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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.

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