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

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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Friends in Florence

Saturday, April 30th., Pension White, Florence.

Sketch made today

After being laid aside I resumed work on Thursday, and wrote 5,000 words of "Clayhanger" in two days. The writing of this book is not the 'lark' which both "The Card" and "The Honeymoon" were, and my persistent, solitary search for ideas and inspiration have exhausted me physically more than I realised. During all this time - that is, for a week - no sight-seeing and almost no sketching. I have largely been confined to my small room looking out across the Arno to San Miniato. But on Thursday I began a watercolour. All I could really do was just to walk about and buy the 'Corriere della Sera' and gaze at fine women.

Pauline Smith is with us, but is not well as the cold winds have affected her weak throat, and against the depression of oncoming illness her work has made little progress. Yet my belief in her as an 'artist' persists. She asked me recently if she had not better give up writing altogether. I said: "Do you think I'd be ... such a damn fool ... as to waste all this time upon you if I didn't know ... the stuff's in you?" I ask her why if I believe in her she cannot believe in herself? I have also been attempting to encourage her development as a conversationalist, but with little success. My own behaviour does me little credit in this regard. I come down from writing and, reasonably, expect her to take part in conversation at table. She is silent. In the obstinate, expectant, and more and more gloomy silences which I maintain whilst awaiting a remark from her she becomes paralysed with nervousness. Slowly, I allow my head to sink onto my upraised hand and emit a deep protesting groan. Or sometimes I will pause in my own talk to break into her silences with a rebuking and embarrassing: "Yes, well ... but we will now await ... a remark from P."
See also, 'A bad night' - November 14th. http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/a-bad-night.html

Marguerite and I studied somewhat the activities of the men who take gravel out of the bed of the river. Some of them work in their boats in nothing but a shirt with a scolloped edge that comes down a few inches below the middle. I should say that one dredging machine could do as much in an hour as all this sweating does in about a week.

I got Gebhart's book on Florence out of the Library. They said it was good but it isn't. Rotten photographic illustrations and a lot of prettiness in the feeble writing. I haven't yet come across a good book on Florence.

Rickards walked casually in on Thursday evening, twelve hours in advance of his warning postcard, & he took up residence here yesterday morning for three days. he arrived from Carrara where he had been to see the quarrying of some of the marble to be used in one of his buildings. He said the Duomo was chiefly a great feat of engineering, and not really beautiful.

We went up to Fiesole in the afternoon. Crowded, wheel-shrieking, jerking tram to go, and the same to come back. Mrs. Mock introduced me into an old convent or something, a home for women convalescents kept by English & Irish nuns. Extraordinarily beautiful old garden. Cheap little statues of the virgin & of J.C., with a cup of fresh flowers suspended before him. But the whole effect with the views of Florence & all the Arno plain, and the Arno far off flashing like gold, and the hills towards Siena - perfectly enchanting.

Rickards instructed me in the excellence of drawing roofs seen from above, & then set me to trees. He would not let me draw in this Journal, insisted on something larger and 'freer'. We had tea up at Fiesole. Then he & I, after the grinding slide down, had aperitifs in the town.

In the Smoking Room Rickards gave such a violent & feverish description of Venice to us that both Mock & I wanted to start out at once for Venice. "It nearly broke my heart to leave it on Thursday morning", said Rickards in a tragic tone. He said this several times.
See also, 'Eating companions' - December 23rd. http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/eating-companions.html   and 'An architectural experience' - December 28th. http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/an-architectural-experience.html

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