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

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Tuesday, 27 May 2014


Monday, May 27th., Cadogan Square, London.

My birthday. I am 62 today. I celebrated it by going to Portland Place and undergoing what for some inexplicable reason is called a thorough 'overhaul'. I had been warned that every man over 50 ought to be 'overhauled' every few years, whether he thinks he needs it or not. Dire maladies may unobtrusively begin their awful work within you, and develop and develop quite unsuspected, and then suddenly declare open war on you, and you are dead before you are prepared for death. Moreover, had I not been suffering from chronic insomnia for many years, and must not insomnia have a cause? And so on. The advice seemed sensible. As regards insomnia, my overhauler suggested that I should take a drug, 'medinol', every night for 3 months or 6 months. Apparently it is absolutely harmless, and so far as I can judge it is. The doctor also told me that I ought not to eat spinach - me who have been regarding spinach as the staff of life for many years past! Yes, such was the advice I paid for.

My nephew George Beardmore wrote to me recently enclosing a novel he has written. It is an orgy of phrasing rather than a book, but there is very real imagination in it, and a lot of very good and original writing. The plot is not good and is obscured by excessive description and capricious incident. Nevertheless the thing has distinction and a good deal of promise. I have advised him not to attempt to get it published. He clearly has it in mind to 'follow in my footsteps'. I wonder if he would have been inspired to write but for the accident of my being his uncle?

I have been reproached for writing in the Evening Standard about rare editions, first editions, beautiful editions, the argument being that such matters have no real relation to literature itself, and that what counts in a book is the stuff in it, not the presentation of the stuff in it. To my mind the argument is ridiculous. A book is a physical object as well as a medium for the transmission of thought, emotion and information. And the attributes, including the historical attributes, of the physical object react upon the person to whom the thought, emotion or information is being transmitted.

Additionally for May 27th., see 'Praise and disappointment'

Wells, Whitten and Marriott think that "A Great Man", recently published, is my best book. And Phillpotts is enchanted with it. I was touched by Wells' praise, my only surprise being that he didn't find more fault with it. As a matter of fact I could have done it better, especially towards the end. But, having conceived it as a 'lark', I fell into the error of regarding it technically as a 'lark' also. I told Wells that it was just one writing, no draft, practically no erasures, & about two months' work at most. He always seems to prefer the work which costs me the least trouble. But what is the use of talking about colours to the blind?

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