens was a master of atmosphere and excels himself in this short story.

Virginia Woolf is a very different sort of writer and I have today reviewed "A Room of One's Own" in the Evening Standard. I have often been informed by the elect that a feud exists between Virginia Woolf and myself, and I dare say that she has received the same tidings. Possibly she and I are the only two lettered persons unaware of this feud. True, she has written a book about me and a mythical Mrs. Brown. But I have not read the book (I don't know why). True, I always said, until she wrote To The Lighthouse that she had not written a good novel. But I have said the same of lots of my novelist friends. True, she is the queen of the high-brows; and I am a low-brow. But it takes all sorts of brows to make a world, and without a large admixture of low-brows even Bloomsbury would be uninhabitable. One thing I have said of her: she can write. A Room of One's Own is a further demonstration of this truth. However, she suggests that five hundred a year and a room with a lock on the door are the essential prerequisites to writing fiction or poetry. I beg to state that I have myself written long and formidable novels in bedrooms whose doors certainly had no locks, and in the full dreadful knowledge that I had not five hundred a year of my own - nor fifty. And I beg to state further that from the moment when I obtained possession of both money and a lockable door all the high-brows in London conspired together to assert that I could no longer write.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Funeral in Burslem

Friday, November 27th., Thorpe-le-Soken.

Marguerite and I went down to Burslem for the mater's funeral on Tuesday afternoon.
The mater died about 1 p.m. on Monday.
I learnt from Jennings that the 'last journey' had to be 'the longest', i.e. corpse must always go longest way to cemetery. I asked why. He sniggered: "So as to prolong the agony, I suppose." Real reason nowadays and for long past must be ostentation. We naturally altered this.

Walk down town. Some bricks dry before others. Prominent yellow painted stone-facings of Macintyres. Abolition of most crossings in Waterloo Road, to disgust of residents. I saw new Coliseum Theatre. New window in Mr. Povey's side-room at top of Church St. Church St. was cleaner and better kept.

Funeral. Too soon. Orange light through blinds in front of room. Coffin in centre on two chairs. Covered with flowers. Bad reading, and stumbling of parson. Cliches and halting prayer. Small thin book out of which parson read. In dim light, cheap new carving on oak of coffin seemed like fine oak carving. Sham brass handles on coffin. Horrible lettering. Had to wait after service for hearse to arrive. Men hung their hats on spikes of hearse before coming in. No trouble in carrying coffin. I kept Uncle J.L.'s arm most of the time as he is nearly blind. He told me he still managed 700 accounts. Long walk from cemetery gates to region of chapel.

Burslem Cemetery Chapel

Burslem Cemetery opened in 1879 and covers approximately 11.4 hectares (about 28 acres). When it was opened it was intended to be a "a recreation park, to be used for walking, riding and driving" as well as a cemetery and at least a third of the land was taken up with the lodges, chapel, walks & drives. Only about five and a half acres was laid out for burials.

By the way, the lodge at gates is rented as an ordinary house to a schoolmaster. John Ford's vault next to Longson, with records of his young wives ("the flower fadeth" etc.) This could be exaggerated into a fine story. No sign of any other coffins of course in Longson vault.
Curious jacket and apron of first grave-digger. Second stood apart. Both with hats off. Parson put on a skull-cap.

On return, carriages trotted down slope from cemetery, but walked as we got to houses near Cobridge station. 'Nest Egg Factory' en route. 2 cottages turned into works.

War. Extract from notice signed G.R. and issued from War Office: "Complete second half million and ensure success at home and abroad." And yet a second million is asked for. I ascertained totals of regular recruits up to November 25th. 12,800 applied, and 9,600 were accepted, in Potteries and N'castle.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Country house politics

Tuesday, November 26th., Yacht Club, London.

Week-end at Beaverbrook's, Cherkley Court. Good, except that not enough food, B. not being interested in food. The Hulton's came over on Sunday afternoon and stayed to dinner. Hulton had been trained for the R.C. priesthood. An agreeable pair. He with a certain sense of decency, not a fool, a Lancashire accent and rather ignorant. For example, he had never heard of the Labour Party programme!

Edward George Hulton was born in Hume, Lancashire on 3rd March, 1869. His father had been a compositor on the Manchester Guardian before establishing his own papers, The Sporting Chronicle (1871) and The Athletic News (1875). Edward was educated at St. Bede's College, Manchester, but at sixteen left to learn the newspaper trade with his father. After serving an apprenticeship in the various departments he took over control of the business in 1894. Three years later he started a new halfpenny newspaper, the Manchester Evening Chronicle. This was highly successful and was followed by the Daily Dispatch in 1900. In 1909 Hulton produced the Daily Sketch, a illustrated morning paper. Six years later he began publishing the Illustrated Sunday Herald. He also purchased and developed the Evening Standard. Hulton had been in poor health for many years and in 1923 was forced to retire. Hulton sold all his publishing interests to Allied Newspapers for £6,000,000.

I read B.'s printed account of the conspiracy that overthrew Asquith in Dec. 1916. It was exceedingly well written, and showed great judgement of men and some sense of historical values. In fact it was remarkable and heightened my originally high opinion of Beaverbrook. The War Office and Ll. G. both came badly out of the account, especially the former. B.'s own share in the affair is kept very modestly in the background. He seemed almost inclined to publish it in the Daily Express. I advised him against this.

During the first world war, Beaverbrook represented the Canadian government at GHQ (Government Headquarters), was an observer at the Western Front, and published a newspaper for the Canadian troops. More importantly, he played a key role (especially in his own eyes) in the downfall of Herbert Asquith, the then prime minister, whom he disliked, and in the rise of David Lloyd George who replaced Asquith in December 1916. For his assistance, Beaverbrook had expected to be given the post of president of the Board of Trade. He was to be disappointed. The job and his seat in parliament were required for Sir Albert Stanley. Beaverbrook had to make do with Lloyd George's offer of a hereditary peerage and the post of minister for information in 1918.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

A lone and wonderful genius

Thursday, November 25th., London

Last night, as I sat alone in the house, reviewing there was a strange knock. I went to the door, and saw old Mr. Boulton in the fog; a hansom was just driving away. He came in, and sat down in my easy chair; a tall, slightly bent figure, with a creased benevolent large face, and the whitest, silkiest hair and long beard: the most venerable and dignified person that has ever sat in this room of mine. I felt proud of the slight connection between us. He began to talk to me about the technique of writing, making naive, original observations - the thoughts of a gifted child; you could see the strong working of the mind that  by means of machinery has revolutionised an entire craft. "I don't know anything about writing," he said, "but give me a bit of machinery, and I could go to bed with it."
I told him I had just bought a folio bible printed at Burslem by John Tregortha, and asked if he would like to see it. "Ay," he said, "I should. It's a book I'm rather partial to." So he got it over his knees, and putting his spectacles on, spelt out the interminable title page. I directed him to the family register which had been kept according to custom between the Old and the New Testaments. When he came to the date 1786 he said "My father was alive then," and at 1826 "I was born just a year before that." Afterwards he examined with the same minuteness my Tregortha Hymn Book and Herbal.

The Quaker John Tregortha, born around 1767 in Cornwall but lived for many years in Burslem, is the earliest printer in Burslem whose work has survived. his press was set up in 1796 and is recorded is having been active to 1816.

At a quarter to ten he must go. He said he always went to bed between 10.30 and 10.45, and answered 20 or 30 letters before breakfast. I asked him how he proposed to get to Bloomsbury. "Oh," he said, "I shall go up this street, turn to the right, and pick up what I can - cab or bus." I had a mind to set him on his way, but he seemed so alert, so equipped, with his 71 years and his magnificent white hair and his tall stooping figure that to offer to do so would have been an insult.
Afterwards, I wondered to myself if he had taken the trouble to sum me up quickly. I felt always with him that he spoke about the hundredth part of what he thought, and I have noticed that he never contradicts.
A lone and wonderful genius, if ever there was one, existing in the world of his own brain, and passing over the earth as if in a dream. yet shrewd in earthly things and never to be fooled ... The force of his character radiates from him a certain fine influence sensible enough to those delicate enough to see it ... I regarded his visit as an event in my life, though he had not come to see me but Tertia, and was disappointed at missing her.

William Boulton (1825 - 1900) The firm which bears his name was founded in 1852 at a time when the manufacture of pottery was evolving from an entirely hand crafted to a semi-mechanised industry. The firm developed many ideas and patented many inventions which revolutionised the mechanical side of the potter, sanitary, glazed tile, electrical porcelains and refractory industries. William Boulton of Burslem was a prolific engineer and produced many pieces of equipment including clay presses, blungers and pug mills. In 1867, he patented a continuous-rope driven jigger. This was much more reliable than the steam jigger and cost half as much. Many potters started to install mechanised processes in their potworks - the blunger was one of them. William Boulton designed the blunger and patented it in 1874. 

In the 1880s Boulton produced a machine which could produce 12 plates at a time and ended the need to 'bat out' the clay which had been the heaviest part of the plate makers task. Machinery has continuously improved so that it is possible to have a fully automated plate making machine, using a revolving roller profile which both spreads the clay and gives the shape. The steam engine at Middleport Pottery was built in 1888 by William Boulton , and was used to run huge amounts of the factory’s machinery.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Interesting artistic experiences

Friday, November 24th., London.

H.G. Wells told me his scheme for a whole series of new books, some being novels. He wants monarchy destroyed, of course, and to have a new religion (that there is one God - and apparently he can be what you like) without priests and churches. He thought very little of British high command at the front, and had difficulties with the Censor about his articles on Front, and meant to say what he thought in a book to be issued in January.
I was still suffering yesterday from my stomach chill, but I wrote a thousand words.
I went up to the Omega workshops by appointment to see Roger Fry.

Roger Eliot Fry (1866 – 1934) was an English artist and art critic, and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Establishing his reputation as a scholar of the Old Masters, he became an advocate of more recent developments in French painting, to which he gave the name Post-Impressionism. He was the first figure to raise public awareness of modern art in Britain, and emphasized the formal properties of paintings over the "associated ideas" conjured in the viewer by their representational content. He was described by the art historian Kenneth Clark as "incomparably the greatest influence on taste since Ruskin... In so far as taste can be changed by one man, it was changed by Roger Fry".

Arrived as arranged at 2.30. I was told he was out. Then that he was at his studio down Fitzroy Street. I went there and rang. He opened door.
"Come and have lunch," he said. "I've had lunch, it's 2.30," I said. "How strange!" he said. "I thought it was only 1.15." Then as he went upstairs he cried out to a girl above: "Blank (her Xtian name), it's 2.30," as a great item of news. Fry expounded his theories. He said there was no original industrial art in England till he started i.e., untraditional. He said lots of goodish things and was very persuasive and reasonable. Then he took me to the showrooms in Fitzroy Square, and I bought a few little things. I did not buy a fine still life by Duncan Grant. But I may, later. I gradually got to like a number of the things, especially the stuffs. He said manufacturing (English) firms roared with laughter at his suggestion that they should do business together. One firm quoted an impossible price when he asked them to make rugs to his design at his risks. But when a eulogistic article appeared in The Times they quoted a lower price, a reasonable one. He said that both French and German firms would take his stuff. I began to get more and more pleased with the stuff, and then I left with two parcels.
This morning I went to Carfax Gallery and bought a Sickert from the Sickert stand there, "Coster Girl".

William Rothenstein
In 1898 William Rothenstein co-founded the Carfax Gallery in St. James' Piccadilly with John Fothergill . During its early years the gallery was closely associated with such artists as Charles Conder, Philip Wilson Steer, Charles Ricketts and Augustus John. It also exhibited the work of Auguste Rodin, whose growing reputation in England owed much to Rothenstein's friendship and missionary zeal. The gallery was later the home for all three exhibitions of The Camden Town Group, led by Rothenstein's friend and close contemporary Walter Sickert.

Had some talk with the proprietor who was highly intelligent, and stuck to it that Claude Phillips, though he couldn't write, had real taste. The boss thought Sickert the greatest artist of the age.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Storm in a political teacup

Tuesday, November 23rd., Cadogan Square, London.

Showery. Bleak. No rain later. Misty. Chilly evening.
Chores in early morning.
I wrote a letter to the Daily Mail in reply to Birkenhead's criticism of "Raingo" in that paper, and I signed it before I left home.
Birkenhead suggested that Raingo was modelled on an actual statesman, took 'profound objection' and accused me of 'overweening conceit'.
I wrote as follows:
"... The character of my Lord Raingo was modelled on no statesman, and is the result of no attempt at portraiture. I have said so in private ten thousand times, but it is not my custom to deny misstatements about my books in public. If it was, I should have to give my life to the business. As regards the deceased statesman whom doubtless Lord Birkenhead has in mind, I may say that I have never had the slightest acquaintance with him. It is apparent from his concluding remarks that the author of Famous Trials was for some undisclosed reason getting a bit cross. His emotion led him to the use of certain vituperative cliches. The vituperation one can excuse and enjoy; but the cliches will afflict the lettered."
After I left the Mail telephoned that they would like an article at 2 shillings a word, as well as the letter. They said the letter was too good to lose. So, by telephone form the theatre, I agreed to both. I much enjoyed writing both the letter and the short article. I love a friendly scrap in the press.

The Rt Hon. Frederick Edwin Smith, 1st Earl of Birkenhead, GCSI, PC, KC (1872 – 1930), best known to history as F. E. Smith, was a British Conservative statesman and lawyer of the early 20th century. He was a skilled orator, noted for his staunch opposition to Irish nationalism, his wit, pugnacious views, and hard living and drinking. He is perhaps best remembered today as Winston Churchill's greatest personal and political friend until Birkenhead's death at age fifty-eight from pneumonia caused by cirrhosis of the liver. In the opinion of Winston Churchill, "He had all the canine virtues in a remarkable degree — courage, fidelity, vigilance, love of chase." For Margot Asquith, who was not a friend, "F. E. Smith is very clever, but sometimes his brains go to his head." Of Birkenhead's loyalty, Churchill added, "If he was with you on Monday, he would be the same on Tuesday. And on Thursday, when things looked blue, he would still be marching forward with strong reinforcements."

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A banquet in Paris

Sunday, November 22nd., Paris.

I was invited last night to the annual banquet of La Plume at the restaurant of the Societes Savants.

La Plume was a French literary and artistic review. It was set up in 1889 by Léon Deschamps, who edited it for ten years and was succeeded as editor by Karl Boès from 1899 to 1914. Its offices were at number 31 rue Bonaparte. From its beginning, famous artists such as Willette, Forain, Eugène Grasset, Toulouse-Lautrec, Maurice Denis, Gauguin,Pissarro, Signac, Seurat and Redon contributed to it. One of its most famous issues is that devoted to le Chat noir.

About 200 guests, I should imagine, including a dozen or so "movement-y" women, sloppy, of the sort I detest - Stage Society, Fabian Society sort, almost exactly as in London. A big, badly-arranged, too-crowded banquet, mediocre as a meal. I was with Davray and Kozakiewicz, a Pole, who translated Sienkewicz and is now running H.G. Wells in France. I was introduced to a lot of people. I saw Paul Adam, handsome and not as old as I expected, but I was not introduced to him. I believe Octave Mirbeau was there but I did not see him. Besnard, the painter, was there.
I was introduced to Auguste Rodin, a little man with a fine long grey beard and a big nose over it, and very vivacious. He was in evening dress (against the rule) with the rosette. He seemed a simple man; he talked to me for a few minutes quite naturally and without any sort of pose.

Rodin in 1905
François-Auguste-René Rodin (1840 – 1917), was a French sculptor, generally considered the progenitor of modern sculpture, though he did not set out to rebel against the past. He was schooled traditionally, took a craftsman-like approach to his work, and desired academic recognition, although he was never accepted into Paris's foremost school of art. Sculpturally, Rodin possessed a unique ability to model a complex, turbulent, deeply pocketed surface in clay. Many of his most notable sculptures were roundly criticized during his lifetime. They clashed with the predominant figure sculpture tradition, in which works were decorative, formulaic, or highly thematic. Rodin's most original work departed from traditional themes of mythology and allegory, modeled the human body with realism, and celebrated individual character and physicality. Rodin was sensitive to the controversy surrounding his work, but refused to change his style. Successive works brought increasing favour from the government and the artistic community. From the unexpected realism of his first major figure – inspired by his 1875 trip to Italy – to the unconventional memorials whose commissions he later sought, Rodin's reputation grew, such that he became the preeminent French sculptor of his time. By 1900, he was a world-renowned artist. Rodin kept company with a variety of high-profile intellectuals and artists. He married his lifelong companion, Rose Beuret, in the last year of both their lives. His sculptures suffered a decline in popularity after his death in 1917, but within a few decades, his legacy solidified. Rodin remains one of the few sculptors widely known outside the visual arts community.

Afterwards I came home with Kozakiewicz, and found him an ardent Wagnerian. He told me he had sold 300,000 copies of the French translation of Sienkewicz, and had paid the author over 80,000 francs. He is a cultivated man, and seems to combine a financial acuity with a genuine taste in art.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Night thoughts

Friday, November 21st., Thorpe-le-Soken.

Thorpe-le-Soken, Station Road
Walking last night for exercise along the Station Road (6.30 p.m.) I saw the light of Clacton (not the lights - the light) and of Frinton, over the brows; a reflection in the sky ... Idea of a desolate coast (relatively) with human settlements rather precariously here and there upon it. Darkness everywhere and just those lights on the clouds from below. Sense of the adventure of living on the earth at all; and of the essential similarity of all human existences. Idiocy of loathing or scorning a different kind of existence from your own; e.g. my attitude towards the primness of Frinton and its golf-club.
I am putting rather more work into draft of "Don Juan" than usually in my drafts of plays. The realistic idea has gone nearly altogether in this play. In its ignoring of realistic detail in order to get an effect required, it is rather impressionistic. This is the first time I have realised the possibility of a similarity between literature and art in impressionism. I expect that in looking for a parallelism to art in literature, I had been looking for the wrong thing, while the right thing was under my nose all the time.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

An author's observations

Friday, November 20th., Thorpe-le-Soken.

It is said that 40 troop trains went from the South, Cromer-way, to supply troops against a feared invasion last Monday. All I know is that the traffic was considerably upset by troop trains, and newspapers were three hours late.
An Emergency Committee meeting for Thorpe Petty Sessional Division called at Colchester tomorrow; but I received a letter this morning from Capt. Chesney, S.M. Division, to say that it had been found that such divisions were too big, and that they would be split up, and would I act as military representative on the Tendring (Thorpe) Police Division. Now I don't know if I am to attend the Colchester meeting tomorrow.
On Wednesday afternoon I went to Burslem to see Mater, reported to be past hope. I saw her at 8 p.m. and remained alone with her for about half an hour. She looked very small, especially her head in the hollow of the pillows. The outlines of her face were very sharp; hectic cheeks; breathed with her mouth open, and much rumour of breath in her body; her nose was more hooked, had in fact become hooked. Scanty hair. She had a very weak, self-pitying voice, but with sudden outbursts of strong voice, imperative, and flinging out of arms. She still had a great deal of strength. She forgot most times in the middle of a sentence, and it took her a long time to recall.
She was very glad to see me, and held my hand all the time under the bed-clothes. She spoke of the most trifling things as if tremendously important - as e.g. decisions as if they were momentous and dictated by profound sagacity. She was seldom fully conscious, and often dozed and woke up with a start. "What do you say?" rather loud. She had no pain but often muttered in anguish: "What am I to do? What am I to do?" Amid tossed bedclothes you could see numbers on corners of blankets. On medicine table, syphon, saucer, spoon, large soap-dish, brass flower-bowl (empty). The gas (very bad burner) screened by a contraption of Family Bible, some wooden thing, and a newspaper. It wasn't level. She had it altered. She said it annoyed her terribly. Gas stove burning. Temp. barely 60. Damp chill, penetrating my legs. The clock had a very light delicate striking sound. Trams and buses did not disturb her, though sometimes they made talking difficult.
Round-topped panels of wardrobe. She wanted to be satisfied that her purse was on a particular tray of the wardrobe. The mater has arterial sclerosis, and patchy congestion of the lungs. Her condition was very distressing (though less so than the Pater's), and it seemed strange that this should necessarily be the end of a life, that a life couldn't always end more easily. I went in again at 11.45 p.m. She was asleep, breathing noisily. Nurse, in black, installed for the night. The mater had a frequent, very bright smile; but it would go in an instant. She asked for her false teeth, and she wanted her ears syringed again, so that she could hear better. This morning she was easier after a good night, but certainly weaker. Mouth closed and eyes shut tight today. Lifting of chin right up to get head in line with body for breathing. A bad sign.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Preparing to write

Friday, November 19th., Villa des Nefliers.

Yesterday I finished making a list of all social, political, and artistic events, which I thought possibly useful for my novel between 1872 and 1882. Tedious bore, for a trifling ultimate result in the book. But necessary. To-day in the forest I practically arranged most of the construction of the first part of the novel. Still lacking a title for it. If I thought an ironic title would do, I would call it "A thoughtful young man". But the public is so damned slow in the uptake.
I am now getting to the end of my year's work. In a week, I shall have nothing to do except collection of information on the spot for the novel.
To-day I finished and mounted another water colour, of Arbonne, - one of my least rotten.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Leaving Chicago

Saturday, November 18th., Indianapolis.

Set out for Indianapolis this morning at 9.47.
Sort of accommodation train.
Niceish restaurant car. Niggers thereon. Nigger understrapper who shined boots, and knew all about the prospects of the C.H. and D. Rly. (Monan route.)
Chiefly flattish country (with welcome breaks), yellow stubble land. Occasionally a dark muddy river. Single track (after once clear out of Industrial Chicago, which seemed to be one vast shunting yard).
Arrived Indianapolis 3 (12 minutes late about). Maple streets in all streets. Monuments to sailors and soldiers. Dome of state house.

The Indiana State Capitol, the Statehouse, has been the seat of Indiana’s government since 1887 and is perhaps the grandest 19th-century Neo-Classical Revival building in Indiana. Alexander Ralston balanced his plan for the city with two symmetrically placed sites on Market Street east and west of the circle. The west parcel, a terminal point of Market, is the site he chose for a state capitol building.

State fair ground outside town. Said to be same in all State capitals.
Dinner. Booth Tarkington, Doran, Craig and me.

Booth Tarkington (1869 – 1946) was an American novelist and dramatist best known for his novels The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams. He is one of only three novelists (the others being William Faulkner and John Updike) to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once.

Reception at night. About 40 people. Meredith Nicholson. Senator and Mrs. Beveridge (very beautiful, with a soft, and probably Washingtonian, voice); also wife of ex-President Harrison. Numerous provincially dressed girls and women. One debutante, almost the only who wasn't shy. She had made her debut yesterday evening and gone to bed at 2 o'clock. Said she slept very well.
Punch in study made by two Jap boys from University Club.
Went to bed about 12.15.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


Tuesday, November 17th., London.

To-day a business crisis which has been active for a fortnight ended with a definite arrangement that I should accept the editorship of Woman. A fortnight of secret conclaves suddenly hushed at the sound of a door opening; of poring over figures and lists of names and correspondence; of devising schemes, each one superseded by a better, a more perfect one; of planning and counter-planning; of saying the same thing over and over again to a colleague merely because it was impossible to leave the subject and impossible to say anything fresh; of publicly expressed hopes and private pessimism; of forced jocularities; of feverish, incessant thinking by day and night, awake and asleep, walking or sitting, silent or speaking. Almost my first taste of a strictly business, personal anxiety! A few years of such anxiety (the lot of many men), even a year of it, even a month, would drive me, I fancy, to clerkhood again, just for the sake of being free from responsibility and worry.

Arnold Bennett and Late-Victorian "Woman" by Clotilde De Stasio

Edith Evors, my new secretary, is the first genuine middle-class bachelor woman, living alone in London lodgings, that I have been intimately familiar with. A tall woman, slightly under thirty, with big limbs and a large, honest, red-cheeked face, and a quiet, intense voice. Transparently conscientious; with little self-reliance, but a capacity for admiring self-reliance in others. She lives in Bloomsbury, and at night goes to socialist and anarchist lectures. "It is dreadful", she said to me today, "to think how little one can do!" She cannot make her own clothes, though her earnings are only 30 shillings a week, and she grudges "every moment spent in their repair". But personally she is neat enough in an unadorned, aggressively simple way. She is serious, earnest, practical in small affairs, and visionary in great ones. Full of easily aroused pity and indignation. Physically strong and healthy.

Last night, Young, who is an amateur palmist, examined my hand. He diagnosed my character with considerable accuracy; and, prying into the future, found there wealth, but not a long existence. The "life-line", indeed, puzzled him.

Yesterday I finished reading Somerset Maughan's "Of Human Bondage". I consider it to be a masterpiece. If it is largely autobiographical, as is widely believed, then Maughan deserves great credit for his bravery in thus displaying his innermost feelings. Philip Carey is a completely authentic character, and his journey of self-discovery must touch a chord in many men of a certain age; most definitely it did in me! For me, the only slightly false note was Philip's persistence in his relationship to the awful Mildred; surely no-one would submit to such repeated personal abasement? I have seen it suggested that Mildred is depicted as female only for the sake of convention, to escape the wrath of the censor, and that the relationship portrayed was actually a homosexual one: perhaps that would make Philip's obsession, self-disgust, and chronic ambivalence more credible?

William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was born in Paris. His father was a wealthy solicitor, but by the time he was ten, both William's parents were dead and he was sent to live with his uncle, the Rev. Henry Maugham, in Whitstable, Kent. After an education at King's School, Canterbury, and Heildelberg University in Germany, Maugham became a medical student at St. Thomas Hospital, London. While training to be a doctor Maugham worked as an obstetric clerk in the slums of Lambeth. He used these experiences to help him write his first novel and subsequently decided to abandon medicine and become a full-time writer. On the outbreak of the First World War, Maugham, now aged forty, joined a Red Cross ambulance unit in France. While serving on the Western Front he met the 22 year old American, Gerald Haxton. The two men became lovers and lived together for the next thirty years. Maugham had sexual relationships with both men and women and in 1915, Syrie Wellcome, the daughter of Dr. Thomas Barnardo, gave birth to his child. Her husband, Henry Wellcome, cited Maugham as co-respondent in divorce proceedings. After the divorce in 1916, Maugham married Syrie but continued to live with Gerald Haxton. During the war, Maugham's best-known novel, Of Human Bondage (1915) was published. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

First night adventurers

Wednesday, November 16th., London.

I dressed, and went off to entertain Major and Mrs. Whittall at the Yacht Club. It is a fact that between 8.15 and 10.15 or 10.20 I never once remembered that the first performance of "Mr. Prohack" was going on at the Court Theatre.

The Whittalls left about 10.35. I smoked a cigarette after a cigar, and then drove down to the theatre. The curtain had just fallen. It kept going up again while I was in the wings or near the wings. Much satisfaction in the wings, on the staircases, and in the dressing rooms.

Charles Laughton very pleased with himself, as he had the right to be, seeing he had had a great triumph.

Born, July 1, 1899, and from working class roots - his parents managed a Scarborough hotel -  Laughton served in the First World War, where he was gassed, and then went into the family business after that, not entering Drama School until 1925. He had his first professional work the following year and as soon as 1927 would make a name for himself during a year which saw him appear in seven new West End productions, the last of which, Mr. Prohack, would bring Laughton fame and begin his complicated relationship with Elsa Lanchester, his wife from 1929 until his death in 1962.

Everybody who 'came round' professed the greatest enjoyment of the play. I almost believed in a success. Especially as, going into the theatre, I saw Komisarjevsky outside in the dark entry.

Theodore Komisarjevsky (1882 - 1954) was a Russian theatrical director and designer. He began his career in Moscow, but had his greatest influence in London. He was noted for groundbreaking productions of plays by Chekhov and Shakespeare.

I said: "Is it all right?" He said: "Oh yes, it's all right." Dorothy said she had not played very well, but she was not depressed.
She said: "You and I are great adventurers."

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Cast aside

Friday, November 15th., Yacht Club, London.

My resignation from Ministry took effect yesterday. Buchan, the liquidator, came down to see me, and was very explanatory and apologetic. The behaviour of the Cabinet to me was of course scandalous. But they have treated many others similarly, so I was not surprised. The only notice I got was a Roneo'd copy of the War Cabinet minute. I was never consulted in any way.

In February 1918, Lloyd George entrusted Lord Beaverbrook with the responsibility of establishing a new Ministry of Information. From March 4, 1918, this ministry took over control of all propaganda activities, being split into three departments to oversee domestic, foreign and military propaganda. The foreign propaganda division was under the headship of John Buchan and consisted of four branches; propaganda in military zones was the responsibility of the Foreign Office department MI7; domestic propaganda was controlled by the National War Aims Committee. It was a fulfilment of the recommendations regarding centralisation laid out in the second report of Robert Donald, acting as an independent body outside of the remit of the Foreign Office. Nevertheless, there were still problems and criticisms related to the new ministry. Tensions existed between the new Ministry of Information and older ministries such as the Foreign Office and the War Office, and many in government were concerned about the growing power of the press as symbolised by the journalistic control of the new propaganda ministry. In October, Lord Beaverbrook became seriously ill and his deputy, Arnold Bennett, assumed his position for the final weeks of the war. After peace was declared, the propaganda machinery was essentially dissolved and control of propaganda returned to the Foreign Office.

Luncheon to Robert Donald at Connaught Rooms. 400 there to honour him because he had not sold himself to the new proprietors of the Chronicle.

Robert Donald, the son of a stone mason,was born in Corsemaul, Banffshire, on 29th August, 1860. Donald became a newspaper reporter in Edinburgh before moving to London in 1893 where he founded the Municipal Journal. He left this periodical in 1902 and took up the post as editor of the Daily Chronicle. He successfully increased the circulation and influence of this Liberal newspaper. 
In 1914 Donald was able to claim that the net sale of the Daily Chronicleexceeded the combined sales of the The Times, Daily Telegraph, Morning Post,Evening Standard and the Daily Graphic.

The Toast-master in a red coat was the cream of the show. He had a terrifically bland manner, especially with his supplicating hands. And having prayed silence for toast of King he rushed madly right round the room and played "God save the K." on the piano.
At night, dinner to American editors of Trade Journals at Savoy. Smuts in the chair. Nothing special except that Smuts claimed some German colonies for British dependencies.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

A bad night

Sunday, November 14th., Villa des Nefliers.

I finished "The Honeymoon" at noon yesterday.
I read the last act after dinner. It was a considerable success with Pauline Smith, but not with Marguerite as she could not follow it. I met Pauline last year at Vevey and she came to stay here in October. She is a timid girl, socially self-conscious, not very strong, with aspirations, and indeed a real talent as a writer, but very little self-assertion or confidence. I suppose I am a sort of mentor to her and intend to compel her to write a novel, and to make conversation. I am widening her taste in literature, revealing the world of modern literature, in France and Russia as well as in England.

Pauline Janet Smith (1882 – 1959) is known as one of South Africa's greatest writers. Pauline Smith was born on 2 April 1882 in Oudtshoorn, South Africa, and grew up in the Little Karoo. At the age of thirteen she was sent to boarding school in England and never lived permanently in South Africa again, though throughout her life she made a number of extended visits to the country. Her extended visit of 1913-1914, and the journal that she kept, formed the basis of many stories of "the Little Karoo" and her novel "The Beadle." In 1908 she met the English novelist Arnold Bennett, who encouraged her to write fiction about South Africa. Eventually she published the two works for which she’s best known: the story collection The Little Karoo (1925), and the novel   The Beadle (1926). She died on 29 January 1959 in Dorset, England.

Mdme Steinheil acquitted last night . I have kept the newspapers giving a full account of the whole process, as I had a sort of idea I might do something with it sometime. I could certainly contrive something very striking out of the description in to-night's Temps of the scene outside the Palais de Justice while the verdict was being awaited.

On 31 May 1908, Marguerite Steinheil's stepmother and husband were found dead in their home. Both had died of suffocation, the latter by strangling and the former by choking on her false teeth. Marguerite was found gagged and bound to a bed. She initially said that she had been tied up by four black-robed strangers, three men and a woman. Some newspapers speculated that they had come to her house in search of certain secret documents which President Faure (she had been his mistress and was with him when he died in 'unusual' circumstances) had entrusted to her keeping, possibly relating to the Dreyfus affair. The police immediately regarded her as a suspect in the killings but had no hard evidence and made a pretence of abandoning the investigation. But Steinheil herself would not let the affair rest. She made an attempt to frame her manservant, and after that fabrication was discovered, she blamed Alexandre Wolff, the son of her old housekeeper, but he was able to establish an alibi. She was arrested in November 1908 and taken to St. Lazare prison. The crime created a sensation in Paris. It was revealed that she had had a great number of admirers, including even King Sisowath of Cambodia. Opponents of the government tried to make political capital of the affair, the anti-Semitic Libre Parole even charging her with having poisoned President Faure. A sensational trial finally ended in her acquittal on 14 November 1909, although the judge called her stories "tissues of lies".

The dog woke me up last night after I had had 3 hours sleep. After that my nerves were too tightened for me to try even to sleep (as I had just finished my play). I lay awake and listened, rather frightened, to the various noises, all very faint, that I could hear. (I had quietened the dog with a slipper.) Marguerite, the clocks, another noise, regular, that I couldn't and don't understand, and still others beneath these. About 5 I went on with Taine on Balzac, and came across some magnificent pages of generalisations about the art of observation.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Art appreciation

Friday, November 13th., London

At the Press View of the New English Art Club, Egyptian Hall.

The New English Art Club (NEAC) was founded in London in 1885 as an alternate venue to the Royal Academy. Young English artists returning from studying art in Paris mounted the first exhibition of the New English Art Club in April 1886. Among them were Thomas Cooper Gotch, Frank Bramley, John Singer Sargent, Philip Wilson Steer, George Clausen and Stanhope Forbes. Early exhibitions were held in the Egyptian Hall. The Impressionist style was well represented at the NEAC, in comparison to the old-school academic art shown at the Royal Academy. For a time, the NEAC was seen as a stepping-stone to Royal Academy membership.

The Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, London, was an exhibition hall built in the ancient Egyptian style in 1812, to the designs of Peter Frederick Robinson. In 1905 the building was demolished to make room for blocks of flats and offices.

About ten people, half women, in the one gallery sparsely hung with eccentric landscapes imitative of early Italian and Dutch work, a few soft hazy portraits, a few intelligent originalities, a few sterile meaningless absurdities, and one striking, shouting, insistent, dominant nude by Wilson Steer.

Philip Wilson Steer (1860-1942) was the son of a drawing teacher, and studied at an art school in Gloucester before attending the Academie Jullian and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was much influenced by both Whistler and Monet, and exhibited his work mostly at the New English Art Club which he and his friend Sickert founded in 1886. His sunny landscapes, worked with a palette knife, established his reputation, although he also painted portraits and still-lifes. He is one of the most important of the English Impressionists, and in many ways his attitude is very like that of the French Neo-Impressionists, but towards the end of his life he reverted to painting more in the style of Constable, with broad brush-strokes and contrasts of clouds and sunshine. However his last watercolours are more in the manner of Turner, with increasingly diffused colouring and poetic imagination.

In the centre of the gallery a table with sandwiches, wines and cigarettes, which everyone carefully avoided in spite of whispered invitations from a middle-aged male attendant.
Seated in front of the nude - a slim woman of 30, with full breasts and red cheeks sitting up in a very large bed - were a man and woman talking in very loud Kensingtonian tones which outraged the prim silence of the gallery. Near them an old and shabby art critic, to be seen everywhere, was writing in a notebook, his red nose and small peering eyes bent down close to the page. After a long time he joined in the conversation of the other two, and they began even more loudly to discuss the nude, dispraising it in a few light easy sentences of condemnation. It certainly was not a masterpiece, with its hard laboured, unreal flesh painting, but the manner of this condemnation almost made me like it.
When I next turned round, the art critic had withdrawn and the other man was elaborately raising a silk hat from his grey head to the departing woman. She left him to talk to another woman in a corner, and then stood alone staring round the gallery. She was a well-developed woman of 34 or less, with the face and bearing of a Sunday-school teacher; her thick mouth worked in that calculating contemplative way that I have noticed in Sunday-school teachers with a passion for gossip at sewing meetings. To see her in the street none would have dreamt that she was a professed art critic, capable of discussing - however foolishly - an uncompromising nudity with her male acquaintance for half an hour at a time.
The total conglomerate effect - loud voices falling coarsely on the silence; untouched sandwiches; silk-hatted man; dowdy-ish, self-possessed woman; innured quiet art critic practising his trade in the spirit of a tradesman; and the rank, calm, supercilious, harsh nudity - the effect was bizarre and memorable.

Monday, 12 November 2012

The end of the war

Tuesday, November 12th., Yacht Club, London.

In Sunday's papers we saw the Abdication of the Kaiser.

"It is made known from Amsterdam that the Kaiser signed his abdication on Saturday morning at the German Headquarters, in the presence of the Crown Prince and Field-Marshal von Hindenburg. The Kaiser was deeply moved. He resisted abdication until he saw an urgent message giving news of the latest happenings in Germany. ' The Kaiser read the message with a shiver, and signed the document, saying, "May it be for the good of Germany." It was announced from Rotterdam on Sunday that the ex-Kaiser and the ex-Crown Prince had reached the Dutch frontier in motor-cars. They were awaiting the permission of the Dutch Government to proceed to Middachten, where Count Bentinck has offered them a castle as a residence. The Amsterdam correspondent of the London "Daily Chronicle" says that the Kaiser's visit to headquarters was intended to rally the army round him, but only officers, and those chiefly Prussians, placed themselves at his disposal. He conferred for several hours with the Crown Prince, Field-Marshal von Hindenburg, and General von Groener. Both generals advised abdication. Von Hindenburg said : "Delay will have terrible consequences in the army." The Kaiser was undecided when the conference ended. He made up his mind an hour later, after the receipt of communications from Berlin. London was in high spirits over the announcement of the abdication of the Kaiser. Crowds of people, in buoyant mood, thronged thestreets until late at night. There was tremendous cheering and outbursts of patriotic enthusiasm in the theatres and moving-picture halls
when the news was announced from the stage. 

Returned to town yesterday morning. In Lower Regent Street first news that armistice signed - a paper boy calling out in a subdued tone. 10.45. Maroons went off at 11, and excited the populace.
A large portion of the ministry staff got very excited. Buchan came in to shake hands. Girls very excited. I had to calm them. Lunch at Wellington Club. We had driven through large crowds part way up the Mall, and were then turned off from Buckingham Palace.
Raining now. An excellent thing to damp hysteria and Bolshevism. Great struggling to cross Piccadilly Circus twice. No buses. (It was rumoured that Tubes stopped. I believe they were stopped for a time.) It stopped raining. Then cold mire in streets. Vehicles passed festooned with shouting human beings. Others, dark, with only one or two occupants. Much light in Piccadilly up to Ritz corner, and in Piccadilly Circus. It seemed most brilliant. Some theatres had lights on their facades too. The enterprising Trocadero had hung a row of temporary lights under one of its porticoes. Shouting. But nothing terrible or memorable.

Yet this morning, Brayley, my valet, said to me the usual phrases: "You wondered where the people came from. You could walk on their heads at Charing Cross, and you couldn't cross Picc. Circus at all." When he came in with my tea I said: "Well, Brayley, it's all over." He smiled and said something. That was all our conversation about the end of the war. Characteristic.

Last night I thought of lonely soldiers in that crowd. No one to talk to. But fear of death lifted from them.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Sunday, November 11th., London.

I walked out and 'saw' the Two Minute Silence from inside the lobby of the Court Theatre. When I saw old gents standing two minutes  in that perishing wind, hatless, I was glad I'd come inside.

The idea for a Remembrance Day silence was first suggested by Australian journalist Edward George Honey in a letter to The Times in May 1919. He was thinking of a five-minute silence but that was thought too long. One minute was deemed too short. On 7th November 1919, King George V issued a proclamation asking that: "at the hour when the Armistice comes into force, the 11th. hour of the 11th. day of the 11th. month, there may be for the brief space of two minutes a complete suspension of all our normal activities... so that in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead."

I read the "Memoirs of Max of Baden", and learned something about Germany in the war.

Then to Stornoway House to dine with Beaverbrook. Dean Inge and wife, Churchill and McKenna were the other guests. The gloomy dean was not at all gloomy. 

William Ralph Inge was known to the public as ‘The Gloomy Dean’ for the sharp cultural criticism of his columns in the Evening Standard. He was a passionate Christian Platonist known in the academy for his work on mysticism, Plotinus and a synthesis of Christianity and Platonism. Inge wrote over thirty-five books in the areas of mysticism, Christianity, Platonism, ethics and contemporary issues. A number of his books were collections of his essays, including two series of Outspoken Essays, a title that betrays much about its author. For Inge was a controversialist, even a contrarian. In theology he was a liberal, in politics something of a reactionary. A supporter of animal rights and the arts (serving as trustee of the National Portrait Gallery from 1926 to 1951), he was a constant critic of the state of modern civilization, particularly in its democratic form. It was this criticism in the form of regular columns in the Evening Standard (1921–1946) that earned him his reputation as ‘The Gloomy Dean’.

 We all went to the Armistice Festival organised by the Express at the Albert Hall; we had the box next to the King, Queen, and Co. This affair was very impressive indeed.

Thousands of former soldiers and 1,000 widows and other women in deep mourning attended the Remembrance Festival at the Albert Hall. There was an ovation when a fanfare of State trumpets announced the arrival of the King and Queen, who were accompanied by the Duke and Duchess of York. A trench ran down the centre of the hall, and the stage was fashioned to represent a dugout, giving point to the community singing of such wartime favourites as "Tipperary," "Keep the Home Fires Burning," and the old-time catchwords which were shouted across the hall, such as "Are we downhearted?" and the thunderous answer "No!" These were lighter episodes, but deeper emotions were stirred when the lights were dimmed and such memorial music as Chopin's "Funeral March" was played by the massed Guards' bands, and the hymns "O God Our Help in Ages Past" and"Abide With Me" were sung. The festival ended with the sounding of the Last Post and the Reveille. Earl Jellicoe made an impressive appeal to the vast assembly to renew the pledges to keep the spirit of comradeship which won the war for the Allies, while working unceasingly for peace, so that such horrors would never be repeated.

In argument on finance, McKenna knocked Churchill to bits. The financial debate between the Chancellor and the ex-Chancellor was very diverting. I left at midnight.
I enjoyed this evening. It woke me up.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Theatrical temptations

Friday, November 10th., London.

After cogitating off and on through the night I decided upon what will probably be the first sentence of my novel (Anna Tellwright): "Bursley, the ancient home of the potter, has an antiquity of a thousand years" - and also upon the arrangement of the first long paragraph describing the Potteries.
This evening, at his request, I called to "have a chat" with Cyril Maude at the Haymarket Theatre.

Cyril Maude was born in London on April 24, 1862. His long and distinguished career as actor and theatre manager continued for some seventy years. He and Winifred Emery, whom he married, were amongst the highest regarded English stage personalities during much of the Golden Age. Although she trained as a classical actor and he was a popular comic character actor, they often acted together in the period 1894-1905. From 1896-1905, Cyril Maude was, with Frederick Harrison, the joint manger of the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, where, each season, he presented an extremely popular and successful mix of a comedies, costume dramas and the occasional classic, in most of which he starred, sometimes with Winifred Emery. Later, he took a company on tour, visiting the USA in 1913 and Australia and New Zealand in 1917. In the 1920s he continued to appear in light comedies, and when, in 1926, he toured the United States in These Charming People, he was billed as ‘England’s Greatest Comedian’. In the 1930s, he was in half a dozen films, including starring in Grumpy (1930), a film version of the play he had presented in the United States during his 1913 tour. On April 24, 1942, a special performance of The School for Scandal, with Vivien Leigh playing Lady Teazle, was presented at the Haymarket Theatre to honour Cyril Maude on his 80th birthday. But his career was not over. In 1947, he appeared – at the age of 85 – as the Old Admiral in the film While the Sun Shines.

I saw him in his dressing room, a small place with the walls all sketched over by popular artists. Round the room was a dado-border of prints of Nicholson's animal drawings. Although the curtain would not rise for over half an hour Maude was made up and dressed. He was very kind and good-natured about my one act play "The Stepmother", without overflowing into that gush which nearly all actors give off on all occasions of politeness.
The Stepmother (Synopsis)
Cora Prout popular novelist has shot to fame as a writer of medical fiction. She wows her readers with seamy descriptions of the personal liaisons and intrigues between doctors and nurses in her hospital romances. Her secretary, Christine, copes efficiently with her voluminous output while secretly wishing she could see more of Adrian the son of Cora's late husband. Adrian has been banished from the house because Cora thinks that he is distracting Christine from her work. The literary critics however find that Cora's style, grammar and accuracy about medical facts leave a lot to be desired. The reviews of her latest novel are not flattering. Indeed you could say that one particular anonymous critic has really got it in for Cora. But it seems that she has an admirer in Dr Gardner who lives in the flat below. While affecting an air of contempt for her merciless newspaper critic, Cora would love to find out who it is, and suspects that one of her immediate circle must know more than they are telling.

He said that he and Harrison would certainly consider seriously any 3 or 4 act play of mine. He advised me against doing any more curtain-raisers. He suggested that any man , not perfectly familiar with the stage, who wished to write a play, should study Dumas and - Boucicault.
Speaking of Phillpotts, he asked me if he was doing well.
"Very well indeed for a novelist," I said, "but a novelist never makes much money compared with you folks."
"Except", interrupted Maude, "when he writes a good play. I have a vivid recollection of sending Barrie a cheque for over £1000 for the first six weeks of the provincial tour of 'The Little Minister'.
As I was leaving he said: "Shall you begin the play at once?"
"I can't," I said; "I've too much on hand, but I shall do it within a year from now. Good-bye."
"And let us see it?" he called out anxiously. If it was acting it was incredibly fine acting. If it wasn't, he is really anxious to consider a piece of mine.
"Rather!" I replied, "I should think so after your kindness."

A THESIS IN THEATRE ARTS Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Texas Tech University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of MASTER OF ARTS.

Monday, 5 November 2012

An incident in Paris

Thursday, November 5th., Paris

I had a chill, and all day I failed to concentrate my thoughts on my third Windsor story. But I had one good idea in the night.
In the afternoon I walked down the whole length of the Fete de Montmartre as far as La Chapelle, and then back on the other side of the road, incidentally inspecting the immense shop of Dufayel.

'Dufayel' was a huge department store that sold furniture and housewares. When it opened in 1856, it was called Le Grand Magasin des Nouveautés. When the original owner died in 1888, an ambitious employee called Georges Dufayel bought it and gave it his own name. Dufayel (1855 -1916) was quite an operator. He either invented or popularized the notion of buying goods on the instalment plan and buying from a catalogue. He also sold coupons that could be used in other stores, and took a cut of each transaction. Les Grands Magasins Dufayel expanded over the years until the store occupied most of a city block to the east of the hill of Montmartre – about a hectare in all. The inside was palatial, with chandeliers and mirrors, and contained a winter garden and a theatre that seated 3,000. On top of the dome was a revolving searchlight of 10 million candlepower – roughly similar to the light that currently revolves on top of the Eiffel Tower. The statues on either side of the entrance represent “Credit” and “Publicity” and over the door was “Progress” riding in a chariot.

I only saw one episode that interested me - a horse falling down as it turned too sharply from the boulevard into one of the steep streets north. This accident, like many others here, was due to the practice of balancing really large and heavy carts (the cart was loaded with bricks) on two wheels only. The strain on the shaft horse must sometimes be enormous. The leader had stumbled several times onto his knees in the boulevard, but he got round the corner in safety. It was the shaft horse that fell. The teamster gave a little fatalistic nod. The horse, after a brief struggle, resigned himself. Of course, a crowd gathered immediately; a busy, interfering, wishful-to-help crowd. I was much struck by the stink of the crowd, the low type of face, the squints, the bullet heads, the misshapen features. The getting up of the horse was mismanaged for a long time; but in the end it was accomplished without injury to the horse or the cart. No gendarme appeared until just before the end, and then he stood amiably smiling and watching - an oldish man. At least a dozen men gave active assistance, and dozens gesticulated and shouted advice. It was rather melancholy, this exhibition in the mass of the French man's ineptitude. A crowd of French women would have managed it better. I was out an hour and a half, and at the end, as I came in, the noise of the scores of sham orchestras had got fearfully on my nerves.