Yesterday Johnson, ex-tobacco merchant, called on me in a state of some excitement. Tall, thin nervous man. He began by saying: "I am a great patriot." He said superiorly: "I know the Germans. They are traitors. I have seen this coming for years. I have £3,000 in cash. I am prepared to use it for the country." His scheme was that the government should give authority to take over the small mills (why only small?) of the district, and that he should manage them without profit, so as to prevent the exploitation of small people now going on. He had already got promises of produce of 4,000 acres at rather less than market price. The extreme improbability of such a scheme ever being sanctioned, the absurdity of it, the rights on which it trampled, the excessive difficulty of it - these things seem not to have occurred to him at all. It was all simple and patriotic to him. He wanted me to guarantee £1,000 and to give the support of my name (this was what he came for), and he had got Syme to guarantee £1,000. On this he was prepared to start.
To soothe him I said that I would write to someone high up as a preliminary, and I wrote to Spender, without however concealing my view from Spender. Johnson was soon launched on his camping experiences in Turkey where he went to buy tobacco. He is a very decent agreeable well-intentioned oldish man, speaking fairly correctly except that he adds R to the end of too many words. He farms his own land.
See also, 'Writers for peace (or war)' - February 11th.
Then the Mathewses came. The Reverend Mathews (rector of Beaumont with Moze, Essex), a very nice chap indeed, had suddenly discovered that Redmond was a good man; but he learnt from me for the first time at 5 p.m. 8th., August 1914, that Ulster is not all Protestant. He was staggered to learn that quite 50% of Ulster is Roman Catholic.
I have organised a Central News service of war telegrams and asked the postmaster if he would like to put them in the Post Office window. He said he would. On Friday Miss Nerney told me that while people were reading a copy of one of these telegrams in the window one man asked: "Who is Arnold Bennett?" The reply was: "He's the War Minister." Then in correction, "Oh no, he isn't. He's the actor chap that lives down the road." Yesterday I read the following on a telegraph form outside the P.O.: "British Gold Coast Forces take German Togoland. No resistance by permission of Arnold Bennett Esquire."