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.
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.
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.