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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.
Thursday, 31 January 2013
Having nothing to do yesterday afternoon, and Eden being at work, and two others being out, and the day being wet, I could not resist going over to Monte Carlo in the tram.
I lost money at the tables and came home depressed. In the evening I played billiards, practically for the first time, Eden teaching me.
Today, bad weather again. I wrote an excellent T.P. article on Monte Carlo.
But at present my interest in this journal is not what it was. Monte Carlo and other things have disturbed it.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
Tonight sheets of rain, strong wind. I put on overshoes and mackintosh to go to the corner of the street to the post. Several times lately, about 10 p.m., I have noticed a couple that stand under the big tree at the corner next to the pillar box, shielded by the tree-trunk from the lamplight. They stand motionless, with hands nearly meeting around each other's backs, tightly clasped. They were there tonight. The man was holding an umbrella over them. Can't see what sort of people they are. In the first place I don't like to intrude and in the second place the shade is so dark. One day I will include this scene in a novel.
|Me by David Low, National Portrait Gallery|
Like most professional humourists, I rarely laugh, even at what I think is funny. There are two sorts of humour, the sort that makes you laugh audibly, and the sort that makes you laugh subterraneanly and noiselessly somewhere down in your solar plexus. Some people hold that the second is better than the first. I am not of this opinion. I would give the two sorts equal marks. And the first or loud sort holds a clear advantage over the second in that it has a positive ameliorating influence on the bodily health. I can testify to this from my dyspeptic days when a supreme raconteur (Frederick Norton) had me laughing out loud all through a supper of lobster, steak and kidney pudding and beer. No ill effects the next day. So, I maintain that a man who can by speech or writing make you laugh in this fashion is a doctor in addition to being a humourist. he is a benefactor of mankind.
Tuesday, 29 January 2013
After having written my T.P's W. article today I went out for a stroll through Paris, meaning to reach a bookshop on the Quai de Grands Augustins.
I went down the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, which I think is the street that pleases me most in Paris - and I bought Arsene Houssaye's "Souvenirs de Jeunesse" which I have been reading tonight.
In the Passage Jouffray where I frequently find a book, I found nothing, and when I got to the Grands Augustins the etalage of the shop was already taken inside, it being 6.30.
I do enjoy these slow walks through Paris on fine winter afternoons: crowded pavements, little curiosity shops, and the continual interest of women. I walked back to the Chatelet station of the Metro. and went to the Concorde and thence walked to the Place de l'Opera, stopping at the Trois Quartier shop, where there are some very nice things.
Then I went to the Standard office, and Raphael came out and dined with me. I got home at 10. I have had several days of regular unhurried work lately, interspersed with such strolls. I have come to the conclusion that this is as near a regular happiness as I am ever likely to get.
Yesterday I finished the first instalment of "The Sinews of War", as the T.P's Weekly serial is to be called, and thought it very good.
Monday, 28 January 2013
The hypnotised audience, crowded tier above tier of the dark theatre, held itself strained and intent in its anxiety not to miss one gyration, one least movement, of the great dancer Adeline Genee - that dancer who had enslaved not only New York and St. Petersburg but Paris itself. Swaying incorporeal, as it were within a fluent dazzling envelope of endless drapery, she revealed to them new and more disturbing visions of beauty in the union of colour and motion. She hid herself in a labyrinth of curves which was also a tremor of strange tints, a tantalising veil, a mist of iridescent light. Gradually her form emerged from the riddle, triumphant, provocative, and for an instant she rested like an incredible living jewel in the deep gloom of the stage. Then she was blotted out, and the defeated eye sought in vain to penetrate the blackness where but now she had been ...
While she was humouring us with her fatigued imperial smiles, I happened to look at a glazed door separating the auditorium from the corridor. There, pressed against the glass, was another face, the face of a barmaid, who, drawn from her counter by the rumour of this wonderful novelty, had crept down to get a glimpse of the star's triumph.
Of course I was struck by the obvious contrast between these two creatures. In a moment the barmaid had departed, but the wistfulness of her gaze remained with me as I listened to the legends of the dancer - her whims, her diamonds, her extravagances, her tyrannies, her wealth. I could not banish that pale face; I could not withhold from it my sentimental pity.
Later, I went up into the immense gold refectory. Entrenched behind a magnificent counter of carved cedar flanked on either side by mirrors and the neat apparatus of bottles and bon bons, the barmaid stood negligently at her ease, her cheek resting in the palm of one small hand as she leaned on the counter. I noticed that she had the feeble prettiness, the voluptuous figure, the tight black bodice inexorably demanded of barmaids. In front of her were three rakish youths whom I guessed to be on the fringe of journalism and the stage. They talked low to her as they sipped their liqueurs, frankly admiring, frankly enjoying this brief intimacy. As for her, confident of her charms, she was distantly gracious; she offered a smile with a full sense of its value; she permitted; she endured. These youths were to understand that such adulation was to her an everyday affair.
In the accustomed exercise of assured power her face had lost its wistfulness, it was the satiated face of the dancer over again, and so I ventured quietly to withdraw my sentimental pity.
|Nicholson, "Barmaid - any bar"|
Sunday, 27 January 2013
A few nights ago - we had been to the Empire, Sharpe, Mother, Sep and I - there was a gale. In the usual midnight altercation at Piccadilly Circus for the inside seats of omnibuses we had suffered defeat; we sat on the inclement top of the vehicle, a disconsolate row of four, cowering behind the waterproof aprons (which were not waterproof), and exchanging fragments of pessimistic philosophy.
We knew we were taking cold; at first we were annoyed, but with increasing numbness came resignation. We grew calm enough to take an interest in the imperturbable driver, who nonchalantly and with perfect technique steered his dogged horses through the tortuous mazes of traffic, never speaking, never stirring, only answering like an automaton to the conductor's bell.
"I've been out in worse," he said. "Yes, we gets used to it. But we gets so that we has to live out of doors. If I got a indoor job I should die. I have to go out for a walk afore I can eat my breakfast."
A pause, and then:
He finished; he had imparted his wisdom, delivered his message, and with the fine instinct denied to so many literary artists, he knew when to be silent. We asked him to stop, and he did so without a word. "Good night," we said; but he had done with speech for that evening, and gave us no reply. We alighted. The bus rolled away into the mirror-like vista of the street.
Saturday, 26 January 2013
The first visit to Monte Carlo must be a sort of an event in the life of anyone with imagination. I went there yesterday afternoon from Menton by tram. The ride is very diversified, and here and there fine views are obtained.
|The Casino, 1900|
On the whole I was disappointed by the exterior aspects of the town. It lacks spaciousness, and since it is in the absolute control of one autocratic authority, spaciousness is what it ought not to have lacked. Some of the villas, however, with their white paint and general air of being toys, are excessivement chic. The casino is all right in its florid, heavy way - but what a chance for an architect, on that site over the sea! The whole town had an air of being Parisian, but not quite Parisian enough.
Inside the gaming saloons (4 o'clock) I found a large crowd and many tables in full work. The crowd not so distinguished in appearance as I had (foolishly) expected. I saw few signs at the tables of suppressed or expressed excitement, though quite a large proportion of the people seemed to be gambling seriously. I had no intention of betting, but after I had watched several tables and grasped the details of roulette (30 and 40 I didn't attempt to grasp) I remained at one table, as if hypnotised; without knowing it I began to finger a 5-franc piece in my pocket, and then I became aware that I was going to bet. I knew I should bet some seconds before I formally decided to. I staked a 5-franc piece on an even chance and won. Like a provincial up from the country, who has heard tales of metropolitan rascality, I stood close to a croupier and kept a careful eye on my coin, and picked up the winnings without an instant's delay. I kept on playing, carefully, and always on even chances, for some time, and stopped when I had made a little money and went and had some tea. I didn't play again.
I just missed a tram in coming home and had half an hour to wait; all that time I thought of gaming, gaming. I look forward to going again on Friday.
Friday, 25 January 2013
Magnificent morning yesterday. Pinkish, salmonish Dolomite peaks, grey rocks, white snow, blue sky, strong sunshine. The air is undoubtedly very tonic at this height, 4,200 ft.
|Huxleys, 1927 by Lady Otteline Morrell|
Today the first full, empty day of the holiday. We met Aldous and Maria Huxley, who had been ski-ing. I stood about till I could risk the cold no longer, and then went for a walk, breaking often into a run. By this time (4p.pm.) all the tracks around here were in shadow. The Aldous Huxleys came for dinner and stayed till 11.55.
Thursday, 24 January 2013
Thursday - goose. Friday evening bilious attack. But it did not stop me from working. Yesterday I finished the first third of "Denry the Audacious". And ideas still coming freely! Today it occurred to me to utilise my Jacob Tonson column in the New Age for the material of a book on the subject of the modern novel, its future, its moral etc. etc. After arranging all my ideas for the next chapter this morning, I arranged ideas for first chapter of this book on the novel this afternoon.
Arranged with Tauchnitz to abridge the "Old Wives Tale" so that he can get it into two volumes. A damned nuisance, yet I secretly consider myself fortunate to get it in. I had begun to think the thing was off.
Letter from Waugh today to say that the book still selling, and their town traveller anxious that no new book should appear till this has run its course. All very healthy. A fourth edition is now quite possible. I had not in the least hoped for this success. It alters the value of all my future books. yet I was depressed all afternoon because I could not make a sketch. Another proof that public success is no guarantee whatever of happiness or even content. I think it makes no difference.
In becoming acquainted with people you uncover layer after layer. Using the word in my sense, one person may be the most distinguished of a crowd on the first layer, another on the second, and so on. Until after uncovering several layers, you may ultimately come to a person who, down below, is the most distinguished of all - on that layer. The final result may be quite unexpected. I suppose that the inmost layer is the most important, but each has its importance.
I think that I am a very layered person, and am likely to become more so as I get older. I don't think anyone has penetrated far below my surface and, if I am honest, I have no wish that they should.
Wednesday, 23 January 2013
I made a good beginning on Friday on the construction of the sequel to "The Card" and continued each day.
Weather still very bad indeed. Heavy rain stopped a projected drive this afternoon. We did, however, yesterday make our auto-canot excursion to Les Iles Lerins without getting wet.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
I read more of "Faust" and spent a lot of time in loose reflection - vaguely on a play and on my next Evening Standard article. I went for a walk right down over Chelsea Bridge and along Battersea Park Road, and home by Albert Bridge Road, and King's Road home. Then I filled up the time in writing to Phillpotts about Hardy's funeral.
|Battersea Bridge - Norman Garstin|
It is a gloomy drab street, with most repulsive tenements, a big technical institute, an open gramophone shop (with a machine grinding out a tune and a song) and an open "Fun Fair" sort of place (a shop with the front taken out) and a few small boys therein amusing themselves with penny-in-the-slot machines.
We dined at Mrs. Patrick Campbell's, across the Square.
I don't know if it is my age, the state of my liver, or the weather (there has been snow on the ground for the best part of a week now) which is causing me to feel more gloomy than usual. Walking does me good, and I like the stillness of a snowy landscape, as well as the magical transformation from a place well-known to somewhere rather mysterious. We are all more or less at the mercy of our body chemistry when it comes to mood, and I am consoled by the thought that Spring will come again.
Monday, 21 January 2013
I began the 4th and last part of "Lilian" yesterday and wrote 1,600 words.
Old Cecil Quinton the yacht-racer and original owner of the Cicely (now Lamorna), came to lunch with his wife. He said that the Cicely once did 17 knots with two patent logs - "and they didn't help her much".
|Westward and Cicely off Cowes, 1905|
On Wednesday night and last night Laura Aitken came down to dance with me. Last night Bonar Law came and joined us for a few minutes, showing all his usual extraordinary charm. He said that for 12 months he had been perfectly happy to be idle, but during the last month idleness had begun to bore him. Half an hour later he made the mistake of introducing me to Lady Z. Quelle femme!
Sunday, 20 January 2013
After having dined with Raphael on Thursday night, I called at the bureau de tabac opposite the Opera under the Grand Hotel to buy cigars and cigarettes. The patronne, a stoutish powdered agreeable woman of 50 or so was in charge, with a young girl, apparently her daughter. There is also a patron; quite a family affair. "J'aime beaucoup mes clients," said the patronne, and one could see that she did love not only her regular clients but the whole business. I told her that I called in nearly every night to buy a Mexican cigar, and yet she had not recognised me. "That's because I am not here at the time you call," she said, which was true. "But I'll come down earlier to see you. I shall know you in future." There was a charming air of intimateness about the whole place, despite its extremely central position and fluctuating cosmopolitan clientele, and this air I noticed for the first time.
I also noticed for the first time the immense variety of stock which the French Government offers to its customers. It appears that the manufacture of the flat Jupiter matches had recommenced, and I bought some for my flat matchbox. "We have ordered ten thousand," said the patronne.
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Breakfast on the balcony again yesterday, while the fishing boats went out one by one straight into the dazzle of the sun, with an extraordinary sentimental effect. A highly dandiacal yacht, with fittings all brass and mahogany apparently, had been at anchor since we came; she was moored by two ropes to the jetty, and by two anchors from the stern. I noticed a detail of actualness which might be brought into a scene with great effect. The yacht swung from side to side on the jetty ropes, lifting first the starboard and then the port rope clear of the water, and as each rope came clear of the still water, the drops from it fell into the water in hundreds for a few seconds making a wonderful pretty pattering sound. On first catching this sound I did not perceive how it was caused.
|Sailing boats at Menton|
|A contemporary poster|
Friday, 18 January 2013
What a difference between that and his father's immense and erudite work "On Civil Disobedience" - of which I had never heard before!
Thursday, 17 January 2013
Another rehearsal of "Cupid and Commonsense" at Terry's Theatre.
I saw all the play. It exhausted and depressed me very much. nothing seemed to get over the footlights. The players now played too quickly instead of too slowly. Local accent all wrong, and certainly incurable. But the other people seemed to be quite cheerful and optimistic. All the surroundings - the manufactory of amusement repelled me. Women cleaning and whispering, etc. Cold. Oil lamps to warm. Smallness of theatre. (See also 'Cupid and Commonsense', August 30th., and 'Authorial Anxieties', Sept. 22nd.)
Proceeding regularly with the "Case of Leek". Today I rewrote what I wrote yesterday. Tomorrow I shall have finished a quarter of the whole. I am deliberately losing sight of the serial, and writing it solely as a book.
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Last Wednesday, the 11th., the Daily News rang up to say that Hardy was dead, and would I say something. I wouldn't, but I decided to write a Standard article and I finished it the next day. It was published on the 12th. - "The True Greatness of Thomas Hardy".
In it I referred to the last time we met (see 'Wartime Interlude' and 'Writing for Victory'), and reiterated how much I liked Hardy; there was no nonsense about him, no pose.
I pointed out that whilst there is crude and sentimental melodrama in his novels, what interests us with Hardy, as with Shakespeare, is not his defects but his positive qualities.
There were times when he showed a sustained power which has not, in my opinion, been surpassed by anybody anywhere.
I am inclined to think that how great a writer he was, some of us yet but imperfectly comprehend.
Today I had lunch early in order to go to Hardy's funeral at Westminster Abbey. It was all done very smoothly and calmly. Music good. South transept not full. John Galsworthy as a pall-bearer made a magnificent figure.
In the morning I had written a letter to the Daily Express animadverting upon the distribution of tickets for this affair. My concern was that all invitations, other than those sent privately by family, were absolutely in the hands of Hardy's publishers, Macmillan & Co. They had seen fit to issue only two tickets to the Society of Authors, of which, incidentally, Thomas Hardy was President. Thus many authors who would have wished to be present at the funeral, and who had a moral right to be present, could not be present. I also pointed out in my letter that not a single member of the Royal Family was present at the funeral. One of the main functions of the Royal Family (apparently) is to represent and symbolise the feeling of the country. As a rule it fulfils that function. But in this instance a telegram from the King, though a suitable and sympathetic gesture, was not enough. Hardy was a citizen of the very highest importance. Had the funeral been a military funeral of similar importance, half the male members of the Royal Family (in uniform) would have attended as a matter of course.
According to my information Hardy had a pretty good idea that he might have to be buried in the Abbey, even if he did not want to. As to the excision of the heart, I regard that as merely outrageous.
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
Yesterday afternoon I suddenly decided that I couldn't proceed with my story about Elsie until I had been up to Clerkenwell again. So at 4.50 I got a taxi and went up Myddleton Square.
4-storey houses, and church nearly in the middle, with clock damnably striking the quarters, was very romantic. I had to correct several of my memories of the architecture. I walked round the Square gazing, and going up to front doors and examining door-plates and making notes under gas lamps (very damp and chilly) while the taxi followed me slowly in the mud.
Then I drove up to the Angel and saw that it had been truly conquered and annexed by the Lyons ideals. Still, it was doing good up in Islington, much good.
Monday, 14 January 2013
I left the rue de Calais yesterday, depressed, at 5 p.m. after having lunched with C. The drive to the Gare de Lyon along the interminable length of the rue de Rivoli got on my nerves. And I was decidedly excited and 'wrought-up' when the train de grande luxe came up and I saw Philpotts. Much talking and mutual satisfaction. (I have a sore throat now) The train left sharp at 6 p.m. and arrived here at Menton sharp at 9.56 a.m. this morning. On the whole a really good sound train. It would be almost perfect if it had a drawing-room car, as it certainly ought to have.
Sunday, 13 January 2013
I outlined in the bath this morning an idea of a play about a man being offered a title and his wife insisting on his accepting it against his will. Spender told me that such a man had once asked him for advice in just such a problem, and he had advised the man to suppress his scruples and accept the title. Ross said that this would be a good idea for a play, and it is.
Friday, 11 January 2013
Marguerite bought a pig at the end of the year. It was a small one, but we have been eating this damned animal ever since, in all forms except ham which has not yet arrived. Brawn every morning for breakfast. Yesterday I struck at pig's feet for lunch, and had mutton instead. They are neither satisfying nor digestible, and one of the biggest frauds that ever came out of kitchens. All this a war measure, and justifiable.
I now no longer care whether I have sugar in my tea or not. We each have our receptacle containing the week's sugar, and use it how we like. It follows us about, wherever we happen to be taking anything that is likely to need sugar. My natural prudence makes me more sparing of mine than I need to be.
It occurred to me how the war must affect men of 70, who have nothing to look forward to. The war has ruined their ends, and they cannot have much hope.
Thursday, 10 January 2013
|Moore by Manet|
Today I lunched with George Moore at 121 Ebury Street. Nice London house, with fine pictures. A marvellous Claude Monet and ditto Constable. I said "So you have two Manet's." He said "I am the only man in London who has two Manet's." Not true of course. The house was very neat and well kept; but in the nicely furnished embrasure on the half-landing, I saw a collection of hat boxes etc. hidden in a corner.
Moore's novel "The Mummer's Wife" (1885) was an inspiration to me, set as it is in the Potteries and in realistic style. It was regarded as unsuitable by Mudie's, and W H Smith refused to stock it on their news-stalls. Despite this, during its first year of publication the book was in its fourteenth edition mainly due to the publicity garnered by its opponents. His next novel, A Drama in Muslin, was also banned by Mudie's and Smith's. In response Moore declared war on the circulating libraries by publishing two provocative pamphlets; Literature at Nurse and Circulating Morals. In these, he complained that the libraries profit from salacious popular fiction while refusing to stock serious literary fiction.
Moore said that even I used French words sometimes in writing, and that he objected to it. I said I never did. He cited the word "flair". I told him it had become English. He wouldn't have that. He was curious about the financial side of letters. Like other people, he could not believe I can't get my plays produced.
He said that when Bernstein had a play on the stocks he went to a manager and said to the manager: "The play will be finished on such a date. You will pay me so much. I shall have so much for scenery etc. I shall be allowed to engage artistes up to so much weekly. I shall conduct the rehearsals. You will be permitted to come to the last three rehearsals." He assured me this was true, and that the manager would (at any rate officially) know nothing about the play until the end.
|Moore in 1921|
Wednesday, 9 January 2013
This seems to go on all day and every day. At high tides the water is over the hubs of the wheels and washing against the chests of the motionless horses ... It is a scene of rapid and healthy activity, and the blue smoke from the cabins of the sailing barges suggests other activities than those seen from the bridge.
In time no doubt all this building and road material will reach Putney by railway or by steamer; at any rate a wharf will be built and served by steam crane; and then this singular survival of an old activity will pass away in its turn, and we shall tell young people that we remember it.
Monday, 7 January 2013
2,000 words of "The Pretty Lady" on Saturday. 2,000 word article for Daily News yesterday, and a bad night in between.
Sundry officers, including Saunders, Jacob and Cummings, dined on Saturday night, and the delight of these two last in singing more or less at sight good and bad songs from the "Scottish Students' Song Book", to my bad accompaniment, was most extraordinary.
Last night Richard was talking about being set to learn 40 lines of "L'Allegro" in 45 minutes prep, and to write essays in ten minutes. What a fool of a master.
I couldn't find my Milton, but on offering a reward of 6d., Richard found it. I re-read some of "Paradise Lost", and thought it very fine and interesting. The remarks of Adam and the Angel about the relations of man and wife have not yet been beaten for sense.