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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Social contrasts

Sunday, January 2nd., Royal York Hotel, Brighton.

On Friday night, our last night in London, we went to the Tivoli. There were no seats except in the pit, so we went in the pit. Little Tich was very good, and George Formby, the Lancashire comedian, was perhaps even better.

Harry Relph (1867 – 1928), known on the stage as "Little Tich", was an English music hall comedian. He was noted for the characters of The Spanish SeƱora, The Gendarme and The Tax Collector, but his most popular routine was his Big Boot dance, which involved a pair of 28-inch boots, commonly called "slapshoes" in the days of vaudeville. He was also popular as a pantomime dame.

George Formby (1875 – 1921), born James Lawler Booth, was an English comedian and musician. He was a star in Edwardian music halls, singing and clowning in a sardonic style that influenced the young Charlie Chaplin. Formby was plagued by ill-health and suffered from tuberculosis, but despite this was one of the highest paid entertainers of his day. His son was the popular comedian and ukulele player who also used the stage name George Formby.

Gus Ellen I did not care for. And I couldn't see the legendary cleverness of the vulgarity of Marie Lloyd. She was very young and spry for a grandmother. All her songs were variations on the theme of sexual naughtiness. No censor would ever pass them, and especially he wouldn't pass her winks and her silences.

Marie Lloyd (1870 – 1922), born Matilda Alice Victoria Wood, was an English music hall singer, comedienne and musical theatre actress during the late Victorian era. She was perhaps best known for her many songs based on everyday subjects for working-class women, including "The Boy I Love Is Up in the Gallery", her first major success, "My Old Man (Said Follow the Van)" and "Oh Mr Porter What Shall I Do". She received much criticism for her use of innuendo and double entendre during her performances, but enjoyed a long and prosperous career and was affectionately called the "Queen of the Music Hall" by her audiences.

To be noted also was the singular naivete of the cinematograph explanation of what a vampire was and is, for the vampire dance. The stoutest and biggest attendants laughed at Little Tich and G Formby. Fearful draughts half the time down exit staircases from the street. Fearful noise from the bar behind, made chiefly by officials. The bar-girls and their friends simply ignored the performance and the public. Public opinion keeps the seats of those who go to the bar at the interval for a drink.
Going home, stopped by procession of full carriages entering the Savoy and empty carriages coming out of it.

We came down to Brighton by the 1.55 on Saturday, to the Royal York. In the afternoon I called at the Exeter to learn the terms there, as Farrar had recommended it. When I gave the landlord my card, he started back, let his hands fall, and said "My God! Is it you?" This was the first landlord of my acquaintance who had ever read anything, much less a book of mine. He seemed to know me pretty thoroughly. I gave him my card at the end of the interview, and then the interview had to begin all over again.
However, we didn't go to the Exeter, as when it came to the point the celebrated Harry Preston of this celebrated hotel would not let me go. He agreed to my terms.

Originally built in 1771 as houses, the building was converted into a hotel in 1819, and was named Royal York after the Regent's brother, Frederick, Duke of York. In 1901 the hotel was bought by the charismatic Harry Preston, who extended the building and modernised the hotel dramatically. He was a famous bantam-weight amateur boxer and was friends with many of the great sportsmen of his day, such as W. G. Grace. As a result, many of these famous friends became regular guests at The Royal York. Other celebrities of the time also stayed at the hotel, including Wilbur Wright soon after his first flight as did many of the biggest names in theatre and entertainment such as Sir Henry Wood. In 1910, Mr Lloyd George entertained friends at the Royal York, as it was renowned for its excellent food and wine.

Our first stroll along the front impressed me very favourable, yesterday afternoon. But I am obsesssed by the thought that all this comfort, luxury, ostentation and correctness, is founded on a vast injustice to the artisan-class. I can never get away from this. The furs, autos, fine food, attendance, and diamond rings of this hotel only impress it on me even more.

This morning I worked genuinely for an hour on the construction of the first part of my novel.
Last night I was reading aloud from "The Old Wives Tale", my first re-reading for some years. The introductory section setting the Square within the district, the district within the county, and the county within the country is really very well done. Also the two girls (Constance and Sophia) are quickly and successfully established as believable characters. My experience at Woman has been invaluable in the matter of feminine taste and fashion I find! I find reading aloud difficult, but enjoyable and hope to improve with practice. I am reading from the manuscript facsimile which adds a little to the difficulty (the occasional word is hard to make out) but enhances the experience. Some pleasing alliterative phrases.

In today's Evening Standard article I wrote that I have reconciled myself to the fact that I cannot read everything, or ten percent of everything. I never begin a book unless I think it will interest me, and I never finish a book unless it actually does interest me. Such is my literary rule of life, and there is no exception to it unless I think that a book has been so much over-valued, or will so acutely exasperate me, that I am likely to be moved to invective and violent dispraise. This does not happen often. In fact many people say that frequently I am too kindly towards books. I do not agree, addicted though I certainly am to what Swinburne called "the noble pleasure of praising".

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