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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.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Sleep and snow

Monday, November 30th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Yesterday I wrote a 4,000 word tale, "The Railway Station", for Tillotsons complete, and had finished it before 7 p.m. Moreover I slept perfectly after it, from 12 to 8.15 without a break, which is extraordinary for me. This story and "Saturday to Monday" will bring me in 18 guineas, due by the end of December.

Tillotson’s Fiction Bureau was created in the 1870’s when the Bolton Evening News owner W F Tillotson wrote letters to authors inviting them to syndicate their stories in newspapers. This meant that the authors were paid for their stories by Tillotsons who then sold them on to other newspapers including those published in America. Many of the replies to these letters are held in Bolton Museum and The Bolton News Library holds copies of these. Numerous famous authors wrote for the bureau, including, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, H G Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, E Nesbit, George Bernard Shaw and Arnold Bennett.

The weather is worse and worse. After raining all day it began to snow in the evening. I dined well and came in after dinner for an hour, meaning to go later to a music-hall. But once inside I could not persuade myself to go out again.

This morning when I woke up it was still snowing, the roofs all white and the streets all water.

This last few days I have begun to make my luncheons about half their usual size - two poached eggs, a roll, and a cup of chocolate; with excellent results.

Additionally for November 30th., see 'Sailing for home' -

We spent the whole evening in talking "shop", Edgar Selwyn being the quietest. Boat rolled, always. In the middle of the night she rolled so much that she overthrew my red clock. Also fiddles on the tables, last night at dinner. Quite unnecessary, but it is probably a dodge to convince passengers that they are good sailors. No fiddles on at breakfast this morning, when they were necessary and crockery was rattling and crashing about all over the place.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Loot of Cities

Monday, November 29th., Cadogan Square, London.

I didn't finally wake up till 7.58, very rare occurrence, as I had very few breaks during the night.

Daily Mail article by Birkenhead on me, in which he practically accused me of lying. 
Also see 'Storm in a political teacup', November 23rd., -

I went downstairs and wrote my reply to Birkenhead in the form of a letter to the Mail. When I took it to Miss Nerney she said that the Mail had telephoned for an article; so I crossed out the Sir, and Yours truly, and called it an article and charged £60 for it.

I have been re-reading "The Loot of Cities". Very imaginative idea of mine, and an engaging read. However, I don't think the series of stories fulfills the promise of its beginning. The story "Lo! 'Twas a Gala Night!" is rather weak, and the character of Cecil Thorold is sadly diminished by his being made to fall for Miss Fincastle; nor does she demonstrate the independence of character implied in the first story. My favourite story in the eponymous volume is "Mr. Penfound's Two Burglars". A very satisfying construction and consistently amusing. The ghost story, "The Episode in Room 222", is probably best overlooked.

Additionally for November 29th., see 'Byways of literature' -

Mrs. Devereux had been to hear the trial of a crime passionel. A man had cut his wife's throat with a razor from ear to ear, but, through some fortunate movement of the woman, had only severed the skin. "A close shave!" said Schwob at once. I could see that he was extremely pleased with this really admirable comment. He beamed after he had said it.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Two fair ladies

Monday, November 28th., Les Sablons, near Moret.

I went to tea at Cornillier's yesterday and met inter alios, Mrs. La Gallienne and Mrs. James Welch (better known as the actress Audrey Ford). So I asked these two to dinner. We dined at the Place Blanche and then went to the Bal du Mouilin de la Galette, which was certainly more wonderful than ever as a manifestation of the French spirit. 

Mrs. Richard Le Gallienne

The fair was proceeding on the boulevard. When we went up to the Moulin the music of the hobby-horses was deafening. But when we came down the legal hour for music had passed, and we were all three struck by the ghostly feeling of these merry-go-rounds revolving, brilliantly lighted, but quite silent.
See also 'Parisian views', October 4th., -

I tried to find a leading idea for the concert scene in "Sacred and Profane Love", but could not. I read late and dreamed about the scene all night, and got it all mixed up, and generally wasted a vast amount of energy with no result at all.

Additionally for November 28th., see 'Uncanny things' -

All this leads me to think of ghost stories, but I hardly think I have the sort of imagination to produce one effectively. My particular favourite is Dickens' "The Signalman". I cannot read it without a chill passing along my spine, my breathing becoming shallow and my heart starting to race! Dickens was a master of atmosphere and excels himself in this short story.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

On Don Juan

Thursday, November 27th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Deranged slightly all week with a chill on the colon.

B. came for the day to discuss wills and leases. He told me with perfect seriousness a story of a commercial enterprise in which he was interested - a search for the Ark of the Covenant, Urim, and Thummim, plate of the Temple etc. - based on a cypher discovered by  Finnish scholar in an early copy of the book of Ezekiel at St. Petersburg. Over £3,000 already spent on the excavations, stopped by Turkish authorities who have now given permission again; but the affair is in suspense at present as the principal contributor of funds (who has already given £20,000 alone) is in a lunatic asylum. The singular irony of this did not seem to strike B.

My "Don Juan" will be an extremely aristocratic man. In fact he is so aristocratic and so instinctively convinced of the social superiority of the rank to which he belongs, that in a sense he scarcely shows it. He is extremely polite to his inferiors until he loses control of himself. He is a rather melancholy man, having been long occupied, without success, in the search for an ideal love. He is not a sensualist as the word is usually applied to Don Juan.On the contrary he is extremely refined and rather spiritual. His attitude towards women is tender, with a touch of the cynic. His age is between 30 and 35. He is a profound conservative, and is convinced that Spain is in decline. 

Additionally for November 27th., see 'A funeral in Burslem' -

Funeral. Too soon. Orange light through blinds in front of room. Coffin in centre on two chairs. Covered with flowers. Bad reading, and stumbling of parson. Cliches and halting prayer. Small thin book out of which parson read. In dim light, cheap new carving on oak of coffin seemed like fine oak carving. Sham brass handles on coffin. Horrible lettering. Had to wait after service for hearse to arrive. Men hung their hats on spikes of hearse before coming in. No trouble in carrying coffin. I kept Uncle J.L.'s arm most of the time as he is nearly blind. He told me he still managed 700 accounts. Long walk from cemetery gates to region of chapel.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Moving on

Friday, November 26th., Villa des Nefliers.

Exhausted. Especially with putting away books, dismantling the house, selecting all the necessary literary apparatus for our absence, packing it and my clothes, and smoking too much. 

After tea I went up into the town, to see the Foire de Ste. Catherine. Too idle and bored to note features. Except these: Men singing songs - in set fashion - in order to sell the music. One man sang and accompanied himself on a sort of little organ. Another - an oldish man - had an orchestra of two behind him: rather an elaborate apparatus for so small a 'commerce'. Secondly a female quack, in mourning, stumping it from the box-seat of a large gaudily painted and gilded chariot. She spoke well and clearly in a quiet, carrying voice. Just as I paused in front of her for a moment, she said, holding up a bottle: "Nous avons ici un ver solitaire sorti d'un homme de 42 ans, qui a quinze metres de longueur."

H. W. Massingham wrote me yesterday inviting me to contribute to the Nation. No editorial invitation has ever flattered me as much as this. I regard the Nation as easily the best weekly and it gives me the liveliest pleasure to glance through it on Monday mornings, especially the advertisement of new books. He said he considered "The Old Wives' Tale" to be one of the one or two really great novels of the last thirty years.
See also 'A curious mixture', March 15th., -

Additionally for November 26th.,  see 'Country house politics' -

I read B.'s printed account of the conspiracy that overthrew Asquith in Dec. 1916. It was exceedingly well written, and showed great judgement of men and some sense of historical values. In fact it was remarkable and heightened my originally high opinion of Beaverbrook. The War Office and Ll. G. both came badly out of the account, especially the former. B.'s own share in the affair is kept very modestly in the background. He seemed almost inclined to publish it in the Daily Express. I advised him against this.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Sentimental worries

Wednesday, November 25th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

It was a thoroughly wet and rotten day yesterday. After noon the streets became impossible. I did not work at all. Couldn't concentrate in the least. I had to go out and lunch with a companion, and to suffer all sorts of sentimental worries, and to argue closely in French, and to write a long letter in French. 

Afterwards I played Bach's Preludes and Fugues till I couldn't play them any longer. I read Casanova, "L'Etui de Nacre", Maupassant's "La Vie Errante", and Le Mercure de France. I went to bed at 10.15 and arose at 8.30 this morning thoroughly well in all ways.

After a sluggish beginning, the ideas for my sixth and last Windsor story, "Lo! 'Twas a Gala Night", came with much freedom this afternoon and evening. It occurs to me that I am almost happy, strolling about Paris, and calling in at a cafe occasionally, working out the ideas for my fiction. Tonight also, I sleep early, preparatory to writing 3,000 words tomorrow.

Additionally for November 25th., see 'A lone and wonderful genius' -

Last night, as I sat alone in the house, reviewing there was a strange knock. I went to the door, and saw old Mr. Boulton in the fog; a hansom was just driving away. He came in, and sat down in my easy chair; a tall, slightly bent figure, with a creased benevolent large face, and the whitest, silkiest hair and long beard: the most venerable and dignified person that has ever sat in this room of mine. I felt proud of the slight connection between us.

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Monday, November 24th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

I finished the draft of the first act of "Don Juan" this morning. It is not a good draft, but it is perhaps a better one than any draft of any previous play of mine. I have put rather more work into this than usually in my drafts of plays. The realistic idea has gone nearly altogether in this play. In its ignoring of realistic detail in order to get an effect required, it is rather impressionistic. This is the first time I have realised the possibility of a similarity between literature and art in impressionism. I expect that in looking for a parallelism to art in literature, I had been looking for the wrong thing, while the right thing was under my nose all the time.

As I was reading history this afternoon, I thought: "I am 46. On the decline. Why fill my head with knowledge?" An absurd reflection but it passed several times through my mind. Of course in the end one does things because one wants to do them. I don't read history because I want to acquire knowledge, but because I enjoy reading history. Then again, what do these slippery words 'want' and 'enjoy' mean? Probably both come down to being reflections of one's personal identity, rarely if ever articulated, but the driver of all our behaviours. 

There are problems afoot with my brother Frank. Financial problems. It seems that he has obtained money by false pretences from me, from the bank, & from American buyers. He has been an ass. He is a proved fool. I don't blame him but I shan't pretend he isn't. Of course I will help him out of this crisis but he must be made to address his behaviour, and this must needs be through his pocket.

Additionally for November 24th., see 'Interesting artistic experiences' -

"Come and have lunch," he said. "I've had lunch, it's 2.30," I said. "How strange!" he said. "I thought it was only 1.15." Then as he went upstairs he cried out to a girl above: "Blank (her Xtian name), it's 2.30," as a great item of news. Fry expounded his theories. He said there was no original industrial art in England till he started i.e., untraditional. He said lots of goodish things and was very persuasive and reasonable. Then he took me to the showrooms in Fitzroy Square, and I bought a few little things. 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Last times

Wednesday, November 23rd., Les Sablons, near Moret.

I noticed in the forest yesterday afternoon that the noise of the wind in the branches was indeed like the noise of the sea; but always distant - the noise never seemed to be near me. I got lost once, and took one path after another aimlessly until it occurred to me to steer by the sun. The moonrise was magnificent and the weather became frosty. After leaving Davray's at 10 o'clock I went as far as the forest, but the diverging avenues of trees did not produce the effect I had hoped for; there was too much gloom.

I have planned out in detail the first part of "Sacred and Profane Love" which is going to be entirely magnificent. I outlined the plot to Davray. I don't think he was very struck by it, and he asked whether the British public would stand it. However, from a crude outline he had nothing upon which to judge. Today I began a sort of draft. Chiefly because I was too nervous to begin the actual writing, though I had finally settled on the opening phrase.

I am waiting to hear that my mother has died. She is in hospital having suffered a stroke two weeks ago. It was a bad one and she will not recover from it. I have asked that all treatment be withdrawn because she cannot communicate and I know she would not wish to be kept alive as a dependent invalid. Thinking about time, I was wondering what her sense of time must be if she is indeed conscious at the moment. Would time seem to go slowly or quickly when you knew there was not much of it left? Also about 'last times'. There are so many mundane tasks we perform without thought, but one day we will do them for the last time, and will probably not know it. This reinforces my belief that one should attempt to make the most of each experience, the trivial as well as the great.

Additionally for November 23rd., see 'Storm in a political teacup' -

After I left the Mail telephoned that they would like an article at 2 shillings a word, as well as the letter. They said the letter was too good to lose. So, by telephone form the theatre, I agreed to both. I much enjoyed writing both the letter and the short article. I love a friendly scrap in the press.

Friday, 22 November 2013


Monday, November 22nd., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

At the Grieg concert, St. James's Hall. A crowded house mainly filled with with hordes of those idle, well-dressed, supercilious, unintelligent women who inhabit the West End and the more expensive suburbs; their hats, though it is Autumn, made a garden.

Grieg came on in a short jacket of black velvet which serves to decrease still further his short stature. He has a large head with white hair and a bald patch, and the shrewd wrinkled face of a thinker. A restless man, weary and yet the victim of an incurable vivacity. The concussion of his hands on the keys jerked back his head at every loud chord. Between the movements of a sonata he bowed almost imperceptibly and wiped his face every time with the same mechanical movement. He looked like one who has exhausted the joys of fame and of being adored.

In the orchestra, full of hero-worshippers, I noticed particularly two girls, friends, who must have stood hours at the door to gain their unique position in the front row. One smiled ecstatically and showed her teeth (I think she was American) throughout the concert. The other had a fixed and mournful face. She never stirred and seldom spoke; she did not join in the applause which was frantic in those seats. her thin lips were set and her dark eyes set. She was the Serious Student, never happy, never even passably content, always reaching for the unattainable; without doubt she had little talent, but an immense purpose and energy. I fancied I could see her in her daily existence, secretive, self-contained, and occasionally, only occasionally, opening the gates of her soul to some companion in a sudden abandonment.

Round about me a group of newspaper critics exchanged the childish babble of daily journalism.

As I went out, I thought that in another hour or so a thousand pianos in a thousand suburban homes would echo to the chords of that Grieg sonata and suite.

ST. JAMES'S HALL consists of a great hall and two smaller halls. The dimensions of the great hall are 139 feet by 60, and 60 feet in height; and it will seat about 2500 persons. It has a semicircular-headed ceiling, and a recessed orchestral gallery at one end, and an alcove at the other end, containing a large organ by Gray and Davidson. The windows have groups of figures in bold relief, holding scrolls, on which are inscribed the names of Mozart, Handel, Beethoven, Haydn, and other eminent composers. The Hall is not lighted at night by a central chandelier, but by gas stars of seven jets each, suspended from the ceiling. It was opened with a musical performance for the benefit of the Middlesex Hospital on the 25th of March, 1856. The Hall is not, however, appropriated exclusively to music.

Additionally for November 22nd., see 'A banquet in Paris' -

I was introduced to Auguste Rodin, a little man with a fine long grey beard and a big nose over it, and very vivacious. He was in evening dress (against the rule) with the rosette. He seemed a simple man; he talked to me for a few minutes quite naturally and without any sort of pose.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A funeral

Monday, November 21st., Cadogan Square, London.

Disturbed night; dreamed much. I seldom dream. 
I did some work today for a change.
I began my new short story at 10.30 after a walk, and wrote 600 words of it in about an hour. 

I then set off in the rain to St. Margaret's for the funeral service of Charles Masterman. A lot of people there. Ll. George following the coffin. I didn't like the sight of him there. 
At 9 I was at Mrs. Masterman's discussing her affairs with her. I promised to set on foot a scheme for collecting £4,000 for education of the three children, all of whom I saw. I shall write to H.G. to ask if he would contribute.
Also for Charles Masterman see 'Writing for victory', September 3rd., -

Additionally for November 21st., see 'Night thoughts' -

Walking last night for exercise along the Station Road (6.30 p.m.) I saw the light of Clacton (not the lights - the light) and of Frinton, over the brows; a reflection in the sky ... Idea of a desolate coast (relatively) with human settlements rather precariously here and there upon it. Darkness everywhere and just those lights on the clouds from below. Sense of the adventure of living on the earth at all; and of the essential similarity of all human existences.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Moving on

Wednesday, November 20th., Les Sablons.

I have had several days of hesitation about the format of this, the 8th volume of my journal. I thought, and still think, it too small for really fast writing, and I can only arrive at getting down my impression of things in full by writing fast - pell-mell, without regard to sentence construction. Mirbeau's book "628-E8" has shown me, again, what a lot of stuff, perhaps as valuable as his, I lose by not writing it down. I have nade, in the last three days, three fullish sketches, that I may use later, and that certainly would have been lost if I had not seized them and held them.
See also 'Achieving intensity', November 17th., -

I still hanker to write a book (and publish it) of personal impressions. Had several ideas lately for articles. One: "The Individualism of Socialism"; dealing with what socialists such as I ought to do in the way of personal living, and dealing also with the fact that all political questions, such as those which agitate socialists, are simply questions of machinery - and do not directly touch the question of living (interiorly).

Mme. Lebert withdrew from her offer to let this house (Les Sablons) with vegetables and fruit for 1,000 frs. a year. She shied at the vegetables and fruit. I would not give way, so we most amicably and affectionately agreed to part. I find myself, on the eve of going to England, without a programme, which is rather disconcerting. However, we are free to live where we like: by the sea, e.g. I feel I want to live by the sea in Holland, at Fontainebleau and on the S. coast of England all at once.

I was getting rather tired of the confinement of this little flat; but one day I shall look back to the evenings here, in the room where I work and sleep, with Marguerite sewing or trying things on her mannequin, and the constant preoccupation of the fire and the temperature and my cold - with regret as a perfect time.

Regularly I have been doing my 2,000 words a day at least. 12 to 1,500 words of my novel in the morning, and pieces of articles in the afternoon. I am now almost sure to do 365,000 words in the year.

Additionally for November 20th., see 'An author's observations' -

Her condition was very distressing, and it seemed strange that this should necessarily be the end of a life, that a life couldn't always end more easily. I went in again at 11.45 p.m. She was asleep, breathing noisily. Nurse, in black, installed for the night. The mater had a frequent, very bright smile; but it would go in an instant. She asked for her false teeth, and she wanted her ears syringed again, so that she could hear better. This morning she was easier after a good night, but certainly weaker. Mouth closed and eyes shut tight today. Lifting of chin right up to get head in line with body for breathing. A bad sign.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Talking 'shop'

Sunday, November 19th., Indianapolis.

Lunch of ten people at Tarks including Meredith Nicholson and Tark's father.
Also see 'Leaving Chicago', November 18th., 

Afterwards in auto. to pay several calls including one on James W. Riley. Fine old man, recovering from paralysis. Red face, yellow teeth, right hand affected, sitting in corner in easy chair. Fire. Mid-Victorian feel. An old friend near him. Talk about a picture of a literary star of good order. here it was and in a literary town. Riley has infectious laugh. Told funny tales of his tragic adventures in lecturing tours, and how he slept on two boxes, one a little higher than the other, covered with papers. Enquired about Lucas. "Tell me about Lucas." Then talked about my books. "I didn't mean to talk about them, to talk 'shop', but I couldn't help it." Women talking in another room.

James Whitcomb Riley (1849 – 1916) was an American writer, poet, and best selling author. During his lifetime he was known as the "Hoosier Poet" and "Children's Poet" for his dialect works and his children's poetry respectively. His poems tended to be humorous or sentimental, and of the approximately one thousand poems that Riley authored, the majority are in dialect. Riley gradually rose in prominence during the 1880s through his poetry reading tours. He traveled a touring circuit first in the Midwest, and then nationally, holding shows and making joint appearances on stage with other famous talents. Riley became a bestselling author in the 1890s. He continued to write and hold occasional poetry readings until a stroke paralyzed his right arm in 1910. Riley's chief legacy was his influence in fostering the creation of a midwestern cultural identity and his contributions to the Golden Age of Indiana Literature

Additionally for November 19th., see 'Preparing to write' -

Yesterday I finished making a list of all social, political, and artistic events, which I thought possibly useful for my novel between 1872 and 1882. Tedious bore, for a trifling ultimate result in the book. But necessary.

Monday, 18 November 2013


Wednesday, November 18th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Last night, when I went into the Duval for dinner, a middle-aged woman, inordinately stout and with pendant cheeks, had taken the seat opposite to my prescriptive seat. I hesitated as there were plenty of empty spaces, but my waitress requested me to take my usual chair. I did so and immediately thought: "With that thing opposite to me my dinner will be spoilt!" But the woman was evidently also cross at my filling up her table, and she went away, picking up all her belongings to another part of the restaurant, breathing hard. Then she abandoned her second choice for a third one. My waitress was scornful and angry at this desertion, but laughing also. 
Les serveuses - Bouillon Duval
Soon all the waitresses were privately laughing at the goings-on of the fat woman, who was being served by the most beautiful waitress I have ever seen in any Duval. The fat woman was clearly a crotchet, a 'maniaque', a woman who lived much alone. her cloak (she displayed on taking it off a simply awful light puce flannel dress) and her parcels were continually the object of her attention, and she was always arguing with her waitress. And the whole restaurant secretly made a butt of her. She was repulsive; no one could like her or sympathise with her. But I thought - she has been young and slim once. And I immediately thought of a long 10 or 15 thousand word short story, "The History of Two Old Women". I gave this woman a sister, fat as herself. And the first chapter would be in the restaurant (both sisters) something like tonight - and written rather cruelly. Then I would go back to the infancy of these two and sketch it all. One should have lived ordinarily, married prosaically, and become a widow. The other should have become a whore and all that; 'guilty splendour'. Both are overtaken by fat. And they live together again in old age, not too rich, a nuisance to themselves and to others. Neither has any imagination. For 'tone' I thought of "Ivan Ilytch" and for technical arrangement I thought of that and also of "Histoire d'une Fille de Ferme". The two lives would have to intertwine. I saw the whole work quite clearly, and hope to do it. But I expect I shall have to do my humorous novel "A Great Man" first, not to mention other things.

Additionally for November 18th., see 'Leaving Chicago' -

Set out for Indianapolis this morning at 9.47.
Sort of accommodation train.
Niceish restaurant car. Niggers thereon. Nigger understrapper who shined boots, and knew all about the prospects of the C.H. and D. Rly. (Monan route.)
Chiefly flattish country (with welcome breaks), yellow stubble land. Occasionally a dark muddy river. Single track (after once clear out of Industrial Chicago, which seemed to be one vast shunting yard).
Arrived Indianapolis 3 (12 minutes late about). Maple streets in all streets. Monuments to sailors and soldiers. Dome of state house.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Achieving intensity

Sunday, November 17th., Les Sablons.

We went to Paris on Friday for a dinner at Roy Devereux's.
Also see 'Back to work', September 19th., -

I bought Octave Mirbeau's "La 628-E8", and read it with immense gusto. It reinforced the impression that has been growing on me for some time that I waste a vast lot of ideas and impressions because I have not quite got the trick of throwing them into form instantly and of intensifying them to a degree sufficiently poetical. If I forced myself to exert the necessary energy and skill for a short time I should arrive at it.

La 628-E8 is a 'novel' by the French novelist and playwright Octave Mirbeau, published by Fasquelle in 1907. La 628-E8 is noteworthy for its genre indeterminacy. Part travelogue, part fantasy, part cultural commentary and critique, Mirbeau's book highlights its own unclassifiability: “Is it a diary?”, the narrator wonders. “Is it even the account of a trip?”

Both Taine's various travels and this book of Mirbeau's are nothing but impressions simply pitched together; and much of their charm and verity lies in that. I made the experiment on returning from Paris yesterday of writing my sensations of the morning. I did about a thousand words of heightened stuff in about forty minutes and thought it pretty good. But it must be dashed down, written with the utmost rapidity. Therefore I fear I should have to abandon this format of page and this handwriting for something larger and more cursive. And this I should regret.

Additionally for November 17th., see 'Woman' -

Edith Evors, my new secretary, is the first genuine middle-class bachelor woman, living alone in London lodgings, that I have been intimately familiar with. A tall woman, slightly under thirty, with big limbs and a large, honest, red-cheeked face, and a quiet, intense voice. Transparently conscientious; with little self-reliance, but a capacity for admiring self-reliance in others. She lives in Bloomsbury, and at night goes to socialist and anarchist lectures. "It is dreadful", she said to me today, "to think how little one can do!" She cannot make her own clothes, though her earnings are only 30 shillings a week, and she grudges "every moment spent in their repair". But personally she is neat enough in an unadorned, aggressively simple way. She is serious, earnest, practical in small affairs, and visionary in great ones. Full of easily aroused pity and indignation. Physically strong and healthy.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

A day of writing

Monday, November 16th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Today I wrote the whole of my fourth Windsor story, "A Solution of the Algiers Mystery", 5,100 words. I have written as many words in a day before, but never a complete short story of that length. I began at 9.40 a.m. and finished at 12.40 a.m. with about four hours off for meals and sleep.


Additionally for November 16th., see 'First night adventurers' -

I said: "Is it all right?" He said: "Oh yes, it's all right." Dorothy said she had not played very well, but she was not depressed.
She said: "You and I are great adventurers."

Friday, 15 November 2013


Monday, November 15th., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

A grand, wet, gloomy, foggy day. I went out at 4.30 for a walk for an hour and a half, and it rained nearly all the time. It was dark when I re-entered the town from the Carrefour de l'Obelisque, and got from under the dripping trees. I was damp, but I stood, chilling, to look at bookshops. During this promenade I cleared my ideas considerably for the novel - of which I still lack a title.

This morning I received a copy of the third American edition (the first printed in America) of "The Old Wives' Tale". Very ugly and they have had the damned cheek to put "A novel of life" on the title-page.

I have been re-reading "Teresa of Watling Street". The reviews when it was published rather surprised me. For example Today thoroughly recommended it as a pleasurable mystery story, and Black and White thought it was "well and vividly written". On the other hand the Academy said it was "a farrago of improbable detective adventure that the merest tiro might write ...", and the Manchester Guardian described it as "readable trash". It is readable; I found myself quite carried along by the fast-paced story, but trash (if well-written trash) it certainly is. At times, whilst reading, I thought it had comic potential, and once or twice I laughed out loud, which made me think that I might have actually made it a comic novel along the lines of "The Card". 

Additionally for November 15th., see 'Cast aside' -

My resignation from Ministry took effect yesterday. Buchan, the liquidator, came down to see me, and was very explanatory and apologetic. The behaviour of the Cabinet to me was of course scandalous. But they have treated many others similarly, so I was not surprised. The only notice I got was a Roneo'd copy of the War Cabinet minute. I was never consulted in any way.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Celebrating victory

Thursday, November 14th., Yacht Club, London.

I dined at flat on Tuesday night (Pinker there) and slept there, so I didn't see any of the 'doings'. But there was a bonfire in Piccadilly Circus, kept alive by theatre boards and boards off motor buses. Girls are still very prominent in the 'doings'. Swinnerton told me that the staidest girl they had suddenly put on a soldier's hat and overcoat and went promenading in it.
Was told that the scene at the Carlton on Monday night was remarkable. Any quantity of broken glasses, tables overturned, and people standing on tables, and fashionable females with their hair down. On Tuesday night I noticed that all the principal restaurants had commissionaires in front of doors scrutinising people who wished to enter and keeping out (apparently) all who had not reserved tables. Last night a cabby told me he would go Westwards but not towards Piccadilly Circus as he did not know what would happen to him.

The feature of last night was girls with bunches of streamers which they flicked in your face as you passed.


Additionally for November 14th., see 'A bad night' -

The dog woke me up last night after I had had 3 hours sleep. After that my nerves were too tightened for me to try even to sleep (as I had just finished my play). I lay awake and listened, rather frightened, to the various noises, all very faint, that I could hear. (I had quietened the dog with a slipper.) Marguerite, the clocks, another noise, regular, that I couldn't and don't understand, and still others beneath these. About 5 I went on with Taine on Balzac, and came across some magnificent pages of generalisations about the art of observation.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Journey's end

Wednesday, November 13th., Cadogan Square, London.

On Sunday last I attended a special performance for V.C.s of "Journey's End". What crowds and what policemen outside the theatre! Of course not such crowds and not so many policemen as would embelish the arrival of a Hollywood film-star at a cinema-theatre. No, No! We must not expect too much from ourselves. 

Well ther are only two decorations free from some kind of stain of undeservingness. One is the O.M. and the other is the V.C. And I have doubts about even the O.M. The V.C. is the reward of "conspicuous bravery in presence of the enemy". It is nearly seventy-five years old. And less than ten years have elapsed since somebody in authority had the idea of extending it to women. Nurses had on occasion been conspicuously brave in presence of the enemy for more than sixty years while the greatest of all decorations was denied to their heroism!

In the theatre V.C.s were all over the place - hundreds of them. Most of them wore three to six medals; but a few had only the crimson ribbon and the bronze Maltese Cross of the V.C. Without the ribbon and the cross nobody could possibly have picked them out as heroes, though they were in the main a hefty and rather challenging lot. And they were unconventional, careless in demeanour, self-unconscious and the very reverse of dandies. The large majority seemed to be young and youngish men of strictly limited incomes. We give our V.C. heroes £10 per annum, and if they conspicuously risk their lives a second time, we give them an extra £5 for every new peril. In special circumstances we even increase their allowance to the grandiose amount of £50 per annum. There is nothing like reckless generosity. It proves a bounteous soul.

The younger men excited admiring respect in me. But the old men, the ageing men, the portly men who had in the worldly sense 'succeeded', all the mature men with their dignity of presence - these excited in me more than admiring respect. They excited in me the tender feeling which pathos excites. They had once been young and adventurous and audacious. They had done marvels of audacity; but all that happened a long time ago, and now they were sobered and a bit prim, and conscious of experience, and deliberate in gesture. I say it was touching.

A strange night, impressive, disturbing to one's sense of relative values! Why do we put physical courage before all other qualities? I don't know. But we do. And since we do there must be some reason for the preference deep in the primal instincts of human nature. I could argue that moral courage is rarer, and may be more intense, and may certainly be richer in good results for society, than physical courage. But if a decoration was instituted to bestow upon the doers of moral courage in the presence of rooted social prejudices, should we seriously think twice about it? We should not. Ten to one we should laugh at it.

Additionally for November 13th., see 'Art appreciation' -

The total conglomerate effect - loud voices falling coarsely on the silence; untouched sandwiches; silk-hatted man; dowdy-ish, self-possessed woman; innured quiet art critic practising his trade in the spirit of a tradesman; and the rank, calm, supercilious, harsh nudity - the effect was bizarre and memorable.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The charm of danger

Thursday, November 12th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

I am still reading "Don Quixote", and was much struck with the perfect narrative style of the inserted story "The Ill-advised Curiosity". It is simply charming. And I am with the licentiate who, after censuring the improbabilities, said: "With the manner of the telling I have no fault to find." I should like sometime to write a few stories in that simple style - pure narration, very little dialogue, and what there is, arranged conventionally in long speeches. Hardy's "A Group of Noble Dames" must have been composed under some such influence, I imagine.

"Bostock's Great Animal Arena" at the Hippo. Palace. First night. Vast crowd, very badly controlled. The whole performance consisted of wild-animal tricks. The principal dompteur had some exciting moments in the vast cage with lionesses, a tiger, several bears, a hyena, two superb dogs, and other animals. When a crisis arrived the Frenchmen around me were as impressed as children. "Ils ne sont pas commode," "Il a du sangfroid! Il a du sangfroid!" And, when their nerves were getting strained, "Assez! Assez!" in a nervous tone. Some of the crises were apparently somewhat dangerous. 

During a long bout of opposing wills between the trainer and the tiger, the tiger chewed up a good part of a wooden seat and splintered the gate over which he had to jump. And if, at the end of that bout, the trainer was only acting when he wiped his brow, he was acting very well. At the beginning the crowd was captious and fractious, owing to delays and bad arrangements, but the applause was now tremendous. The performance was really rather out of the way, and I appreciated more than I have done before the charm of danger in a show, real danger.

Frank C. Bostock was born in Basford, Derbyshire in 1866 and started his career in small circuses around the country but by the time he died he had travelled the world, survived attacks by lions and tigers, put on shows in Paris, Indianapolis, New York, Blackpool and other cities, and was known worldwide as “The Animal King”. He was one of the pioneers in his field and even wrote a book, The Training of Wild Animals, which you can still buy today.

Additionally for November 12th., see 'The end of the war' -

We had driven through large crowds part way up the Mall, and were then turned off from Buckingham Palace.
Raining now. An excellent thing to damp hysteria and Bolshevism.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Working hard

Wednesday, November 11th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

I worked all day yesterday, except between 4 and 6 when I paid a call, till one o'clock this morning. I lunched on 2 francs and dined on 2 francs at the Duval, and took coffee at the Cafe Terminus St. Lazaire, a big place with an orchestra. And I noticed how even Donizetti came out strong and alive amongst the mass of Gibulkas, Metras, and other composers of light music.

Again today I worked the whole day, till 10.40, and I finished the third Windsor story. "A Bracelet at Bruges"; 5,100 words complete in two days. Already, after a period of slackness, I have a sort of wild hope of being able to finish the six stories by the end of the month.

Tonight I had two letters from Eden, both of them about our play and our holiday next Spring on the Riviera. He says that Jerome has written asking him to collaborate in a big serious play! Eden says that my recent letters indicate a tendency to cynicism, and that my recent articles in T.P's W. seemed to "throw distrust, not to say contempt, on love of women". He goes on: "Some natures are self-contained and don't want it - some can't do without it. Golden rule in the matter: To keep the mouth shut and go one's own way."

Additionally for November 11th., see 'Remembrance' -

I walked out and 'saw' the Two Minute Silence from inside the lobby of the Court Theatre. When I saw old gents standing two minutes  in that perishing wind, hatless, I was glad I'd come inside.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Pouring wisdom

Saturday, November 10th., Cadogan Square, London.

I walked three miles to get ideas and didn't get them.

Julian Huxley and Professor Church came to see me at noon about their proposed magazine The Realist, and I poured wisdom into them, of which they were very receptive, for one hour.

The Realist was a short lived monthly British magazine first published in March 1929 which brought together many intellectuals from that era. It was dedicated to Scientific Humanism and carried a distinctive pale orange cover. It closed in January 1930, a victim of the Great Depression. It was founded in 1928 by the political scientist George Catlin and Major A. G. Church, then assistant editor of Nature, who became its editor. It was backed by Lord Melchett and published by Macmillan. The literary editor was the then little-known philosopher Gerald Heard. Contributors included, Arnold Bennett, H. G. Wells, Sir Richard Gregory, J. B. S. Haldane, BronisÅ‚aw Malinowski, Herbert Read, Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley, Sir Frank Baines, H. J. Laski and Rebecca West. The founders hoped to find a market for an intellectual monthly along similar lines to the American Harper's Magazine.

O. B. Clarence
I saw the Quintero Brothers little piece in three scenes, "Fortunata", at the Court, with O. B. Clarence in the principal role. I went to see this because Dorothy had praised it so highly. A very good, picturesque little comedy, and well played. I met A. P. Herbert there. The remainder of the afternoon I chiefly wasted - I think because I had felt a chill going out in the wet to the theatre.

Fortunato is a biting social commentary by Joaquin and Serafin Alvarez-Quintero, popular Spanish playwrights of the early 20th century. Fortunato, who works very hard trying to find work in order to feed his family, grows ever more desperate as the pangs of hunger become unbearable. On the brink of madness, he discovers his innate dignity and transcends his fate with the help of the circus performer Amaranta the Triumphant.

Henry Williamson, author of "The Pathway", came to dinner. I'd never seen him before. 32, dark. Highly strung. Bit by bit we got on better and better, and he left at 11.15 much touched by the contact. I liked him. Married. Two children. Seems to be very fond of his wife, and admires her. She is the original of "Mary" in "The Pathway"; so she must be fine. He told me lots of autobiography. I had anticipated ‘The Pathway’ with unusual interest [due to Tarka] and it must be read. But Mr. Williamson has still to learn a few things about the novelist’s supreme job of being continuously interesting. He is a bit too ruthless with the reader. Mr. Williamson is without doubt a novelist, though perhaps excessively (for an artist) preoccupied with the spiritual consequences of the war. He makes pictures which – I should say – have in their line never been surpassed. The opening scenes are masterly. He is the creator of loveliness in a landscape but there are too many metaphysical ‘other-world’ insertions,  and the final tragedy is not made plain. ‘The Pathway’ is a novel richly worth quarrelling with. The author’s gifts are authentic and dazzling. He has yet to show himself the master of them.

The writer Henry Williamson was born in London in 1895. Naturalist, soldier, journalist, farmer, motor enthusiast and author of over fifty books, his descriptions of nature and the First World War have been highly praised for their accuracy. He is best known as the author of Tarka the Otter, which won the Hawthornden Prize for Literature in 1928 and was filmed in 1977. By one of those extraordinary coincidences, Henry Williamson died while the crew were actually filming the death scene of Tarka. "The Pathway" is Volume 4 of "A Flax of Dream". In It, Willie Maddison returns to his writing and meets up with his childhood friend Mary Ogilvie. Their love story is set in idyllic scenes of the North Devon countryside, but Mary’s mother objects and in despair Willie decides to leave Devon – but is drowned as he tries to cross the estuary. His bereft friends hold a Shelley-like scene on the beach to bid him farewell.

Additionally for November 10th., see 'Theatrical temptations' -

After cogitating off and on through the night I decided upon what will probably be the first sentence of my novel (Anna Tellwright): "Bursley, the ancient home of the potter, has an antiquity of a thousand years" - and also upon the arrangement of the first long paragraph describing the Potteries.

Friday, 8 November 2013


Monday, November 8th., 12b George Street, London.

Difference between London and provinces. I have several times noticed in provincial theatres and music-halls that the men in the audience do not stand still when the National Anthem is played. They do not even take off their hats (or caps). In West End theatres the observance of the protocol is still absolutely strict. This suggests to me that observance or not is class-based. Evidently the middle and upper classes, who generally form the largest part of West End audiences, are upholders of the status quo, and 'respect' for the anthem symbolises their identification with the establishment. Away from London, the working classes have a lot less to be thankful for.

I am glad to see this decline in automatic formal respect. Most people I think regard the routine playing of the anthem as anachronistic, and yet feel obliged by a sort of social pressure to comply. I vividly recall an experience of my own when, waiting for a concert to begin, the strains of the anthem began and people started to rise to their feet. Apparently some minor 'royal' personage had arrived to attend. I wanted to stay in my seat but felt progressively more unable to do so as the rest of the audience (at least all those I could see) stood up. So, in the end, I grudgingly stood as well, and felt cross for the rest of the evening. At the end, I made sure to get out of the hall before being subject to a repeat performance!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Dining in N.Y.

Tuesday, November 7th., Park Hill, New York.

Dinner last night given by the Dutch Treat Club at Kean's Chop House. Over 100. Wallace Irwin gave a good skit on "How to live in New York on 48 hours a day." In a few words I said I would thank him in print.

Wallace Irwin (1875 – 1959) was an American writer. Over the course of his long career, Irwin wrote humorous sketches, light verse, screenplays, short stories, novels, nautical lays, aphorisms, journalism, political satire, lyrics for Broadway musicals, and the libretto for an opera. With his The Julius Caesar Murder Case (1935), he created a subgenre within detective fiction, the mystery novel set in antiquity.

The Dutch Treat Club was founded in 1905 by Thomas Masson, an editor of Life, the humour magazine, and Robert Sterling Yard, a reporter with the New York Sun. They wanted a New York City club for creative people. The original 11 members consisted of  4 writers, 4 illustrators, 2 editors and a publisher. The lunch was 'dutch' - everybody paid his own bill. From this beginning grew an institution with over 300 members, including some of the most creative minds in America.

I walked down 34th St. to Waterside offices of Italian lines, saw Duca degli Abruzzi half ready to go. A lot of people on board and a line of 3rd class passengers waiting outside shed for admittance. Nothing but Italian spoken all around me. This swift transition from 5th Avenue is very picturesque. 

Declension of streets sets in immediately after Broadway. 6th Avenue is atrociously paved. After 7th the declension is frank. 10th and 11th are appalling, atrocious, and some of the sidewalks staggering - unworthy of the suburbs of a small provincial town. Trains allowed to shunt over 10th and 11th Avenues. Extraordinary.

This was election day. I saw the sinister but genial fellows bearing openly the insignia of Tammany. Don't please think that Tammany is a disease that happens to have attacked N.Y. It is as much an expression of N.Y. character as the barber's (remember my shave this morning at the Waldorf), the pavements, the fineness, the interest in education etc. etc.

Tammany Hall, also known as the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order, was a New York City political organization founded in 1786. It was the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in controlling New York City and New York State politics and helping immigrants, most notably the Irish, rise up in American politics from the 1790s to the 1960s. The Society expanded its political control by earning the loyalty of the city's ever-expanding immigrant community, which functioned as a base of political capital. The Tammany Hall ward boss or ward heeler – "wards" were the city's smallest political units from 1686 to 1938 – served as the local vote gatherer and provider of patronage. 

Thorough badness of barbers.

Dinner at Sherrys. R. H. Davis, Franklin Adams, Doran and I.

Davis told how he interviewed Li Hung Chang for W. R. Hearst. Davis entered Chang's suite at the Waldorf "with my shoes in my hand". He interviewed him through an interpreter. At the end Davis said: "I asked his excellency if he spoke English, he answered in English 'No'. Asked if he was rich, he said "600,000,000 dollars today; nothing tomorrow. All I have is at the mercy of the State." He was very curious about rich men in America. Later he sent for Davis as a private man and spoke to him in English. He asked if Davis was married and Davis said he wasn't because he couldn't afford to be. He then said: "Get money. Get a wife. Get a home. Get children."

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


Wednesday, November 6th., St. Simon's Avenue, Putney.

Day before yesterday, after having written about 6,000 words of new novel, I decided to begin it again, in a somewhat different key, but with exactly the same construction. And I did begin it again, and at once felt easier in my mind. I also decided that I would not make a fine MS of it. The regularity of the lines and handwriting does not seem to accord with style in which this novel is to be written. A freer style than before - a little more capricious and swinging.

I had to interrupt the work last week but one to do an article of reminiscences for the Metropolitan and the Strand, and again on Sunday to review Allan Monkhouse's new novel, "Dying Fires" for the Manchester Guardian. This last is a good book.

Also I have begun to order a new library of music, through Sharpe, and the first noble batch of stuff came today. More in a few days.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Thoughts and impressions

Saturday, November 5th., Les Sablons, near Moret.

I am very well fixed here. The old couple are so decent, such braves gens; they exhale such an atmosphere of a life's effort nearly accomplished. They may be narrow, but they have worked honestly and lived sanely. They like being praised, as all right-minded people do. And they are so simple. Imagine taking to a garden  after 31 years of railway work in Paris.

I walked into the forest this morning. There was a foggy mist everywhere, and on all sides could be heard the dropping of water from the drenched trees. And looking into the depths of the forest one could conjure up the magic of "As You Like It" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream". At intervals cavalry trotted past towards Fontainebleau. One officer read a newspaper as he trotted along. 

For the second time in eight days the government was in danger of falling yesterday.

I was thinking this morning that the United States Republic had substituted an aristocracy of commercial cleverness for the old forms of aristocracy. It is said that every man has an equal chance in the U.S., and he has. But commercial aptitude, with as little honesty as possible, is the only thing that will be of use to him. And everything is so arranged that the 'risen' can trample on those who have not risen.

Additionally for November 5th., see 'An incident in Paris' -

Of course, a crowd gathered immediately; a busy, interfering, wishful-to-help crowd. I was much struck by the stink of the crowd, the low type of face, the squints, the bullet heads, the misshapen features. The getting up of the horse was mismanaged for a long time; but in the end it was accomplished without injury to the horse or the cart.

Monday, 4 November 2013

A literary evening

Thursday, November 4th., Cadogan Square, London.

I walked to the Savoy Hotel for the luncheon given to Osbert Sitwell prior to his departure for America. 60 people at this lunch. It was exceedingly well done. Birrell, aged 76, was in the chair, and as lively as a boy. He made two excellent informal speeches. 

Francis Birrell

Francis Birrell (1889 -1935) was a British journalist, editor, translator and literary critic, of the so-called Bloomsbury Group and counted as a friend of the authors James Elroy Flecker  and David Garnett. Between 1915 and 1919 he worked in France for the War Victims Relief Committee of the Society of Friends. Along with Garnett he ran during the 1920s in London, the bookstore Birrell and Garnett, 33 Gerrard Street, near the British Museum. There the members of the Bloomsbury Group, preferably bought their books.

I got home at 4 p.m., and did oddments and had tea, and then went to bed for two hours 5.15 to 7.15. 

Leonard and Virginia Woolf in 1926
We were ten minutes late for dinner at H. G. Wells's, and H. G. himself was eleven minutes late. The Shaws were there, and Frank Wells, and Marjorie Craig (H.G.'s morning secretary) and the Leonard Woolfs. Both gloomy these last two. But I liked both of them in spite of their naughty treatment of me in the press.

Shaw talked practically the whole time, which is the same thing as saying he talked a damn sight too much. After dinner he and Dorothy and Virginia Woolf and H. G. formed a group and never moved. I formed another group with Charlotte Shaw and Jane Wells, and never moved either. I really wanted to have a scrap with Virginia Woolf; but got no chance.

Additionally for November 4th., see 'London again' -

Then tea at A.B.C. Shop opposite Charing Cross. Down into smoking room. A few gloomy and rather nice men. One couple of men deliberately attacking dish of hot tea-cakes. Terrible. Familiar smell of hot tea. A.B.C shops are still for me one of the most characteristic things in London.