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

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Saturday, 7 September 2013

Admiring the Mummer's Wife

Wednesday, September 7th., Les Sablons.

Being unable to get rid of influenza-ish inquietudes of the stomach, and having had several bad nights de suite I stayed in bed today, and therein read and wrote. Yesterday I finished the third or fourth perusal of "A Mummer's Wife" by George Moore. This book really is original and fine and beautiful. The Islington scenes are superb. You have squalor and sordidness turned into poetry. And the painter-like effects of visualisation are splendid throughout. Language a bit clumsy and coarse occasionally. "Booze" and "Boozed" are amazing words. There are others. But what an original and powerful work!
See also, 'A man of opinion' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/a-man-of-opinion.html

Moore's second novel, A Mummer's Wife (1884, dated 1885), which reveals the influence of Zola's novels, particularly,L'Assommoir, Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and Miss Braddon's The Doctor's Wife, is generally considered the first Naturalist novel in English literature. It recounts the fate of Kate Ede, a seamstress, who deserts her asthmatic husband Ralph, and elopes with the manager of a travelling opĂ©ra bouffe. She becomes his mistress and then wife, who plays lead roles in operas, but gradually deteriorates and dies as a miserable alcoholic in a London slum. The novel raised the topical issue of men’s victimisation of women. The circulating libraries also put the book on their black list because of its frank presentation of a woman's sexuality. In protest, Moore published a pamphlet, Literature At Nurse (1885), in which he ridiculed the prudery and self-imposed censorship of the circulating libraries. Moore objected to the belief that realist novels might exert a harmful influence on young female readers.

Last night I began Spencer's "Autobiography" and this morning, by dint of much wakefulness, I had arrived at p. 224. I found it very interesting and jolly well done. It is much better done and much more artistic than J. S. Mill's autobiography. Nevertheless, Spencer's little attempts at narrative in the manner of a novelist - beginning for example with a fragment of conversation, or with a phrase such as "If on such and such a day anyone had been looking at such a spot they might have been surprised to see ...", etc., are funnier than he intended.

Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903) was an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era. Spencer also had an influence on literature, as many novelists and short story authors came to address his ideas in their work. George Eliot, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas HardyGeorge Bernard Shaw, and Jorge Luis Borges all referenced Spencer. Arnold Bennett greatly praised First Principles, and the influence it had on Bennett may be seen in his many novels. Jack London went so far as to create a character, Martin Eden, a staunch Spencerian. H.G. Wells used Spencer's ideas as a theme in his novella, The Time Machine, employing them to explain the evolution of man into two species. It is perhaps the best testimony to the influence of Spencer's beliefs and writings that his reach was so diverse. He influenced not only the administrators who shaped their societies' inner workings, but also the artists who helped shape those societies' ideals and beliefs. 

Additionally for Sunday, September 7th.

The extreme inventiveness of some dreams is remarkable.

I dreamt last night that I had to rush every few minutes to see Russian trains come into a tube station as I was expecting a friend from Russia, I think. Between two trains, I strolled off the platform on to a bridge over a canal, on which were ships whose immense and very ornate bowsprits came up as high as the bridge.
Turning another way I saw a very muddy road, and in this road a little acrobat (one of a troupe) was performing. He was 8 or 9 years of age. The greasy road was a very difficult 'take-off' but he had to do a double somersault with such a take-off, and he did it, two complete revolutions with only a slight slip on his back on alighting. He then lay on his back in the mud to do another trick, and I then noticed that he was smoking a thick strong cigar, puffing away at it all the time.
He was forced by his brutal persecutors to smoke this awful cigar all the time, and to keep puffing at it continuously. A tremendous refinement of cruelty.
Even as I write my gorge rises at the memory of the cigar in his small mouth. He clenched his small hands to prepare for the spring from his back. He did this several times, and then I woke up.

I can't imagine what led to this dream, unless it was my physical exercises daily and a fairly strong cigar at night.

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