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

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Monday, 30 June 2014


Thursday, June 4th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

I went down last night after dinner to see Mrs. Le Gallienne, and found that she had just been dining with Hind and a Miss Macdonald, a beautiful girl whose father and brother are Paris correspondents of English papers. We all went out to the Boul. St. Michel and had coffee at the Cafe Harcourt. An enormous crowd of students and bourgeois, with the orchestra in the centre, and cocottes wandering continuously around the circumference: a warm night. 

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


Wednesday, June 29th., Cadogan Square, London.

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. 

A total solar eclipse occurred on June 29, 1927. The path of totality crossed far northern Europe and Asia. This was the first total eclipse visible from British mainland soil for 203 years.

I wrote 500 words of "Accident" before lunch. I walked to the Reform Club to meet Swinnerton by appointment, and we lunched. Then I resumed the novel. I wasn't quite so fired up as in the morning. In the morning I made Alan lose his temper, and I did it with such heat that I felt just as if I had lost my own temper when I went down to see Miss Nerney and I felt called upon to explain to her the cause of my demeanour.

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

Experience of war

Monday, June 28th., Chateau Thierry, Picardy, France.

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

In town

Friday, June 27th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

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

Enemy in sight

Saturday, June 26th., Rheims.

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.

Reginald Baliol Brett, 2nd Viscount Esher (1852 – 1930) was a historian and Liberal politician in the United Kingdom, although his greatest influence over military and foreign affairs was as a courtier, member of public committees and behind-the-scenes "fixer". During the First World War Esher was, in one writer’s description, de facto head of British Intelligence in France, reporting on the French domestic and political situation. He reportedly told his son he preferred not to have a formal position where he would have to take orders.

Chateau Pommery
Today we were met at a poste de commandement by the officers in charge, who were waiting for us. After the rites of greeting, we walked up to the high terrace of Chateau Pommary, a considerable chateau close by. France lay before us in a shimmering vast semicircle. In the distance a low range of hills, irregularly wooded; then a river; then woods and spinneys; then vineyards - boundless vineyards which climbed in varying slopes out of the valley almost to our feet. The champagne proprietor didn't want me to drink water! Far to the left was a town with lofty factory chimneys, smokeless. Peasant women were stooping in the vineyards; the whole of the earth seemed to be cultivated and to be yielding bounteously. It was a magnificent summer afternoon. The sun was high and a few huge purple shadows moved with august deliberation across the brilliant greens. An impression of peace, majesty, grandeur; and of the mild, splendid richness of the soil of France.

"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.
"But where?"
"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."

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Friday, June 25th., Amberley, Sussex.

I walked in the morning along my now-fixed Storrington Road, which suits me very well for thinking because it is not distracting, and then I began to write. 900 words before lunch, 500 before tea and 500 after tea: after which I went for a walk on the Downside with Dorothy.

Hearing a "Twilight of the Gods" record on Thursday night, I had a mood for really lifting up the love scene between Harriet and Luke today in "The Vanguard": but I doubt if actually I did lift it up very much. 

For some time now I have been of the view that 'morality' is meaningless. This based on the obvious fact that exceptions can easily be found for any moral principle, so what is the point? However, the other day I was listening to a lecture about control of the mind, something which has always been close to my heart, and was presented with an argument for moral behaviour I had not previously considered. To whit, that it is sensible to strive to comply with certain basic moral precepts because the act of so doing has a beneficial and restorative effect on the mind; conversely, that a failure to act 'morally' has a corrosive impact on the mind, making serenity impossible. There may be something in this.

The lecturer suggested that there are five precepts common to religious and secular ethical systems: not to harm others; not to steal; to be temperate in language; to be sexually continent; to avoid intoxication/addiction. Each was elaborated and reference made to examples from a variety of sources including the Buddha and St. Augustine. It was suggested to the audience to each make a personal 'moral inventory' as a first step. I shall give this some thought.

Additionally for June 25th., see 'Another first night'

Another oath broken. After some fantastic experiences at my own first nights, I had sworn never to attend another. But when I told the authorities of Covent Garden that I should not be present at the first performance of the Goossens-Me opera "Judith", there was such horrified, outraged protest that I accepted a box on the spot.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014


Friday, June 24th., Fulham Park Gardens, London.

When Lewis Hind gave me George Moore's "Evelyn Innes" to review for the Academy I was careful to explain to him my attitude of admiration towards George Moore, and he told me to write exactly what I thought, without considering him. He explicitly gave me carte blanche. For once, therefore, I expressed myself as regards fiction in general and George Moore in particular. I sent in the article 11 days ago. Today Hind writes me that "while fully acknowledging the excellence" of the article, he will not use it, though he will pay for it! The timidity of people in the matter of George Moore's work is almost incredible. My article was indeed an excellent one, and I was intensely annoyed that it should be lost to the public. For the sake of English fiction such articles are sadly needed.

For more on George Moore see 'A man of opinion'

Talking to Webster about sex in fiction last night, I convinced him and myself that no serious attempt had yet been made by a man to present essential femininity; also that the chasm between male and female was infinitely wider and deeper than we commonly realised - in fact an absolutely unpracticable chasm.

A woman might draw, and probably has drawn, woman with justice and accuracy for her own sex. But a woman's portrait of a woman is not of much use to a man. Either it is meaningless to him - a hyeroglyphic - or it tells him only things which he knew. A woman is too close to woman to observe her with aloofness and yet with perfect insight. Observation can only be conducted from the outside. A woman cannot possibly be aware of the things in herself which puzzle us; and our explanations of our difficulties would simply worry her. The two sexes must for ever remain distant, antagonistic, and mutually inexplicable.

Additionally for June 24th., see 'First battlefield'

Thence to Chambry. Many tombs in wheat, and hidden by wheat. Barbed wire on four stout posts (a bird on post), white wooden cross. Always a small white flag. Not always a name. On every side in these fields, the gleam of cross or flag as far as you can see. Scores and scores. Dark green-purple of distant wooded hills against high green of fields.
Cemetery used for firing from. Holes in wall.
Wheat absolutely growing out of a German. The Battlefield is between Barcy and Chambry. Barcy is high; Chambry is low, like Meaux. Round through battlefield German army was going south-east, and chiefly east.
General impression. How little is left. How cultivation and civilisation have covered the disaster over.

Monday, 23 June 2014

One who 'counts'

Tuesday, June 23rd., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

At John Lane's I met John Buchan, just now principal 'reader' to the Bodley Head. A very young, fair man; charmingly shy; 'varsity' in every tone and gesture. He talks quietly in a feminine, exiguous voice, with the accent of Kensington tempered perhaps by a shadow of a shade of Scotch (or was that my imagination?). Already - he cannot be more than 23 - he is a favourite of publishers, who actually seek after him, and has published one book. He told me that his second novel, a long Scotch romance, was just finished, and that he had practically sold the serial rights ...  A most modest, retiring man, yet obviously sane and shrewd. Well-disposed too, and anxious to be just; a man to compel respect; one who 'counts'.

John Buchan (1875 – 1940) was a Scottish novelist, historian and Unionist politician who served as Governor General of Canada, the 15th since Canadian Confederation. After a brief legal career Buchan simultaneously began both his writing career and his political and diplomatic career, serving as a private secretary to the colonial administrator of various colonies in Southern Africa. He eventually wrote propaganda for the British war effort in the First World War. Once he was back in civilian life Buchan was elected Member of Parliament for theCombined Scottish Universities, but he spent most of his time on his writing career, notably writing The Thirty-Nine Steps and other adventure fiction. In 1935 he was appointed Governor General of Canada by King George V, on the recommendation of Prime Minister of Canada Richard Bennett, to replace the Earl of Bessborough. He occupied the post until his death in 1940. Buchan proved to be enthusiastic about literacy, as well as the evolution of Canadian culture, and he received a state funeral in Canada before his ashes were returned to the United Kingdom.

For more on Buchan see 'First novel'

Additionally for June 23rd., see 'Finishing Clayhanger'

I have just (3 p.m.) finished "Clayhanger" one week in advance of time. 160,800 words. For the last few days it has monopolised me. But quite contrary to my general practice towards the end of a novel I have kept in magnificent health.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Joys of yachting

Monday, June 22nd., Cadogan Square, London.

Marie Marguerite dressed for a birthday
On Saturday I returned from 17 days yachting on the "Marie Marguerite". Not two minutes rain in the whole time. I have a specially fitted desk on the yacht which I use for writing in bad weather, but this time its use has not been necessary. I enjoy every minute of yachting, even when lying sleepless at night. Still, I was thinking about the sociological side of dressing the ship. This job takes the captain and the mate, two highly skilled men, one and a half hours. I don't see how it could be justified economically. It can't. But all important yachting would be similarly unjustifiable. Yet what a real calamity it would be if these magnificent objects called yachts were put out of action! It would be a retrogression of civilisation. Still, I often ask why I allow myself to keep eight men, and very good men, solely to extend my personality and serve my pleasure.

Tonight "The Cherry Orchard" is transferred from the Lyric, Hammersmith, to the Royalty. This I think marks a definite turn in public taste towards true plays. I have been remarking this turn for some years, but managers seem quite blind.

When Fagan produced "The Cherry Orchard" for us at the Lyric, we thought it ought to be done but did not believe in it. On the Thursday after the first performance (Monday) none of us believed in it, and Fagan met the directors and agreed without argument that the thing was a failure. But a few days later he was believing in it (by reason of the enthusiasm of small audiences), but the returns were still awful, and the loss heavy. Then the returns enormously improved. Loss became a profit, and tonight this most disconcerting and original play has come in a sort of triumph to the West End, where no manager would have looked at it a month ago. All this is owing to Nigel Playfair having seen it done at Oxford, and being firmly backed by me in his desire to have it done at the Lyric.

So, it played at the Royalty this evening to a by no means full and rather apathetic and not at all first-night audience. But I was struck still more than ever by the power and beauty of the play.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

To the Front

Monday, June 21st., Paris.

After much waiting I am finally on my way to the French Front. As late as last Wednesday the telegram  granting permission had still not arrived. And on Friday I paid three visits to Godfrey, Mair's secretary, to get my passport for France and police pass. In the end the police pass was wrongly filled up. And the passport had been marked 'Havre' instead of 'Boulogne', although no passengers are allowed to land at Havre.

Victoria Station 7.45. Given a form to fill up. Couldn't get a big bag through without registering. People coming off train. Shabby, respectable girls etc. Hot summer's morning. Soldiers. Officers. Staff officers on train.
A general: crossed sword and baton with star: "What I should really like to know is, how they relieve those trenches at night."

Fine voyage. My police pass saved me a great deal of trouble of waiting at Folkestone, more at Boulogne. Channel covered with shipping. Boom for several miles outside Folkestone, buoyed at about every hundred yards.
Stationary Hospital 13 at Boulogne

Impression at Boulogne of men of military age not engaged, similar to that at Folkestone.
Arrival of bevy of nurses, white starched muslin blue- and red- edged in car at 'Stationary Hospital'. Arrival of Army Postal Van, with legends about Y.M.C.A. and Kaiser written in finger in the white dust on the sides.

Etaples. Hospitals and Camp. As English as England. Hay in some places made and laid in cocks. Arrived Abbeville 4.15, having taken three hours to do 80 or 90 kil. The whole line, station and scene, make an impression like perpetual Sunday, except for soldiers and camps.

Amiens. Very old man in a new long blue blouse and swagger check trousers showing beneath. Probably had retired and been brought back again.

Paris. I had at first a rather false impression about streets; in big streets over half the shops were closed. Then I recollected that the hour was after 7. A peculiar feeling certainly all over Paris. No autobuses, but trams. Few taxis. I saw the horse bus Madeleine-Bastille, with a woman in charge, bareheaded and with a great black bag over her abdomen. About 40; on easy terms with the passengers. Paris even darker than London. Same impression in Paris as in London of young men not in uniform.

Mair and I went to Godebski's after dinner. Godebski would not believe that 33 submarines sunk. Very harsh on Italy.
See also, 'Parisian culture'

Thursday, 19 June 2014

How I go on

Thursday, June 19th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Yesterday I finished the first half of the Harper novel. Wrote 1,400 words on Monday. But, exhausted by work, and by an excess of physical exercise (taken to cure liver) I took a froid sur la digestion on Monday night.

Yesterday I wrote 1,900 words between 10.15 and 1 o'clock. Enormous. Went to bed immediately after dinner, feeling cold on shoulders and ventre (cependant temp de 20 degrees centigrade in bedroom); had a hot water bottle, which so stimulated me that I had no desire for sleep until 3 o'clock, when it was light again. I had three hours sleep at the most. Nevertheless I feel fairly fit this morning. This is a fair sample of 'how I go on'. Today I have no doubt I shall find all necessary ideas for the last article of the series, "The Story Teller's Craft".

Additionally for June 19th., see 'Dark thoughts'

Reading "Le Lys Rouge" tonight. The love scene (Chap. 23) in which Therese tries to rid Decharte of his ideees noires concerning her absolute fidelity to him, is extremely fine in its sensual way. It is just the sort of thing that A. France can do, and it atones for much of the invertebrate quality of the book. If I can accomplish anything as good in "Carlotta" I ought to be satisfied.

I had idees noires myself tonight. There are certainly times when the fact that existence is a choice of evils presents itself too clearly.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Theatre talk

Wednesday, June 18th., Yacht Club, London.

Basil Dean and Alec Rea came to tea here, and I was very pleased with them and their general attitude. They proposed to 'try out' "Sacred and Profane Love" at Liverpool on September 15th., and to open at Aldwych about October 1st. 

Basil Dean told a good rehearsal story. He said that they rehearsed Shaw's "Pygmalion" for 9 weeks at His majesty's and that in the middle Mrs. Pat Campbell went away for two weeks on her honeymoon. When she returned there was some trouble about her rendering. When she had altered it she said to Shaw: "Is that better?" Shaw said: "No, it isn't." He was getting shirty. Mrs. P. C. was taken aback. She replied however: "You are a terrible man Mr. Shaw. One day you'll eat a beefsteak and then God help all women." It is said that Shaw blushed.

Additionally for June 18th., see 'Nightmare journey'

I have a great passion for this new sport of bicycling, in spite of occasional accidents. Arguably the bicycle has liberated a whole generation of youths, done a great deal (indirectly through the bloomers) for the emancipation of women, and changed the kinship structure of British village life, possibly saving many a pocket of rural England from genetic decline. It is a convenient democratic pastime which suits my nature particularly well; riding a bicycle is not unlike writing a novel in that both are good for exercising the will.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Domestic discontent

Friday, June 17th., George Street, London.

I finished "Mr. Prohack" at 3.57 yesterday afternoon.

Last night Cochran dined with me, and at 10 p.m. we went to see Petrouchka. The dinner was to discuss the idea of me writing a revue with Lucas for him.

It is remarkable that I am able to concentrate on any work at all as Marguerite continues to make my domestic life a misery. At the moment the focus of her discontent is the arrangements for the summer's yachting. It seems to me that she is deliberately misunderstanding what I say so as to be disagreeable. This may be some sort of perverse response to feelings of guilt following the Legros 'affair'. For example, I have told her again and again that I am quite prepared to go to Ostende or Dinard in the yacht to meet her in September; she asserts that I have said I would not go to Ostende. Why this has assumed such significance I do not know. She persists in desiring me to buy a new motor car though I have told her I cannot at the moment and pointed out that the present one is in perfect working order. And she still seems to think there is no impropriety in Legros visiting Comarques when I am away. Surely this must be a species of calculated challenge to my tolerance.

Additionally for June 17th., see 'Youthful visitors'

Elsa Lanchester and Harold Scott came to lunch yesterday. She had a most charming dress, home-made. She said she had made it out of dusters, and I believe she had. Very young. A lovely complexion, wonderful shock of copper hair; a rather queerly blunted nose. Harold staggered her and Dorothy by arriving in a hat. He never wears hats, but had apparently decided to learn to dress. Both deeply interested in their cabaret schemes. Discussing it among themselves and with Dorothy. Largely ignoring me, though no conscious rudeness. Youthful severity on other, older, people. I offered to pay for some chairs and tables for their cabaret, but they were not at all keen on them, apparently preferring the audience to sit on the floor (so, I am unlikely to be in one of their audiences!). However, they took them. I should say that these people are bound to do something good. They are full of original inventiveness and of distinction.

Monday, 16 June 2014


Saturday, June 16th., Cadogan Square, London.

I messed about in the morning and went to see South Kensington Museum; but I did not get any good ideas for my last act. Kitty Roberts and Dorothy and I played tennis in the Square from 12.15 to 1.15. Cynthia Noble came for lunch. Then I had a heavy sleep. I started out for a walk to get ideas but felt too tired and read "La Princesse de Cleves", which has a classic feel.

Eugene Goossens and Alick Shepeler came for dinner. Eugene began to play and sing our opera "Judith". He has evidently set out to do something not too incomprehensible. Better than I had expected. Dramatic. Effective. My libretto seemed quite good. He talked of a production at Covent Garden next year.

For more on Eugene Goossens and the opera "Judith" see 'Another first night'

A young girl from Liverpool called yesterday afternoon, with a packet which an uncle in Peking had charged her to deliver to me personally. So she had come from Liverpool on purpose, though some weeks ago I had told her that she mustn't. She seemed resentful against her uncle; said she knew nothing about the matter and couldn't understand her uncle. I opened the packet. It contained simply the the documents of a British Government official at Peking deeply possessed of a grievance about being dismissed from the Salt administration, and an appeal to me to see that Justice was done. Pathetic.

Additionally for June 16th., see 'Jubilee atmosphere'

Never since first I came to London has the West End been so crowded with sightseers, so congested by the business of pleasure: lines of women, gay and perspiring in the hot sun, recklessly ruffling their light thin frocks in scrambles for seats on the tops of buses; straw-hatted and waistcoatless men continually discussing the price of seats to view the procession, and the fortunes made and lost thereby; the thoroughfares packed with vehicles six and eight deep, and the drivers in their grey felt hats as imperturbable as ever, save for a stronger tendency to quarrel cynically among themselves for right of way. On all sides the sound of hammers on wood, and the sight of aproned carpenters working with the leisurely content of men earning eighteen pence an hour. In all the gutters poles springing up, decorated with muslins and streamers and gilt apexes, and here and there patches, daily growing bigger, of red and blue draperies covering the yellow wood of jubilee stands. Everything, taken separately, ugly and crude, yet in combination, by sheer immensity and bold crudity, certain in the end to produce a great spectacular effect.

Sunday, 15 June 2014


Monday, June 15th., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

Sarah Bernhardt 1896
Sarah Bernhardt was stout last year. This season she is positively obese. But most of the women in her company have waists even larger than hers. Query: is this an accident? Probably not, but why am I writing in this manner? Surely I should be judging Bernhardt on the quality of her acting, not the size of her waist? And she is now well into her fifties after all. It seems that it is part of human nature to find fault with others, and to seize on some aspect of their appearance as a focus. We use the phrase 'bringing someone down to size' which seems apposite in this context. And I cannot exclude myself from this tendency, though I try hard. As an author I should be better than most at looking for the person behind the superficial appearance, and must make a concerted effort so to do.

St George's Infirmary and Workhouse, Fulham Road
Fulham Road is dotted with the aged male inmates of the workhouse in their brown coats and corduroy trousers, out on leave. (The clean, soft pinkiness of their gnarled work-worn hands seems curiously inapposite) One sees a few of them in every public house along the street. Strange that the faces of most of them afford no vindication of the manner of their downfall to pauperdom! I looked in vain for general traces either of physical excess or of moral weakness. Must their helplessness in old age, therefore, be attributed mainly to mere misfortune, adverse fate? Or does society as at present constituted force them to this ignominy? Or is it that the regular healthy existence of the workhouse removes or obscures those signs of physical excess or moral weakness which would account for their failure in life?

Additionally for June 15th., see 'Back to Riceyman Steps'

Coming down from the Pentonville region into Clerkenwell recently I was reflecting in the back-parlour of my mind on 'convention' and 'revolt' in literature. Convention was on the slopes. He that knoweth not Percy Circus (distant view of the romantic towers of St Pancras) should know it. It is a hundred times more conventional than Piccadilly Circus. Also Great Percy Street should be known. Also the Norman arches of Baker Street (W.C.1 not W.1). Also Helena Street, with its antique woodwork all painted verdant green and its ruined chapel. Also Lloyd Square, the most withdrawn square in London. Also Riceymen Steps, formerly Plum Pudding Steps, where was performed a feat of transport surpassing anything ever done in that line in USA, namely the moving of an entire bookseller's shop with all its books and dust from a south coast port to the foot of the Steps. So I descended to King's Cross Road and the new factories and warehouses. It is the latter which represent Revolt. The latest industrial perpendicular style of architecture contrasts uncompromisingly with the conventional blocks of dark "dwellings" which it hems in. And so into Farringdon Road where the book-barrows are.

Saturday, 14 June 2014


Tuesday, June 14th., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

I seem to be doing an average of 2,000 words a day now of "Clayhanger". Only 13,000 words remain to be done. But they are very much on my mind.

When I am not working here, I am walking in the forest and worrying over the invention, 5 to 7 miles a day. Of course it is impossible to appreciate the forest whilst preoccupied with one's work. I look forward to completing the novel, and I shall then endeavour (for a little while at least) to lose myself in the here and now. I want to focus on the immediate sensations of life, the sense impressions, the sights, sounds and smells; even the feel of the air on the skin. It is impossible to do this when 'thinking'. So much of what we call thinking is nothing of the sort. It is the mind drifting aimlessly, often going in circles around some problem, or more likely just replaying past situations. My aim will be to stop thinking and to start living.

I rise at 5.45 and go to bed about 9.30. 

Additionally for June 14th., see 'Dramatic events'

On getting to the Yacht Club from Richmond at 1.30 I had a telephone message from Marguerite to say that she and Anna were in the air raid at Liverpool Street and unhurt. Today I found out that though the end of their train (11.38) was bombed, Marguerite knew nothing of it, and Anna was only sure that she saw smoke 'by the side of the train' behind her. Neither heard cries of wounded, or broken glass or anything. Marguerite heard 4 bombs, or 5. Anna said she heard a noise and thought it was guns; then she saw a girl porter running and heard her cry "Oh", and thought it was an accident. When she realised it was bombs she remembered nothing more till she 'found herself' near underground lavatory, where people were taking refuge, with Marguerite. They were in different carriages and had lost each other. She saw people 'crouching down' (near base of girders apparently).

This morning I saw remains of a German aeroplane being motored up Piccadilly.

Friday, 13 June 2014

An offer

Wednesday, June 13th., Cadogan Square, London.

I was at the memorial service to Dennis Eadie at St. Martin in the Fields at 12.30. Sat with Mason and Miss Stevens. Then Viola Tree drove me to the Garrick Club so that I could see Gerald du Maurier about my (Faust) play. Gerald offered to accept my play without seeing it. I refused the offer; but promised to do the play as quickly as I could.

For more on Dennis Eadie see 'Mundane matters'

Additionally for June 13th., see 'La vie Parisienne'

I was introduced to Chichi, a young woman of the theatre, by a newspaper friend and she is often here. What a name she has! It is redolent of the very spirit of la vie de Boheme. She is wise in aspects of  Parisian life (really interesting matters!) about which I have been both imaginatively and practically ignorant. She has recounted to me several of her experiences of 'sexual perversions'. Apparently they always wept afterwards! Yet she said to me: 'Mais tous est naturel.' The force of this observation struck me. She tells me that she and her colleagues of the theatre smoke cigarettes in the dressing room though there is now a decree against it. This follows the disaster in the Rue Jean Goujon when a hundred aristocratic dead were left in the flames started by the overturning of a cinematographic projector lamp. "Everyone does it," she says, "but there is an official search of all dressing rooms, etc., once a month by the firemen, and before that an attendant comes round and says to the artists: 'Kindly hide your matches, etc., as the pompiers will be here directly.' " The extraordinary humour of this does not seem to occur to her. I said: "C'est bien Parisien, ca!" She cynically and bitterly agreed that it was.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Quite a day

Sunday, June 12th., Cadogan Square, London.

Alone in the house tonight. Telephone invitation from Syrie Maugham to dine at her house tonight. I accepted for us both.

Lunch alone, during which I finished reading the current number of Nature. Sleep. After which I read Wells's lecture at the Sorbonne, "Democracy under revision", of which he gave me a copy yesterday. Then I went again at my article, and I had finished it at 4.35. I read a lot of Graves's and Edith Sitwell's poetry, and two highbrow monthlies and year books, and most of Virginia Woolf's new novel "To the Lighthouse". In fact I had quite a day of writing and reading.

From H. G. Wells "An Experiment in Autobiography"
In the spring of 1927, I was asked to lecture in the Sorbonne and I chose as my subject Democracy under Revision, in which I insisted on the necessity for some such organization as my Samurai to replace the crude electoral methods of contemporary politics. This was, so to speak, Open Conspiracy propaganda adapted to the peculiarly narrow French outlook. My wife, I may note here, was with me in that Paris journey, we were fĂȘted and entertained and very happy together, and neither of us realized that death was already at work in her and that in six months we should be parted for ever. The title page of that printed lecture is the last of all the title pages on which I ever drew a “picshua” for her. I reproduce it here as a reminder of the life-long companionship and the persistent, unassertive help that underlies all this tale of work. Our last half year together I have described in The Book of Catherine Wells.

Syrie Maugham
We did actually meet the Maughams at 8.31. Syrie was not down but W. S. M. awaited us. The new house is now practically finished and looks very strange and agreeable. I saw Liza Maugham (aged 13) for the first time, after having heard of her for years and years. This evening was very agreeable. Just us four, and some nice talking.
Syrie Wellcome and W. Somerset Maugham married in 1917 in New Jersey, although he was predominantly homosexual and would spend much of his marriage apart from his wife. They divorced in 1928. Her divorce settlement from Maugham was their house at 213 King's Road, fully furnished, a Rolls-Royce, and 2,400 pounds a year for her and 600 pounds a year for Liza.

For more on Maugham see'Woman'

I read a few pages of "Karamazoo" before sleeping. The relief of a masterpiece after all the 'current' stuff which I had been reading and writing during the day.

Additionally for June 12th., see 'Is Clayhanger any good?'

I began "Le Crime et le Chatiment" yesterday, which I have been wanting to read again for about a fortnight. The scene in the cafe and Marmeladoff's confession, seems even finer than it did when I read it at Hockliffe. It is certainly one of the very greatest things in fiction. Absolutely full of the most perfect detail. It really disgusted and depressed me about my own work, which seemed artificial and forced by the side of it. I expect that in most of my work there is too much forcing of the effect. An inability to do a thing and leave it alone. I wrote nearly 4,000 words of "Clayhanger" on Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A literary visitor

Friday, June 11th., Amberley, Sussex.

The novel may be good or it may be bad - but I am doing it easily, and at a great rate. It is not invention that lacks, but rather imagination. John Cowper Powys walked over the downs from Burpham today , and arrived before noon and stayed till after 5.30. He was delighted beyond measure when I spoke very highly of Dreiser's "An American Tragedy". He said Dreiser was very susceptible to praise. He said that Dreiser had sold the film rights of the novel for $50,000.

Powys is a very sentimental man in many ways. He was rather in favour of the general strike, but gave in instantly to my argument that it was right to squash it; but I expect he is in favour of it again by this time. He has very fine literary taste except when he is misled by his few prejudices. I asked him about his days (not evenings) in provincial cities in America. He said he did nothing except walk about. He wanted to work, ie. write, but couldn't work in the hotel bedroom; at least had not seriously tried to. I told him I had written lots and lots in hotel bedrooms and he said that he should try. An untidy fellow of very great charm.

John Cowper Powys (1872-1963) was born in Shirley, Derbyshire, where his father was vicar. His two younger brothers, Llewelyn Powys and Theodore Francis Powys, also became well-known writers. Other brothers and sisters also became prominent in the arts. John studied at Sherborne School and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and became a teacher and lecturer; as lecturer, he worked first in England, then in continental Europe and finally in the USA, where he lived in the years 1904-1934. While in the United States, his work was championed by author Theodore Dreiser. He made his name as a poet and essayist, moving on to produce a series of acclaimed novels distinguished by their uniquely detailed and intensely sensual recreation of time, place and character. They also describe heightened states of awareness resulting from mystic revelation, or from the experience of extreme pleasure or pain. The best known of these distinctive novels are A Glastonbury Romance and Wolf Solent. He also wrote some works of philosophy and literary criticism, including a pioneering tribute to Dorothy Richardson. Having returned to the UK, he lived in England for a brief time, then moved to Corwen in Wales, where he wrote historical romances (including two set in Wales) and magical fantasies. He later moved to Blaenau Ffestiniog, where he remained until his death in 1963.

For more on Powys see 'The English Degenerate'
and The Powys Society

Sometimes, and this was one of those times, when I think back to a conversation or social encounter I am ashamed by my own pomposity. I think I have gotten worse as I have grown older. Do I really feel that I have some sort of monopoly of judgement about what constitutes literary taste? Of course I wrote a book on the subject but at that time I don't think I was the dogmatist that I seem to be now. My Standard articles sometimes incline towards the didactic but I like to think that they are softened by humour; unfortunately I find humour less easy to come by in personal intercourse. 

Additionally for June 11th., see'Originality in fiction'

Writing about books in the Evening Standard, having recently attended the presentation of  the Hawthornden Prize, I was reflecting on the ability of literary panels to reward originality. My revolutionary thoughts on this matter run thus. No selection committee of nice-minded authors and bookish persons can choose a really original work. Their intentions are excellent. They have a genuine desire to serve the Lord. But in their humanity and their righteousness they are apt to forget the warning of the writer of Ecclesiasticus: "My son, if thou come to serve the lord, prepare thy soul for temptation."

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A bookman

Wednesday, June 10th., Villa des Nefliers, Fontainebleau.

I have now begun upon a modest but regular course of book-buying, and have worked up quite a pleasure in reading catalogues. I read through Gougy's catalogue of more than a hundred pages on Sunday. Also I have got into the way of expecting books to arrive; when I have ordered a book I am impatient till it comes, and decidedly disappointed if it doesn't come.

Further I am making a visitation of my books, and making discoveries of good things that I had absolutely forgotten. Thus today, having a bad headache, I found Merimee's "Portraits" and read the account of Beyle. Good. Also Freeman's primer of the history of Europe, which I have possessed for years and often meant to open, but never have done till today. I found I had a good Elzivir Livy: it must be one of the smallest folios ever printed. Cause of headache mysterious. Probably a slight touch of sun. I walked in the sun yesterday afternoon, and I climbed into cherry trees to gather cherries in the sun. No work this morning.

Bought a fine fourth edition of "Clarissa Harlowe", and a most respectable edition tres estimee of Pascal.

Godebski and his wife and Maurice Ravel, and a nameless boy of about 20 came yesterday, very late, for tea. My previous very agreeable impression of the Godebskis was confirmed.

For more on the Godebskis see 'Parisian culture'

Additionally for June 10th., see 'On the downs'

Before my writing today I went for a walk to North Stoke in rotten, very windy weather, and got caught in only one shower, from which I protected myself under a hedge. About four miles I suppose. Then after work I went out with Dorothy up to the Downs, and I reckon by the large scale map that we walked at least four miles and a half. It was all very splendid, with skies full of disasters and great distance-effects. This makes the longest walking I have done in a day for years.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Miracle of wireless

Wednesday, June 9th., Amberley, Sussex.

After a little hesitation, I set to work on a new chapter of "The Vanguard" and wrote 1,800 words in just three hours (3 o'clock to 6 o'clock) It meant ten words a minute throughout, and really more than that, because at 4.15 I made my own tea (or rather my own verveine) and partook of the same in a leisurely manner with brown bread and butter. And all this after a rotten bad night. Pride! Vainglory! 

In the evening (when it rained tremendously) we paddled down to Mrs. Glenister's bungalow. At the end of the evening, she turned on the loudspeaker-wireless, "Valkyrie" in the room. I don't seem to be able to get over the amazing magic of this wireless device. The music seems to come to you from nowhere, and you wonder where it has been hiding while waiting for you to want it.

Additionally for June 9th., see 'Lunch with Mad Jack'

Siegfried Sassoon lunched with me at the Reform yesterday. He expected some decoration for admittedly fine bombing work. Colonel had applied for it three times, but was finally told that as that particular push was a failure it could not be granted. Sassoon was uncertain about accepting a home billet if he got the offer of one. I advised him to accept it. He is evidently one of the reckless ones. He said his pals said he always gave the Germans every chance to pot him. He said he would like to go out once more and give them another chance to get him, and come home unscathed. He seemed jealous for the military reputation of poets. He said most of war was a tedious nuisance, but there were great moments and he would like them again.