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

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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Sacred and profane

Thursday, December 5th., London.

Called on Farrar. He said: "The health of London has been simply appalling this year. The death rate has dropped to 11 per 1,000. During one week in November I had no one to call on at all. Other doctors were in the same fix." He could not explain it at all. The only phrase he could use was "a sort of wave of good health passing over".

I affirmed before I started writing "Sacred and Profane Love" that it was going to be 'entirely magnificent'. And I think it is. I have been reading it (the Tauschnitz edition) again and it caught me. Of course there are some things I would do differently but the conception was good and the execution admirable, occasionally brilliant. I recall that a review in the Sentinel (unattributed) described it as daring and original. And it is. Wells was not so enamoured, though kind enough. He thought I gave too much attention to surface values, and failed to 'penetrate'. Well, I think that opinion simply reflects the difference between my style of writing and his. Wells doesn't merely have nothing to do with 'surface values', he rejects them completely. In the Manchester Guardian, A. N. Monkhouse described the book as daring and open to misinterpretation, but he thought the whole to be admirable, and written with brilliant facility. I was particularly taken by an unsigned review in the Academy. This reviewer contended that the weak point of the book was that I had not sufficiently trusted my power to ennoble the theme on its own merits; that I had made use of unnecessary artifice. For example, I need not have made Diaz a world-famous pianist, or contrived the wildly successful Paris opera scene. There is something in this. In my re-reading I felt that some parts of the book were overdone. I also felt that I failed to deal adequately with Diaz as a drunkard. My attempt to put drunken behaviour into words fell well short of the standard of realism I aspire to. Still, it is no mean achievement for a man to write successfully in the first person as a woman.

Additionally for December 5th., see 'Another sort of life' -

I cannot read in Burslem. All I can do is go about and take notes. My mind is in a whirl all the time. I have only been here 5 days, and yet all Paris and Avon seems years off; I scarcely ever even think of these places and my life there. Sometimes by accident I speak to myself or one of the children in French.

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