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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.

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