Welcome to our blog!

It's better than a bat in the eye with a burnt stick!

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.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Eden and I

Tuesday, October 31st., Fulham Park Gardens, London.

I left Torquay, where I have been staying with the Phillpotts, this afternoon.

At Exeter I heard of the British defeat in the Transvaal.

The Battle of Nicholson’s Nek was one of two British defeats around Ladysmith that came to be known as “Mournful Monday”, or the battle of Ladysmith. A British force found itself in an impossible position and the result was the biggest surrender of British troops since the Napoleonic Wars. Close to one thousand British soldiers entered captivity after the battle. The defeat at Nicholson’s Nek and the failure of White’s main attack at Lombard’s Kop ended any chance of avoiding a siege at Ladysmith.

I went down to Torquay last Friday and had not been long with Phillpotts before I found my own creative ideas begin to flow under the impulsion of his companionship. Phillpotts works from 10.30 or 11 to 1 o'clock each day, and sometimes in the afternoon again for an hour or so, after going for a walk.. Every month he interrupts his big work to write a short story which takes him 2 or 3 or 4 days.. He showed me a diary of work showing quantities. Up to date this year his total was 360,000 words. He had hoped to write 600,000 words in the year but has no chance of doing it.

See also, February 23rd.,  'Writing for a living' -
And September 21st., 'In the West Country' -

On Saturday we walked by the coast to Teignmouth, and thence up the Teign to Newton Abbot, and back to Torquay by train. I was struck by Phillpotts's minute botanical knowledge, and his unfailing eye for a rare flower. Talking of dreams, he said that he had once kept a dream diary, with probable causes of the dream in opposite pages. But it was useless. He agreed with me that dreams, as works of art, were an utter failure. He had only had one dream that was of the least use to him.

Every night we have had long literary talks, in which I did rather more than half the talking, while Mrs. Phillpotts sat between us, quiet but apparently interested. Phillpotts often spoke of these 'shoppy' talks with the greatest pleasure. He said they were a sharp stimulant - a stimulant he rarely got. He said, among dozens of other little personal statements, that as regards style De Quincey had influenced him most. What he chiefly admired was stateliness, the stately management of a long sentence. He remarked how few men cared to attempt a long and elaborate sentence. He said he had been influenced by Hardy ("Talking about your god are you?" said his wife, coming in); and distantly by Fielding for whom he has an intense admiration.

"The hero of my next book", he said ("The Pagan") "has better ideas about Dartmoor than any person I ever met. he seems to me to have the proper ideas, the only right attitude. He knows much more of Dartmoor than I do, and has taught me a lot." This, almost seriously, of a creature of his own brain.

Looking through Mrs. Philpotts's collection of autographs, I was a little surprised at the warmth and spontaneity of the tributes sent by well-known men. A letter from James Payn about "Lying Prophets", and another from R. D. Blackmore about "Children of the Mist", pleased me particularly, so natural and large-hearted and fine. I had no idea that well-known men put themselves out to do these things.

Yesterday Phillpotts took me to Compton, three miles off, a little village with an old fortified manor house, lying in a hollow near Ipplepen, which he has chosen for the scene of his next novel but one - "Sons of the Morning".

Before leaving today Mr. and Mrs. Phillpotts walked with me down into Torquay. Mild, with flowers blooming everywhere. It seemed to me to be a place of retired military officers, rich and stiff dowagers, and spoiled over-fed dogs led about by servant maids. Phillpotts said that, for its size, it was the second richest place in England, Tunbridge Wells being first. There were scarcely any poor. Nearly every house stood in its own garden. There were very few children, as the inhabitants were mainly retired and old. Also, but few young men. The whole town consisted of rich households and the people who fed them and waited on them.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A novel idea

Saturday, October 30th., Cadogan Square, London.

I began to think more seriously about the plan of my new novel. I had already got the moral background for it: the dissatisfaction of a successful and rich man with his own secret state of discontent and with the evils of the age. I wanted a frame. I walked about three miles this morning, and about a mile after tea, without getting a really satisfactory idea; then as I was lolling in my 'easy' about 6.30, I suddenly thought that I would extend the role of the train de luxe, which I had thought of for the scene of the opening of the story, to be the scene of the whole of the novel - so that the entire time-space of the novel will only be about thirty hours or so. I didn't go any farther than this; I had enough for the day.

Then quite a lot of reading of Ludwig on the Kaiser. This seems to be rather a great book.

Wilhelm Hohenzollern by Emil Ludwig (1926)
This book is a portrait of William the Second and does not tell the whole story of his life. For fairness' sake, the author designed to let no adversary of the Emperor bear witness, but constructed his portrait wholly from William's own deed and words, together with the reports of those who stood in close relation to him and who give strikingly similar answers to the psychical questions involved. In short, this work is an attempt to trace from the idiosyncrasies of a monarch the direct evolution of international political events and the course of his country's destiny.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Odd encounters

Tuesday, October 29th., Cadogan Square, London.

This city is the city of strange encounters. I had two today. 

I was walking in a certain street on my way home to lunch, in perfectly plain, fine, unromantic autumn weather, when a young, well-dressed man overtook me and addressed me by name. I can remember all sorts of useless things, such as the number of the house in which I was born and the date of the coronation of Charlemagne; but I have the disastrous habit, when confronted with a sudden crisis, of entirely forgetting both the names and the faces of people quite well known to me. The young man smiled confidently at me and I smiled at him.

"Hello!" I said, and, feeling sure that I knew him, I took his arm. Then I said, uncertain: "Who are you?" He said: "Oh, I'm nobody, but I wanted to speak to you. I hope you don't mind." (He did not guess that he was gravely interrupting creative reflections upon my new novel.)

He then informed me of his name, and his age (nineteen), and said further that his father kept a raiment shop close by, and still further that his father, in addition to a retail business for men, owned a manufactory of ladies' underwear. He told me that he had followed my printed advice to keep a journal, and how to live on 24 hours a day, and that he had read H. G. Wells's "Short Outline of History" and intended to read H. G. Wells's longer "Outline of History", and that he had written some articles and read a short history of philosophy, and desired to make a thorough study of philosophy, and desired to write but could not decide whether it would be better to start in the low-brow vein or the high-brow vein. And would I give him counsel?

He walked a good three-quarters of a mile by my side on chief pavements, and I forbore to tell him that he had snatched my novel out of my mind and cast it into the gutter three-quarters of a mile back. He said he hoped I didn't object to being accosted in the street by a stranger; and, lying like anything, I said that on the contrary I was very interested.

I advised the young man to start his literary career in the low-brow vein with articles. I then stood still firmly. "Goodbye," I said. "Good bye. Thanks very much," said he. I venture to call this encounter romantic

The same evening I took supper at a house which is a meeting place for all sorts of artists of both sexes. I met a poet there. He was young; he was modest; he remarked in a somewhat sad tone that I rarely mentioned poetry in my articles on new books. I told him I gave poetry a miss for the good reason that I had no technical knowledge of prosody. This young man appeared to be in a fairly prosperous condition.

He had with him some specimens of his work. I asked to see them. Happily they were printed. So I read them on the spot, and I certainly thought that they had some of the stuff of poetry in them. So far there was nothing very unusual in the affair. The unusual came when the young poet calmly told me that he went himself from front-door to front-door of houses, selling his poems at 6d. apiece. "But does anyone actually buy them?" I asked. "Yes" he answered, "I sell a fair number of them." I always knew that London was full of odd phenomena; but this was assuredly the oddest thing I ever struck. I singled out one poem as being the best. He neither agreed nor disagreed. He was cautious. He said, "That's the one I sell most of." Which somehow caused me to think that I had been wise not to deal critically with poetry.
Additionally for October 29th., see 'A great actress' -

You can see all the time why Haidee Wright is a great actress. Something is always oozing out of her. She is very shy and nervous and diffident, yet well aware, somewhere within herself, that she is a person of considerable importance in the artistic world.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Boston Impressions

Saturday, October 28th., Boston.

The Puvis de Chavannes (blue going so well with marble) are the most beautiful things in America..

From the beginning, the intention was that the library's imposing grand staircase and loggia be decorated with murals. Thus it was decide to engage Puvis de Chavanne's's services. Convincing the aged painter to undertake the commission proved no easy task, but finally, on July 7, 1893, Puvis signed a contract for the murals that guaranteed him 250,000 francs, the equivalent of the then-unparalleled sum of $50,000. A year later, he began working on the Boston murals and asked for more detailed measurements. He also requested, and was sent, a sample of the marble to be used in the staircase so that he might harmonize his palette with the surrounding architecture. 

Puvis's oversized murals were executed on canvas in a specially designed studio at Neuilly. The Inspiring Muses was the first mural to be painted. It was exhibited at the Salon du Champs-de-Mars, then rolled and transported to Boston in October 1895, and finally mounted on the east wall of the loggia a month later. During the following year, the other eight panels were completed, exhibited in Paris, shipped, and installed. In fact, the artist himself never saw his works in situ. The arrival of the murals in Boston was met with much fanfare and celebration.

     Yesterday. Pre-revolutionary homes still occupied by same families at Cambridge.
     Auto-drive - continuation after public library. Parks. Fen-like park. Skirting Brookline - richest per capita. Mrs. Jack Gardner's house with a screen to cut off school.
     Women chauffeurs.
     Pleasure roads only.
     Yacht clubhouse overlooking old harbour. 4-masted schooner.
     Boston is a circular city repeated ad infinitum.
     Harbour 6-masters.
     Then vast wool warehouses.
     "Coffee and spices".
     Then circular streets. Elevated. Tram cars.
     Fearful racket.

     To Boston Yacht Club; in an old warehouse.
     Low ceilings - great beams.
     Extreme and splendid nauticality of this club.
     Wheel of Spray in which the regretted Slocum wafted himself around the world.
     Huge, square port-hole (faced with arm-chairs with great wide arms), across which ships are continually passing.

     The Boston Yacht Club was founded in 1866 by three Dartmouth alumni who sought a venue for yacht racing that would provide "that spirit of comradeship, of courtesy and chivalry, of sympathetic joy in a common sport". 90 original members began the club. In 1874 the first clubhouse was opened at City Point in South Boston, membership then numbering 250 with over 80 yachts. Through a series of club mergers, the Boston Yacht Club grew and, by 1910, the club operated from six different stations: Rowe's Wharf in Boston, Hull, City Point in South Boston, Marblehead, Dorchester, and Five Islands in Sheepscot Bay, Maine.

"Best thing about Boston is the 5 o'clock train to New York." (Thomson)
     I had no glimpse of real Bostonians, 'old Back Bay folks' who graduate between Beacon Street and State Street and Somerset Club and never go beyond. Confusing New England with the created universe.
     Navy Yard. Constitution built 1799. Roomy, much metal. 
     Then into Italian Quarter, curving tram-liney streets, cobbled; (Italian signs up and down), and so gradually into business quarter, which I saw yesterday with Corrigan: (all previous part of morning so different from this).         

Legend of Paul Revere floating like a mist through Italian streets.
     Paul Revere's signal church spire. (Closed because only 6 in congregation?)
     Old State House. Beautiful building. Massacre close by. Lion and Unicorn on the roof.
Boston is finished. Complete.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

A prodigy

Wednesday, October 22nd., George Street, Hanover Square, London.

I finished the fifth chapter of "Mr. Prohack" yesterday morning, and corrected all the proofs of the E. A. Rickards book in the afternoon - and they wanted a lot of correcting. When they were done I suddenly realised that I was exhausted and that the top of my head was coming off.

Jascha Heifetz concert at Queen's Hall. I met him at the Reform last week with his pianist and Sassoon. Something distinguished about Heifetz. Very young. A gold collar pin and a pearl scarf pin. I went with all three of them to a concert of Josef Hoffman. They said that he was the finest pianist in the world and that there was no good second. He certainly played magnificently. As regards today's concert, Marguerite's one idea as soon as the concert had begun was to depart again. I thought Heifetz was a marvellous performer, with a lovely tone, but his interpretation of Cesar Franck's sonata did not excite me.

Jascha Heifetz (1901 – 1987) was a Lithuanian-born American violinist. He was born in Vilnius. As a child, he moved with his family to the United States, where his Carnegie Hall debut was well received. In 1920 he made his London bow with two Queen’s Hall concerts which were so successful that he returned the same year. He had a long and successful recording career; after an injury to his right (bowing) arm, he focused on teaching. The New York Times called him "perhaps the greatest violinist of all time."

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Forest thoughts

Saturday, October 26th., Les Sablons, Fontainebleau.

The forest is now, for me, at nearly its most beautiful. Another fortnight and the spectacle will be complete. But it is really too close to our doors for us to appreciate it properly. if we had to walk 5 miles instead of 500 yards in order to get  into one of these marvellously picturesque glades, we should think we were exceedingly lucky in being only 5 miles off and not 50. 

On the whole a very wet month with , on days free from rain, heavy persistent fogs lasting till afternoon. The sound of voices is very clear in the forest in this mushroom weather. I have learnt a little about mushrooms. I have tremendously enjoyed my morning exercise in the mist or rain. But mushrooming only interests me when the sport is good.

Exposure to the natural world so regularly, leads me to reflect on Mr. Darwin's theory of evolution of species. I am sure he has the right of it. He says at the end of "On the Origin of Species" that,  " ... from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." Walking in the forest where death and decay are so much in evidence at this time of year, and knowing that life will be renewed in the spring, the wonder of nature is impressed upon the consciousness. Darwin writes about the contemplation of an 'entangled bank' but could, as easily, have drawn his example from this forest where the inter-dependence of animals and plants is clear to see.

In general, slightly too much work. 18,000 words of "Old Wives Tale" in 2 weeks 4 days.

Much tempted to throw up my Italian and my piano, on account of stress of work, but I still stick to both of them. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

An equivocal tourist

Monday, October 25th., Paris.

Ascended the tower of Notre Dame in order to see the Devils, which surpassed expectations. It struck me that these twelfth century devils gazed over Zola's Paris with a certain benign satisfaction.

Gardens of Luxembourg. It is here that bohemian Paris takes the air. This part of the city has an effective significance which is missing in the neighbourhood of the cosmopolitan Boulevard des Italiens. Here is some Doing. People are less self-conscious and more purposeful; more truly light-hearted and yet more earnest .... A beautiful afternoon, absolutely cloudless sky, gentlest breeze just moving out of the perpendicular the high fountain spray in front of the Palace .... A large, apparently but not really shapeless space, gravelled and sown with brown trees and yellow chairs, and untidy with autumn leaves.

As to the people:
Nursemaids, whose large white or blue aprons and white caps seem to strike the note of the scene; scores of children, many just able to walk, others learning to skip or clumsily trundling hoops, others in arms; the last seemed always to be receiving clean napkins from their plump comfortable nurses.
Students in fine black hats and vast neckties, walking about or sitting in groups.
The chairwoman, a buxom young woman, capless, with a large black apron. She goes to a group of young students who are talking and laughing amongst themselves. Without apparently noticing her, they throw her a few words, still laughing, a colloquy ensues, and then for some reason she goes away without exacting pennies from them.

Young women, carelessly chic, some powdered, all talkative, sitting about in pairs, with looks on their faces of invitation.
Here and there a few sedater groups, well-dressed; papa, mama et bebe, or perhaps several old women full of volubility and gesture.
A few inquisitive dogs.
In the distance the tooting of tram-cars, and the vague roar of traffic.

The traveller, however virginal and enthusiastic, does not enjoy an unbroken ecstasy. He has periods of gloom, periods when he asks himself the object of all these exertions, and puts the question whether or not he is really experiencing pleasure. At such times he suspects that he is not seeing the right things, that the characteristic, the right aspects of these strange scenes are escaping him. He looks forward dully to the days of his holiday yet to pass, and wonders how he will dispose of them. He is disgusted because his money is not more, his command of the language so slight, and his capacity for enjoyment so limited. His mind goes forward to speculate as to his future career, which seems one of but narrow possibilities, and he foresees failure. The newness of things grows monotonous; he desires the known, the expected.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Orchestral experience

Tuesday, October 24th., Fulham Park Gardens.

Richter concert. I sat in the orchestra, between the kettle-drums and the side-drum. You can't be too close to an orchestra. The sound is quite different, more voluptuous, more significant, when you are in the middle of it. Everything takes on a new aspect. the orchestra becomes a set of individuals delicately inter-related, instead of one huge machine.

Richter has all the air of a great man. He seems to exist in an inner world of his own, from which, however, he can recall himself instantly at will. He shows perfect confidence in his orchestra, and guides them by little intimate signs, hints, suggestions. When pleased he shows it in a gay half-childlike manner; smiling, nodding and a curious short wave of the fore-arm from the elbow. Having started his men, he allowed them to go through the second movement of Tchaikowsky's "Pathetique" symphony without conducting at all (I understand this is his custom with this movement). They played it superbly. At the end he clapped delightedly, and then turned to the audience with a large gesture of the arms to indicate that really he had nothing to do with the affair. 

Hans Richter (1843 – 1916) was an Austrian-Hungarian orchestral and operatic conductor. He studied at the Vienna Conservatory and developed his conducting career at several different opera houses in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He became associated with Richard Wagner in the 1860s, and in 1876 he was chosen to conduct the first complete performance of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. In 1877 he assisted the ailing composer as conductor of a major series of Wagner concerts in London, and from then onwards he became a familiar feature of English musical life. In later years, Richter became a whole-hearted admirer of Sir Edward Elgar, and he also came to accept Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. On one occasion, he laid down his baton and allowed a London orchestra to play the whole second movement of Tchaikovsky's Path├ętique Symphony itself. Richter's approach to conducting was monumental rather than mercurial or dynamic, emphasising the overall structure of major works in preference to bringing out individual moments of beauty or passion. Some observers regarded him as little more than a time-beater; but others, notably Eugene Goossens, pointed to the remarkable rhythmic vitality of his work, a quality which hardly squares with the image of Richter as a rather stolid and static personality.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

To Paris

Saturday, October 23rd., Paris.

As the train swaggered through Dulwich, Rickards and I caught a glimpse of a platform full of city men and city clerks and a few girls, waiting for an up-local. It was impossible not to feel uplifted by a feeling of superiority. In the minds of how many on that platform is not the continental train, as it thunders past every morning, the visible symbol of pleasure, adventure and romance! ... I remembered my emotions years ago at Hornsey, as I stood on the platform there and saw the Edinburgh express sweep swiftly and smoothly by ... And the Edinburgh express was not the Continental boat train, though it moved more proudly, with its gorgeous Pullman in the centre of it.

Dover and Calais. What mean amorphous entrance portals to great kingdoms! Mere grimy untended back-doors!

As we left Dover harbour, the lines of greyish-yellow official buildings on the grey-green hillside spread out clear, and then disappeared in the vague distance. The sea was rough. I closed my eyes and prepared to be uncomfortable.

Paris train: the carriage was full of silent Frenchmen, and as we flew along through a flying sea of yellow leaves glinting in the sunlight, I remembered tales of the sociability of Frenchmen - how, unlike Englishmen, they beguiled their journeys by courteous and cheerful dialogue. perhaps on this line the native public has suffered by the example of our insular manners.

For many miles the landscape was bare, greyish and uninteresting. Then, as we increased our distance from the sea southwards a change of temperature and atmosphere became more and more perceptible, until the warmth and brightness made almost an English summer. Presently the character of the landscape altered. Water was everywhere in large quiet pools bordered by trees delightfully tinted, and we passed by picturesque towns with fine churches and wonderful crooked white streets.

We entered Paris, as one enters London, by boring a way into the city through ravines with windowed walls. On the right was a single impressive feature, the hill of Montmartre surmounted by a great cathedral under scaffolding.

It was dusk as we drove to the hotel through traffic less crowded than that of London, but noisier, more gesticulating, and far more bewilderingly mazy.

On my first evening in Paris, it was proper that I should see "Faust" at the Opera. We arrived 20 minutes before the curtain, and found a vast interior honeycombed with corridors in which people, by comparison insignificant as ants, were rushing wildly about, arguing, gesticulating and quarrelling with the harpy-like ouvreuses

This was the 1099th performance of "Faust" at the Opera and it was listened to with all the rapt attention of a premiere. It is true that "Faust" still draws an average of over 20,000 francs per performance, and is still the most popular work in the repertoire, but this was special occasion, and the audience larger and more interested even than usual.

I followed the performance, like the rest, with intent approval - and this though I had long ago bound myself by oaths never to sit out another "Faust" evening. But no "Faust" could approach this for perfect ensemble. In some ways it has become highly conventionalised by repetition, yet the conventionality does not annoy. Specious and meretricious as it must appear to those who can appreciate Wagner, nevertheless this house forces you to accept it for a classic.

As we came out of the Opera, men were crying the Journal, with the first feuilleton of Zola's "Paris". Zola and the Journal and Steinlein's poster thereof seem just now to flame in the forehead of the city.

Additionally for October 23rd., see 'Marital breakdown' -

A great calamity has occurred in this household. I am obliged to arrange for a separation from Marguerite on account of her relations with Legros, whom she absolutely refuses to give up, & with whom she is certainly very much in love.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Friday, October 22nd., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

Extraordinarily beautiful morning in the forest and ideas for the second act  arrived one after the other in a manner very creditable to them. 

Letters from Frank Harris and Wells and his friend about "The Glimpse". But really I have had very few letters about it. Wells describes it as 'a glimpse into an empty cavern' of my mind. Not sure what that is meant to mean!

Nothing in Mr. Arnold Bennett's former work has prepared his readers for the point of view from which his new novel is written. Leaving the affairs of this world with which he has hitherto been exclusively occupied, Mr. Bennett kills his hero in the tenth chapter, although he causes him to return again to his body in the last book of the story. The author's account of the flight of the soul at death cannot be called very convincing, though it is at all times interesting to know the theories which people form on this subject ; but whether such matters are fit themes for fiction is another question. The book, apart from these psychical chapters, is decidedly disagreeable in tone, but makes strongly for a moral standpoint, for the soul of the hero returns to earth with the conviction that nothing in this life matters save the quickening of - spiritual understanding. Ordinary criticism of a work of fiction seems out of place when dealing with such a subject as this, and the only thing which remains for the reviewer is to describe the scope and aim of the book and to leave it to the reader to determine its quality.
Review of "The Glimpse" in The Spectator, November 1909.

I am not convinced about the second part of the book myself, but I am sure that the 1st and 3rd parts are as good as the best I can do. Some people who like the 2nd don't care for the 3rd: which unfortunately shows that they have not understood the 2nd. Also I am now supposed to be a Theosophist, a Hegelian and all sorts of things. The second part is simple Theosophy, nothing else, and taken bodily therefrom (with improvements); but I have now made Theosophy serve my turn, & I have done with it. I read Mrs. Besant three times, and made fresh notes every time, in order to do the 2nd part; a fearful grind; & the Theosophical Society ought now to reprint my 2nd part as one of their official publications; it is infinitely more graphic and coherent than any of their own tracts. I liked 'Bond Street'. Enough. What interests me now is the sales.

Theosophy refers to systems of esoteric philosophy concerning, or investigation seeking direct knowledge of, presumed mysteries of being and nature, particularly concerning the nature of divinity. Theosophy is considered a part of the broader field of esotericism, referring to hidden knowledge or wisdom that offers the individual enlightenment and salvation. The word esoteric dates back to the 2nd century CE. The theosophist seeks to understand the mysteries of the universe and the bonds that unite the universe, humanity, and the divine. The goal of theosophy is to explore the origin of divinity and humanity, and the world. From investigation of those topics, theosophists try to discover a coherent description of the purpose and origin of the universe. Annie Besant (1847 – 1933) was a prominent British socialist, theosophist, women's rights activistwriter and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule.In 1890 Besant met Helena Blavatsky and over the next few years her interest in theosophy grew while her interest in secular matters waned. She became a member of the Theosophical Society and a prominent lecturer on the subject. In 1907 she became president of the Theosophical Society, whose international headquarters were in Adyar, Madras, (Chennai).

I shall positively appear in the Five Towns early in December, and remain there at least two weeks. I must have at least two weeks with Mr. Dawson, the bookseller and printer. My next hero's father is the pater + Mr. Beardmore = a steamprinter. Dawson has printed three Christmas books for me and is a prime source of information about the Potteries. He is also a magistrate and a student profoundly versed in the psychology of the Five Towns.

Pauline Smith is here, is beginning a novel, and has half an hour's remarks from me every night. My remarks are really rather good. Strange girl. She can write. But she won't talk. However we make her, at least Marguerite does. She says: "Now Pauline, you have let the conversation fall." She is already better.
See also 'A bad night' - November 14th., -

Additionally for October 22nd., see 'Famous men' -

This is my idea of fame:

At an entertainment on board H.M.S. Majestic, Rudyard Kipling, one of the guests, read "Soldier and Sailor Too", and was encored. He then read "The Flag of England". At the conclusion a body of subalterns swept him off the stage, and chaired him round the quarter-deck, while "For he's a jolly good fellow" was played by the massed bands of the Fleet and sung by 200 officers assembled.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Nervous reactions

Thursday, October 21st., London.

Rivers came to lunch at the Reform on Tuesday. He and Shufflebotham were talking about miners' eye diseases, etc. and Rivers said that the danger factor on the nervous system had never been properly taken into account. Shufflebotham said that he had been preaching it for years. Shuff said that you could always distinguish miners from potters on their way to early morning work. Miners had an apprehensive look. Potters would whistle on their way to work; miners never. It appears that someone has just pointed out in The Times that if you put the mines in order of frequency of accidents, and also in majorities for strikes. the two lists coincide! All this of course, so far as the miners are concerned, is chiefly subconscious. Shuff said that of course boys voted for strikes. They had not had time to become accustomed to the danger, and the instinctive reactions were very strong.

See also 'Laughing gas?', February 14th., -

W H R Rivers
William Halse Rivers Rivers, FRCP, FRS, (1864 -1922) was an English anthropologist, neurologist, ethnologist and psychiatrist, best known for his work with shell-shocked soldiers during World War I. Rivers' most famous patient was the poet Siegfried Sassoon. He is also famous for his participation in the Torres Straits expedition of 1898, and his consequent seminal work on the subject of kinship. Sassoon was deeply saddened by the death of his father figure and collapsed at his funeral. His loss prompted him to write two poignant poems about the man he had grown to love: "To A Very Wise Man" and "Revisitation".

I got frightened about the opening of my novel "Mr. Prohack" yesterday. But on reading it through I thought it wasn't so bad.

Additionally for October 21st., see 'Getting ready to write' -

I find that if I am to begin my new novel, "Clayhanger", on 1st Jan. 1910, I must make a series of preliminary enquiries. I do this perhaps at the rate of half an hour or an hour a day. I have read "When I was a Child", and all I need of Shaw's "North Staffordshire Potteries", and tonight I re-read the "social and Industrial" section of the Victoria History, which contains a few juicy items that I can use. I work on the plot itself about once a week when I have an hour and feel like it.

Sunday, 20 October 2013


Monday, October 20th., Cadogan Square, London.

Josephine Victor
First night of Harwood and Tennyson Jesse's "Pelican" at Ambassadors last night. Josephine Victor, and actress new to London, played the lead. I heard she came from New York and is of Hungarian extraction. She played magnificently and acted everybody else off the stage, really. Only Herbert Marshall and Nicholas Hannen could compare with her at all.

Then to Garrick Club, and ate a kipper (6d.) which was magnificent. Clubs are useful.

Lawrence Langner came to see me today. He said positively that the American taste was against drawing-room plays and decidedly in favour of what he called genre plays, i.e. plays of character strongly developed, middle class or lower middle class. He urged me to write a Five Towns play, even if I did it especially for U.S.A.

Lawrence Langner (1890 – 1962) was a playwright, author, and producer who also pursued a career as a patent attorney. Born near Swansea, South Wales and working most of his life in the United States, he started his career as one of the founders of the Washington Square Players troupe in 1914. In 1919 he founded the Theatre Guild, where he supervised over 200 productions. He was also founder and Chairman of the American Shakespeare Festival, and with his wife, Armina Marshall, he created and operated the Westport Country Playhouse. Besides theatre, Lawrence Langner wrote several books, including an autobiography, titled Magic Curtain. He was awarded the 1958 Tony Award for best play production.

Additionally for October 20th., see 'A surprising reaction' -

Today I took the 12.5 back to London, which went through the Potteries. The sight of this district gave me a shudder. Why should that be? I have written about it with affection, and have described it as having a unique 'beauty'; it has been the source for most of my work which has received critical acclaim; it has contributed not insignificantly to my material comfort; it is the foundation for who I am.
I am now sixty: that may be the problem!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Away from home

Friday, October 19th., Trinity Hall Farm, Hockliffe, Beds.

Wallpaper is a problem at present! I am experiencing difficulty in ensuring that the terms of an agreement I made with Adams to obtain particular wallpapers from Essex & Co., London, at an agreed price, are adhered to. But I am nothing if not determined, and it will be done.

In the meantime, because only two or three rooms can presently be lived in with dignity, I have taken a holiday in North Wales and returned yesterday.

Predominant colours, grey and green. Grey of the stone, especially the ubiquitous slate, and green of the vegetation which thrives in the damp climate. In fact there was not much actual rain, and the rivers, streams and lakes were rather less full than is usually the case in my experience. Much fungus, especially in the woods around the Conwy valley. Some spectacular toadstools, bright red with yellow veins, larger than a tennis ball, like a child's drawing of a toadstool. And colonies of smaller, dark, sinister looking fungi on the forest floor, or infesting damp, dead trees.

Conwy and Caernarfon both dominated by their castles. I prefer Conwy of the two. Circuit of walls largely intact. Like looking down on a model town. Grey streets. Spectacular views out towards the Great Orme. Much Welsh spoken in the north west Wales area, including Anglesey. Most people seem able to move easily from Welsh to English and vice versa. A sort of sense now and then that the staff and some customers in cafes deliberately move into Welsh when English people are present. Given the treatment of the Welsh by the English over the centuries I can hardly feel surprised by some lingering hostility.

Telford's suspension bridge over the Menai Straits is a triumph of engineering in the landscape. Not so the nearby railway bridge, which is functional but not beautiful. And of course the A5, Watling Street, connects this place to Holyhead as directly as could reasonably be imagined by a visionary engineer.

Additionally for October 19th., see 'Americans' -

Lunch at Harper's, with chief members of staff including Major Lee, under presidency of Colonel George Harvey. I liked Harvey. Quiet, ruminative, accustomed to power and so on. Good laugh. Good story.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Zeppelin hysteria

Monday, October 18th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Capt. K. and Capt. B. stationed here, recounted the Zeppelin attack on their camp in Epping Forest. It was apparently brought on by a light in the Officers' mess. It seems that the Zeppelin hung over the camp. It dropped several (4 or 5) explosive bombs right in the camp, a few feet (under 20) away from where K. actually was. None of these bombs exploded. They buried themselves 10 feet in the earth. They were excavated without accident. K. said the soldiers used pick and shovel in digging them out with perfect indifference to the danger. the Zeppelin also dropped a number of incendiary bombs which the soldiers put out as they fell. It seems to me that the fact that incendiary bombs were dropped shows that the Zep did not know that it was over a tented camp. The object of setting fire to tents is not clear at all, as the men could easily get away, and the damage would be inconsiderable. The explosive bombs weighed one hundredweight each, and the incendiary bombs about 15 lb each. K. said he could not assert that he actually saw the Zeppelin. He said the men saw whole fleets of Zeppelins. Apropos, Rickards related last night that Webster came across a crowd in the centre of which was a man pointing to the sky and raging excitedly: "There she is! She's hit! She's hit!" Webster said: "You think that is a Zep. but it's the moon." The crowd dispersed

Additionally for October 18th., see 'Time to write' -

I can now do five full days of my own work at home, excluding Sunday. It is a great stroke of business, well managed by me, and I feel like a man suddenly enriched who is not quite ready with a scheme for spending. I hope to devote at least three whole days a week to "Anna Tellwright" and to resume this Journal with regularity. I shall cease now to work at such high pressure as I have been driving at during the last six months.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

In Antwerp

Friday, October 17th., Grand Hotel, Antwerp.

This morning: absolutely perfect October weather. Musee Royale. very fine old masters. Modern side rotten. Market Place. Endless time on chimes from 11.30 to 11.41. We went into cathedral - and the carillon started again for 11.45. Big pictures in cathedral veiled in green. Louche-ness of ecclesiastical attendants. Market afoot in Market Place.

After lunch we visited port. Finest thing in Antwerp. We were first struck by little brasseries along good main street, each with a little grue, aproned and nu-tete, sitting outside sewing, to attract; they must be extraordinarily attractive to sailors. Scores of these places. Glimpses of streets encore plus louche. Immense impression of travail. 30 miles of quays. new basins still being constructed. Bridge from one road to another opened for passage of steamer. Much traffic held up on both sides. By the time it is closed again, hundreds of workmen collected, and dozens of heavy wagons. Some men chewing monstrous lumps of bread. 

Red Star liner Lapland  had arrived from U.S.A. Long processions of returned emigrants therefrom; some stupid, some full of character. One procession solely men (with a long camion in the middle full of their handbags); another both of men and women; all had little round discs on breast.

I saw one steamer move out (scraping her side all the way) and a larger one come into a basin with 4 tugs. Immense area of port. Superb view of Antwerp with spires from one spot, over blue water. Magnificent sunset; all masts and derricks gradually became black and silhouetted. drove back to town passing through 2 streets full of cafe concerts. Same effect of silhouette against superb red and orange. Port full of grain and wood.

Additionally for October 17th., see 'A writer's day' -

I printed the title page of the MS. of "Riceyman Steps". I have no longer the interest keen enough to do an elaborate title page; but for a simple one the title page I did was not too bad.


Thursday, October 16th., Cadogan Square, London.

I noticed last night for the first time that the lamps in the Square at this date are lighted by lamplighters.

Dinner party at Wells's last night. This party was apparently got up to meet Margaret Sanger. G.B.S. left silently immediately after dinner. Mrs. Shaw stayed on. E. W. McBride, zoologist, is a very jolly, boyish, comic-looking clever old man.

Ernest William MacBride (1866, Belfast - 1940, Alton, Hampshire) was a British/Irish marine biologist. A defender of Lamarckian evolution, MacBride's specialism was the morphology and embryology of the Echinoderms. MacBride supported Paul Kammerer’s claims to have demonstrated Lamarckian inheritance in the Midwife Toad. MacBride took an active part both in the affairs of the Linnean Society which he served as a member of its council and as Vice-president, and the Zoological Society where he also served on the council for over thirty years and acted as Vice-president.

This morning two black nuns, heavily draped, begging in Ovington Street. They walked up the narrow front steps exactly side by side. The senior held the book, morocco bound. The junior rang the bell then they stood side by side, the junior with crossed arms. While waiting they faced right angles to the door. At one house they were evidently refused at once. They descended the steps side by side. At the next house they stayed a minute or two and probably got something. Meme jeu. I saw them mount the steps of a third house.

The day before yesterday I was passing down towards King's Road, when a shabby young man with three medals on his coat held out a bag to me. I am always inveighing against the sin of charity in the street; but there was something painfully silly and futile in the aspect of this young man, and I stopped., and said "Look here, I object to this sort of thing. However ..." And I threw 6d. into his bag. "Good luck to you sir," he said, foolishly. I then noticed another young man with a barrel organ in the gutter, and the organ started disgustingly playing. A rotten lapse on my part.

Additionally for October 16th., see 'Art' -

London yesterday. Show of French drawings about the war at Leicester Galleries.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

On being loved

Tuesday, October 15th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Today I went through all first two books of cocotte novel, and fairly well pleased with everything except last chapter or so. I tabulated all my information and ideas afresh.

Some time ago, from Sharpe, a story of a girl with money, who was forbidden by her parents to marry a certain man. The latter afterwards became engaged to marry a poor girl. The rich girl bought lingerie for the poor girl, and generally looked after her trouseau, even to inserting blue ribbon into the neck of the bride's nightgown in order 'that she might look nice for him'. Finally the rich girl took a cab to the wedding.

When George, not loving Eva, is loved by Eva he finds her caresses and endearments nice but rather a bore. he finds them rather a tie. But when, by chance, Eva's manner becomes cold for a space, he resents (privately) the absence of warmth; he feels its loss and wants the warmth again. Note this. His attitude is fundamentally egotistic. He likes a creature to be absolutely wrapped up in him; he likes to be the centre of a creature's whole existence, but is always resenting the tie; always wanting to be both free and bound at the same time.

Additionally for October 15th., see 'A reader's burden' -

I have been extremely fond of reading since I was twenty, and since I was twenty I have read practically nothing ( save professionally as a literary critic) but what was "right". My leisure has been moderate, my desire strong and steady, my taste in selection certainly above the average, and yet in ten years I seem scarcely to have made an impression upon the intolerable multitude of volumes which "everyone is supposed to have read".

Monday, 14 October 2013

Baseball impressions

Saturday, October 14th., New York.

Going down change at 155th on to Elevated.
No crush. First view of baseball ground.
The effect of millions of staircased windows of apartment houses, with glimpses every now and then of complicated lines for washing.
Street after street, dirty streets, untidy, littered.

Baseball game. Grants v. Athletics. N.Y. v. Phila.

Polo Grounds stadium
Again cigarettes, chewing gum, programmes.
Cheers for kid practising, sharp sort of cheers.
Advertisements around arena.
Drive through Central Park, and then past Carnegie, etc. houses.
Pitcher lifting left leg high. Tip on right toe.
Applause for a run. First red man near to me in joy.
Members of audience being turned out.
The catching seemed to be quite certain,
as rare as a woman in a ball match,
as difficult as to make a first base.
The eagles on top of stand.
The yellow ushers against the dark mass.
The blue men against a red-bordered mat N.Y. police. 
The blue purple shadow gradually creeping up to the sign.
"The three dollar hat with the five dollar look".
a two base hit is the height of applause, real applause.
chewing gum.
combined movement of jaws
obstinacy of chewing gum at end
The pitcher is the idol of the affair, as may be seen when he comes in to strike.
The hunchback mascot of Philadelphia.

In the 1911 World Series, the Philadelphia Athletics beat the New York Giants four games to two.
1October 14Philadelphia Athletics – 1, New York Giants – 2Polo Grounds 2:1238,281

Additionally for October 14th., see 'Domestic disturbances' -

D. having been much disturbed by revelations of character during a visit to Brighton with me on Monday, could not go to sleep. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Strike fears

Thursday, October 13th., Villa des Nefliers.

Weather still very mild. But today, owing to heavy rains, we had to lunch indoors. This is our first indoor autumn lunch.

Railway strike since Monday night, but we are not affected. Each evening I have gone to the station to get Le Temps and each evening the crowd and the anxiety of the crowd waiting for the papers have increased. Yesterday evening, as the news was disquieting, I went again to the station after dinner to post a letter to Cook's asking for bank-notes.

An omnibus slowly overtook me on its way to the station. Even on this line the strike had been announced to begin at 8 p.m. last night. There were a few dim figures in the fearfully badly lighted omnibus that went very slowly along - decrepit horses, etc. A mediaeval vehicle even at best and the impression last night was of the saddest and most wistful vehicle that ever lumbered along. The voyageurs seemed wrapped up in sadness. Where were they going? would they ever arrive? Where would they spend the night? The worst of these awful omnibuses is the lamp and the deafening rattle of the windows as the thing jolts along ...

However, there has been no strike on this line.

The present unrest among the French wage-workers, as with the increasingly bitter struggle for more wages in other countries, has been quickened by the general increase in the cost of living. For a considerable time the railway workers, especially, have been in ferment. Many meetings have been held, and innumerable resolutions passed. The chief of their demands were (and are) the establishment of a minimum wage of 5 francs (barely 4s.) a day – a large number of them receive, in fact, as little as 5Frs. 75 (3s) per day! The whole of their modest demands, and their entire procedure, were distinctly professional in character, despite the lying statements of the renegade Briand that it is a political insurrectional movement. Many thousands of arrests have been made, nevertheless, and terms of imprisonment have fairly rained upon the unfortunate strikers.

The play goes on steadily. I ought to finish the second act on Saturday. Although there are four acts, this means that at least two thirds of the actual work is done.

Additionally for October 13th., see 'Arriving in the New World' -

I was interviewed by two journalists apparently on behalf of the crowd. This was while ship was manoeuvring into dock. And at last we were on shore, after I had been interviewed by three other people.

Saturday, 12 October 2013


Saturday, October 12th., Cadogan Square, London.

I was noticing the faces and the demeanour of the middle-aged or ageing women-shoppers in Sloane Street. It was painful to observe how few of them can use powder and paint with effectiveness and discretion. Some of the lips were dreadful sights. Then the haughty, hard, harsh expression on some of the faces! The sort of expression that says savagely, during strikes: "Shoot them down!" or "They ought to be made to work!" or "Unions ought to be made illegal." A large percentage of these ladies must surely be rather unpleasant to live with. You seldom see such expressions as theirs on the faces of men. I suppose this is because men go about more, and arrive at a notion of the real facts of existence. 

Thinking about the extension of suffrage to women I imagined that a woman like this might conceivably become Prime Minister one day and would inevitably proceed to wreak havoc on the organised labour movement in this country. As regards politics and industry, a lot of these women are living in the 1880's. They are probably one of the origins of the servant problem. They don't realise that they have nothing whatever to be haughty or self-complacent about. Most of them have done nothing for society at large, and little for the other immortal souls who menially serve them: though of course all, or nearly all, of them have patronised the poor.

The truth is that Sloane Street during the shopping hours is not an entirely agreeable spectacle. I much prefer Oxford Street, where the social salt of the earth do not occupy the pavements. I prefer even Bond Street which is more international than Sloane Street and less conscious of a sublime superiority. But for a man with eyes to see - naturally I mean myself - the most interesting shopping street is the despised Strand. Nevertheless the Strand is losing its most endearing and picturesque characteristics. It will soon be widened from end to end. What is worse it will soon consist solely of 'edifices', and the last of the high narrow shop-houses will have vanished. And what is even worse, it will soon be tidy. Withal there are but few frills on the Strand - yet.

I have been re-reading "Mr. Prohack" and enjoyed it. It does occur to me though that I could have taken a little more trouble and either made it more overtly satirical, or made it more frankly farcical, like "The Card"; it is not an entirely happy compromise. Prohack is I think an engaging character, but the rest are slight.  Speaking of engaging characters, I have also been re-reading "Silas Marner" and think Dolly Winthrop delightful. George Eliot had a surprising facility for gentle humour, and some of her minor character dialogue rivals Hardy at his best.

Additionally for October 12th., see 'News from Germany' -

Spender (see 'Writing for Victory' September 3rd.) spoke about the poverty of Germany, and of a great struggle between inhabitants of 2 room tenements in poorer quarters and the police. The police laid down that it was unsanitary for people to sleep in a room where cooking was done. This of course would have put the whole family into one room to sleep. They could not enforce the decree practically. Then they had kitchens constructed in new tenements, in such a manner, so full of corners, that beds could not be put into them! He also spoke of seeing a highly respectable-looking long row of tenements in Munich, as to which a guide friend said to him: "You see those houses? There isn't a w.c. in the whole row. When the tenants want a w.c. they go to that beer hall there and have a drink in order to use a w.c."