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

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Friday, 23 August 2013

Visiting Brighton

Monday, August 23rd., Royal Albion Hotel, Brighton.

A misty morning. 

Yesterday at dinner a man walked across the dining-room and thanked me for writing my books. He then wrote a note and sent it to me via the maitre d'hotel, apologising for his bad form. In this note he excused himself by saying that he had just parted from a son - gone to Singapore for five years. I think he had had too much to drink.

See also, 'Social contrasts' - January 2nd., http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/an-entertaining-evening.html

Elizabeth Lewis came for lunch, and Harry Preston had a special grouse cooked for us. Harry, wife and child drove us to his country house, beyond Burgess Hill, for tea, and we had to have eggs for tea. It is a small house with large grounds. the kennels are his pride bull-terriers. He was very 'down' on Alsatians, which he said were the rage but were very treacherous and soon reverted to the wolf.

In the early 1900s Brighton, in line with many other seaside resorts, was in decline. Its fashionable visitors had long since departed and the middle classes were seeking other places. This left the town to the day trippers. According to the Daily Mail, the town was an "unenterprising, unattractive and outdated holiday resort".The Royal York Hotel was almost derelict when it was taken over by Sir Harry Preston in 1901. Following the hotel's refurbishment, he wined and dined London newspaper editors to promote visitors, particularly motorists, to the town and to encourage them to stay at his hotel. This he was spectacularly successful at and in 1913 he bought the nearby Royal Albion Hotel, which had been closed since 1900, for £13,500. During the twenties and early thirties the Royal Albion Hotel became the town's leading hotel where authors, actors, film stars, sportsmen and even the Prince of Wales were entertained by Preston who had a wonderful feel for publicity. Like many Edwardian gentlemen, he was a sportsman in the widest sense, embracing yachting (he owned the first motor yacht on this stretch of coast the "My Lady Ada"), motor racing and flying, as well as his first love, boxing (in his younger days he fought at bantamweight).

I have been reading "A l'ombre des jeune filles en fleurs" (Proust), and I still maintain that it is a bit on the dry side, though very good. It doesn't impassion me. I shouldn't care much if I didn't read any more of it. It lacks juice. It has almost no concern with anything except analysis of views and feelings - especially snobbishness. No landscapes, no furniture, no corporate life. No general 'feel' of things. This sort of business satisfies Walkley, but it could never satisfy me, in a novelist.

Good sleep last night but I did have a strange dream, which Huxley might have turned into a novel. I was living in a society which was increasingly controlled by the state. In particular the citizens were like automatons, going about their lives quietly, efficiently, apparently contentedly, but with no freedom of will. I was part of a group dedicated to overthrowing this state of affairs. In the dream I was aware that the powers that be were on to us and intentionally hung back when our group attacked an omnibus with the aim of 'liberating' the passengers. I escaped when all my fellows were ambushed and killed or captured. Then I realised I had a choice to make: live as an outlaw; live in society but pretending to be conditioned like the rest; submit to conditioning. I woke up undecided!

Additionally for August 23rd., see 'Spotting spies' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/sunday-august-23rd.html

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