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

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Saturday, 20 July 2013

Holiday reading

Wednesday, July 20th., Cadogan Square, London.

A journalist of the first importance, and of mature years, said to me the other day that when he went for a holiday he usually took with him novels that he had read before, and read them again. He mentioned no titles but I believe that he confined himself to English novels. The remark made me realise how heterodox I am in these grave matters. I can read certain English poems over again, but if I went away with only English novels I should feel that I was terribly cut off from the great world. In the frightful, but fortunately rare, ordeal of a holiday I insist on having foreign novels as an aid to keeping my reason.

By way of a holiday today, I wrote two Evening Standard articles, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. I went for three walks, and my weight in the evening was less than it can have been for many years. 10 st. 9 lb. 13 oz.

Yesterday I finished "The Accident" at about 6.30 p.m. I didn't care much for the last 300 words. Total length 67,300 words. I felt gloomy as usual when I had finished it.

Occasionally a character in a novel (invariably a man) is described as being 'struck dumb' by beauty. I had thought this to be a specimen of artistic licence, until today. I was in a pharmacy during one of my walks, waiting my turn in a small queue, not really paying attention, thinking about other things. Then I heard a soft voice ask: "Can I help you at all?" I looked up to find myself gazing directly, at a distance of two or three feet, into the large, dark, liquid eyes of a beautiful young woman, serving at the counter. I could not find a voice with which to respond and stood, no doubt looking vacant and stupid, for what seemed an age, until my senses were somewhat restored, and I mumbled a reply. How to account for this phenomenon? There is no thought involved, no mediation from experience; the response is automatic, immediate and total; a reflex of the nervous system as independent of control as is a knee-jerk. On more considered inspection, she was indeed a beautiful young woman but I was able to recover sufficient self-possession to complete my transaction and leave the pharmacy with some approach to dignity.


  1. On a holiday I mostly avoid carrying novels and prefer to buy used copies from the local places. It quenches my desire to shop and gives me a lifelong souvenier.

    1. That makes good sense to me. AB liked to buy books and was a fluent reader of French as well as English, but he also liked to have a 'library' of his own books ( See http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/indian-ideas.html as an example) with him. Of course it was a different era of travel and his preferred mode of transport was the train de luxe, if not on his yacht!