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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Saturday, 5 January 2013

Commencing Clayhanger

Wednesday, January 5th., Royal York Hotel, Brighton.

This morning at 9.45 I began writing "Clayhanger". I felt less nervous and self-conscious than usual in beginning a book. And never before have I made one-quarter so many preliminary notes and investigations. I went out for a little recess, and at 1.30 I had done 1,000 words, which was very good for a first day.
We went down to the Aquarium after tea, and heard mediocre music, and saw first-rate fishes, etc., living long under highly artificial conditions.
The seals and alligators seemed to be intensely bored and sick of life, but perhaps they weren't.

Brighton Aquarium was the brainchild of Eugenius Birch, the famous pier engineer and designer of Brighton's West Pier, who conceived the idea following a visit to Boulogne Aquarium. Erected on the approach roadway to the Chain Pier, the Aquarium necessitated the construction of a new sea-wall and promenade. The whole project was completed in 1872 at a cost of £130,000, and the Aquarium was inaugurated by Prince Arthur at Easter. The Aquarium proved to be an instant success with the town's fashionable society and received many royal visitors. 

Among the early attractions was a large octopus, and in 1877 the first sea-lions arrived; the exhibition of a live Norway lobster in 1874 caused a furore! In October 1901 the building and business were purchased by the corporation for just £30,000, and Brighton Aquarium was henceforth managed as a municipal enterprise. The Aquarium's popularity  rose again as Brighton's fortunes in general revived. From 1907 until 1918 a municipal orchestra played in the conservatory which was renamed the Winter Garden.

Then I came back and wrote half an article for the Nation about the Hanley music-hall.
Earlier in the afternoon I went out and viewed the shore, and the launching of fishing boats. All kinds of activity in progress, spoiling to be described. But now that I am on my novel I am tied up again for six months from anything really swagger in the way of description.
Weather misty. No visible round trace of the sun. The hotel is haunted by barrel organs. In fact in various ways Brighton seems to be what London was. Its architecture is old Belgravia and Tyburnian.

I continued reading aloud from "The Old Wives Tale" last evening. I was struck by how much detail there is. On the one hand, the reader is drawn deeply into the home of the Baines's but on the other, I had a sense that some editing would have helped the story go forward without losing the sense of place. I am not so sure about the success of Samuel Povey as a character at this stage. Constance and Sophia are real, tangible creatures; Sam seems still two-dimensional. I know that his character is fleshed out successfully later, but at this stage the reader would probably not expect that he would have a major role in the remainder of the book.

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