Wednesday, March 14, 2018


A selection from the Jurnal of Arnold Bennett will shortly be available on-line.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mr Shaw blushes

Arnld Bennett's journal - Wednesday, June 18th, 1919, London, Yacht Club. – Basil Dean (theatre producer) came to tea here and I was very pleased with him and his general attitude. He told a good rehearsal story. He said that they rehearsed Shaw’s Pygmalion for 9 weeks at His Majesty’s and that in the middle Mrs Pat Campbell went away for two weeks on her honeymoon. When she returned she merely said by way of explanation, ‘George (her new husband) is a golden man.’ There was some trouble about her rendering. When she had altered it, she said to Shaw, ‘Is that better?’ Shaw said, ‘No, it isn’t. I don’t want any of your flamboyant creatures, I want a simple human ordinary creation such as I have drawn.’ He was getting shirty. Mrs P.C. was taken aback. She replied, however, ‘You are a terrible man, Mr Shaw. One day you’ll eat a beefsteak, and then God help all women.’ It is said that Shaw blushed.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Armistice Celebrations, 1918

Arnold Bennett's Journals - Thursday, November 12th,  1918, London. Yacht Club. – In Sunday’s papers we saw the abdication of the Kaiser. Returned to London yesterday morning.  In Lower Regent Street the first news that armistice was signed – a paperboy calling out in a subdued tone. 10.45. Maroons went off at 11, and excited the populace.
   A laree portion of the ministry staff got very excited. Buchan came in to shake hands. Girls very excited. I had to calm them. Lunch at Wellington Club. We had driven through large crowds part way up the Mall and were then turned off from Buckingham Palace,
   Raining now. An excellent thing to damp hysteria and Bolshevism. Great struggling to cross Piccadilly Circus twice. No buses. (It was rumoured that tubes stopped. I believe they were stopped for a time.) It stopped raining Then cold mire in the streets. Vehicles passed, festooned with shouting human beings. Others dark, with only one or two occupants. Much light in Piccadilly up to Ritz corner, and in Piccadilly Circus. It seemed most brilliant. Some theatres had lights on their facades too. The enterprising Trocadero had hung a light of temporary lights under one side of its porticoes. Shouting. But nothing terrible or memorable. Yet this morning Brayley, my valet, said to me the usual phrases: ‘You wondered where the people came from. You could walk on their heads at Charing Cross, and you couldn’t cross Picc. Circus at all.’ When he came in with my tea, I said, ‘Well, Brayley, it’s all over.’ He smiled and said something. That was all our conversation about the end of the war. Characteristic.
   Last night I thought of lonely soldiers in that crowd. N one to talk to. But fear of death lifted from them.
Thursday, November 14th London, Yacht Club – I dined at flat Tuesday night (Pinker [his literary agent]) there and slept there; so I didn’t see anything of the ‘doings’. But there was a bonfire in Piccadilly Circus, kept alive by theatre boards and boards off motor-buses. Swinnerton told me that the staidest girl they had suddenly put on a soldier’s hat and overcoat and went promenading in them.
   Wad told that the scene at the Carlton on Monday night was remarkable. Any quantity of broken glass, tables overturned, and people standing on tables, and fashionable females with their hair down. On Tuesday night I noticed that all the principal restaurants had commissionaires in front of doors scrutinizing people who wished to enter and keeping out (apparently) all who had not reserved tables. Last night a cabby told me he would go westwards but not towards Piccadilly. Friday, November 15th,
 Circus, as he did not know what would happen to him   The feature of last night was girls with bunches of streamers which they flicked in your face as you passed.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Adultery everywhere

Arnold Bennett's Journal, Sunday, October 27th 1918. London, Yacht Cub. – The sensual appeal is now really very marked everywhere, in both speech and action, on the stage. Adultery everywhere pictured as desirable, and copulation generally ditto. Actresses play courtesan parts (small ones, often without words but with gestures) with gusto.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Russian Revolution

Arnold Bennett's journals - Saturday, February 9th  1918 - London, Yacht Club – Lady Buchanan [wife of Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador at Petrograd] told more and more astounding stories of Petrograd. After a debauch, heaps of dead, wounded and drunk lying together – literally in heaps. In order to get some people out of a mixed lot in a cellar, the cellar was flooded. No result, except that the water froze, and will remain frozen till the spring. Two regiments of women and one of young men alone defended the Winter Palace. Ehen it was taken the women were captured, tortured, and raped. Some killed themselves; none escaped to tell. Massingham said that a friend of his had seen men burned alive in kerosene tubs on the Nevsky Prospect.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Buying a pig

Arnold Bennett's war diary - Friday, January 11th 1918 Comarques – Marguerite bought a pig at the end of the year. It was a small one. , but we have been eating this damned animal ever since, in all forms except ham, which has not yet arrived. Brawn every morning for breakfast. Yesterday I struck at a pig’s feet for lunch and had mutton instead; they are neither satisfying nor digestible, and one of the biggest frauds that ever came out of kitchens. All this is a war measure, and justifiable.  I now no longer care whether I have sugar in my tea or not. We each have our receptacle containing the week’s sugar, and use it how we like. It follows us about, wherever we happen to be taking anything that is likely to need sugar. My natural prudence makes me more sparing of mine than I need to be. Another effect of war is that there is difficulty in getting stamped envelopes at the P.O. The other day the postmaster, by a great effort and as a proof of his goodwill, got me £1 worth, which won’t go far.
   It occurred to me how the war must affect men of 70, who have nothing to look forward to. The war has ruined their end, and they cannot have much hope.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

How did we win the war?

Arnold Bennett's war diary - Sunday, December 23rd  1917 Comarques. – Captain Hill and wife came last night. He related how after a long period (several weeks) of ‘special vigilance’ he was sleeping in a blanket on the floor of the gardener’s cottage at Thorpe Hall when a dispatch rider burst in just like a stage dispatch rider, at 3 a.m. The dispatch contained one word, which for Hill had no meaning. The rider couldn’t tell him anything  and only insisted on a signature in receipt, which of course Hill gave. Hill then got up and went to see another C.O. near. This C.O. had received the same message and also had not the least idea what it meant. Other C.O.s were found to be in the same case.
   Hill asked another C.O to ring up the staff. C.O. said he daren’t. So Hill did himself. He asked the telephone clerk what the message meant. The clerk replied that he knew but he daren’t tell. Hill then told him to summon the brigade major. Clark said he positively dare not. Hill insisted and took responsibility on himself. Brigade major came to telephone, using terrible language. It then appeared that the incomprehensible word was a code word signifying that the period of vigilance was over. Only no C.O. of unit had been previously informed of the significance of the word. The whole episode, with its middle-of-the-night business, absurd secrecy, etc., was thoroughly characteristic.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wartime London

Arnold Bennett's war journal -Thursday, September 27th 1917, London, Yacht Club – Dined with M. at Waldorf. To get there, strange journeys in Tube. Very wet. Very poor women and children sitting on stairs (fear of raid). Also travelling in lift and liftman grumbling at them because no fear of raid, and they answering him back, and middle-class women saying to each other that if the poor couldn’t keep to the regulations thy ought to be forbidden the Tube as a shelter from raid.

   S. said he had seen dreadful sights of very poor with babes in Tube on Monday. One young woman was in labour. He asked her if she was and she said she was and she had got up because she was told to go with the rest. He got her taken on a stretcher to a hospital. Proprietor of restaurant where I lunched today with [Frank] Swinnerton said that although his place was always full at night, he only had four people on Monday night and a single customer on Tuesday night (fear of raids). He said also that at fish and vegetable market he could not get what he wanted because supplies were not there, and that wholesalers had not taken supplies because they couldn’t dispose of them, and that stuff was rotting. A raid was feared tonight, evidently the German machines were turned back before reaching London.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Hardy, Wells, Barrie and the war

Arnold Bennett's War Journal - Wednesday, July 29th .1917 London. Yacht Club. – Great raid over Felixstowe and Harwich on Sunday morning about 8.15. Heavier bombardment than we have ever heard before. For the first time the females fled to the cellar, and the temporary cook (who had been in a previous raid at Felixstowe) almost had hysterics. I was just beginning to shave, and so I did shave, but the row was disturbing. It ceased in a few minutes (during which over 40 people had been killed or injured). No firing nearer than 7 miles from us. The ‘air-raid warning’ came through from the comic War Office about ½ an hour after the rain was over.
   I came to London yesterday . . . Wrote my article in the afternoon, and went to dine at [J. M.] Barrie’s with Thomas Hardy and wife. Barrie has an ugly little manservant and the finest view of London I ever saw. Mrs Hardy a very nice woman, with a vibrating attractive voice. Hardy was very lively; talked like anything. Apropos of Chekhov he started a theory that some of Chekhov’s tales were not justifiable because they told nothing unusual. He said a tale must be unused and the people interesting. Of course he soon got involved in the meshes of applications and instances, but he kept his head and showed elasticity and common sense and came out on the whole well. He has all his faculties, unimpaired. Quite modest and without the slightest pose.

   Later in the evening Barrie brought along both Shaw and the Wellses by ´phone. Barrie was consistently very quiet, but told a new A1 stories. At dusk we viewed the view and the searchlights. Hardy, standing outside one of the windows, had to put a handkerchief on his head. I sneezed. Soon after Shaw and the Wellses came Hardy seemed to curl up. He had travelled to town that day and was evidently fatigued. He became quite silent. I then departed and told Barrie that Hardy ought t go to bed. He agreed. The spectacle of Shaw and G.B.S. talking firmly and strongly about the war, in their comparative youth, in front of this aged, fatigued and silent man – incomparably their superior as a creative artist – was very striking.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Fat female aristocrat

Arnold Bennett's war journals - Friday, June 6th 1917, Ludlow, Charlton Arms – I came to Ludlow today. Fat female aristocrat in train. Dust cloak. Flower outside it. Jewel to fasten it. Many rings. Manicured. Queen, Tatler, Ethel M. Dell’s latest novel. 3 cushions in a decided leather  ‘envelope’. Elaborate lunch-basket. Greedy. When ticket collectors came, she referred them, with an apprehensive gesture, to her maid, lest she might be bothered. Two of them knew of her maid. The third said, roughly, ‘I suppose your maid has your ticket?’ Her fear about being worried about anything was obvious. At Shrewsbury she held ‘envelope’ while maid put cushions in it. Maid got her out of train and transferred her to Ludlow train. There was another and older and worse woman with an aged maid, in the same compartment. Very hard. She was met by a companion sort of girl at Birmingham.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bomb at Liverpool Street

Arnold Bennett's war journal - Thursday, June 14th, 1917 London, Yacht Cub – On getting to Yacht Club from Richmond at 1.30 I had a telephone message from Marguerite to says she and Anna were in the air raid at Liverpool Street and were unhurt [157 were killed and 432 wounded]. Today I found out that though their end of the train was bombed, M. knew nothing of it and Anna was only sure she saw smoke ‘by the side of the train’ behind her. Neither heard cries of wounded, or broken glass, or anything. M. heard 4 bombs or 5. Anna said she heard a noise and thought it was guns; then she saw a girl porter running and heard her cry ‘Oh’ and thought it was an accident. When she realized it was bombs she remembered nothing more till she ‘found herself’ near underground lavatory, where people were taking refuge, with M. They were in different carriages and had lost each other. She saw people ‘crouching down’ (near base of girders, apparently).

Saturday, February 17, 2018

War: a tedious nuisance

Journals of Arnold Bennett - Saturday, June 9th. 1917 Comarques – Siegfried Sassoon lunched with me at the Reform, yesterday. He expected some decoration for admittedly fine bombing work. Colonel had applied for it three times, but was finally told that as that particular push was a failure, it  He is evidently one of the reckless ones. He said his pals said he always gave the Germans every chance to pot him. He said he would like to go out once more and give them another chance to get him, and come home unscathed. He seemed jealous of the military reputation of poets. He said most of war was a tedious nuisance, but there were great moments, and he would like them again.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gas attack in Burslem

Arnold Bennett's Journal - Wednesday, February 14th, 1917 London, Yacht Club – I met Dr Shufflebotham (Stoke) and went with him to the Palladium (where the entertainment was awful). He told me one of the principal poison-gas factories was in Burslem. He said they had gradually learned the effect of the gases on the Germans by the effect of gases on their own workpeople, over half of whom had been on compensation during the past year. He told a funny tale of how in the early days there was a massed band Sunday fête (semi-religious) in Burslem Park, to which all the children in white came after Sunday School. Children began to cry. People said it was symptoms of whooping cough. Then  to cough. Further symptoms. Then adults began to cry and cough. Word went round at once, gas escaping from a factory. Every one fled from the park. Bandsmen dropped their instruments. Two of them met at gate. ‘Bill, where’s tha bloody drum?’ ‘It’s where tha bloody cornet is, lad.’

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A seance

Arnold Bennett's Journal - Thursday, February 8th , 1917 - London, Yacht Club – Dined at Mme. Van der Velde’s and sat at a spiritualistic séance with a clairvoyant named Peters, who brought his son, a youth in R.A.M.C., home for a few hours on leave. This son said there were 500 professional spiritualist soldiers at Aldershot. Theosophist. Peters (pére), man of 45 or so. Short. Good forehead. Bald on top, dark hair at sides. Quick and nervous. Son of a barge owner. Present: Yeats [W. B. Yeats the poet], Mr and Mrs Jowett (barrister – she very beautiful), Roger Fry, hostess, and me. Peters handled objects brought by each of us. His greatest success, quite startling, was with the glass stopper of a bottle brought by Jowett. He described a man throwing himself out of something, down, with machinery behind him, and a big hotel or big building behind him. Something to do with water, across water. He kept repeating these phrases, with variations. The stopper had belonged to the baronet (I forget his name) who threw himself off a launch, in response to a challenge from X., at 3 a.m., into the Thames, after a debauched party up river. All the passengers were more or less drunk. He was drowned.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Guns on the golf course

Arnold Bennett's war diaries - Wednesday, December 13th 1915 – Lieut. R., of a mobile Anti-Aircraft unit stationed at Thorpe, came for tea. He said he carried £15,000 worth of stores. He said that after big raid at Hull, end of last year about, when mayor of Hull had been assured that Hull was one of the most heavily defended places, and a Zepp dropped 15 bombs in the town, the population afterwards mobbed officers, and A.A. officers coming into the town had to put on Tommies’ clothes. Also that Naval Unit was telegraphed for ad that when it came with full authorised special lights, the population, angry at the lights, assaulted it with stones and bottles and put half of it in hospital, and had ultimately to be kept off by the military. He outlined complex administrative system of unit, and showed how utterly and needlessly idiotic it was. He told me how he had been sent to some golf links with a big mobile gun and had put gun into a good spot where it interfered with play on first hole, the officially indicated position being a bad one. The affair was urgent, as a raid was expected that night. He successfully repulsed various complainants from gold club; but next morning an infantry officer came specially down from War Office, with instructions (positive orders) that gun must me moved. R. gave reasons against. Infantry officer: ‘I don’t know anything about artillery, but that gun has got to be moved. It is my order to you.’ In order to fix gun in inferior official position, R. intented for railway sleepers to the tune of £127, and got them. Meanwhile the gold club professional had told him that it would be quite easy to modify the course.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Going 'Over the Top'

Arnold Bennett's war journal - Monday, October 9th 1917– Clegg [A British officer] brought a Capt. B. (of his battery) to lunch. Had been out at Ypres ten months and then wounded in the head, in front of right ear. He carries a good scar. He talked well, and said he should like to write if he could. I told him he could.

   He said the newspaper correspondents’ descriptions of men eager to go up over the parapet made him laugh. They never were eager. He related how he had seen a whole company of men pale with apprehension and shaking so that they could hardly load their rifles. Then he said that nevertheless men who did go  over in that state were really brave. He told us how his battery saw hundreds, thousands of grey figures coming alone only 1000 yards off, and every man thought he would be a prisoner in ten minutes, when suddenly thousands of Canadians appeared from nowhere, and the Boches fled. The cheering was delirious. He told this very dramatically, but without any effort to be effective, He said he really wanted to be back with the battery. For a long time the fellows wrote to him regularly once a fortnight, and every letter ended with ‘When are you coming back?’ He said they had had glorious times now and then glorious. He said that to sit on a factory chimney and see the Boches going over was better than big game shooting. He said the Boches had any amount of pluck and grit. And Clegg said that even in hospital they would stand thigs that an Englishman probably wouldn’t. Both Clegg and B. facetiously contrasted the rough, anyhow, bumping treatment the wounded get on their way from the firing line (when they really are ill) with the hushed, tender, worshipping treatment they get on arriving in London when many of them are dong pretty well.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How could Britain lose?

Arnold Bennett's war journal, Thursday August 17th 1916– Yesterday I cycled to Frinton to see the shooting of the R.F.A. The target was the Frinton lifeboat, about 300 yards out. The guns were at Coldharbour, north of Frinton. Range of about 2500 yards. L. seems to know nothing about artillery, and he was made Observation Officer so as to save him from having to shoot. He could not observe. He had no notion of observing, beyond marking a plus or a minus. Half the shooting being over, a policeman was clearing people off the beach because of the danger. Last night at dinner I had the account of the shooting itself from one who had to do some of it. He said the Observation officer was supposed always to be a fist-class gunner, as everything depended on him, but that an Observation Officer was not really necessary in this case. The generals were kidded accordingly. There were three generals. One of them knew little or nothing about gunnery. He made a great noise, and wanted a great noise made – explosions, and to see shells dropping in the sea. He told the gunners to fire quickly, and to remember this was not manoeuvres but war (which happily it was not). He constantly deranged Gen. X.Y., but Gen. X.Y., being a thorough expert, and not to be ruffled, went ahead and gave quiet orders to the gunners, ignoring Gen Z.’s notions Z. wanted rapid firing. X.Y. said, ‘What is the your firing the next shot until you know exactly what was wrong with the last and why?’ X.Y. was evidently the bright spot in the proceedings.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Hostile unions

Arnold Bennett's Journals - Friday, July 14th 1916 – London yesterday. [Gordon] Selfridge [founder of the great department store] was extraordinarily eloquent and sane in the matter of the relations between employer and employee. But he was very jealous on politics. He said whenever politics came near their store they trembled. Asked by me what he considered the sphere of politics, he said politics was to govern. Apparently the immense difficulty of defining politics had not occurred to him. He has no trades unions to deal with. He said he gave a lecture at Leeds University and that the atmosphere was clearly hostile to employers. There can be little doubt that the condition of affairs in his store is just about ideal.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

German Invasion

Arnold Bennett's War Diary - Monday, June 5th 1915 – A brigade staff captain, speaking of invasion last night, said the Germans were expected to try for it in August and not before. He said they were waiting for a chance all last year. 3 Army corps had been practiced in landings for a very long time. The finest troops. But lately, one corps, or part of it, had been taken for Verdun. Asked how he knew all these things, he said, ‘Intelligence.’ He spoke of a marvellous intelligence man named ----, now at Harwich, with whom he had talked, and who had recently penetrated the German lines, disguised as a woman, etc. He said the German plan was to land 40,000 men in one mile of coast. Lighters containing 1000 men each, to be towed over by destroyers. Gas shells. Monitors with 15-in. guns to destroy our coast positions first. He said we had done an enormous lot within the last few months, but that six months ago there was nothing and the original British plan had been to let the Germans penetrate 20 miles or so before tackling them. Now the plan was to stop them from landing, and he thought we should do it. He said they would probably try two different places at once – here, and near Newcastle-on-Tyne. Nothing he said altered my view that they couldn’t reach the coast at all. I told him this, and he said he was glad, but that all precautions had to be taken.

   The captain said the district was full of spies, which I thought exaggerated. He said tennis lawns were inspected as gun positions prepared, but they had never yet, in digging up a lawn, found any trace of preparation. I should imagine not. The buried gun and the prepared emplacement stories show the inability of staffs to distinguish between rumours  probable and rumours grotesque.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Cocktails and the working classes

Arnold Bennett's war diary: Friday, November 12th 1916 – On Wednesday at tea Mrs M. described the luxury and liveliness of life in the European colony of Shanghai but afterward admitted that its scourges were typhoid and abscess on the liver. Most of her best friends she had lost through typhoid (males, that is). Later she gave me her views on men and women. She was bringing up her little sons with the idea that they must be nice and helpful and protective to all women. They thoroughly understood that at the earliest moment they must buy a motor car for their mother. She is afraid of scandals, being a young and attractive widow, but gives cocktails to her assembled friends every Sunday morning in a place like Frinton! She said there were three things any man could give to any woman without fear of being misunderstood – flowers, chocolates, music. She was great on what women could expect from men. Doubtless owing to her widowhood. She lamented that labour was so dear in England. ‘It was because the working classes lived too well.’ I expect she has all the usual colonial social political ideas. In the end she displayed a pleasant conception of life – limited to her own class, of course. The general impression of her ideal was very agreeable.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Bombs and sympathy

from Arnold Bennett's War Diary
Saturday, September 11th  1915– During the day I got information as to the Zeppelin raid on Wednesday night. Davray on roof of the Waldorf [Hotel]. He said zeppelin was fairly low over roof. Searchlights on it. Star-lights. Fair-like. Shots at it. Then it rose and went northwards. Spectacle agreed to be superb. Noise of bombs agreed to be absolutely intimidating. And noise of our guns merely noise of popguns. One bomb in gardens of Queen’s Square had smashed windows and indented walls and smashed window frames on three sides. Two hospitals here. A lot of the glazing had already been repaired. Much damage at Wood Street, Cheapside. I didn’t see it. Two motor buses demolished with passengers. Rickards, who went out at 11.15 said it was very strange to see motor buses going along just as usual, and a man selling fruit at a corner just as usual. People spoke to each other in the streets. Waller said streets near bomb in City were two inches deep in glass etc. I didn’t see damage in Theobald’s Road. It appears there had been a raid over New Cross on Tuesday night. Queen’s Square was rather like the front – Arras, for example.

   Mrs T. to lunch. Her father, a bishop, has just lost his wife. A grand-nephew was told to write condolences to him. The boy, aged 11, wrote first: ‘Dear Grandad: I am very sorry Grannie is dead, but we must make the best of these things.’ Told this wouldn’t do, he tried again:  ‘I am very sorry Grannie is dead. But you may be sure she is much happier where she is.’ This also  being condemned, he wrote a conventional letter about Grannie having always been kind to them, etc.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Tell the bees!

Miss Weeley  told me yesterday at dinner that all the bees had died in this district, and that the reason was they had not been ‘told’ about the war.

   It appears that bees should always be ‘told’ abut deaths in the family and other important happenings; otherwise they will die. She met a woman in the road with a lot of honey and asked her how it was that she alone had succeeded with her bees. The woman said: ‘Ah! But as soon as the war broke out I went and told my bees all about it.’ Miss Weeley believed in this superstition. Edith Johnston said that her parents had lost 7 hives out of 9.
                                                                              from Arnold Bennett;s Journal, July 22nd 1915

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A German Spy causes chaos

From Arnold Bennett's war diary, Monday, April 19th 1915 – Owing to alleged existence of a German spy in British officer’s clothing and in a car, in this district, order that no officer shall be out at night in a car unless on duty and with the password of the day. Personally, I don’t see what good this will do. Highly inconvenience for officers. One officer coming through Chelmsford got stopped on his way to this district. He did not know of order and had no password. He telephoned for help. A dispatch cyclist was sent from Great Bentley to give him the password. This cyclist, though on General Hoare’s orders, was not allowed to go through Colchester, and in the end the  officer had to go home by train.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Laughter and death

from the War Diary of Arnold Bennett

Friday, December 4th  1914 - Patriotic concert last night in village schoolroom. All the toffs of the village were there. Rev. Mathews and wife dine with us before it. Most of the programme was given by soldiers, except one pro. It was far more amusing than one could have expected. Corporal Snell, with a really fine bass voice, sang two very patriotic, sentimental songs, sound in sentiment but extremely bad in expression. They would have been excruciating in an ordinary voice, but he was thrilling in them. Our Lieutenant Michaelis was there, after missing the roads, together with a number of his men. The great joke which appealed to parsons and everyone else was of a fat lady sitting on a man’s hat in a bus. ‘Madam, do you know what you’re sitting on?’ ‘I ought to, I’ve been sitting on it for 54 years.’
Tuesday, December 22nd  1914 – Today I heard firing at sea which seemed to be like a battle and not like firing practice. The first time I have had this impression since the war began, though we have heard firing scores of times.

   This is the most gruesome item I have seen in any newspaper. It is from an account of life in Brussels in Daily Telegraph, December 15th: Since the fatal attacks on Ypres and the Yser a new recreation has been created for the Bruxellois, namely the trains of the dead. These pass through the suburb of Laeken, and go by way of Louvain and Liège to Germany, to be burned in the blast furnaces. The dead are stripped, tied together like bunches of asparagus, and stacked upright on their feet, sometimes bound together with cords, but for the most part with iron wire. Two to three thousand pass with each train, sometimes in closed meat-trucks, sometimes in open trucks, just as it happens. The mighty organisation will not suffer a truck to go back empty; a dead man has no further interest for them.’

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Funeral

 M. and I went down to Burslem for the Mater’s funeral on Tuesday afternoon. I learnt from Jennings that the ‘last journey’ had to be ‘the longest’, i.e. corpse must always go longest way to cemetery. I asked why. He sniggered, ‘So as to prolong the agony, I suppose.’ Real reason nowadays and for long past must be ostentation. We naturally altered this.
   Funeral. Too soon. Orange light through blinds in front of room. Coffin in centre on 2 chairs. Covered with flowers. Bad reading, and stumbling of parson. Clichés and halting prayer. Small thin book out of which parson read. In dim light, cheap new carving on oak of coffin seemed like fine oak carving. Sham brass handles on coffin. Horrible lettering. Had to wait after service for hearse to arrive. Men hung their hats on spikes of hearse before coming in. No trouble in carrying coffin. I kept Uncle J.L.’s arm most of the time, as he is nearly blind. He told me he still managed 700 accounts. Long walk from cemetery gates to region of chapel. By the way, the lodge at gates is rented as an ordinary house to a schoolmaster. . John Ford’s vault next to Longson, with records of his young wives (‘The flower fadeth,’ etc.). This could be exaggerated into a fine story. No sign of any other coffins, of course, in Longson vault.

   Curious jacket and apron of first gravedigger. Second stood apart. Both with hats off. Parson put on a skull-cap. On return, carriages trotted down slope from cemetery, but walked as we got to houses near Cobridge station, ‘Next Egg Factory’ en route. 2 cottages turned into works.
                                                                         Arnold Bennett's Journal, Friday, November 27th 1914 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Deathbed in Burslem

On Wednesday afternoon I went to Burslem to see Mater [his mother], reported to be past hope. I saw her at 8 p.m. and remained alone with her for about halfg an hour. She looked very small, especially her head in the hollow of the pillows. The outlines of her face vey sharp; hectic cheeks; breathed with her mouth open, and much rumour of breath in her body; her nose was more hooked, had in fact become hooked. Scanty hair. Sher had a very weak, self-pitying voice, but with sudden outbursts f strong voive, 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 bedclothes. She spoke of the most trifling things a if tremendously important – as e.g. decisions as if they were momentous and dictated by profound sagacity. ‘What do you say?’ rather loud. 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. She said it annoyed her terribly. Gas stove burning. Temperature barely 60º.  Dam 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. The Mater has arterial sclerosis and patchy congestion of the lungs. Her condition was very distressing, and it seemed strange that this should necessarily be the end of a life, that a life couldn’t always end more easily. I went in again at 11.45 p.m. She was asleep, breathing noisily. Nurse, in black, installed for night. The Mater had a frequent very bright smile, but it would go in an instant. She asked for her false teeth, and she wanted her ears syringed again, so that she could hear better. This morning she was easier, after a good night, but certainly weaker. Mouth closed and eyes shut tight today. Lifting of chin right up to get head in line with body for breathing. A bad sign..
                                                                       Arnold Bennett's Journals, Friday, November 20th 1914

Monday, January 22, 2018

Snow on their boots?

  Good news yesterday, as to moving of German troops from western frontier. The bill came for the British stand, between 5000 and 6000 losses, but the news that they were thoroughly reinforced was good. The girls came home with a positive statement from the camp that 160,000 Russians were being landed in Britain, to be taken to France. The colonel had brought the news from Colchester.

   The statement was so positive that at first I almost believed it. But after about an hour I grew quite sceptical. Only the Archangel route could have been used. Think of the number of ships and the amount of convoying necessary. In the end I dismissed it and yet could not help hoping . . . Rumours in village as to it, also. Debarkation said variously to take place at Harwich and in Scotland, etc. Numbers went up to 400,000. The most curious embroidery on this rumour was from Mrs A. W., who told Mrs W. that the Russians were coming via us to France, where they would turn treacherous to France and join Germans in taking Paris. ‘We could not trust the Russians.’ This rumour I think took the cake. Yet Mrs Sharpe asked me seriously whether there was any fear of such a thing,
                                                                      Arnold Bennett's War Diary - Monday August 31st 1914

Sunday, January 21, 2018

'Your Country Needs You!

Arthur Bennett's War Diary: Saturday, August 29th 1914 – It is now reported that D.H. (who nevertheless knows colonial and quasi-military and military life), as well as Mr Johnston, can do nothing but read the papers, and think, think, think, and mourn because English youths will not enlist. It was given forth that while at Tendring and Weeley and other villages the response to the call was excellent, the response in Thorpe was miserable - indeed, it was said, only one man. No doubt every village is saying the same. In any case the alleged state of affairs would be explicable by the fact that there is a camp at Tendring and another at Weeley and youths are thereby fired.
   However, on enquiry from other sources I found that Thorpe was doing excellently. Lockyer, a grim and very serious patriot and the chief pillar of the Rifle Club, said that 5 men had gone from his club alone. Cook, second gardener, who belongs already to the National Reserve, put down his name again, and was told that for the present he was not wanted. Few young men, eligible for recruiting and able to go, remain. Miss Nerney said the same. It was she who told me that Mrs Wood (parson’s wife)had said to a young man who offered certain sorts of help: ‘You can only help in one way. You can enlist.’ As parson’s wife and familiar with the village, she knew or ought to have known that the young man had a widowed mother depending on him/ Mrs Wood is a very decent woman, and that she should have said such a thing shows how far the feeling of the middle class will carry them.

   Yesterday morning I wrote an article telling some incontrovertible truths about this recruiting question. Mrs Sharpe ‘agreed with every word of it’ but did not think it ought to be published. Marguerite did not like it at all. Both were afraid of it. I should not be at all surprised if the Daily News is not afraid of it In that case I shall probably send it to the New Statesman.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Germans in Paris?

from Arnold Bennett's War Diary, 1914
Friday, August 21st – Henry Davray wrote me the other day from Paris, stating without any hint of scepticism (1) that the menu of the dinner which the Kaiser was to eat in Paris on August 12th had been prepared in advance. And (2) that in the cellars of the Hôtel du Rhin a garlanded bust of the Emperor had been found ready to expose in the Place Vendôme when the Kaiser should pass through.
   Great depressing fact of the surrender of Brussels to the Germans this morning. But by the afternoon I had got quite used to it and was convinced that it was part of the Allies’ preconceived plan and that all was well.
Sunday, August 23rd – A tale yesterday that eighty men had been engaged all day in searching for a spy who had not been found (in this neighbourhood, that is)!

   Sullivan said that he had enormous belief in the British Expeditionary Force and that he thought it would ‘cause consternation’! Nevertheless he was sure that the Germans would get to Paris, and he bet me a present worth £5 that they would.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The beginning of the War Diaries, 1914-18

Yesterday we heard noise of explosions destroying inconvenient houses  at Harwich. The sensations of Harwich people must be poignant. Nevertheless the .E.R., in yesterday evening’s paper, was advertising its Hook of Holland Service (with restaurant cars, etc.) exactly as usual, and I believe the boat left last night. We also heard thunder, and the children affirm that they distinctly heard the noise of firing – not explosions. (Report of action in North Sea in evening papers.) I saw one warship in the office at Clacton, but an ordinary steamer coming to the pier, and a barge sailing northwards.
   An officer came yesterday to complain of a fox terrier (? ours) which flew at despatch-riders on motor bicycles. He said it would be shot if found loose. These despatch-riders are the most picturesque feature of the war, here. They rush through the village at speeds estimated up to 50 miles an hour. I am willing to conceded 40.
   I agree that Russia is the real enemy,  not Germany; and that a rapprochement between England and Germany is a certainty. But I doubt whether it is wise, in the actual conduct of affairs, to try to see so far ahead. I think that the belligerency of England is a mistake – for England. Yet if I had to choose, I think my instinct would have forced me to make war.
   Sir Edward Grey’s [British Foreign Secretary] astounding mistake, in his big speech, was his assertion that the making of war would not much increase our suffering. It will certainly increase it. The hope for us is in the honesty and efficiency of our administration. The fear for France springs from the fact that the majority of French politicians are notoriously rascals, out for plunder. The corruption of Russian administration is probably even worse. The seriousness of the average French private will atone for a lot, but it will not – for instance – create boots for him. The hope for France is that the German army, arrogant in its traditions, etc., may be lower than its reputation.
   After reading the diplomatic papers leading up to the rupture between England and Germany, this morning, one has to admit that Sir E. Grey did everything he could, once he had stated his position. The war is a mistake on our part, but other things leading to it were a mistake, and, these things approved or condoned, the war must be admitted to be inevitable. Judged by any current standard, Sir E. Grey is a man of high common sense. He has not yet grasped the movement of social evolution, but then very few people have. And you cannot properly or fairly try to govern a country on a pane of common sense too high above its own general place.
   Apart from Germany, two countries are pre-eminently suffering at the beginning of the war – France and Belgium. Both are quite innocent, Belgium touchingly so. I can imagine the Germans among them if they get the upper hand. The Germans are evidently quite ruthless and brutal and savage in war. This is logical, but a large part of their conduct is due  to the arrogant military tradition, which will one day be smashed. If Germany is smashed in this war, the man most imperilled will be the German Emperor. If she is not smashed, the man most imperilled may be the Tsar.
   I am told convincingly that a firm in Clacton is making an extra £50 a week out of bread. Through increased charges for which there is no justification. It appears that the farmers all round have raised the price of butter 3d. a lb.
   Miss Osborne and a girl came round yesterday afternoon to ask for linen or subscriptions for the local branch of the Red Cross Society. Mrs Byng is ready to lend Thorpe Hall for a hospital. These young ladies have no orders or permission from the War Office, but they wish to be in readiness. This instinct to do something on the part of idle young women, or half idle, is satisfactory to behold. All about this district and all about many other country districts are many middle-class young women, and scarcely any young men for them to consort with – I mean even in ordinary times. Now, there will be fewer young men than ever.
   On the day after the war the boys [his two nephews] wanted a tent. They had one, beyond the pond. It cost one day’s labour of a carpenter. This tent is used by everybody except me nearly all the time. The whole household seems to live in it. Today the boys are making wooden swrds. Yesterday a village boy gave me a military salute.

   Edith Johnson recounts how her father is laying in ammunition against the time when the populace will raid the countryside demanding provisions; he, being a farmer, is to be called on early in the proceedings, and he is determined to give out his stores evenly and not to the strongest. Each morning he summons all his men and explains to them the course of the war, so that they shall not b e misled by rumours. Edith thinks that a war is necessary and advisable, as the population is too thick.
                                                                              Arnold Bennett's Journal, Thursday August 6th 1914

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Parish Concert

Piano recital at Frinton Hall last night in aid of Tendring parish funds. Hall centrally heated, but draughty. Uncomfortable chairs. Rush-bottomed chair (cost about 3s.) for pianist. Old Broadwood  baby grand. Pedal creaked. Rotten tone. Ladies of Frinto and of Tendring parishes in evening dress. Two parsons, who felt they must speechify afterwards. Pianist a man about 40; agreeable, slightly curt smile. Ferocious look when playing, often. Beethoven, Rameau, Chopin, Scarlatti, Debussy, Liszt, etc. Piano impossible. Intense, almost tragic sadness of provincial musical affairs, second-rate or tenth-rate under bad conditions. A gentle snobbishness (artistically) among the women. One man (friend of pianist) called our 2 or 3 times after a piece, amid the applause, ‘’Core, ´core’, very loudly and staccato. And he had his encore. Audience determined to appreciate high-class music , and applauding the noisiest and most showy. Crass inertia and stupidity of sundry women around me, determined to understand and to enjoy nothing.
                                                                       Arnold Bennett's Journals - Saturday, February 21st 1914

Monday, January 15, 2018

A nude dancer

Sunday, October 26th – Thursday afternoon Calvo took us to Salle des Fêtes du Journal to see a Russian danseuse nue – séance particulière [nude dancer – special performance]. She had a good, firm brown-skinned body with prominent seins en forme de poire [pear-shaped breasts] and hard, darknipples. She took no trouble to conceal her sex, which had been epile [shaved] but displayed it with pride, thrusting her loins forward, hands on hips. About 20 people, including the most serious, such as Kostilev, the Russian. one young man in tight pantalon was unmistakably sxcite. There was no real dancing. Middle-aged dame at piano. 
                                                                        Arnold Bennett Journals - Sunday, October 26th 1913

Saturday, January 13, 2018


   First performance of Rosenkavalier [opera by Richard Strauss] in England.

   Covent Garden. Began at 8.30 (20 minutes late) and finished at midnight, with many cuts. Then 30 minutes’ wait, nearly, for motor in procession of motors. The thing was certainly not understood by stalls and grand circle. What its reception was in amphitheatre and gallery I was too far to judge. First act received quite coldly. Ovation as usual at end – and an explosive sort of shout when Thomas Beecham came to bow. The beauty and symmetry of the book came out even more clearly than on reading it. An entirely false idea of this opera so far in England. Not sensual, nor perverse, nor depraved. It is simply the story of a young man providing a tragedy for an ageing woman by ceasing to love her, and an ecstatic joy for a young woman by beginning to love her. All the main theme is treated with gravity and beauty. The horse-play, and the character of Ochs, and the 18th century colour is incidental.  It seemed to me . . . to be a work of the first order.
                                                                                       Arnold Bennett's Journals - January 29th 1913

Friday, January 12, 2018

Oscar Wilde's last play

Romano’s. This restaurant is quite different at lunch from dinner. Groups of theatrical people entering; mutually known, a few actresses. Pretty and vapid. On the whole the most ingenuous crowd of people to be seen in any restaurant in London. Waiting bad. Tables too close together as usual.
   F[rank] H[arris] told me more fully than ever before the story of Oscar and Mr and Mrs Daventry [play produced at the Royalty Theatre in October 1900].  He said he gave Oscar [Wilde] £50 for the screen scene and  £50 for the whole scenario. He never got the scenario, though he paid for it. Oscar was to have written the first act. Mrs Pat [the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell] insisted on F.H.’s writing the first act. F.H. refused as it had been allotted to Oscar. Then Oscar refused. So F.H. did it. F.H. then found out that Oscar had sold the screen scene and the scenario to Leonard Smithers [a disreputable publisher], and the latter showed him the whole MS of scenario signed by Oscar. F.H., after saying to Smithers that he didn’t want the scenario and that in any case he owed him nothing, promised £50 in any case and  £100 if play succeeded well. He said he hadn’t a cent at that time. Smithers got the money from F.H. in tens and twenties. F.H. gradually found out that Oscar had sold the scenario and screen scene to eleven different people. When taxed with this by F.H, Oscar didn’t deny it. He merely said, ‘The fact is, Frank, by writing this play and getting it produced you’re taking away one of my sources of income!’ Later Oscar asked for another £150. He badgered F.H. until he got it. He then said, ‘Frank, you’ve  paid me £250 for the screen scene from The School for Scandal; and you’re a very poor man of business.’ Thus F.H.’s version.

   F.H. said that Oscar was most brilliant as a talker during his last days in Paris. He had listened to him for five or six hours together, saying nothing but, ‘Go on, Oscar. Go on.’
                                                                                     Arnold Bennett's Journals - October 21st  1912

Thursday, January 11, 2018

'That's what I call beautiful'.

2nd - Post-Impressionist Exhibition. Self-satisfied smiles of most people as they entered. One large woman of ruling classes with a large voice and face-a-mains, in front of a mediocre picture: ‘Now no-one will ever be able to persuade me that  the man who painted that was serious. He was just pulling our legs.’ Self-satisfied smiles all over the place all the time. One reason of the popularity of these shows is that they give the grossly inartistic leisured class an opportunity to feel artistically superior. A slight under-current of appreciation here and there. A woman to whom a young man pointed out a pencil drawing by Matisse said, ‘That’s what I call beautiful.’ (It was.)
                                                                                    Arnold Bennett's Journals - October 8th 1912

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Battle of (Nude) Flowers

Cannes. Battle of Flowers yesterday. Five sisters (secretly bored) in a  carriage, all dressed alike. American imitation of a rowboat. Mother as a sailor. Habit of thinly dressed and sometimes quite nude  women standing up in carriages all the time and exposing themselves. Rapacity of two young shop girls or something who placed themselves in the wrong seats in front of us and snatched in the most shameless manner at all the bouquets that were thrown our way. They worried us to death. Astonishing the joy one took in a really pretty woman in white, when there happened to be one. 
                                                                       Arnold Bennett Journals - Wednesday, March 6th, 1912

Monday, January 8, 2018

Certainly not virgins

The other day a vendeuse and an essayeuse [salesgirl and fitter] came up from the Maison Blanc with a robe d’intérieur for M. and another for Mrs Selwyn. A porter of the Maison Blanc carried the box.  The general tableau – the two employées, young and agreeable, but certainly not virgins. With soft, liquid, persuasive voices, speaking chiefy English; the frothy garments lying about on chairs and in the box, Selwyn, Alcock, and me lounging on chairs, and M. and Mrs S. playing the mannequin, and the porter waiting outside in the dark corridor – this tableau produced a great effect on me. Expensive garments rather – and I felt that for my own personal tastes, I would as soon earn money in order to have such a tableau at my disposition, as for a lot of other seemingly more important and amusing purposes. A fine sensuality about it. There was something in the spectacle of the two employees waiting passive and silent for a few moments from time to time while we talked.
                                                                    Arnold Bennett's Journals - Tuesday, January 23rd., 1911

Saturday, January 6, 2018


Cannes. Hôtel Californie Georges d’Espagnat came for lunch yesterday; we drove  to Maugin’s – he with us – and we deposited him at station at 4.15. He had come from Renoir’s villa at Cagnes. He reported how Renoir’s pictures 15 years ago were admitted by dealers to be unsalable. Now the slightest sketch fetches 4 or 5000 francs. And pictures which formerly had a theoretical price of 5000 frs sell for 70 or 80,000. Dealers came down from Paris while d’Espagnat was at Renoir’s, and bought and paid for everything Renoir would let them take away. He had been a terrific worker, and in spite of very large sales, still has 2 or 300 pictures to be disposed of. He now lives luxuriously. Formerly dans la dèche, d’Espagnat had known him rent splendid houses in which he could not put furniture. He is 71, and scarcely able to move a limb. Cannot rise without help. Has to be carried about. Yet manages to paint, even large canvases. He said to d’Espagnat that were it not for ill health, old age would be a very happy time, as it has all sorts of pleasures special to itself. Although so old, he has a son aged only about ten. This child came as a surprise, and Renoir was furious.
                                                                                         Arnold Bennett Journals, January 6th 1911

Friday, January 5, 2018

The White House - 'very nice'

   Arrival at fine station at Washington.
   Apparently a long drive to Shoreham Hotel, across avenue after avenue. Still, all the air of a provincial town. Had to get out of bed to extinguish final light, otherwise good hotel.
   Congress chamber. Old Congress Chamber is a sort of rule-chamber. Its astounding collection of ugly statues. Whispering point, where Adams fell. I was exhausted after this. Declined to visit Library of Congress. Saw Washington monument. Phallic, Appalling. A national catastrophe – only equalled by Albert Memorial.         
   Sub-guide said, pointing to a portrait in oils: ‘Henry Cay – quite a good statesman,’ in a bland, unconsciously patronizing way. Guide also said of picture, ‘Although painted I  1865, notice the flesh tints are quite fresh.’
   General effect of Washington. A plantation of public edifices amid a rather unkempt undergrowth of streets. Pennsylvania Avenue the great street. Cheapness of its buildings (old private houses tuned into business) as the thoroughfare approaches the Capitol.
   The White House very nice architecture. Rather small. Distinguished.
   Overflow of Capitol into huge buildings at either side rather to front of Capitol. Dome too big for sub-structure. The wings rather fine.

   Badness of saddle of mutton at breakfast. Finger bowls after every damn snack.
\                                                                           Arnold Bennett Journals, Tuesday, October 17, 1911

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

An inferno, and Paddy the terrier

   Well may all this powerful machinery be encaged, just like wild beasts in a menagerie.
   Up and down steel ladders. Climbing over moving chain (like a bike chain) of steering gear, through stray jets of steam, in a forest of greasy machinery, guarded by steel rails, grease on floor; all apparently working alone under electric lights, but here and there a  man in brown doing nothing in particular. Dials everywhere, showing pressures, etc.
   Then to stokehold. Vast. Terrible. 190 colossal furnaces, opened and fed every 10 minutes, and coal flung in. Mouths of furnaces seemed to me very high for coal to be flung into them. The effect was like that of a coal mine with the addition of hell.
   This was the most impressive part of this ship. It stretched away with occasional electric lights into infinite distance. 1000 tones of coal a day. Finest coal. Very hot. An inferno, theatrical. Above, confectioners making petit fours, and the lifts going for 1st class passengers.
   Invited into Captain’s room. He showed us his photograph after being invested C.B.[Companion of the Order of the Bath] by King.
   Talk of Royal Family. The Englishman’s reverence for his old institutions, of all kinds, and his secret sentimentality (according F.R. the King was a fine fellow, and the Queen a woman of really unusual brain-power) comes out all over the ship all the time.

   At dinner, the purser on his Airedale terrier, Paddy. So comprehending that when his wife and he wanted to say something they did not want the dog to understand, they had to spell out the important word, instead of pronouncing it.
                                          Arnold Bennett's Journal - Lusitania. Monday, October 9th 1911  7.30 a.m.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

High Seas

Went out at 10.30. High seas. Whole surface of sea white with long marmoreal lines of foam. Through the mistiness the waves on the horizon looked as high as mountains; or as high as a distant range of hills. Curious that distant waves should seem sio much higher than those close to. Ship rolling enormously, and her bow yawing about. Yet forward sheltered by deck-houses from following gale, one had no sensation that the boat was moving forward. Waking backward, from stem to stern, the following gale struck one sharply in the face, though one was running away from it at about 30 miles an hour.

   Big squall gradually overtook us. All sunshine clouded out for 15 minutes and snow came down almost horizontally/, and much faster than the ship in the same direction. The wind . blew spray fiercely off the water in clouds. The screws half raced from time to time.
                                  Arnold Bennett's Journals - Sunday, December 2nd 1911, en route for America.

Monday, January 1, 2018


   Entire company interested in children.

   Talking of kids, I must not forget 2 stories of Cobb’s. Elizabeth Cobb, when her parents began to spell: ‘Too much damn education here for me.’ And of another girl, when her parents began to whisper, ‘What’s the good of being educated, anyway? When I’ve learnt to spell, you whisper.’ 
                                                                            Arnold Bennett's Journal - November 15, 1911.