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

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Saturday, 9 March 2013

Russia and revivals

Tuesday, March 9th., London.

I went with Swinnerton on a month's holiday to Portugal on Jan. 29, and returned last Wednesday March 3rd.

Frank Arthur Swinnerton (1884 – 1982) was an English novelist, critic, biographer and essayist. He was the author of more than 50 books, and as a publisher's editor helped other writers including Aldous Huxley and Lytton Strachey. As a novelist, Swinnerton achieved critical and commercial success with Nocturne in 1917, and remained a successful writer for the rest of his life. His last novel, Some Achieve Greatness (1976), was published when he was in his early nineties. Some critics detected echoes of George Gissing and Arnold Bennett in Swinnerton's work, but he himself thought his chief influences were Henry James,Henrik Ibsen and Louisa May Alcott. Swinnerton lived for more than fifty years in Old Tokefield, Cranleigh, Surrey, a rural spot not far from London. Swinnerton died at Old Tokefield at the age of 98. His obituary notice in The Times began by noting that his death "breaks one of the last links with his great contemporaries, Wells, Galsworthy and Arnold Bennett."

While I was away, "Sacred and Profane Love" finished its London run at the Aldwych of just over a hundred performances. Still I made quite a lot of money out of that play. On Feby. 2nd, "Sacred and Profane Love" started its American career under Frohman & Co.; with Elsie Ferguson as "attraction" in Pennsylvania and went on to Baltimore for second week, and the receipts for the first fortnight were 25,000 dollars. On the same day, Feby. 2nd. a spring provincial tour (21 weeks) of "Milestones" started at Oxford.

W. R. Hearst newspapers asked me if I would go to Russia to interview leaders and examine Soviet system for them. I said I would go for 2,000 dollars a week, plus all expenses, and a journalist-courier with me to see to all the formalities. They said this was prohibitive and offered alternative to send me in tow of the Allied Commission going out to Petrograd at £200 a week to include expenses. I refused.
I also got the idea for my next novel (on the old age of Max's father, as related to me by Max himself) fairly complete, and I read "Le Cure de Campagne" for the death-bed scene at the end. I shall have a great death-bed scene at the end of my novel, and I want to stage it with the utmost magnificence. I got a tip or two from Balzac: but he is not at his best in this book and can be bettered.

Lately we have seen three revivals. "Arms and the Man" seemed better than it did 25 years ago. very fine. Shaw's title to be the modern Moliere not so rocky as I had thought. On the other hand "Pygmalion" is on the whole poor. Most of the characterisation is quite rotten, and wilfully made so for the sake of art and eloquence. The last act is foozled. Mrs Campbell was superb. There is still nobody else to touch her.

Poster featuring Mrs Patrick Campbell
in the role of Eliza Doolittle

Mrs Patrick Campbell (9 February 1865 – 9 April 1940), born Beatrice Stella Tanner and known informally as "Mrs Pat", was an English stage actress. In 1914, she played Eliza Doolittle in the original West End production of Pygmalion which George Bernard Shaw had expressly written for her. Although forty-nine years old when she originated the role opposite the Henry Higgins of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, she triumphed and took the play to New York and on tour in 1915. She successfully played Eliza again in a 1920 London revival of the play.

Last night "The Admirable Crichton". Excellent. I liked it better than when I first saw it, much better.

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