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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.