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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, 18 January 2013

Getting things in perspective

Friday, January 18th., Trinity Hall Farm, Hockliffe, Bedfordshire.

Trinity Hall Farmhouse - Author Arnold Bennett lived at Trinity Hall Farm on the Watling Street
at the turn of the century. His only attempt at popular detective fiction (Teresa of Watling Street)
featured the strange intrigues of those who lived there and in the nearby village of Hockliffe.
Last night I read, and re-read, a lot of Dr. John Brown's "Horae Subsecivae", and was much impressed by it.

John Brown FRSE FRCPE (22 September 1810 – 11 May 1882) was a Scottish physician and essayist. He was the son of the clergyman John Brown (1784–1858), and was born in Biggar, Scotland. He was the friend of many contemporaries, including Thackeray; his reputation is based on the two volumes of essays, Horae Subsecivae (Leisure Hours) (1858, 1861), John Leech and Other Papers (1882), Rab and His Friends (1859), and Marjorie Fleming: a Sketch (1863). His first writing was in response to a request for contributions to the notices of paintings exhibited by the Royal Scottish Academy. The editor of the Scotsman newspaper then asked him to write regularly for the paper. He was 48 years old when he published Rab and His Friends. His writings were philosophical, classical, artistic, medical, of rural life, theJacobite Rebellion, notable characters, humble folk and canine friends. These were published as a collection in 1858 as Horæ Subsecivæ, which ran to many editions.

The pictures of Scottish character give one to see why the Scots prevail everywhere; and what a number of great men there are in the world who never achieve wide fame. The "Letter to Dr. Cairns" is one of the best biographical sketches I have ever read; the records in it of fine scholarship in humble places are amazing, and humiliating to one who has been forced into the habit of taking seriously the facile reputations of literary London. Dr. Brown himself was a passably big man, but his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle and great-uncle were at least as big if not bigger. He is the best known of all the family, by reason of these essays and sketches which have been popular for 30 or 40 years, but perhaps he marks the beginning of the decline of a great family; he was a light litterateur, an amuser and diverter.
What a difference between that and his father's immense and erudite work "On Civil Disobedience" - of which I had never heard before!

With the history of the Brown's fresh in my mind this morning, I was able to estimate at its proper unimportance the circular which the Graphic people have issued about my serial "The Grand Babylon Hotel", to appear in the Golden Penny, which they sent me this morning, and which in a whirl of adjectives describes the thing as "the most original, amusing, and thrilling" serial written this decade - the best thing of the sort since "The Mystery of a Hansom Cab". Fancy writing a story as good as "The Mystery of a Hansom Cab"!

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is a mystery fiction novel by English writer Fergus Hume. The book was first published in Australia in 1886. Set in Melbourne, the story focuses on the investigation of a homicide involving a body discovered in a hansom cab, as well as an exploration into the social class divide in the city. The book was successful in Australia selling 100,000 copies in the first two print runs. It was then published in Britain and the United States and went on to sell over 500,000 copies worldwide.

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