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Saturday, 2 February 2013

Subject for a novel?

Saturday, February 2nd., Cadogan Square, London.

Yesterday, lunch at Savoy.


For many years I have been fighting against the instinct to write a novel about a grand hotel. The big hotel-de-luxe is a very serious organisation; it is in my opinion a unique subject for a serious novel; it is stuffed with human nature of extremely various kinds. The subject is characteristic of the age; it is as modern as the morning's milk; it is tremendous and worthy of tremendous handling. I dare say it's beyond me. But nobody else had caught hold of it, and if I'm not audacious I'm nothing!

Reeves Smith, Rupert Carte, Thornewill and Temple showed me over the hotel. This visit shows that the instinct is still strong in me!

Sir George Reeves-Smith (17 July 1863 – 29 May 1941) was an English hotelier. Hired by Richard D'Oyly Carte in 1900 to replace C├ęsar Ritz as manager of the Savoy Hotel, he remained in the post until his death four decades later. In addition to running the Savoy, he was general manager of the other hotels and restaurants in the Savoy group and was a director of the Savoy Theatre. He was also instrumental in establishing charitable medical institutions in England and Switzerland.

The waiters' tips are put in a tronc, and divided each week into parts (French word). Some men get a little over one part, and some as low as one eighth of a part. A part may mean £8 or £10 a week. It appears that if any waiter is cheating he can usually be detected by the law of averages. The waiters have their own clerical work done; but it is checked by the hotel, 'to see fair play'. The maitre d'hotel takes no share in the tips. In the credit department, I found that all mistakes on the wrong side, in bills, if waiters' fault, have to be paid by the waiters.
I heard that the Savoy alone took in receipts a total of a million a year, about £3,000 a day.
Chambermaids keep their own tips individually. Ditto valets. Door-porters pool their tips.
Tale of the head of the Cloakroom; been there for ages; remembers people's faces, often without troubling as to their names. He took an overcoat from an old gentleman, and gave it back to him at the end without a word.
Guest:         How did you know that this is mine?
Employee:   I don't know, sir.
Guest:         Then why do you give it to me?
Employee:   Because you gave it to me, sir.

Kitchen. Head Chef under thirty. Worked his way up. Wore a natty little cravat without collar. Stores. Fish in tanks. The man who calls out the orders as they come down is called the aboyeur. I didn't see a great deal of special interest in the kitchens, except the patent washer-up.
Power Station. Artesian wells. geared turbines. Power for carpet-sweepers, pumping etc. The Power Station looks like the stoke-hold, rather, of the Lusitania. Run by oil now. Ventilated by vast draughts of cold air through trumpet-like things. water heaters for both.
Graph Office. (Capt. Jack) Graphs for various receipts. in summer receipts for rooms go up, and restaurant receipts go down. Londoners away in summer. Hence there are two publics. The travelling and the home publics - very distinct.
Audit Dept. every bill separately checked - but afterwards. Every query on them has to be cleared up.
Printing Office. All menus, cards, programmes, and large bills. In their spare time they do the hotel's commercial printing (such as order forms).
Repairs Dept. I didn't see this. But they plan all their big carpets down there. However, I saw througha window in the side street the room where 10 to 12 women repair the hotel linen every day.
Laundry. Clapham. I didn't see it. An Americam expert said it was undoubtedly the finest equipped laundry in the world.
Bedroom and suites. 6 guineas a day for double bed and sitting room, bath etc. 9 guineas for two bedrooms and sitting room. It pleases visitors best that the rooms should be if anything too warm when shown. Thornewill had given orders previous night that one suite should not be let, so that I might see it at my ease.




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