Sunday, December 31, 2017


It seems that the curés in Brittany forbid dancing, except at wedding feasts. Nevertheless, in this village there is dancing in the very shadow of the church every Sunday afternoon after vespers. We saw it yesterday afternoon. About 10 couples. The charcutière [pork butcher’s girl] danced with another girl. Heavy girls. One couple obviously in love. A drum and a brass instrument.
   We cycled this morning to the ferry on the way to Saint-Pol. Beautiful country. There is only one road in and out of this village, and no turning out of it for 6 or 6 kilometres. This afternoon I was too idle to paint, so I did a pastel of the panorama towards Saint-Pol.

   Of the three men here, one is a passementier [lace dealer], and another a commercial traveller, and the third a fabricant [maker] of something. They sit at a table and sing together. The luggage of one married couple arrived tonight, 36 hours  late. The wife is of the odalisque sort, and she put on some more striking clothes at once. She lolls at her bedroom window for 30 to 60 minutes each morning. A beautiful young woman.  Elle se cambre tout le temps. [She arches her back all the time]. She would have made a good courtesan. Alcock says that she leaves a table at which an intellectual conversation is proceeding – about war or feminism, for instance – with a gesture which says, ‘What has all this go to do with IT?’
                                                                           Journal of Arnold Bennett - Monday, July 11, 1910

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Don't put your daughter n the stage

 Milan -We left the Hotel Belvédère [in Paris] on Easter Tuesday. The company there was more interesting than last year. There was also an American, the adopted son of an old American-German woman (both of them came down to breakfast very early, earlier than we sometimes), and he was exceedingly cultivated if not highly intelligent. When he got on to the subject of Charlemagne I had to shut up. They were queer mysterious people. They were very friendly with a young Egyptian nationalist, with whom they constantly went walking. Whenever we came across them basking during one of these walks, there was always a pair of hairbrushes lying near. We never understood those hair brushes. Then there was a Mrs P. and her daughters. I had two long talks with the mother, who is tall and thin, and desired embonpoint (‘comeliness’) to be matronly, as she called it. I told her it wasn’t a sincere desire, and that she was only searching for compliments. A well-meaning but hasty and silly woman, redeemed by a genuine anxiety to bring up her English vicarage-y daughter in the best way. The little Krafft girl, aged 15 or 16, had said to her that she would like to go on the stage, but she couldn’t, because it would be necessary for her not to be an honest woman, and she wished to be an honest woman. Mrs P. pretended ton  be horrified by this candour, and said how glad she was that her daughter had not been there to hear it. We had a long yarn about this, and I told her she was bringing up her daughter entirely wrong, with all this ‘innocence’ convention, which I said was merely Oriental. She vehemently dissented. But I kept repeating she was wrong, and at last she said reflectively, ‘I wonder whether I am!’ Not that I have any hope of having changed her heart; she would fly back to her old notion as soon as I has left her.
                                                                         Arnold Bennett's Journal - Saturday, April 2nd  1910

Monday, December 25, 2017

'The Merry Widow'

M. and I went to see The Merry Widow. I felt I had to see it, in  order to be calé about such things when it comes to writing about London.
   Music much less charming or superficially and temporarily attractive than I had expected. Troupe of about 40. Elaborate costumes, scenery and appointments. Sylvia May, Kate May and the other principals all chosen for their looks. Not one could avoid the most elementary false emphasis. Thus Sylvia May looking at a man asleep on a sofa: ‘But he may wake up’ (when there was no question of another man asleep) instead of ‘He might wake up.’ This sort of thing all the time. Also such things as ‘recognize’. Three chief males much better. All about drinking and whoring and money. All popular operetta airs. Simply nothing else in the play at all, save references to patriotism. Names of tarts on the lips of characters all the time. Dances lascivious, especially one.

   I couldn’t stand more than two acts. Too appallingly bored.
                                                               Journals of Arnold Bennett, Wednesday February 23rd 1910

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The damned Tories

Tuesday, January 11thGrand rolling weather. Foamy sea, boisterous wind, sun, pageant of clouds, and Brighton full of wealthy imperative persons dashing about in furs and cars. I walked with joy to and fro on this unparalleled promenade. And yet, at this election time, when all wealth and all snobbery is leagued together against the poor, I could spit in the face of arrogant and unmerciful Brighton, sporting its damned Tory colours.
   I heard the door-keeper of this hotel politely expostulating with a guest: ‘Surely, Mr -----, you don’t say you’re anything but a Conservative?’ Miserable parrot. After reading some pessimistic forecasts of the election I was really quite depressed by tea time. But I went upstairs and worked like a brilliant nigger, and counted nearly 5,000 words done in two days, and I forgot my depression.

    Certainly this morning as I looked at all the splendid solidarity of Brighton, symbol, of a system that is built on the grinding of the faces of the poor, I had to admit that it would take a lot of demolishing, that I couldn’t expect to overset it  with a single manifesto and a single election, or with 50. So that even if elections are lost, or are not won, I do not care. Besides, things never turn out as badly as our fears. It is only when one does not fear that they go surprisingly and bafflingly wrong, as with the Socialists at the last German general election.

Friday, December 22, 2017

At the Music Hall

 On Friday night, our last night in London, we went to the Tivoli. There were no seats except in the pit, so we went in the pit. Little Tich was very good, and George Formby, the Lancashire comedian, was perhaps even better. Gus Elen I did not care for. And I couldn’t see the legendary cleverness of the vulgarity of Marie Lloyd. She was very young and spry for a grandmother. All her songs were variations on the same theme of sexual naughtiness. No censor would ever pass them, and especially he wouldn’t pass her winks and her silences. To be noted also was the singular naïveté of the cinematograph explanation of what a vampire was and is, for the vampire dance. The stoutest and biggest attendants laughed at Little Tich and G. Formby. Fearful draughts half the time down exit staircases from the street. Fearful noise from the bar behind, made chiefly by officials. The bar-girls and their friends simply ignored the performance and the public. Public opinion keeps the seats of those who go to the bar at the interval for a drink.
Arnold Bennett's Journal - Sunday, January 2nd 1910

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Shopping in 1909

 Bazar de l’hôtel de ville, Fontainebleau.
   I wonder how a description of this shop, the largest in the town, would sound 50 years hence. You go through a rather narrow vestibule, where soap, note-paper and ins, stud, etc. are displayed, into a large hall, height of two stories, a wide staircase at back, wide galleries round, and a roof of which the middle square is glazed. Cheap goods everywhere. Drapery, silks, nails, ironmongery, glass and earthenware, leather good, stationary on the ground floor; arranged on stalls and counters, in between which are spaces for walking. In the basement, articles de menage. The staircase lined on either rail with lighter articles of furniture. In the galleries, chiefly light furniture; extended on the walls, showy carpets flowered, etc., at such prices as 49 fr. We went to buy a screen. They had only one, four-fold, and we wanted three-fold. Ranged below it were several toy screens. The price of the sole screen was 19 fr. Near by were about a dozen cheap marble-top washstands. Wicker chairs and flimsy tables about. Still you could buy there almost everything (non-edible) that goes to the making of an ordinary house. The frontage of the shop is of course an ordinary house frontage. The shop itself must be a courtyard roofed over. It is in charge mainly of women. Sitting high at the cash desk near the entrance are two controlling women – one sharp and imperative in manner; with the table of electric switches at their right hand. They look up from books to direct entering customers, and when they know what customers want they call out a warning to the assistants within. Very smiling, with a mechanical saccharine smile.
   The bulk of the assistants are youngish girls; some pretty, all dressed in black, with black aprons, scissors, etc., and blackish hands. They do not seem keen, but rather bored. Certainly the wages must be low. Hours about 12 or 13 per day – that is to say, hours during which the shop is open. Besides these, there are a few men, who wear black smocks, and attend to furniture, ironmongery and similar departments. One of these, with one girl, is always at the étalage [display] at the front, where trinkets and souvenirs and post cards are exposed. Men seem even more discontented than the girls. I never saw any one there who looked like a proprietor or supreme boss. The whole shop is modelled on the big general shops in Paris. There are similar shops now in most provincial towns. In Toulouse there were half a dozen splendid ones.
   In all, the conditions of labour are disgusting to the social conscience., though probably better than in ataliers. There is a feeling of cutting down expenditure, especially wages, in order to sell cheaply, while making a good profit. A feeling that everybody concerned is secretly at the beginning of a revolt, and that the organisation of the whole organism are keeping out of the way. Yes, there is certainly this feeling! I am always uneasy when in such shops, as if I too were guilty for what is wrong in them. Of course nearly all shops are on the same basis of sweating, but in some it is masked in magnificence, so that one has to search for it.
   A handful of customers always in, and a continuous movement near the entrance.
   At closing time the étalage has to be carried in, and there is left a prodigious litter of bits of paper which has to be swept up. Then early in the morning (less than 12 hours after closing) there is the refixing an arrangement of the étalage, and the gradual recommencement of the day.

   Some of the women have a certain coquetterie, But not the young ones; the controlling women of 40 or so. These have the air of always being equal to the situation, but they are not. I remember once half the staff (it seemed) was worsted in an attempt to make a bicycle pump work that I had bought. They all conspired to convince me that it was quite in order, but I beat them, and they had to take the pump back. One of the controlling women began on a note of omniscient condescension to me, but she gradually lost her assurance, and fled. A man would not so easily have done that.
                                                                        Arnold Bennett's Journal, Monday, September 20th 1909

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Saturday, February 20th – I was responding to curiosity about the personalities of authors when Mrs Smith began to talk about Kipling. She said he was greatly disliked in South Africa. Regarded a conceited and unapproachable. The officers of the Union Castle shps dreaded him, and prayed not to find themselves on the same ship as him. It seems that on one ship he had got all the information possible out of the officers, and had then at the end of the voyage, reported them at headquarters for flirting with passengers – all except the old Scotchman with whom he had been friendly. With this exception they were all called up to headquarters and reprimanded, and now they would have nothing to do with passengers. I dare say there is some ‘feeling’ and some exaggeration in this, but Mrs Smith was sure of the facts.
                                                                                                             Journals of Arnold Bennett, 1909

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A voluptuous laugh

Friday, February 12thGirl with voluptuous laugh, short and frequent. Half Scotch, half English. Age 24. Very energetic, obstinate, and ‘slow in the uptake’. Red cheeks. Good-looking. Athletic. Shy – or rather coy. Always the voluptuous laugh being heard, all over the hotel. A wanton laugh, most curious. Her voice also has a strange, voluptuous quality. They say the Scotch women are femme de temperament. This one must be, extremely so. And her athleticism must be an instinctive remède contre l’amour. Manners and deportment quite irreproachable, save for the eternal, rippling, startling laugh. It became more and more an obsession. One waits to hear it.
                                                                                                                 Arnold Bennett's Journal, 1909

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A merry girl and some royal bodies.

 Sunday, January 10th Miss Sains related stories of a young woman well known to her who had charge of a crèche of 30 infants, and amused herself one day by changing all their clothes so that at night they could not be identified. And many of them never were identified,’ said Miss Sains. ‘I knew all her brothers and sisters, too. She wanted to go into a sisterhood, and she did, for a month. The only thing she did there was one day she went into the laundry and taught all the laundry-maids the polka. She was such a merry girl,’ said Miss Sains simply.

Monday, January 11th – Mme Postnay was in the courtyard of the palace  of the King and Queen of Serbia, but knew nothing. 'What are they throwing bolsters out of the windows for?’ she asked. It was the bodies.
                                                                                                                Arnold Bennett's Journal. 1908.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Woman's Place is in the Home

The Anglo-Indian is a major in the army. I only learned this tonight. It probably accounts for his excellent stupidity, which inspires respect. His wife, at first very rébarbative, grows more likable every day. Some of them  began talking about suffragettes last night, and I had said to the major, seeing him reading The Times, ‘So Christabel [Pankhurst] is out, it seems.’ A Yorkshire young woman asked Mrs Major if she was a sympathizer. ‘On the contrary’, said Mrs Major, ‘I am very much ashamed of them.’ The usual rot was talked. However, Mrs Major said she thought women ought to be on certain committees. The young Yorkshire lass said she thought the woman’s place was in the home. (It is incredible how people still talk.) I then burst out, impatiently, ‘Yes, and what about the millions of them that have to leave home every day to earn a living? What about the mill girls, and the typists?’ This quite unsettled them. They then agreed that unmarried women ought to have the vote. But their whole talk and all the phrases they used were too marvelously stupid.
                                                                       Journals of Arnold Bennett - Christmas Eve, 1908

Monday, December 4, 2017

Books, bicycles and ants

At last I have begun to receive catalogues from second-hand book-sellers in Paris. I ordered 3 cheap books this afternoon, to make a commencement. This afternoon M., Emily and I went for a walk in the forest. Many people. A too sophisticated air. At the Caverne Augas a man with candles, on the make. Beautiful paths and glimpses and set panoramas, but unpleasing because part of a set show. Then sudden arrival on the Route Nationale 5 bis. Autos struggling up it, noisily, all the time, in a faint cloud of dust. Bicyclists, chiefly walking. General Sundayish. Something that rouses always the exclusive , aristocrat in one. M. getting tired, and more tired, and assuring herself by questions that I am taking the nearest way home. Then the arrival, amidst forced cheerfulness, and the realization that one’s feet ache. I ran upstairs to read catalogues. The first languors of summer sunsets. House overrun with ants. New  carpets arrived this morning, re-arousing pride in our toy house. I forewent my afternoon sleep in order finally to arrange the second spare bedroom.
                                                                                Journals of Arnold Bennett, Sunday, May 17t 1908.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Deer hunting

Curious affair in the village yesterday. Owners of land bordering the forest have the right to catch such deer as they find on their land. Now is the season when deer stray, in search of young shoot. They stray about dawn. Villagers organise a sort of surprise for the deer. They arise before dawn and lie in wait. Yesterday morning 60 people caught 6 deer. The deer were killed in an open yard close to this house, and blood ran in gallons into and down the road. The 60 people drew lots for the best cuts, and one hears the monotonous calling of the numbers. One-tenth of a deer for each person. This morning I saw 4 biches and 3 cerfs slowly cross the road in the forest, about 100 yards behind me.
                                                                    Journs of Arnold Bennett, Monday, March 30th 1908

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The sexy Highlanders

   Curious example tonight of unconscious and honest sexuality by a decent woman. A Scotchwoman (age about 45) sitting by the fire in the lounge describing to another woman her sensations on seeing a regiment of Highlanders (with music) pass along Princes Street, Edinburgh. ‘I couldn’t bear to look at them – made me cry – my heart was so full. Nothing moves me so much as a regiment of Highlanders. Their costume . . . and so tall . . . such fine men . . . such white skins . . . But I shouldn’t like to be in the same room with them. I shouldn’t like to know them.’  She was quite unaware that phrase after phrase which she used was an expression of sexual feeling.
Journal of Arnold Bennett, January 4th 1904