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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.
Monday, 31 December 2012
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
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.
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.
Saturday, 29 December 2012
|Bournemouth Pier in 1909|
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.
Friday, 28 December 2012
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|
Thursday, 27 December 2012
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Monday, 24 December 2012
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
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.
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
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
Welcome to Sir Douglas Haig and 4 carriages full of Generals yesterday.
Wednesday, 19 December 2012
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
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.
In the afternoon two and three quarter hours hard, in which I wrote 1,200 words of "The Pretty Lady".
Monday, 17 December 2012
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.
Sunday, 16 December 2012
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
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.
I returned by 5.30 train.
Friday, 14 December 2012
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.
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
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
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!
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
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
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
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.
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
Feuchtwanger came for tea at 4.40. Also Hugh Walpole.
|Feuchtwanger and cat|
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
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
On Saturday night I finished my second book, "The Art of Journalism for Women".
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
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.
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.
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
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:
Monday, 3 December 2012
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.
Sunday, 2 December 2012
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.
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".
|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.
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
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.