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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.
Sunday, 31 December 2017
A material year. Largely occupied with intestinal failure and worldly success. Question: would I give up the worldly success if, in exchange, I could have a perfect digestion? Something to think about when I am lying awake. By Chetham Strode's direct treatment of massage and vibration I am now almost cured of intestinal caprices, but I shall ever be feeble in that quarter.
All my five later plays have been performed this year. About 1,155 performances altogether. I received (less agents' commissions) about £16,000 during the year, which may be called success by any worldly-minded author. It is apparently about as much as I had earned during all the previous part of my life. And I bought a car and a yacht, and arranged to buy a house.
We came to Paris to finish the year, after I had written one quarter of my serial story for Harpers. This gave me the chance to heighten the plane of the rest of the novel. We stay at the Hotel du Rhin, and pay 50 francs a day for a fine ground floor flat. Most exhausting holiday, in spite of the extreme excellence of the food in this hotel.
Gold scarce in Paris, on account of Balkan war, and on account of fear of a big war in the spring. Nearly all change given in silver.
I wrote comparatively few words during the year. About as follows: "The Regent" 80,000; "Those United States" 35,000; Harpers serial 25,000; Articles 20,000. Total 160,000, without counting yacht log, journal, and a fair quantity of notes. Possibly 200,000 in all. But then between April 1st., and October 1st., I did practically nothing.
Saturday, 30 December 2017
Well, here we are in Switzerland, about 3,100 feet above civilisation. I intend that we shall stay here for at least two months and I expect to take it just a little easier after a year of very hard work indeed. I think that I have written over 400,000 words.
Today I sent off a copy of "A Matador of the Five Towns" to Ford Madox Ford who asked me for a long story. It is for publication in the English Review and I am pleased with the result. Since I completed "Simon Fugue" I have felt there was more to be wrung from the character Loring - through him I am able to look at, and write about, the Five Towns in a different way. I told Ford, in the accompanying letter that a painter once said to me in handing over a sketch I had bought from him, "I think this will give you pleasure". The story is between 11,000 and 12,000 words, a little shorter than Henry James' story in the first number, but I think Ford will be content. I haven't seen the second number of the English Review yet, but the first gave me great pleasure.
Thursday, 28 December 2017
I have just finished a letter to Thomas Bodkin who has been kind enough to send me a Christmas gift which awaits our return. I told him I am looking forward to his book "The Approach to Painting", which I know will be original. Here in Rome there are pictures aplenty, but sculpture reigns. I have been to Rome twice before but I'd never grasped until now what a terrific monument the place is. I shouldn't now were it not for the tireless resistless enthusiasm of Dorothy. I don't think I ever had so much energy, even in my 'prime'.
I drove along the Appian Way yesterday afternoon - all among the tombs and other ruins, with hills in the distance and aqueducts in the half distance. Never have I had such sensations! No, never!
I am also finishing my new novel.
Wednesday, 27 December 2017
A young reader wrote the other day to ask for advice about choosing books. Of course such advice can be given, and in detail, but I doubt if any two advisers would agree in their counsel and no counsel would give satisfactory results. The fact is you can't help people; you can only help them to help themselves.
When a homing pigeon is released from its basket it rises and surveys all the earth within the range of its vision, and probably sees nothing that answers directly to the call of its soul. It tries an experiment, is disappointed, returns, and tries again; and so on till it gets a clue; the rest is as easy as sliding down a slope. A young reader is like that. What more can one say except to urge him (or her) to keep his head cool as he comes to the full realisation of the vast and varied mass of realy fine literature which English writers have produced in less than six hundred years. Nobody can read everything, or the hundredth part of everything. And the man who sets out to read everything will know nothing worth knowing, because his task will have cut him off from life itself.
The British Museum is a great place; it is perhaps the greatest place in the world. But who would make it his residence, fix his bed there, eat his oranges and brown bread there? Some people read on such lines that they might as well be living day and night in a museum. I enjoy going into museums. I am always popping in and out of them. But I have still more frequent adventures in the foolish, wise, vain, invaluable world. Such is the way for a sensible bibliophile. When I look back at my reading over the last twelve months I find that not much of it has stuck in my mind, but no more do I find that when I have visited the British Museum I bring away a store of knowledge. The fact is that the experience of the moment is the thing. If I had the year to live again I would not live it differently. So with life as with books which are, after all, better than life.
Tuesday, 26 December 2017
Two thoroughly bad nights, full of the church clock. Still I wrote over 4,000 words of my novel in 3 days, with lots of preoccupations, almost all to do with my wife. How altered time appears to be at night. I never sleep through the night but usually go more or less straight back to sleep after the necessary visit. I always manage without putting on a light and try my best not to reach full consciousness at all. After several years of practice I am quite adept. But, occasionally, I find myself unable to get back to sleep. I have tried all the normal strategies and sometimes they work. If all else fails I surrender to wakefulness and read for an hour or so. That almost invariably does the trick.
I shall have to have it out with Marguerite soon. She likes to pretend that I am jealous of Legros. It flatters her to think so. But it is not true. I am incapable of being jealous, probably because I should regard a woman capable of doing anything deserving jealousy as not worth being jealous about. She seems to be infatuated with the man. He is a personable young fellow in his way and pays her much attention. She is clearly flattered and no doubt feels a boost to be admired by a younger man. I would feel the same myself if admired by a young woman. But I hope I would retain the good sense and dignity to recognise the situation for what it is. Regrettably Marguerite appears not to possess the requisite good sense. I have been hoping that she would wake up, but instead things are getting worse.
As for presents at Christmas, it seems that she does not agree with me that present-giving should be not a duty but a pleasure. To give to one whose behaviour is constantly wounding, as Marguerite's is to me, is not a very keen pleasure. When she realises what is due to me, and acts accordingly, she will not go short of presents. I am confident that my will is the stronger. Of course, if she allows the infatuation to go too far then I will have to act. I fear there may be further broken nights ahead.
Monday, 25 December 2017
The Christmas book season is over for another year. Publishers and booksellers will have sent out their final parcels and closed their doors on the last undecided customer. Sales and profits (though most of them say they never make a profit) will be closely estimated and distribution staff will take a well-deserved rest. Popular and unpopular authors will have ceased to pester their publishers by telephone inquiries concerning the exact sales figures foir their books up to the hour of telephoning.
Some authors will be enjoying a merry Christmas in a world where readers have shown a taste for good books. Other authors will be experiencing a dismal season in a world where readers simply don't recognise a good book when they see it. Reviewers, an unthanked and misunderstood class , will be preoccupied with hateful questions relating to quarter day.
The huge book departments of the big stores will be sheeted over, and the booksellers will have put up their shutters, knowing that when they take them down again they will do so in an atmosphere of slack leisure and hope deferred. Which leisure I trust they will devote to good resolutions towards improved methods of trade.
And the books? How many, having been received with protestations of extreme pleasure, will lie unread in a convenient, conspicuous book trough and will, in due course of time, find their way to an unregarded high shelf?
Sunday, 24 December 2017
Somebody told me that it is Christmas tomorrow but I don't intend to let that spoil my present mood of contentment.
I have recently returned (yesterday as a fact) from a short holiday at Oxford. Not every person's idea of a holiday destination I will admit but it has comfortable hotels, green spaces for walking, several excellent museums and, most importantly, bookshops. Hard to beat as far as I am concerned.
I managed to arrange a conducted tour of the Bodleian Library which was fascinating. Wonderful smell amongst the ancient books. Regrettably not enough time to sit down and browse. A number of historic books were exhibited for visitors, including several which are over a thousanf years old; barely conceivable! Written and illustrated by scribes on parchment they seemed almost as fresh as when first completed such is the care with which they have been kept. Regrettably handling was not permitted. Such was not the case however at Blackwell's Bookshop where I found a number of interesting volumes on archaeology, a subject of particular interest to me at present.
Strolled in the University Park and around Christ Church Meadow. Rather bleak at this time of year, but good to get some air after immersion in the middle ages.
Visited the Ashmolean, the Natural History Museum and the Pitt Rivers Collection. Only a short time in each but enough to savour the individual atmosphere each possesses. I hope to make a longer visit so as to do justice to them.
Of course one of the chief desirabilities of a holiday is that mechanical daily habits should be broken. If for instance you are acustomed, as many of us are, to the daily morning grind and bore of physical exercises, deep breathing, and all the elaborate rigmarole of the toilet, you should be able, on an ideal holiday, to abolish the entire ceremonial. On an ideal holiday the house ought to be so warm, the climate so warm, and the existence so informal that a suit of day pyjamas could be worn without anything else. To think of the sensation of freedom if you could bathe casually and carelessly, and live for the rest of the day in those pyjamas. Well, a woman could do this, and some occasionally do, but not a man. The ideal holiday is impossible for men!
Friday, 22 December 2017
Wells came for tea to Club on Thursday, and talked about his very long novel, which he stated to be a terrific indictment of the present state of England.
A most remarkable thing has happened. For some time now I have had occasion to use the firm of Bagguley in Newcastle-under-Lyme to bind books for me when I need them. Two weeks ago I sent four books for binding: three Claudels and a "Ballads". I mentioned to Bagguley in my accompanying letter that I had shown some of his bindings to bibliophile friends and that they were staggered by the quality of workmanship. They supposed that work of that quality could only be done in London. I explained to them that London is just the place where it can't be done. Yesterday I received from Bagguley, as a gift, a bound "Candide" which is the most beautiful gift I have received in my life, and gives me intense satisfaction. I have spent most of my time since gazing at this work of art. I have now discovered that the craftsman responsible is a man named T.E. Caley and I have written to offer him my most sincere congratulations on his extraordinary skill. It is superb and I am proud to come from the part of the world from which it came.
Thursday, 21 December 2017
I am not at all happy with the drama critic of the London Mercury, and have written to the editor to express my dissatisfaction.
In a review of my play "Sacred and Profane Love" the drama critic writes:
"A writer of Mr. Arnold Bennett's eminence and great sagacity would be the last person to expect us to take this play seriously as a contribution to dramatic literature."
Only a certain ingenuousness prevents this remark from being outrageous. Of course I expect the play to be taken seriously. The critic is perfectly entitled to condemn the play, but he is not entitled, on the strength of his opinion, to attribute to me an attitiude which is not mine., and which, if it were mine, would render me odious in the sight of artists. Why in the name of my alleged great sagacity should I publish a play which I did not expect to be taken seriously? I wonder if the critic imagined that he was being charitable? One does not expect such ineptitude from the critics of the London Mercury.
I despatched my letter yesterday, rather in the heat of the moment. There is certainly a principle involved but I am starting to wonder if there has not been a failure of dignity on my part? Possibly I should just have ignored it completely. I must admit to myself that I am rather thin-skinned when it comes to my work.
I met a Captain Griffin (a fellow Staffordshire man, from Walsall) a couple of days ago. During the war he had been wounded I think nine times and had been a prisoner in Germany. He had been reported dead. After his unexpected return to life his solicitor, among other bills, forwarded the following:
"To memorial service (fully choral) 3 guineas."
Wednesday, 20 December 2017
I have written to Knoblock today as I haven't seen him for some time. Apparently he has had an ear operation which left him depressed but is now on the way to recovery. I told him it is imperative that he takes the upcoming rehearsals as I have neither the skill nor the will. And if The Great Adventure is revived next year, as I expect it to be, he will have to help in the rehearsals for that as well.
I have had a whole series of trifling illnesses this autumn, but am now extremely well. The only good thing about illness is that it makes you appreciate health when you have it. mainly I have been engaged in writing articles and short stories, but I've also written the Prohack play up to nearly the end. I am not satisfied with it and have put it away for three months; I hope to get it right when I come back to it fresh. I have also rewritten The Bright Island.
I have been active in assisting Donald Calthrop in his Shakespeare productions. To my mind he is a wonderful producer but it is my interest in one of the actresses that has drawn me there. I have gotten to know, and become very friendly with, an actress named Dorothy Cheston who acted five years in the USA but couldn't get a job here. I introduced her to Calthrop and on the strength of what I said he actually gave her the part of Viola, without ever having seen her act. It was a frightful risk for him but I knew she would come through and she jolly well has, and has had some great notices. Needless to say she has been appropriately grateful for my help. My difficulty now is deciding how to proceed with her. She knows of course that I am married but has made it pretty obvious that she would welcome a 'close' relationship. Is that what I want? She is an attractive younger woman, and good for my manly confidence, but I have only recently escaped from one wife, and have been enjoying my bachelor existence.
Tuesday, 19 December 2017
We reached London prompt at 4pm and found the Strand Palace Hotel very well organised and strangely cheap. What makes this hotel unique among English hotels is such things as , hot and cold water lavatory in every room, free baths, no tips, second serving of any dish without extra charge. I think there is no other hotel that offers these things. I would stay in it were it only for the lavatory and the bath. The difference to the comfort of the client is tremendous. Odd that in 1910 such elementary conveniences amnd commonsenses should be unique. You can live completely and keep yourself clean in the Strand palace for:
Room, bath, b'fast . . . . . . 6 0
Lunch . . . . . . 1 6
Tea . . . . . . 0 6
Dinner . . . . . . 2 6
Per day, absolutely inclusive . . . 10 6
Monday, 18 December 2017
Ross is of course a homosexual, and remains devoted to the memory of Oscar Wilde. He was Wilde's literary executor and produced the definitive edition of his work. More recently he has worked as an art critic for the Morning Post and has mentored a number of young poets including Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. A cultured and likeable man who has been pursued vindictively by the Marquis of Queensberry and others because of his sexual inclinations which he can no more help than I can help wanting to write. Will there come a time I wonder when homo-phobia is extinct?
This afternoon two and three quarter hours hard in which I wrote 1,200 words of "The Pretty Lady". I am finding it an interesting book to write. Rather a departure for me and I winder how it will be received. Inevitably there will be shock and a certain amount of offence taken. I hope that reaction to the content will not obscure attention to the style because I really think that it is well-written so far. I don't expect it to be a 'success' like my earlier novels, but I hope that it will stand the test of time and will come to be regarded as an important addition to my catalogue of works.
Sunday, 17 December 2017
I have a theory (not precisely new) that a man can rise superior to anything, but I'm damned if I can work it out in practice. I am of the worrying sort. Just now I am consumed with a fever to chuck up women's journalism utterly, and go in for fiction and criticism only. I could do it if I had the pluck of a louse; but having got used to a comparatively expensive way of living I haven't the courage to make the necessary sacrifice. Nevertheless I swear that I will get out of that damned office inside two years or shoot myself. And I always keep my oaths.
Not that I object to editing a woman's paper and looking after nursery notes. It is not that. I am in editorial control of my paper, but it is only one of several belonging to a company, and I can't tolerate working for a company unless i am managing director or God Almighty or something of that kind. Moreover, though I can get a diversion out of editing Woman, there are other things i want to do much more, and I'm not doing them, or not enough of them.
I have been reading Housman's "A Shropshire Lad" - immortal!
i have been wondering about how one would ascribe value to one person as against another. Let's say that in a hypothetical situation it was necessary for a group of people to 'sacrifice' one of their number so that the others could live. What criteria would they come up with? Age, educational attainment, popularity, physical attractiveness, gender, race, socail distinction, wealth ...... ? I was put in mind of this in an oblique way by reading an account of a man who had spent years in the Amazon jungle, living with a tribe of natives who had little contact with the outside world. They were largely devoid of possessions, died on average in their forties, had no concept of numbers, little interest in privacy, generally promiscuous and yet, apparently, content and routinely cheerful. This man had gone as a missionary to convert them to Christianity, but failed totally and ended up losing his own faith. That started me thinking about cultures we tend to describe as 'primitive' and how we might set about making cultural comparisons. Which led on to thinking of individuals. Perhaps the best way of ascribing value would be in terms of personal contentment? The least contented person gets the bullet in the head, and nobody misses him!
Saturday, 16 December 2017
I worked most of yesterday at "The Pretty Lady" and got to the end of another chapter. Saw Chalmers Mitchell, H.G. Wells and Massingham at the Reform. Dined at flat with Marguerite and Richard who is back from school at Oundle.
On coming away, vast jostling crowds in the streets, and the feel of a tremendous city in the dark. How to keep in mind that not so far away there are young men crouching in trenches, shivering in the cold, and apprehensive that they may be called upon to 'go over the top' tomorrow. I sometimes find it impossible to make any sense of the world.
Friday, 15 December 2017
I dined at Schwob's. Moreno had returned. She was dressed in black with gold jewellery, and was more captivating than ever. I immediately forgot her capriciousness and my small grievances against her. She still remains without any pose; and she still constantly says things of the most extraordinary penetration and delicacy. I think I may be in love, or at least in lust! Interesting though that however fascinating a woman may be intellectually, it is the physical attractiveness that makes the difference between comradeship and captivation. For me it is something about the eyes; they must be dark and inviting. Schwob is a lucky man.
Raphael, the Paris correspondent of the Referee and the Sketch was invited to meet me. A pronouncedly Jewish face. Very polite and pleasant. We went in Moreno's car to the Bouffes to see du Bois's "Rabelais". The house was not half full. Moreno left at 10, creeping silently out of the box, and then having a noisy accident with the door, because she had a reciting engagement at Versailles. At the end of the second act Schwob said he couldn't stand any more. I couldn't either, and as Raphael had already seen the piece we left. Raphael and I sat in a cafe in the Place Blanche till 12.30 or more talking about London journalism and serializing.
Thursday, 14 December 2017
The Bible is full of mysticism, of which it is probably the finest treasury in existence, east or west. To my mind the most pregnant mystical exhortation ever written is: "Be still, and know that I am God." (46th psalm) The first two words ought to be stessed and repeated thrice. The more one reads the Bible the more one perceives that it is permeated through and through with purely mystical emotion. Many religious people, and many readers of the Bible, seem to be insensible to mysticism, and are thus deprived of what is perhaps the deepest source of private comfort. Strange thoughts for an avowed atheist!
i was thinking about how this journal has changed over the years. When I started, aged about thirty, I was writing as an exercise in self-discipline, to record things that had interested or occurred to me, and with no thought that what I was writing would be read by others. Now it is different. Has this changed what I write? Of course it has. With the best will in the world I now have my eyes on a potential readership as I write and am more or less consciously trying to make it interesting without being too contentious. To be honest i think it has become anodyne. When I look back to my early journals, they were full of the essence of life. Pity.
I finished reading "Death in Venice" by Thomas Mann yesterday. To be honest I found it hard going at first, but later in the book I started to see why Mann had spent so much time establishing the character of von Aschenbach. It seems to me that there are at least two levels to the story (setting aside classical allusions): the essential fragility of the main character who has consciously and consistently built an aesthetic identity, and sees it collapse dramatically; an allegory about the European character, distinguishing south from north, showing the seductive and destructive potential of the former. The most poignant scene for me was the one where von Aschenbach allows himself to be 'made up' by the hotel barber in a vain attempt to regain youth; so painful it was hard to read. Overall a moving and beautifully written short novel.
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Though I have sinned in that way myself quite a number of times in the last twenty years, I still object to authors writing prefaces, forewords, or introductions to the books of other (living) authors. A book should not be led into the ring like a performing horse at the circus. Nevertheless I do take notice of prefaces etc. The names of certain introducers would inhibit me from ever opening a book introduced by them. The names of other introducers, on the contrary, fascinate me as a snake is (falsely) reported to fascinate a bird.
T.S. Eliot has recently prefaced a book called "This American World" by Edgar Mowrer. Mr. Eliot is American, but probably less so than any American now on earth. Henry James was less American than Mr. Eliot, but carried his Europeanisation to excess. He was more European than Europeans. To be more royalist than the king implies a lack of tact.
Mr. Eliot is a fine poet and also a fine critic, if dry and over-dispassionate. There must be something in any book that he ceremonially sponsors. And there is a great deal in "This American World". Indeed it is one of the most enlightening and frankest books on American psychology that I have ever read; and, apart from a few too perky brightnesses, it is well written. I may say that if a European author of reputation had said half as much as Mr. Mowrer says in criticism of the American mind, international complications would have quickly ensued. Mr. Mowrer prophesies that American ideals will ultimately rule the entire world. I think he may be right.
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
If a set of young men from the East End or from some provincial centre of Association football had gone in mass formation to Twickenham football ground last Monday, and by force and rowdyism rendered impossible the playing of the inter-Varsity match, there would have been a loud outcry in the papers, and in all polite circles, against their ill-mannered lawlessness. The police courts would have been densely populated next morning, and the non-payment of fines imposed would have ended in many doses of imprisonment.
Yet such conduct would have been no worse than the conduct, on that same day, of undergraduates from our ancient universities, which conduct began with processions on the tops of dining tables in fashionable restaurants and ended in the breaking up of a performance in at least one West End theatre. And which conduct occupied only a few inches of space in the papers and was forgotten by an enlightened public in less than twenty four hours. It was generally understood that university rowdyism in London had been finished for ever by certain outrageous destructive antics last year. Not so.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If years of education at public schools and universities result in exhibitions of loutish violence which have no equal in Great Britain, what are we to think of the real value of such education? Whatever young men (and increasingly young women) are taught at universities, they are not effectively taught either decency or good manners, or self-control, or respect for the elementary social rights of others. They apparently are taught to behave like savages, and to be proud of it. The immediate cause of these disgraces is of course simple drunkenness, senseless and brutish indulgence in alcohol. The excuse offered for the youths is that they are young. Which plainly implies a theory that we ought not to expect citizens to be decent, civilised and law-abiding until they have reached the age of at least twenty one. Is this a tenable theory?
It is the sheer hypocrisy which annoys me most. We live in a country which is deeply divided along class lines, and that division is maintained by the organs of government, religion and the press. The 'entitled' have the best of everything, and the rest do what they can with the crumbs. Surely it would not be unreasonable to expect the toffs to demonstrate their superiority by behaving decently? I don't advocate revolution but just occasionally I wish that something would upset the status quo.
Monday, 11 December 2017
Yesterday lunch with Thomas Vaughan, partner in god knows how many theatres, Marguerite and Gilbert Miller also. This lunch must have cost Tommy £10. The beefsteak was a failure.
Last night a dinner, organised by Albert Rutherston to Nigel Playfair, to mark his departure to the U.S.A. to produce "The Beggar's Opera" there. Milne was in the chair and made a brilliant sort of speech full of jokes proposing Nigel's health. The speeches were too few, and too short, and after them there was an anticlimax.
This morning at 12.30 I finished the writing of my first film. I have temporarily called it "The Wedding Dress". It has taken 25 days, out of which I was ill on 7 days and did nothing whatever. I should estimate that the MS is about 10,000 words. I heard recently that Shaw had received a film offer of £10,000 per original film, he to furnish two films a year. I was told that he intended to accept. I would. It strikes me that films may be the future for writers who are less concerned for their artistic integrity and more for their bank balance. That said, it is early days; who can say whether, in the future as the medium develops, films will not be seen as works of art in their own right.
I am taking an interest in a scheme to help disabled soldiers and am trying to involve Lord Rothermere. I am a sort of intermediary on behalf of Reeves-Smith, the managing director of the Savoy Company, and Alfred Scott and his wife. If I can persuade the Mirror (through Rothermere) to get involved then the prospects are good. Since the war ended I have been trying off and on to raise the public's awareness of the difficulties faced by disabled ex-soldiers. They are thrown on the world not because the state has done all it can or ought to do for them, but because the army has no further use for them. After being called heroes in the newspapers they are dismissed from the service of the state while the nation is still in their debt.
Sunday, 10 December 2017
I like it here. I have been sleeping better than I have for ages. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Dorothy. She claims that vibrations from the underground (we are above Baker Street station) are disturbing her at night. She told Frank Swinnerton that the vibrations "go right up my rectum". Interesting turn of phrase. I regret to say that, in my opinion, she is oversensitive; highly strung. To be honest it is getting on my nerves. She was the one who spotted this flat in the first place, and now she wants to move. Something is being done here every day to make the place more to our liking, but things always remain to be done. I hesitate to estimate the cost. I've only had one or two bills yet. The affair is like a diarrhoea of money.
I have been thinking about mortality and Prospero's words in Act 5 of "The Tempest" came to mind:
Last week I was at Ethel Sands' and had a great pow-wow with Virginia Woolf. Other guests held their breath to listen to us. Virginia is alright (as high-brows go!). She taunted me with believing her to be 'refined'. Well, if she isn't refined then I don't know who is.
Saturday, 9 December 2017
Yesterday I sat with Dawson and Cartledge on the magistrates bench. I made some notes. One hopeless case showing the criminality of the criminal system. A woman who had been in and out of prison since 1876 (when I was nine!), and she got another month. Probably she is inured to the system by now and really knows nothing else, but surely something could have been done all those years ago to divert her from this waste of a life. No doubt drink has become a factor and yet I feel confident that it is a consequence, not a cause. If someone took the trouble to really dig into her past, the circumstances of her birth and childhood, I would bet that the odds were stacked against her from the start.
I didn't really want to sit up on the bench. The body of the court would have been fine for me, if not better, but Dawson insisted and he is my primary source of information for "Clayhanger". He is a decent man, and so seems Cartledge, but how pompous and self-righteous they appear when hearing the cases and doling out punishments. It is not for me. Of course the Sentinel reported that I had been on the bench. They would.
I was at the dentist on Tuesday and now have a gold filling. The gold shines in my mouth. I suppose I will get used to it. I am picking up a lot of useful material and getting ideas. I went to the Grand after dinner yesterday and was profoundly struck by all sorts of things but especially the clog dancing. Its significance had never occurred to me before. I thionk I could do something on it for the Nation. And maybe I could work somthing into "Clayhanger". Towards the end I came across Warwick Savage and walked home with him. This was a pity because I had got into an extraordinary vein of 'second sight'. I perceived whole chapters. Of all the stuff I made sufficient notes.
Enthusiastic letter from Lee Matthews about the play. Let us hope that his enthusiasm is well founded.
Friday, 8 December 2017
I finished the second yachting article for the Century on Friday afternoon. Saturday morning je bricolais, arranging books etc. Enjoyable. Something I don't do often enough. There are few things in life more satisfying than arranging one's books.
J.C. Squire came on Saturday. Long hair, Jaegerishly dressed. But sound, competent, honest in argument. He was highly in favour of Webbs etc., and said the New Statesman was going on excellently, as to finance. He is from a wealthy background, but joined the Social Democratic Foundation which had been led by figures like Eleanor Marx. He met his wife through the SDF. At the time New Statesman was launched, he was a working literary journalist, and he became its first literary editor. He could not appreciate Tailhade's verse. Left this morning. Very Jaegerish.
To day I went to Dereham in Norfolk to take possession of a Fitzroy barometer I had ordered from a scientific instrument maker there. I went myself, on invitation, so as to see over the factory, and it was extremely interesting. All the parts of the barometer are made there, and there is a 'shop' for each part of the process - wood, brass, glass, packing etc. The general manager told me he had started as a civil engineer but had been in the scientific instrument business for over 30 years. Clearly very proud of the standard of workmanship in his factory. And quite right to be. It is a beautiful instrument as well as being useful. I shall enjoy checking it every day when I am home.
Thursday, 7 December 2017
Max recently bought the Evening Standard and I have hopes that he will make something of it. I wrote recently offering him a few suggestions. But what concerns me at the moment is the Express and I am gathering my thoughts to write about that.
The fact is that I can't understand the paper's current policy, nor do I know anybody who can. It seems that the editorship (Max?) have conceived two policies, and haven't chosen between them. No doubt Max would say they are not mutually exclusive, and perhaps they are not, but I doubt that it is politic to run two war-cries side by side. They have an 'Imperial' policy and an 'anti-labour' policy and in order to back the latter they encourage voters in certain circumstances to vote against the former. Quite possibly there is a third unstated policy which is to bring down Baldwin at any cost.
I don't think that the Express has yet justified its Imperial policy. For example they have not disposed of the British criticism that the colonies want something for nothing, or something positive in exchange for something highly problematical. Nor have they answered the criticism that Colonial preference will still the retail price of goods affected by it just as high as if there were no Colonial preference. Nor have they done anything to soften the British impression (doubtless false) that the colonies are a damned grasping lot of coves.
I may also mention headlines. Considering that they have an immense psychological effect I think the Express should be handling its headlines better than it has been of late. As for the Daily Mail, I can remember in the popular press no such sustained exhibition of dishonest fatuity as it has given to the world during the last fortnight.
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Last night I finished my second book, "The Art of Journalism for Women". I was 48 hours ahead of contract time. Unluckily Lane the other day reminded me that I had offered it to him some months ago. I still have not had a formal contract from him though which is disappointing.
This afternoon, reading in the New Review (which this month ceases to exist) the conclusion of Joseph Conrad's superb book "The Nigger of the Narcissus", I had a mind to go on at once with my Staffordshire novel, treating it in the Conrad manner, which after all is my own, on a grander scale. Wells first pointed out Conrad to me. I remember I got his first book, "Almayer's Folly" to review with a batch of others from Unwin, and feeling at the time rather bored I simply didn't read it at all. I have read it since and it is wonderful - how that man captures the atmosphere of the jungle river and its insidious effect on white men living there. Where did he pick up that style and that way he has of gathering up a general impression and flinging it at you? Not only his style, but his attitude, affected me deeply. He is so consciously an artist, or perhaps it just comes naturally to him. Some pages of "The Nigger" are exquisite in the extraordinary management of colour they display, though he needs to curb his voracity for adjectives.
I greatly admire the writing of George Moore. If George Moore had been a South Sea trader and had learned the grammar etc., he would have treated the sea as Conrad treats it. I dare say this opinion of mine would sound odd if voiced, but it is profoundly true, and, for me, throws light on both men.
Monday, 4 December 2017
On Tuesday Arthur L. Humphreys came up to lunch, and to inspect my books with a view to a catalogue. he is a bookseller who also publishes books on an occasional basis. He has been one of the proprietors of Hatchards since about 1890. He told us how he had walked from London to Lands End, and from London to Edinburgh, at 37 miles a day. He didn't say why.
We took him to Landermere, Kirby-le-Soken, Walton and Frinton. He seemed determined to find out about the history of Comarques. Often in France but incapable of speaking French with any fluency. He said that he thought the novels of today immensely superior to those of 20 years ago. He said that at Christmas, numbers of people made up their minds to buy "Whitaker" and one other book. The other book might be a volume of devotional verse. He said that novels more and more dominated the book market, which is of some comfort to me.
|Cambridge University Botanical Garden|
Sunday, 3 December 2017
Idea for a funny story about a cat. The Devereux's cat. Each of the three women swears it belongs to her. Two of them have written to thank me for looking after her cat. In the story some man might draw a great advantage by flattering three different owners of the same cat.
Another idea, very vague, from an article by Lenotre ("Vieilles Maisons. vieux papiers") in tonight's Temps, showing how the menage Tison gradually turned right round and ended by favouring the royal family in the Temple, and how Tison came even to risking his life in order to create a few elusive hopes for Marie Antoinette. I ought really to keep the article. I will. The whole thing transferred onto another plane, it might be made very moving. But some historical novelist ought to treat it exactly as it is.
I finished the first part of "The Old Wives' Tale" here in Paris on Friday afternoon. It is good. I intend to continue in the same 'high' vein and will produce a novel worthy of me.
I seem to have practically lost all my ambitions except the ambition to be allowed to work quietly. This remarkable phenomenon coincides with my marriage, but I do not honestly think the two things are connected, as it has been 'coming on' for a year. I find that I can make all the money I want and need, and, as my mother always said, "enough is as good as a feast". Now that I am no longer alone you won't catch me living any more in Paris. I am giving up my flat there, although it is only nine months since I finished installing myself in it. And at considerable expense. I don't know anything about the 'country' and I never shall, but I enjoy being in it, though I can't even name the trees.
Friday, 1 December 2017
I had a long talk yesterday afternoon with the mother of a girl graduate at Cambridge and of a boy high up in a public school. In such conversations one does get at a few facts. Both girl and boy have somewhat unusual intelligence, but they are young people with the usual instincts of youth, in no way abnormal, precious or priggish.
It appears that in these circles, male youth prefers the reading of plays to the reading of novels. I have heard the same news from publishers. I cannot imagine why the intelligently curious should prefer plays to novels, seeing that novels on the average are immensely superior in quality to plays. Still there you are. Facts are facts. And male youth does read fiction too. And in fiction it puts D.H. Lawrence first and the rest nowhere. It does not seem to read a lot of verse. In fact it seems to me that not much verse is read. Why has it declined so in popularity?
I well know that I do not read enough verse, especially classical English verse. I wish I read more but I seldom seem to be able to find the time. This is only an excuse, I admit. In fact I don't read much verse because at heart I prefer to read prose. When I do read classical poetry I do so for an ulterior purpose - because I find that if I am writing a novel or a story, the finest English verse has the capacity to lift me up out of the rut of composition, and set me, and my work, on a higher plane. In other words it inspires. This may not be the very best compliment to our poets, but it is a pretty good compliment all the same.
Thursday, 30 November 2017
I met Emile Martin by appointment at the Palais de Glace, Champs Elysee, yesterday. A large circular place: curiously ghostly effect of the electric light on the powdery surface of the ice. Apparently the site used to be the setting for occasional bullfights, and was remodelled for this new recreation in 1890. My first visit. It is now evidently the resort of high class cocottes, rastas, and rich wastrels. Some of the women were excessively chic. I enjoyed observing them.
|Martha Brandes in L'Escalade|
Wednesday, 29 November 2017
I have hardly done any work since I came back from Dublin in September. Quite why, I don't know. I still seem to be busy, but not the sort of busyness that brings in money. Marguerite is spending at a good rate, especially on clothes. I feel a bit discontented, out of sorts, in need of a change. But no change in prospect. Of course I have now reached the age of fifty which is something of a milestone, and it is getting dark so early, and feel I would be happier were I single again. A middle-aged man's lament.
I have been reading Swinnerton's "Nocturne". Good. Perhaps very good. Only a short novel and all set in the course of a few hours, with only five characters. No plot as such, Swinnerton's intention being to 'get inside' the heads of his characters. And he succeeds pretty well. The setting is a 'respectable' working class home somewhere in London where live two sisters and their father who is more or less helpless, needing constant care. Both sisters are desperate for love and for some sort of escape from their dreary existence. Jenny, the younger, is a romantic, sharply intelligent, unpredictable, a dreamer. Emmy, the elder, is conventional, unimaginative, caring, with a deep reservoir of love for the right man if she can find him. By the end, Emmy is on the road to happiness, whilst Jenny looks likely to continue to be dissatisfied.
I can't quite decide whether this would have been better edited to become a short story, or extended to a normal size novel. Probably the latter had I been dealing with it. There is very little back story which could, I think, have been introduced to advantage. There is also very little description of the sisters' home. I could have made a lot of that. Swinnerton is excellent in describing a visit to a music hall, and could have done more to flesh out the context of the sisters' lives. Also, we get privileged access to the characters thoughts but not so much about how their thoughts and emotions express themselves in nuances of behaviour; the sort of thing that Conrad is a master of. I enjoyed the read. It could reasonably be described as a tour de force, and I think it will sell well.
In the Telegraph today was a letter from Lord Lansdowne calling for a re-think on the possibility of a negotiated peace with Germany. A brave gesture by a man who has been Foreign Secretary, and therefore should be heeded. But I have no doubt that there will be a predictable response tomorrow, with the word 'traitor' to the fore. Essentially Lansdowne argues that the allies should restate their war aims in an attempt to bring about peace before the prolongation of the war leads to the ruin of the civilized world. I agree completely, but I have no intention of saying so in public. If pressed I shall be non-commital.
Tuesday, 28 November 2017
I met Colonel Tabor (of Cyclists) in the road yesterday. He said that the War Office was apparently taking quite seriously the danger of a raid. He said that many officers were now having a few days leave, and that one had breakfasted in the trenches and dined at his club in London. I imagine that is apocryphal but it does bring home the bizarre situation that there is a war going on just over the horizon. I think it is only a matter of time before someone in the south east claims to have heard the guns firing. On Thursday 700 sailors were killed when HMS Bulwark blew up in the harbour at Sheerness, Kent. How many more will die before this is all over I wonder?
The Colchester road is being mined just east of the point where the Tendring road branches off. Four or six soldiers digging holes on either side of the road (4 in all) about 4 feet cube. The bridge next to the railway station is also being mined. Twelve engineers in the village and more to come.
I had run out of book space and have had some new shelves made for a particular wall in my study, to my own design. Spent some time last evening arranging the books. Inevitably I became involved in reading and lost all track of time. At one point I was browsing in my set of "The Yellow Book" and unexpectedly came upon my own story "A Letter Home" in Volume VI. I read it with genuine pleasure.
Monday, 27 November 2017
We dined at the Ivy, and saw there the St. John Ervines, Hutchinsons, Lytton Strachey, the Basil Deans, etc., etc.Then to the first night of the Sitwell entertainment, "First Class Passengers Only", at the Arts Theatre Club. Packed. Some part amusing. More parts tedious. Some fine acting. Some rotten. It was a sort of Revue in backchat.
"Mr. Prohack" starring Charles Laughton seems to be doing well at the Court. Better than I expected at least.
Saturday, 25 November 2017
I am engaged in an exchange by letter with Edward Garnett, reviewer for the Nation. His recent review of "The Old Wives' Tale" was as good as I could wish for but I took exception to his throwaway remark that in previous books I "frittered myself away in pleasing the fourth-rate tastes of Philistia". Insufferable elitism! So what if I write some books that have a more 'popular' audience in mind? No doubt they lack Garnett's sophisticated taste, but they are readers too and why should I not, as a professional author, address them? As long as I write as well as I can it seems to me not to matter much if not everything is great literature. He also seemed to imply that my only effective subject is The Five Towns.
I asked him if he had read "A Great Man" or "Buried Alive", both of which are set elsewhere and are by no means fourth rate. In fairness he replied to say that he may have overdone the 'Philistia' business. He had in mind "The Grand Babylon Hotel". Admittedly that is a lark, but it is a well written lark. He says he has reviewed "A Great Man" but has not read "Buried Alive". I also mentioned "Whom God Hath Joined" which I still consider to be under-rated .
I don't know why this sort of thing gets under my skin. The high-brows do cause me to see red. Might there be an element of provincial inferiority complex?
Friday, 24 November 2017
Chores this morning after some letter writing. I had some trouble concentrating as my mind kept turning to the unemployed miners who arrived in London yesterday having walked 180 miles from the Rhondda Valley. Baldwin refused to meet them. Later there was a rally in Trafalgar Square - they marched to the Square carrying lighted lamps, knapsacks and mugs, and supported by brass and fife bands. I wish had had been there to see it. Apparently Arthur Cook, Secretary of the Miners' Federation, told them that "unless the government faces up to the problem of unemployment, a revolutionary situation will be created in this country which no leader will be able to withstand." Strong words for strong men but unlikely to move Baldwin who has probably never seen a mine. I don't suppose anything will come of it. The people in this country are too docile and well fed.
This afternoon I took D. to the Guildhall Art Gallery which had been recommended to me. Mainly Victorian paintings but some good quality works. I was particularly struck by John Collier's "Clytemnestra". In fact I kept going back to look at it again. Highly dramatic. Tells the whole story in one unforgettable image. Collier has made her look proud, immensely strong and slightly deranged all at the same time. Blood dripping off the axe is a nice touch. And behind her is a mysterious light which draws the observer into the murder room in imagination. You feel as if Agamemnon is lying there, just out of your sight. Worth the visit just for that as far as I was concerned. D. was less impressed than me.
Thursday, 23 November 2017
Sisters Campion dined here Saturday. They explained that there were only 60 soldiers at Frinton, and that they had a tremendous lot done for them in the way of entertainment and comforts. They said however, disapprovingly, that after quitting the social club at night - cocoa etc. - the men could go to their canteen and get drunk. Seemed surprised by this revelation of men's character. There is a continuing sense of unreality about the war. I wonder how long 'entertainment and comforts' will be maintained? Fewer people are saying: "It will be all over by Christmas". In fact I don't think I have heard anybody say it recently. News that the Germans are advancing rapidly east into Poland as well. They are a formidable enemy and I fear that things will get worse before they get better.
I was almost laid up with a liver attack this weekend. Possibly a reaction in part to my trip to the Potteries. No more news about my mother. I don't think it can be much longer.
We were at Mrs. Tollinton's in Tendring for tea. Cold upstairs room with bedroom grate - a bedroom used as a secondary drawing room. I got near the morsel of fire. Mrs. Tollinton mere, a widow with cap. The wife's sister in black, with a nervous habit of shrugging her shoulders as if in amiable protest or agreement with a protest. or a humorous comment. Though there wasn't much humour abroad. Tollinton himself a very learned man who has this year published "Clement of Alexandria: A Study in Christian Liberalism". I am told that the work deals with Clement, his times and contemporaries; with his views on Paganism, Marriage, and Property; on the Logos, the Incarnation, and Gnosticism; on the Church, the Sacraments, and the Scriptures. I am glad to say that I was not asked for any opinion on it, nor even if I had read it at all. Probably the assumption was made that the answer would be negative in either case.
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
Yesterday I finished the second act of "An Angel Unawares". The third will be very easy to do. So today I began to plan out in detail the first part of "Sacred and Profane Love". The first part is going to be entirely magnificent. I outlined the plot to Davray. I don't think he was very struck by it, and he asked whether the British public would stand it. I think he has the idea that the British will be shocked by the heroine 'giving' herself to the pianist, whereas the French would, of course, take it in their stride. However from a crude outline he had nothing upon which to judge.
I walked all about Moret this morning, and got somewhat lost in the forest this afternoon. Then I read Swinburne.
I noticed in the forest yesterday afternoon that the noise of the wind in the branches was indeed like the noise of the sea; but always distant; the noise never seemed to be near me. I got lost once and took one path after another aimlessly until it occurred to me to steer by the sun. The moonrise was magnificent, and the weather became frosty. I noticed how large the moon seemed, just having risen. Why should it look bigger when it is low in the sky compared to near the zenith? It is the same distance away.
After leaving Davray's at 10 o'clock I went as far as the forest again, but the diverging avenues of trees did not produce the effect I had hoped for; there was too much gloom.
Tuesday, 21 November 2017
First night of Quintero's play "100 Years Old" at Hammersmith. Lovely 1st. Act. Other acts not so good. I have a feeling that it is not going to be a success.
|Anna May Wong|
I was talking to James B. who I first met at the ministry. He's not there now. He is vrey interested in archaeology, and particularly the Romans. His idea is that there is a lot more Roman remains waiting to be discovered in this country. The thing is that most places which were Roman population centres are now built-up and so the remains are buried. He makes a point of frequenting sites where building work is going on in the hope of discoveries. So far, not very much. He has the idea that the original site of London, which the Romans called Londinium, would have had an amphitheatre and he is trying to work out where it would have been. Maybe somewhere near the Guildhall in the City is his best guess, but I don't think they will let him dig up the Guildhall on the off-chance of archaeological finds.
Sunday, 19 November 2017
On Wednesday afternoon I went to Burslem to see my mother who is reported to be past hope. I saw her at 8 p.m. and remained alone with her for about half an hour. She looked very small, especially her head in the hollow of the pillows. The outlines of her face very sharp; hectic cheeks; breathed with her mouth open, and much rumour of breath in her body; her nose seemed more hooked. Had, in fact, become hooked. Scanty hair. She had a very weak self-pitying voice, but with sudden birsts of strong voice, imperative and flinging out of arms. She still had a great deal of strength. She forgot most times in the middle of a sentence, and it took her a long time to recall.
She was very glad to see me and held my hand all the time under the bedclothes. She spoke of the most trifling things as if tremendously important. She was seldom fully conscious and often dozed and then woke up with a start. She had no pain but often muttered in anguish: "What am I to do? What am I to do?". Amid tossed bedclothes you could see numbers on corners of blankets. On medicine table siphon, saucer, spoon, large soap-dish, brass flower bowl (empty). The gas (very bad burner) screened by a contraption of Family Bible, some wooden thing, and a newspaper. It wasn't level. She had it altered. Said it annoyed her terribly. Gas stove burning. Temperature barely 60. Damp chill penetrating my legs. The clock had a very light, delicate, striking sound. Trams and buses did not disturb her though sometimes they made talking difficult.
Round-topped panels of wardrobe. She wanted to be satisfied that her purse was on a particular tray of the wardrobe. Apparently she has arterial sclerosis and patchy congestion of the lungs. Her condition was very distressing (though less so than my father's when he lay dying), and it seemed strange to me that this should necessarily be the end of life, that a life couldn't always end more easily. Well of course it could if a sane approach to these things was adopted, but we remain at the mercy of the religious powers who argue that life is a 'gift' and to take it ourselves is a 'sin'. What poppycock! I know what a proud woman my mother was and how she would have hated to find herself in this pitiful state. If I had more courage I might have smothered her with a pillow. I thought of doing so, but held back. I had a sort of waking dream or fantasy of being in a courtroom defending my actions in the most eloquent way and becoming thereby a sort of popular hero. Embarrassing to think of it.
I went in again at 11.45 p.m. She was asleep, breathing noisily. Nurse, in black, installed for the night. Sometimes a bright smile appeared on my mother's face but it went in an instant. She asked for her false teeth, and she wanted her ears syringed again so that she could hear better. She was easier in the morning after a good night, but certainly weaker. Mouth closed and eyes shut tight. Lifting of chin right up to get head in line with body for breathing. A bad sign.
Saturday, 18 November 2017
Yesterday I finished making a list of all social, political and artistic events which I thought possibly useful for my novel between 1872 and 1882. Tedious bore for a trifling ultimate result in the book. But necessary. Not so much the facts that are important, but getting into the period. I feel it is important to write as if I am there. In fact it is the only way I can write with authenticity. The period just overlaps my own school days of course and I sense that there will be a lot of me in the book. Whilst walking in the forest today I practically arranged most of the construction of the first part of the novel. Still lacking a title for it. If I thought an ironic title would do, I would call it "A Thoughtful Young Man". But the public is so damned slow on the uptake.
|Wedgwood Institute containing Burslem Endowed School|
I am getting to the end of my year's work. In a week I shall have nothing to do except the collection, on the spot, of more information for the novel. Perhaps I will come upon a title.
Today I finished, and mounted, another water colour, of Arbonne - one of my least rotten.
Friday, 17 November 2017
Presently staying with the Phillpotts's for a few days. I have a large bedroom with a prime view over Torbay. Always relaxing here but I am working as well. I feel in great form for work. In fact I feel pretty well in general at the moment. The new bachelor lifestyle suits me well. Yesterday I took Mrs. P. out shopping and we became a little flirtatious, being about the same age. Nothing serious of course but it does the spirit good to be able to make a sort of proto-sexual connection; I thought I had lost the knack of it! And of course there is Adelaide, the daughter, late 20s I should think. Quite pretty and I think she has a preference for older men. Interesting that this sort of thing is going around in my head nowadays.
Dorothy has a small part at the Kingsway Theatre, but she couldn't really have come here with me anyway. Some proprieties must be observed. For some reason we got onto talking about Ruskin last evening and Eden rehearsed the old story about his unconsummated marriage with Effie Gray. Allegedly he was completely unmanned at the sight of her naked body, or more specifically her pubic hair. I must say that I think it apocryphal. More likely in my view that he was a suppressed homosexual, married for reasons of convention an undeveloped young woman, and just couldn't do the necessary when it came to it. One wonders how these stories arise and are propagated. If I have time and opportunity I will try to find out some facts.
Dorothy was trying to advise me about treatment for my stammer the other evening. Nice of her to make the effort but, as I said to her, I think I have considered or indeed tried all possible therapies. Any treatment will do you a certain amount of good for a time, because the affection is extremely responsive to hetero-suggestion. But none that I have ever heard of will act when it is really needed. I used to discuss this matter with the late W.H.R. Rivers, one of the greatest specialists in nervous affections. He could never suggest anything better than to forget the trouble and leave it alone. As he stammered himself he would be likely to know all there was to be known. Also he was a very intimate friend of mine and a really great man. The affection is due to a defect of the brain, which gives contradictory orders simultaneously when disturbed in a certain way. I have even tried hypnotism. Why the subject is not more readily studied than it is by experts I have never understood for the affection is very widespread (among males - it is very rare among females). The nervous strain of it is of course continuous and severe - very severe. The said strain is too much for many sufferers and they retire to the completest privacy that they can arrange for. It is always a marvel to me that I, with my aciute general sensitiveness, have risen above this enormous handicap and am even, inspite of it, recognised as a great 'persuader' of people.
Wednesday, 15 November 2017
Duff Tayler and I lunched together yesterday and discussed his sick leg, and the future of the Lyric, Hammersmith. Duff (Alistair) is a short agreeable Scotsman of means, devoted to the theatre. He has relied on my support in his battles with Playfair. He has an idea for burlesquely producing one of the old melodramas, such as "Sweeny Todd". So we walked at once to French's and bought six old melodramas, of which we each took three. I drove home, slept, and read "Sweeny Todd" and "Black-eyed Susan". I decided "Sweeny" would do but "B.E.Susan" would not. Eliozabeth L. came ot dinner and we took her to the first night of "The Would-be Gentleman" at the Lyric. This was rather less awful than I had feared: but it was pretty amateurish, and the recommendations of Duff and myself had not been carried out with any thoroughness. Anstey appeared and looked charming, and aged, and naif. He looked far younger at rehearsals. Dorothy did not care for the production, nor did Tertia. Elizabeth did, but Elizabeth is not discriminating.
Today I finished an interesting book called "The Man in the High Castle". The author's name is P. Dick, an American. There were four things I liked about it. Firstly, it is an 'alternative history', which I always find interesting. Not only that but there is an alternative history (a book) within the alternative history - clever idea and well executed. Secondly the characters are well-drawn and all are conflicted in their lives. Authentic. Thirdly, the plot is gripping, and I was keen to keep reading to find out what would happen. Always a good sign. Finally, running through the novel is a sort of philosophical strand relating to the Chinese I Ching. Clearly this is something of real importance for Dick. The whole novel was imbued with a sort of dark fatalism. The ending was strange and a bit disappointing, but it has left me thinking. It may do well if properly promoted.
Tuesday, 14 November 2017
I spent the whole of yesterday en ville. I went to Ullman's Sunday morning reception at his studio, and found some magnificent pictures, and much praise of my books. I particularly enjoyed a watercolour, in muted tones, of a river scene; just the sort of thing I would like to produce myself, but far in advance of my ability. Ullman is an American but lives more or less permanently in Paris. Ten years younger than me but already gaining a significant reputation. He is a very versatile artist - portraits, landscapes, figurative and impressionist. I expect he is not really appreciated in America.
At 6 o'clock I left. I went to the Cafe D'Orsay, and had a vermouth-cassis, and then I walked all the way by the Seine to Schwob's. He was alone and the chinese servant had been ill and looked sickly. Moreno was away on tour. We were intensely glad to see each other and shook hands with both left and right hands. He was much better and his interest in books had revived. Books were all over the place and he had got a lot of new ones. Ting watched over us while we dined, and Schwob gave me the history of his transactions as to plays with David Belasco. Then he asked if I cared to go out as the carriage was at his disposal. The carriage proved to be a magnificent De Dion cab, and I suppose it belongs to Moreno. We whirled off to La Scala. It was hot and crowded.
Schwob said that he enjoyed music halls and frequented them, and he certainly enjoyed this. Some of the items were very good. He has the habit, which one finds in all sorts of people, of mildly but constantly insisting that a thing is good, as if to convince himself. If I began by saying that a thing was not good, he at once agreed. His taste, though extremely fine, is capricious; it is at the mercy of his feelings.
He whirled me home in about two minutes. I tremendously enjoyed the evening. He was absolutely charming, and his English is so good and sure, and he looked so plaintive and in need of moral support, with his small figure and his pale face, and his loose clothes, and his hat that is always too large for him. Yet I don't know anyone who could be more independent and pugnacious, morally, than Schwob. I have never seen him so, but I know that he would be so if occasion arose.
Monday, 13 November 2017
Gale, rainy windy showers early.
I drove in driving rain to the Tate Gallery, in order to think over my novel, and saw some good English pictures. There are indeed some fine ones. The elder of the two Tate lecturers was very good on both Blake and Rossetti. He pointed out the humour in Rossetti's watercolours, and he very well explained their origin. Then I wrote some more notes for my novel - to be called, pro tem., "Accident". Also I found names for two of the characters. Interesting that I use the word 'found', because that is what it feels like. As if the names have been lying around, just waiting for me to come across them. I suppose they have in a way, somewhere in my head.
We drove, still in the rain - or had the rain just stopped? - to the Lyceum for the first night of the Russian ballet. The whole high-brow and snob world was there, with a good sprinkling of decent people. The spectacle was good. I liked "Petrouschka" as much as ever, and "The House Party" more than ever. I begin now to understand the latter. It is all Sodom and Gomorrah. "The Swan Lake" had much applause: a fine old-fashioned example of Petipa's work. Orchestra better than usual.