I left Torquay, where I have been staying with the Phillpotts, this afternoon.
At Exeter I heard of the British defeat in the Transvaal.
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.