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

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Monday, 7 April 2014

Social philosophy

Monday, April 7th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Last week, being in need of inspirational bucking-up, I dropped "War and Peace" and read Balzac's "Cure de Tours" and "Pierrette". Latter better than Saintsbury says it is. Balzac was an ignorant and crude man, often childish in his philosophising. But if he had been properly educated and influenced he would have been a great social philosopher. His apercus are often astounding. And his vitality is terrific. he is full of inspiring and agreeable ornament. Nothing of the kind in Tolstoy. All a flat recital. Often dull, unless you give yourself to it. But if you do he is never dull. Some of Tolstoy's long descriptions (such as of the wolf-hunt on Count Ilza's estate) are extremely beautiful. Natasha is the most beautiful character - anyway up to page 700 or so, where I now am.

Will I be thought of as any sort of social philosopher in the future? I should certainly think that my Five Towns books will be useful as social history, but have my characters any universal significance? I would like to think so. And when I think for example about the marriage of Edwin and Hilda, as described in "These Twain", it seems to me, and others have told me, that I have captured something important, if not profound. Also death has featured in several of my books and I think I have shown something of the variety of human response to that most troubling of experiences.

Additionally for April 7th., see 'Identity and disguise'

Since the war I have naturally become a target for satire, and I know it. It is partly the price of fame and partly because I have deliberately courted publicity and made myself into a 'character'. I have become a popular cartoon subject, turning up in various guises - at first nights, in the barber's and in the cartoon above. All publicity is essentially good publicity and I have given the press and cartoonists things to seize on - very fine lace shirts, the quiff of my hair, and my fob. I consider these to be both an identity and a disguise.

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