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Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Is "Clayhanger" any good?

Sunday, June 12th., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

There is certainly a rosse pleasure to be got from reading a thoroughly mediocre thing by a writer generally esteemed great but whom you don't happen to admire. I am reading a portion of Tennyson every morning just now, and I have got to the play "The Promise of May". It is a masterpiece of tedious conventionality - of no value whatsoever. I should say it shows every kind of Tennyson at its worst. No realism of any kind. All the old tags and notions; and what notions of philosophy as shown in the hero! I really enjoy reading this exquisitely rotten work.

On the other hand, I began "Le Crime et le Chatiment" yesterday, which I have been wanting to read again for about a fortnight. The scene in the cafe and Marmeladoff's confession, seems even finer than it did when I read it at Hockliffe. It is certainly one of the very greatest things in fiction. Absolutely full of the most perfect detail. It really disgusted and depressed me about my own work, which seemed artificial and forced by the side of it. I expect that in most of my work there is too much forcing of the effect. An inability to do a thing and leave it alone. I wrote nearly 4,000 words of "Clayhanger" on Thursday and Friday.

Forest of Fontainebleau by Henri Joseph Constant Dutilleux

Yesterday, walking in the forest, I thought of all the life in it, humming, flying, crawling, jumping etc., the tiniest insects that you can scarcely see, the ants, all sorts of flies, worms, beetles, bees, snails, lizards, and the gigantic birds. As for the rabbits, squirrels, and deer, they are simply monstrously gigantic compared to the mass of life in the forest.

I didn't seem to be getting near the personality of Hilda in my novel. You scarcely ever do get near a personality. There is a tremendous lot to do in fiction that no one has yet done. When Marguerite comes downstairs from the attic, in the midst of some house arrangement, and asks me if such and such a thing will do and runs up again excited - why? And the mood of the servant as, first thing in the morning, she goes placidly round the house opening the shutters! The fact is, the novelist seldom really penetrates.

Yesterday, wrote complete chapter of "Clayhanger", 2,400 words. But I had to work at the thing practically all day. I finished about 5.30, after twelve hours off and on. I really doubt whether as a whole, this book is good. It assuredly isn't within ten miles of Dostoevsky.

Continuous bad weather.

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