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

And make sure to visit The Arnold Bennett Society for expert information and comment on all aspects of the life and work of AB.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Parisian style

Thursday, September 30th., Villa des Nefliers.

After much rain an exquisite morning. The views of the Seine as I came up to Paris were exceedingly romantic. I came without sketchbook, and my first desire was to sketch. So I had to buy a book. 

Farman aeroplane 1909
Marguerite and I then went to the Aviation Exposition at the Grand Palais. Startled by the completeness of the trade organisation of aviation; even to suits for aviators, and rolls of stuffs for 'planes, We first remarked the Farman aeroplane. Vast, and as beautiful as a yacht. Same kind of beauty. Yet a new creation of form, a new 'style'; that is newly stylistic. I had been reading Wilbur Wright's accounts of his earlier experiments as I came up in the train, and I wanted to write a story of an aviator, giving the sensations of flight. 

In 1909 the first Air Show was held at the Grand Palais. The "Exposition internationale de locomotion aérienne" ushered in what was to become an enduring tradition. Every year, the aircraft exhibitions were a massive success. The presence of so many hot-air balloons, aeroplanes, and airships earned the Nave the nickname of "birdcage". One aircraft was the star of the show at the Grand Palais, the Blériot type XI with which the aviator Louis Blériot made the first successful flight across the English Channel.
This was the first Air Show at the Grand Palais. The interior design by André Granet, who since his youth had been fascinated by flying, was such a success that the Automobile-Club subsequently commissioned Granet to do the same for the car shows. The critic Louis Baudry De Saunier described the scene thus in the magazine L'Illustration: "Airborne mechanical locomotion, with its mysterious problems and future revolutions, could not fail to arouse the enthusiasm of the crowd. Never have so many thronged to the Grand Palais; police officers had to form a cordon to restrain the sea of visitors around these pieces of wood and canvas with which Wright had played at being a bird". 

I left Marguerite and went to the Salon d'Automne. But I found it was the vernissage and so I didn't enter. Crowds entering.

My first vague impression was here at last defined, of Paris. namely the perversity and corruption of the faces. The numbers of women more or less chic also impressed me. A few, marvellous. It was ideal Paris weather. I saw what a beautiful city it is, again. The beauty of this city existence and its environment appealed to me strongly. Yet the journey from the Gare de Lyon on the Metro. had seemed horrible. Also, I had waited outside the bureau de location of the Francais for it to open, and had watched the faces there, which made me melancholy. Particularly a woman of 60 or so, and her virgin daughter 30 or 33. The latter with a complexion spoilt, and a tremendously bored expression, which changed into a mannered, infantile, school-girlish, self-conscious, uneasy smile, when a punctilious old gentleman came up and saluted and chatted. The fading girl's gums all showed. She was a sad sight. I would have preferred to see her initiated and corrupt. She was being worn out by time, not by experience. The ritual and sterility and futility of her life had devitalised her. The mother was making a great fuss about changing some tickets. This ticket-changing had a most genuine importance for her. The oldish girl, mutely listening, kept her mouth at the mannered smile for long periods. But I think she was not essentially a fool. 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Beginning a novel

Tuesday, September 29th., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

Tonight I am to begin my new novel "Sir Marigold", a study of paternal authority. All the old timidities, banished for a time by the prompt acceptance of my first book, have returned, have crept back again imperceptibly, until misgivings intensified perhaps by experimental knowledge of the difficulties to be overcome, seem to hem me in on every side. My one chance of security lies in fixing attention solely on the first chapter and ignoring all else. Enthusiasm, after a week of suppressed expectant anxiety and wakeful nights, has stealthily withdrawn itself, or fallen away and left me naked. I have no desire to write, and at intervals an impulse arises to put off beginning till another day. And yet through it all, I know that I shall somehow accomplish a sketch, more or less unsatisfactory, of the first chapter tonight - delve it up from somewhere. And then the rest will be easier for a time.

The main outline of the book is well settled, and appears to me to be safe and good. But not a vestige of material useful for incident presents itself. I have hold of nothing but the bare leading facts. I suddenly realise that I know none of the five principal characters - neither by face nor by voice. I have forgotten all the maxims and rules of technique carefully evolved during the last few months. Moreover, I have unwisely been reading books by George Meredith and Mrs. Humphry Ward, and at first my work will certainly reflect their methods - methods which - the one splendidly fantastic, the other realistic by dint of laborious and carefully ordered detail - are both at variance with my natural instincts towards a synthetic impressionism. I ought during the past month to have read nothing but de Goncourt.

10.30 p.m. After an hour of miserable hesitation, quite fruitless, I began to read bits of the manuscript of my first novel, and found it not unimpressive. This heartened me. I searched for an old sketch which I thought might be useful for my opening chapter; found it and was not disappointed. Then at last I began to write. When I had done only 200 words my spirits suddenly rose to positive vocal gaiety. Incidents began to present themselves in fitting order. I knew I was going on well. When I had sketched out 900 words, Kennerley called, and though I was ready to continue writing, I was glad enough to be interrupted. I had done enough (2 hours) to reassure myself.

Afterwards, alone, I read "The Death of Jules" in the "Journal des Goncourts" and the spirit of the brothers took hold of me; Meredith and Mrs. Humphry Ward were effectually forgotten. I have commenced work again: what joy!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Promoting culture

Tuesday, September 28th., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

I wrote this morning the third article ("Fiction") in the series for the Home Reading Union. 

The aims of the National Home Reading Union (1889 - 1930) were to guide readers of all ages in the choice of books, to unite them as members of a reading guild and to group them, where possible, in circles for mutual help and interest; it would, on the one hand, ‘check the spread of pernicious literature
among the young’, and on the other, ‘remedy the waste of energy and lack of purpose so often found among those who have time and opportunity for a considerable amount of reading’. The Union would not simply encourage reading but would develop it within a systematic framework, and
would educate readers in the practice of reading reflectively and to personal advantage.

And then my New Age article, dealing with Chesterton's and E. V. Lucas's essays. Continuing Taine's "Origines", I thought how absurd I was that I had not before read a similar work on English origins. But I could not think of any similar work.

After dinner I reached down the first volume of A. W. Benn's "Modern England", which I have had for about a year, and found that it was dedicated to Bernhard Berenson, which made me favourable to it. That a historian and publicist should be sufficiently intimate with, or an admirer of, a first-class art critic to wish to dedicate a book to him, is certainly a proof of the former's breadth of sympathy. I read the first chapter. Good, but very inferior after Taine. Still a work of genuine culture, and marked by liberal principles; perhaps he shows too much emotion when his feelings are outraged, as by the ill-treatment, industrially, of children. A historian has no business with righteous indignation. He ought to be above that. Cruelty to children is not worse than a lot of other cruelties. I admired the book; well written though perhaps a shade turgid. But I doubt if I shall finish it. I want something more masterful and of genius.

Reflecting on my poem about Fontainebleau, I settled on the general form and metre, and composed the first line. I can now go on with it any time.

Additionally for September 28th., see 'Parisian life' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/parisian-life.html

As I was sitting on the terrace of the Cafe de la Place Blanche, a voiture drove up containing two men, two women and a white puppy. One of the men was clearly an actor or singer of some sort, he had the face and especially the mouth; one of the women, aged perhaps 25, short, getting plump, and dressed with a certain rough style, especially as to the chic hat and the jupon, was evidently his petite amie; the other woman was a servant, nu-tete and wearing a white apron.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Fear of raids

Thursday, September 27th., Yacht Club, London.

Dined with Marguerite at Waldorf. To get there strange journeys in Tube. Very wet. Very poor women and children sitting on stairs (fear of raid). Also travelling in lift and lift-man grumbling at them because no fear of raid, and they answering him back, and middle-class women saying to each other that if the poor couldn't keep to the regulations they ought to be forbidden the Tube as a shelter from raid.

Spender said he had seen dreadful sights of very poor with babies in Tube on Monday. One young woman was in labour. He asked her if she was and she said she was, and that she had got up because she was told to go with the rest. He got her taken on a stretcher to a hospital. Proprietor of a restaurant where I lunched today with Swinnerton said that although his place was ordinarily always full at night, he only had four people on Monday night, and not a single customer on Tuesday night (fear of raids). He said also that at fish and vegetable markets he couldn't get what he wanted because supplies were not there, and that wholesalers had not taken supplies because they couldn't dispose of them, and that stuff was rotting. A raid was feared tonight but evidently the German machines were turned back before reaching London.

Additionally for September 27th., see 'The residue of love' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/the-residue-of-marriage.html

It is bound to be published somewhere; it is bound to make people think that I am partner in the bad taste. But if it is to be published I would sooner it be published by someone who is very friendly and will take care that nothing offensive appears in it.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Streets of Glasgow

Sunday, September 26th., Glasgow.

We drove in Richmond's open car yesterday up W. side of Loch Lomond and past Lochearnhead and home by Stirling. About 135 miles. Driving rain and mist nearly all day, so that we saw Scotland in a characteristic aspect. 

After dinner at the hotel, 10 p.m., we went out to view the streets. Renfield Street and Sauchiehall Street crowded with people, largely young. many picture palaces. In quiet side streets off Renfield Street and Sauchiehall Street I noticed large knots of men. It took me some time to find out what they were doing. The largest group was a thick ring; in the middle a man about 32 was quickly selling tracts. His speech was finished. He had some scrap with a man in the crowd, but apologised and said he had no intention of being discourteous. At last I discovered that he was an advocate of birth control. He must have been doing pretty well out of it.

In a smaller group a man was advocating something about franchise. He argued with his little audience whose nearest faces were within a foot of his own. A few others craned their necks to listen. The social tone of the argument was admirable. These street phenomena seemed to show how Scotchmen like argument. Not one woman in these little crowds. Presently two pairs of tall policemen from different directions converged on the two groups and very quickly and persuasively broke them up. 

Waiter in coffee room at hotel didn't know that riz de veau meant sweetbread; in fact asserted that it didn't. It often happens that waiters don't know at all what they are selling. They ought to be told in detail every day.

Additionally for September 26th., see 'Returning home' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/returning-home.html

Ever since I left Paris I have wanted to come back, and now I have!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Imperial Palace

Wednesday, September 25th., Cadogan Square, London.

Today I began a long novel. At 3.30 p.m. The hour has an interest - but only for me. I have not written a long novel for years. As a man with a secret tendency towards idleness I prefer to write a short novel. It is easier. Not easier to do but less of a strain on the creative faculties. What generally spoils long novels is the untimely supervening creative fatigue. It is a calamity which the author has very little power to prevent.

I reckon that this novel will fill 900 pages of manuscript. How do I reckon? I don't reckon. I just know. Experience has taught me pre-knowledge. When I began the "O.W.T." I announced to the domestic hearth that it owuld be 200,000 words long, divided into four parts. Well it was. The new novel will be 150,000 words long, and probably not divided into parts. I think I have now grown out of dividing novels into parts.

I know the main plot but by no means all the incidents thereof. I know the three chief characters but by no means all the ins-and-outs of them. They won't alter - I would never allow any character to get the whip-hand of me - but I shall fill them out. I know the 'feel' of the novel. That won't alter either. And I have the whole of the material of the novel, indexed, in a notebook. I would sooner lose fifty pages of the manuscript than that notebook.

I have been fighting for years against the instinct to write this particular novel. About thirty years ago I was taken to the Savoy Hotel for tea, came out, went home, and wrote "The Grand Babylon Hotel" in three weeks of evening work. The "G.B.H." was merely a lark but a big hotel de luxe is a very serious organisation; it is in my opinion a unique subject for a serious novel; it is stuffed with human nature of extremely various kinds. The subject is characteristic of the age; it is as modern as the morning's milk; it is tremendous and worthy of tremendous handling. I dare say it is beyond me. But nobody else has caught hold of it, and if I am not audacious I am nothing. Today I wrote 3 pages. 897 left to do! The thought is terrifying. Any serious novelist will agree with me as to the terrifyingness.

See also 'Subject for a novel?', February 2nd., - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/subject-for-novel.html

Additionally for September 25th., see 'Thinking of H.G.' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/sunday-september-25th.html

I have recently been writing to H.G. to recommend that he consult Raphael Roche about Jane's cancer. Roche made a favourable impression on me when I talked to him for two hours in July. He does not claim any cure but does suggest that his 'treatment' is, at the least, an effective palliative; what is there to lose?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A fine composition

Monday, September 24th., Yacht Club, London.

Marguerite came to town this afternoon. I worked till 3.30 p.m. and then, seeing I could do no more writing, and could reflect just as well in train, I came up to town so as to save half a day tomorrow. I was unwell and without energy all day. Nevertheless I worked satisfactorily in the train. Then air raid. 

I had a great subject for a watercolour on Saturday. I put my enceinte French-renaissance virgin (white) and the black juju that Molly Green brought from Nigeria for Marguerite, side by side, and called the picture "The Gods". A fine composition and a real subject. I started the sketch but couldn't finish it in the time. However, the subject will keep.

Additionally for September 24th., see 'French excursion' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/friday-september-24th.html

Yesterday I finished a story "The Heroism of Thomas Chadwick". This makes the third in about a fortnight. One of them, "Hot Potatoes", is just twice too long for the amount of material in it.

Monday, 23 September 2013

French inconveniences

Monday, September 23rd., Les Sablons.

Young men marched about the village yesterday to the accompaniment of one grotesquely sounding brass instrument - difficult to imagine anything uglier or less dignified than this music, to which even portly, grave firemen in uniform will consent to parade themselves. I asked the barber what the noise was about, and he explained that it was the young conscripts who had on the previous day received their marching orders (feuilles de route) and were being merry (no doubt factitiously) previous to their departure a fortnight hence. Immediately afterwards entered another customer, a middle-aged man who put the same question that I had put. "C'est qu'ils ont recu leurs feuilles," replied the barber; these were his exact words I think. The enquirers eyes questioned for a second or so, and then he understood. Several middle-aged men began talking about the shortness of service nowadays. They were all agreed: "Deux ans - c'est rien."

Lately I have several times seen grown men and women holding cows on a rope in a field while the cows pastured. This morning I saw a man and a woman and a boy entirely occupied with five grazing cows. Economically justified this means, must mean, that any device for tethering the cows (granted the absence of hedges and of trees suitably placed for tethering) would cost more than the value of the labour of these three persons. Smollett would enquire as to this. On the opposite side of the road were several cows tethered in an orchard. The absence of hedges in France has certain inconveniences.

Additionally for September 23rd., see 'Visit from Huxley' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/tuesday-september-23rd.html

Aldous Huxley came yesterday afternoon to do what he had called on the telephone 'pay his homage'. He looked older and more distinguished. His clothes seemed to be Italian and in material, if not in fit, very nice. Altogether he looked better and talked more easily. We agreed on nearly all literary questions except the value of his "Antic Hay". He likes that book, thinks it has a point to it.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

News of war

Tuesday, September 22nd., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

News of sinking of Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy (12,000 tons each) by submarine or submarines, startled me in the middle of my work this afternoon. I thought: Suppose all our fleet sunk in this way? But then I thought: We have twice as many submarines as Germany, and the trick ought to work both ways. Nothing in the war yet has affected me like this news, of which no details to hand. Thursday I contemplated an article about terms of peace to be imposed on Germany.

During the early months of World War 1 the Royal Navy maintained a patrol of old Cressy class armoured cruisers, in the area of the North Sea known as the Broad Fourteens. There was opposition to this patrol from many senior officers but the Admiralty maintained the patrol on the grounds that destroyers were not able to maintain the patrol in the frequent bad weather and that there were insufficient modern light cruisers available. In the early hours of September 20th 1914 the cruisers HMS Euryalus, HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy were preparing to go on patrol but Euryalus had to drop out due to lack of coal and weather damage to her wireless. Early on September 22nd 1914 the German submarine U9 under the command of Commander Otto Weddigen sighted the Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue steaming NNE at 10 knots without zigzagging. Although the patrols were supposed to maintain 12-13 knots and zigzag the old cruisers were unable to maintain that speed and the zigzagging order was widely ignored as there had been no submarines sighted in the area during the war. U9 manoeuvred to attack and at about 6.25 AM fired a single torpedo at Aboukir, which stuck her on her port side. Aboukir rapidly suffered heavy flooding and despite counter flooding developed a 20 degree list and lost engine power. It was soon clear that she was a lost cause and Captain Drummond ordered her to be abandoned, although only one boat had survived the attack so most crew had to jump into the sea. At first Drummond thought that Aboukir had been mined and signalled the other two cruisers to close and assist but he soon realised that it was a torpedo attack and ordered the other cruisers away, but too late. As Aboukir rolled over and sank, half an hour after being attacked, U9 fired two torpedoes at HMS Hogue that hit her amidships and rapidly flooded her engine room. Captain Nicholson of Hogue had stopped the ship to lower boats to rescue the crew of Aboukir, thinking that as he was the other side of Aboukir from U9 he would be safe. Unfortunately U9 had manoeuvred around Aboukir and attacked Hogue from a range of only 300 yards. It only took Hogue ten minutes to sink as U9 headed for HMS Cressy. Cressy, had also stopped to lower boats but got underway on sighting a periscope. At about 7.20 AM however U9 fired two torpedoes, one of which just missed but the other hit Cressy on her starboard side, Cressy briefly firing on U9s periscope with no effect. The damage to Cressy was not fatal but U9 turned round and fired her last torpedo which hit Cressy sinking her within a quarter of an hour. Survivors were picked up by several nearby merchant ships. 

Additionally for September 22nd., see 'Authorial anxieties' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/authorial-anxieties.html

"Clayhanger" was published in England on September 15th. In U.S.A. publication is delayed about a fortnight.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

In the West Country

Tuesday, September 21st., Eltham, Torquay.

I left at 11.30 yesterday, and caught the noon express to Torquay. Shared a compartment with two middle-aged gentlemen with outdoor faces, about which I propose to write an article. I had been rather gloomy and preoccupied before, but as soon as I had written down the notes for the short article I felt better. Emily Phillpotts met me to my great surprise.

Adelaide was rather quieter than usual, but had little bursts of talking. We had a tremendous literary and social pow-wow - just as usual - interrupted by a short view of the garden. This pow-wow went on from 4 to 7 without a break, and was continued after dinner.

Today I began to write my article about the journey at 7.30 a.m., after quite a fair night. I fear for my projected average of 1,000 words a day for the year. i am already a day behind it.

This evening we listened extensively to the wireless. It soon gets boring, in fact as soon as one has got used to the marvel of it. All sounds are somewhat falsified - thickened. still it is all very marvellous.

I wrote an article during the day, in three instalments of time. Talked with Eden in garden, about 'shop' matters. He goes on working rather harder than ever. He says he has nothing else to do, and would vanish if he didn't work. Adelaide also is a great worker. She said that in London she goes to bed at 10.30 (and lies awake thinking) and gets up at 7.30. Works at desk most of the morning, walks before tea, and works after tea.

See also 'Writing for a living', February 23rd., -

Additionally for September 21st., see 'Health and well-being' -

Last Wednesday I was carefully examined by Shufflebotham who decided that I must be X-rayed. He is a pioneer and acknowledged expert in the use of X-rays for diagnosis. He guaranteed that I had had appendicitis several times without knowing it.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Defensive measures

Sunday, September 20th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Yachts, dinghies and other small boats were moved inland from Brightlingsea Creek last week, as part of a plan for defending Brightlingsea and the Colne in case of German invasion. The notion seemed to be that the Germans might use them as pontoons. I said to old Captain Brand that it was only done because a number of people had a desire to do something, and this strange proceeding could not do any harm. He said the same thought had occurred to him. We met a lot of these boats in military carts. Sullivan told me that there were about 200 of them.

No news last week.

Constant flow of one or two military officers in and through this house, on account of Mimi and Miss Hatchett. The latest move - a night excursion in car to see searchlights playing on the sea off Frinton.

Additionally for September 20th., see 'Literary thoughts' -

I have been re-reading Kipling, and thought "Without Benefit of Clergy" fine, and yet perhaps not great. Other things pretty good but certainly not great.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Back to work

Tuesday, September 19th., Les Sablons.

I resumed work last Saturday, after the longest holiday I have had since I can remember. Except a few hours work on a play, I had done no work for over two months. On Saturday, Sunday and yesterday I wrote a story called "The Murder of the Mandarin", and I posted it at once to the typist. In the evening I rode over to Marlotte and dined alone with Mrs. Devereux.

Mrs Roy Devereux (Margaret Pember Devereux), was not a conservative, anti-woman writer: "The Ascent of Woman", is concerned with women’s new and transforming presence in the public sphere. Yet like other fin-de-siècle women writers, Devereux holds contradictory and ambiguous views about the female author/ journalist. A story by Devereux, “The Feminine Potential”  explores how a woman journalist rejects a potential suitor. The female protagonist, Margot, wonders why “people get married…and then thought it was only part of the futility of life.” Later she discovers that the man who proposed to her has married someone else. Margot, in a morbid move, gases herself in her London attic. Devereux appears not to hold heroic views of the single woman who writes for a living. “The Feminine Potential” seems to say that the woman who rejects domestic womanhood is to blame for her ensuing downfall. Devereux is also scathing of ‘spinster journalists”. In The Ascent of Woman she claims that “The ordinary article on woman is saturated, be the writer thereof male or female. But any callow youth or any inexperienced spinster lacking in knowledge of life and literary ability is accepted as a competent critic of women.”

See also 'Parisian Impressions', October 8th. - 

Mrs. Devereux told me about Frank Harris. She said he was 43 when she first met him in 1895. He then had a fixed idea that he should die at 44. He had a marvellous voice. Lamperte offered him 5 years tuition if he would only study, free, and said that he would be the greatest bass that there had ever been. His eloquence was astounding. He made a political speech and was adopted as Conservative candidate for one of the Ridings. No dinner party was complete without him. Carlyle had thought very highly of him, and this opinion was echoed by a later generation. Lord R. Churchill thought him the greatest man he had ever met. John Walter of The Times believed in him long after most others had ceased to do so.

He bought The Saturday Review for £5,000 and sold it for £30,000. He was never mean. he was the sort of man who would stab a person in the back and rob him of all he possessed, and then give the entire proceeds to another person. He was easily influenced and easily intoxicated by his own eloquence. During the Boer War he was at a luncheon party and began to talk about the sufferings of the Boers in such a manner that the entire party, including a general who had returned from South Africa, was literally reduced to tears. Finally he burst into tears himself, jumped up and left the house.

Wilde offered him the leading idea of "Mr. and Mrs. Daventry" and he bought it for £100, and afterwards gave Wilde two further sums of £50. harris wrote the play, got it produced, and made £4,000 out of it.

Frank Harris (February 14, 1856 – August 27, 1931) was an editor, journalist and publisher, who was friendly with many well-known figures of his day. Born in Ireland, he emigrated to America early in life, working in a variety of unskilled jobs before attending the University of Kansas to read law. He eventually became a citizen there. After graduation he quickly tired of his legal career and returned to Europe in 1882. He travelled on continental Europe before settling in London to pursue a career in journalism. Though he attracted much attention during his life for his irascible, aggressive personality, editorship of famous periodicals, and friendship with the talented and famous, he is remembered mainly for his multiple-volume memoir My Life and Loves, which was banned in countries around the world for its sexual explicitness. Harris also wrote short stories and novels, two books on Shakespeare, a series of biographical sketches in five volumes under the title Contemporary Portraits and biographies of his friends Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. His attempts at playwriting were less successful: only Mr. and Mrs. Daventry (1900) (which was based on an idea by Oscar Wilde) was produced on the stage.

Additionally for September 19th., see 'Love in Liverpool' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/love-in-liverpool.html

"Sacred and Profane Love" was produced at the Playhouse, Liverpool, last Monday 15th, at 7.30.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

First principles

Sunday, September 18th., Villa des Nefliers.

I finished the draft of half my play this morning at 7.15 a.m. I worked off and on during most of the rest of the day in arranging the third act, but did not succeed very well.

I had a bad cold.

Every morning now for about a fortnight I have walked for two hours in the forest.

Still immersed in Spencer's "Autobiography". His description of the other boarders at the boarding house where he stayed for so many years is agreeably ironic. 
He says, speaking of Thackeray's insignificance at dinner: "I have heard that he could be a lively companion; but it seems possible that usually when in company he was occupied in observing traits of character and manner. A painter of human nature as variously manifested must ordinarily be more a listener than a talker." Yes, perhaps. But unconsciously occupied. The painter of human nature is not consciously engaged in the act of observation.
The chapter of the "Autobiography" dealing with the finishing and publication of "First principles" is unimposing, and disappointingly deficient in emotion. Compare Gibbon in the finishing of his big work. Nothing of real interest is recorded about the undertaking. This is a pity. But everywhere Spencer's narrative skill is very clumsy, and his little attempts to be dramatic are extraordinarily feeble. i an struck in reading by the stolid indifference with which his biggest books were received. It was appalling; it desolates. yet this kind of reception is quite common. I am also struck throughout by a whole series of odd remarks - almost asides - which give you the disconcerting feeling that nearly all common evaluations are relatively quite wrong. That is, that nearly everything - gifts, acquirements, possessions, achievements - is either under-valued or over-valued.

When I think how "First Principles" by filling me up with the sense of causation everywhere, has altered my whole view of life, and undoubtedly immensely improved it, I am confirmed in my opinion of that book. You can see "First Principles" in nearly every line I write.

Spencer by John McClure Hamilton
In the first volume of A System of Synthetic Philosophy, entitled First Principles (1862), Spencer argued that all phenomena could be explained in terms of a lengthy process of evolution in things. This ‘principle of continuity’ was that homogeneous organisms are unstable, that organisms develop from simple to more complex and heterogeneous forms, and that such evolution constituted a norm of progress. This account of evolution provided a complete and ‘predetermined’ structure for the kind of variation noted by Darwin–and Darwin’s respect for Spencer was significant. But while Spencer held that progress was a necessity, it was ‘necessary’ only overall, and there is no teleological element in his account of this process. In fact, it was Spencer, and not Darwin, who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest,” though Darwin came to employ the expression in later editions of the Origin of Species. Spencer’s understanding of evolution included the Lamarckian theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics and emphasized the direct influence of external agencies on the organism’s development. He denied (as Darwin had argued) that evolution was based on the characteristics and development of the organism itself and on a simple principle of natural selection. Paradoxically, perhaps, Spencer held an ‘organic’ view of society. Starting with the characteristics of individual entities, one could deduce, using laws of nature, what would promote or provide life and human happiness. He believed that social life was an extension of the life of a natural body, and that social ‘organisms’ reflected the same (Lamarckian) evolutionary principles or laws as biological entities did. The existence of such ‘laws,’ then, provides a basis for moral science and for determining how individuals ought to act and what would constitute human happiness.

See also, September 7th., 'Admiring the Mummer's Wife' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/admiring-mummers-wife.html

Additionally for September 18th., see 'Leading the high life' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/leading-high-life.html

I was undecided whether to go to bed or to wait up for Noel Coward, who was due to arrive (fast car) at 12.15. Time passed. I didn't go to bed. Coward arrived just after 12.30 quite fresh. At 12.50 I said: "Well, having glimpsed him, I'm going to bed." But we all went to bed at the same time. 2 a.m. This is twice this week that late bed has happened to me. I was vexed with myself. But I argued: Why not break out sometimes and suffer a little! As a fact, I had quite a good night.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Before the prize-fight

Tuesday, September 17th., Cadogan Square, London.

A lawyer friend of mine, back from a visit to New York, told me that he had recently been one of a crowd of 47,000 at a prize-fight in Madison Square Garden, where there was ordained an interval for prayer for the repose of the soul of Tex Rickard, the prize-fight organizer, whom everybody present knew to be a great and violent sinner. Jack Dempsey, and professional toast-master at a terrific salary, stood alone in the ring under a blinding glare of spot-lights, while the whole vast auditorium was darkened. Everybody had to stand with bare and bowed head. The professional toast-master prayed. A silence. Then the fighting proceeded.

I have been reflecting on how easy it is to make oneself a hostage to fortune; I am experiencing the embarrassing consequences of careless utterances myself. Earlier in my life I entered into a personal relationship, of a formal nature,  which soured and came to an unhappy conclusion. Obviously I determined never to repeat the mistake, and lost no opportunity to warn others of the danger to their well-being should they tread the same path. Now I find that, for practical reasons that cannot be denied, I must myself formalise another similar relationship. I am confident that this time there will be no souring and no consequent unhappiness, but I feel hypocritical and am contriving ways to keep the whole business secret so as to save my blushes.

I regard James Joyce as a rebel, though one who has done great stuff. In various writings I have referred to his 'unfinished work', and to the fragment of it entitled "Anna Livia Plurabelle". This fragment has been published by Crosby Gaige of New York, in a beautifully printed and produced volume as thin as a biscuit. Edition of 800 signed copies. A collector's morsel. A genuine curiosity. I am charmed to have it. But I cannot comprehend a page of it. For it is written in James Joyce's new language, invented by himself. here are a few words from one page: limpopo, sar, icis, seints, zezere, hamble, blackburry, dwyergray, meanam, meyne, draves, pharphar, uyar. It ought to be published with a Joyce-English dictionary. 

Someone (I read somewhere) said to Joyce: "I don't understand it." Joyce replied: "But you will." Joyce is an optimist. Human language cannot be successfully handled with such violence as he has here used to English. And "Anna Livia Plurabelle" will never be anything but the wild caprice of a wonderful creative artist who has lost his way.

The ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ chapter of Finnegans Wake (pp. 196-216) is one of the best known and most popular in the book, and was almost certainly Joyce’s favourite. He paid a great deal of attention to the drafting and revising of this chapter, and it was published in its own right more often than any other complete chapter. ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ opens with the large ‘O’ and following words arranged in a triangular shape, repeating the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, ‘delta’ (Δ), which was also the shorthand siglum that Joyce used to indicate Anna Livia in his notes. This ‘O’ is the opening of the gossip of the two washerwomen, one on either side of the river, washing dirty linen as they gossip and exchange rumours about Anna Livia and HCE. Joyce sent a draft of this chapter to Harriet Weaver at the beginning of March 1924, and early in 1928 it was being revised again, this time in preparation for its first publication in book form by Crosby Gaige in New York on 20 October 1928. The following year, Joyce made a recording of the three last pages of this chapter for CK Ogden, the only recording of him reading from Finnegans Wake. The book Anna Livia Plurabelle was finally published in London by Faber & Faber in June 1930. Writing to Harriet Weaver in 1927 Joyce said that either ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ was something, or he was no judge of language. But it was Joyce’s language that critics often found bewildering. 

Additionally for September 17th., see 'Sandals!' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/sandals.html

Tonight I will dream that I wore sandals and was ashamed.
Since seeing the house at Witley I have been quite depressed in anticipation of the time which must elapse before I can leave London permanently for the country. It is as though the next year or two in London will be unbearable.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Self analysis

Monday, September 16th., Les Sablons.

We went out in the morning with a bottle of wine and a pasty, etc., attached to our bicycles and lunched ten miles off in the woods of Champagne, on the roadside, near to a large-ish property, preserved for game but arranged with alack of taste and of dignity impossible in England. A ridiculous ornamental water, of irregular shape, in front of the house. This water passed by a tunnel under the road and terminated in a pool of disgusting filth. In the centre of the water was an island rockery, and on this rockery a large vase, about 3 feet high, gilded all over, with a plant on top of it bearing pink flowers. The effect was lacerating.

Lunching modestly thus by the roadside, shut in by these two estates of wealthy people, it was impossible to crush altogether the snobbish feeling that one ought to despise oneself for the crime of being simple and unwealthy. I certainly have a liking for domestic display and largeness for their own sake.

I have almost decided to take this house from the Leberts, and there is no doubt that it is quite adequate to our needs. Yet because it makes no display, because it is obviously not the conventional residence of a man of means and manners I think I am making a mistake. Nevertheless I realise most clearly that the problem of domestic menial service must become more and more acute, and that the utmost diminution of such service is not only right but expedient.

I have got Conrad's "Secret Agent", and Smollett's "Travels in France and Italy". The latter is very good and very like Fielding's "Lisbon".

I could not sleep well last night, nor the night before; and not all Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius could ensure cheerfulness and perfect equanimity. However I worked as much as usual, and now after tea, as I write this in the garden, with my feet chilled and the first breath of Autumn blowing on me, I am recovering command of the forces.

Additionally for September 16th., see 'Other people's business' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/other-peoples-business.html

Constance Duchess of Westminster's furniture being sold up today at Cadogan Square. I went to look at it yesterday morning. There is no reason why the furniture of a Duchess should not be showy, or ugly, or dull, yet it shocks one to find it so. I was surprised at the smallness of the house, too. A policeman in the hall.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Novel sensations and ideas

Monday, September 15th., Cadogan Square, London.

Yesterday Dorothy and I drove up to Jack Straw's Castle, via Golders Green, in a taxi and had a good view of the garden cities or suburbs N. of London. Enormous 12.30 crowds on road-terrace in front of Jack Straw's Castle. I very much doubt if I had ever been up there before. Fine views of London, and Primrose Hill (?) in between. A very clear and rather windy day, and yet some mist over London, showing, comparatively, what sort of a hole we live in. I was afraid of Jack Straw's Castle at first. But upstairs the Dining Room was all right. Nice cornice. Nice old, broken overmantel, and not a bad wall-paper. Two or three waiters with perhaps third-hand dress coats. "The beef's English, sir" etc., with assurance. Curious clientele. A fat man and his fat wife. The man wore his hat all the time, and had his napkin under his chin. A big grey moustache. Evidently a powerful character. They both silently gave all their attention and energy to the business of eating. After lunch the terrace-road practically empty. We went and sat in the sun below. Day full of colour. It ought to have rained but it didn't.

Jack Straw (probably the same person as John Rakestraw or Rackstraw) was one of the three leaders (together with John Ball and Wat Tyler) of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, a major event in the history of England. Straw was commemorated in the name of a pub on the edge of Hampstead Heath, London, which closed in the 1990s. The Jack Straw's Castle, reputed to be the highest pub in London, took its name from a story that Straw addressed groups of rebels on the Heath from a hay wagon which became known as "Jack Straw's Castle".

At night. Lanchester & Scott's "select evenings". Opening of season. About 50 people there; mostly young; mostly in morning dress. A beautiful Canadian girl whose pink dress I nearly set on fire with a dropped cigarette and to whom I gave a card of introduction to Basil Dean. Of course she wanted only "the tiniest part" in any of my plays. Room too dark for my taste and floor too dark - too darkly stained. The play performed was Tristran Bernard's "Sylvie" one act. Full of soliloquies and old-fashioned dodges but it was full of life still. Translated and produced by Dorothy. "Stage" much too dark. No farcical comedy could get its effect in such a gloom. That is certain. Still it went well.

More about novel writing and character drawing. You couldn't fill in a whole character except in a book of enormous length. The young ones don't seem to me to 'select'. They shove in pell-mell whatever happens to strike them. They don't construct even a character. Then they think they are truer to life: but they aren't. Description of faces is futile. Waste of time. Give the reader something to hold on to, and then let him fill in for himself.

As for the right length for a novel ... The other day I was talking to one of the 'omnivorous', a reader who has had vast experience in reading fiction, a fisherwoman whose net would catch whales and sharks, without letting whitebait slip through. She said that she preferred long novels to short. In this I think that she was with the majority of readers, but that is not the point. I replied that you could not classify novels according to their length. You can only classify them according to their length in relation to their material. A long novel can be too short, though more often it is too long. And a short novel may be either too long or too short. Only masterpieces, and not always masterpieces, are of the right length. A novel is of the right length when, a certain 'scale' of treatment having been established, that scale is maintained throughout, and at the end the material is exhausted, the problem solved, the reader's legitimate curiosity satisfied.

Additionally for September 15th., see 'More Zeppelins' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/more-zeppelins.html

Zeppelin excitements nightly. It was said in the village that a Zeppelin hung over the village church for an hour on Monday night, but I did not believe this

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Time and place

Tuesday, September 14th., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

Parot, the carpenter, came today, for a job. I once shook hands with him in a burst of fellowship, and always since he makes a point of this ceremony. He shook hands today. I left him with Marguerite. I was standing at the top of the garden when I heard him coming down stairs to depart. I walked hurriedly round between the kiosk so that he should not see me and I should not have to shake hands with him. I did this before I thought what I was doing which reinforces my view that action often (perhaps always) precedes thought. Why? A decent, independent chap, vigorous and energetic. Young. What is at the back of my mind is probably that I resent him insisting on the 'privilege' which I once granted him. Funny.

Tonight I began to read again "When I was a child" (by 'An old potter' - C Shaw), with a view to my next novel, which I think must contain, near the beginning, a grimmish detailed sketch of industrial child-life in 1840, about. 

"When I was a child" is a story, a true story of long ago, set in what might with truth be called the bad old days. It is told in such a way that it not only grips the mind and heart but haunts the imagination. And the flaneur in Burslem or Longton stumbling down Bourne's Bank, or wandering over the Sytch, or searching out the secret passages of Neck End, may well experience in his bones something of the depth of feeling that went into this chronicling of the lives of men and women working on the potbanks of North Staffordshire in the hungry forties. The importance of this book derives mainly from the light it sheds upon the conditions of the working classes.  But also it evidences the contrast between the appalling circumstances of work in some factories, and the triumphs of the arts of fire which produced splendid display pieces for the Great Exhibition; sumptuous porcelains and fine earthenwares which captured the markets of the world; porcelain as white and pure as driven snow came from an environment of quite incredible filth and grimness.

For leisure I am re-reading Conrad's "An Outcast of the Islands". The range of characters in this relatively short novel is remarkable and they seem to me to be all intensely imagined; not only that but they are located in a setting which grips the senses - the smells, the sounds, the sun hammering down on the poor humans confined in this natural pressure cooker of a place. I find that I can only read the book in short bursts. Its intensity of emotion is too great for prolonged exposure.

Additionally for September 14th., see 'Self-discipline' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/self-discipline.html

Yesterday I could not write and had leisure to think about myself. I saw that even now my life was not fully planned out; that I was not giving even an hour a day to scientific reading, to genuine systematic education; and that the central inspiration for my novel was not fine enough.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Indications of affluence

Tuesday, September 13th., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

My old Gaveau piano went on Saturday. I sold it for 250 frs., the money to be spent on hiring. I got a Pleyel grand instead. I had to spend Friday night in altering the arrangement of the whole room for the reception of the grand. Naturally when it came I had to spend a great deal of time in playing.

On Sunday morning arrived the first copies of "Clayhanger". It is the best produced of all my novels, I think; but I could have spared the girl's portrait on the cover. I read a lot of it, and thought it pretty good. A few misprints. On reflection I think it does contain more sociology than "The O.W.T." I had promised this in the prospectus of it, but I was afraid I had not fulfilled the promise. It was only when Marguerite began to read the book that I realized - without her asking any questions - how full of difficulties it must be for a stranger, and how unlike the ordinary good novel. 

On Sunday I at last finished a watercolour, of a flower bowl, that was not absolutely putrid.

Yesterday we went to Paris. Marguerite and Gabrielle at 7.24 and I at 8.56. I went straight to my coiffeurs, but owing to affluence de monde I had to be coiffed by the patron, who is not as good as either of the garcons, though good.  Hence I was disappointed of my expected perfection.

Additionally for September 13th., see 'A visit to Berlin' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/a-visit-to-berlin.html

Yesterday, before dinner, Max gave a full account of the rise of Baldwin. I wanted this for my first political article. It was a marvellous narrative and full of meat for me. All of us were enthralled.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Revolutionary thoughts

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

Prince Kropotkin's memoirs. No translator's name on title page. I wonder if he wrote them in English himself? Many awkward turns of phrase, and errors, such as 'griefs' for 'grievances'. The book is different from what I expected but quite as fine.

He really is very reticent about himself. For instance he doesn't relate his marriage, so far as I remember, though towards the end of the memoirs his wife figures frequently. He does give a new and dramatic impression of the persecuting attitude of all governments towards genuinely 'advanced' thought and propaganda, and of the injustice they will do to attain their ends. Even Switzerland. He was least persecuted in England. But he speaks of England as a living tomb one year that he was obliged to live in London about 1880, before Burns, Morris etc. No socialist society there. Hyndman was the sole advanced worker. Tremendous change since then. He seems to be very careful in his statements; yet he says that all governments maintain spies and agents provocateurs. A very simple and straightforward character. Discusses very simply everything that comes in his way. Extremely philosophical in his acceptance of the 'fortunes of war'. Never seeks to 'dress his window'. The picture of his childhood is the most picturesque, the most effective. But he never seeks an effect.

Evidently he and his friends were of a morality far higher than even the average highly moral. On the whole I should say his life was a happy one. He is naturally dead against prisons, as I suppose all intellectually honest people must be. He lays stress on the cruelty to a prisoner's dependants caused by imprisoning. I had not so clearly pictured this before. At first I was surprised, but not on reflection, by his statement that French prisons are more humane than English, and less degrading also to the dignity.

Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin (1842 – 1921) was a Russian zoologist, evolutionary theorist, philosopher, scientist, revolutionary, philologist, economist, activistgeographer, writer, and prominent anarcho-communist. Kropotkin advocated a communist society free from central government and based on voluntary associations between workers. He wrote many books, pamphlets and articles, the most prominent being The Conquest of Bread and Fields, Factories and Workshops, and his principal scientific offering, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. He also contributed the article on anarchism to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition.

Additionally for September 12th., see 'Writing for a living' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/writing-for-living.html

I have decided very seriously to take up fiction for a livelihood.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

On characterisation

Thursday, September 11th., Cadogan Square, London.

T. S. Eliot came to see me at the Reform Club on Tuesday evening. He wanted to interest me in Virginia Woolf's reply in his Criterion to a few remarks of mine about character-drawing in fiction. He works at Lloyds Bank, in a department of his own, 'digesting' foreign financial and economic journals.  He edits the Criterion, and writes, in the evenings. He had excellent views about the "Virginia" school of fiction. I liked him much more than ever before.
See also, 'On modern poetry', December 12th., 

Today I was thinking about what he and I had said about character in fiction. A character has to be conventionalised. You can't put the whole of a character in a book, unless the book were of inordinate length and the reader of inordinate patience. You must select traits. You must take many traits for granted, and refer to them, as you do and must refer to them in a way to show that they are conventionalised. If you wanted to get at total truth you'd only get a confused picture. Question: Does a novelist want his characters to remain in the mind of the reader? Some novelists don't. But I do, for one. Dickens's characters remain in the mind. They may perhaps be too conventionalised, too simplified. Same for Thackeray - Dobbin and Amelia. And George Eliot - Maggie and Tom. But they remain in the mind. No novelist can always be creating absolutely new, or fresh, characters. Balzac used the same frame of conventionalisation over and over again. His titled amorous dames, many of them of the same pattern. So did Shakespeare. So did Scott. This implies a form of conventionalisation. Then half-critics say, when they observe the necessary conventionalisation, that there is no character drawing at all! The thing is to produce an impression on the reader - the best you can, the truest you can: but some impression. The newest despisers of form and conventionalisation produce no impression at all.

Additionally for September 11th., see 'Zeppelin' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/zeppelin.html

He said Zeppelin was fairly low over roof. Searchlights on it. Star-lights. Fairy-like. Shots at it . Then it rose and went northwards. Spectacle agreed to be superb. Noise of bombs agreed to be absolutely intimidating. And noise of our guns merely noise of popguns.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Geneva is full!

Monday, September 10th., Hotel Beau Rivage, Geneva.

Lunch with Duff Cooper and Diana at the Restaurant du Parc des Eaux Vives, Geneva. Apparently Geneva is 'full'. Flags of strange new designs, of new nations, hanging about on all the big hotels. At the Beaurivage the clientele seems to be rather earnest, movement-y, and narrow-minded. The other guest at the luncheon was a middle-aged Italian flaneur, named Piacci (or some such name) who knew everybody in Italy, Belgium, France, Switzerland and England (except Beaverbrook whom he tought was a brother of Rothermere). He is a type one meets in Paris; apparently kindly, broad-minded, a bit cynical, with no ambition. Friend of many authors, statesmen, princesses, etc. The Queen of Belgium has done his portrait three times. Ojetti has written his portrait in "Cosi Viste", etc., etc. A good talker but a bit too much of a solo performer. Still it was all very good.
See also, 'Alpine heat' - September 8th.,

We then drove to the hotel and Dorothy and I walked back to the Hall of the League of Nations for the afternoon session. It is a biggish hall, absolutely awful acoustics, in the ex-hotel Victoria. Atmosphere (mental) rather like the House of Commons. Physiacl atmosphere simply terrible; hot, stuffy, odorous of people in the premiere gallerie, for which Duff had got us tickets. Briand had orated in the morning, and they all said it was marvellous. But in the afternoon we saw nothing marvellous. We saw him record his vote - he is now a hunchback - on the admission of new nations to the Council. These were Persia, Venezuela - I forget the third. This business of voting on new admissions took a long time. Before that there had been statements about new rules. At the end of the declaration of the vote, the Chairman declared an interval of ten minutes. On the floor of the big Chamber, delegates and secretaries moving about and coming in and going out (especially at the back of the platform) the whole time. My general impression of the League was that something is being done there, despte the appearances of tedium and slackness.

Additionally for September 10th., see 'Beauty of Burslem' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/beauty-of-burslem.html

During this week, when I have been taking early morning walks with Tertia, and when I have been traversing the district after dark, the grim and original beauty of certain aspects of the Potteries, to which I have referred in the introduction to "Anna Tellwright", has fully revealed itself for the first time. Before breakfast on the heights of Sneyd Green, where the air blows as fresh and pure (seemingly) as at the seaside, one gets glimpses of Burslem and of the lands between Burslem and Norton, which have the very strangest charm.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Exhausted in Venice

Thursday, September 9th., Hotel Britannia, Venice.

The Hotel Britannia, Venice, was the result of the joining of five 18th and 19th century palaces. The oldest palace belonged to theTiepolos, the illustrious Venetian family that gave the city two "doges" and the seventeenth century painter Giambattista Tiepolo. By the 19th century Palazzo Tiepolo and the buildings that face the lovely courtyard on the Grand Canal had already been converted into a hotel. Initially operated under the name Hotel Barbesi (1868), it was later known as the Hotel Britannia (1881). The owner and manager was a gentleman named Carlo Walther. During the autumn of 1908 it was here that the celebrated Impressionist painter Claude Monet stayed - a long visit in which he made the most of his talent with the magnificent views that the hotel offered. In a letter, dated October 16th, 1908, Mme. Monet wrote: "We have finally arrived at the Hotel Britannia, with a view, if such a thing were possible, even more beautiful than that of Palazzo Barbaro..."

A heavy day. After buying sandwiches, etc. we went off in a launch to Torcello, calling on the way home at Burano. Torcello church is exceedingly fine as to the interior, and the adjoining church interesting as an exterior. There are some low reliefs of animals in the former which are lovely, but, as they were not mentioned in the guide-book, of course we could not guess the period with any accuracy. Tourists would be most uncomfortably helpless without guide-books.  

Burano is the lace place. The women work in the doorways of the houses, over coloured paper upon which the pattern is printed or carboned. We saw one old hag with her hair hanging down; she was doing nothing. Portraits of Il Duce on all the walls. The launch had a deck-house with flowers and hand-mirror, and was quite nice. Two hands, both very charming. We dismissed the launch at the Lido, and saw Mason, and had tea there, and we then came home with him. Both of us completely exhausted by a long day out, we got home broken at 11. No sooner was I in bed than my mosquito canopy fell down and the wooden frame gave me a good crack on the head.

Additionally for September 9th., see 'On keeping very busy' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/on-keeping-very-busy.html

I can always do more work when I have many other things on hand, and when I am following a programme that is rather a tight fit for the day.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Tea and mystery

Thursday, September 8th., Cadogan Square, London.

Dorothy and the Swinnertons for lunch, and we settled our course of conduct - I mean F.S. and me, - to be followed when Doran at last wrote to us to say that he had sold his business to Doubledays.
See also, 'Russia and revivals' - March 9th.,

Harriet Cohen came for tea - hadn't seen her for months. I had to leave her, and Dorothy had to leave her to see the actor Charles Laughton, whom I had to pass as a possible "Prohack". He passed with honours in about 5 minutes.
See also, 'First night adventurers' - November 16th., 

DAME HARRIET COHEN (1895-1967) was a giant figure in the musical world of the first half of the 20th century. She gave many world premiere performances including Ralph Vaughan Williams' Piano Concerto (which was written for her), and made the first recording of Edward Elgar's Piano Quintet with the Stratton Quartet under the composer's supervision. A number of the important composers of the day composed works for her, including John Ireland, Béla Bartók, Dmitri Shostakovich, Ernest Bloch, Dmitri Kabalevsky and E. J. Moeran. And Sir Arnold Bax, who was Harriet Cohen's lover, wrote most of his piano music for her. In the 1930s, she was actively involved in making the plight of the Austrian and German Jews known to the world. She played concerts to raise money to help Jewish scientists get out of Germany. Her efforts won her the friendship of such notables as Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, Eleanor Roosevelt and Ramsay MacDonald. Harriet Cohen numbered among her close friends the likes of Elgar, Walton, Sibelius, Vaughan Williams, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and D. H. Lawrence, and Arnold Bennett, as well as many important politicians and businessmen. She was certainly one of the most famous musicians of her day and was was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1938. As a pianist, Harriet Cohen had a tremendous range, from Orlando Gibbons up to the music that was still being written as she practised.

In my Evening Standard article this week I have been writing about the art of the crime story. For years past I have been disastrously disappointed with my adventures among mystery fiction. I think that even Poe is over-praised as a mystery novelist, for the reason that the interest of his tales is too exclusively limited to detection. I want more than merely detective ratiocination in my mystery stories. I want love, romances, and all sorts of things besides.

The finest of all mystery novels is in my opinion "The Mystery of the Yellow Room" by Gaston Leroux, which I regard as a masterpiece of its kind. The solution of it turns on one single moment of misapprehension, a moment which requires, and which gets, the very nicest skill for the success of its effect on the reader. 

Then of course there is Conan Doyle, whose early work really thrilled me. I gladly admit it! But Sir Arthur never (so far as I know) wrote a full-length crime novel. He excels in the short story, which demands far less power and invention and ingenuity than a novel, for the maintenance of interest at full-strength throughout. Chiefly I admire Sir Arthur for his Dr. Watson. Dr. Watson is an authentic human creation. Sherlock Holmes himself is not.

Additionally for September 8th., see 'Alpine heat' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/alpine-heat.html

This was our hottest day so far. I began a rough preliminary sketch of my new film and I did about a third of it in the morning before a bathe. We bathed with Diana Cooper, Lady Horner, who had her two grand-daughters, Lady Helen and Lady Perdita Asquith with her, and the boy, Lord Oxford. I talked to the old lady while on the raft. The Diana-Horner party went off to lunch at Talloires. Duff Cooper had arrived in the early afternoon from Geneva. He and Diana were returning from a rowing excursion (and reading Wells's new novel aloud to one another on the lake) just as Dorothy and I were finishing tea on the terrace.