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It's better than a bat in the eye with a burnt stick!


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


And make sure to visit The Arnold Bennett Society for expert information and comment on all aspects of the life and work of AB.

Monday, 31 March 2014

No form

Monday, March 31st., Cadogan Square, London.

I met George Moore last night at a Phoenix performance. 

Starting out as the Insurance Orchestra, the London Phoenix Orchestra was founded in 1924 by Harold Rawlinson to provide members of the insurance industry with an opportunity to meet regularly and enjoy playing music together. This fundamental enthusiasm for music and friendly ethos remains at the heart of the orchestra's purpose to this day. While the orchestra may have grown and changed over the years, we are proud to retain strong links to the insurance industry and provide its many workers with the chance to further their love of music.
http://www.phoenixorchestra.org/

He said he wanted me to go and dine with him and he would tell me about "Riceyman Steps" - a lot of things that I didn't know (he said). Then he told me. he said it was the only really objective novel ever written, and very original. (I knew from others that he thought very highly of it.) He said, "It has no form whatever, no form. It is not very carefully written - it is adequately written. It has no romantic quality. yet it holds you. A bookseller crosses the road to get married - that's all. It is disturbing to think that hundreds (he should have said millions) lead their lives just like that. the book is the FACT (he emphasised the word several times) and that's all." Then he repeated about great originality, lack of form etc. ... Considering that in my opinion it is very well constructed ...!

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

Additionally for March 31st., see ' A Garden City'

I went round with Vallee last night to see some of his patients. One was at Champagne - what is called a Cite Jardin, built for the employees of the Creusot Steel Company. The population must certainly be over a thousand, and is probably much more. We arrived when it was nearly dark. Vast blocks of houses four or five stories high, of dark stone, and fearfully ugly and forbidding. Aplace here and there, and plenty of vacant plots. It was extraordinary how a four-or-five-storied block struck one as being out of place in the country, where land is plentiful. The houses were a cheap imitation of Paris houses. No lights on the stairs, no nights in the streets, but windows lighted here and there, giving hints of mean interiors.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Novelists

Saturday, March 30th., Cadogan Square, London.

In this age of social criticism, destructive and reconstructive, the novelists can and do deliver the wanted goods. Non-fictional writers rarely deliver the goods. For every non-fictional social writer who really impresses either the big public or the small public, there are at least a dozen novelists whom nobody can neglect. True, the big public are children, children love stories, and the novelists have the great advantage of being story-tellers. But this is not their only advantage. As a rule they write better than the non-fictionalists. And in addition to being story-tellers they are critics and moralists. And as critics and moralists they are more effective than their rivals, not merely because they tell stories and write better, but because they know more and understand more about human nature and about social conditions. That is why novels, generally, are better than life.

Brains and imagination exist more abundantly in the heads of novelists than in the heads of other writers. This has been the state of affairs for quite a century and a half, and it still is. Until it is altered novelists will continue to hold the field.

Additionally for March 30th., see 'Gallons of blood'

Curious affair in the village yesterday. Owners of land bordering the forest have the right to catch such deer as they find on their land. Now is the season when deer stray, in search of young shoot. They stray about dawn. Villagers organise a sort of surprise for the deer. They arise before dawn and lie in wait. Yesterday morning sixty people caught six deer. The deer were killed in an open yard close to this house, and blood ran in gallons into and down the road. The sixty people drew lots for the best cuts, and one hears the monotonous calling of the numbers. One tenth of a deer for each person. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

No time

Monday, March 29th., London.

No time or inclination to keep journals.
Last week I wrote two articles for New Age and a short story for Tillotsons.

Additionally for March 29th., see 'Understanding Einstein'

This article will start from a reflection that the centenaries of Newton and Beethoven are now safely over. I dislike centenaries which are dangerous to one's peace of mind, as they give rise to a stream of twaddle, the sight and sound of which make one feel awkward, constrained, and lower one's estimate of human nature. Reading some of the tributes to Beethoven , I had some of the terrible qualms of humiliation and self-consciousness which visit me when I have to cross arms and join hands and sing Auld Land Syne. Newton was better handled and his centenary leads me to thinking about Einstein. I could desire to assist at the centenary of Einstein, but heaven will no doubt decide against me. Here I am, violent but grey-haired, endowed with a fair sanity and general intelligence, and a passion for knowledge - and after all these years I understand little more of the relativity theory than a clever hall-porter.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Preoccupations

Wednesday, March 28th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

I only keep this journal sufficiently to prove that I am still not keeping it.

I finished the 17th. instalment of "The Sinews of War" today, which leaves three to do, and in the evening, on my return to Paris from Moret, I received in a letter from Phillpotts an adumbration of the plot for our next serial in collaboration.

Lately, besides having the influenza, I have been occupied in putting my Moret flat into an artistically inhabitable condition. Yesterday morning in a second-hand shop in Moret I found a Louis XV commode in carved oak in excellent condition, and bought it for 45 fr. without bargaining. I also bought a rather worn Empire bookcase for 20 fr. Impossible to keep my journal while I am so preoccupied with the serial and with questions of cretonnes, carpets, and the arrangement of old furniture and purchasing of fresh.

Additionally for March 28th., see'Motion pictures'

After tea we went to the film "The Sea Beast" at the New Gallery; the idea being taken and slaughtered from "Moby Dick". A filthy and preposterous thing and humiliating to watch. John Barrymore the chief interpreter. A dreadful Hollywood girl as the heroine; obviously chosen for her looks, which were dreadful. This film really did annoy me. We didn't see it all.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Sensational ideas

Sunday, March 27th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Just now I am spending several days in the utmost tranquillity. 

I have gradually seen that my sensational yarn must be something remarkably out of the common, and that therefore i must take the greatest care over the conception. I found that ideas for it did not come easily. I did not, however, force them. Then I had the idea for the 'scene' of the book. Then I thought I would buy and read Gaboriau's "Le Crime d'Orcival" of which I have heard so much, and see whether that would conduce to a 'flow' in me, as Balzac always does. It did, at once. 

It is, I think, the best elaborate long detective story that I have read. It contains much solid and serious stuff, is extremely ingenious and well-planned, and has real imagination. I have been reading this during the day and correcting proofs at night. My sensational work does not and would not in the least resemble Gaboriau's, and yet Gaboriau has filled me with big, epic ideas for a fundamental plot - exactly what I wanted. The central theme must be big, and it will be; all the rest is mere ingenuity, wit and skill. I have not yet finished reading the Gaboriau book. I read it, and think of nothing, not asking notions to come; but they come and I am obliged to note them down.

Émile Gaboriau (1832 – 1873), was a French writer, novelist, and journalist, and a pioneer of detective fiction. After publishing some novels and miscellaneous writings, he found his real gift in L'Affaire Lerouge (1866). The book, which was Gaboriau's first detective novel, introduced an amateur detective. It also introduced a young police officer named Monsieur Lecoq, who was the hero in three of Gaboriau's later detective novels. The character of Lecoq was based on a real-life thief turned police officer, Eugène François Vidocq (1775–1857), whose own memoirs, Les Vrais Mémoires de Vidocq, mixed fiction and fact. The book was published in "Le Siècle" and at once made his reputation. Gaboriau gained a huge following, but when Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, Monsieur Lecoq's international fame declined. Gaboriau's books were generally well received. About the "Le Crime d'Orcival", Harper's wrote in 1872 "Of its class of romance - French sensational - this is a remarkable and unique specimen".

The weather being extremely uncertain I have been unable to get out much, and so my existence has been most extraordinarily placid. I go to bed one night, and then the next night, and there seems scarcely five minutes in between.

Additionally for March 27th., see 'War nerves'

Lunch at Sidney and Beatrice Webb's today. (See also 'Strolling about - February 4th.) Webb said his wife couldn't sleep on account of the war news, and he had to exaggerate his usual tranquil optimism in order to keep the household together. It was one of the rare human touches I have noticed in the said household. However, they were soon off on to the misdeeds of the Reconstruction Committee. I was told that certain of the staff of the 'Department of Information' had resigned when Beaverbrook was appointed minister over them, refusing to serve under 'that ignorant man'. They won, and were transferred to the Foreign Office - one more instance of the hand-to-mouthism of Ll. George. Went to Reform Club to see papers. Massingham was so gloomy he could scarcely speak. (See also 'A curious mixture' - March 15th.) The brothers McKenna came in, intensely pessimistic. I was rather ashamed of them. Spender's two articles in the Westminster were A1 for fortitude and wisdom. I think more and more highly of this man. (See also 'Writers for Peace - February 11th.)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Queer people

Friday, March 26th., Berkeley Hotel, Piccadilly.

E. V. Lucas and wife to lunch.

Edward Verrall Lucas, CH (1868 – 1938) was a famous English humorist, essayist, playwright, biographer, publisher, poet, novelist, short story writer and editor. Lucas joined the staff of the humorous magazine Punch in 1904, and remained there for the rest of his life. He was a prolific writer, most celebrated for his short essays, but he also produced verses, novels and plays.

We went to picture show, "London Group" at Goupil. Some nice things but all imitative.

Goupil Gallery, London
The London Group was formed by an amalgamation of the Camden Town Group and the English Cubists (later Vorticists) in 1913. This grouping of radical young artists came together as a reaction to the stranglehold which the Royal Academy had on exhibiting new work. Founder members included Spencer Gore, Wyndham Lewis, Sickert and Epstein. The London Group decided on a written constitution and a number of officers to run the Group's affairs. Members were to be elected to the Group based on a democratic election. A Working Party was set up to organize London Group exhibitions which were to revitalize contemporary visual art, bringing in new European developments in painting and sculpture, especially from France. Artists exhibited their own choice of work. The London Group made no judgmental decisions on members' work, a tradition proudly defended to this day. The beginning of the First World War and the early death of the first President, Harold Gilman, were inauspicious moments for the new group, yet it survived and, in the Twenties, developed into a progressive and critically acclaimed venue for contemporary artists. Roger Fry and the Bloomsbury set were extremely influential in the Group during this decade.

Dinner at Morrells: Lowes Dickinson, Bertrand Russell, Whitehouse. All these very much upset by the war, convinced that the war and government both wrong, etc. I first met Morrell and Lady Otteline in Paris about a year ago, and they came to lunch here last week. She has very distinguished features, in fact quite a personality.

Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Morrell (1873 – 1938) was an English aristocrat and society hostess. Her patronage was influential in artistic and intellectual circles, where she befriended writers including Aldous Huxley, Arnold Bennett, Siegfried Sassoon, T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence, and artists including Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington and Gilbert Spencer. In February 1902, she married the MP Philip Morrell, with whom she shared a passion for art and a strong interest in Liberal politics. They shared what would now be known as an open marriage for the rest of their lives. Philip's extramarital affairs produced several children who were cared for by his wife, who also struggled to conceal evidence of his mental instability. The Morrells themselves had two children (twins): a son, Hugh, who died in infancy, and a daughter, Julian. Morrell's lovers may have included the philosopher Bertrand Russell, the painters Augustus John and Henry Lamb, the artist Dora Carrington, and the art historian Roger Fry. Her circle of friends included many authors, artists, sculptors and poets. Her work as a patron was enduring and influential, notably in her contribution to the Contemporary Art Society during its early years. During World War I, the Morrells were notable pacifists, not a popular position then. They invited conscientious objectors such as Duncan Grant, Clive Bell, and Lytton Strachey to take refuge at Garsington. Siegfried Sassoon, recuperating there after an injury, was encouraged to go absent without leave as a protest against the war.

Afterwards an immense reunion of art students, painters and queer people. Girls in fancy male costume, queer dancing, etc. A Japanese dancer. We left at 12.15. Pianola. Fine pictures. Glorious drawings by Picasso. Excellent impression of host and hostess

Additionally for March 26th., see 'Not John Baines'

I was walking in Selfridge's basement yesterday afternoon, idling between two appointments, when I met Selfridge in a rather old morning suit and silk hat. He at once seized hold of me and showed me over a lot of the new part of his store. Cold-storage for furs - finest in the world. Basement hall 550 feet long. Sub-basement with a very cheap restaurant where they serve 3,000 to 4,000 customers a day. he introduced me to the head of his baby-linen department saying: "Here is a gentleman wants things for three of his children, one is three months, another ten months, and another a year old." Then up his own private lift to the offices and his room, where I had to scratch my name with a diamond on the window - with lots of others. He showed me a lot of accounting. Then downstairs to book department. Fine bindings etc. His first remark was, taking up a book: "Human skin." I had to hurry away. He kept on insisting that it was wonderfully interesting. And it was.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Joy of writing

Good Friday, March 25th., Hotel Belvedere, Lausanne.

Six days of perfect weather with a N. and N.W. wind and nothing visible all day in the strong sunshine. 

I was able to begin the final chapters of the second part of "Clayhanger" without much difficulty on Tuesday and I have averaged over 2,000 words a day of it. I finish tomorrow. The second part will be 50,000 instead of the estimated 40,000 words.

It is surprising that a fortnight ago at Brighton, I could have thought it possible to finish the second part there. I had only allowed 2,000 words for the most important series of scenes - love scenes - in that part. On the whole I think it is fair. Anyhow it is honest and conscientious. I wrote 3,200 words yesterday, and pretty near killed myself, and was accordingly very depressed at night. This morning I went a long walk and wrote 1,000 words in an hour this afternoon.

The reviews of "Helen with the High Hand" are exceedingly polite and kind, but they do not gloss over the slightness of the thing. For example William Morton Payne writing in The Dial (Chicago) opines that it is "capital fooling, humorously charming from start to finish, and we are glad to have it as a pendant to Mr. Bennett's gloomy large-scale depiction of the Five Towns."

Additionally for March 25th., see'The triumph of beer'

The news of the triumph of beer in the Peckham election this morning really did depress me. I understood, momentarily, the feelings of the men who give up politics in disgust; and I also understood the immense obstinate faith of those who fight for Liberalism all their lives. It is the insincerity and the deliberate lying of the other side that staggers me. I read in the Daily Mail this morning that when the news of the triumph of beer got into the music-halls last night there were scenes of wild enthusiasm, and perfect strangers shook hands with one another.

Monday, 24 March 2014

A 'catchy' show

Tuesday, March 24th., Cadogan Square, London.


Binnie Hale in "No, No, Nanette"
"No, No, Nanette" at the Palace Theatre last night. This is supposed to be the most popular musical-comedy of modern time. Edgar Selwyn saw it in Chicago, and praised it very highly. It contains three or four extremely catchy jazz tunes. Also Binnie Hale - who is young, has style, charm, and is a very good dancer - for a star.

Binnie Hale (1899 – 1984) was an English actress and musician. Her father, Robert Hale, and younger brother,Sonnie Hale, were actors. She married West End actor Jack Raine, with whom she had one daughter. Among films and stage productions, she appeared in No, No, Nanette in 1925 at the Palace Theatre, London.




It also contains Joseph Coyne, who is simply admirable, and George Grossmith, who is good. These two together on the stage do admirably funny scenes. It also contains some women who are competent or a bit more. The music is 'catchy'. It is perhaps the best musical comedy I ever saw.


No, No, Nanette is a musical comedy based on Mandel's 1919 Broadway play My Lady Friends. The farcical story involves three couples who find themselves together at a cottage in Atlantic City in the midst of a blackmail scheme, focusing on a young, fun-loving Manhattan heiress who naughtily runs off for a weekend, leaving her unhappy fiancé. During its pre-Broadway tour, No, No, Nanette became a hit in Chicago, and the production stayed there for over a year. In 1925, the show opened both on Broadway and in the West End. The London production opened on March 11, 1925 at the Palace Theatre, where it starred Binnie Hale, Joseph Coyne and George Grossmith, Jr. and became a hit, running for 665 performances. Film versions and revivals followed. No, No, Nanette was not successful in its first pre-Broadway tour in 1924. When the production arrived in Chicago, producer Harry Frazee re-cast the show with new stars, had the book rewritten and asked Youmans and Caesar to write additional songs. These additional songs, "Tea for Two" and "I Want to Be Happy", would become the hit songs of the show.


A beautiful Spring day today after a sharp frost overnight. What a difference the sun makes to one's mood. I was thinking yesterday about the effect of light (or absence of light), and particularly about the way the orientation of one's home largely determines the quantity and quality of exposure. The thing to do is to get out of doors as much as possible. I have always walked and advocate it as the best, and simplest, form of exercise.

Additionally for March 24th., see 'Absolute Five Towns'

On Wednesday night a Welsh vet. officer came here to sleep. Very provincial and polite and talkative. All about Lloyd George and N. Wales and Stanley Weyman. Just like middle-class provincials in Potteries, except for accent. Speaking of billeting in Manningtree, he said the billetees had to cook for soldiers, while not finding the food. "Now many of them didn't like it," he said with sympathy and conviction, as middle class speaking of and understanding middle class. It was absolute Five Towns. No member of upper middle class would have said it like that. A member of upper middle class might have laughed, or said it indulgently, or said it comprehendingly, but not with the same unconscious sympathy.













Sunday, 23 March 2014

English abroad

Saturday, March 23rd., Hotel Californie, Cannes.

I finished the first part of "The Regent" on Tuesday and wrote "Clay in the Hands of the Potter" for Youth's Companion (Boston) on Wednesday, and sent it off on Thursday. 

The Youth's Companion (1827–1929), known in later years as simply The Companion—For All the Family, was an American children's magazine that existed for over one hundred years until it finally merged with The American Boy in 1929. The Companion was published in Boston, Massachusetts by the Perry Mason Company (later renamed "Perry Mason & Co." after the founder died). From 1892 to 1915 it was based in the Youth's Companion Building, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Selwyns came over for lunch on Thursday. On Friday we went to Monte Carlo, and had lunch with them - Mary Moore, Charles Wyndham, and H. B. Harris (N. Y. theatrical manager) being of the party. At the Hermitage. Food not so startlingly good as rumour says. Beautiful view of the harbour and yachts  from the Selwyns' bedroom. Selwyn was still worrying me to write a play on "The Card". We went and came home by train.


Coming up to hotel in omnibus, an oldish sea-captainish sort of man said to a youngish red-haired woman that miners had refused the terms of the Minimum Wages Bill. "But of course they refuse everything!" said she scornfully. I must have a strike in my continental novel. It is very funny that all the English inhabitants of grand hotels should be furious because miners insist on a minimum of 5s. per day for men, and 2s. per day for boys.

Additionally for March 23rd., see 'Enchanted'

On Sunday Dr. Vallee took us to Nemours, a delicious old town with a castle, ramparts, moats, and the Loing; full of wonderful views. Mme. and I went to buy cakes and we all had tea on the pavement in front of an inn; while the landlady and another woman sat and sewed nearby. Seeking the garcon to pay the bill I got into a vast kitchen full of all kinds of curious domestics and copper pans. Passing along the street we saw a tailor, old, in black, white hair, and a strangely shaped head, standing at the door of his shop. Davray and I both exclaimed at once: "Balzacian". "Ursule Mironet" is laid in Nemours, and the extraordinary veracity of Balzac's descriptions strikes one everywhere. His descriptions were not exaggerated.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Stranded in Calais

Monday, March 22nd., Hotel Terminus, Calais.

Arrived here yesterday having left Paris by the noon train. Very full. 
At Calais it was blowing very hard, and the sea was covered with white. Of course we decided not to go on. Took rooms in the Hotel Metropole.

We walked after breakfast to the Gare Maritime and gradually came to the conclusion that it would be impossible safely to cross today. So, for a change, we engaged rooms at the Hotel Terminus, which is very Victorian. Good rooms; no w.p. baskets. Then we walked all the way back to the Metropole, quite a mile over rough surfaces - 2 miles in all, and lunched and paid the bill and finished packing and got to the Terminus Hotel at 2.10 p.m. in time to see the steamer come in. No one seemed very ill or distressed. Sleep; much needed. Tea. I wrote a little sketch of "La Prisonniere" at the Theatre Femina. We had tea in the station buffet and ordered our dinner there. Before dinner we strolled on the long platforms to see the evening boat come in. It was twelve minutes late. Terribly cold, windy, and the wind full of coal dust from train engines. Saw the boat, and the people go through the customs, and into the trains for Paris, Rhineland and Warsaw. Goodish dinner in the buffet. Went to bed early in the Victorian hotel, which demanded that an article should be written on it. I might write the article.

Additionally for March 22nd., see 'On the move'

We left Brighton on Friday morning. 
We stayed 3 nights at the Hotel Terminus, Paris. I went for a voyage up the Seine to Charenton and back. I then went to the Exposition des Independants and there met O'Connor and Root. One or two charming indecencies in the show.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Crude gambits

Friday, March 21st., Cadogan Square, London.

At Ethel Sands' at tea yesterday - Leslie, brother of Shane Leslie sat next to me on sofa, and after a time said, "Are you interested in Russia at all?" After my reply he went on to say that he had been there last autumn, and I must say that he replied very intelligently and carefully to all my questions. But what struck me was the crudity of his gambit. He  was full of Russia and he opened in that way.

He left and Cynthia Noble took his place; a very fashionable young woman, probably only about 20-21, with a perfectly maquillee, etc. face. I almost immediately began with her on my subject of late hours, drugs (aspirin chiefly), cocktails, liqueurs, and salts; all of which I cursed. I was glad to find that she was prepared to talk about salts. She agreed with me as to cocktails, but not in much else. 

However, what struck me a long time afterwards was that I had opened on my subject just as young Leslie had opened on his. It seems that most so-called conversation amounts to an alternating outpouring of pre-formed ideas, and the strongest (or most determined) character has most to say. Is much gained from conversation? Apparently not, but they pass the time.

Additionally for March 21st., see 'Trying times'

I had to order the meals and wrestle with the French cook this morning. So that by 10.30, after I had seen Dorothy twice, although I had had a very calm pre-prandial time (from 6.30 to 8.30), I was beginning to have a headache and felt dans tous mes etats. I went out for an idea-finding walk, and got to the South Kensington museum and sat down in a corner, and no sooner had I done so than four workmen came to disturb me by moving trestles. No sooner had they gone than the ideas came to me in a vague but satisfactory rush; and I walked straight out again. I saw Dorothy a third time, and exactly at 12 sat down to work and at 12.35 had actually written 700 words. It seems as if nothing can stop me from working just now.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Faith re-established

Saturday, March 20th., George Street, London.

Yesterday morning, after careering in the park after play-ideas and catching them, I went to Neville Lewis's show and bought a small picture of a woman suckling a child for 15 guineas. Clifton, with whom I had a talk, told me of the times when Johns could be bought for 10 guineas - and damned few buyers. He said he had once sold a very large pastel of John's for 10 guineas to a woman and had never heard of it since.

Alfred Neville Lewis (1895 - 1972) was a South African artist. He was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and educated there and, later, at the Slade School of Art in London. His father was the Reverend A. J. S. Lewis, who on 4 October 1929, officially opened the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. Neville married Theo Townshend a fellow student. He became a member of the New English Art Club in 1920. When his marriage broke up in 1922 his two sons Tom and David went to Cape Town where they were raised by their grandparents and his daughter Catherine stayed with his ex-wife. He served in World War I in France, Belgium, and Italy.

I heard yesterday that the first week's receipts of "Sacred and Profane Love" in New York were over 16,700 dollars. This easily bangs "Milestones" and all my other records. My royalties on that week exceed £350. My faith in the theatre as a means of artistic expression was of course instantly re-established. It would be. I think I have made a fatal error with the film rights. I sold them for £1,500, just half what I could have got.

For more on "Sacred and Profane Love" see 'Love in Liverpool'

Nagel and Ferguson in the film
There were 88 performances of "Sacred and Profane Love" at the Morosco Theatre, New York between February 23rd. and early May 1920. There were 4 acts and the settings were Mrs. Joicey's sitting-room on the first floor of her house in the Five Towns, the drawing room of Carlotta's flat in Bloomsbury, and the salon of a furnished flat in a dubious street of Paris. It starred Elsie Ferguson. It became a 1921 silent film produced by Famous Players-Lasky and distributed by Paramount Pictures. This film was directed by William Desmond Taylor and also starred Elsie Ferguson with Conrad Nagel. It was based on The Book of Carlotta by Arnold Bennett . Writer/director Julia Crawford Ivers adapted the book and play to the screen while her son James Van Trees served as one of the film's cinematographers. All known copies of this film are lost.

Additionally for March 19th., see 'Military manoeuvres'

The Am. Column received the order to depart on Friday night at 10.30 - to leave on Saturday. The O.C. spent Saturday morning in trying to get the order rescinded, because the Weeley position is too far back for a battery at Frinton, especially with a R.A.M.C. and an A.S.C. in between. He failed. The actual departure, which we witnessed between 5.30 and 6.30 p.m. on Saturday, was a striking proof of the vast inferiority of horse and mule traction to motor traction.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Almost perfect

Thursday, March 19th., Les Sablons.

I thought this evening that if only I was installed definitely at Fontainebleau I should be perfectly happy. Difficult to realise that even there something (undiscoverable) would still be lacking, and that I cannot ever be happier than I am now and here - in perfect working order and in good health and with my wits.

I have never been in better creative form than I am today. A complete scene of the novel (1,700 words) this morning in two and a half hours, and 1,000 words of an article on the theatre before dinner. Beautiful cold weather. Four miles in the forest this morning; two miles stroll this afternoon. I want more books here, not to read but merely to see them around me. I read an extract from Brunetiere's criticism in the Deux Mondes of "Une Vie" - cold, unappreciative, very niggard even in modified praise. This made me more content with some of the reviews of my 'big' books. I suppose that some day a collected edition of my novels will be issued - similar to that of de Maupassant's now appearing. I hope that when it does I shall be neither dead nor in a madhouse.

Additionally for March 19th., see 'G. & S. is dead'

"The Gondoliers" at Prince's last night. I thought that this was better than it proved to be. There are at least half a dozen magnificent tunes in it, and beyond those - nothing. Immense longueurs in the action, especially towards the end of each act, and the 'climaxic' explanation on the other hand is much too hurried. The fun is merely childish. Also it is 'healthy' fun. The one joke of the gondolier about taking off his cap or anything else in reason 'seemed quite shocking'. It was all far too respectable. The packed audience was also stodgy and ugly. In fact you wondered where the people came from - so dull were they. However, the applause was much less than it used to be. The whole affair dull save for the magnif. tunes. I don't want to see any more G. & S. Fundamentally the thing is dead.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Art and artists

Thursday, March 18th., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul. Because her instinct has told her, or because she has been reliably informed, the faded virgin knows that the supreme joys are not for her; she knows by a process of the intellect; but she can feel her deprivation no more than the young mother can feel the hardship of the virgin's lot. Of all the inhabitants of the Inferno, none but Lucifer knows that hell is hell, and the secret function of purgatory is to make of heaven an effective reality.

But to the artist is sometimes granted a sudden, transient insight which serves in this matter for experience. A flash, and where previously the brain held a dead fact, the soul grasps a living truth! At moments we are all artists.

These rather gloomy reflections brought on no doubt by the situation of George Sturt. I have been trying to persuade Lane to publish "The Bettesworth Book" but had to write to Sturt recently to say that I thought it now unlikely that it would happen. He has taken it philosophically, as I thought he would. He writes: "... he's (Lane) not the man I care to be under any obligation to. Neither do I want him to be doing you a favour, even in his own fancy. That would be putting you in a false position - an evil recompense for the pains you've been at for me." He says that he believes there is a public now that would welcome "Bettesworth", but it isn't a book-buying public. He may be right. So, must the artist inevitably compromise his art?

Additionally for March 18th., see 'Prowling the forest'

Immense pleasure, pretty nearly ecstatic sometimes, in looking at the country, in being in it, particularly by the Seine and in the forest. I said to myself the other morning that the early savage used to prowl about from his cave like that, and that I might almost meet one in the forest; whereupon it occurred to me that I was exactly the early savage over again, prowling round his cave, with the same sniffing sensations of instinctive joy in nature. Very curious this getting down to the bedrock.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Return to Paris

Wednesday, March 17th., Hotel Bristol, Paris.

We drove to Andre Maurois's house at Neuilly. Nice ground-floor flat with garden and two children (boys 4 and 5); the daughter aged 12 had gone to her cours. Portrait of the dead mother on the table in drawing-room. She was beautiful. Something tragic about this. Maurois, slim, slight, Jewish; charming; with an open mind; interested, admirably urbane. Agreeable talking. It was all very nice. We left at 3.50, and Maurois drove us to Faubourg St. Honore in his car. I dozed.

Andre Maurois (1885-1967) was born and educated in Normandy. He was the son of Ernest Herzog, a Jewish textile manufacturer. His family had fled Alsace after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 and took refuge in Elbeuf, where they owned a woollen mill. During World War I he joined the French army and served as an interpreter and later a liaison officer with the British army. Maurois's first wife was Jeanne-Marie Wanda de Szymkiewicz, a young Polish-Russian aristocrat who had studied at Oxford University. She had a nervous breakdown in 1918 and in 1924 she died of septicemia. After the death of his father, Maurois gave up the family business of textile manufacturing. His first novel, Les Silences du Colonel Bramble, was a witty and socially realistic account of that experience. It was an immediate success in France. It was translated and became popular in the United Kingdom and other English-speaking countries as The Silence of Colonel Bramble. Many of his other works have also been translated into English. In 1938 Maurois was elected to the prestigious Académie française. He died in 1967 in Neuilly-sur-Seine after a long career as an author of novels, biographies, histories, children's books and science fiction stories. He is buried in Neuilly-sur-Seine community cemetery near Paris.

At 6.30 I went out to sample the Champs Elysee in the half-light, and began to like Paris again. Dined at the hotel. Good. Then to the Theatre Femina. Crowded. Heated. People came in half an hour late, noisily. Play began 17 minutes late. Ended 11.45. The first act terribly Bernsteinish and old-fashioned. Nothing to it. But in 2nd act, when it appears that Irene's frison is a Lesbian attachment, things begin to look up a bit. But the play was always wooden and antique in treatment; especially in dialogue. It was admirably acted by three women. Mdme. Sylvie as the heroine Irene was very fine indeed.

Le Bristol, Paris

I had sandwiches at the hotel. Muriel Foster came along and talked a bit. Alfred Sutro and wife had come along at dinner time.

Additionally for March 17th., see 'Wet and dark in London'

I slept at the R.T.Y.C. Thursday morning, long seance at barber's. Then to W. Nicholson's. He was in a black leather jacket covered in paint. He gave me the portrait of Wish Wynne that was used in the production of "The Great Adventure". He showed me some most ingenious 'still lifes', and Eric Kennington's biggish war picture - very striking.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Plus ca change

Tuesday, March 16th., Cadogan Square, London.

Looking this afternoon and evening through window of backroom 2nd floor 21a Sloane Street. The whole of the old garden or backyard space between Sloane Street and Pavilion Road is built over with annexes to houses, low, chiefly covered with lead, and probably workshops or additional offices. There is no open ground at all, so that the houses apparently might as well be 'back to back' houses. This of course does away with all the nocturnal noises which occur in back gardens in central London. (All back gardens will I supposes ultimately be built over in central London) From the aforesaid window you see the backs of low (2-storey) houses in Pavilion Road, chiefly artisan-working places and small shops and garages. Rising over them, beyond, a bit of terra-cotta Harrods. You only hear a faint murmur of occasional garage noises and of the distant traffic in Brompton Road (at least I suppose it's that). This, even with the windpw open. But in the front room the thunder of traffic is nearly continuous even on Sunday. However, you get used even to that. 'Musicians' play in Sloane Street, and near 21a, practically all day weekdays. They interfere with work. The procedure for getting rid of them is thus: You ask them to go away. If they refuse you ask a policeman to tell them. If they refuse the policeman also you summon them. And (according to a police inspector's testimony) the chances are then 12 to 1 that the summons is dismissed. The Sloane Street musician is of course the result of Sloane Street shoppers' (largely women) generosity to itinerant beggars in the form of bad musicians.

Additionally for March 16th., see 'Critic as artist'

I have read Oscar Wilde's "Intentions", and found it really very good, better than "De Profundis". As someone who sees himself as both an original writer and a critic, the idea of 'critic as artist' appeals strongly to me. Wilde is too severe on 'realism', reflecting his own thoroughly Romantic character and style.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Getting about

Saturday, March 15th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

I was at Burslem yesterday to inter my mother's ashes in the cemetery, in the same grave as her parents. Rather foggy early in the day, but it fortunately cleared mid-morning and the cemetery was washed in pleasant spring sunshine for the short informal ceremony. I had a few words to say to those attending and found the whole event surprisingly emotional. But certainly worth doing, and afterwards we all adjourned to the George for a light lunch where we were able to reminisce and review a selection of old family photographs. All went smoothly.

I went to London on Tuesday after a solitary weekend here in which I earned £300 in two days, by hard work.

Tuesday night Marguerite and I attended the first rehearsal of "Judith". It was in Eaton's room at the Royalty. The Royalty was in process of reparation, and there was an almost continuous slapping noise of whitewashers in the room above.

Later rehearsals were held in the Ampthill Room at the Connaught Rooms. Happily, the leading lady, Lillah, is easy to deal with. Eaton knows immensely more about producing than I do, but I was able to convince him that his plans for the murder in the second act were all wrong and that my original plans were all right. I also changed Lillah's conception of her acting of it. In fact the murder scene will be the author's own.
For more on "Judith" see 'Indecent exposure?'

Additionally for March 15th., see 'A curious mixture'

H. L. Rothband, the Manchester manufacturer, lunched with me yesterday at the Reform, about his scheme for employment of disabled soldiers. Curious mixture of ingenuousness and acuteness.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Having fun

Wednesday, March 14th., Cadogan Square, London.

We went to see Chaplin's film "The Circus" at the New Gallery, where I joined a party. fairly good film: a few fine moments in it, really funny, and some dull parts; the end had pathos with distinction.

The Circus is a 1928 silent film written and directed by Charlie Chaplin with Joseph Plunkett as an uncredited writer. The film stars Chaplin, Al Ernest Garcia, Merna Kennedy, Harry Crocker, George Davis and Henry Bergman. The ringmaster of an impoverished circus hires Chaplin's Little Tramp as a clown, but discovers that he can only be funny unintentionally, not on purpose. The production of the film was the most difficult experience in Chaplin's career. Numerous problems and delays occurred, including a studio fire, the death of Chaplin's mother, as well as Chaplin's bitter divorce from his second wife Lita Grey, and the Internal Revenue Service's claims of Chaplin's owed back taxes, all of which culminated in filming being stalled for eight months. The Circus was the seventh highest grossing silent film in cinema history taking in more than $3.8 million in 1928.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9BinpcqWGM

Then all of us in three or four cabs to Sybil Colefax's for supper. A lot of stage nobs came in: Coward, Du Maurier, Leslie Faber, Oliver Messel. Wells came. Victor Beigel sang Viennese popular songs superbly; Noel Coward sang his own songs extremely cleverly. Viola Tree and Oliver Messel gave side-splitting imitations, and I concluded the programme.

Oliver Hilary Sambourne Messel (1904 – 1978) was an English artist and one of the foremost stage designers of the 20th century.
For more on Viola Tree see 'A fateful interest'
For more on Noel Coward see 'A lazy day afloat and ashore'

Additionally for March 14th., see 'Minor distractions of the people'

Yesterday, Reform lunch. Talking about gambling. It was defended by James Currie and even by Lord Buckmaster (see 'False Alarms', Feb. 27th.). Stated to be the one distraction of the people. There is, however, fornication. Apropos of all this, when I was coming home from Hammersmith in the Tube yesterday evening, two workmen got in, one about 35 and the other 18 or 20.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Recuperation

Wednesday, March 13th., Royal York Hotel, Brighton.

I came down here to rid myself of the obstinate neuralgic sequelae of a quite mild attack of influenza. Also for the purpose of getting an idea for a short story. Despite entertaining, and being entertained, and free indulgence in the most agreeable and (to me) most pernicious of all alcoholic liquids, champagne, I attained both objectives in three days.

Of all the circle in which I 'move' I think I am almost the only person who likes Brighton. The sole thing I object to in Brighton is the penny-in-the-slot machines on the piers. Brighton has character, as the man who made its fame had character - but his character was evil. I have spent months and months in Brighton, and I thought I knew the place, especially the 'Lanes'; but today I found a second-hand bookshop previously unknown to me. I went in there immediately and discovered some plays of Labiche, an author of whom the bookseller had never heard - so that I got the plays cheap! I bought twelve books for £1 15s. This episode gave me no idea for my short story, but it certainly did something to cure my neuralgia.

Later I went for a ride along the shore on the Electric Railway. Years ago the proprietor of this railway gave me a season-ticket for it because he liked one of my books. An example which might advantageously be followed by the G.W.R., the L.M.S., the L.N.E.R., the S.R., and other systems.

The son of a German clockmaker Magnus Volk was born at 35 (now 40) Western Road, Brighton in 1851. Educated in the town he was eventually apprenticed to a scientific instrument maker but on the death of his father in 1869 he returned home to assist his mother run the family business. Scientific and engineering events in the wider world were of great interest to Magnus and he was forever experimenting with electricity, telegraphy and telephony. His growing prowess as an inventor and engineer and the fact that he was the first person in Brighton to equip his house with electric light, led to him being awarded the contract for providing the famous Royal Pavilion with electric incandescent lighting. Contacts made during this period were to prove very important with Magnus’s next and most long-lasting project. At noon on August 4th, 1883 Magnus presented the people of Brighton with his latest creation – an electric railway operating over a quarter of a mile of 2ft gauge line extending from a site on the seashore opposite the Aquarium to the Chain Pier. Power was provided by a 2hp Otto gas engine driving a Siemans D5 50 volt DC generator. The small electric car was fitted with a 1½hp motor giving a top speed of about 6mph.
http://volkselectricrailway.co.uk/

I was asked recently by a friend why I write. Of course I said that I write because writing is, and has been, my livelihood. The obvious follow-up question was whether I would write if I had independent means and had no need to earn money. I have been thinking about this and conclude that I might still do some writing (such as keeping this journal) for pleasure, but I would certainly not rack my brains to write novels, short stories and newspaper articles as I have done for the last 40 years. To think that if I have averaged (conservatively) 250,000 words a year, then I have written 10 million words! And how much time does that equate to when I could have been doing other things? No, I am a professional writer, and that is all there is to say. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Books and Persons

Thursday, March 12th., Rue d'Aumale, Paris.

I have tried for two days to find rhythms for two poems that I have found ideas for - one elegiac and the other Aristophanic, and can't.

I have read through the first part of "Old Wives'Tale", and am deeply persuaded of its excellence. Aussi ai-je pris mes dispositions pour commencer la deuxieme partie samedi. The ideas have come quite easily.

Today I had a notion for a more or less regular column of Literary notes - title 'Books and Persons' for the New Age, and I wrote and sent off the first column at once. I began to work this morning in bed at 6 a.m.

Yesterday I cycled in showers and through mud to Fontainebleau to meet the architect at the new house. Found it damp; but the works more advanced than I expected.

Been reading Lord Acton. I am driven to the conclusion that his essays are too learned in their allusiveness for a plain man. I should say that for a man specialised in the history of the world during the last 2,500 years they would make quite first-class reading.

Described as “the magistrate of history,” Lord Acton was one of the great personalities of the nineteenth century and is universally considered to be one of the most learned Englishmen of his time. He made the history of liberty his life's work; indeed, he considered political liberty the essential condition and guardian of religious liberty. Lord Acton is popularly remembered for his pungent aphorisms – “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” – but of far deeper significance was his lifelong study of the history of freedom.
http://www.acton.org/research/lord-acton

Additionally for March 12th., see 'Triumph of hope over reason'

I nodded acquiescence but I was nearly laughing aloud, and telling her that I preferred to dispense with these mysterious services. As I was arranging terms with her, I marvelled that I should be assisting at such an interview. And yet - supposing there were after all something in it! I was not without hope. She had distinctly impressed me, especially by odd phrases here and there which seemed to indicate a certain depth of character in her. I went away smiling - half believing that the whole thing was a clever fraud, and half-expecting some happy result.
Tonight I sent her a cheque. I wondered, as I wrote it out, whether twelve months hence I should be wanting to burn these pages which recorded my credulity, or whether with all the enthusiasm of my nature I should be spreading abroad the report of Mrs. L's powers.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A Potteries funeral

Thursday, March 11th., Waterloo Road, Burslem.

Went to a meeting of Tunstall Town Council in the afternoon.

On the way there, down Scotia Road, I saw a knot of girls here and there who had obviously left their work on a bank to come out and watch. Heads wrapped up in cotton against powdery workshops. Standing still in raw cold, very ill-clad. They were waiting for a funeral to pass. I saw this funeral just starting from a cottage lower down. The hearse just moving from the side of the road to the middle, and the procession hopping over snow heaps to join in. two women, noses in handkerchiefs, immediately behind hearse. They seemed to place their handkerchiefs in position and to begin to cry just as the procession started. About 15 or 20 men behind. Quite half without overcoats. You thought of the waiting hatless at the grave etc.  Extremely foul and muddy road and a raw day. Crowd blocking the pavement in front of the house. Burly Podmore elbowing his way through it to get in. As I forced my way past, smell, and sound of crying came from the house.

Additionally for March 11th., see 'An invitation to sail'

Kahn wanted a nice bunch for his yachting cruise in the Greek Archipelago, and Kommer, who is very friendly with him, suggested me as one. Kahn is short and white and sturdy. Of course very assured in style. Stuffed with brains. Highly intelligent. Phrases his talk very well. I at once decided to sail with him. April 20th. for a month. Kahn was never uninteresting, he gave a great deal of his attention to Dorothy. You can see he is efficient in everything. His information-giving talk with me about the projected cruise was excellently terse - couldn't have been better.


Monday, 10 March 2014

Liaisons Dangereuses

Thursday, March 10th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

I wrote all day yesterday at "A Great Man", 3,400 words. And I can now see the end of it. With luck I shall finish it on Monday.

I can now see at once that "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" is a great work. It has the classic truthfulness and sobriety on every page. Letter XVIII in which Cecile describes the covert love scene between herself and the Chevalier Danceny is a most perfect and marvellous rendering of a young girl's feelings. It seemed to me to be one of the most beautiful things of the kind I had ever read.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Authenticity

Wednesday, March 9th., Cadogan Square, London.

This morning before noon I finished reading what I had done of "Accident" and I decidedly liked it. It seemed to me to be sound and interesting; of course old-fashioned - at least I suppose so.

Then I walked up to the Reform, and got there early. I lunched with Page, Gardiner, Roch and two others. Discussion of Churchill's book. Everyone praised it as a tour de force, but said it was by no means always honest, and certainly wasn't history, inasmuch as it was obviously written to prove that Churchill had been right throughout the war. Personally, I think it is a bit better than that. I regard it as a remarkable achievement. 

As First Lord of the Admiralty and Minister for War and Air, Churchill stood resolute at the centre of international affairs. In this classic account, he dramatically details how the tides of despair and triumph flowed and ebbed as the political and military leaders of the time navigated the dangerous currents of world conflict. Churchill vividly recounts the major campaigns that shaped the war: the furious attacks of the Marne, the naval manoeuvres off Jutland, Verdun's "soul-stirring frenzy," and the surprising victory of Chemins des Dames. Here, too, he re-creates the dawn of modern warfare: the buzz of airplanes overhead, trench combat, artillery thunder, and the threat of chemical warfare. In Churchill's inimitable voice we hear how "the war to end all wars" instead gave birth to every war that would follow. Written with unprecedented flair and knowledge of the events, The World Crisis remains the single greatest history of World War I, essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the twentieth century.

I came home by bus and slept. I felt gloomy. I hadn't really begun to get my ideas in order for proceeding with my novel. Then I read the newest fiction. Priestley's "Adam in Moonshine" and Romer Wilson's "latter Day Symphony", and I at once wrote paragraphs about them to go into a future Standard article. Poor and pretentious stuff, I thought. Nothing original in them. But Elizabeth Madox Roberts's "The Time of Man" (American - sent to me by Doran) seems to me to be pretty good authentic fiction. A very different affair from the other two.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Obligations

Tuesday, March 8th., 12B George Street, London.

I went to Cambridge on Saturday to see the Greek play, and felt obliged to write an article about it for the New Statesman on Sunday instead of taking a holiday.

On Sunday night we went to a very good party at Mrs. Ralph Hammersley's where two good playlets were performed, the food was good, and there was dancing afterwards. All was for the best at this party. 

Last night Heinemanns gave a dinner to introduce their new partner, Page, to British authors. There were about 35 people. I sat between Pinero and Sir Francis Fuller. Hall Caine made a prodigiously idiotic speech, in which incidentally he proved that he was responsible for the choice of Page's father as U.S. ambassador to England. Page made an excellent speech.
For more on Pinero see 'Bad grammar'

Lately, thanks to yeast, I have been sleeping immensely better.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Pacifists

Wednesday, March 7th., Yacht Club, London.

I returned home from London on Friday last, wrote large quantities of my London novel each day, wrote my Sardonyx article in odd moments, and came back to London again yesterday.

Lunched with Wells. The Webbs said the new 'business men' officials had upset all Whitehall. New ministers' habit of writing letters from home and getting answers at home and thus springing surprises on departments is also much resented.

I worked all afternoon at Y.C. Massingham, Ross and I dined together. I was thus between two pacifists.

Massingham told a good story of an Australian who was asked his opinion as to the end of the war. The Australian said: "I think what my friend Fritz thinks. Fritz was my German prisoner - a very decent sort of chap. Fritz said: 'You'll win, but you'll all come home on one steamer.' "

This of course expressed Massingham's view beautifully, also Ross's.

For more on Massingham see 'A curious mixture'

Additionally for March 7th., see 'Rural idyll'

Six miles this morning in the forest, in fitful sunshine. When I looked about me in the forest I wondered that I could have endured three months in a city. Large spaces of sky. River rapid, and in flood, isolating many trees. Excellent food; attentive, simple-minded cook. Grocer's wife had a baby. Local youths drawing their conscription numbers. News of a Freemasons banquet, and of failure of a girls' school. Such are the events. I have time to think of writing another poem - subject in my head for just a year. I resume the piano, read papers more leisurely, and get excited about posts and about the sins of omission of local tradesmen.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

At the cinema

Thursday, March 6th., Cadogan Square, London.

Regent Street Polytechnic Cinema
German film last night at Polytechnic Cinema. One has the idea that all films are crowded. The balcony here was not 15% full. Front row, where Duff Tayler and I were , 8s. 6d. for one and a half hours entertainment. A gloomy place with gloomy audience. No style or grace in them. All lower middle-class, or nearly so. The hall tricked out with a silly sort of an ikon, illuminated, of Death, to advertise or recall or illustrate the film. The orchestra most mediocre. Played all the time, and three audiences a day! Hell for the players I should think. Also the horrid habit of illustrating certain points musically or noisily. The clock must strike, etc. And a special noise as a sort of leit motif for death. Lastly three small common Oriental mats (probably made in England) laid in front of the screen on the stage to indicate that much of the story was Oriental. the captions, etc., were appalling, and even misspelt, such as 'extention', 'Soloman' etc. The phrasing! Good God. "The City of Yesteryear" meant, I believe, the cemetery.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

German spies

Wednesday, March 5th., Yacht Club, London.

We came to London yesterday. Marguerite went to Newcastle to stay with the Shufflebothams. Swinnerton, Playfair and A. E. W. Mason dined with me at the Garrick. Mason told us some of his secret service adventures in Mexico. He was very good as a raconteur, and evidently has a great gift for secret service, though he said he began as an amateur.

For more on Mason see 'Lost in Venice'

Mason said that practically all the German spies and many of the Zeppelin men carried a packet of obscene photographs on their persons. He did not say why. I fully expected that he would laugh at the reputation of the German Secret Service for efficiency, and he did. I felt sure the German temperament is not a good secret service temperament. Too gullible and talkative. Mason said their secret service was merely expensive. Money chucked away idiotically.

Additionally for March 5th., see 'A tall tale'

He was extremely witty and fine about the attitude of Keir Hardie and so on (but not sufficiently sympathetic). He told a really astounding tale of a dinner given by Cust to about 20 men, including Balfour and himself, when the house got on fire over their heads. Talk so interesting that dinner went on, though Cust was obliged to absent himself once for a few minutes. Perfection of menservants who offered bath towels with the port to protect from firemen's water coming through the ceiling. Talk to accompaniment of engine throbs, swishing, tramping etc. Guests obliged to move table further up room out of puddles. Dinner lasted till midnight in Dining Room, when they went to Drawing Room to view the place gutted. One of the finest social recitals I have ever heard.