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

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Monday, 14 April 2014

At the Cafe Royal

Tuesday, April 14th., Cadogan Square, London.

Dorothy and I dined at the Cafe Royal (in the cafe) on Easter Sunday night. I hadn't dined in that room for years. It seems to have come through all the changes and rebuildings of architectures and times with scarcely a change. The whole atmosphere was almost, you'd think, just as when Henri Rochefort was there daily. Fine wine. Cigars in A1 condition.

The Cafe Royal was originally conceived and set up in 1865 by Nicholas Thévenon, who was a French wine merchant. He had to flee France due to bankruptcy, arriving in Britain in 1863 with his wife, Célestine, and just five pounds in cash. He changed his name to Daniel Nicols. Under his son, also named Daniel Nicols, the Cafe Royal flourished and was considered at one point to have the greatest wine cellar in the world. 
By the 1890s the Café Royal had become the place to see and be seen. Its patrons have included Oscar WildeAleister CrowleyVirginia Woolf, Winston Churchill, Noël Coward, Sir Max Beerbohm, Arnold Bennett and George Bernard Shaw.

I saw a very arty- or studio-ish figure there and couldn't think who it was. Tall, thin, bearded; brown clothes, black tie, red handkerchief. As soon as I shook hands with him I remembered. Darrell Figgis. He was cheerful with a background of melancholy. He comes over on journalistic business, stays at the R.A. Club in order to have a swim in the morning, and generally eats at the Cafe Royal. There he was all alone on Easter Sunday evening, reading an American collection of short stories by post-war Russian authors. All very characteristic.

I asked him to come to our table later. He did. He talked merely at intervals, but is rather provincial in his method of referring to himself and what he has done and what he has said. Dublin is very provincial. He agreed with my harsh verdict on A.E., etc. He was wearing fine rings. Perhaps two of them were his wife's.

Darrell Figgis (1882-1925) was born in Rathmines, Dublin, and as a young man he worked in London but then moved to Achill Island to write and learn Irish at the Scoil Acla Summer School and to gain an appreciation of Irish culture. Figgis was a poet and in 1910 he joined the Dent publishing company. However, after his detention following the Easter Rising, he and the publishing house ‘parted company’. Subsequently he established his own publishing firm. Figgis joined the Irish Volunteers in Dublin in 1913 and organised the original Battalion of Volunteers in Achill. While in London, he became involved with a group gun runners who financed and supplied German rifles to the Volunteers. Although he did not participate in the 1916 Easter Rising, Figgis was arrested and interned by the British authorities between 1916 and 1917 in Reading Gaol. After his release, Figgis returned to Ireland. At the 1917 Sinn Féin Ardfheis he was elected Honorary Secretary of Sinn Féin. In May 1918, Figgis was arrested for his alleged part in the spurious German Plot and deported to England. In 1918, he became editor of the newspaper The Republic. In 1924, Figgis’ wife Millie took her own life, and a year later Figgis himself committed suicide in London. He is buried in the West Hampstead Cemetery, London.

Additionally for April 14th., see 'The habit of contentment'

Advance of age. I now sit down to brush my hair and put my collar and tie on. I also take a decided pleasure in forming habits, and re-forming old ones connected with the furniture from Fontainebleau, whose little peculiarities of locks and knobs etc. I recognise again with positive satisfaction. The pleasure of doing a thing in the same way at the same time every day, and savouring it, should be noted.

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