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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.

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