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

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Thursday, 13 March 2014


Wednesday, March 13th., Royal York Hotel, Brighton.

I came down here to rid myself of the obstinate neuralgic sequelae of a quite mild attack of influenza. Also for the purpose of getting an idea for a short story. Despite entertaining, and being entertained, and free indulgence in the most agreeable and (to me) most pernicious of all alcoholic liquids, champagne, I attained both objectives in three days.

Of all the circle in which I 'move' I think I am almost the only person who likes Brighton. The sole thing I object to in Brighton is the penny-in-the-slot machines on the piers. Brighton has character, as the man who made its fame had character - but his character was evil. I have spent months and months in Brighton, and I thought I knew the place, especially the 'Lanes'; but today I found a second-hand bookshop previously unknown to me. I went in there immediately and discovered some plays of Labiche, an author of whom the bookseller had never heard - so that I got the plays cheap! I bought twelve books for £1 15s. This episode gave me no idea for my short story, but it certainly did something to cure my neuralgia.

Later I went for a ride along the shore on the Electric Railway. Years ago the proprietor of this railway gave me a season-ticket for it because he liked one of my books. An example which might advantageously be followed by the G.W.R., the L.M.S., the L.N.E.R., the S.R., and other systems.

The son of a German clockmaker Magnus Volk was born at 35 (now 40) Western Road, Brighton in 1851. Educated in the town he was eventually apprenticed to a scientific instrument maker but on the death of his father in 1869 he returned home to assist his mother run the family business. Scientific and engineering events in the wider world were of great interest to Magnus and he was forever experimenting with electricity, telegraphy and telephony. His growing prowess as an inventor and engineer and the fact that he was the first person in Brighton to equip his house with electric light, led to him being awarded the contract for providing the famous Royal Pavilion with electric incandescent lighting. Contacts made during this period were to prove very important with Magnus’s next and most long-lasting project. At noon on August 4th, 1883 Magnus presented the people of Brighton with his latest creation – an electric railway operating over a quarter of a mile of 2ft gauge line extending from a site on the seashore opposite the Aquarium to the Chain Pier. Power was provided by a 2hp Otto gas engine driving a Siemans D5 50 volt DC generator. The small electric car was fitted with a 1½hp motor giving a top speed of about 6mph.

I was asked recently by a friend why I write. Of course I said that I write because writing is, and has been, my livelihood. The obvious follow-up question was whether I would write if I had independent means and had no need to earn money. I have been thinking about this and conclude that I might still do some writing (such as keeping this journal) for pleasure, but I would certainly not rack my brains to write novels, short stories and newspaper articles as I have done for the last 40 years. To think that if I have averaged (conservatively) 250,000 words a year, then I have written 10 million words! And how much time does that equate to when I could have been doing other things? No, I am a professional writer, and that is all there is to say. 

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