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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.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

A "Garden City"

Friday, March 31st., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Le Creusot
I went round with Vallee last night to see some of his patients. One was at Champagne - what is called a Cite Jardin, built for the employees of the Creusot Steel Company. The population must certainly be over a thousand, and is probably much more. We arrived when it was nearly dark. Vast blocks of houses four or five stories high, of dark stone, and fearfully ugly and forbidding. A place here and there, and plenty of vacant plots. It was extraordinary how a four-or-five-storied block struck one as being out of place in the country, where land is plentiful. The houses were a cheap imitation of Paris houses. No lights on the stairs, no nights in the streets, but windows lighted here and there, giving hints of mean interiors.
He stopped in  narrow street (why narrow I cannot imagine), quite short, containing, however, three cafes - all pitchpine and zinc and a too cheap simplicity. It was Mi-Careme and the air was full of the sounds of uncouth instruments. A little troupe of masqueurs arrived from the outskirts, where the large residences of the Creusot managers are, and passed into a cafe. The whole impression was terribly forlorn, ugly, and dispiriting. It was a beautiful evening, with a warm, caressing wind, and flashes of lightning.

The origin of Mi-Carême is lost in the mists of time. It has been celebrated in many European communities since the Middle Ages.The essence of the carnival-like Mi-Carême is a spirit of joy, laughter and mockery that contrasts with the Lenten period of austerity, severity and penance leading up to Easter. Lent begins the day after Ash Wednesday and ends the day before Easter. Mi-Carême literally means the middle of Lent.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Gallons of blood

Monday, March 30th., Les Sablons, Fontainebleau.

Curious affair in the village yesterday. Owners of land bordering the forest have the right to catch such deer as they find on their land. Now is the season when deer stray, in search of young shoot. They stray about dawn. Villagers organise a sort of surprise for the deer. They arise before dawn and lie in wait. Yesterday morning sixty people caught six deer. The deer were killed in an open yard close to this house, and blood ran in gallons into and down the road. The sixty people drew lots for the best cuts, and one hears the monotonous calling of the numbers. One tenth of a deer for each person. This morning I saw 4 biches and 3 cerfs slowly cross the road in the forest, about 100 yards behind me.

Yesterday I finished the 5,000 word supplementary instalment for "Helen with the High Hand", begun on Saturday afternoon, and I posted it to Pinker this morning.

James Brand Pinker established himself as a literary agent in mid-January 1896. When he died twenty six years later, he was acknowledged as the greatest literary agent of his time. He was born in 1863 and came from a rather modest background. He left school early to work as a clerk at Tilbury Docks in east London. At the age of 27, in 1888, he began work as a correspondent for the Levant Herald, one of the English dailies in Constantinople, where he remained for three years. In mid-January 1896, recognising the need for a powerful business influence on the literary world, he established himself as a literary agent in Granville House on Arundel Street. It was a case of gamekeeper turned poacher. 1896 was a good year to start a literary agency. Literacy was spreading rapidly. In 1894, the art of fiction had been liberated from the albatross of the obligatory three volumes for a novel, thanks to a joint decision by Mudies and W.H. Smith's circulating libraries to only stock single volume novels. James Pinker established a clientele of great standing. He looked for relatively unknown authors whom he could wean and grow with, rather than attempting to prove himself with writers who were already successful. He set out to be imaginative about his role as agent. His entry into the Literary Year Book of 1901 stated his position: "Mr. Pinker has always made a special point of helping young authors in the early stages of their career, when they most need the aid of an advisor with a thorough knowledge of the literary world and the publishing trade".

This arises from carping by the National Press Agency, in the person of John Reburn, their commercial manager. The N.P.A. is handling "Helen with the High Hand", and Reburn, amongst his other complaints, noted that 'the first few chapters are not of sufficient interest to grip the reader'. Whilst I should have liked to meet the N.P.A. in any way which would not cause me too much trouble, I could not possibly 'strengthen' the first few chapters. The first few chapters are in fact perfectly all right, & very interesting. I cannot under any circumstances alter them. Does Reburn think he has commissioned a story by William Le Queux? They also claimed that the book was only 46,875 words in length. Whoever counted them is wrong! Though I no longer have the manuscript I have the details of the instalments in my diary and they add up to 50,700 words. I always count all my work, word for word.

William Tufnell Le Queux (1864 - 1927) was an Anglo-French journalist and writer. His best-known works are the anti-German invasion fantasies The Great War in England in 1897 (1894) and The Invasion of 1910 (1906), the latter of which was a phenomenal bestseller. Le Queux wrote 150 novels dealing with international intrigue, as well as books warning of Britain's vulnerability to European invasion before World War I

Very proud of my extraordinary industry and efficiency at the present moment. Over 100,000 good words written in the first quarter of this year.

I tried yesterday and today to comprehend a resume of the metaphysics of Prof. Bergson, in the current Mercure de France, and simply couldn't. Not the first time I have failed to interest myself in metaphysics. History and general philosophy much more in my line.

Henri-Louis Bergson (1859 – 1941) was a major French philosopher, influential especially in the first half of the 20th century. Bergson convinced many thinkers that immediate experience and intuition are more significant than rationalism and science for understanding reality. He was awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented". In 1930, France awarded him its highest honour, the Grand-Croix de la Legion d'honneur.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Understanding Einstein

Tuesday, March 29th., Cadogan Square, London.

I went by bus to Trafalgar Square, and into the National Gallery, and stayed there for an hour, and greatly enjoyed Nicholas Poussin's "Nativity", which is the most amusing "Nativity" I have ever seen; and I came out with the required idea, which I shall begin to write tomorrow.

James O'Connor came in. I walked up to Piccadilly with him. He said: I only heard indirectly of the change in your circumstances, my dear Arnold. My wife would much like to call. She is very fond of babies." We travelled by bus together to Sloane Street.  

The Rt. Hon. Sir James O'Connor, PC (1872 – 1931), was an Irish barrister and judge He was appointed Solicitor-General for Ireland in 1914, and Attorney-General for Ireland in 1917. He served briefly as a High Court judge, then as a Lord Justice of the Irish Court of Appeal from 1918 to his enforced retirement in 1924. After a period of practice at the English Bar he returned to Ireland and was admitted as a solicitor, a decision which caused some controversy. Maurice Healy described him as a man of great ability but with no respect for the traditions of the Irish Bar: a failure as a Law Officer, but a good High Court judge and even better as an appeal judge.

Home at 2.45. Corrected a Sunday Pictorial article. Decent sleep. I then wrote 400 words of an Evening Standard article by 4 o'clock.

This article will start from a reflection that the centenaries of Newton and Beethoven are now safely over. I dislike centenaries which are dangerous to one's peace of mind, as they give rise to a stream of twaddle, the sight and sound of which make one feel awkward, constrained, and lower one's estimate of human nature. Reading some of the tributes to Beethoven , I had some of the terrible qualms of humiliation and self-consciousness which visit me when I have to cross arms and join hands and sing Auld Land Syne. Newton was better handled and his centenary leads me to thinking about Einstein. I could desire to assist at the centenary of Einstein, but heaven will no doubt decide against me. Here I am, violent but grey-haired, endowed with a fair sanity and general intelligence, and a passion for knowledge - and after all these years I understand little more of the relativity theory than a clever hall-porter.

Then Michael Morton called by appointment. He told me that he thought he could sell the film rights of "Riceyman Steps" to the Gainsborough people (Hitchcock, producer) for £2,500. I told him to go away and do it. 

Gainsborough Pictures was founded in 1924 by Michael Balcon and was a sister company to the Gaumont British from 1927, with Balcon as Director of Production for both studios. Whilst Gaumont-British, based at Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd's Bush produced the 'quality' pictures, Gainsborough mainly produced 'B' movies and melodramas at its Islington Studios. Both studios used continental film practices, especially those from Germany, with Alfred Hitchcock being encouraged by Balcon -- who had links with UFA -- to study there and make multilingual co-production films with UFA.

This morning I read a Russian short story before leaving the house on the idea-quest, to inspire me. It did inspire me. Dorothy and I played Haydn after dinner.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Motion pictures

Sunday, March 28th., Claridge's Hotel, London.

I wrote 1,400 words of "The Vanguard". Or rather I re-wrote them. Still it was a good morning's work. Lunch at hotel. A man's face at the next table puzzled me through lunch; it was Esher's.

After tea we went to the film "The Sea Beast" at the New Gallery; the idea being taken and slaughtered from "Moby Dick". A filthy and preposterous thing and humiliating to watch. John Barrymore the chief interpreter. A dreadful Hollywood girl as the heroine; obviously chosen for her looks, which were dreadful. This film really did annoy me. We didn't see it all.

We met Barrymore a couple of times last year when he was in "Hamlet" at the Haymarket. he looked distinguished but didn't talk distinguished. He is very shrewd and perspicacious. He has a beautiful voice, very masculine and powerful, and is very friendly and responsive.

John Sidney Blyth (1882 – 1942), better known as John Barrymore, was an American actor of stage and screen. He first gained fame as a handsome stage actor in light comedy, then high drama and culminating in groundbreaking portrayals in Shakespearean plays Hamlet and Richard III. His success continued with motion pictures in various genres in both the silent and sound eras. Barrymore's personal life has been the subject of much writing before and since his death in 1942. Today John Barrymore is known mostly for his portrayal of Hamlet and for his roles in movies like Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1920), Grand Hotel (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), Twentieth Century (1934), and Don Juan (1926), the first ever feature length movie to use a Vitaphone sound-on-film soundtrack.

The immense hall was by no means full; especially the dearest seats were nearly empty when the Barrymore film started (it was a continuous performance). The films of the Boat Race and the Grand National were not bad. The Grand National seemed to be all falls. It seemed most brutal and I was minded to write an article about it.
Also about the Boat Race, which ruins the hearts of so many youths. No. 5 in the Oxford crew this year collapsed before the end, and I expect that his heart will never be the same again. Of course he is branded, with pity, in the papers. He even has headlines. He must have had quite an agreeable weekend.

An important survivor in central London’s Regent Street, the New Gallery Cinema ceased operating as a cinema on 13th September 1953. Originally built in 1888 as an art gallery, it became the New Gallery Restaurant in 1910, but this did not last too long as it was converted into a cinema, opening on 14th January 1913 as the New Gallery Cinema. All was to change again, when it was radically altered and enlarged by architects Nicholas & Dixon-Spain re-opening on 12th June 1925. There is a spectacular Greek frieze, 256 feet long running along the walls which was the work of artist Gertrude Halsey. The projection box was located at the rear of the centre dome in the auditorium ceiling, which created a very steep throw onto the screen. The 1,450 seats were split between stalls and single balcony.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

War nerves

Wednesday, March 27th., Yacht Club, London.

Yesterday the brothers McKenna at Reform Club on bad war news.

Reginald McKenna (1863-1943) was educated privately and at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he obtained a degree in mathematics in 1885. A member of the Liberal Party, McKenna won North Monmouthshire in the 1895 General Election. In the government formed by Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 1905, McKenna was appointed as Secretary to the Treasury. This was followed by a year as President of the Board of Education. McKenna also served as First Lord of the Admiralty (1908-1911), Home Secretary (1911-1915) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1915 - 1916) under Herbert Asquith. McKenna was totally opposed to conscription and left the government after it was introduced by David Lloyd George in 1916. Like most Liberals that stayed loyal to Asquith, McKenna lost his seat in the 1918 General Election. After the election he retired from public life. See also 'Absolute Five Towns' - March 24th.

They came in together. I said "The Brothers" and they sat down with me, and asked if I'd been to any newspaper offices to get news. "My god! It's awful," said Ernest, in a quiet, disgusted, immensely pessimistic tone. I referred to Spender's two articles that day. Ernest said Spender was a good man, kept his nerve - but Reginald looked at the first article, saw one line, and said: "Now, I read nothing but that. The man who will say that - " etc. Ernest said: "There's only one thing to do. Call Parliament together at once and get more men." Reginald repeated this after him. They had evidently been long talking together and had exactly the same ideas on everything. "Robertson was right. Jellicoe was right," said Reggie oracularly. "Robertson is on the beach. Jellicoe is on the beach. In order to be on the beach you only have to be absolutely right." I have no idea what they meant by this, but it obviously meant a lot to them. Perhaps brothers who are close develop a way of communicating ideas which is perfectly intelligible to them but impenetrable to the rest of us?

Lunch at Sidney and Beatrice Webb's today. (See also 'Strolling about - February 4th.) Webb said his wife couldn't sleep on account of the war news, and he had to exaggerate his usual tranquil optimism in order to keep the household together. It was one of the rare human touches I have noticed in the said household. However, they were soon off on to the misdeeds of the Reconstruction Committee. I was told that certain of the staff of the 'Department of Information' had resigned when Beaverbrook was appointed minister over them, refusing to serve under 'that ignorant man'. They won, and were transferred to the Foreign Office - one more instance of the hand-to-mouthism of Ll. George. Went to Reform Club to see papers. Massingham was so gloomy he could scarcely speak. (See also 'A curious mixture' - March 15th.) The brothers McKenna came in, intensely pessimistic. I was rather ashamed of them. Spender's two articles in the Westminster were A1 for fortitude and wisdom. I think more and more highly of this man. (See also 'Writers for Peace - February 11th.)

On March 21, 1918, near the Somme River in France, the German army launched its first major offensive on the Western Front in two years. At the beginning of 1918, Germany's position on the battlefields of Europe looked extremely strong, with conflict in the east drawing to a close, leaving the Central Powers free to focus on combating the British and French in the west. Russia's exit had allowed Germany to shift no fewer than 44 divisions of men to the Western Front. German commander Erich Ludendorff saw this as a crucial opportunity to launch a new offensive--he hoped to strike a decisive blow to the Allies and convince them to negotiate for peace before fresh troops from the United States could arrive. In November, he submitted his plan for the offensive that what would become known as Kaiserschlacht, or the kaiser's battle; Ludendorff code-named the opening operation Michael. Morale in the German army rose in reaction to the planned offensive. Many of the soldiers believed, along with their commanders, that the only way to go home was to push ahead. Michael began in the early morning hours of March 21, 1918. The attack came as a relative surprise to the Allies, as the Germans had moved quietly into position just days before the bombardment began. From the beginning, it was more intense than anything yet seen on the Western Front. Ludendorff had worked with experts in artillery to create an innovative, lethal ground attack, featuring a quick, intense artillery bombardment followed by the use of various gases, first tear gas, then lethal phosgene and chlorine gases. He also coordinated with the German Air Service or Luftstreitkrafte, to maximize the force of the offensive.
By the end of the first day, German troops had advanced more than four miles and inflicted almost 30,000 British casualties. As panic swept up and down the British lines of command over the next few days, the Germans gained even more territory. By the time the Allies hardened their defence at the end of the month, Ludendorff's army had crossed the Somme River and broken through enemy lines near the juncture between the British and French trenches. By the time Ludendorff called off the first stage of the offensive in early April, German guns were trained on Paris, and their final, desperate attempt to win World War I was in full swing. 

Then to flat to dine. Electricity not working there. Gloom of candles. Marguerite very gloomy about the war. This sort of thing always makes me cheerful.

Sybil Colefax gave me a very good description of the All Clear Signal in a few words at dinner.

Sibyl, Lady Colefax (1874 – 1950) was a notable English interior decorator and socialite in the first half of the twentieth century.

She said she was walking with her husband in the streets towards the end of a raid. Everything was quite silent. Then the searchlights began winking the "All clear" all about the sky. Then the sound of the "All clear" bugles was heard. Then the footsteps of a man. Then the footsteps of ten people, of twenty, of a hundred. The town was alive again.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Not John Baines

Thursday, March 26th., Cadogan Square, London.

I was walking in Selfridge's basement yesterday afternoon, idling between two appointments, when I met Selfridge in a rather old morning suit and silk hat. He at once seized hold of me and showed me over a lot of the new part of his store. Cold-storage for furs - finest in the world. Basement hall 550 feet long. Sub-basement with a very cheap restaurant where they serve 3,000 to 4,000 customers a day. he introduced me to the head of his baby-linen department saying: "Here is a gentleman wants things for three of his children, one is three months, another ten months, and another a year old." Then up his own private lift to the offices and his room, where I had to scratch my name with a diamond on the window - with lots of others. He showed me a lot of accounting. Then downstairs to book department. Fine bindings etc. His first remark was, taking up a book: "Human skin." I had to hurry away. He kept on insisting that it was wonderfully interesting. And it was.

Harry Gordon Selfridge, Sr. (1856 – 1947) was an American-born British retail magnate, who founded the London-based department store Selfridges. His 30-year leadership of Selfridges led to him becoming one of the most respected and wealthy retail magnates in the United Kingdom. His property portfolio included Highcliffe Castle in Dorset. Selfridge travelled from the USA to England in 1906 and invested £400,000 in his own department store in what was then the unfashionable western end of Oxford Street. The new store opened to the public on 15 March 1909 and Selfridge remained chairman until 1941 when he retired. In later life, Selfridge watched his personal fortune rapidly decline due, in part, to the Great Depression. It finally disappeared—a situation not helped by his continuing free-spending ways. In 1941, he left Selfridges and moved from his lavish home and travelled around London by bus. He is buried in St Mark's Churchyard at Highcliffe, Dorset.

London shops have a display far inferior to Paris shops. No style in setting out goods. There is simply no comparison between London and Paris in this respect. An article ought to be written about it, but no paper publishing drapers' advertisements would publish such an article.

Monday, 25 March 2013

The triumph of beer

Wednesday, March 25th., Les Sablons, Fontainebleau.

The news of the triumph of beer in the Peckham election this morning really did depress me. I understood, momentarily, the feelings of the men who give up politics in disgust; and I also understood the immense obstinate faith of those who fight for Liberalism all their lives. It is the insincerity and the deliberate lying of the other side that staggers me. I read in the Daily Mail this morning that when the news of the triumph of beer got into the music-halls last night there were scenes of wild enthusiasm, and perfect strangers shook hands with one another.

The Peckham by-election, 1908 was a parliamentary by-election held for the British House of Commons constituency of Peckham on 24 March 1908. The seat was won by the opposition Conservative Party candidate, Henry Cubitt Gooch, a gain from the Liberal Party who had won a large majority at the 1906 general election. Gooch's campaign centred around opposition to the policies of the Liberal government of Henry Campbell-Bannerman. In particular he attacked the provisions of the Licensing Act 1906 and proposed education reforms. The Licensed Victuallers' Association pledged to support Gooch. There was controversy when it emerged that Meux's Brewery had made two large donations to the Conservative campaign, and the cheques were immediately returned. Gooch was also a strong proponent of "Imperial Preference" and was supported by the Tariff Reform League. Forty motor cars were used by the two parties to bring their supporters to the polls, and Peckham was said to present "the appearance of a huge fair". Processions of voters moved through the streets accompanied by marching bands and displaying coloured rosettes and lights: red for the Conservatives and blue for the Liberals. The result was announced at 11 pm. The Conservatives overturned the Liberal majority by a margin of nearly two and a half thousand votes, surpassing their expectations. The party's celebrations continued late into the night, including a firework display.

However, I worked well all day.

I have been reading an author's views on "What are works of literature about". Worth reading at: http://blog.roberthellenga.com/what-are-works-of-literature-about.
I'm not sure I really grasped the thrust of his argument, but was struck by this passage about Homer's Illiad: "We human beings are on our own. Moreover, the gods confront no limitations, make no important decisions; their initial quarrel over the fate of Troy dissolves in laughter. But human beings do confront important limitations, and this is what makes their lives meaningful. The Iliad, I tell my students, is about luminous moments of love, moments of intensely personal experience – Hector and Andromache on the wall, Achilles and Priam in Achilles’ tent – against a background of meaningless flux. I personally needed big generalizations like these in order to learn to appreciate the poem. I needed a framework, a way to think about the poem."

What he calls the “background of meaningless flux” I see as the stuff of literature. The novelist is he who, having seen life, and being so excited by it that he absolutely must transmit the vision to others, chooses narrative fiction as the liveliest vehicle for the relief of his feelings. He is like other artists in being unable to keep his knowledge to himself, but differs in that what most chiefly strikes him is the indefinable humanness of human nature, the large general matter of existing. In my view there is scarcely any aspect of the interestingness of life which cannot be rendered in fiction, and none which might not be.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Absolute Five Towns

Friday, March 24th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

London yesterday. Pamela McKenna handed over a book which Birrell had given me in exchange for "The Golden Remains of the Ever Memorable John Hales", which he bought from me about 24 years ago when I was doing a few experiments in bookselling - and never paid for.

Pamela Jekyll (1889–1943), younger daughter of Sir Herbert Jekyll, was a friend of Herbert and Margot Asquith, and one of several young women with whom Herbert Asquith carried on a platonic flirtation. Pamela's relationship with the Asquiths, especially the prime minister, drew her husband Reginald McKenna into their social circle and enhanced his political status.

In my Evening Standard article this week I have had some fun writing about "Latter-day Symphony" by Romer Wilson. I have been told, frequently, that she wrote a superlative novel, "The Death of Society". I hope it isn't like the "Latter-day Symphony" in either style or matter. A specimen of the writing: "Lord Edward handed him a beautiful glass of clouded yellow wine. A cherry and a small purple strawberry knocked their heads together in it." Now that sort of facile fancifulness irritates me, or would irritate me were I not a philosopher. I could teach even a member of the British Academy to write like that. "Latter-day Symphony" is about a Chelsea crowd of drunken fornicators. I don't in the least mind novelists writing about drunken fornicators, who certainly ought to be written about. But I recognise no human nature in the book. One of the heroes says to the heroine: "A flame shot through my flesh when you touched me. It was exquisite, but I can't endure that without rapture." Now, I have lived much in and around Chelsea, but I have never met any drunken fornicator who ever talked so, and I don't believe that any human being ever talked so, except for fun or because he was an incurable ass.

Romer Wilson (1891-1930). During a brief writing career (almost entirely limited to the 1920s) Romer Wilson wrote produced novels, two novellas, a play, a biography, and a posthumously published collection of short stories. She compiled and edited three volumes of fairy tales from around the world. Her novels, highly philosophical and sometimes lyrically overblown, treat the existential and epistemological dilemmas facing postwar Europe. Many of her protagonists are artists or philosophers struggling to achieve or understand perfection in a world riven with suffering and imperfection. She often explores the impact of love and the effects on society of war or of mechanisation, in fiction which suggests a longing for a pre-industrial pastoral past.

On Wednesday night a Welsh vet. officer came here to sleep. Very provincial and polite and talkative. All about Lloyd George and N. Wales and Stanley Weyman. Just like middle-class provincials in Potteries, except for accent. Speaking of billeting in Manningtree, he said the billetees had to cook for soldiers, while not finding the food. "Now many of them didn't like it," he said with sympathy and conviction, as middle class speaking of and understanding middle class. It was absolute Five Towns. No member of upper middle class would have said it like that. A member of upper middle class might have laughed, or said it indulgently, or said it comprehendingly, but not with the same unconscious sympathy.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


Wednesday, March 23rd., Rue de Calais, Paris.

On Friday night last "Le Dedale", play in 5 acts by Paul Hervieu. I thought this one of the greatest modern plays I have ever seen, especially as to the three middle acts. Constant spiritual action of the piece, and constant drama, conflict of emotions etc. rising at times to great heights. The famous catastrophe of the precipice in the fifth act did not convince me; nor was I convinced of the necessity for any such fatal tragedy at all. On the other hand the catastrophe may have seemed ineffective because I demanded a stage effect which the stage-manager could not realise, or had failed to realise: the sense of a dizzy height etc. ... When one has been extremely pleased with a work one always tries to reason away what one fears may be faults.

Paul Hervieu (1857-1915) was born at Neuilly, near Paris. His first play, Point de Lendemain, a short adaptation of a story, was produced in 1890, and five years later The Nippers appeared, firmly establishing Hervieu's reputation. The plays of Hervieu are perhaps the nearest approach to true tragedy [of their day]; they are also what the French call "thesis plays." With his faultless logic, clear and direct methods of writing, and admirable sincerity, he comments on and criticizes those phases of life that seem to need correcting -- the law, chiefly, and its relation to man and woman in the married state. The Labyrinth (Le Dédale) proves the thesis that the child is the everlasting bond between man and wife. The best plays of Hervieu -- The Labyrinth, The Nippers, and The Passing of the Torch -- rightfully place their author as a master-psychologist of the French stage of his day. Hervieu died in Paris.

On Saturday morning I went down to Les Sablons to stay with the Davrays. We went for a walk in the forest of Fontainebleau in the afternoon. I noticed on entering this vast forest, intersected with glorious roads, a characteristically French sign-board: "General instructions for reading the signposts in the forest." The system of signposts seemed to me to be absolutely complete. I found the forest quite up to my expectation, but bigger.

Nemours - the castle and the church bordering the Loing River
On Sunday Dr. Vallee took us to Nemours, a delicious old town with a castle, ramparts, moats, and the Loing; full of wonderful views. Mme. and I went to buy cakes and we all had tea on the pavement in front of an inn; while the landlady and another woman sat and sewed nearby. Seeking the garcon to pay the bill I got into a vast kitchen full of all kinds of curious domestics and copper pans. Passing along the street we saw a tailor, old, in black, white hair, and a strangely shaped head, standing at the door of his shop. Davray and I both exclaimed at once: "Balzacian". "Ursule Mironet" is laid in Nemours, and the extraordinary veracity of Balzac's descriptions strikes one everywhere. His descriptions were not exaggerated. 

Ursule Mirouët, an often overlooked novel, belongs to Honoré de Balzac’s great series of 94 novels and short stories La Comédie humaine. First published in 1841, it forms part of his Scènes de la vie de province. The action of the novel takes place in Nemours, though with flashbacks to Paris. It is set in the years 1829-1837. The dominant tone of Ursule Mirouët is projected at the very outset of the work, when Balzac compares its Nemours setting to the beauty and simplicity of a seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting. Ursule Mirouët has that “noble simplicity, and … tranquil greatness” which, in Winckelmann’s words, were the defining characteristics of Classicism.
"Who knows Nemours," wrote Balzac, "knows that nature there is as beautiful as art,"

I was enchanted with Nemours. 

We came back to Les Sablons on the great Paris-Antibes road, passing from that to the great Paris-Marseilles road, stupendous highways both, straight, interminable, with double rows of trees on either side.

At night music, and that freedom of speech which is one of the joys of France.

On Monday Dr. Vallee took Mme. and I to Fontainebleau. The Napoleonic suites of rooms and all the others impressed me much. Napoleon's bedroom with the cradle of the Roi de Rome and its gold guardian angel (much like the angel on top of Burslem Town Hall) remains in my mind.

The Palace of Fontainebleau, is one of the largest French royal châteaux. The palace as it is today is the work of many French monarchs, building on an early 16th century structure of Francis I. The building is arranged around a series of courtyards. The commune of Fontainebleau has grown up around the remainder of the Forest of Fontainebleau, a former royal hunting park. Within a decade of the Revolution, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte began to transform the Château de Fontainebleau into a symbol of his grandeur. With modifications of the château's structure, including the cobblestone entrance wide enough for his carriage, Napoleon helped make the château the place that visitors see today.

Friday, 22 March 2013

On the move

Tuesday, March 22nd., Lausanne.

We left Brighton on Friday morning.

We stayed 3 nights at the Hotel Terminus, Paris. I went for a voyage up the Seine to Charenton and back. I then went to the Exposition des Independants and there met O'Connor and Root. One or two charming indecencies in the show.

Tea at Weber's in the Rue Royale. Dined at Godebskis. Afterwards Ravel, Calvocoressi, Delage, Simon and l'Abbe Petit came in. On Sunday morning I wandered about and looked into Notre Dame (Rameaux). I bought a good edition of Stendhal's "L'Amour" on the quays and at once took ideas from it for "Clayhanger".

The novel seems to be looking up slightly. Anyhow it is being done honestly.
The reviews of "Helen with the High Hand" are exceedingly polite and kind, but they do not gloss over the slightness of the thing.
Among recent American reviews of "The Old Wives Tale" is one which says that the book would have been better if it had only a little sense of humour, the verdict being that it is tedious and unenlivened by either humour or observation.
One of the most marvellous sunsets I ever saw tonight. The peaks of the Dent du Midi sticking alone out of cloud high up in the sky, like rosy teeth.

Dents du Midi
I have written to the editor of The Nation to complain about the treatment of Charles Garvice's work by Middleton Murry. I regard it as unadulterated intellectual snobbery. Amongst other things I wrote: "Was it not worth while to give pleasure to the naive millions for whom Charles Garvice catered honestly and to the best of his very competent ability? Ought these millions to be deprived of what they like, ought they be compelled to bore themselves with what Mr. Murry likes merely because Mr. Murry's taste is better than theirs? The idea is ridiculous. The idea is snobbish in the worst degree. Taste is still relative. Mr Murry ... has probably not yet reached the absolute of taste. Charles Garvice's work was worth doing, and since it was worth doing it was worth doing well."

John Middleton Murry (1889 – 1957) was an English writer. He produced more than 60 books and thousands of essays and reviews on literature, social issues, politics, and religion during his lifetime. A prominent critic, Murry is best remembered for his association with Katherine Mansfield, whom he married as her second husband, in 1918, his friendship with D. H. Lawrence, and his friendship (and brief affair) with Frieda Lawrence. Following Mansfield's death, Murry edited her work.

Charles Andrew Garvice (1850 - 1920) was a prolific and popular author of romance novels in Britain, the United States and translated around the world. By 1913 he was selling 1.75 million books annually, a pace which he maintained at least until his death. Garvice published over 150 novels selling over seven million copies worldwide by 1914. He was ‘the most successful novelist in England’, according to Arnold Bennett in 1910. Despite his enormous success, he was poorly received by literary critics, and is almost forgotten today.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Trying times

Monday, March 21st., Cadogan Square, London.

I've written 20,000 words in the last twelve days.
In today's Evening Standard article, I was writing about Sinclair Lewis, and particularly about "Dodsworth". The theme of which is the relative merits of the civilisation of the United States  and of Europe and the reactions of the one civilisation to the other. Embark on "Dodsworth" and you are carried away on a swift tide, and you exult in the swirling stream under you. Sinclair Lewis is a man at the height of his powers. Immediately after reading "Dodsworth" I read Mr. Sturge Moore's "Armour for Aphrodite". Interjected between his chapters are a number of aphorisms, and though some of them are not immediately helpful, others are lamps in a dark world. Here is one of the latter. "Beauty is rarely simple, and always supposes completeness." Think it over. Here is another. "To cherish beauty in memory prompts us to seek it everywhere." Think it over. Such lamps really do illuminate.

Dorothy had her operation yesterday. The nurse was here about 8 o'clock and soon D.'s room was transformed into an operating-room. I walked for about 40 minutes, saw Dorothy, and began to write my chapter at noon precisely. I wrote about 750 words. Saw Dorothy again and then at intervals I wrote more words. Nurse had been sitting in the drawing-room and elsewhere for a change. When she returned to the bedroom I returned to my study, and finished my chapter, and counted the words. I had written a complete chapter of 1,700 words, and was fairly assuaged and content. Then went and had my own dinner and drank some Burgundy, and read Sinclair Lewis's "Elmer Gantry", which is acutely alive and readable. Then I saw Dorothy again, and came downstairs and had half of one of my new Partaga cigars. I saw Dorothy again previous to her being arranged for the night. I came back to my study and finished my cigar, and read more "Elmer Gantry". Finally I got to bed by 11 p.m. but with the expectancy of a disturbed night. I didn't spend one penny of petty cash all day. It was a satisfactory day, considering all the circumstances, and I had done a day's work sufficient for even an absolutely free day.

I had to order the meals and wrestle with the French cook this morning. So that by 10.30, after I had seen Dorothy twice, although I had had a very calm pre-prandial time (from 6.30 to 8.30), I was beginning to have a headache and felt dans tous mes etats. I went out for an idea-finding walk, and got to the South Kensington museum and sat down in a corner, and no sooner had I done so than four workmen came to disturb me by moving trestles. No sooner had they gone than the ideas came to me in a vague but satisfactory rush; and I walked straight out again. I saw Dorothy a third time, and exactly at 12 sat down to work and at 12.35 had actually written 700 words. It seems as if nothing can stop me from working just now.

I had a highly disturbing letter from F. C. B. about a wild project of his for coming to London; which upset me. I have written to Richard to tell him about this scheme of his father's to take a practice in London, which does not appeal to me at all. I do not think for a moment that, after all these years in the provinces, he would be able to hold together any sort of a London practice, & I do not think he realises this in the least. I also divulged to Richard that, after much indecision, we have settled on a Rolls Royce. It is 1921, but went through RR works for reconditioning only two months ago & is now in perfect order. Total price £650. I should have got a Sunbeam but I arrived at the garage just after the thing had been sold to someone who could run quicker. The yacht will certainly not be fitted out this year. In fact I shall sell her.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Military manoeuvres

Monday, March 20th., Thorpe-le-Soken.

The Am. Column received the order to depart on Friday night at 10.30 - to leave on Saturday. The O.C. spent Saturday morning in trying to get the order rescinded, because the Weeley position is too far back for a battery at Frinton, especially with a R.A.M.C. and an A.S.C. in between. He failed. The actual departure, which we witnessed between 5.30 and 6.30 p.m. on Saturday, was a striking proof of the vast inferiority of horse and mule traction to motor traction.
One mule wagon had to be unloaded twice as the mules wouldn't or couldn't draw it. General mix-up, and dinting of gate posts. Part of confusion may be the fact that the O.C. had lost both his subalterns and had to do everything himself. However, he had an excellent sergeant-major. On one wagon was perched his servant holding his dog under one arm and a parcel of a large photo under the other. The departure had the air of a circus departure badly managed. Then of course on arrival at Weeley (2 miles) they had to take everything to pieces again.
Meantime new units were coming in, and it was getting dusk, and an officer's mess was being fixed up roughly at Culver House. The melancholy of evening over it all; but it was a warm evening. Few drops of rain. Then in darkening village you saw groups of men with piles of kit bags lying in front of them waiting to get, or trying to get, into Workmen's Club, where a lot of them billeted.
Lovely night. Bright moon. Trot of a horse occasionally till late.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

G. & S. is 'dead'

Friday, March 19th., Cadogan Square, London.

"The Gondoliers" at Prince's last night. I thought that this was better than it proved to be. There are at least half a dozen magnificent tunes in it, and beyond those - nothing. Immense longueurs in the action, especially towards the end of each act, and the 'climaxic' explanation on the other hand is much too hurried. The fun is merely childish. Also it is 'healthy' fun. The one joke of the gondolier about taking off his cap or anything else in reason 'seemed quite shocking'. It was all far too respectable. The packed audience was also stodgy and ugly. In fact you wondered where the people came from - so dull were they. However, the applause was much less than it used to be. The whole affair dull save for the magnif. tunes. I don't want to see any more G. & S. Fundamentally the thing is dead.

Finished re-reading "The Pretty Lady" yesterday. It is good, I think, but not as good as it could have been. I felt it would have benefited from a slower pace, more development of character, and a good dash of extra realism, for example in the description of Christine's rooms, her relationship with the maid Marthe, and the conduct of her 'profession'. Also the ending is unsatisfactory. Francis Hackett in the New Republic, described the ending as 'inept' and he may be right. An anonymous reviewer in the Evening Sentinel wrote: "written with ... a higher purpose and a larger vision, the novel might have become distinguished." he may be right as well. But would it have sold so many copies? I best liked the conclusion of Wallace's review in the Manchester Guardian: "In its breathlessly clever use of words the book is perhaps the most brilliant Mr. Bennett has given us, but after this frenzied excursion into life high and gay, it would be just splendidly restful to be back again in the Five Towns".

Monday, 18 March 2013

Prowling the forest

Wednesday, March 18th., near Fontainebleau.

In two hours of working this morning (1,600 words) I absolutely exhausted myself, so that after lunch I was so fichu that I scarcely knew what to do. In 3 days 4,000 words of "Old Wives Tale", 2 articles, some verse, and general scheme of long article on London theatrical situation. Also ideas for a big play about journalism for the Stage Society, designed to thrill London. Marguerite came back last night from 2 days in Paris, and brought two books - new, French, fresh as fruit. Astonishing the pleasure of merely contemplating them as they lay on the table. I must really, once settled in Fontainebleau, resume the good habit of buying a book a day.
Worried about the finances of Fontainebleau lately. Still I kept myself in hand very well until the moment arrived last night for me to receive a crucial letter from Pinker. It was handed to me in the dark street. I had some difficulty in not stopping to read it under a gas lamp. I read it at the station. All right. No mistake, the constant practice of M. Aurelius and Epictetus has had its gradual effect on me. Have never worked better than these last days. Lovely weather, but chilly. Chilblains on hands. Immense pleasure, pretty nearly ecstatic sometimes, in looking at the country, in being in it, particularly by the Seine and in the forest. I said to myself the other morning that the early savage used to prowl about from his cave like that, and that I might almost meet one in the forest; whereupon it occurred to me that I was exactly the early savage over again, prowling round his cave, with the same sniffing sensations of instinctive joy in nature. Very curious this getting down to the bedrock.
Reading continues to be unsatisfactory. No work of longue haleine to read. Can't begin till we are installed in Fontainebleau. Also I can't stick to the piano: not enough music here; nothing but Chopin's Mazurkas and Preludes, and Mozart's Sonatas. Thus, though enormously productive, I have time on my hands, even with journeys to Fontainebleau and reading six newspapers a day.
Last week I began a column of book gossip for the New Age. Pleasure in making it rosse. Writing under a pseudonym, I seemed to think that as a matter of fact it must be rosse. Strange! This week's was better than last.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Wet and dark in London

Friday, March 17th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

To Grafton Gallery where the most mixed show (Allied Artists Assocn.) you ever saw.

The Allied Artists Association was founded by Frank Rutter, art critic of The Sunday Times newspaper, in 1908. Its purpose was to provide a platform for the exhibition and promotion of modernist art in Britain. The AAA organised exhibitions at various venues, most notably an annual Salon in Paris. In an advertisement for the AAA in 1917, in the literary journal Art and Letters, it was announced that the aim of the AAA was to organise exhibitions without the use of a selecting jury, with each member having 'the right to show any three works he (or she) pleases and to have one work hung on the line.' In June 1917 the AAA held a show at the Grafton Galleries, London.

Good modern things and cubism, and the rottenest amateurishness of the worst old-fashioned kind. For instance  a cat sitting on a polished floor, and necklace thereon, with the title "Reflections". No Strand picture dealer would have dared to put it in his window. The place was ready for a reception to Pachmann. I don't know how we managed to be let in. All the snobs began to arrive. We left then.

Tea at Hatchetts.
Then to Westminster Cathedral for evensong. Beautiful darkening empty building, very sad, and a sing-song by six priests and their leader.
I dined at the Reform alone, and alone to the Alhambra. Very empty.

The Alhambra was a popular theatre and music hall located on the east side ofLeicester Square, in the West End of London. It was built originally as The Royal Panopticon of Science and Arts  but closed after two years and reopened as the Alhambra. The building was demolished in 1936. The name comes from association with the Moorish splendour of the Alhambra palace in Granada. During World War I, a series of hit revues played at the Alhambra that included The Bing Boys Are Here (1916), which featured the first performances of the song "If You Were The Only Girl In The World".

Les grues allowed to sit in the back row of the dress circle. London very wet and dark and many grues mysteriously looming out at you in Coventry Street.

Miss Wish Wynne (1882–1931),
in the Character of Janet Cannot
for the Play 'The Great Adventure'
by William Nicholson

I slept at the R.T.Y.C. Thursday morning, long seance at barber's. Then to W. Nicholson's. He was in a black leather jacket covered in paint. He gave me the portrait of Wish Wynne that was used in the production of "The Great Adventure". He showed me some most ingenious 'still lifes', and Eric Kennington's biggish war picture - very striking.

Sir William Newzam Prior Nicholson (1872 – 1949) was an English painter of still-life, landscape and portraits, also known for his work as a wood-engraver, illustrator, author of children's books and designer for the theatre. From 1893 to 1898 Nicholson collaborated with James Pryde in designing posters. Their partnership was conspicuous for striking graphical work and woodcuts—they were known as the Beggarstaff Brothers, and their poster work was significant historically.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Critic as Artist

Thursday, March 16th., Les Sablons.

Yesterday I finished the second part of "Sacred and Profane Love". The book so far is over 6,000 words longer than I had anticipated, and I think the second part is rather better on the whole than I expected it would be when I started it.

I have read Oscar Wilde's "Intentions", and found it really very good, better than "De Profundis". As someone who sees himself as both an original writer and a critic, the idea of 'critic as artist' appeals strongly to me. Wilde is too severe on 'realism', reflecting his own thoroughly Romantic character and style.

Originally published in 1891 when Wilde was at the height of his form, these brilliant essays on art, literature, criticism, and society display the flamboyant poseur's famous wit and wide learning. A leading spokesman for the English Aesthetic movement, Wilde promoted "art for art's sake" against critics who argued that art must serve a moral purpose. On every page of this collection the gifted literary stylist admirably demonstrates not only that the characteristics of art are "distinction, charm, beauty, and imaginative power," but also that criticism itself can be raised to an art form possessing these very qualities. The heart of the collection is the long two-part essay titled "The Critic as Artist." In one memorable passage after another, Wilde goes to great lengths to show that the critic is every bit as much an artist as the artist himself, in some cases more so. A good critic is like a virtuoso interpreter: "When Rubinstein plays...he gives us not merely Beethoven, but also himself, and so gives us Beethoven absolutely...made vivid and wonderful to us by a new and intense personality. When a great actor plays Shakespeare we have the same experience." Also included are: "The Decay of Lying," in which Wilde takes to task modern literary realists like Henry James and Emile Zola for their "monstrous worship of facts" and stifling of the imagination; "Pen, Pencil, and Poison," a fascinating study of art critic and murderer Thomas Griffiths Wainewright; and "The Truth of Masks," on the use of masks, disguises, and costume in Shakespeare. For newcomers to Wilde and those who already know his famous plays and fiction, this superb collection of his criticism offers many delights.

I read also in "The Importance of Being Ernest", and found that admirably witty.

The French are a "stuffy" nation; but they do hang their bedding out of the windows in the morning to air. This is more than can be said of the English.

I go to Paris tomorrow with some regret. I could easily become a countryman completely. I am now 38, and it occurs to me that I am still trying to find a style of life which suits me. Sometimes I think I am made to be a countryman (or at least could embrace that persona), and yet the life of the city calls me. In a way I suppose that with my English provincial roots (and what roots they are!) I am not really suited to settle in any of the patterns of life which my ideas suggest as being appropriate. Perhaps I have outgrown the possibility of contentment.

Friday, 15 March 2013

A curious mixture

Thursday, March 15th., Yacht Club, London.

H. L. Rothband, the Manchester manufacturer, lunched with me yesterday at the Reform, about his scheme for employment of disabled soldiers. Curious mixture of ingenuousness and acuteness.

Sir Henry Lesser Rothband, 1st Baronet, was a British public servant. Rothband was the author of the Rothband employment scheme for sailors and soldiers disabled in the war, published in 1917. 
Mr. Rothband proposed is that a Royal appeal should be issued, preferably by the King, but if not, then by the Prince of Wales, to all employers of labour throughout the country. They were to be invited to say whether they were willing to provide places for disabled soldiers and sailors ; and if so, to give promises of employment for at least one or more. He was created a baronet, of Higher Broughton, Salford, in the County Palatine of Lancaster, in 1923, in recognition of his "public services". He died in November 1940 when the baronetcy became extinct.

I missed the beginnings of a shindy between Spender and Massingham. Masterman brought this safely to an end by leaving the smoking room with Massingham and sitting in the gallery. Spender was with Buckmaster.

Henry Massingham (born 1860) joined the Labour World in 1892 until becoming editor of the Daily Chronicle in 1895. After four years , Massingham resigned in November, 1899, over his unwillingness to support the Boer War. For the next eight years he worked for the Manchester Guardian and the Daily News. In March, 1907 Massingham became editor of The Nation. In the First World War Massingham used the journal to campaign for a negotiated peace. During this period Massingham changed his support from the Liberal Party to the Labour Party. He held the position until April, 1923 when Joseph Rowntree decided to sell the journal to a group headed by John Maynard Keynes. Aware that Keynes was a supporter of the Liberal Party, Massingham decided to resign. Henry Massingham contributed articles to the New Statesman until his death in August 1924. For Harold Spender see 'Writing for Victory' Sept. 3rd.

I wrote another 1,100 words of novel yesterday after another very bad night, and I was so exhausted in the afternoon that I could scarcely even walk.

Percy Williams told me on Monday that he had his beagles with him at Bournemouth. They raided a butcher's shop. The dog-master asked butcher what the damage was. The butcher said £6. The dog-master said: "I'll toss you for it." They tossed and the butcher lost. This is a good sporting-military story.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Minor distractions of the people

Friday, March 14th., Cadogan Square, London.

Yesterday, Reform lunch. Talking about gambling. It was defended by James Currie and even by Lord Buckmaster (see 'False Alarms', Feb. 27th.). Stated to be the one distraction of the people. There is, however, fornication. Apropos of all this, when I was coming home from Hammersmith in the Tube yesterday evening, two workmen got in, one about 35 and the other 18 or 20.

Hammersmith Broadway, 1910 - Tube Station on the right
They carried paint pots and 'turps' pots wrapped in paper and covered at top (paint pots, i.e.) with paper with a hole for brush handle to poke through. Dirty. Shabby. Dirty hands. Dirty caps with big peaks. The young one wore black leggings. They pushed the cans as far as possible under seats. The young man was smoking a cigarette. As soon as they sat down each of them pulled a new packet of chewing-gum from his pocket, stripped off the paper, broke the packet in half and put one half into his mouth. I didn't notice any actual jaw motion of chewing. The young man kept on smoking. The chewing-gum business was obviously a regular thing, and much looked forward to. Obvious satisfaction on their faces as they opened the packets. After a few minutes the young man pulled a novelette from his pocket and went on reading it. (The elder had nothing to read) Minor distractions of the people: cigarettes, chewing-gum, novelettes. I forgot to mention that the young man carried a coil of rope within his buttoned jacket. It stuck up towards his neck

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A domestic day

Sunday, March 13th., Cadogan Square, London.

I went out for a walk, along the Embankment past the old Clock House (now turned into flats and looking damned odd - what a change, only a year or two ago I met at dinner the woman who lived in Clock House all by herself), and past Oakley Street into Cheyne Row and past Carlyle's gloomy house, which I hadn't seen for a long time, and home by 12 0'clock.

The Clock House 1879. R Norman Shaw, architect. Five storeys, basement and dormers. Mostly 7 windows. Red brick. Cornice at third floor. Three wide oriel windows at second floor. Leaded lights. Iron balcony first floor. Octagonal clock on carved wood bracket at second floor. Altered upper storey.

Wherupon, having got my ideas into order, I at once sat down and wrote 800 words of "Accident". Lunch at home with Dorothy.

At night I resumed Sinclair Lewis's new novel, "Elmer Gantry".

Universally recognized as a landmark in American literature, Elmer Gantry scandalized readers when it was first published, causing Sinclair Lewis to be "invited" to a jail cell in New Hampshire and to his own lynching in Virginia. His portrait of a golden-tongued evangelist who rises to power within his church--a saver of souls who lives a life of duplicity, sensuality, and ruthless self-indulgence--is also the record of a period, a reign of grotesque vulgarity, which but for Lewis would have left no trace of itself. Elmer Gantry has been called the greatest ,most vital, and most penetrating study of hypocrisy that has been written since the works of Voltaire.

At 3.25 we went forth by a 11 bus to the National Gallery, and saw a few fine things again, and the Hubert van Eyck thing that was in the Flemish exhibition at the R.A. Good, but not, to my mind, in the same place as John van Eyck, which is hanging close by. Dorothy showed me a portrait of a man by (I forget - Italian, 15 cent.), and said that for her it was the finest portrait in the world.It was very fine, but perhaps she was attracted as much by the subject as by the painting. We dined alone together, and then we played four-hand bits out of the "Meistersinger".

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Triumph of hope over reason

Saturday, March 12th., Fulham Park Gardens, London.

On my way to seeing Mrs. L. I called at a bread shop in Holborn. To judge from the exterior one could desire no place of refreshment more fastidiously neat and dainty. But when I was inside I found the shop and the room at the back occupied by women and girls in various conditions of deshabille. The place was being cleaned, and the hour being only 11 a.m. customers were clearly not expected. The girls all looked up surprised, and with a show of indifference I picked my way amongst kneeling figures into the inner room. When I had sat down, I heard a rummaging noise under the table, and presently a fat young girl appeared therefrom. She hurried away laughing, but came back shortly and produced from under the table a tin bowl of dirty water which she carried away, with a giggle. I ordered a glass of milk and a sandwich, and then waited. A girl, tall, thin and vacuous, ran upstairs and came down soon afterwards pinning on an apron at the back. She brought me my food. I ate it, while looking at a dirty newspaper placed to protect the newly washed floor, and at the crimson petticoat showing through the placket-hole of a girl who was washing the floor behind the counter. I could feel about me the atmosphere of femininity. The dirt and untidiness spoilt the taste of my food, and I thought: "This is a bad omen for the result of my interview with Mrs. L."
The room into which I was shown in Gower Street was, I think, the ugliest, the most banal I have seen. From the twisted columns of the furniture to the green rep of the upholstering, everything expressed Bloomsbury in its highest power. This was a boarding house. My hopes sank and they were not raised by the appearance of Mrs. L. who combines the profession of a landlady with that of a "mental healer". She looks the typical landlady, shabbily dressed, middle-aged, and with that hardened, permanently soured expression of eyes and lips which all landladies seem to acquire. She fitted with and completed the room.
She asked me about my stammering and my health generally, talking in a quiet, firm, authoritative voice. I noticed the fatigue of her drooping eyelids and the terrific firmness of her thin lips. She told me how she had been cured of nervousness by Dr. Patterson of America, and gave a number of instances of his success and her own in "mentally treating" nervous and physical disorders. Some of them were so incredible that I asked myself what I, notorious as a sane level-headed man, was doing in that galley. However as Mrs L. talked I was rather impressed by her sincerity, her strong quietude, and her sagacity. I asked what the patient had to do. "Nothing", she said. I explained my attitude towards "mental healing" - that I neither believed nor disbelieved in it, that certainly I could not promise her the assistance of my 'faith'.
"Can you cure me of my stammering?"
"I am quite sure that I can," she answered with quiet assurance, "but it will take some time. This is a case of a lifelong habit, not of a passing ailment."
"Shall you want to see me often?"
"I shall not want to see you at all: but if you feel that you want to see me, of course you can do so. I shall look after your general health too. If you have a bad headache, or a liver attack, send me a word and I will help you."
I nodded acquiescence but I was nearly laughing aloud, and telling her that I preferred to dispense with these mysterious services. As I was arranging terms with her, I marvelled that I should be assisting at such an interview. And yet - supposing there were after all something in it! I was not without hope. She had distinctly impressed me, especially by odd phrases here and there which seemed to indicate a certain depth of character in her. I went away smiling - half believing that the whole thing was a clever fraud, and half-expecting some happy result.
Tonight I sent her a cheque. I wondered, as I wrote it out, whether twelve months hence I should be wanting to burn these pages which recorded my credulity, or whether with all the enthusiasm of my nature I should be spreading abroad the report of Mrs. L's powers.

Monday, 11 March 2013

An invitation to sail

Friday, March 11th., Cadogan Square, London.

First thing after breakfast and seeing Dorothy I wrote a little article about Westminster Cathedral for the Oxford and Cambridge (illustrated weekly). I took the material from notes made on a visit. I've got a lot of these notes made within about twelve months. I shouldn't ever have written the article without notes. Moral. Unhappily I do this article gratis.
Then I went out for a walk along King's Road and round about Holbein Place (second-hand shops) to get my "Accident" ideas into order. Succeeded. sat down and began to write at once, 500 words by 1 p.m. Tea with Dorothy. Then a bit more of the novel. I found I had written 1,200 words of the same by 7 p.m. Quite excellent for the first day of a resumption after seven weeks' intermission. I spent a bit of time in miscellaneous reading.
The Colefaxes, Alick Shepeler and Otto Kahn and Rudolf Kommer came for dinner. Kahn came through Kommer. Kahn wanted a nice bunch for his yachting cruise in the Greek Archipelago, and Kommer, who is very friendly with him, suggested me as one. Kahn is short and white and sturdy. Of course very assured in style. Stuffed with brains. Highly intelligent. Phrases his talk very well. I at once decided to sail with him. April 20th. for a month. Kahn was never uninteresting, he gave a great deal of his attention to Dorothy. You can see he is efficient in everything. His information-giving talk with me about the projected cruise was excellently terse - couldn't have been better.

Otto Hermann Kahn (1867 – 1934) was an investment bankercollector, philanthropist, and patron of the arts. He was born in Mannheim, Germany, and raised there, by his Jewish parents. His father had been among the refugees to the United States after the revolution of 1848 and had become an American citizen, but later returned to Germany. Kahn was educated in a gymnasium in Mannheim. Kahn's ambition was to be a musician, and he learned to play several instruments before he graduated from the gymnasium. But he was one of eight children, and his father had set plans for the career of each one. Kahn he destined to be a banker. At 17, Kahn was placed in a bank at Karlsruhe as a junior clerk, where he remained for three years, advancing until he was thoroughly grounded in the intricacies of finance. He then served for a year in the Kaiser's hussars. On leaving the army he went to the London agency of Deutsche Bank, where he remained five years. He displayed such unusual talents that he became second in command when he had been there but a comparatively short time. The English mode of life, both political and social, appealed to him, and eventually he became a naturalized British subject. In 1893, he accepted an offer from Speyer and Company of New York and went to the United States, where he spent the rest of his life. On January 8, 1896, Kahn married Addie Wolff and following the couple's year-long tour of Europe, Kahn joined Kuhn, Loeb & Co.in New York City, where his father-in-law, Abraham Wolff, was a partner. In 1917, Kahn gave up his British nationality and became a United States citizen. During the last years of Kahn's life he became increasingly frail and suffered from arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure and attacks of angina pectoria. On March 29, 1934, following lunch in the private dining room of Kuhn, Loeb, Kahn suffered a massive heart attack and died, aged 67.

Finishing a novel last evening I experienced again that feeling of sadness and loss which often follows an enjoyable reading experience. Perhaps it is akin to post-coital tristesse. I find it occurs most commonly at the conclusion of a plot-driven novel. My belief is that the body responds to the power of the writing in the same way it would to actual physical stimuli, and the abrupt termination produces an anti-climactic reaction as liberated chemicals in the system subside. Perhaps then the strength of the reaction is a measure of the author's success.

Ladies on the omnibus

Wednesday, March 10th., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

In the noon omnibuses, I notice more and more frequently the well-dressed well-bred unattended woman of from 20 to 35. She is typically and finely English; fresh, fair complexion, clear eyes, glossy hair, and (for the most part) comely - at worst - as to face; generally quite pretty. her clothes have been cut to fit exactly her neat, trim figure, and they are well made, of excellent material and quiet in style. She is bien gantee, and when she happens to lift her skirt, one sees that she is also bien chausee, and carries irreproachable lingerie. She holds her small purse easily, and selects a penny from its contents wit a most businesslike precision; she knows exactly where the bus must stop for her, and gives her orders to the conductor with all the air of a seasoned commercial traveller at a large railway terminus. In a word she knows as much about bus-riding as may be known; an escort would merely be a useless embarrassment. Sometimes she finds herself without money for the fare, and she is by no means nonplussed. Either she offers a stamp, or calmly asks the conductor to wait while she gets financial assistance from a shop where she happens to be known. I have seen this occur - and no trace of embarrassment in the lady's demeanour either. A man in such a predicament would certainly betray his perplexity.
And yet the very faces of these women, unwrinkled, unconcerned, almost childlike in comparison to the men's, indicate that they are the carefully-nurtured, sheltered, supposed-to-be fragile creatures their mothers were .... At least in essentials. I judge from the mere faces of these women that the "woman's emancipation" etc. movement has yet penetrated but slightly into the ranks of the middle class. These women are unacquainted with the realities of existence. Someone - never seen in that bus where she is, but rather in the underground railway carriage at 9.30 and 6, someone who wears a silk hat and comes home at night self-important for dinner - protects the woman in the bus apparently so free - protects her, commands her, gives her money to spend, bullies her, spoils her, perhaps ruins her happiness ...
A different style of woman is to be seen in the bus going townwards at night. As I was on my way to the first night of "Saucy Sally" at the Comedy this evening, a woman got in the bus (empty save for myself), went quickly past me and sat down at the far end, with her face carefully turned from the door. Curious, I took an opportunity to change my seat for one that enabled me to see her face. I glanced furtively at her over my newspaper. Soon she caught my eye, and returned the glance with a cold, questioning stare, as who should say: "Now, do you mean business or not?" I looked at her again, and again her eye was a half-inviting question. As other passengers arrived she edged up the bus, till she was sitting exactly opposite to me, and our eyes almost carried on a conversation. She was a woman over 30, with a face pretty enough (unless seen in profile when a long crease in the cheek cast an unpleasant shadow) and the full, only slightly accentuated bosom which many light women seem to affect. Had it not been for the cold calculation expressed occasionally in her glance, I should have judged her not much spoilt - as to disposition - by her profession. After a time she gathered that my intentions were not serious, and ignored me.
Among the other occupants of the bus were two young girls, stagily pretty, with large lustrous eyes, darkened eyebrows, and doll's mouths. They wore large waving hats and talked in crudest cockney to a man who looked like a scene-shifter. as one watched their unreserved demeanour, one instinctively contrasted them with the women who had filled that bus a few hours earlier in the day. No doubt they were chorus-girls, and without stain, but no-one had sheltered, protected them. They knew as much as most men. They knew what the woman opposite me was; they detected her instantly and furtively, whispered to each other, smiling, and then dismissing the matter.