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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.
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
I did no work since Monday.
On Tuesday I went to Paris. Lunch at Martin's (his cousin Eugene was there). I met Lee Mathews at Hotel St. James at 6.10. We discussed plays and his projects till 7.20. Caught 7.55 home, for bread and milk at 9 p.m. I bought nothing.
See also, 'French excursion' -
September 24th., http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/friday-september-24th.html
Couldn't work next day or yesterday. Not sure why. Sometimes one is oppressed by a sense of pointlessness; why make another effort, or even exert oneself to be pleasant? Fortunately, with experience comes the knowledge that the feeling will pass and life will resume its normal optimistic course. In the meantime go through the motions.
So, I resumed "Seeing Life in Paris" this morning, and did 1,200 words.
Yesterday afternoon I just did a New Age article.
By first post I received news that Pinker could sell serial use of "The Honeymoon" toMcClure's Magazine for £200. I cabled to accept, provided dramatic rights not jeopardised.
Additionally for September 2nd., see 'Death by drowning' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/death-by-drowning.html
"Received a letter from my mother today (dated August 30th.) informing me of the death by drowning of my sister Tertia's fiance, Willie Boulton."
Monday, 1 September 2014
|Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken. The door at the rear of the house is covered by a moulded canopy|
with an inscribed plaque reading ‘Enoch Arnold Bennett, Author lived here 1913 – 1921.
|American soldiers in France 1918|
|One of my landscapes|
Monday, 21 July 2014
We went to the Ruth Draper matinee. A packed and putrid matinee audience at the Garrick, nearly all women. Laughing in all the wrong places - giggling, whispering. Tea-drinking. Ruth is very clever. She is a wonderful imitator, but not much of a creator. Some things however, such as the Englishwoman showing her garden were splendidly cruel. Others feeble and formless. The observation seems to be exact but superficial. She is highly skilled and looks nice.
Friday, 18 July 2014
My sister Tertia told me once that my mother, on seeing "Carmen" at Hanley Theatre said: "I don't like that woman at all". Just the sort of thing she might say!
It rained all day yesterday, and was raining heavily when we went to bed. Rain appalling. The employes du Louvre discovered the gramophone at night and danced to it.
By the way, the chief point about the gramophone performance was the intense and simple pleasure of the people in it. The two men bent over the instrument smiling as they might have done at a baby that was crooning. How I envy people who are able to immerse themselves without self-consciousness in the moment. For myself I find that I cannot get beyond thoughts of my own dignity, and appearance, which of course I know rationally is of no interest to anyone but myself. I am afraid that self-consciousness will be a burden to me throughout my life, unless it falls away as I descend, heaven forbid, into senility. Rather dark thoughts for a holiday - must be the effect of the weather!
Additionally for July 18th., see 'A matter of loyalty'
While all this is going on I have more trouble to contend with from my wife. She resents my 'other' life in London and fails to understand that I have an immense amount of work to do and considerable responsibility. Hence she contrives problems to gain my attention. For example, she has conceived a thorough dislike for our gardener Lockyer and is manoeuvring to have him replaced: what a time to become preoccupied with such trivia! I have written to her as follows:
Thursday, 17 July 2014
Yesterday at 7 p.m., after a week of slogging, I finished "Hugo" which I think is my eighth novel. I have got that off my mind and now this morning I lose a front tooth, just to be supplied with a new worry.
Five years ago I would have looked on my life, as I am living it now, as the ne plus ultra of paradisiacal bliss, but I am no more content than I ever was. In fact life is a devilish odd thing. I think I have learned more about it in the last three years than ever I knew before. I have books planned that will keep me employed till the end of 1906. But if I am any happier than when I used to cycle down to Farnham & Witley after a week of rottenness in Fleet Street, I do not know it. My belief is that some people are born happy and some aren't.
I like Paris tremendously. Indeed I can't imagine myself living in any other city. It has spoilt me for London. What I secretly desire is a fine house in the seaside country near Folkestone for the summers, and this flat (which suits me excellently) for the rest of the year. And these things I must have and will have!
Additionally for July 17th., see 'Adrift in Austria'
I went out and bought some cigars. About 4.30 went up to Hoher Salzburg. A very Margate-ish crowd; indeed the same sort of crowds everywhere. They stream into the town daily. Coming home, I met Kommer; or rather he stopped me and offered me a piece of paper. For a second I didn't know him. He had inquired at all the hotels for me (including this one) without success. He had then gone to the police, who informed him at once thatE.A.B. was staying at the Oesterreichischer, and gave him a bit of paper to that effect; this was the paper he was exhibiting to me in the street.
Wednesday, 16 July 2014
|Salzburg from the Kapuzinerberg|
At night: music. Waltzes and operatic selections. Electric light; hence theatrical trees; dogs playing with each other; outsiders staring; girls carrying beer all the time; a girl wheeling round and round a thing like a perambulator containing all sorts of confectionery; she did this for two hours and was still doing it when I left.
I finished Hamsun's "Segelfloss Town" last night. It does not hold together very well, and is inferior to his best work; the interest is allowed to shift too much from character to character. The characters are apt to appear and then fade. But it contains four really splendid things, and some fine humour and ditto wit. There is a tirade against actors and actresses which is devastating funny and true. The translation is very good indeed.
Additionally for July 16th., see 'Home from the front'
I returned home from the Front yesterday, after two nights in London at the Savoy. By the evening I had dealt with all the arrears.
Tuesday, 15 July 2014
Fete yesterday. Alcock left at 5 p.m. in a most ancient wagonette, and we drove with him to the top of the village. Although there were three windows open in the wagonette it was hotter inside than outside - stuffy. Horse-collars of straw; harness chiefly of rope. In speaking of the horses Alcock again called them 'cat's meat'. In the morning we went sailing for one and a half hours - only 5 francs. We were carried into a small boat, and then rowed to the smack, which was in the charge of two men.
After dinner I walked about a mile up the estuary of the Penze on the sands, and back, and then up to the village. Chinese lanterns, band, dancing, silhouette of large church, silhouettes of figures, Bengal fires, very noisy fireworks. Hotel very bright with lanterns. Parading about in adjacent lanes, the Parisians and other visitors, arms entwined sometimes, women in white wool loose jackets, as in Switzerland in winter. Moon through clouds. Not quite dark. I came home at 9.50 quite recovered, and read "Eugenie Grandet".
We were wakened up in the night by a very heavy thunderstorm. The thunder really was dramatic; quite as good as Drury Lane.
Additionally for July 15th., see 'Busy in Salzburg'
The scenery around is wonderful. There must be about a dozen 10,000 ft. mountains in the region. But we soon tired of this imposing, picturesque scenery. It is as if it was done on purpose - some tour de force of a creator. Sunday was a fete day here - the fete of the fire brigades. They came from all around including adjacent Germany. The cafe-restaurants were full of firemen, in poor ill-fitting uniforms, at lunch. Procession very long. Full of engines and ladders, and one very old engine, and banners and bands. One brigade was headed by a girl in white; at least she seemed to be a girl; but she might have been the wife of the huge, framed, glittering man who was walking by her side. The affair had a certain medieval or renaissance quality, but lacked both vitality and efficiency. After it we drove in a little victoria to see the castle (Lustschloss) at Hellbrun, a few miles off, along a monotonous road, chiefly quite straight. This castle has lovely gardens; but the 'practical joke' quality of the fountain-work (designed to soak the king's guests by surprise) and the childishness of the working, water-driven models in the garden, gave you a sinister insight into the mind of a foolish king.
Monday, 14 July 2014
Although I rested well last night, I heard the music of the feteeach time I wakened, so at 4 a.m. I persuaded myself to get up and take a look at it. There was one roundabout going in the Place Blanche. Everything else was closed. A bright, hot morning. All the greatrestaurants de nuits were closed, but one cafe, the Coquet, next to the Cyrano, was open and had tables in the street. The stout lady in the cash-desk seemed just as usual. The 'place' was thick with serpentins. A few cabs waiting about, and a few idlers like myself. The women on the roundabout screamed just as they always do. They did not look very tired. There were four on one pig.
I then went towards the Opera. I saw that the footpaths were swept by women in blue - with magnificent carriage and figures. I suppose that is due to the magnificent gesture of the broom. On the Boulevard des Italiens, three of them abreast were sweeping the broad trottoir. It was fine sight. At the Opera a large crowd for the matinee gratuite had already gathered - some hundreds; policemen to keep order.
This was the real people - dirty, stinking, brutal, importunate; the scum! nearly all men but just a few women. Some persons were lying asleep on the pavement. I noticed many other early morning items and fete day items: such as omnibuses passing, full of policemen in spotless white trousers; a cavalry officer in full splendour walking to his rendezvous; many people beginning the day's enjoyment on their way to railway stations etc.; the women dozing in the newspaper kiosks awaiting the morning papers; a youth walking along the middle of the road smoking a pipe a yard long; a drunken man trying to get up a fight with a barman concerning a small tricolour which he carried. Many bars were open. I returned home at 5.5 and wrote this at once.
Thursday, 10 July 2014
Y. came at 6.55, leaving a bag marked in large letters "Foreign Office". In some talk after dinner I found that he had strangely unscientific ideas. Some pamphlet of Haldane's had actually persuaded him that there was a prospect in the future of making synthetic babies, and he really believed that some very low form of animal life had actually been made by synthesis. He stuck to it. It had not occurred to him that any such feat would have made an absolutely unique stir in the world, and make such a step in knowledge as no other step could be compared to. He began to argue like this: "But nobody thirty years ago would have believed about wireless." He hadn't seen that the two things were not comparable, wireless being purely a mechanical affair. In short I was shocked by his attitude. later, he gave in.
Additionally for July 10th., see 'Meeting Miss Thomasson'
I went to tea at Miss Thomasson's on Saturday and met Hofbauer one of the most famous young painters in Paris today. A handsome, very blond man of about 30, and fully aware that he is handsome. Vain, and yet charmingly so, and not too much so. He spoke scarcely any English, and had better manners than most painters. Afterwards at the Cafe de Versailles, Kelly told me that he was inordinately and devilishly clever, but idle; also that his big picture in this year's Salon, 'Coin de Bataille', bought by the state, was painted quite without models.
Wednesday, 9 July 2014
As soon as we had got into Germany (Kehl I think, about 4.30 a.m. yesterday) the country began to be German, quite conventionally.
There is no doubt you can get a more intimate and romantic view of a strange country early in the morning. You then know when people actually get up, and what they look like when they are up. Putting bedclothes out at windows. Pensive girls at windows. Men and boys loitering in lanes, and waiting to begin to work. A curious softness and humanness over everything.
Sudden increase in Germany of official uniforms. The railways seem to have got back to decency and efficiency. Munich. Great lakes and mountains east of Munich. Wonderful to regard; and, with thin tapering spires of churches, quite conventionally German. The German of opera scenery. Sunday when we got into Salzburg - Tyrolean hats and garments. It seemed comic - nature imitating art.
To think that only ten years ago I was at the Western Front, looking across to the German lines and damning the whole nation to hell. Such is human nature.
Additionally for July 9th., see 'Parisiennes'
Speaking of 'Parisiennes', I took a turn through the Parc Monceau to the Etoile, and back through the Champs Elysees on Friday night between 9.30 and 11 in order to clear off a headache. Honest lovemaking in the Parc Monceau. In the Champs Elysees, I saw four girls aged 14 or less - one didn't seem more than 11 or 12 being taken about by older women for the excitement of senile appetites. Some day soon there will be a tremendous outcry concerning this procuring of children. The police will become suddenly active in arrests - and then things will settle down again.
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Young prisoner, 21, just caught. Trousers and coat pierced by a bullet. Consumptive, enfeebled. Called up in December 1914. Somebody had given him a large hunk of bread, which he had put within the lining of his tunic; it bulged out in front like a paunch. Examined by an officer, then went off with a soldier. While the officer was cross-examining him a curio-hunting soldier came up behind and cut a button off the tunic. Had work in paper factory. Infinitely pathetic. Scared little consumptive. Why military ambition? He tried to exhibit gloom but it was impossible for him quite to conceal his satisfaction in the fact that for him the fighting was over. The wretched boy had had just about enough of world dominion, and he was ready to let the Hohenzollerns and Junkers finish up the enterprise as best they could without his aid. No doubt some woman was his mother. It appeared to me that he could not live long, and that the woman in question might never see him again. But every ideal must have its victims; and bereavement, which counts chief among the well-known advantageous moral disciplines of war, is, of course, good for a woman's soul. Besides, that woman would no doubt be convinced that her son died gloriously in defence of an attacked fatherland.
Passage of wounded.
After car came to road at Souchez Germans began to fire on road 78 high explosives. Searching road at 50 yards distance or 100 up and down each shot. Almost every two minutes and one minute sometimes. Tremendous waste of ammunition. The things burst before sound of sizzling has finished reaching your ears.
Nearest shot 100 yards.
Additionally for July 8th., see 'Derailed at Nantes'
On Thursday I went to see the Wellses at Pont de l'Arche. I came back yesterday and found myself in a railway accident at Mantes, six wounded.
Monday, 7 July 2014
I am here for a few days painting. The beds are rather hard but I had a good night last night in spite of slight dyspepsia owing to cider. I have done my first watercolour of the castle, a ruin. The hotel is on the high bank of the river and the sound of water can be heard night and day. there are two dams just nearby. The food is good. We are served by a young person who looks 16 but is really 22. She is married (to a soldier) and has a daughter whom I often fondle. She is nice. I have an excellent bathroom (with a geyser) and had a hot bath at 6.45 this morning.
There is another painter at the hotel. He has been here for a month and is, I think, a fool. There is also an American woman who arrived here, I am told, from Paris this week. They go on excursions together and eat together in a private room. Possibly she is his mistress. Certainly a Frenchwoman would deduce so! But with these American women it is always possible that she isn't. I saw her in a dressing-gown this morning. She could be between 35 and 40 and is fairly ugly. Definitely not a virgin I should say.
The weather here is marvellous at present. Seems a long way in every way from London, but I shall have to be back there on Thursday when I think I must go to see Galsworthy's new play "The Foundations" at the Royalty.
I hope to complete another watercolour this afternoon.
Additionally for July 7th., see 'In Arras'
When you actually reach Arras you cannot be deceived for an instant as to what has happened to the place. The first street you see is a desolation, empty and sinister. Everywhere the damage of shells is visible. In the brief intervals of the deafening cannonade can be heard one sound - blinds and curtains fluttering against empty window frames. As we went further into the city we saw sights still stranger. Of one house nothing but the roof was left, the roof made a triumphal arch. All the streets were covered with powdered glass.
Sunday, 6 July 2014
I walked quickly, with perspiration, in hot sunshine, to get ideas for "Accident", and reached the Tate Gallery. I thought I would look at the Conders. No sooner was I in the Conder room than Aitken, the director, who is a very nice fellow, came along. He took me along to see the big wall decorations, by a young man named Whistler aged 21, in the refreshment room - decorations still far from finished. I enjoyed them.
|The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats|
I got outside and walked around. Finally into a tram to Victoria and thence by bus to Sloane Square. By good chance I found the ideas I wanted, and wrote them for three quarters of an hour. Then taxi to Reform Club for lunch.
Went on to Holland Park Hall with Spender, Roch and Earl Russell, to see Lenglen play tennis. Sparsely filled. The men's singles (Cozelin and Kinsey) were fine. Women's singles poor, because Lenglen (v. Dewhurst) had nothing to do. Cozelin is an exceedingly fine player. I should like to see him against Tilden. Another thing I should like to see would be Lenglen against a man - I mean a really good one, a first-rate man. She would be beaten but it would make a fine show, and would restore the public perspective. Lenglen is short and walks well, though with a rather peculiar step.
Additionally for July 6th., see 'Fellow travellers'
I came to Ludlow today. Fat female aristocrat in train. Dust cloak. Flower outside it. Jewel to fasten it. Many rings. Manicured. Queen, Tatler. Ethel M. Dell's latest novel. 3 cushions in a decided leather 'envelope'. Elaborate lunch basket. Greedy. When ticket collectors came, she referred them, with an apprehensive gesture, to her maid, lest she might be bothered. Two of them knew of her maid. The third said roughly: "I suppose your maid has your ticket?" Her fear about being worried about anything was obvious. At Shrewsbury she held 'envelope' whilst maid put cushions into it. Maid got her out of train and transferred her to Ludlow train. There was another and older and worse woman, with an aged maid in the same compartment. very hard. She was met by a companion sort of girl at Birmingham.
Saturday, 5 July 2014
My wife thinks that I am sick of her! Of course I have written to reassure her that this is not so, but perhaps she has a point. Certainly she takes too much upon herself and I have told her so. If I behaved to her as she behaves to me there would be dreadful scenes. Her complaint is that I will allow her to do nothing of her own volition in this house, which is simply not true. For example she has decreed that trees in the garden will not be cut down though several are dying and it is apparent to me that they need attention. Similarly she has completely altered the furniture of the small drawing-room, in defiance of my wishes, and I have held my tongue. We held a ball which I hate but she wanted and she completely changed the disposition of furniture in two rooms and the hall without consulting me at all. I will readily admit that I have very particular views as to how furniture should be arranged, but I am far from being the tyrant she suggests.
We have been married now for more than ten years and she is increasingly exasperating, but that is no doubt the experience of married couples everywhere. Some married people have told me that my descriptions of married life in "These Twain" are so true to life as to be painful, and I have no doubt drawn from my own experience. In any case I have told Marguerite that she should not imagine that I am sick of her, even for an hour. But at intervals she obliges me to explain to her that there are certain things I will not stand.
Additionally for July 5th., see 'Mundane matters'
Friday, 4 July 2014
Men of business are baffling creatures. Today I invited to lunch at a grill-room a prominent business man, because I wanted to straighten out certain obscure matters. A man accustomed to thinking in millions - other people's millions! He arrived a few minutes late, saying that he was excessively busy and had enough work to occupy two men. We drank cocktails. We then lunched - excellently. From time to time he repeated that he was an excessively busy man. We talked small talk about everything except our joint business. Again and again I led him gently to the brink of our business, but he could not persuade himself to plunge. Possibly the water looked too chilly. At 3 o'clock we were still conversing at large. At 3.15 I said to myself: "When does this fellow intend to go?" At 3.30 I said to myself: "This fellow will just have to go soon." At nearly 4 o'clock I said to him: "I'm very sorry but I must go." "So must I," he said. He went. And I doubt not that during the rest of the day and during all succeeding days, he would be assuring people that he was an excessively busy man. As for me, I had wasted two and a half hours of life's brief span, and about a couple of pounds.
On reflection, perhaps instead of just leading him to the brink I should have simply pushed him over the edge. He may well be wondering why I invited him to lunch and then failed to raise the matters of concern; though being 'excessively busy' he may have forgotten me already.
Additionally for July 4th., see 'Americana'
Thursday, 3 July 2014
At Earl's Court Exhibition. It is good to bear in mind that all these vast vulgarised crowds of people are being subjected to the same influences which one feels oneself - the influences of bright colour and music, al fresco gaiety, and sex; that all the men enjoy more or less the close presence of these thousands of girls in their summer attire and white shoes, the smiles and light laughter coming from behind veils of spotted muslin; that this assemblage has not got itself together simply to provide a pleasurable humanising sensation for you, but that each unit of it revels in just that same sensation and will go away the better and the happier for it.
Additionally for July 3rd., see 'Bibliophiles delight'
I have bought the hundred books which Bells allows you to select from the six hundred volumes of Bohn's Libraries. They stand in a long beautiful row, houseless on the top of my shelves. Arriving late last night from Witley, eager to view them - they had been delivered in my absence - I cut several of them and looked through Juvenal, Suetonius, and da Vinci.
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Last Friday, for Ministry. I saw generals Macdonogh and Macready (first visit to War Office) and Albert Thomas, the French Socialist politician.
Saturday I learnt at home that Lockyer was called up for medical exam.
Last night I dined with Beaverbrook, the Edwin Montagues and Diana Manners being of the party, at the Savoy. Dinner arranged for 9 p.m. At 9.15 Montagu and I having waited, began. The rest arrived at 9.20. When the conversation turned on Diana being the original of Queen in "The Pretty Lady" my attitude was apparently so harsh that Beaverbrook changed the subject. It may be that I was still a little cross from the late start. I cannot abide unpunctuality. We afterwards went five in a taxi to B.'s rooms at Hyde Park Hotel. After a time Diana and I sat on a window-sill of B.'s bedroom, looking at a really superb night view over the park. One small light burning in the bedroom. B.'s pyjamas second-rate. Some miscellaneous talk about life and women. After they had all gone but me B. asked me what I thought of Diana. I told him I thought she was unhappy through idleness. He said he liked her greatly. This may be ominous for her though I think she will prove more than a match for him. She has, apparently, described B. as “This strange attractive gnome with an odour of genius about him”. Interesting.
See also 'A visit to Berlin'
and 'The Wrong Lady Diana'
Additionally for July 2nd., see 'Feeling better'
Sprightly. I then went out for a walk in the fair but unsatisfactory weather. Returned by bus. Dined alone with Dorothy. We played the greater part of Schubert's Octet - pianoforte 4 mains. Great noise and fun, which did me much good, for I had been depressed.
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
David Lloyd George, Vittorio Orlando,
Georges Clemenceau, and Woodrow Wilson
Where does it all begin? History has no beginnings for everything that happens becomes the cause or pretext for what occurs afterwards, and this chain of cause and pretext stretches back to the palaeolithic age, when the first Cain of one tribe murdered the first Abel of another. All war is fratricide. There is therefore an infinite chain of blame that winds its circuitous route back and forth across the path and under the feet of every people and every nation. So, the people who are the victims of one time become the victimisers a generation later, and newly liberated nations resort immediately to the means of their former oppressors. The triple contagions of nationalism, utopianism and religious absolutism effervesce together into an acid that corrodes humanity's moral metal.
I heard an ambassador answering questions this morning about the likely response of his nation to an apparent terrorist attack. He indicated that 'action' would be taken so as to punish the perpetrators, by which he meant not the actual people who carried out the attack but their host population. It was put to him that by responding to violence with violence only perpetuates the conflict. His response was to draw a distinction between his democratically governed nation and the terrorists. It strikes me that his government are democratically elected terrorists.
Monday, 30 June 2014
Mrs. Le Gallienne talked to me with much freedom about her husband. She said she had found she could do nothing more for him, and, as they differed as to the desirability of life in New York, she had left him, and they corresponded and so on. She described how charming he was when he was charming, and how diverting it was to live with such a wayward artistic temperament. There was one thing she could say: he had never bored her. However, she had had enough of artistic temperament. Mrs. Le Gallienne is herself a very charming person. I find myself rather attracted to her and could wish that she might become interested in a less temperamental artist.
For more of Mrs. Le Gallienne see 'Two fair ladies'
Today I finished the second part of "Hugo". I began to arrange the third part of "Hugo" yesterday with some success.
The weather remains warm and splendid.
Sunday, 29 June 2014
Eclipse morning. Began at 5.26 a.m. and finished at 7.18, I think. Up till nearly 6.30 (when eclipse supposed to be at its height), I perceived practically no diminution of light; but of course the light didn't increase as it normally would have done. Eclipse was a complete wash-out. Also I had a thoroughly bad night.
I also finished correcting the typescript of my Florence Journal. Miss Nerney said spontaneously: "I love copying it." I think myself that it may be interesting.
Saturday, 28 June 2014
Arrived here last night at 7.20. We took drinks at Headquarters of a Commandant of whom I didn't catch the name. This drink (lemon and water and sugar) restored me more than any drink I ever had. We did a great deal of rough walking yesterday. Much marching up and down hills and among woods, gazing at horses and hot-water douches, baths and barbers shops, and deep dugouts called 'Tipperary', and guns of various calibre. Estimated 20 miles. I put it at 12.
We inspected hills of coils of the most formidable barbed wire, far surpassing that of farmers, well contrived to tear to pieces any human being who, having got into its entanglement, should try to get out again. Also the four-pointed contraptions calledchevaux de frise which, however you throw them, will always stick a fatal point upwards, to impale the horse or man who cannot or will not look where he is going. Everything in this parc du genie(engineers park) in unimagined quantities.
Close by, a few German prisoners performing sanitary duties under a guard. They were men in God's image, and they went about on the assumption that all the rest of the war lay before them and that there was a lot of it. A General told us that he had mentioned to them the possibility of an exchange of prisoners, whereupon they had gloomily and pathetically protested. They very sincerely did not want to go back whence they had come, preferring captivity, humiliation, and the basest tasks to a share in the great glory of German arms. To me they had a brutalised air, no doubt one minor consequence of military ambition in high places.
Not many minutes away was a hospital, what the French call an ambulance de premiere ligne, contrived out of a factory. This was the hospital nearest the trenches in that region, and the wounded came to it directly from the dressing stations which lie immediately behind the trenches. There were few patients when we were there, yet the worn face of the doctor in charge showed that vast labours must have been accomplished in those sombre chambers. In the very large courtyard a tent operating-hospital was established. Ether smell. Some cases operated on here in an hour after wound.
Another short ride and we were in an aviation park, likewise tented, in the midst of an immense wheatfield on the lofty side of a hill. There were six hangars of canvas, each containing an aeroplane. A young non-commissioned officer with a marked Southern accent explained to us the secret nature of things. He was wearing both the Military Cross and the Legion of Honour, for he had done wondrous feats in the way of shooting the occupants of Taube in mid-air. Naturally after this we visited some auto-cannons expressly constructed for bringing down aeroplanes. In front of these marvels it was suggested to us that we should neither take photographs nor write down exact descriptions. The high-priest of these guns was a middle-aged artillery Captain who explained their operation in an esoteric yet quite comprehensible language. The demoniac ingenuity of these guns was impressive to a high degree.
We inspected a "seventy-five", a very sympathetic creature, in blue-grey with metallic hints. We beheld the working of the gun by two men, and we beheld the different sorts of shells in their delved compartments. But this was not enough for us. We ventured to suggest that it would be proper to try to kill a few Germans for our amusement. The request was instantly granted. It was done. It was done with disconcerting rapidity. The shell was put in its place. A soldier pulled a string. Bang! A neat, clean, not too loud bang! The messenger had gone instantly forth. The "seventy-five" was enthusiastically praised by every officer present. He is beloved like a favourite sporting dog, and with cause.
Friday, 27 June 2014
Went to London on Tuesday for Cedric's concert and returned yesterday. At the concert I seemed to see everyone I had ever known up to the age of thirty. Vast air of a family party about it. Simultaneous carrying of two similar bouquets by two attendants up the two aisles to Evelyn Jennings after her first group of songs. Probably most of the friends were nervous.
In the afternoon, just after our arrival, we saw the King and President Poincare pass, two lonely men, one red and gold, the other black and white and bald, along the empty road, with soldiers and policemen dividing them from a thin crowd.
Wednesday morning, David Rice accosted me in Bond Street. Hadn't seen him for at least fifteen years. He cursed the British tradesmen. So did I.
On Thursday morning I went into a swagger West End hosiers to buy a necktie. I said "Good morning" on entering. Vendeur was a man of fifty at least. Through sheer social social clumsiness and heaviness he made no response, didn't even smile. I wish I had just turned around and walked back out again without a further word but it was not that he meant to be impolite. He unthawed before I had bought two neckties, and gloomily saluted me as I went out. Many of the shops in this district are being cleaned and garnished at 10 a.m.
Additionally for June 27th., see 'Gloomy in Paris'
Stanlaws, the "creator" of the 'Stanlaws girl', was there, a terrible American, and also a girl I had previously seen at Kelly's. The girl and Stanlaws, and the man who was the girl's host, threw bread at each other, and sang American songs very loudly. It was terrible at times. I could not stand such manners and customs for long. It is these things which spoil Montparnasse. We finished up at the Cafe de Versailles.
Thursday, 26 June 2014
Mair and I dined at Meaux last evening. Lord Esher came in, wearing a fancy military costume - perhaps that of Constable of Windsor Castle. A star was depending from his neck. As soon as he saw my eye on it he tucked it inside his double-breasted khaki coat.
"You see that white line on the hills opposite," said an officer, opening a large scale map. I guessed it was a level road. "That is the German trenches," said he. "They are five miles away. Their gun positions are in the woods. Our own trenches are invisible from here."
It constituted a great moment, this first vision of the German trenches. With the thrill came the lancinating thought: "All of France that lies beyond that line, land just like the land on which I am standing, inhabited by people just like the people who are talking to me, is under the insulting tyranny of the invader." And I also thought, as the sense of distance quickened my imagination to realise that these trenches stretched from Ostend to Switzerland, and that the creators of them were prosecuting similar enterprises as far north-east as Riga, and as far south-east as the confines of Roumania: "The brigands are mad, but they are mad in the grand manner."
We were at the front. We had driven for twenty miles along a very busy road which was closed to civilians. The civil life of the district was in abeyance, proceeding precariously from meal to meal. Aeroplanes woke the sleep. No letter could leave a post office without a precautionary delay of three days. Telegrams were suspect. To get into a railway station was almost as difficult as to get into paradise. And yet nowhere did I see a frown or hear a complaint. Everybody comprehended that the exigencies of the terrific military machine were necessary exigencies. Everybody waited, waited, in confidence and with tranquil smiles.
We were veritably at the front. There was however not a whisper of war, nor anything visible except the thin pale line like a striation on the distant hills. Then a far-off sound of thunder is heard. It is a gun. A faint puff of smoke is pointed out to us. Neither the rumble nor the transient cloudlet makes any apparent impression on the placid and wide dignity of the scene. nevertheless, this is war. And war seems a very vague, casual, and negligible thing. We are led about fifty feet to the left, where in a previous phase a shell has indented a huge hole in the earth. The sight of the hole renders war rather less vague and rather less negligible.
"There are 80,000 men in front of us," says an officer, indicating the benign shimmering, empty landscape.
"Interred - in the trenches."
It is incredible.
"And the other interred - the dead?" I ask.
"We never speak of them. But we think of them a good deal."