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Thursday, November 30, 2017

The cocotte with a dog

We bicycled yesterday through Montigny, Grez, Villliers-sous-Grez, Larchant and Nemours. And I exhausted myself in pushing Marguerite about 10 mies altogether against a head wind. We had tea at Villiers, just a straggling village without any attraction except that of its own life. During our tea the drone of a steam-thresher was heard rising and falling continually.

   Tea in the street; they brought out and pitched for us a table, also vast thick basins, which we got changed for small coffee-cups. But we could not prevent the fat neat clean landlady from serving the milk in a 2-quart jug which would have filled about a million coffee-cups. We sat in the wind on yellow iron chairs, and we had bread and perhaps a pound of butter, and a plate of sweet biscuits which drew scores of flies. Over the houses we could just see the very high weather-cock of the church. Everything was beaten by wind and sunshine. From the inside of the little inn came hoarse argumentative voices. Curious to see in this extremely unsophisticated village a Parisian cocotte of the lower ranks, She was apparently staying at the inn. With her dog, and her dyed hair (too well arranged), and her short skirt, and her matinée (at 4.30 p.m.), and her hard eyes, she could not keep from exhibiting herself in the road. The instinct of ‘exposition’ was too strong in her to be resisted. She found fifty excuses          for popping into the house and out again.
                                                                                   Journals of Arnold Bnnett - August 26th 1907.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A cure for indigestion

Talking about eating, Mme Bergeret said that in the Midi (neighbourhood of Toulouse specially) there used to be men who prided themselves on enormous powers of eating. They did not usually eat a great deal, but on occasions, when put to it, they would perform terrible feats such as consuming a whole turkey. The result sometimes was that they were very ill. The method of curing them was to dig a hole in the muck-heap, strip the sufferer naked, put him in the hole, and pack him tightly with manure up to the neck. The people who did this did it with gusto, telling the sufferer what an odious glutton he was. The heat generated promoted digestion in a manner almost miraculous, an next day the sufferer was perfectly restored.
                                                                                        Arnold Bennett Journals - July 29th 1907

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Rodin's erotic sculpture

At the Cornilliers’ today some talk of Rodin. Henri Havet stated defiantly that he was going mad, was in fact mad. Of erotomania. He said also that he did pieces of sculpture and then deliberately broke them.
   Some one remarked that an artist had the right after all to break up a piece that did not please him.
   ‘Yes,’ Havet explained, ‘but not to send it broken to an exhibition, in imitation of the Venus de Milo etc.’ A Mme Neck (?), a very pretty woman, who knew Rodin personally, gave a curious experience of his peculiarities. He is in the habit of showing little erotic pieces to lady visitors. He took her to one such, a woman seated or bending down in the middle of a plate. ‘Le sujet était assez clair,’ she indicated.
   He asked her what she would call that. By way of a title for it. She said politely, ‘La source de volupté.’ ‘Splendid!’ said Rodin, and scratched the title on the plate. The very next day her sister was at the studio, and was shown the same piece. ‘What would you call that?’ Rodin asked her. ‘The water fairy’, suggested the sister. ‘Splendid!’ said Rodin, and wrote the title on the other side of the plate. Some one said that he got his titles like that, by asking every one and then choosing the best.
   Cornillier said he one sat next to Rodin at lunch, and happened to say that a certain woman was not pretty. ‘What!’ cried Rodin solemnly, ‘It has happened to you sometimes to meet a woman who was not beautiful? I have never met a woman who was not beautiful.’

   I remembered, then, Rodin’s dictum, printed somewhere, that every thing on earth is beautiful. With this, in a way, I agree.’
                                                                              Journals of Arnold Bennett, Sunday, May 6th 1906

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Indecency at Coney Island

I dined at the  Chat Blanc. Aleistair Crowley was there with dirty hands, immense rings, presumably dyed hair, a fancy waistcoat, a fur coat, and tennis shoes. Slanlaws was saying that the indecency of the Moulin Rouge etc, ‘wasn’t 30cents’ by the side of Coney Island. I had heard this before. He described the rag-dance, which used to be danced everywhere but was lately forbidden by the police.  Appeared to be a combination of a waltz and the danse du ventre [the ‘belly dance’ or ‘coochee coochee]. He described a number of other Coney Island contrivances for the exhibition of women’s legs and underclothes. 
                                                                                          Journals of Arnold Bennett, March 19th 1905 1905

Friday, November 24, 2017

La Goulou and 'a fine big girl'

I went to the new Bal Tabarin last night. I think it is the only ball in Paris that is open every night.. I saw the famous ‘La Goulou’ there perched on a high chair at the bar; a round, vulgar, rather merry face, looking more like a bonne than a dancer and a dompteuse des lions [lion tamer]. With an expenditure of 7 francs on drinks with another ex-dancer, I learned something of the life of the paid dancers in public balls. They get 4 francs a night, et elles peuvent trouver de bons amis [and they can find good friends] said the ex-dancer, whose younger sister, a fine big girl with a clear complexion, was dancing the quadrille réaliste on the floor. The sister, I was told, made 5,000 francs besides her pay as a dancer during the short season at the Jardin de Paris last year.
                                                                 Journals of Arnold Bnnett - Tuesday, February 14th 1905

Thursday, November 23, 2017

How do the men arrange for women ?

Friday, July 8th – I went down to Montparnasse for dinner last night. There was also present young P., a youth of 23 or so, rosy, healthy, reserved, mannered, with the University twang; tremendously English; a little shy and nervous but underneath that a happy and proud conviction that Cambridge stood for all that was highest in human civilisation; he had just been made a fellow of his college. At about 11 p.m. I went with P. and B. to the Red Bullier. The Bal and the garden were crowded on this hot summer night and the whole scene was beautiful, charming and entirely wonderful. P. thought the general effect was ‘pretty’. But on the whole neither he nor B. saw much to admire. The spirit of the place, the singular ‘Latin’ charm, escaped them. They looked on it as a haunt of ‘vice’, and dull at that. I told them what I thought of it. I said that when they grew older they might possible admire what they did not admire now. They admitted the possibility, and deplored it. ‘You mustn’t think,’ I sad, ‘that I despise your ideas.’ ‘Oh, don’t trouble about that,’ said P., with that cruel affectation of humility which youth outs on; ‘I’m quite used to having my ideas deplored.’ I could see he was incapable of imaginatively realizing that at the present moment he might be blind to certain forms and aspects of beauty which later would reveal themselves to him. They both thought all the women ugly and graceless. We had a drink in the garden. ‘How do the men arrange for women at Oxford and Cambridge?’ I asked P. bluntly. I meant to startle him. He was startled. However, I got him to talk after a bit. He said that up to 60 years ago (he thought) colleges had their special stews. But these were now done away with. There were cocottes at both places for undergraduates &c. But men found it pleasanter to run up to town. I said, ‘I’m not talking about undergraduates; I’m taking about dons, fellows, etc. – the mature men who are not married.’ He assured me that the vast majority were chaste, and that unmarried public opinion – the opinion of smoking-parties and late evenings – was honestly and sincerely against irregular intercourse. I said that I was astounded. I said I had never heard tell of such a class of men before. They were surprised that I was astounded – P. and B. were. I could see that they regarded me with  mild, impartial and dignified curiosity as a strange sort of person with ill-regulated ideas. P. thought that human nature was becoming more ‘moral’ – that there was ‘a change for the better’ in the last century. He talked neatly, and I think sincerely. He believed in greater freedom for sexual unions of a permanent kind – he knew two couples who were not married and who were nevertheless received everywhere. But (he continued) this increased freedom could only go ‘hand in hand with’ a decrease in prostitution. I listened. I respected him. He could not help being slightly priggish. I did not express my views, but I kept recurring to my amazement at the existence of a body of unmarried men, not priests, in whom chastity was the rule. And they thought more and more what a naïve creature I was. But of course I must have inspired them with doubt as to their own position. ‘Don’t you think women are the most interesting thing in the world?’ I asked. P. considered judicially. ‘One of the most interesting!’ he said. I gathered that both of these men were virgin. Ad I am sure that they looked on the ‘initiation’ as a mere formality to be gone through. They neither of them thought, honestly that they had anything to learn. They were tolerant, from their heights, towards the pathetic spectacle of humanity. Always B was the least priggish and convinced. But I liked them both. Essentially, they were rather girlish, . As I drove home, I thought the whole episode was rather funny. I don’t suppose that P. is likely to change much. He is too deeply impregnated, by heredity and tradition and upbringing, with ‘English culture’ – he is incapable of seeing the ‘Latin’ side of things in general. He is the sort of man who has ;made England what it is.’ He stands for all that is best, and all that is worst and most exasperating, in the English character.

                                                                                        Journals of Arnold Bennett, July 8th 1904

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Child Prostitutes

I took a turn through the Parc Monceau to the Etoile and back through the Champs-Elyseé last night between 9.30 and 11 in order to clear off a headache. Honest love-making in the Parc Monceau. In the Champs-Elysée I saw four girls, aged 14 or less – one didn’t seem more than 11 or 12 – being taken about by older women for the excitement of senile appetites. Some day soon there will be a tremendous outcry concerning this procurement of children. The police will become suddenly active in arrests – and then things will settle down again.

   There were many pretty and well-dressed women in the Champs-Elysée sitting patiently on chairs under the trees awaiting some masculine advance. I was astonished how distinguished some of them were. It was a lovely night, warm and star-lit. Paris at its most Parisian, The lights of the al fresco music-halls, and the occasional bursts of music and applause that came from them, produced an extraordinary effect.
                                                                      Arnold Bnnett's Journals - Thursday July 7th, 1904

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Manly porters

Came to England. Impressed yet again by the extraordinary self-consciousness of travellers. On the platform at the Nord, another man and I tramping up and down the platform got half-smothered in a cloud of malodorous steam. He could not help turning to me as we emerged, to share his sensation with me by means of a gesture. Had he not been on a journey he would have ignored my existence. The English side of the journey has improved. Better carriages: electric light, contrasted with oil in French train. (Strangely medieval – oil lighting, requiring men, ladders, and very heavy lamps.) Permanent way much better in England than in France. Carriages quieter. Porters better and more agreeably man-like.
                                                                                Arnold Bennett;s Journals, December 4th 1907

Monday, November 20, 2017

America and jealousy

Ullman came down yesterday, fresh from U.S.A. I said, ‘What is your general impression? Is the U.S. a good place to get away from?’ He said: ‘On the whole, yes. But for a visit, I am sure it would interest you enormously.’ He said that I could form no idea of the amount of drinking that went on there. I said I could, as I had already heard a good deal about it. He said, ‘No, you can’t.’ He stuck to it, though I tried to treat the statement as exaggeration, that in the principal clubs everybody got fuddled every night.
Noticed in myself: A distinct feeling of jealousy on reading yesterday and today accounts of another very successful production of a play by Somerset Maugham – the third now running. Also, in reading an enthusiastic review of a new novelist in the Daily News today, I looked eagerly for any sign that he was not, after all, a really first-class artist. It relieved me to find that his principal character was somewhat conventional, etc. Curious!
Journals of Arnold Bennett, April 29th 1908

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Called for service

– Young men marched about the village yesterday to the accompaniment of one grotesquely sounding brass instrument – difficult to imagine anything uglier or less dignified than this music, to which even dignified, portly, grave firemen in uniform will consent to parade themselves. I asked the barber what the noise was about and he explained that it was the young conscripts who had the previous day received their marching orders (feuilles de route) and were being merry (no doubt factitiously) previous to their departure a fortnight hence. Immediately afterwards entered another customer, a middle-aged man who put the same question as I had put. ‘C’est qu’il sont reçu leurs feuilles,’ replied the barber; these were his exact words, I think. The enquirer’s eyes questioned for a second or two, and then he understood. Several middle-aged men began talking about the shortness of service nowadays. They were all agreed; ‘Deux ans – c’est rien.'
                                                                                Arnold Bennett;s Journals, September 23rd 1907

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A bicycle ride in France

We bicycled yesterday through Montigny, Grez, Villliers-sous-Grez, Larchant and Nemours. And I exhausted myself in pushing Marguerite about 10 mies altogether against a head wind. We had tea at Villiers, just a straggling village without any attraction except that of its own life. During our tea the drone of a steam-thresher was heard rising and falling continually.
   Tea in the street; they brought out and pitched for us a table, also vast thick basins, which we got changed for small coffee-cups. But we could not prevent the fat neat clean landlady from serving the milk in a 2-quart jug which would have filled about a million coffee-cups. We sat in the wind on yellow iron chairs, and we had bread and perhaps a pound of butter, and a plate of sweet biscuits which drew scores of flies. Over the houses we could just see the very high weather-cock of the church. Everything was beaten by wind and sunshine. From the inside of the little inn came hoarse argumentative voices. Curious to see in this extremely unsophisticated village a Parisian cocotte of the lower ranks, She was apparently staying at the inn. With her dog, and her dyed hair (too well arranged), and her short skirt, and her matinée (at 4.30 p.m.), and her hard eyes, she could not keep from exhibiting herself in the road. The instinct of ‘exposition’ was too strong in her to be resisted. She found fifty excuses for popping into the house and out again.

    Then we rode through woods 5 kilometres to Larchant. You know that the cathedral at Larchant is a show-place because the post cards are 2 sous each. Then the 8 kilometres of straight but atrocious road to Nemours, whence, having deposited our wives at the station, Marriott and I rode home at 2½ miles an hour.
Arnold Bennett's Journals - August 26th 1907

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Handwriting

I think at last I have got into a fairly ‘formed’ formal hand for ;fine writing’, and for the writing of my next novel in particular. I wrote a letter in it yesterday, and gave it to Marriott to criticize.  He found no fault with it at all. Indeed he was very enthusiastic about it and sent his wife up to look at it He said it would puzzle Johnston,  the author of the textbook on writing and illuminating, to produce anything as good in the way of ordinary quick calligraphy. Also that if I wrote a whole book keeping up the standard it would be unique in the world. When I lamented that one could not get a really black ink that would run through a fountain pen, he said he referred the slightly greyish tint of common ink. He dissuaded me from doing the novel in double columns.
                                                                         Arnold Bennett Journals - Saturday August 10th 1907

Monday, November 13, 2017

Talking of Rodin

At the Cornilliers’ today some talk of Rodin. Henri Havet stated defiantly that he was going mad, was in fact mad. Of erotomania. He said also that he did pieces of sculpture and then deliberately broke them.
   Some one remarked that an artist had the right after all to break up a piece that did not please him.
   ‘Yes,’ Havet explained, ‘but not to send it broken to an exhibition, in imitation of the Venus de Milo etc.’ A Mme Neck (?), a very pretty woman, who knew Rodin personally, gave a curious experience of his peculiarities. He is in the habit of showing little erotic pieces to lady visitors. He took her to one such, a woman seated or bending down in the middle of a plate. ‘Le sujet était assez clair,’ she indicated.
   He asked her what she would call that. By way of a title for it. She said politely, ‘La source de volupté.’ ‘Splendid!’ said Rodin, and scratched the title on the plate. The very next day her sister was at the studio, and was shown the same piece. ‘What would you call that?’ Rodin asked her. ‘The water fairy’, suggested the sister. ‘Splendid!’ said Rodin, and wrote the title on the other side of the plate. Some one said that he got his titles like that, by asking every one and then choosing the best.
   Cornillier said he one sat next to Rodin at lunch, and happened to say that a certain woman was not pretty. ‘What!’ cried Rodin solemnly, ‘It has happened to you sometimes to meet a woman who was not beautiful? I have never met a woman who was not beautiful.’

   I remembered, then, Rodin’s dictum, printed somewhere, that every thing on earth is beautiful. With this, in a way, I agree.’
                                                                              Journals of Arnold Bennett - Sunday, May 6th 1906

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Living in a houseboat?

During the last day or two both Marguerite and I have definitely decided that we prefer living in the country. I had settled that we wanted a small chateau, in this district if possible, where there is forest and river and all sorts of other scenery. And we were to have an auto and a small yacht on the river and to give up the Paris flat: this change was to occur in about two years’ time when my lease of No. 3 Rue d’Aumale would expire. Before dinner we went for a walk to Saint Mammès, where the water was busy with great barges. And I had suddenly the great idea of abandoning my deep ambition for a sea-going yacht, and having a barge as big as their barges, fitted up as a luxurious houseboat, with a small motor attached. This would serve as a complete moving home in summer, and we could go all over France in it, (We should keep the flat). Indeed we could go all over Europe init. This scheme took hold of me so strongly that I thought of nothing else all the evening, and became quite moody.
                                                                                           Journals of Arnold Bennett, July 22, 1907.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Conception of a Classic

 Last night, when I went into the Duval for dinner, a middle-aged woman, inordinately stout and with pendant cheeks, had taken the seat opposite to my prescriptive seat. I hesitated, as there were plenty of empty places, but my waitress requested me to take  my usual chair. I did so, and immediately thought, ‘With that thing opposite to me my dinner will be spoilt!’ But the woman was evidently also cross at my filling up her table, and she went away, picking up all her belongings, to another part of the restaurant breathing hard. Then she abandoned her second choice for a third one. My waitress was scornful and angry at this desertion, but laughing also. Soon all the waitresses were privately laughing at the goings on of the fat woman, who was being served by the most beautiful waitress I have ever seen at any Duval. The fat woman was clearly a crochet, a maniaque, a woman who lived much alone. Her cloak (she displayed on taking it off a simply awful light puce flannel dress) and her parcels were continually the object of her attention and she was always arguing with the waitress. And the whole restaurant secretly made a butt of her. She was repulsive; no one could like her or sympathise with her. But I thought – she has been young and slim once. And I immediately thought of a long 10 or 15 thousand  words short story, The History of Two Old Women. I have this woman a sister fat as herself. And the first chapter would be in the restaurant (both sisters) something like tonight – and written rather cruelly. Then I would go back to the infancy of these two, and sketch it all. One should have lived ordinarily, married prosaically, and become a widow. The other should have become a whore and all that; ‘guilty splendour’. Both are overtaken by fat. And they live together in old age, not too rich, a nuisance to themselves and to others. Neither has any imagination. For ‘tone’ I thought of Ivan Ilyich [by Tolstoy], and for technical arrangement I thought of that and also Histoire d’une Fille de Ferne. The two lives would have to intertwine. I saw the whole work quite clearly, and hope to do it.
                                                              Journals of Arnold Bennett - Wednesday, November 18th 1903


   [Bennett’s first idea became the scheme of his great novel The Old Wives’ Tale, which published in 1908 became an instant sensational best-seller in England and America.]

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Satisfactory Day

Sunday, November 8th 1903 – Today I spent such a day as ought to satisfy a man of letters. Having done my correspondence, I went out at 10.15 for a walk and to consider the plot of my story. I strolled about the Quartier de l’Europe till 11.30, and then lunched at my usual restaurant, where I am expected, and where my maternal waitress advised me in the selection of my lunch. I read Le Journal. I came home, finished Le Journal, read Don Quixote, and fell asleep. Then at 1.30 I amused myself at the piano. At 2  began to ponder further on my story, and the plot seemed to be coming, At 3,30  made my afternoon tea, and then read more Don Quixote, and fell asleep for about a minute. The plot was now coming faster and faster, and at 5 I decided that I would, at any rate, begin to sketch the story At 6.45 I had done a complete rough draft of the whole story.
   Then I dressed and went to dine at my other restaurant in the Place Blanche, where the food and wine are good, and the waiters perfect models, and the chasseur charming, where men bring their mistresses and where occasionally a ‘mistress’ dines alone, and where the atmosphere is a curious mixture of discretion and sans gene (the whole place seems to say, ‘You should see what fun we have here between midnight and 3 a.m. with our Hungarian music and our improvised dancing, and so on and so on.’) I dined slowly and well, while reading Le Temps and The Pilot, and also while watching the human life of the place. Then I took coffee and a cigar. I returned home at 8.30, and played the piano. The idea of writing my chronique for T.P.’s Weekly a day earlier than usual came knot my head, the scheme of the article presented itself, and at 9.30 I suddenly began to write it, finishing it at 11.35. I then went to bed and read Don Quixote till 12.15.

Tuesday, November 10th – Of course I did not have a very good night.
                                                                                                    
                                                                                                     from the Journals of Arbold Bennett      


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A popular murderer

Some time ago a man named Martin had relations, comme maquereau [‘like a mackerel’ i.e., through a pimp] with a courtesan. She found a rich protector, and told Martin frankly that she could only see him on the quiet in future, as the rich protector would be jealous. Martin got into her apartment, stood behind the door, and struck her dead with one blow of the knife in the heart as she entered one night. She was only a fille, and the affair was considered as a crime passionel, and Martin was acquitted (doux pays!) [what a sweet country!]. I was told yesterday that Martin, handsome and well dressed, frequents the Folies-Bergère and other places, and has relations with other women. There are a number of women who are proud to shake hands with, and to be the mistress of an assassin. ‘He killed a woman at one stroke!’ In certain circles Martin is the vogue! This is one of the most curious, and yet natural, things I have heard about Paris.
                                                                       The Journals of Arnold Bennett - Friday, June 3rd, 1904

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The cocottes of Paris

Casino de Paris. Plenty of stylish cocottes here, in whom Tertia and Lizzie [his sisters] were tremendously interested. Which reminded me of C’s saying, about the married woman’s way of remarking, ‘Ça dit être une cocotte’ [that must be a whore]. But Tertie and Lizzie now confess their interest, and insist on going to another music-hall on Monday night in order to see more cocottes. Yet when I told them of the idea I had discussed with Frank, of writing a handbook or practical guide for cocottes, for the private joy of friends, they were certainly startled. I can always tell when they are really a little shocked. - Saturday, October 31st 


 I was told today that, as I thought, the most distinguished of the music-hall cocottes went to the Casino de Paris; and also that they did business comparatively infrequently, but what they did was very remunerative. This latter statement I regarded with suspicion, as also the following: that a particular woman, tall, very distinguished, and very well dressed and well jewelled, who I had often admired in various resorts, had an absolute minimum of 250 francs. It seems she goes about in a pair-horse carriage in the evening, by some sort of arrangement with the coachman. I was told that many cocottes pay their coachmen either partly or wholly in love. This woman, by the way, sometimes brings to the Casino her young child, of 7 or 8 years old perhaps, I have seen them together there, and the effect was certainly effective. - Tuesday, November 3rd 
                                                                                         -   from the Journals of Arnold Bennett, 1903

The cocottes of Paris

Casino de Paris. Plenty of stylish cocottes here, in whom Tertia and Lizzie [his sisters] were tremendously interested. Which reminded me of C’s saying, about the married woman’s way of remarking, ‘Ça dit être une cocotte’ [that must be a whore]. But Tertie and Lizzie now confess their interest, and insist on going to another music-hall on Monday night in order to see more cocottes. Yet when I told them of the idea I had discussed with Frank, of writing a handbook or practical guide for cocottes, for the private joy of friends, they were certainly startled. I can always tell when they are really a little shocked. - Saturday, October 31st 


 I was told today that, as I thought, the most distinguished of the music-hall cocottes went to the Casino de Paris; and also that they did business comparatively infrequently, but what they did was very remunerative. This latter statement I regarded with suspicion, as also the following: that a particular woman, tall, very distinguished, and very well dressed and well jewelled, who I had often admired in various resorts, had an absolute minimum of 250 francs. It seems she goes about in a pair-horse carriage in the evening, by some sort of arrangement with the coachman. I was told that many cocottes pay their coachmen either partly or wholly in love. This woman, by the way, sometimes brings to the Casino her young child, of 7 or 8 years old perhaps, I have seen them together there, and the effect was certainly effective. - Tuesday, November 3rd 
                                                                                         -   from the Journals of Arnold Bennett, 1903

Monday, November 6, 2017

Marrying a girl

Saturday, November 7th – I dined at Mrs D.’s, and her sister Mrs L. was there. They were talking about an old lady who had fallen violently in love with a young man, really very violently. He wouldn’t marry her, because he was too proud to have it said that he, a poor young man, had married a rich old woman for her money. On the other hand she wouldn’t have an irregular liaison. So they live together platonically in the same house. It was understood that if he left her the desertion would kill her. At the moment the old lady is dying, not expected to recover.

   They both said that they could see no more objection to a man taking money from a woman than a woman taking it from a man. They could not understand a man marrying a girl; it was too disgusting, cruel, etc. For ‘girl’ read ‘young virgin’. (I said nothing would induce me to marry a girl.) Yet Mrs L. told me that at 16½ she had run away with her present husband, she being then engaged to another man. She said, ‘Passion and all that sort of thing has vanished  long since. All I can say, with regard to my feeling for my husband, is that when he comes into the room I always feel soothed. I could not imagine myself being able to live with any other man.’ I met Mr L. at  Mrs D.’s some months ago, and I was quite sure that intellectually and imaginatively he is decidedly his wife’s inferior.
                                                                      Arnold Bennett's Journal - Saturday, November 7th 1903

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Parisiean Pimp

At the restaurant in the Hippodrome I saw the notorious ‘Pipe-en-bois’ with two young and naïve and rather ugly girls, sisters. ‘Pipe-en-bois’ is a corset-maker in a large and successful way of business, and a shareholder in many Parisian theatres. He is a perfectly ordinary common-looking man, quite without chic, a long spreading auburn beard, and bad necktie, rough hair, short of stature. He has keen eyes. He is a coureur [a chancer]; enjoys himself every night. Known in all the coulisses [back-stage at the theatres] of which he has the run; favourite of all the chorus girls. He gets hold of beginners, dines and sups them, and loves them without further payment. I should say, very shrewd and rusé [smart] under that frank air of simple joyousness. They say he is extremely keen in business, and a grudging task-master. His wife takes a large share in the management of the business. They understand each other, these two, and go their own separate ways. Certainly a ‘type’, this man. Age between 45 and 50.
                                                                    Journals of Arnold Bennett - Friday, November 27, 1902

Friday, November 3, 2017

The corps de ballet

We went to see Faust at the Opéra. A performance exquisitely free from any sort of distinction. But between the acts, from the balcony, we had amazingly good views of the illumination of the Avenue de l’Opéra for the King and Queen of Italy. It was only a trial illumination and was ‘out’ at 11 p.m. The only part of the opera that we enjoyed was the ballet. I noticed the business-like air and habits of the corps de ballet; how they calmly tested shoes and hair in the middle of the stage; and the enormous potential activity of their legs – strong, muscular, and elegant, but not exactly pretty, animals. And how the whole ‘convention’ of the piece was changed, and cleared of all sentimentality and make-believe, and sickliness, while the ballet lasted. As if the corps said: ‘Now understand, no mistake, no pretence, this is a ballet and nothing else, a thing by itself, complete in itself, and we shall execute it regardless of everything except the rules and convention of the ballet. You must forget Faust for a while.’ I was much struck with this.
                                                                Journals of Arnold Bennett - Wednesday, October 14th 1904


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Observing the Nude

At the press view of the New English Art Club, Egyptian Hall. About 10 people, half women, in the one gallery sparsely hung with eccentric landscapes imitative of early Italian and Dutch work, a few soft hazy portraits, a few intelligent originalities, a few sterile meaningless absurdities, and one striking, shouting, insistent, dominant nude by Wilson Steer. In the centre of the gallery a table with sandwiches, wines and cigarettes, which everybody carefully avoided in spite of whispered invitations from a middle-aged male attendant.
   Seated in front of the nude - a slim woman of 30, with full and red cheeks sitting up in a very large bed – were a man and a woman talking In loud Kensington tones which outraged the prim silence of the gallery. After a long time he joined in the conversation of the other two, and they began even more loudly to discuss the nude, dispraising it in a few light easy sentences of condemnation. It certainly was not a masterpiece with its hard, laboured, unreal flesh-painting, but the manner of this condemnation almost made me like it.

   When I next turned round the art critic had withdrawn and the other man was elaborately raising his silk hat from his grey head to the departing woman. She left him to talk to another woman in a corner and then stood alone staring around the gallery. She was a tall, well-developed woman of 34 or less, with the face and bearing of a Sunday-school teacher; her thick mouth worked in that calculating contemplative way that I have noticed in Sunday-school teachers with a passion for gossip at sewing meetings. To see her in the street no-one would have dreamt that she was a professional art critic, capable of discussing – however foolishly – an uncompromising nudity with her male acquaintance for half an hour at a time.
                                                                           Journals of Arnold Bennett - Friday, November 13th 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reading Habits

The appearance today of the first volume of a new edition of Boswell’s Johnson, edited by Augustine Birrell, reminds me once again that I have read but little of that work. Does there, I wonder, exist a being who has read all, or approximately all, that the person of average culture s supposed to have read, and that not to have read is a social sin? If such a being does exist, surely he is an old, a very old man, who has read steadily that which he ought to have read 16 hours a day, from early infancy. I cannot recall a single author of whom I have read everything  - even of Jane Austen. I have never seen Susan and The Watsons, one of which I have been told is superlatively good. Then there are large tracts of Shakespeare, Bacon, Spenser, nearly all Chaucer, Congreve Dryden, Pope, Swift, Sterne, Johnson, Scott, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Edgeworth, Ferrier, Lamb, Leigh Hunt, Wordsworth (nearly all), Tennyson, Swinburne, the Brontës, George Eliot, W. Morris, George Meredith, Thomas Hardy, Savage Landor, Thackeray, Carlyle – in fact very classical and most good modern authors, which I have never even overlooked. A list of the masterpieces I have not read would make a volume. With only one author can I call myself familiar, Jane Austen. With Keats and Stevenson I have an acquaintance. So far of English.  Of foreign authors I am familiar with Maupassant and the Goncourts. I have yet to finish Don Quixote.
   Nevertheless I cannot accuse myself of default. I have been extremely fond of reading ever since I was 20, and since I was 20 I have read practically nothing (except professionally, as a literary critic) but what was ‘right’. My leisure has been  moderate, my desire strong and steady, my taste selection certainly above the average, and yet in 10 years I seem scarcely to have made an impression upon the intolerable multitude of volumes which ‘everyone is supposed to have read’.
Journals of Arnold Bennett - Thursday, October 15th 1896