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

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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Living for today?

Friday, April 3rd., Les Sablons, Fontainebleau.

Easily influenced! In reading Leautaud's preface to the "Plus Belles" pages of Stendhal, I found him defending Stendhal's hastiness of style; never going back etc., 'getting the stuff down' (as I say) without affectations or pose; reading a few pages of the Code to get himself into the 'tone' of plain straightforward writing. Now I could see the weakness of the argument, and I knew the clumsiness of Paul Leautaud's own style.

Paul Léautaud (1872 – 1956) was a French writer and theatre critic. He would not stand for any form of grandiloquence where writing was concerned, and words such as "inspiration" were shot down rapidly: "When I see my father dying and write about his death I am not inspired, I am describing." Asked why he had been at his dreadful father's deathbed at all, he said, "It was only curiosity - 
Cu-ri-o-si-té." He wanted to say before he died, "I regret everything," words, he said, "that will sum up my life." The last thing he did say before dying in his sleep was, "Foutez-moi la paix," ["Leave me the hell alone."] which was more typical.

Yet so influenced by what he says that I at once began to do my novel more currente calamo! Sentences without verbs, etc. See chapters in Part II, birth of baby and kids' party, etc. Yesterday I wrote 1,700 words in two and a half hours. Stendhal attracts me more and more.

Marie-Henri Beyle (1783 – 1842), better known by his pen name Stendhal, was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters' psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism, as is evident in the novels Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black, 1830) and La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839).

Today received Tauchnitz' "Swinburne". I came across "England: an Ode." I would not write a thing called "England: an Ode."
Here is a short extract:
Music made of change and conquest, glory born of evil slain,
Stilled the discord, slew the darkness, bade the lights of tempest wane,
Where the deathless dawn of England rose in sign that right should reign.
Mercy, where the tiger wallowed mad and blind with blood and lust,
Justice, where the jackal yelped and fed, and slaves allowed it just,
Rose as England's light on Asia rose, and smote them down to dust.

This patriotism seems so cheap and conceited. I would as soon write "Burslem: an Ode" or "The Bennetts: an Ode." I would treat such a theme ironically, or realistically. But loud, sounding praise, ecstasy - No. See also - 'An excess of patriotism', March 4th. <http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/an-excess-of-patriotism.html>

Every morning just now I say to myself: Today, not tomorrow, is the day you have to live, to be happy in. Just as complete materials for being happy today as you will ever have. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. A highly singular commodity, showered upon you in a manner as singular as the commodity itself. No one can take it from you. And no one receives either more or less than you receive. Live as though this day is your last of joy. "How obvious, if thought about" - yet it is just what we forget. Sheer M. Aurelius, of course.

Each day, thrice, I expect romantically interesting, fate-making letters. Always disappointed. Astonishing how I have kept this up for years.

Eyesight going wrong again. Ought to go to an optician at once. But can't put myself out to go to Paris, hate the idea of explaining to an optician, etc. Yet I know I run risks. Yesterday I decided to go, and felt easier, today my eyes are better and I put it off.

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