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

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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.

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