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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Writers talking

Wednesday, July 25th. Yacht Club, London.

Great raid over Felixstowe and Harwich on Sunday morning about 8.15. Heavier bombardment than we have ever heard before. For the first time, the females fled to the cellar, and the temporary cook (who had been in a previous raid at Felixstowe) almost had hysterics. I was just beginning to shave, and so I did shave, but the row was disturbing. It ceased in a few minutes (during which over 40 people had been killed or injured). No firing nearer than 7 miles from us. The 'air raid warning' came through from the comic War Office about half an hour after the raid was over.

I came to London yesterday, lunched at Webbs, where was Glynne Williams, the new editor of the Statesman. Company tres sympathique; wrote my article in the afternoon, and went to dine at Barrie's with Thomas Hardy and wife.

Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM (1860 – 1937) was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. The child of a family of small-town weavers, he was educated in Scotland. He moved to London, where he developed a career as a novelist and playwright. There he met the Llewelyn Davies boys who inspired him in writing about a baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (included in The Little White Bird), then to write Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, a "fairy play" about this ageless boy and an ordinary girl named Wendy who have adventures in the fantasy setting of Neverland. This play quickly overshadowed his previous work and although he continued to write successfully, it became his best-known work, credited with popularising the name Wendy, which was very uncommon previously. Barrie unofficially adopted the Davies boys following the deaths of their parents. Barrie was made a baronet by George V in 1913, and a member of the Order of Merit in 1922. Before his death, he gave the rights to the Peter Pan works to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, which continues to benefit from them.

Barrie has an ugly little manservant and the finest view of London I ever saw. Mrs. Hardy a very nice woman with a vibrating attractive voice. Hardy was very lively, talked like anything. Apropos of Tchekoff he started a theory that some of Tchekoff's tales were not justifiable because they told nothing unusual. He said a tale must be unusual and the people interesting. Of course he soon got involved in the meshes of applications and instances; but he kept his head and showed elasticity and common sense, and came out on the whole well. He has all his faculties, unimpaired. Quite modest and without the slightest pose.

Thomas Hardy, OM (1840 – 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist, in the tradition of George Eliot, he was also influenced both in his novels and poetry by Romanticism, especially by William Wordsworth. Like Dickens, he was highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society. While Hardy wrote poetry throughout his life, and regarded himself primarily as a poet, his first collection was not published until 1898. Initially therefore he gained fame as the author of such novels as Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895). The bulk of his fictional works, initially published as serials in magazines, were set in the semi-fictional region of Wessex and explored tragic characters struggling against their passions and social circumstances. Hardy's Wessex is based on the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom in south west England.

They both had very good and accurate appraisements of such different people as Shorter and Philpotts.

Later in the evening Barrie brought along both Shaw and the Wellses by 'phone. Barrie was consistently very quiet, but told a few A1 stories. At dusk we viewed the view and the searchlights. Hardy, standing outside one of the windows, had to put a handkerchief on his head. I sneezed. Soon after Shaw and the Wellses came Hardy seemed to curl up. He had travelled to town that day and was evidently fatigued. He became quite silent. I then departed and told Barrie that Hardy ought to go to bed. He agreed. The spectacle of Wells and G.B.S. talking firmly and strongly about the war, in their comparative youth, in front of this aged, fatigued, and silent man - incomparably their superior as a creative artist - was very striking.

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