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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.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Poor performances

Thursday, April 30th., Cadogan Square, London.

B. N. Opera Co. last night at Golders Green Hippodrome. Drove there in taxi. It was like arriving in the centre of a big town. Flat performance of "At the Boar's Head" by Holst, and "Gianni Schicchi". Much of the music of the former lovely. But the whole conception wrong. Wells said to me: "The idea of it is fundamentally stupid. The dialogue was complete before Holst began even to touch it." It was ridiculous to set it to music. Much of the acting rotten. Dame Quickly particularly. Wrong notion of character. Doll Tearsheet a bit better, but too plain and dull for a stage whore, though she corresponded with the reality of lots of whores. "Gianni Schicchi" rather better, but the hero was played dully. When we came out not a taxi. Buses flying off packed. We got onto a bus (top) and waited five minutes before it started. Then changed to a taxi near Marlborough Road. Home here soon after 11. Everything was interesting except the performances.

The Grade II listed, Hippodrome Theatre building next to Golders Green tube station was built as a 3000-seat music hall by Bertie Crewe, and opened on Boxing Day 1913. Its capacity was reduced by half with the construction of a full theatre stage, and it became famous for its pre- and post-London tours, and has been used as a receiving venue for West End transfers - Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich, Stephane Grappelli, Arthur Askey, Django Reinhardt and Chico Marx played there.

Additionally for April 30th., see 'Friends in Florence'

Rickards walked casually in on Thursday evening, twelve hours in advance of his warning postcard, & he took up residence here yesterday morning for three days. he arrived from Carrara where he had been to see the quarrying of some of the marble to be used in one of his buildings. He said the Duomo was chiefly a great feat of engineering, and not really beautiful.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Almost paradise

Friday, April 29th., "Flying Cloud", at sea near Paros.

We anchored off the island of Santorin at 5.30 a.m., and shall proceed inside the crater-harbour at 9 a.m. The harbour is too deep for anchorage. later we went into the crater-harbour. At 8.30 Kahn, Crowninshields and Gray walked up to the nearest town. Paul Dougherty, Davidson and I made sketches. The walkers returned at 11.30.

The inner sides of Santorin are precipitous in brown and green above an intensely blue sea. The rim of the precipices is magically beaded with white cities built of porcelain (a porcelain clay being one of the products of this paradise). I saw three such cities; there are others, as well as a ruined city in the middle of the islands. The general effect is of a surpassing loveliness which no picture postcard could begin to render. Santorin is one of the places Homer is alleged to have been born. This detail however is not Santorin's chief interest. Its chief interest is that in the hill-cities villas can be hired for £15 a year, gardeners for £12, butlers for £12 and cooks for £12. The cities are white and spotless except for the thoughtlessness of mules. Persons of intelligence and culture, including Greek students and authors, are to be found. Santorin is the most convincing imitation of paradise yet beheld by me. It is only fair to state that when I went ashore to sketch my ankles were bitten to shreds by flies. 

Kahn said that he was sixty, and had never yet known the sensation of either mental or physical fatigue. This I believe. He never is tired.
For more on Kahn see http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/an-invitation-to-sail.html

We anchored about 7 near Paros, for the night, instead of going on to Delos as the skipper was not sure of the lying at Delos, and a N. wind had sprung up. It died about 10.15.

Additionally for April 29th., see 'Self-awareness'

Noticed in myself: A distinct feeling of jealousy on reading yesterday and today accounts of another very successful production of a play by Somerset Maugham - the third now running. Also in reading an enthusiastic account of a new novelist in theDaily News today, I looked eagerly for any sign to show that he was not after all a really first class artist. It relieved me to find that his principal character was somewhat conventional, etc., etc. Curious!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Chinatown

Tuesday, April 28th., Cadogan Square, London.

Limehouse Police Station
I went to Chinatown last night with Beaverbrook and Ashfields. Pennyfields is the name of the chief street, Limehouse. We went to the Limehouse police station first. It took us exactly 15 minutes to drive there from Ciro's. Great change in a short time. We saw some 'curios'( as the Chief Inspector called them) first. Expanation of "Fantan" and "Pluck Pigeons". the first seems a purely childish game in which the bank pays 2 to 1 winnings on a 4 to 1 chance.

Then out with the Inspector to Pennyfields. No gambling after 8 o'clock he said, usually not later than 7. We entered two Chinese restaurants (11 p.m.) where lots of people were drinking tea. Humble people. All very clean and tidy indeed, and the people looked decent. A few nice-looking prostitutes - chiefly Jewesses. Nearly all houses closed. Some windows, said the Chief Inspector, were always shuttered. "They don't like the light". Glimpses of curtained bedrooms higher up. We went into a Chinese Music Club, where four men were playing Mah Jong and one strumming a sort of Chinese guitar, with very large string-pegs. Their singing nights were Wednesday and Saturday. A suggestion that they should sing was not well received. They were very polite but didn't want us. We were to have seen the Chinese Chapel, where the religion of Confucius is practised; but it was locked up. 


Then we went into a pub (closed) and found one or two old topers (friends of proprietor's) drinking stout after hours. We were taken upstairs and there saw a wonderful collection of Chinese carving of all sorts - chiefly picked up from sailors. lastly, return to Police Station. No prisoners. Cells marvellously clean and sanitary. Steam heating. Temp. must be 63 at least. Plank bed, white as a yachts forecastle, but a pretty comfortable pillow; one rug. On the whole a rather flat night. Still we saw the facts. We saw no vice whatever. Inspector gave the Chinese an exceedingly good character.

Has any district of London attracted as much attention as did Limehouse between the Great War and the 1930s? Limehouse, and its ghostly double ‘Chinatown’, figured as a dangerous and exotic place in a whole series of novels, films, magazines, even in popular songs. Public responses to several drug scandals, to interracial marriage, to housing shortages and unemployment, contributed to an enduring myth: the idea of a Chinatown in Limehouse that never really existed. Before the First World War there were never more than a few hundred Chinese people in London - and many of these were transitory sailors. 

Additionally for April 28th., see 'Backwards in time'

We dropped anchor in the Candia roadstead about 8.30 a.m. Knossos is the magnet that draws the inquisitive tourist to Candia. You drive two or three short miles, past Venetian fortifications and past vineyards, under a most fervent sun, and are immediately moved backwards several thousand years. The excavations and reconstructions have evidently been carried out with the greatest skill, judgement and imagination. Their achievement is to make you see and feel what at any rate the latest palace actually was.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Disgusted

Wednesday, April 27th., 12b George Street, London.

By the last post last night I received the proofs of the first instalment in The Delineator, of "Mr. Prohack". To my intense disgust I saw at once that they had cut it. Considering that the number of instalments and the precise length had been agreed by me in accordance with the editor's own suggestion, this absolutely disgusted me, and I have written to Pinker that I don't want to correct any more proofs.

In the night I finished the tenth volume (just out) of Tchekoff. Apart from "Ward No. 6", the only long story, I think the best thing in it is "The Frost". It struck me on re-reading "Ward No. 6" (for the third time) that this tale is not at all like any other tale in the volume, and that there are very few Tchekoff's like it in manner in any volume. In places it seems to have been written under English influences. It is a most terrible story, and one of the most violent instances of Tchekoff's preoccupation with Russian slackness, and corruption.

I have sent my brother Septimus a cheque for £30, to keep him out of immediate danger, but fear for his future. He says that the financial situation in the Potteries is bad but it is just as stringent here. I know that I make a lot of money, but it is by dint of hard work, and my life is so arranged that I also spend a lot. Nor can my dispositions be altered at short notice. It was most unfortunate for example that I bought my new yacht just before the slump began, but there it is, and I have no intention of laying her up unless I am absolutely compelled to. The fact is that Septimus is not suited to the pursuit of an independent mercantile career, and I have told him so. He is a good and hard worker but has failed, even in times of relative commercial prosperity, to make profit on his capital, and now it is all gone. I think he would be better off and much happier in a salaried position.

Additionally for April 27th., see 'Not seeing Florence'

Munich Orchestra, conducted by F Loewe at the Teatro della Pergola on Saturday evening. "Till Eulenspiegel". I began to understand it. The intense vivacity of the thing proclaimed itself. The performance was magnificent. On Sunday I was ill, but I had determined to go to "Aida" at the Politeamo Fiorentino, and I went with Mr. Mock in a shower of rain. We saw three acts, & I enjoyed it very much, though ill. Vast interior. All the cheaper parts crammed; heads stretching away into distances further than at Covent Garden. Then I spent Monday & yesterday in bed. I could not read on Monday, but yesterday I read I don't know how many newspapers, all "Ce Cochon de Morin" and a lot of a new French novel by Jean Canora, sent to me for review. This morning I wrote my Chronicle article in bed, before 8.30. So that seeing Florence has stood still for a time.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Working well

Friday, April 26th., Yacht Club, London.

I was poisoned by something at the Club on Wednesday, and had a revolutionary night followed be enfeeblement. However the ideas for my play were working so well yesterday that I worked practically all day, and wrote two scenes.

On Wednesday night (prior to the revolution) I had Professor Henry S. Cunby (English Literature) of Yale, after dinner at the Reform. Wells joined in. A young man, probably about 30, markedly dressed as a tourist. Very amiable and bright. But apparently just like a million other young Americans. Still, he made one or two shrewd remarks and liked "Candide".

Henry Seidel Canby (1878 – 1961) was a critic, editor, and Yale University professor. A scion of a Quaker family that arrived in Wilmington, Delaware, around 1740 and grew to regional prominence through milling and business affairs, Henry Seidel Canby was a son of Edward T. Canby. Canby was born in Wilmington, and attended Wilmington Friends School. He graduated from Yale in 1899, then taught at the university until becoming a professor in 1922. Following a four-year stint as the editor of the Literary Review of the New York Evening Post, Canby became one of the founders and editors of the Saturday Review of Literature, serving as the last until 1936.


Additionally for April 26th., see 'Incidents of war'

About midnight (previous) an orderly came on a motor bike and looked in the front garden. I challenged from the window. He had an order for Lieut. Myers to report at once at the Orderly Office. Myers was up all night. Then in the morning's papers was the news of the capture of Sir Roger Casement in an attempt at gun-running in Ireland. Then came telegram of riots and seizure of the Post Office at Dublin.
Then Myers came in with the news (which he had overheard on the telephone) that a German fleet had been within five miles of Lowestoft between 4 and 5 a.m., and also that Zeppelins had been over. Then came telegram with official news of a short naval action off Lowestoft.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Out of the war

Wednesday, April 25th., Yacht Club, London.

I wrote the last scene but one of "The Roll Call" today and was exhausted. Lunched alone at crowded Reform Club.

I walked down past Buckingham Palace this morning. Two naval petty officers outside in full fig, and their women. A police superintendent (?) and a policeman at gates. Former said to latter: "We'd better be getting 'em in," and then, to the sailors, "You decorations? Come on. Come along. Come on," curtly, as if they had done some deed suspicious, and not valorous. The sailors talked with their women for a few moments, and then went obediently within the precincts. They were two roughish, short, thick-set chaps. I wonder what they had done to earn their decorations?

Called at Reform Club, where I spent 40 minutes with Wells and an American journalist-lecturer-professor named Macdonald, over here for the New York Nation. Wells was talking about the after-war exacerbationary reaction on nerves, which would cause rows, quarrels, etc. unless it was consciously kept well in hand, and Macdonald said that a year or so after the San Francisco earthquake prominent S.F. men would disappear; they were in sanatoria, etc. Also lifelong friends, such as business partners, would quarrel over some trifle, each go to his solicitor, and never speak to one another again.

Additionally for April 25th., see 'In Arcadia'

Then begins a hundred mile drive across the Pelponnesus Peninsula to Nauplia. A crow would measure the distance as forty miles; the odd sixty are made up in loops and hair-pin turns. The scenery is consistently stupendous. This region is the original Arcadia, where the Athenian met the great god Pan and concluded a bargain with him. Considered as Arcadia the countryside is not in the least what it decently ought to be. A few small poplar trees of tender green, some olives, some cypresses, some belled goats, but in the main untilled and very desolate slopes! Plainly many groves must have vanished since Pan helped to win wars, because he could not possibly have stayed in a province which as it now stands must be excessively unsuited to the happiness of persons of the Pan temperament.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Finishings

Thursday, April 24th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Finished "War and Peace" on Tuesday. The last part of the Epilogue is full of good ideas the johnny can't work out. And of course, in the phrase of critics, would have been better left out. So it would; only Tolstoy couldn't leave it out. It was what he wrote the book for. The first part of the Epilogue is as good as anything. All that domesticity is superbly rendered, with a natural and yet ruthless vivacity. The Battle of Borodino is fine. The Rostov family is fine. And many of the 'set' descriptions of Russian life - such as the wolf-hunting on the Rostov estate. I wanted to write one of the same dimensions, and the final thrills of it did inspire me to a good basic scheme for the foundations of the third "Clayhanger".

I am just finishing instalment three of the Harper serial (out of eight). It is sound but not brilliant. Returns of "Great Adventure" at Kingsway going up. Over £150 a night now. Could scarcely be better.

The Velsa arrived at Brightlingsea from Ostend yesterday. We drove to Harwich yesterday afternoon, and saw the Gothenburg steamer. I wanted to go on it, but wasn't sure what country Gothenburg is in. 

Began to read correspondence of Flaubert yesterday. Letters at age of 9 and 10 are remarkable.

Finished "Cannibals of Finance" yesterday. A naive and rather impressive book, confirming one's view of the autocracy that rules U.S.A.

Finished also the Webbs' book on Highways. This is an absolutely efficient work.

Additionally for April 24th., see 'Understanding life'

The Webbs live in a house entirely constructed of Blue bricks, a marvel of ingenuity recalling the labours of beavers and coral insects. I get on very well with the Webbs but they do not understand (what I call) life. Squire, now editor of the New Statesman, wants me to gather material on the Russian situation. He also is an A1 chap. But he is a vegetarian & he doesn't understand life either. And either he or his wife doesn't understand shirts!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Moving around

Sunday, April 23rd., Whitehall Court, London.

Irene Rooke
I lost my notebook of the Potteries, and only began a new one two or three days before I left. On Tuesday the 11th. I went to Manchester to stay with Mair till Thursday. I met the usual fine crowd and also Stanley Houghton, who impressed me; and Irene Rooke, currently playing in Miss Horniman's company at the Gaiety, whom I liked; and in particular a certain Hughes, of Sherratt & Hughes, the largest booksellers in Manchester, who told me he had sold 950 copies of "Clayhanger", and over 400 of the cheap edition of "The Old Wives' Tale" in three weeks (I think).

Irene Rooke (1878 - 1958) was an English theatre and film actress from Bridport, Dorset, England.

Marguerite came to the Potteries on Thursday. On Saturday we went down Sneyd Deep Pit, and on Monday to Rode Heath. We came to London on Tuesday, and Marguerite went direct to Pinner. I came to Whitehall Court, and what with the Authors' Club, and the N.L.C. next door, and a fine bedroom on the 7th. storey, I ought to be comfortable.

I took up Hilda Lessways again on Thursday afternoon, and shall finish reading what I have written this morning. better than I expected. There are some smashing pages. If only I can give it a sufficiently brilliant ending! 

I met Rickards at the Cafe Royal where we had a good dinner in the most horrible atmosphere. He was expecting friends who did not arrive.  Later, there we were at the Palace music-hall to see the Russian dancers. Pavlova is really very good. She was dancing the dying swan when a feather fell off her dress. Two silent Englishmen. One says: "Moulting". That is all they say. The Galsworthys were there. Also a half-caste tart whom Rickards sleeps with at present. He says that she is very fine and that her shoulders are a very beautiful colour. I told him that I have always wanted to sleep with a negress. He offered me the half-caste. I took fright and went no further. We did not get into conversation either with the Galsworthys or with the whore. 
For more on Rickards see 'Eating companions'

I am talked about a great deal in this club. Indeed I am its star member. I constantly come across couples whispering: "He ... The Old Wives' Tale ... Very good ... Very fine". And they fall into embarrassed silence when I approach.

Max's caricature was reproduced in yesterday's Manchester Guardian. It is not very good.

Additionally for April 23rd., see 'Sailing East'

I didn't have a great deal of sleep, but felt that I had had enough sleep.
Sore throat which I might have cured if I could have stopped smoking; but I couldn't. The thing would have been much more serious to make me give up this habit even for a time.
I thought about an article on Syracuse; so soon I was determined to write it today.
I was chatting with the Chief Officer on the poop before 6 a.m. Perfect morning. Saw one sail, a brig, about ten miles to the north going westward. Saw nothing else all day. There was a slant of wind, and I reckon that the ship was making 3 or 4 knots under sail only. Four sails set, 2 topsails, 1 top stay-sail, the sky sail and three jibs.
Bridge has been played nearly the whole day. And it has been a simply magnificent day.
Captain Davies said that he was not a yacht-captain but a captain in a yacht. Well, the yacht shows it.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Great art

Thursday, April 22nd., Cadogan Square, London.

Headache all day, chiefly owing I think to the one and a half glasses of Pommeroy and Greno champagne that Beaverbrook gave me. At first I thought I could think (novel), but I couldn't. I meant to go out for an aimless walk, and then I saw that it was the private view of the Seurat pictures at the Lefebre Galleries, so I went there. The Seurat pictures want a lot of seeing to appreciate. In the big picture "Poseuses", one thing that strikes you is the loving patience of the execution - equalling Memling's, e.g. The pictures were badly framed, but according to Seurat's own ideas. 

Seurat, Les Poseuses
The Lefevre Gallery was established on 26th April 1926 by Mr Alex Reid and Monsieur Earnest Lefevre, two of the most eminent dealers in French Impressionist and Modern art in the United Kingdom at the time. Its first premises were in King Street, St. James’s; eventually moving to Bruton Street, London until its closure in April 2002. Alex Reid had been trained in Paris with Theo van Gogh at Broussod and Valadon and had lodged with Theo’s brother Vincent; there he was first introduced to Impressionist paintings. Between 1889 and 1926, he dealt from his gallery in Glasgow and then moved to London. On joining forces with his main competitor Lefevre, the gallery began life and he sent his son A.J. McNeil Reid to run the show. The gallery continued to exhibit Impressionist and Modern art, with such groundbreaking shows as 'George Seurat' in May 1926, ‘Henri Matisse’ in June 1927, ‘Degas’ June 1928, ‘Modigliani’ in March 1929, ‘Pablo Picasso’ in June 1931, ‘Renoir’ June 1935, ‘Cezanne’, July 1935, ‘Dali’June/July 1936, ‘Francis Bacon’ in 1945, ‘Calder’ in January 1951, ‘Balthus’ in January 1952, ‘Kandinski’ in 1972, 'The Complete Sculptures' of Degas in 1976, Picasso Sketchbooks in 1994 and many others.

Then I walked down Piccadilly criticising new architecture, to the Yacht Club, where Eric Pinker lunched with me, and gave me news about myself and my market. He had hopes of a play or so being sold. 

I am soon to be sixty and yet I still need to work relentlessly to maintain my style of life. Why? Partly it is habit, and I have expensive women to keep, and I have come to feel it is somehow expected of me. The lifestyle has become part of my identity. But of course I do like all the attention and excitement. I doubt that I will ever be able to step-back into a more modest way of living which would allow me more time to myself.

Then I went to the New Gallery to see the new Jannings film, "Vaudeville". It is very fine, despite a simple and rather crude story. All the pictures make 'designed pictures'. I should say the prisoners' exercise was inspired by Van Gogh. Even the empty interiors are like Cezanne. The close-ups are wonderful in design. This is where Charlie Chaplin is utterly beaten by the German film. Jannings is an exceedingly fine actor too and puts Jack Barrymore right under. The film lasted ninety minutes without a break. I should have liked a break.

Varieté / Variety / Vaudeville is a silent German film directed by E.A. Dupont and starring Emil Jannings and Lya de Putti. Originally premiering in Berlin at the end of November 1925, it was a UFA production noted for innovative camera work and a risque, melodramatic storyline. Two inmates are on their break in the jail courtyard when one of them, Boss (Emil Jannings), is called to the director's office. Boss' wife has appealed his case, asking for a pardon. Sentenced for murder, Boss has been in prison for ten years, but he has never revealed the motives of his crime. Finally, he explains what happened back then. He used to be a famous trapeze artist, but after a horrible accident he can no longer perform. His will broken, he scrapes through life as the owner of a show booth in Hamburg's St. Pauli district. One day, a sailor brings a beautiful young dancer to his booth. Boss falls in love with the sultry Berta-Marie (Lya de Putti) and leaves his wife and child for her. Together, they get jobs with another circus performer and enjoy great success as a trio. But when Boss finds out that Berta-Marie is betraying him with their partner, he kills his rival and reports himself to the police. After ten years, Boss is released. In this picture there is a marvellous wealth of detail; the lighting effects and camera work cause one to reflect that occasionally the screen may be connected with art. While there may be some speculation concerning the appeal of this striking piece of work there is no doubt regarding its merit. Scene after scene unlocks a flood of thoughts, and although the nature of the principal characters is far from pleasing; the glimpses one obtains are so true to life that they are not repellent. Emil Jannings fills the principal rôle and is theatric at times, but his performance is a masterly one.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9_5wNCJfLQ

Additionally for April 22nd., see 'Lunch with the Great Beast'

In response to a telegram I went to lunch with Aleister Crowley and his wife (Kelly's sister) today at Paillard's. he had been made a 'Khan' in the East, and was wearing a heavily jewelled red waistcoat, and the largest ring I ever saw on a human hand. I rather liked him. He said some brain specialist had told him that what made a great brain was not the number of facts or ideas known, but the number of facts or ideas co-ordinated or co-related. I said: "Of course."

Monday, 21 April 2014

Liverish

Monday, April 21st., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

We went to London on Thursday. I for dinner at Omar Khayyam Club. Interview with Pinker who lunched with me, and told me privately of his scheme for increasing dramatists' royalties according to length of run. This at Reform Club.

Exhibition of Max Beerbohm's cartoons at Leicester Galleries. Crowd. I was at once recognised  - with a certain lack of politeness - by two men. I was ill all day. Probably liver - anyhow pains in back - very mysterious and disconcerting. Bad night. Same illness on Friday complicated by dyspepsia. I went to Leicester Galleries and bought my caricature. Then to Agnew Galleries to see alleged finest collection of watercolours by Turner ever got together. I thought both the Blue and the Red Righi rather over-praised, and I preferred the "Scarborough" picture - marvellous microscopic figures of women in the foreground. A few loud-voiced English upper-classes patronisingly present. This show superb, but still I left it with slight disappointment - a flat feeling, a suspicion of prettiness and academicism. Perhaps, had I been feeling better, my pleasure in the show would have been enhanced.

Lunch alone at Reform. Ill.

Additionally for April 21st., see 'Illumination in Syracuse'

I knew nothing of The Clouds except its title and the outline of its plot. My mind was a clean slate. The first impression was not good, for I certainly could not admire the scenic background. But as soon as the piece actually began, within two minutes of the opening, I had the exciting joy of new perceptions about classical drama. Obviously the thing was being very well done. I could hear every word plainly across a space of some seventy five yards - and in the open! (Oh, West End of London, where I must strain my ears at a distance of ten yards and withal be resigned to miss much!) The austere simplicity of the construction of the play, the rise and fall of its emotion, its disdain of what we call realism, and its respect for that truth which the West End of London will not tolerate save under compulsion - these matters were rendered movingly plain to me.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Machine Stops

Friday, April 20th., Cadogan Square, London.

I walked to Dr. Griffin's to have my heart examined. He told me he had "no fault whatever to find" with my heart. Also that my arteries were those of a man of 40, and my blood pressure just a trifle below normal. I had the examination solely to satisfy Dorothy.

E. M. Forster has a new volume of short stories, "The Eternal Moment", which can only fortify his reputation as an imaginative writer. It comprises remarkable things and one quite startling thing - "The Machine Stops". This tale, of the far future, is in the vein of H. G. Wells when he is fantastic. I think that if Wells had not written "When the Sleeper Awakes" and "Tales of Space and Time", etc., etc., it would never have occurred to Forster to write "The Machine Stops". Mr. Forster has done the fantastic before but never with such complete success. Indeed Mr. Wells might have been content to sign "The Machine Stops".

It is original; it is full of imaginative invention; it hangs together; it is terrible (but with a hopeful close); it is really impressive in a very high degree. It ought not to be missed. If the majority of readers who like this sort of story are not enthusiastic about "The Machine Stops", then I will enter a retreat for critics who have prophesied falsely, and in future write nothing but reviews of seventeenth century versifiers whom nobody except their editors has ever heard of. The title of the book itself is the title of the last story, and one may surmise therefore that this story is the author's favourite. If so, I disagree with the verdict of the author, though "The Eternal Moment" is fine and extremely subtle. The whole small volume (half a dozen tales) is excellent.

Additionally for April 20th., see 'Getting it right'

Yesterday I began to think that the tone of the end of my novel wouldn't do.
So, I spent the day, exhausted, partly in dozing and reading, and one and a half hours at barbers, and generally thinking over climax, which I ultimately got right.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Famous in Florence

Tuesday, April 19th., Pension White, Florence.

By dint of taking one room in the Uffizzi and resolving to look at every picture in it without exception, I saw things I should never have seen otherwise. Including an Adam & Eve of Cranach not specially remarked in Baedeker, and skied. In another room I discovered for myself the exceeding beauty of the small Dutch pictures.

Adam and Eve is a double painting by German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach the Elder, dating from 1528, housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Italy. The two biblical ancestors are portrayed, in two different panels, on a dark background, standing on a barely visible ground. Both hold two small branches which cover their sexual organs. Eve holds the traditional apple, with the snake coming to her from above from the tree of life. Adam is shown in a relaxed posture, his right elbow lying on the left border of his panel.

A complete change in the weather. Sunshine quite blinding, and yet a wind-chill in the shadows. I did three full hours on "Clayhanger" before breakfast, and was then exhausted for the day. Disgusted with my sketching.

I saw the town between 5 and 6 and had a drink in the Piazza Signoria. It is agreeable to be able to contemplate the Perseus of Cellini while drinking a quina-vermouth. 


At Vieusseux's library, on changing my book this afternoon, the attendant said it was known in Florence, Florence being a cosmopolitan place, that A.B. the author was staying in the town. He then became enthusiastic about the demand for my books, & lyrical about the number of Tauchnitz copies of them that Vieusseux possessed. He said he knew them all from the first, "The Grand Babylon Hotel", and to prove his bona fides he began reeling off the Tauchnitz series numbers of them. So I rewarded him by shaking hands with him, whereat he was well content.

The Gabinetto Scientifico Letterario G. P. Vieusseux, founded in 1819 by Giovan Pietro Vieusseux, a merchant fromGeneva, is a library in Florence, Italy. It played a vital role in linking the culture of Italy with that of other European countries in the 19th century, and also became one of the chief reference points for the Risorgimento movement. It began as a reading room that provided leading European periodicals for Florentines and visitors from abroad in a setting that encouraged conversation and the exchange of ideas. A circulating library with the latest publications in Italian, French and English was installed next to the reading room.
http://sufblog.syr.edu/2014/01/circulating-ideas-scrittori-ditalia-at-gabinetto-vieusseux/

Additionally for April 19th., see 'Kaiser in the offing'

Dr. Slimon reports to me that at the meeting of Chairmen of Emergency Committees and Military Representatives at Chelmsford on Friday, which I could not attend, under the chairmanship of General Paget, Paget insisted on the strong probability of an invasion between Harwich and Maldon in July or August.
The naval opinion at Harwich, I hear, is that Harwich Flotilla could not deal with the covering ships of an invading force, and that, so far as the Navy was concerned, the force would land, and the convoy be taken in the rear. It is also said that the German submarines are trying to  mine the course of the proposed expedition, and that we are sweeping their mines and mining contra.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Terrific climbs

Monday, April 18th., S. Domenico Palace Hotel, Taormina, Sicily.

No restaurant on the train between Naples and Sicily. The car-conductor made black coffee in a little kettle at the end of the corridor. I had two cups with great joy at 8 a.m.

Messina train ferry
We got to S. Giovanni fairly on time (9.35), but fiddled about some time in getting 3 carriages abreast on steamer-ferry. It was raining. I walked about on the steamer itself, unovercoated in the spitting rain. The crossing took exactly half an hour. We were 20 minutes late in leaving S. Giovanni. But the restaurant had been hooked on, and a hungry lot of us rushed into it and began eating before the train left. I had already eaten two apples and an orange and I said to myself I wouldn't eat much else. But could I resist the eggs and bacon? I could not. I ate all there was. This was after 10.30. 

It didn't seem long before we were at Taormina, where nearly everybody got out. The San Domenico bus was soon full. The climb up to the hotel is terrific. I should say 5 or 600 feet, and when you are in the hotel dining-room you look down on the sea almost perpendicularly. The hotel seems really to have been a monastery.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSvSd68iIZg

Kahn telegraphed saying 'they' would arrive tomorrow afternoon. He is attentive.

Higher above the hotel than the hotel is above the sea I saw, peeping over the edge of a precipice, some roofs of a village. I said to myself: "I shall not reach it, but I will walk towards it." The mule-path was bad. It might easily have been made quite good; but such it was and such it had been for centuries. I wondered why the villagers up aloft didn't do something about it for their own sakes - etc. in our superior British way. Then it occurred to me that the path was not maintained simply because it was not used sufficiently to warrant maintenance. Exhausted, I was about to slither down again to Taormina when a woman emerged from a garden and told me, what I already knew, that the path was "cattiva". But she also told me that I should arrive at the village in 10 minutes. Then she gave me a fruit new to my experience; it was like a very large, thin, flat fig, and sweeter than a fig. lastly, with much amiability, she took two lire from me for the fruit, which might have been worth half a lire. 

Castelmola

In 10 minutes I was in the village. Squalor of the acutest. One great slum. The children, festering in the dirt, utterly different from the children of Taormina, 800 feet below. I reached the public square, which overlooked the precipice. In the corner of the square a war memorial:



A PERENNE RICORDO
DEI PRODI SUOI FIGLI
CHE LA LORO GIOVANE VITA
GLORIOSAMENTE

There it was, the cat-lived legend of the gloriousness of war rising from the dead! Did the sons of the village, while losing their lives thank that they were losing them gloriously?

"Gee!" I heard a young girl's voice. "Now poppa and momma, you go and stand right against that monument, and I'll take you both. But I must get that house in as well." Middle-west I think. Germans were drinking beer in a little alfresco restaurant. The place was named Castelmola. I shall remember it.

Perched precariously on a mountaintop above the community ofTaormina on the eastern shores of Sicily is the beautiful medieval village of Castelmola. Ignored by many visitors to Sicily, this quaint mountain top community offers unparalleled views of Mount Etna, Taormina, the Bay of Giardini Naxos, and the Strait of Messina. Built to protect and defend Taormina from invaders, today this quiet village makes for an interesting respite from the hustle and bustle of Taormina below.
http://bdegiulio.hubpages.com/hub/Castelmola-Sicily

Additionally for April 18th., see 'More potboiling'

Today I sat on a Coroner's Jury at Fulham and heard four cases, including one suicide through religious mania. I was struck by several things:
     The decency of people in general;
     The common sense and highly-trained skill of the coroner;
     The dramatic quality of sober fact. In two instances, the deceased persons had died from causes absolutely unconnected with the superficial symptoms. Thus a woman who had brought on a miscarriage and died had died from heart disease;
     The sinister influence of the ugliness amid which the lower classes carry on their lives;
     The enormous (as it were) underground activity of the various charitable and philanthropic agencies which spread themselves like a network over London. It would seem that nothing could happen, among a certain class of society, without the cognizance of some philanthropic agency;
     The dullness and the conscientiousness of a jury;
     The absolute thoroughness with which suspicious deaths are inquired into.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

An ordeal

Good Friday, April 17th., Les Sablons.

On Wednesday we went to Paris to prepare for the removing. Yesterday I went twice to the Foire du Jambon, and bought a few frames and two tiny coloured panels. Returned home in crowded 5.15 exhausted. Particularly Marguerite. Perhaps for the first time she felt that the country was better than the town. This morning I went over to the house, on foot. Marguerite came by train and had her first sight of the house. Ordeal passed off very well, as everything was in order. This afternoon I wrote a T.P.W. article. No mistake my control over my brain steadily increases.

Additionally for April 17th., see 'Roman Easter'

I also drove up to the Garibaldi Monument (Monte Gianicolo). All this in two hours. I did not feel like lunching wholesale in the hotel, so I went out and found a littletrattoria, and ate there. About a dozen customers. Two clerkly young men with gay neckties, in confidential discussion. A group of three: an oldish, shabby, tousled woman with back so bowed that her head was almost at the level of the table; an old man, her husband with a hooked nose, very shabby and untidy, who smoked small cheap cigars the whole time; and a chocolate-uniformed friend who looked like a sleeping-car conductor but was not. The hooked nose and the chocolate person argued incessantly and raspingly; but they were excellent friends; the chocolate person felt the old man's pulse and the glands of his neck, and sneered, while the old woman grinned and steadily ate.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Through Italy

Saturday, April 16th., Grand Hotel Continentale, Rome.

Lovely morning. Environs of Turin, 8 a.m. The journey passed without incident. The train was always punctual and arrived at Rome exactly at the appointed hour, 8.10 p.m. Not a bad achievement for an international train. I got a porter at once and he carried my stuff across the Piazza to this hotel. I was served by a middle-aged kindly waiter evidently alcoholic, though not drunk at that moment.

Then put on my overcoat and went for a walk round the big church S Maria degli Angeli close by. Squeaking trams on curves. many hotels here near the station. Then I walked into the station, in which one of the chief departments was apparently the Militia 'Commando'. I went to bed at or before 11, having eaten a bit too much. Nothing much on the train journey here, except that I read "Brothers Karamazov". Third or fourth time of reading. Yes, fourth time. I read it slowly to savour it. It is very great and masterful. An Englishwoman, fattish, sixtyish, very energetic, had the cabine next to mine. She talked at length to anyone she could get hold of about Mussolini and her interview with him, and the greatness of Italy, rottenness of France, and muddleness of England. Loud voice, very tedious. A fascist, carrying the insignia, and the official card with photograph. I had to sit opposite to her at lunch. She tried hard to get up a talk but I beat her off. All her ideas were wrong. But if anything evil happened to her in Italy she might well change them all. Her acquaintance with Italian customs and Italian was such that when she got her lunch bill and saw "Tassa di Bollo" at the foot of it, she called the waiter and said that she hadn't had any tassa. She talked French volubly and not well. 

The sunset round about Civita Vecchia was richly marvellous. Such a thing as you couldn't see in England. The whole day was lovely and quite warm. Lovely bright leaves and blossoms on the trees everywhere. Especially after emerging from the Mont Cenis tunnel, and later it was marvellous.

Additionally for April 16th., see 'Making adjustments'

These days, going to bed early, I arise at 6.30 or 6.45, or even earlier, and do an hour's work or so before breakfast, and in addition am dressed for breakfast. I didn't dress for breakfast for years because the masseur came after breakfast. I don't have him at present , as my health is so much better (owing to him). Much of my time now, while Dorothy is in the maternity home, is taken up with her and with arranging things for her. I wrote 700 words of novel "Vanguard" in the morning and 800 in the afternoon. I was at the Home by 12 o'clock, and stayed until after 1 o'clock. Then at two I drove home - (these days I have to drive everywhere to save time; if I can manage to walk to the top of Sloane Street it is all I can do) - and slept and went on with my novel till 4.30. Then I had chores to do.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Overwhelmed by art

Friday, April 15th., Pension White, Florence.

Orchestral concert last night in the Teatro Verdi. Conductor: Zuccano. Symphony in C Minor by Franchetti. Just as Grierson the other evening said that the Lear was the finest he had ever seen, so he said that the rendering of the Peer Gynt suite was the finest he had ever heard, and that the Franchetti symphony was just as good as a lot of Schubert and Schumann. Very few people in the audience.

Strike of scavengers, on account of a quarrel between a subordinate and his superior. Subordinate in prison: all his fellows go on strike. For two days the town has lain in filth. I am told it is a Socialistic Town Council. The Nazione preaches common-sense.

I had written 1,300 words of "Clayhanger" at 9.10 this morning.


Tombs of the Medici with Mr. Mock. This was a classic sensation if you like. It seemed to be the very highest altitude of art. Uncompromising and yet restrained realism. Also the Laurentinian Library, & the cloisters, the latter being sketchable.

Drove to S. Margharita a Montici this afternoon. Hot sunshine: heavy clouds: thunder. All the charm of the plain on which Florence lies is revealed in the course of this drive. Scores of villages lie in the western part of this plain, and each house of them glitters white in the sun. The colours on the hills are special to the country, and seem a novelty of combinations. But I have not yet seen Florence itself 'well-composed' from a distance. The tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, the campanile, The Duomo, and the chapel of the Medici each spoils the rest. And especially the campanile and the Duomo clash. There is no doing anything with them. But every day the overwhelming grandeur of the dome, as a unit, increases upon you. Also does the richness of the city in works of art of all kinds. Every day you come across new quantities, enormous quantities of really high class work. The Donatello etc. things, the M. Angelo tombs, & the MSS in the Library adjoining, would alone make the reputation of a city. And they are a mere trifling item in the total.

Additionally for April 15th., see 'Parisian evenings'

It was beautifully warm, indeed hot; but close and oppressive towards evening. Paris is at its best on these oppressive evenings, when all the cafes are full of crowded languor. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey by bus and steamer to Schwobs. The voyage from the Quai Voltaire to the Ile St. Louis, just before seven o'clock, was extremely impressive. It seemed to me as good as the Thames at its best.

Monday, 14 April 2014

At the Cafe Royal

Tuesday, April 14th., Cadogan Square, London.

Dorothy and I dined at the Cafe Royal (in the cafe) on Easter Sunday night. I hadn't dined in that room for years. It seems to have come through all the changes and rebuildings of architectures and times with scarcely a change. The whole atmosphere was almost, you'd think, just as when Henri Rochefort was there daily. Fine wine. Cigars in A1 condition.

The Cafe Royal was originally conceived and set up in 1865 by Nicholas Thévenon, who was a French wine merchant. He had to flee France due to bankruptcy, arriving in Britain in 1863 with his wife, Célestine, and just five pounds in cash. He changed his name to Daniel Nicols. Under his son, also named Daniel Nicols, the Cafe Royal flourished and was considered at one point to have the greatest wine cellar in the world. 
By the 1890s the Café Royal had become the place to see and be seen. Its patrons have included Oscar WildeAleister CrowleyVirginia Woolf, Winston Churchill, Noël Coward, Sir Max Beerbohm, Arnold Bennett and George Bernard Shaw.

I saw a very arty- or studio-ish figure there and couldn't think who it was. Tall, thin, bearded; brown clothes, black tie, red handkerchief. As soon as I shook hands with him I remembered. Darrell Figgis. He was cheerful with a background of melancholy. He comes over on journalistic business, stays at the R.A. Club in order to have a swim in the morning, and generally eats at the Cafe Royal. There he was all alone on Easter Sunday evening, reading an American collection of short stories by post-war Russian authors. All very characteristic.

I asked him to come to our table later. He did. He talked merely at intervals, but is rather provincial in his method of referring to himself and what he has done and what he has said. Dublin is very provincial. He agreed with my harsh verdict on A.E., etc. He was wearing fine rings. Perhaps two of them were his wife's.

Darrell Figgis (1882-1925) was born in Rathmines, Dublin, and as a young man he worked in London but then moved to Achill Island to write and learn Irish at the Scoil Acla Summer School and to gain an appreciation of Irish culture. Figgis was a poet and in 1910 he joined the Dent publishing company. However, after his detention following the Easter Rising, he and the publishing house ‘parted company’. Subsequently he established his own publishing firm. Figgis joined the Irish Volunteers in Dublin in 1913 and organised the original Battalion of Volunteers in Achill. While in London, he became involved with a group gun runners who financed and supplied German rifles to the Volunteers. Although he did not participate in the 1916 Easter Rising, Figgis was arrested and interned by the British authorities between 1916 and 1917 in Reading Gaol. After his release, Figgis returned to Ireland. At the 1917 Sinn Féin Ardfheis he was elected Honorary Secretary of Sinn Féin. In May 1918, Figgis was arrested for his alleged part in the spurious German Plot and deported to England. In 1918, he became editor of the newspaper The Republic. In 1924, Figgis’ wife Millie took her own life, and a year later Figgis himself committed suicide in London. He is buried in the West Hampstead Cemetery, London.

Additionally for April 14th., see 'The habit of contentment'

Advance of age. I now sit down to brush my hair and put my collar and tie on. I also take a decided pleasure in forming habits, and re-forming old ones connected with the furniture from Fontainebleau, whose little peculiarities of locks and knobs etc. I recognise again with positive satisfaction. The pleasure of doing a thing in the same way at the same time every day, and savouring it, should be noted.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A new direction

Friday, April 13th., Cadogan Square, London.

Thorpe, of British International Films, and Dupont, the German producer of "Vaudeville" and "Moulin Rouge" came to see me yesterday about writing a film story about Piccadilly, under the title "Piccadilly", for Dupont to produce; I agreed to write, and promised the first sketch for Tuesday. Today, I got away early, and began to think about the film. 

Then I walked to Dent's in Cockspur Street, where yesterday I had seen a bed-table watch, which I had the notion of giving to Dorothy. The price, £15, annoyed and repelled me, but in the end I yielded to the damned thing and bought it. Dorothy called for me at the Club, and at 3.50 I began to write my sketch for the film story.

It was interrupted by a grand nursery tea, this being Virginia's second birthday. It was all over at 5.30, after which I finished all the preliminary part of my film story. I hope to write the actual sequence of events tomorrow morning.

For more on the film "Piccadilly" see 'Back to Riceyman Steps'

Additionally for April 13th., see 'New life'

My daughter, Virginia, was born today at 7.50 a.m.
I went up to Welbeck Street at 9.30 and saw the child at 10 a.m., when she was two hours old. She weighed 8lb. 1 oz. and had a big head.
I was most dramatically struck when I saw the bassinette or cradle full of clothes lying all ready outside Dorothy's door.
I shall shortly be 59 years old, so today's event is profound indeed.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Happiness in Florence

Tuesday, April 12th., Pension White, Florence.

Recital of Monteverdi's "Orfeo" in the Salone della Pergola this afternoon. I shall write an article on it for the Nation. Astonishing that such a beautiful and obviously attractive thing is not given oftener. Then I took Mrs. Mock and a Chicago young woman to have aperitifs in the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Much movement; & great joy of the women in the sensation of sitting outside a cafe. This is better and more amusing and cheaper than having tea in one of these damned English tea-houses. Walking home you could appreciate the calm and easy life of the people: eg. saddlers in their shops, & all the tradesmen, work girls coming out of ateliers, etc. No hurry; very little ambition; very few conveniences; many conditions that would be hardships if they were perceived as such; & certainly a great deal more happiness than in England, even if happiness in misery. You are apt to think that Italians don't care about the disadvantages of their condition, and then you see a sign 'Camera di Lavoro' & a number of working men hanging about. I suppose it is the equivalent of the Bourse du Travail.

Flaubert's correspondence is certainly very fine indeed; it is even sensationally fine. I got the first volume from the library, and much prefer it to Ruskin's "Mornings in Florence".

I have been writing to Pinker about McClures. They seem not to want to pay £10 for "The Death of Simon Fuge", though it is certainly worth that. I want McClures only to issue stuff at which editors of leading papers, like the Boston Transcript, etc. who have written me sending me copies of their signed articles on "The O. W. Tale" cannot turn up their noses. Both "The Death of Simon Fuge" and "The Matador" will give them something to think about.

McClure's or McClure's Magazine (1893–1929) was an American illustrated monthly periodical popular at the turn of the 20th century. The magazine is credited with having started the tradition of muckraking journalism (investigative, watchdog or reform journalism), and helped shape the moral compass of the day. It featured both political and literary content, publishing serialized novels-in-progress, a chapter at a time. In this way, McClure's published such writers as Willa Cather, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Arnold Bennett, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Mark Twain.

Additionally for April 12th., see 'A reflective mood'

I still think there is something in this, though the overblown language weakens rather than strengthens the argument and my example was not well chosen. I would write it differently today. Nevertheless, to imaginatively inhabit another being, and to convey that imagined experience by force of words, or image, or sound, is the genius of the artist.

Friday, 11 April 2014

A Danish dancer

Wednesday, April 11th., Yacht Club, London.

Last week I had an immense burst of work. I did not go to London. I wrote about 5,000 words of my novel (including 2,500 in one day), and finished penultimate chapter of it. On Monday I wrote Daily News article, and more Statesman stuff. 

I slept badly the whole time, but a dinner at the Greys on Saturday, where we met the ultra-blonde Danish dancer Karina, and her husband Captain Janssen, did me good. Karina ran over Janssen in her auto and broke both his legs, and then married him. He looks after Karina so completely that he even cuts out leather for her shoes. She is very pretty and agreeable. I sat next to her and enjoyed it.

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/dance-of-the-dying-swan

Hard frost driving home.



Additionally for April 11th., see 'Indecent exposure?'

But the charm of the play is the nudity of Lillah McCarthy when she assassinated Holofernes (after kissing him) in the tent. Upwards, from a line drawn round the body one inch above the clitoris the lady is absolutely nude except for a black velvet band (4 inches wide) round the body hiding the breasts, & a ditto going down perpendicularly from between the breasts to the skirt & so hiding the navel. Two thin shoulder straps held this contrivance in position. Bracelets and rings of course. The skirt was slit everywhere and showed the legs up to the top of the thigh when she lay down there at Holofernes's feet. She looked a magnificent picture thus. The manager of the theatre had some fear of prosecution. I asked him if he had seen Chu Chin Chow. However, I think Lillah beats anything in Chu Chin Chow. Marguerite wanted the skirt a little higher - not for decency, but for beauty. But Ricketts did not agree with her. Lillah gave an exceedingly fine performance - as good as could be wished for.