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It's better than a bat in the eye with a burnt stick!

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.

Friday, 31 May 2013

A rural retreat

Monday May 31st., Amberley, Sussex.

We are staying here for a few weeks. The cottage is small but the landscapes and food are excellent, and I am working. Occasionally I have to go up to town. I went for a walk at 10.10 along the straight Storrington Road., and sat on stiles while thinking out my next chapter. I am making very good progress with "The Vanguard".

Amberley is a village and civil parish in the Horsham District of West Sussex, England. It is situated at the foot of the South Downs, and is noted for its many thatched cottages. The house named "The Thatched House" is one of the village's few non-thatched houses. To the north of the village is the tidal plain of the River Arun, known as Amberley Wild Brooks. This wetland area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest which floods in winter and is known for its wildfowl. Arnold Bennett stayed in the village for eight weeks in 1926 and this stay is documented in his journals. During May–June 1926, he wrote the last two thirds of The Vanguard in 44 days, noting "I have never worked more easily than in the last six weeks." He also met John Cowper Powys who walked over the Downs to visit him. Frank Swinnerton lived in Cranleigh and had links with Bennett, subsequently selecting and editing his Journals.

I was reading about Scott's methods in The Times Lit. Suppl. on Sunday, and it seems he wrote the last chapters of "Woodstock" at the rate of one chapter, or about thirty printed pages a day, consecutively. Well, it is almost miraculous. It must have been 5 or 6,000 words a day. And once written the stuff was not re-read or looked at, at all, until the proofs came in. If I could write anything like that I should only work six months in the year. I suppose it's true.

I nursed Virginia for 20 minutes, while Dorothy played a Bach-Tausig Fugue, etc. It is very interesting nursing the baby for a short time; but the narrowness of the baby's interests must make it tedious quite soon. I kept the creature very 'good'.  Mother & babe are in the greatest form.

After having ascertained through her relatives & friends that my legal wife would not agree to a divorce, I wrote to her & formally asked her. She then formally refused - on the ground of her still-continuing professed affection for me! So that is that. Our relations (by correspondence) are always most amicable.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Election day

Thursday, May 30th., Cadogan Square, London.

Day memorable to me because this evening before dinner I finished Act II of the play the idea for which had forced me to break my oath never to write another play.

To the rest of the British world, however, the day was memorable as being Election Day. I went to an enormous election party in the evening and found dozens of people seriously disturbed at the mere possibility of Labour getting a clear majority. The rancour and asperity of party politics was exposed naked in speech, tone, and gesture. Still the food and the champagne were admirable.

The 1929 United Kingdom general election was held on 30 May 1929, and resulted in a hung parliament. It was the first of only three elections under universal suffrage in which a party lost the popular vote (i.e. gained fewer popular votes than some other party) but gained a plurality of seats. In 1929 that party was Ramsay MacDonald's Labour, which won the most seats in the Commons for the first time ever but failed to get an overall majority. 

The Liberals led by David Lloyd George regained some of the ground they had lost in the 1924 election, and held the balance of power. The election was often referred to as the "Flapper Election" in that it was the first election in which women over the age of 21 were allowed to vote, under the provisions of the Fifth Reform Act. It was fought against a background of rising unemployment with the memory of the 1926 General Strike still fresh in voters' minds. 

Foreign policy also took prominence in the campaign, with Austen Chamberlain's record as Foreign Secretary contributing to the Conservative defeat, as he was perceived as being "pro-French". By 1929 the Cabinet was being described by many as "old and exhausted". 
The Liberals campaigned on a comprehensive programme of public works under the title "We Can Conquer Unemployment". The Conservatives, under Baldwin,  campaigned on the theme of "Safety First".

Some people have reproached me for being too concerned with rare editions, first editions, beautiful editions, the argument being that such matters have no relation to literature itself, and that what counts in a book is the stuff in it, not the presentation of the stuff in it. To my mind the argument is ridiculous. A book is a physical object as well as a medium for the transmission of thought, emotion, and information. And the attributes, including the historical attributes, of the physical object react upon the person to whom the thought, emotion, or information is being transmitted.

Many people read Dickens with joy, still more people assert (without adducing proof) that they read Dickens with joy. But it is an absolute certainty that the first category, if not the second, would be tremendously diminished if Dickens were only published in folio volumes like pulpit bibles - were the price per volume only sixpence, were even the volumes given away.

But even were the argument not ridiculous, it would still be beside the point. The point is that our age is a collecting age. And why should it not be? Only rare, beautiful, historical, odd or scandalous objects are collected. To collect them is a virtue - for which the next generation will thank us.

I am currently re-reading Conrad's "Victory" in a beautiful Folio Society edition. Conrad's prose is marvellous as ever, and the subtlety of his characterisation has a tendency to turn me green with envy, but my reading pleasure is enhanced by holding a beautiful object as well as a work of art. I love the sensation of taking the book from its slip-case; I love the heft of a hard-bound book in my hand; I love to feel and even smell the paper; I love the way a properly bound book stays open at the page you are reading ... I could go on, but if you are a bibliophile you get my point.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Parisian 'culture'

Friday, May 29th.,  Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

Just to note what the Bal des Quat'z Arts was in 1908. Calvocoressi went to this year's ball, being officially invited as a director of the Russian opera.
See also, 'Musical Evening' - November 2nd. http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/musical-evening.html

He said that there were a large number of women there absolutely naked, and many men who wore nothing better than a ceinture of bones which concealed nothing. Calvo said that on leaving at 4 a.m. he saw a naked woman calmly standing outside in the street, smoking a cigarette, surrounded by a crowd of about 200 people. He said he had heard that afterwards a procession of nudities was formed and went down the Champs Elysee. The ball was held at the "Bowling Palace" (or some such hall) at Neuilly, so as to be 'out of bounds' of the City.

Organised for the first time in 1892 in Montmartre , the Bal Quat'Z'Arts involved students in architecture , painting , sculpture and engraving . It was a great Parisian carnival feast prepared each spring by students of the National School of Fine Arts in Paris, created at the initiative of the architect Henri Guillaume. Participants came in costume but this tended to disappear over the course of the evening, which often took an orgiastic turn. In 1893 there was a protest against licentious behaviour on the streets, denouncing this "fact of extreme gravity and unacceptable ... shamelessness." A lawsuit was filed to the organizers of the ball by the President of the League for the Defence of Morality . The judge in the case asked about what happened and was informed that the ball was the occasion of the exhibition of decorative naked women practising the profession of models and not an orgy. As a result, the judge reassured and amused, condemned the organizers of the ball but imposed only a symbolic fine.

He took me yesterday afternoon to make the acquaintance of the Godebskis at Valvin. Husband, wife, two small kids. Poles. Among the most charming people I have ever met. Purely artistic. Godebski once owned and edited a little review. Looks like a Jew but is not one. I saw on a table a copy of Mallarme's "Divagations", with the envoi from the author "A son vieil ami, Godebski". Not interested in anything but artistic manifestations. I said I had gas and they hadn't. Godebski said he didn't like gas lamps. I said: "For cooking." "Yes", he said, carelessly, "but with alcohol and oil they can manage." Didn't care a damn about inconveniences. A whole crowd of artistic youth there; various French accents. A picturesque, inconvenient house, full of good and bad furniture in various styles. A large attic with rafters formed the salon; a good grand piano in it.

Godebski by Pierre Bonnard
Xavier Cyprien (known as 'Cipa') Godebski (1874-1937) was the son of a Polish-born sculptor. 'Cipa' and his family were at the centre of a large circle of artists, writers and musicians; one of the most devoted of their friends was Maurice Ravel. After the death of Ravel's father, the Godebskis became in effect his second family. He often stayed at their country house La Grangette, at Valvins near Fontainebleau, and it was here that Ravel completed his composition of Ma mère l'oye for Mimie and Jean. It was intended that the two children should give the work's first performance, but the terror of that prospect was too much for them. Although they were of modest means, living in the rue Saint-Florentin, and then in rue d'Athènes, the family was artistic and held Sunday evenings at home for many musicians and painters, including Roussel, and Florent Schmitt. Cipa had also given support to Toulouse-Lautrec, who painted his portrait. Ravel dedicated his Sonatine to Cipa and Ida. Mimie later recalled how her father and Ravel, close friends as they were, used to argue fiercely over musical matters, especially Mozart, who for Ravel was "pure genius", whereas Cipa loudly asserted his boredom with so many repetitions and elaborations.

Deodat de Severac played his new suite. He seemed a very simple sincere person, especially in his ingenuous explanations of his music: "J'ai voulu evoqure. J'ai voulu evoquer," again and again.

Déodat de Séverac (1872 – 1921) was a French composer. Of aristocratic background, he was profoundly influenced by the musical tradition of his native Languedoc. He is noted for his vocal and choral music, which include settings of verse in Provençal (the historic language of Languedoc) and Catalan (the historic language of Roussillon) as well as French poems by Verlaine and Baudelaire. His compositions for solo piano have also won critical acclaim, and many of them were titled as pictorial evocations and published in the collections Chant de la Terre, En Languedoc, and En Vacances. A popular example of his work is The Old Musical Box in B-flat major, but his masterpiece is the suite Cerdaña (written 1904—1911), filled with the local colour of Languedoc.

Curious, everybody was enthusiastic about the inventive fancy shown in knockabout turns on English music halls. By chance this was all they found on this occasion to praise about England. But Mme. Godebski said to me, "I love the English language, and everything English."

I worked well at "Old Wives' Tale" yesterday, but indifferently today. I lack male society. A monotonous effect. Also the gardener spent too much money on stocking the garden. So that tonight I felt as if I wanted a change rather acutely.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Feeling tired

Saturday, May 28th., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

I was forty-three yesterday.

Last week at the Gaiety, Manchester, "Cupid and Commonsense" played to £202 11s. It was the week of the King's funeral, and there were five evening performances and a matinee.

See also, 'Cupid and Commonsense' - August 30th. http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/cupid-and-commonsense.html

Yesterday I had more success in finding ideas for the last part of "Clayhanger" but I had no success in drawing. I seemed to spend all afternoon in merely arranging still-life objects, and I couldn't decide on any of them. But on Thursday night I did a pretty fair study of Marguerite. I couldn't read anything, except newspapers. I couldn't answer any arrears of correspondence. And after doing nothing all day I was so tired I had to go to bed at 9.15.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Praise and disappointment

Friday, May 27th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Today I am 37. I have lived longer than I shall live. My new series begins to appear today in the Windsor. My name is not on the cover. Anthony Hope's stands there alone. And I am 37. Comment is needless.

The Windsor Magazine was a monthly illustrated publication produced by Ward Lock & Co from January 1895 to September 1939 (537 issues). The title page described it as "An Illustrated Monthly for Men and Women".

I have now warned my mother and Tertia that I shall get married before I am 40.

My story in the Windsor is called "Nocturne at the Majestic" and I have warned Wells that, should he come across it, the least he could do was to think it very good! This because I praised, in a recent letter to him, his story "The Country of the Blind", which appeared in the April Strand. I thought the story really admirable if a little faint towards the end; but fundamentally damn good. Strangely enough, though I never met anyone who perceived the satiric quality in "The First Men in the Moon", I have met several who have spontaneously explained to me that the Strand story is a 'fine criticism of life'.

Wells, Whitten and Marriott think that "A Great Man", recently published, is my best book. And Phillpotts is enchanted with it. I was touched by Wells' praise, my only surprise being that he didn't find more fault with it. As a matter of fact I could have done it better, especially towards the end. But, having conceived it as a 'lark', I fell into the error of regarding it technically as a 'lark' also. I told Wells that it was just one writing, no draft, practically no erasures, & about two months' work at most. He always seems to prefer the work which costs me the least trouble. But what is the use of talking about colours to the blind?

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Falling foul of the Censor

Friday, May 26th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Some weeks ago Davray, official Press agent of French Government, asked me to write an article on conscription in England. He laid down the lines, which he had taken from previous articles of mine in the Daily News. I wrote the article exactly on these lines and he was most enthusiastic about it. It was for Le Temps which the Government now controls.

An edition from May 1916
Le Temps was one of Paris's most important daily newspapers from 25 April 1861 to 30 November 1942. Founded in 1861 by Edmund Chojecki (writing under the pen name "Charles Edmond") and Auguste Nefftzer, Le Temps was under Nefftzer's direction for ten years, when Adrien Hébrard took his place. The early issues of the newspaper reflected Nefftzer's liberal philosophy as well as his Protestantism, and had considerable trouble achieving readership. Nefftzer had to frequently turn to friends in Alsace who were able to help support Le Temps financially. However, circulation continued to grow, from scarcely 3,000 in 1861, to 11,000 in 1869, to 22,000 in 1880. Le Temps soon became the most important newspaper of the French Republic. Journalists and correspondents included Georges Bruni, and Adolphe Cohn in the USA. The Paris edition of Le Temps was suspended by the Paris Commune. The edition of St. Germain, however, ran continuously for 81 years. Le Temps came out of the Nazi occupation politically compromised due to accusations of collaboration with the Nazi regime. At Charles de Gaulle's request, Le Monde was founded on 19 November 1944 to replace Le Temps as the newspaper of record, borrowing the layout and typeface of Le Temps for the new newspaper.

The French Censor turned it down entirely, and Davray in a letter to me this week gives the Censor's actual words. He says the figures were not official (which they were) and might give rise to polemics. Moreover that conscription was now accomplished and no more to be said. But he had kept the article since before the final conscription bill was brought into parliament. The Censor's reason for refusing the article was, of course, purely political. This article gave the arguments on both sides; it stated that conscription - certain to come - would not greatly increase the army - and spoke of the necessity of trade, munitions etc. The Censor didn't like that.

The article would have cleared up misunderstandings into which the French public have fallen. The Censor didn't like that either.
See also, 'Rumours of war' - August 21st. http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/rumours-of-war.html

Another curious example of rumour: that passports to soldiers on leave were now endorsed with the words that if the war ended before the leave ended the soldier must report at such and such a place etc. This rumour, on reflection, is transparently idiotic for lots of reasons, yet many people believed it. I half believed it.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

On sex and women

Monday, May 25th., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

It occurred to me, for the first time I do believe, that women, when very intimate, have coolnesses and difficulties just as men do and perhaps more. I had always unthinkingly assumed that women, on such terms, always understood each other and held together perfectly. I can see the origin of my error, dimly; it has something to do with the idea of women solidifying themselves together in a little group as distinguished from the whole male sex, of them understanding each other so much better than any man could understand them, that they understand and sympathise with each other to absolute perfection. Curious misconception, but natural.

I see that at bottom, I have an intellectual scorn, or the scorn of an intellectual man, for all sexual-physical manifestations. They seem childish to me, unnecessary symptoms and symbols of a spiritual phenomenon. (Yet few Englishmen could be more perversely curious and adventurous than I am in just these manifestations.) I can feel myself despising them at the very moment of deriving satisfaction from them, as if I were playing at being a child. And even as regards spiritual affection, I do not like to think that I am dependent spiritually, to even a slight degree, on anyone. I do not like to think that I am not absolutely complete, and sufficient in myself to myself. I could not ask for a caress, except as a matter of form, and to save the amour-propre of her who I knew was anxious to confer it.

Two hours walk in the rain in the forest this after-tea, when ideas for my play, my novel, and a story "The Cat and Cupid" simply bubbled up out of me.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Behind the scenes

Wednesday, May 24th., Cadogan Square, London.

This last week has been much taken up by theatrical matters.

All day last Tuesday rehearsing "The Great Adventure" with Leslie Faber at the Haymarket. He was very good in explaining to the usual incompetent young actors how to do a 'hesitating' scene in a 'clean' way. Also in explaining that the proper sequence in acting was "thought, movement, speech". These young people apparently know nothing and have to be shown the least things, the most obvious things. At the same time Faber, the star, was doing comic business with hot milk while Honoria made her great speech descriptive of the Abbey - a monstrous thing which would have absolutely ruined the speech. Of course I stopped him. He then said he thought I should! Good God! He also made even Hilda Trevelyan deliver 40 or 50 words straight up stage only because he wanted to be ranging to and fro at the back of the stage. I stopped that too.


Leslie Faber was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1879. A highly successful stage actor, perhaps his most notable performances were 'The Hypocrites' in 1906, 'Lady Patricia' at the Empire Theatre in 1912, 'Diplomacy' in 1914 and 'The Patriot' in 1928; also well-known on Broadway stage. Handsome smart gentleman who appeared in a few British silent films, making his debut in 'The White Hen' co-starring Mary Glynne and the popular comedy 'Candytuft, I Mean Veronica' in 1921, he will be best remembered in the lead role as Anthony Bond in 'Afraid of Love' in 1925 and as Weston in 'White Cargo' in 1929. Married stage actress Gladys Gray. Died of pneumonia in 1929 age 50.

In my two plays now rehearsing I have two unusually stupid actors. One tries, the other may try, but doesn't seem to. He has to be told everything, yet has the reputation of being a very good actor. In one scene he is patronising. Told to be very deferential and really worshipful, he said, "Yes, I see," and does the scene again exactly in the same manner. He did the scene several times. He is a conceited man and therefore can't learn. He knows little or nothing about articulation and enunciation, and cannot be heard clearly, or sometimes at all, even in the 3rd row of stalls.

X. complained much the other day about the producer's harsh attitude. "He never gives us any praise. I can't sleep. If it hadn't been for my kind author I should have walked out before this." This is a woman of 45-50, thoroughly experienced, ought to know life, married, etc. yet she behaves very much like a child. All stage artists very much the same. This producer is rude to young beginners and he ought not to be; but he is never more than hard or harsh to the others. He did spring onto the stage after a scene the other day and say: "This is appalling." But so it was appalling. It appeared that many of the company had been antagonised by him. I explained to this actress all the weight of worries and hard work on his shoulders - immense; far greater than hers, etc. She began to perceive things. The next morning I spoke briefly, but with a solemn beginning, to the producer: "You'd better give them some praise today." He said: "I give H. lots of praise in private." "The women," I said. He said, with significance: "Thank you." On the following day everything was all smiles, and X. radiant, positively. "How did you do it?" she said.
What a world!

Hilda Trevelyan (1877 – 1959) was an English actress. Early in her career she became known for her performance in plays by J M Barrie, and is probably best remembered for creating the role of Wendy in Peter Pan. Another early success was as Oliver Twist in a dramatisation of Charles Dickens's novel staged by Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Later in her career she performed in plays in London and on tour. She retired after her last London play in 1939. In 1924 Trevelyan appeared in a new production of Arnold Bennett's The Great Adventure. The Observer's critic wrote, "When I say that Miss Hilda Trevelyan's Janet Cannot seemed to me quite perfect there will doubtless be people to tell me that the part has been done better. But I don't think I shall believe them."

Yesterday at rehearsal of Act IV, Sc. 1 of "Great Adventure", Faber asked another actor what his feelings were - what it meant to him when carve showed his two moles. This actor hesitated some time, and then said: "It means I'm ruined." On being informed that the case was precisely the reverse he said: "The play as a whole has never been shown to me, and I don't know the story." He had rehearsed the scene several times; the scene explains itself; yet he had never understood its point. He had just gone on playing it with an entirely wrong set of simulated emotions within him. Even at the worst one would have thought that he might have bought a copy of the play for 3s. 6d. and read it. I admit that in my opinion the play ought to be read in its entirety to the Company.

See also, 'Theatrical adventures' - April 1st. http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/theatrical-adventures.html

A man at the Haymarket told me yesterday that he had just seen in Piccadilly an old lady, parading with a board; "I am the widow of Bennett Burleigh, the famous war correspondent, and I am forced to this method - " I forget the rest. Anyhow she must be an old lady of some character.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Brain and being

Saturday, May 23rd., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

Today I seemed to get a little nearer the state of mind and the mode of life that I have aimed at. I finished the story "The Glimpse" for the Xmas No. of  Black and White (much too good, too spiritual). It gave me a headache. In the afternoon I continued reading Lewes's "History of Philosophy", which I have undertaken in all its bigness.

While reading it I was seized again with the idea of learning Latin decently; it was so strong that I could scarcely keep my attention on the book. Another example of the undiscipline of the brain.

Yet I have gradually got my brain under far better control than most people. Always haunted by dissatisfaction at the discrepancy between reason and conduct! No reason why conduct should not conform to the ideas of reason, except inefficient control of the brain. This that I am always preaching, and with a success of popular interest too, I cannot perfectly practise. It is the clumsiness of my living that disgusts me. The rough carpentry instead of fine cabinetry. The unnecessary friction. The constant slight inattention to my own rules. I could be a marvel to myself and to others if only I practised more sincerely. Half an hour in the morning in complete concentration on the living-through of the day, and I should work wonders! But this all-important concentration is continually interrupted - interruptions which weaken it; sometimes deliberately abandoned for concentration on matters of admittedly inferior importance! Strange! One can only stick to it.

It is humiliating that I cannot get through one single day without wounding or lightly abrading the sensibility of others, without wasting time and brain-power on thoughts that I do not desire to think, without yielding to appetites that I despise! I am so wrapped up in myself that I, if anyone, ought to succeed in a relative self-perfection. I aim as much from love of perfection and scorn of inefficiency as from my own happiness. I honestly think I care quite as much for other people's happiness as for my own; and that is not saying much for my love of my own happiness. Love of justice, more than outraged sensibility at the spectacle of suffering and cruelty, prompts me to support social reforms. I can and do look at suffering with scientific (artistic) coldness. I do not care. I am above it. But I want to hasten justice for its own sake. I think this is fairly sincere; perhaps not quite. I don't think I scorn people; I have none of that scorn of inferior people (i.e. of the vast majority of people) which is seen in many great men. I think my view is greater than theirs. Clumsiness in living is what I scorn: systems not people. And even systems I can excuse and justify to myself.

For some days now I have been experiencing pain and discomfort in my neck and shoulders. No apparent reason why it started. I just woke up in discomfort one morning. Re-reading what is written above I am wondering about the connection between mood and physical comfort. Is this present mood of self-analysis and self-criticism a product of my generalised sense of  suffering? If we are a product of evolution by natural selection, as Mr. Darwin argued, and of which I am quite persuaded, then there is no reason to regard the brain as other than an integral part of the body. The idea that mind is 'separate' from body is patently absurd. That being the case, it seems obvious that when the body is suffering this will manifest itself in conscious experience. So, when I talk of brain-control I should really say organism-control. But that of course would necessitate lengthy preliminary exposition, and would be disturbing to many 'ordinary' people who buy my books.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Immortality in stone

Wednesday, May 22nd., Trinity Hall Farm, Hockliffe.

Rickards and I, in the evening, went over the vast, unfinished Roman Catholic Cathedral in Victoria Street, and found it distinguished, impressive, a work of great and monumental art.

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>

The Cathedral Church of Westminster, which is dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, was designed in the Early Christian Byzantine style by the Victorian architect John Francis Bentley. In preparation for designing the cathedral, by far his most important commission, Bentley spent several months in Italy. The result was a neo-Byzantine rather than Gothic Revival structure. St Mark's in Venice, San Vitale in Ravenna and St Sophia in Constantinople were among the sources of inspiration for the design. It was an unusual style for an English cathedral, but a sensible way of differentiating it from Westminster Abbey, only a short walk away.The foundation stone was laid in 1895 and the fabric of the building was completed eight years later. The awesome interior of the Cathedral, although incomplete, contains fine marble-work and mosaics. The fourteen Stations of the Cross, by the sculptor Eric Gill, are world renowned.

Bentley, the architect, was wandering under the dome, examining and enjoying his mighty production, the realization of a conception which must live for many centuries. It was an impressive sight to see him, an impressive thought to think that one has seen him so, this magnificent artist, who started his life as a stonemason, and is now slowly dying of cancer on the tongue. He wore a frock coat and a silk hat, but a necktie of black silk tied in a loose bow.

John Francis Bentley, the architect of Westminster Cathedral, was born in 1839 in Doncaster and died on 2 March 1902. In June 1900 the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) held an Architectural Congress, and its first visit was to the incomplete Westminster Cathedral. It was a great success, and at the annual dinner Sir William Blake Richmond, RA (best known as designer of the mosaics of St Paul’s, and later to advise Bentley on mosaic decoration), declared that "he had very rarely been so impressed as when first entering that original and manly structure" two days previously. However, the occasion was marred by the fact that, when Bentley was due to address the visitors, he "discovered that his tongue was powerless", and had to ask Canon Johnson to step in. This was the second attack of the paralysis caused by cancer of the tongue, which was to kill him.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Casualties of war

Friday, May 21st., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Yesterday I lunched and dined at the McKennas, and learnt a lot about the crisis. Runciman fine. McKenna and Asquith and others extremely hurt and pained by the crisis. Kitchener not very good. Crisis made by Repington's article in The Times. Churchill with French at same time as Repington. Rep's article 'arranged'. Excellent War Office defence against charge of lack of shells, namely that French, knowing circumstances, demanded a certain quantity, and that this quantity was not only supplied but doubled. Fault therefore with leaders at front. French not now liked by the army who want Robertson.
See also, 'War Nerves' - March 27th.


The 'Shell Scandal', as it became popularly and widely known, was generated by publication of the British Commander-in-Chief's view that a shortage of munitions led directly to the failure of the British offensive at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915. In confiding his views to the Times war correspondent, Colonel Charles RepingtonSir John French set in train a political upheaval back home in London. That the British Army were experiencing a shell shortage was not in doubt. British munitions production was not operating at full efficiency nor anything approaching it. David Lloyd George, the Liberal Chancellor, fervently believed that a radical improvement to the munitions industry was not only possible but thoroughly necessary if the British were to compete with Germany in a long war. He did not however believe that the war secretary, Lord Kitchener, under whom responsibility for munitions production fell, was up to the task of delivering the required production overhaul. Lloyd George therefore encouraged the proprietor of the powerful Times and Daily Mail newspapers,Lord Northcliffe, in the latter's determination to publish details of the 'shell scandal' in his newspapers. Northcliffe duly published an article by Repington on 14 May 1915 claiming that the fault of the matter lay with the War Office and in particular with Lord Kitchener. The resultant uproar was not restricted to the political elite. In spite of a growing view in the Cabinet that Lord Kitchener was not well suited to his political role, he was revered in the country at large. Regarded with awe, 'K of K' (Kitchener of Khartoum) the country was not yet ready to believe ill of Kitchener of Khartoum. Circulation of Northcliffe's newspaper consequently dipped. Nevertheless Lloyd George achieved his aim. Even though by this time the bottleneck in shell production was opening up and supplies were increasing, the Liberal government fell on 25 May 1915 and a new coalition established (under the continuing Prime Minister Herbert Asquith). Lord Kitchener remained as minister for war. Within the government a new department was created, the Ministry of Munitions, and its responsibility handed to Lloyd George.

Battle of Aubervilliers of Saturday, 8th., bloodiest of war. Not a defeat because men could not be shifted, but we lost 28,000 men. Operation undertaken against advice of other generals.

The battle of Aubers Ridge was a British contribution to the Allied spring offensive of 1915. It was fought over the same ground as the battle of Neuve Chapelle, 10-13 March 1915, but failed to achieve even the temporary successes of that battle. The battle of Aubers Ridge fits the popular image of a First World War battle better than most. The British troops went over the top early on the morning of 9 May and were cut down by German machine gun fire. The survivors were pinned down in no mans land. No significant progress was made, and early on 10 May Haig ended the offensive. The British suffered 11,000 casualties in one day of fighting on a narrow front.

In evening, after dinner, Hobhouse, Postmaster-General, came in to learn from McKenna his fate, who, however, couldn't tell him. As I had been attacking Hobhouse fiercely in Daily News, McKenna saw him alone in the Drawing Room. I just caught a glimpse of him.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Book getting

Wednesday, May 20th., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

Since we came here I have been determined to recommence, modestly, my career as a book collector. I got addresses, bought L'Intermediaire and got catalogues; which gave me a keen pleasure. And at last I have begun to receive catalogues from second-hand booksellers in Paris. I ordered three cheap books on Sunday to make a commencement. After tea today I sought out all the books I have acquired during the year, and ranged them apart. At the end of the year I shall visually know what I have done in the way of book getting.

l'Intermédiaire des Chercheurs et Curieux (ICC) is a monthly French magazine consisting of questions and answers from readers on various encyclopedic topics mainly to do with arthistory, genealogy, literature and religions. It appeared from 1864 to 1940, then, after a break, reappeared at the beginning of the year 1951.

I then had to decide what I should read, of heavy stuff, and I settled on Lewes's "History of Philosophy".

Last weekend I meant to plan out my average day as I mean to live it here; but I did not do so. For I am now 'settled down' definitely, and must arrange my life. One of my notions is to study French more methodically; my knowledge of it does not improve fast enough; not even as fast as my accent - and that is not saying much.

For some weeks I have been occupied with the proofs of 3 books: "Helen with the High Hand" (The Miser's Niece), "How to live on 24 hours a day", and "Buried Alive". On Monday I finished the last of these damnable nuisances. Also on Monday I began to construct Part III - Paris - of "The Old Wives Tale", and got on pretty well, in spite of a headache.

Today I wrote a complete short story, "The Tight Hand", 2,300 words. A good idea, rather spoilt; funny, really humorous, but not enough construction to it, and the effect rather anticipated. But I couldn't do it again. With me, the rough has to go with the smooth. I know I have been right in always refusing to do anything twice over, or to alter anything, once done.

Marguerite was in Paris. I had finished at 3 p.m. Madame B. came. Speaking of her cat she said: "I give him everything except liberty. I can't give him that because I haven't got it."

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Valuing art

Thursday, May 19th., "Flying Cloud", Spalato.

We arrived at Spalato about 8 a.m. Lunch on the yacht.

Spalato (Split) is a city situated in the Mediterranean Basin on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea, centred around the ancient Roman Palace of the Emperor Diocletian and its bay and port. Split is by far the largest Dalmatian city and the second-largest city of Croatia. Split is also one of the oldest cities in the area. While it is traditionally considered just over 1,700 years old counting from the construction of Diocletian's Palace in AD 305, archaeological research relating to the original founding of the city as the Greek colony of Aspálathos (Aσπάλαθος) in the 6th century BC, establishes the urban tradition of the area as being several centuries older.

Then off in three cars to see Trani (Trogir), 17 or 18 miles. A rotten, dusty, noisy drive. First we saw the remains of a large Roman town, once the capital of Dalmatia, then a series of horrid cement works in clouds of smoke, and then suddenly we were in Trani, a perfectly preserved medieval town, with a marvellous church, with marvellous sculptures (especially an Adam and Eve on the porch) in a marvellous state of preservation.

Cathedral porch by Radovan
Trogir has 2300 years of continuous urban tradition. Its culture was created under the influence of the ancient Greeks, and then the Romans, and Venetians. Trogir has a high concentration of palaces, churches, and towers, as well as a fortress on a small island, and in 1997 was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. "The orthogonal street plan of this island settlement dates back to the Hellenistic period and it was embellished by successive rulers with many fine public and domestic buildings and fortifications. Its beautiful Romanesque churches are complemented by the outstanding Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period", says UNESCO report. Trogir is the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex not only in the Adriatic, but in all of Central Europe. Trogir's medieval core, surrounded by walls, comprises a preserved castle and tower and a series of dwellings and palaces from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods. Trogir's grandest building is the church of St. Lawrence, whose main west portal is a masterpiece by Radovan, and the most significant work of the Romanesque-Gothic style in Croatia.

In my Evening Standard article today I asked the question: "Are picture galleries really of value to the public?" They are certainly of real value to me. The Tate, for instance, is a godsend, because I can walk thither by the river's brink. I am continually walking thither. The Tate has some of the worst, and a few of the best, pictures publicly exhibited in London. According to my observation the worst draw rather more attention than the best. This disturbs me and has a tendency to undermine my faith in mankind.

At any rate, I feel sure of one thing: namely, that the picture galleries are of more value to the public now than they used to be. The change is due to the introduction into them of literature. The literature is spoken and takes the form of lectures. These lectures are excellent. I sympathise with the lecturers on account of the apparently quite unresponsive stolidity of the listeners. I wonder why the young women who listen so closely to the expository young men nearly always have thick ankles and clumsy shoes. Surely the sweet influence of art ought to reduce ankles and refine footgear? Nevertheless I am optimistic about the results of the lectures - they must do good because they couldn't not do good.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Forms of blindness

Tuesday, May 18th., Berkeley Hotel, London.

Sir George Riddell sent a man and a car to conduct me to St. Dunstan's, Regent's Park, where Arthur Pearson has established a home for blinded soldiers. very large place; belongs to an American financier named Kahn. 15 acre garden etc.

Pearson very natty, and a constant and rapid talker. Practically quite blind. He may have vague sensations of dark and light. His wife came. He kissed her hand when she left. I liked her.

'I shall soon be blind but I will never be a blind man, I am going to be the blind man'. 

These are the words, spoken in 1913, by Arthur Pearson who went blind through glaucoma. He was a newspaper proprietor, owner and founder of the Daily Express and Pearson's Weekly. In the same year he joined the council of the National Institute for the Blind, now Royal National Institute of Blind People and in 1914 became their Treasurer and President. In 1914 Soldiers were being blinded on the battlefields and began arriving at designated hospitals in England. Once notified of the casualties Arthur Pearson or a member of staff usually visited the young men taking them a braille watch, symbolising their first step to independence. Towards the end of 1914 it was agreed that more needed to be done for the blinded soldiers so Pearson, who firmly believed that they could lead useful and fulfilling lives, set his ideas in motion for a new training centre supported by the National Institute for the Blind. So from 1914 the Organisation started, firstly named the Blinded Soldiers & Sailors After-Care Fund then from 1923 we officially became St Dunstan's and from 2012 Blind Veterans UK. Although our name has changed our original vision was much the same as it is today: no one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone. Sir Arthur Pearson drowned after slipping in the bath in 1921 aged only 55.

Two blind officers; a Secretary of Blind Institute, Pearson's secretary; the Matron, a wounded soldier, and the bishop of London for lunch. The last is certainly clever - for the mot particularly. He is, perhaps excusably, deeply impressed by the fact that he is Bishop of London, but he turns it off always into a joke. Thus: "When I get into a car it always breaks down. people say the Bishop of London is a Jonah" etc. "A strange thing for the Bishop of London." Small thin sharp face, with small trembling eyes. Ordinary Tory ideas. He told us that every general had told him to impress upon the country that the army was very short of ammunition; and one general told him he was only allowed two rounds a day! He spoke agreeably, with simple well-worn forms of jokes, to the men after lunch about his experiences at the front.

Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram KCVO PC (1858 – 1946) was Bishop of London from 1901 to 1939. During World War I Winnington-Ingram threw himself into supporting the war effort. He saw the war as a ‘great crusade to defend the weak against the strong’ and accepted uncritically stories of German atrocities. For a clergyman the language he used about the German people verged on xenophobia but Herbert Asquith, Prime Minister at the outbreak of the war, described his pitch as "jingoism of the shallowest kind." He spoke in aid of recruiting drives and later in the war urged his younger clergy to consider enlisting as combatants. Chaplain from 1901 to the London Rifle Brigade and London Royal Naval Volunteers, he visited the troops on both the Western Front and at Salonika and the Grand Fleet at Rosyth and Scapa Flow.

As ever when in company with these officers of established religion I wonder how they reconcile the tenets of "Peace to all men" and "Turn the other cheek" with their active support for the war effort? But it would be in bad taste to ask the question directly. What a sham organised religion is. It seems that the Bishop has been afflicted by a different sort of blindness.

Quotes from Winnington-Ingram:
"this is an Holy War. We are on the side of Christianity against anti-Christ. ....to fight in an Holy War is an honour....Already I have seen a light in men's eyes which I have never seen before."
"the good old British race never did a more Christlike thing than when on August 4th 1914 it went to war."
"Christ died on Good Friday for freedom, honour and chivalry and our boys are dying for the same things. ....You ask for my advice in a sentence as to what the Church should do. I answer MOBILISE THE NATION FOR A HOLY WAR."
There is a quote from a sermon where he mentions “a great crusade – we cannot deny it – to kill Germans. To kill them, not for the sake of killing but to save the world: to kill the good as well as the bad; to kill the young men as well as the old; to kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those etc …. and to kill them lest the civilization of the world should itself be killed…….”

George Bernard Shaw responded as follows:
"They have turned their churches into recruiting stations and their vestries into munition workshops.........."

Friday, 17 May 2013

Finishing with Anna

Friday May 17th., Trinity Hall Farm, Hockliffe.

I finished "Anna Tellwright" this morning at 2.45 a.m., after 17 hours continuous work, save for meals, on the last 5,000 words. I was very pleased with it; slept well for 4 hours, got up with a frightful headache, and cycled through Hemel Hempstead to St. Albans, lunched at the George, and home - 42 miles. "A.T." is 74,000 in length.

On the subject of finishing a novel, I can only speak positively about my own feelings, but I have often questioned my brethren in disease, both great and small, and I find that mine represent about the average. My first feeling on finishing a novel is certainly one of incredulity. "It can't really be true that I have finished the confounded thing." For you must observe that a novel wants a lot of writing. Fancy writing out in longhand all that print! How would you like to do it? As a matter of fact the writing is a bore, and has a way of seeming interminable. So at first I am incredulous. My next feeling is a sudden feeling that takes me sharply like a pain in the back. The thought strikes me: "There's something peculiar in me today. What is it? And then I remember: "Oh, yes, that book is finished." The feeling returns at intervals for several days.

However, the dominant feeling in my mind is beyond question a feeling that I never want to see that book again, or any part of it, or to hear anything about it (except warm praise). And in particular I dismiss all the characters with profound relief. "For heaven's sake," I say to them, "depart utterly! I am sick of you! Do you hear? I am sick of you!" Yes, I say that even to the heroine, whose nobility of soul and true womanliness in the great renunciation chapter ought to move all hearts. I treat that unparalleled creature as though she were a scullion's wench. I have the right; no one else has. My attitude towards the unfortunate book is such that I fear the top of my head will come off if I am forced to correct the proofs. Regret at parting with the characters? No, no! My experience is that immediately one lot of characters has been kicked out another lot begins to collect in their place

Thursday, 16 May 2013

A "Judas" sort of day

Friday, May 16th., Cadogan Square, London.

I was in the park yesterday thinking about a short story, and saw a woman on horseback with an old man who had a striking resemblance to Cunningham Graham. The woman stopped her horse and spoke to me. She said I shouldn't remember her name and I didn't. She then introduced me to Cunningham Graham. C.G. didn't hear. "Who are you?" he asked. "Ah, " he said, "I didn't recognise Mr. B. in a hat. The photos of him - " I took off my hat and showed my hair, and said: "Is it true to the photos?" I complimented him and asked how he was. He said, "As well as possible under the reign of MacChadband." Prejudice against Labour showed itself instantly, and you could see that the Labour regime was very much on his mind, since it leaped out at the first opportunity. I stuck up for Ramsay MacDonald. He said that the Clydesiders, and especially Kirkwood, always called him MacChadband (because he preached so much). I said he was a very decent fellow. "So was Judas - a very decent fellow!" said C.G. and went on a bit about Judas, larkishly. "Who told you that, C.G., about Judas?" I asked. He hesitated and said, "I - I got it out of the Talmud." I said, "I see, I withdraw. You have the better of me." He stretched out his hand to say goodbye. A sporting sort of cuss.

Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham ( 1852-1936) - known as the Gaucho Laird and nicknamed Don Roberto - was a Scottish politician, writer, journalist and businessman. Although born in London e was raised in Renfewshire and Dunbartonshire, and later studied in Brussels before moving to Argentina to make his fortune in cattle ranching. This was not entirely a success, and he was even kidnapped by rebels. After some time in Mexico and Texas, he returned to Scotland in 1883 following the death of his father, became interested in politics and was the first Socialist Member of Parliament, although he was elected as a Liberal Party candidate. He was also the first MP to be suspended from the House of Commons for swearing, using the word damn on an attack on the House of Lords in 1887. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries he wrote a number of books, from short stories, biographies, history and travel books, particularly on South American subjects. Graham also wrote on a number of political subjects, increasingly radical and liberal, and co-founded the Scottish Labour Party with Keir Hardie. In 1892 he stood in the general election as a Labour candidate, but was defeated. A strong supporter of Scottish independence, and helped establish the Scottish Home Rule Association. In 1934, two years before his death, he was the first president of the Scottish National Party. Robert Cunningham Graham died in 1936 in Buenos Airies, Argentina, while visiting friends. 

Last evening Max Beaverbrook was telling us a story which he had bought from a divorce detective for £50 but dare not use. It was all to do with a woman who engaged the services of a private detective, ostensibly because of apparent infidelity by her husband. In the end it turned out that the husband was a murderer, and was given-away to the police by the detective. Another sort of "Judas"!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Florentine scenes

Sunday, May 15th., Pension White, Florence.

Yesterday I was on the Ponte Vecchio when children were going to school (8.45), & I noticed more than ever how Italian little girls have the look & the form of women. Marguerite & I have been noticing them in their short skirts for weeks. They look just like women unsuitably dressed. They are quite formees.

This pension is really too 'English' for Marguerite. She has no natural outlet for her energies. At Fontainebleau she could make her beautiful dresses, or go hunting for mushrooms and concoct wonderful dishes; here she is free from the difficulties of domesticity, but has not its reliefs and rewards. I have encouraged her to seek occupation in the writing of short stories and she has thrown herself vehemently, and typically, into this new form of creation, fighting fiercely against any criticism. Her stories, written in French, are as good, she holds, as her dresses and mushrooms had been. In particular there is a story about a cat. I found three quarters of this pleasing but the last fourth is not good and should be re-written. For days the discussion about the damned cat has continued. I refuse to call good what I know to be bad, and Marguerite refuses to believe bad what she knows to be parfait! Life in this so-extraordinarily English pension is full of difficulties for a Frenchwoman.

Speaking of women, this is a curious instance of how women, when they are afraid, will argue in general, instead of in particulars, as usual. Pauline may have to have an incision behind her ear. It is called an operation. If the doctor and the specialist say it ought to be done, of course it must be done, and at once. Supposing I telegraphed to Pauline's mother, she could only reply that she left it to us on the spot, and if she replied against an operation, the operation would still have to be done. Any other course would be absurd. yet when all this is arranged and understood and agreed, Marguerite comes to me and puts this abstract question: "Have you the right to let a girl be operated on without obtaining her mother's permission?"
See also, 'A bad night' - November 14th. <http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/a-bad-night.html> ;
and, 'Friends in Florence' - April 13th. <http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/friends-in-florence.html>

We dined with Mr. Mock at Lapi's, in the cellar in the Via Tornabuoni. Here the cooking is done in full view of the audience. each dish prepared specially for each client. All by one man. About 35, dark, personable, extraordinarily quick and graceful. if he left his recess for a moment to go upstairs he would slide down the rail to come back again. Charcoal stove. He blew it up constantly with a fan. Sparks fly. He put on charcoal with his hand. Everything goes through that hand. He would fan with one hand and stir with another. He made an omelette in a moment: very quick his gesture in turning it over like a pancake, in the pan. Very careful & slow in making our coffee. Orders called out in a loud voice by the landlord or the boy waiter - who was not dressed as a waiter. All professional conversation very loud, and constantly going on. Things not in stock, such as ham, sent for & brought down in a paper. When a dish is ready the chef would plank it down on a ledge and whistle, or call out its name. When we arrived the landlord was finishing his dressing in the further saloon, which was darkened. Later, the boy-waiter - perhaps his son - took a pair of loose cuffs from a hat-hook and slipped them on, at once giving him an air of  grande toilette. Still later, the landlord, evidently bethinking himself, did the same, from another hook. About 10 or 12 or 15 customers, and all cooked for by one man. Arched roof all papered with coloured posters of all sorts. Graceful leave-takings from all the personnel as we left. Bill and tip eight and a half lire for three people.

The "Buca Lapi" is the oldest restaurant in Florence. It was founded in 1880 in the Palazzo Antinori cellars and still shows evidence of more than a century of history, thanks to a very careful restoration. 
The first room is frescoed and the kitchen is visible.

"Lohengrin". We saw two acts. Italian audience still the worst I have encountered.

The night effects on the lower reach of the Arno are unlike anything else I ever saw.

1,000 words of "Clayhanger" today.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A night at the movies

Tuesday, May 14th., Cadogan Square, London.

Invited to a special midnight performance of "Bull-dog Drummond" (the film) at the Tivoli, with Ronald Colman as Drummond. Samuel Goldwyn was the host. I had some people to dinner first, and took them all, and they were all in a state of considerable expectant excitement. A company of about sixty or seventy, as it were clinging together in the middle seats of the dress-circle; the rest of the immense auditorium empty.

The film was stated to be the finest talkie ever done. And perhaps it was. But, as usual with films both silent and talkie, the plot was not clear; and I passed the time in repeated successful efforts to believe the impossible. Indeed the man who first said "Credo quia impossibile" must have foreseen the advent of the cinema.

Bulldog Drummond (1929) is a detective film which tells the story of Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond, a British officer bored with civilian life, who investigates an extortion case for a beautiful girl. The film stars Ronald Colman, Claud Allister, Lawrence Grant, Montagu Love, Wilson Benge, Joan Bennett, and Lilyan Tashman. Produced by Samuel Goldwyn and directed by F. Richard Jones, the movie was adapted by Sidney Howard and Wallace Smith from the novels by Herman C. McNeile. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Ronald Colman) and Best Art Direction. Two previous Bulldog Drummond films had been produced: Bulldog Drummond (1923) and Bulldog Drummond's Third Round (1925). The 1929 film was the first Bulldog Drummond movie with sound, and was also Ronald Colman's first talkie

It is curious how a very small audience in a very large theatre is somehow afraid to applaud, and how insincere its applause sounds, even when it is not insincere. Still more curious, and disconcerting, is the appearance of a slim, elegant, fragile, spiritual-faced woman, followed by a terrific booming noise - the lady's voice!

The Tivoli Theatre became the first London cinema to screen proper sound films when in 1925 DeForrest Phonofilm shorts were screened. Also in 1925, it was taken over by MGM/Loew’s and became their showcase theatre. Ramon Novarro in "Ben Hur" was a big hit at the Tivoli Theatre, showing twice daily, it attracted audiences of 1,200,000 during its run. The Tivoli Theatre had a premier run of Goldwyn’s first talkie, Ronald Colman in "Bulldog Drummond", which was a huge hit in August 1929. This was followed by Eddie Cantor in "Whoopiee! and a re-run of "Ben Hur" with sound effects.

At the end we congratulated Samuel Goldwyn, who confidently predicted a very great popular success for the film.

Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974) Famed for his relentless ambition, bad temper and genius for publicity,  Goldwyn became Hollywood's leading "independent" producer. Born Shmuel Gelbfisz, in the Jewish section of Warsaw, he was the eldest of six children of a struggling used-furniture dealer. In 1895 he made his way to England, where relatives Anglicized his name to Samuel Goldfish. He reached the US, probably via Canada, in 1898. He gravitated to Gloversville, New York, and became one of the country's most successful glove salesmen. After moving his base of operations to Manhattan Goldfish convinced Lasky and Cecil B. DeMille to go into film production. The new company's first film, The White Man (1914), was one of the first features made in Hollywood. The Goldwyn Co., was founded in 1916 and its most famous legacy was its "Leo the Lion" trademark, which was adopted by its successor company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Touted by publicists for his "Goldwyn touch" he was loathed by many of his hirelings for his habit of ordering films recast, rewritten and recut.

On reaching home at 1.30 a.m. I was so hungry that I had to go down into the larder and find food for myself. Thereby I learnt a lot about my own house that was previously unknown to me.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Family reflections

Monday, May 13th., Trinity Hall Farm, Hockliffe, Bedfordshire.

We were talking of the neighbourhood of Macclesfield, and apropos of the visit of Gregory Hill. My mother said: "We ... (that is herself, sister and brother) ... were all baptized at Mellor Church near Marple. Grandfather had a farm there. father and his three brothers were all born there, and he brought each of us over from Glossop to be baptized at the church. There were four Longson brothers, James, John, Robert and Henry.
"All dead, I suppose?" I said.
"Eh, bless ye, yes. Long and long ago."

This evocation by my mother of these farming, Puritanical ancestors, dust now, was rather touching in a way. It gave me larger ideas of the institution of "the family". When I thought also of my mother's mother's side (the Claytons), my father's father's side (the Bennetts, descended illegitimately, as my Uncle John once told me, from "Schemer" Brindley the engineer) and my father's mother's side (the Vernons, of whom several I believe are living now in Burslem, ignored by my father and us) - when I thought of all these four stocks gathered together and combined to produce me ... a writer, an artist pure and simple, yet with strong mercantile instincts, living on a farm after two generations of town life, I wondered. It is strange that though all my grandparents worked with their hands - weavers, potters, farmers, etc. - I have a positive aversion for any manual labour; the sole relic of all that manual dexterity, left in me, is a marked gift for juggling with balls.

This place is not heaven, but it is an appreciable step towards that country mansion which I am going to build (before I am forty) by the sea's margin. At the present moment the estate is at its best, I think. What with horses, dogs, & a fine orchard duly supplied with hammocks, & an uninterrupted prospect East, South & West disclosing many miles of the magnificence of England, & lastly a field or meadow for 'Isthmian' exercises, I could be happy here were there such a thing as happiness. Which there isn't.
See also, 'Getting things in perspective' - January 18th. http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/getting-things-in-perspective.html

My father is worse, nor is there the slightest hope for him. He is in every way feebler. He has been rather an extraordinary man. His father was a working potter, & he too went into the potting industry. For some time he was a pawnbroker. Then, at the age of 30, with four or five young infants, he set to work to matriculate (think of it!), did matriculate, & became a solicitor at 35. He lifted himself right above all his relatives (though his elder brother, an artist, was a much cleverer man & made a pot of money in the States); he collected a library of 2,000 books; the best thing he ever did was to make me work at nights as well as in the day-time. It is peculiarly melancholy to see a man like this (full of force, once, though antagonistic to all forms of art) reduced to a mere Observer-of-Force by an obscure nervous disease which the doctors can scarcely even give a name to.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Making and spending money

Tuesday, May 12th., Cadogan Square, London.

Opening of the "most magnificent dance club in the world", The Kitcat, last night.

I took Dorothy and we met Donald Calthrop and Miss Adair, Harry Preston, John Leigh, etc., etc. For an opening night (it had however been opened to the Press the night before) it went very smoothly. Packed with people who had dined there. Ventilation much lauded in the prospectus, but the side room in which we took refuge for drinks, and which was nearly empty, was as hot as hell and the waiter said there was no ventilation in there. Floor and balconies all crowded, and people standing all round the balconies trying to see down into the ballroom and not succeeding.


To see this space crowded with dancers who could only sway to and fro, to hear the row of the Vincent Lopez £1,100 a week band from New York, and the other lower noises - gave you the impression that the bottom had fallen out of civilisation.

Vincent Lopez (1895 – 1975) was an American bandleader and pianist. He was born of Portuguese immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York and was leading his own dance band in New York City by 1917. On November 27, 1921 his band began broadcasting on the new medium of entertainment radio; the band's weekly 90-minute show on Newark, NJ station WJZ boosted the popularity of both himself and of radio. He became one of America's most popular bandleaders, and would retain that status through the 1940s.

I have been writing to Max Beaverbrook about what authors make from their work. We were talking about it recently. Shaw is now the most popular world-dramatist writing and even in a rotten year his income cannot be less than £20,000. As regards Oppenheim, I know that two years ago he made £20,000. There are films. I don't think Oppenheim's income is falling. It takes a long time for an established author's income to fall. Authors' incomes are as a rule grossly exaggerated. My own always is. I have a pretty extravagant lifestyle to maintain (wife, morganatic ditto, & yacht), yet I have never made more than £18,000 in a year, and I have made as low as £10,000. Until the last six or seven years Wells never made more than £12,000. Authors can only make a fair income if they have a great deal to say - like Shaw, Wells and me - and are incurably industrious as we are.