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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.
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Tuesday, 29 October 2013
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.