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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.
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Saturday, 31 May 2014
I went down to Moret on Saturday morning to see Davray and nearly missed the train owing to my servant. I was astonished how, during the journey on the Metro, the apprehension of missing the train at the Gare de Lyon got on my nerves, though it was a matter of no importance as there are plenty of trains. My nerves were all raw when I arrived at the Gare, and I was physically exhausted through urging the Metro train to accelerate its movements. So simple it is to lose one's sense of perspective.
In the afternoon I saw the ceremony of the annual Revision des Chevaux which takes place all over France at about this time, every horse in France, except certain mares, being at the call of the government for military purposes. It occurred under a tree in the open space between the Mairie, the church and Davray's garden. As each horse of the commune was brought up, the vet looked it over and described it very briefly for the captain to write down. At the last moment a young man galloped up on a black draught horse, and in answer to some query replied as he slipped off the horse: "C'est un etalon, comme mois."
Later Davray and I walked down to the banks of the Seine which to my astonishment was close by. A beautiful stream, broad, and surrounded by fine scenery, and not a pleasure boat in sight. Everywhere the most superb acacia trees with their aphrodisiac smell.
For more on Davray see 'Rumours of war'
On Sunday we messed about and in the afternoon went to a river restaurant where the amoreux of the district forgather and amuse themselves in swings. A partie carree of two brothers and two sisters diverted and interested me much: they were so human, and so French, and so naive; and the fleeting charm of the girls (neither of them pretty) was so soon to fade, and the men were so soon to become mature and bete.
For more on Moret see 'French excursion'
We then walked along the canal and inspected the life of the canal people. The hovels on the bank, where they live when they are in the district, were disgusting. The general landscape, viewed at large, and ignoring many small blots, was simply superb.
An English couple (a Liverpool merchant aged 32 and his pretty wife aged 24, on their honeymoon) were arrested on Saturday for having, or attempting to have, sexual intercourse in the Place de l'Archeveche. This struck me as one of the funniest examples of crass 'Englishness' and contempt for foreigners that I have ever come across - the funniest.
Additionally for May 31st., see 'A rural retreat'
We are staying here for a few weeks. The cottage is small but the landscapes and food are excellent, and I am working. Occasionally I have to go up to town. I went for a walk at 10.10 along the straight Storrington Road., and sat on stiles while thinking out my next chapter. I am making very good progress with "The Vanguard".
Friday, 30 May 2014
Yesterday morning I had written a 1,700 word holiday article (200 words too long) for Tillotson's before 7.30 a.m. At 10 o'clock I began to do a nature morte, and with intervals for food and nap, I worked at it till a quarter to six. This is the first entire day I have ever spent at painting. The best picture I have ever done. I shall finish it today. Marguerite went to Paris after lunch to see her father and family generally, and came back with fine tales; so that most of the time I was alone with the dog, who was most gloomy. When I had done painting, I began to read "Whom god hath joined" and couldn't leave it. I read about seventy pages of it. This is the sort of book that insists on being read.
Am just reading "The Man of Property". Certainly I should say that the erotic parts - and there are plenty of them - were done under the influence of George Moore. If Galsworthy had never read and admired George Moore, the similarity is extremely remarkable.
Additionally for May 30th., see 'Election day'
To the rest of the British world, however, the day was memorable as being Election Day. I went to an enormous election party in the evening and found dozens of people seriously disturbed at the mere possibility of Labour getting a clear majority. The rancour and asperity of party politics was exposed naked in speech, tone, and gesture. Still the food and the champagne were admirable.
Thursday, 29 May 2014
On Thursday I sent off first copy of first half of "The Lion's Share".
London yesterday for the day. New English Art Club. Very interesting watercolours of Steer, etc.
|Painswick Beacon, Wilson Steer, 1915|
Lunch with Mair at Garrick Club. Mair said that Princess Irene blew up with 300 mines on board.
|HMS Princess Irene|
Mair said that Sir John Simon was going to be much more strict with the censorship, and that it was intended to prosecute The Times. He also said that Fisher on being appointed ordered 300 craft of various sorts. One firm alone made 24 light cruisers. There are special craft for going up the Danube, and special monitors for running over mine fields to attack Cuxhaven.
|Churchill and Fisher|
Additionally for May 29th., see 'Parisian culture'
He took me yesterday afternoon to make the acquaintance of the Godebskis at Valvin. Husband, wife, two small kids. Poles. Among the most charming people I have ever met. Purely artistic. Godebski once owned and edited a little review. Looks like a Jew but is not one. I saw on a table a copy of Mallarme's "Divagations", with the envoifrom the author "A son vieil ami, Godebski". Not interested in anything but artistic manifestations. I said I had gas and they hadn't. Godebski said he didn't like gas lamps. I said: "For cooking." "Yes", he said, carelessly, "but with alcohol and oil they can manage." Didn't care a damn about inconveniences. A whole crowd of artistic youth there; various French accents. A picturesque, inconvenient house, full of good and bad furniture in various styles. A large attic with rafters formed the salon; a good grand piano in it.
Wednesday, 28 May 2014
John Lane showed me John Buchan's report on my novel. It was laudatory and kind, but not (I thought) critically appreciative. He had no fault whatever to find with the novel qua novel, but he said it would probably not be popular and that the same sort of thing had often been done before. Although it probably will not be popular, the same sort of thing has not been often done before; it has never been done before - in England. I can recall no novel of which either the essential treatment or the material is at all similar. The man is most honest, and anxious to do justice, but he clearly has not been able quite to sympathise with the latest disciple of the de Goncourts. Lane said, "I will publish it", and I said, "That is very good of you," or something like that, and that was really all that passed in the matter of the book.
For more on this see 'First novel'
Additionally for May 28th., see 'Feeling tired'
Yesterday I had more success in finding ideas for the last part of "Clayhanger" but I had no success in drawing. I seemed to spend all afternoon in merely arranging still-life objects, and I couldn't decide on any of them. But on Thursday night I did a pretty fair study of Marguerite. I couldn't read anything, except newspapers. I couldn't answer any arrears of correspondence. And after doing nothing all day I was so tired I had to go to bed at 9.15.
Tuesday, 27 May 2014
My birthday. I am 62 today. I celebrated it by going to Portland Place and undergoing what for some inexplicable reason is called a thorough 'overhaul'. I had been warned that every man over 50 ought to be 'overhauled' every few years, whether he thinks he needs it or not. Dire maladies may unobtrusively begin their awful work within you, and develop and develop quite unsuspected, and then suddenly declare open war on you, and you are dead before you are prepared for death. Moreover, had I not been suffering from chronic insomnia for many years, and must not insomnia have a cause? And so on. The advice seemed sensible. As regards insomnia, my overhauler suggested that I should take a drug, 'medinol', every night for 3 months or 6 months. Apparently it is absolutely harmless, and so far as I can judge it is. The doctor also told me that I ought not to eat spinach - me who have been regarding spinach as the staff of life for many years past! Yes, such was the advice I paid for.
My nephew George Beardmore wrote to me recently enclosing a novel he has written. It is an orgy of phrasing rather than a book, but there is very real imagination in it, and a lot of very good and original writing. The plot is not good and is obscured by excessive description and capricious incident. Nevertheless the thing has distinction and a good deal of promise. I have advised him not to attempt to get it published. He clearly has it in mind to 'follow in my footsteps'. I wonder if he would have been inspired to write but for the accident of my being his uncle?
I have been reproached for writing in the Evening Standard about rare editions, first editions, beautiful editions, the argument being that such matters have no real relation to literature itself, and that what counts in a book is the stuff in it, not the presentation of the stuff in it. To my mind the argument is ridiculous. A book is a physical object as well as a medium for the transmission of thought, emotion and information. And the attributes, including the historical attributes, of the physical object react upon the person to whom the thought, emotion or information is being transmitted.
Additionally for May 27th., see 'Praise and disappointment'
Wells, Whitten and Marriott think that "A Great Man", recently published, is my best book. And Phillpotts is enchanted with it. I was touched by Wells' praise, my only surprise being that he didn't find more fault with it. As a matter of fact I could have done it better, especially towards the end. But, having conceived it as a 'lark', I fell into the error of regarding it technically as a 'lark' also. I told Wells that it was just one writing, no draft, practically no erasures, & about two months' work at most. He always seems to prefer the work which costs me the least trouble. But what is the use of talking about colours to the blind?
Monday, 26 May 2014
It must be very difficult, I think, to be really generous, ie. to give something which you need. I doubt whether in this strict sense I have ever been really generous in all my life. I felt it this afternoon, in talking with E., when it was a question of giving £20 before I had heard definitely from my architect that the landlord at Paris had undertaken to refund my deposit. I might really want that £20, and though I decided at once to give it, not from a spontaneous instinct of generosity, but unwillingly (within myself) and in obedience to my ideas of rightness and propriety. Something forced me to give it. This is not generosity. On the other hand, are those persons (few and far between as they may be) who give away what they need for themselves as selfless as they appear? What is their motivation? Surely they must have the idea, more or less consciously, that they are gaining merit by their actions either in the sight of others, or in terms of their own self-respect, or, if they are of a religious persuasion, in the sight of their god. That being the case, is it correct to say that they are really being generous?
I have now added to my daily affairs a little systematic study of French, a little miscellaneous reading, and a little odd writing work, which for the moment is to take the shape of translating Verlaine. So, after being here over a month, I have at last got into my desired routine, completely. Routines are of course, generally speaking, a good thing. Naturally they do not suit every nature, but for someone of a naturally lazy disposition such as myself they are indispensable.
This morning I read through Part One of my novel, and thought it was devilishly good. Tomorrow I begin Part Three.
Additionally for May 26th., see 'Falling foul of the censor'
The French Censor turned it down entirely, and Davray in a letter to me this week gives the Censor's actual words. He says the figures were not official (which they were) and might give rise to polemics. Moreover that conscription was now accomplished and no more to be said. But he had kept the article since before the final conscription bill was brought into parliament. The Censor's reason for refusing the article was, of course, purely political. This article gave the arguments on both sides; it stated that conscription - certain to come - would not greatly increase the army - and spoke of the necessity of trade, munitions etc. The Censor didn't like that.
Sunday, 25 May 2014
I returned to London Tuesday. Squire and Desmond McCarthy lunched with me at the Reform.
At night, after writing the Sardonyx article I went to Russian concert at Russian Exhibition and it was very good. The pianissimos of the Balalaika Orchestra were marvellous, especially woth music like Borodin's. On the other hand I had little use for Tchaikowsky's 'Grand Trio' (A Minor). Place pretty full.
But the chief thing yesterday was that I began on my novel about the French cocotte, with gusto.
Additionally for May 25th., see 'On sex and women'
I see that at bottom, I have an intellectual scorn, or the scorn of an intellectual man, for all sexual-physical manifestations. They seem childish to me, unnecessary symptoms and symbols of a spiritual phenomenon. (Yet few Englishmen could be more perversely curious and adventurous than I am in just these manifestations.) I can feel myself despising them at the very moment of deriving satisfaction from them, as if I were playing at being a child.
Saturday, 24 May 2014
Mrs. Devereux and Mrs. Laye lunched with me at Sylvain's yesterday. "So you've started your carriage again?" I said to Mrs. Devereux. "Yes," she said, "I couldn't do without it. Hang expense." They had both had the good taste to have read my new book and to enjoy it thoroughly. They really have a profound sympathy with each other, these sisters. And I like to have them side by side and to sit opposite to them.
For more on Mrs. Devereux see 'Back to work'
Mrs. Devereux said that she was at a dinner party the other night at which were also W. S. Gilbert and Douglas Straight. Straight was talking about peculiarities of memory, loss of it, etc. He said that he could remember incidents from when he was in Naples at the age of two. But if he was asked where he dined last week he couldn't remember. "No, " said Gilbert. "And if you could, probably you wouldn't be able to tell us."
Mrs. Laye maintained (not apropos of the above) that men didn't like being made fun of whereas women didn't mind; she said she had been astonished at some men. She told a good thing of a very old man on his dying bed giving advice to a youngster: "I've had a long life, and it's been a merry one. Take my advice. Make love to every pretty woman you meet. And remember, if you get 5 per cent on you outlay, it's a good return."
Afterwards we went to the Exposition des Primitifs. I enjoyed it much more than I did the first time, partly because it really is good, and partly because Mrs. Devereux, who is fearfully keen on primitivism, pointed out qualities to me. By the way I knew she would be keen on Anglada's decadence at the Salon, and she is.
When they left me I went down to my Empire furniture shop in the Boul. Raspail and bought a book case, a fire screen, a suspensoir, and two chairs, which I am eagerly expecting tomorrow.
Friday, 23 May 2014
I wrote 1,100 words of "The Vanguard" in the dining room during the morning, after various short strolls. I meant to write another 900 words but somehow couldn't begin. The fact is that my heart isn't in this book. I get a few ideas when I am walking about. Enough to go on, but I need some way to liven the darned thing up a bit.
Dreiser's "An American Tragedy". I have already read 150 pages of this novel. The mere writing is simply bloody-careless, clumsy, terrible. But there is power, and he holds you, because his big construction is good. The book quite woke me up last night, just as I was going off to sleep.
This house belongs to an artist, name of Stratton. His pictures abound and they are the filthiest you ever saw.
|Fred Stratton. Horse and Cart in a Lanscape. 1923|
Thursday, 22 May 2014
George Moore for lunch. He is very prejudiced, especially on the old subjects of James, Conrad and Hardy, but extremely interesting, though long-winded. He said he much wished our acquaintance to continue.
He said that Christine was the finest cocotte in Literature, and that I must have lived with her, and actually witnessed the Sunday afternoon kitchen scenes, etc. I don't think he believed my denial of this, and my statement that it was all invented, including Christine. I didn't tell him that when I was hunting about for a physique for Christine I saw Madame R. accompanying her husband at a concert, and immediately fastened on her physique for Christine - sadness, puckering of the brows, etc. Moore told me he was writing five short stories about celibates. He gave me a rather fullish account of one story, which seemed very good and Moore-ish.
For more on George Moore see 'A man of opinion'
He left at 3.30 .... Fiddled about all afternoon. No ideas. I went to the Burlington Club. Personne! But at the Reform I read Conrad's essay on de Maupassant and then I read the first part of "Yvette", and this did me good.
Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Undoubtedly there has been more evidence of superstition about the comet in Italy than elsewhere. On Wednesday the papers were full of the 'incontro' of the Earth with the tail - on the posters - and some of them had articles rassurants by, for example, Camille Flamarion, explaining soothingly that no harm would occur. Vast numbers of people stayed up on Wednesday night to see the comet and were decus, as there was nothing to be seen. The Italian landlady of the pension went up to the Piazza M. Angelo at 2.30 a.m. and stayed till 4. Crowds of people singing & making a row. I had heard noises and wondered what was up. Indeed, Soulie reports same thing from Toulouse - going out to a certain point to see the comet, and seeing it en masse, as if for the end of the world. Same thing in a lighter vein in Paris, where people thought the violet colour of the lightning in the tremendous storm of Thursday night meant the end of the world.
We left Florence at 2.45 on Thursday, and arrived at Milan at 9.45 a.m. Auguste Foa met us at station and had a drink at hotel (Bellini). Headache all the time. 3 hours sleep. We left Milan at 8 a.m. on Friday, and left Italy about 11 a.m. No proper seats in the through carriage till we got to Montreux. Tremendous storms in the Jura and further on. We reached Paris at 11.25 p.m., half an hour late, & the hotel at 12.30. I found a large post, including a request from the Chronicle to suspend articles, as they were crowded out and a letter about a play. We went to bed about 1.30 or 2, and I had 4 hours sleep. Beautiful morning but heavy. My first act was to go to my artistic barber in the Rue de Seze. Then to buy La Nouvelle Revue Francaise.
I read over half of "A Man of Property" in the train and have many ideas about it. Distinguished, but not mighty, not complete.
Tuesday, 20 May 2014
I regard it as a serious and disquieting symptom, that, now that I have finished "In the Shadow", I have a positive wish to work. No man, healthy in mind and body, ever wants to work. He knows that work is good for him and will probably produce happiness, but that he should actually want to work is incredible, except of course after a too protracted holiday.
Stevenson's "Weir of Hermiston, an unfinished romance" appeared today. Chapter VI "A leaf from Christina's psalm-book" contains about 40 pages of the subtlest, surest, finest psychological analysis that I can remember. I am quite sure that there exists nowhere a more beautiful or more profoundly truthful presentation of the emotional phenomena (both in the man and in the woman) which go to the making of 'love at first sight'. On page 178 Stevenson, with secret pride I swear, says: "Thus even that phenomenon of love at first sight, which is so rare and seems so simple and violent, like a disruption of life's tissue, may be decomposed into a sequence of accidents happily concurring." ... Yes, it may, by a Stevenson; perhaps by a Meredith; but by none else of modern writers. "Weir of Hermiston" is as far beyond anything that Hardy, for example, could compass as "The Woodlanders" is beyond my "In the Shadow". Which is to say much! The mere writing of "Weir of Hermiston" surpasses all Stevenson's previous achievements.
|Samoan stamp marking the 75th anniversary|
of Stevenson's death
Monday, 19 May 2014
Before that I went to Cooks and got money and tickets for Paris. The place was crowded with tedious and long-winded persons. Before that I bought bindings and a Galsworthy book. In the afternoon we went to see Pauline in her nursing home. Up a dusty hill that autos thundered down and horses were thrashed up. Most satisfactory home.
For more on Pauline Smith in Florence see 'Friends in Florence'
Sunday, 18 May 2014
I wrote a description of Cattaro, the ride to Ragusa, and Ragusa before 6 a.m. after only about four hours sleep. After breakfast we went ashore, and visited monasteries, etc., under the direction of the head of a museum. Some of us left him early and sat in a cafe. Then rejoined the yacht at the small port and sailed to old Ragusa.
The entrance into Ragusa is formidable, a curving canyon cut deep through rock, with a warning archway at intervals, and extremely formidable battlements above. But once within the city nothing frowns on you. For years I had formed the idea that Ragusa must be among the most picturesque cities of Europe. It is. But my picture of it was completely wrong. I had thought of it as being in an advanced state of ruin, decay, and secular dirt. Despite its age - and its houses are largely fifteenth century - it is the most spick and span town I ever saw, the cleanest, the neatest, the brightest. And it is a mass of smooth granite. Its streets are paved with granite, upon which there are no irregularities to martyrise the feet. Its tram lines are more truly laid than any others I have examined in a small town. Large open-air cafes. Bands that play native music. Excellent hotels of which I sampled two. Good food. many barbers' shops. Scores and scores of beautiful women who are neither shy, coy, nor pert, but charming with dignity. Some local costumes. A large cenotaph by Mestrovic on a wall. Wild and majestic scenery all around. Ragusa is obviously a rich city, but, contrary to what too often happens with rich cities, the peasants of the countryside are not down-trodden; very much the reverse.
Ragusa had a most destructive and yet most happy effect on my preconceived notions of the Balkans.
Saturday, 17 May 2014
Last night to Lena Ashwell's "Once a week players" performance of Shaw's "The Devil's Disciple" at the Century Theatre, Archer Street, North Kensington. Produced by Beatrice Wilson. Beatrice said she had to produce the play in ten days, and they always did plays in this period. They dispensed practically with props and scenery. Everything very poor and cheap; but nicely done - not overstepping the modesty of nature - and the play held you, except the last five minutes which were very poor. A fellow named Henry Oscar played the lead. Evidently of much experience. Handsome. He did very well. Has done Shakespeare tours. The dialogue is exquisitely written - better than Shaw is writing now, I think. Less glittering, but as pure and fine as Congreve.
For more on Lena Ashwell see 'A fascinating woman'
I contrasted all this poverty with the great costliness of our Drury Lane production, with its lavish advertising, etc. Dean is producing "London Life" with the most notable skill. You would say he knew everything about plays and producing. Yet the taste of people generally fails somewhere. He wanted me to introduce into the part of the Prime Minister Holyoke (supposed to be a mixture of Asquith and Balfour with a touch of Rosebery) the words "Wait and see". I refused absolutely at once. Imagine the cheap roar which would follow such a despicable sally.
Friday, 16 May 2014
Morrice dined with me and stayed till 1 a.m. He has the joy of life in a high degree, and he likes living alone. "I enjoy everything," he said. "I got up this morning, and I saw an old woman walking along, and she was the finest old woman I ever did see. She was a magnificent old woman, and I was obliged to make a sketch of her. Then there was the marchand de quatre-saisons. His cry is so beautiful. I began to enjoy myself immediately I got out of bed. It is a privilege to be alive." And so on.
Additionally for May 16th., see 'A 'Judas' sort of day'
Last evening Max Beaverbrook was telling us a story which he had bought from a divorce detective for £50 but dare not use. It was all to do with a woman who engaged the services of a private detective, ostensibly because of apparent infidelity by her husband. In the end it turned out that the husband was a murderer, and was given-away to the police by the detective. Another sort of "Judas"!
Thursday, 15 May 2014
At noon precisely I finished my first novel, which was begun about the middle of April last year; but five sixths of the work at least has been performed since the 1st of October. Yesterday I sat down at 3 p.m. to write, and with slight interruptions for meals, etc., kept at it till 1 a.m. this morning. The concluding chapter was written between 9 and 12 today.
My fears about "In the Shadow" are (1) that it is not well-knit, (2) that it is hysterical, or at any rate strained in tone. Still, I should not be surprised if it impressed many respectable people. The worst parts of it seem to me to be in front of my Yellow Book story, which came if for a full share of laudation.
I was thinking today that one can never really know another person; not even a, person with whom one has been intimate over an extended period. What clues do we have about the mind of someone else? What they tell us may or may not be reliable. We can observe their behaviour and form some opinion about what characterises them, but how do we know if they behave in the same way when we are absent? So, we just rub along, trying to say and do the right (meaning expected) things, at the correct time, in the proper way. It is either that or just live inside one's head. Perhaps this is behind the author's creative impulse? He really can know the characters he creates in his fiction, and fictional characters are the only hope for the thoughtful reader who wants to know someone apart from himself.
Additionally for May 15th., see 'Florentine scenes'
Yesterday I was on the Ponte Vecchio when children were going to school (8.45), & I noticed more than ever how Italian little girls have the look & the form of women. Marguerite & I have been noticing them in their short skirts for weeks. They look just like women unsuitably dressed. They are quite formees.
Wednesday, 14 May 2014
I dipped into "Adam Bede" and my impression that George Eliot will never be among the classical writers was made a certainty. Her style, though not without shrewdness, is too rank to have any enduring vitality. People call it 'masculine'. Quite wrong! It is downright, aggressive, sometimes rude, but genuinely masculine, never. On the contrary it is transparently feminine - feminine in its lack of restraint, its wordiness and the utter absence of feeling for form which characterises it. The average woman italicises freely. George Eliot of course had trained herself too well to do that, at least formally; yet her constant undue insistence springs from the same essential weakness, and amounts practically to the same expedient. Emily and Charlotte Bronte are not guiltless on this count, but they both had a genuine natural appreciation of the value of words, which George Eliot never had.
Jane Austen now is different. By no chance does she commit the artistic folly of insisting too much. Her style has the beauty and the strength of masculinity and femininity combined, and, very nearly, the weakness of neither.
In May Chapman's, there is a story by Henry James. His mere ingenuity, not only in construction, but in expression, is becoming tedious, though one cannot but admire. Also his colossal cautiousness in statement is very trying. If he would only now and then contrive to write a sentence without a qualifying clause!
Additionally for May 13th., see 'Family reflections'
This evocation by my mother of these farming, Puritanical ancestors, dust now, was rather touching in a way. It gave me larger ideas of the institution of "the family". When I thought also of my mother's mother's side (the Claytons), my father's father's side (the Bennetts, descended illegitimately, as my Uncle John once told me, from "Schemer" Brindley the engineer) and my father's mother's side (the Vernons, of whom several I believe are living now in Burslem, ignored by my father and us) - when I thought of all these four stocks gathered together and combined to produce me ... a writer, an artist pure and simple, yet with strong mercantile instincts, living on a farm after two generations of town life, I wondered. It is strange that though all my grandparents worked with their hands - weavers, potters, farmers, etc. - I have a positive aversion for any manual labour; the sole relic of all that manual dexterity, left in me, is a marked gift for juggling with balls.
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
London day before yesterday. Barber still trying to sell hairwash to me. But he is a pretty good barber. I had a dreadful neuralgia.
On the way to Sardinia House a man overtook and accosted me. It was Coveney, once articled clerk at Le Brasseur & Oakleys. I had not seen him for 23 years at least. I knew him at once and he me. It is true that he had written to me about a year ago asking if I was the A. B. he knew. He told me that S. whom I put into "A Man from the North" as Albert Jenkins, was now a middle-aged man and apparently very able.
Monday, 12 May 2014
I walked a good deal about Paris yesterday, arranging instalment 4 of "Hugo". I got down, via the quays, a far as the Luxembourg, and saw the temporary exhibition there of Manets, Monets, and that school. Manet's "Nana" was the chief thing. I thought how much more it had aged than the book. As a matter of fact I think Manet's conception of "Nana" rather narrow - the idea of a man who had not'knocked about' enough. The picture would be masterly had he not entitled it "Nana".
Then I had tea, and a bad tea, on the Boul. St. Michel and came home on the omnibus having bought a reproduction of a fine sketch by some artist unknown to me for 5 sous.
At 10 p.m. I strolled down to the Folies Marigny. There is certainly only one tolerable music-hall in Paris and this is it.. The performance was rotten, of course, but the audience! Crammed, stylish; many women - some extremely beautiful; many toilettes. I only stayed an hour and walked home.
Today I write out the sketch of instalment 4.
Additionally for May 12th., see 'Making and spending money'
I have been writing to Max Beaverbrook about what authors make from their work. We were talking about it recently. Shaw is now the most popular world-dramatist writing and even in a rotten year his income cannot be less than £20,000. As regards Oppenheim, I know that two years ago he made £20,000. There are films. I don't think Oppenheim's income is falling. It takes a long time for an established author's income to fall. Authors' incomes are as a rule grossly exaggerated. My own always is. I have a pretty extravagant lifestyle to maintain (wife, morganatic ditto, & yacht), yet I have never made more than £18,000 in a year, and I have made as low as £10,000. Until the last six or seven years Wells never made more than £12,000. Authors can only make a fair income if they have a great deal to say - like Shaw, Wells and me - and are incurably industrious as we are.
Sunday, 11 May 2014
Since Tuesday last I have written an average of over 2,000 words a day, including 12,500 words of "The Old Wives' Tale". I finished the second part this afternoon at 6.15 and was assez emu. This makes half of the book, exactly 100,000 words done. I had a subdued bilious attack practically all the time since Tuesday, but just managed to keep it within bounds. With all this I naturally shirked journalizing. I must not forget that I also corrected in this time, more than 250 printed pp. of proofs. I had three books to correct at once: "Buried Alive"; "How to Live on 24 Hours a Day"; and "Helen with the High Hand".
Additionally for May 11th., see 'Reflections on the writer's craft'
I read through in the type-written copy some of the later chapters of my novel, and they seemed to be ineffective and sketchy. Which severely depressed me, and to recover myself I had to read certain other chapters which I knew would not come out badly. I happened to see in an old Idler today "Q's" article on his first book. In it he says that he wrote "Dead Man's Rock" without a trace of feeling. His view is that if on revision, the work moves its author, then there is surely some good in it. Amen! Parts of my novel have had that blessed effect on me.
Saturday, 10 May 2014
On Monday night when I was at "L'Enfant Cherie" by Romain Coolus, with Miss Green, I had most distinctly the sensation of being shocked. It was in the last act. An old man has been abandoned by his mistress, who has found another lover. The old man's daughter tries to get the mistress back for her father, as he is mortally struck by grief. There is a scene between the two women, in which the daughter urges her father's mistress to return to him. "Look here," she says, in effect, "even if you can't go to him altogether, you could surely see him one or two afternoons a week." I suddenly felt myself shocked; other people were in the same case. I can't at the moment remember ever having been shocked before. The experience gave me an idea of how pious Philistines must often feel, and was therefore useful. My being shocked was absurd. At the same time the scene was clumsy and bad artistically. Had it been good, should I have been shocked?
Additionally for May 10th., see 'Under the weather in Florence'
This morning, being desoriente, I went to the Pitti. In the main it left me cold. It is an unpleasant & difficult place in which to see pictures, & quite half the pictures are n.g. Crowds of people in the place.
Friday, 9 May 2014
I finished my play "The Title" on Wednesday, but in order to do so I had to knock myself up and also inform people with whom I had appointments in London that I was laid aside with a chill. I wrote the last act in four days of actual work. I have also had a toothache for some days and fear I must have an extraction. Hopefully the relief deriving from removal of the offending tooth will more than compensate for the pain of the operation. I must keep my stoic principles to the fore.
For more on "The Title" see 'Scrupulously clean'
Then today I came to London to take up my duties as head of the French section of the Propaganda Department of the Ministry of Information. On the whole the first day was rather a lark. It began with a lunch of allied journalists, where I sat between Le Journal and Le Petit Parisien, and had the Debats opposite. I didn't like my room, nor my staff being on different floors from me.
Dinner of the Other Club. I made the acquaintance of Smuts. He has a peculiar accent (foreign) and puts his hand on your knee constantly while talking to you. A man of principles, and a fine man; but I doubt if he is the great man some of us thought. He was quite serene about the approaching end of the war.
For more on the Other Club see 'Interesting people'
Additionally for May 9th., see 'A day of fun'
Homan's and Alcock's. Two quartets and a quintet before dinner at 8.45. Good male dinner, with champagne. During and after dinner, we had from Norton the finest exhibition of story-telling I ever heard. I was exhausted with laughing.
Later W. Alcock gave several parody treatments of "Three Blind Mice" according to Haydn, Chopin, Mendelssohn and Grieg. Admirable. Werg and Hill played solos. I got to the Club at 1 a.m. and a half-dressed, half-asleep waiter let me in. This was one of the finest evenings I ever spent in my life.
Thursday, 8 May 2014
Tonight I heard Yvette Guilbert sing five songs - including "La Soularde", Beranger's "Grand'mere", "Her Golden Hair was hanging down her back", and "I want you, ma Honey" (alternate verses in French and English). The performance took about 23 minutes, and she receives £70 per night (ten nights). My father, who had seen her on the previous evening, said to me at dinner at Gatti's, "I can't see £70 in what she does". "No", I said "perhaps you can't; but you can see it in the audience which pays to listen to her."
Yvette Guilbert, original name Emma Laure Esther Guilbert (1867 — 1944), French singer, reciter, and stage and film actress, who had an immense vogue as a singer of songs drawn from Parisian lower-class life. Her ingenuous delivery of songs charged with risqué meaning made her famous. As a child Guilbert attended recitation school and was unsuccessful in small comic parts; however, she succeeded as a cabaret singer from 1896 (the Moulin Rouge and the Ambassadeurs, seven years; the Folies-Bergère, nine years). She was a popular recording artist from the mid-1920s as well. Notable among her films are Les Misérables (1934) and Pêcheurs d’Islande (1934). She was also successful on tour (from 1895) in Italy, the United States, and England. Fascinating to French audiences, she scandalized the English with her gaunt decadent appearance and risqué lyrics. Guilbert owed much of her success to Xanrof (Léon Fourneau) and to Aristide Bruant, who wrote songs for her. She is also remembered for a famous poster of her, showing her in her characteristic yellow dress and long black gloves, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. She wrote How to Sing a Song (1928; L’Art de chanter une chanson), two novels, La Vedette and Les Demi-Vieilles (both 1920), and an autobiography, La Chanson de ma vie (1929; Song of My Life: My Memories).
I think I never saw the Empire so full. Yvette wore a gown of bluish-green flowered silk, and the unchangeable black gloves. To the back of the pit, where I stood, her voice came as if from an immense distance, but clear and crisp.
A period of extreme vigilance now on. It is a pity here that at new moon high water is at midnight. If high water was at 6 a.m. at new moon the periods of vigilance would be fewer if there were any at all. One night out of three our Lieutenants have to spend at the telephone in the orderly room - 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. The military are all on fire preparing for an invasion. The first serious defences against an invasion are now being made. I have no belief in it myself, but the civilian part of the organisation falls on me as War Office representative for over 30 parishes, including about 15 miles of coast. I feel sure that if the Germans did manage to land events for a few days would be in a high degree disconcerting. Among other trifles for which I have the chief responsibility is a War-Fair at Islington Market - with 1,500 stalls, 6,000 helpers; the biggest thing of the kind ever organised.
Wednesday, 7 May 2014
This morning news of the death of the King. The moved silence in which it was received in the coffee-room was most remarkable. One middle-aged man had apparently some difficulty in not crying. This afternoon I wrote a pretty fair article on the 'human nature' of the reception of the news here. I used mostly real incidents, but they had to be arranged.
Last evening I received the proof of my English Review article, "Night and Morning in Florence". I found it even more brutal than I had expected. But it is good.
Yesterday I wrote 2,700 words of "Clayhanger". Then I walked all over the town to find a subject to sketch, and found none until in despair I sat down in the Loggia Lanzi.
This morning I had written about 1,500 or 1,600 words of "Clayhanger" at 8.30, though I only went to bed last night at 11.30. Then Mr. Mock and Marguerite and I went up to San Miniato & he and I sketched. An ideal morning. This afternoon, after my article, I sketched again; and on the way home bought for 14 sous the first edition of R. H. Dana's "To Cuba and Back".
No museums for a long time now.
Additionally for May 7th., see 'Leaving Greece'
The Teodora would be quite a small steamer - on the Atlantic. here she is large; indeed 8,000 tons. The traditional phrase "dirty little Italian steamer" has ceased to be apposite. Italian shipping is about as good as any. That which has happened to Italian railways has also happened to Italian shipping. After the hurly-burly of departing is over, and the sellers of collections of foreign stamps, and the cheating money-changers, and the cigarette sellers who ask for a tip, have left the ship, you soon perceive that the Teodora is well run, and exceedingly orderly; and decorated in a touching, demode, simple style which appeals successfully to your sympathetic imagination. You perceive further, at the first meal, that she has the incomparable advantage of carrying no orchestra: she does, nevertheless, carry a barber and a cinema. No food could be more charmingly presented, and no service could be better or more urbane or delightful, no bathrooms hotter, and no pillows harder, than the Teodora's.