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

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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.

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