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.

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