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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.
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Friday, 15 December 2017
I dined at Schwob's. Moreno had returned. She was dressed in black with gold jewellery, and was more captivating than ever. I immediately forgot her capriciousness and my small grievances against her. She still remains without any pose; and she still constantly says things of the most extraordinary penetration and delicacy. I think I may be in love, or at least in lust! Interesting though that however fascinating a woman may be intellectually, it is the physical attractiveness that makes the difference between comradeship and captivation. For me it is something about the eyes; they must be dark and inviting. Schwob is a lucky man.
Raphael, the Paris correspondent of the Referee and the Sketch was invited to meet me. A pronouncedly Jewish face. Very polite and pleasant. We went in Moreno's car to the Bouffes to see du Bois's "Rabelais". The house was not half full. Moreno left at 10, creeping silently out of the box, and then having a noisy accident with the door, because she had a reciting engagement at Versailles. At the end of the second act Schwob said he couldn't stand any more. I couldn't either, and as Raphael had already seen the piece we left. Raphael and I sat in a cafe in the Place Blanche till 12.30 or more talking about London journalism and serializing.
Thursday, 14 December 2017
The Bible is full of mysticism, of which it is probably the finest treasury in existence, east or west. To my mind the most pregnant mystical exhortation ever written is: "Be still, and know that I am God." (46th psalm) The first two words ought to be stessed and repeated thrice. The more one reads the Bible the more one perceives that it is permeated through and through with purely mystical emotion. Many religious people, and many readers of the Bible, seem to be insensible to mysticism, and are thus deprived of what is perhaps the deepest source of private comfort. Strange thoughts for an avowed atheist!
i was thinking about how this journal has changed over the years. When I started, aged about thirty, I was writing as an exercise in self-discipline, to record things that had interested or occurred to me, and with no thought that what I was writing would be read by others. Now it is different. Has this changed what I write? Of course it has. With the best will in the world I now have my eyes on a potential readership as I write and am more or less consciously trying to make it interesting without being too contentious. To be honest i think it has become anodyne. When I look back to my early journals, they were full of the essence of life. Pity.
I finished reading "Death in Venice" by Thomas Mann yesterday. To be honest I found it hard going at first, but later in the book I started to see why Mann had spent so much time establishing the character of von Aschenbach. It seems to me that there are at least two levels to the story (setting aside classical allusions): the essential fragility of the main character who has consciously and consistently built an aesthetic identity, and sees it collapse dramatically; an allegory about the European character, distinguishing south from north, showing the seductive and destructive potential of the former. The most poignant scene for me was the one where von Aschenbach allows himself to be 'made up' by the hotel barber in a vain attempt to regain youth; so painful it was hard to read. Overall a moving and beautifully written short novel.
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Though I have sinned in that way myself quite a number of times in the last twenty years, I still object to authors writing prefaces, forewords, or introductions to the books of other (living) authors. A book should not be led into the ring like a performing horse at the circus. Nevertheless I do take notice of prefaces etc. The names of certain introducers would inhibit me from ever opening a book introduced by them. The names of other introducers, on the contrary, fascinate me as a snake is (falsely) reported to fascinate a bird.
T.S. Eliot has recently prefaced a book called "This American World" by Edgar Mowrer. Mr. Eliot is American, but probably less so than any American now on earth. Henry James was less American than Mr. Eliot, but carried his Europeanisation to excess. He was more European than Europeans. To be more royalist than the king implies a lack of tact.
Mr. Eliot is a fine poet and also a fine critic, if dry and over-dispassionate. There must be something in any book that he ceremonially sponsors. And there is a great deal in "This American World". Indeed it is one of the most enlightening and frankest books on American psychology that I have ever read; and, apart from a few too perky brightnesses, it is well written. I may say that if a European author of reputation had said half as much as Mr. Mowrer says in criticism of the American mind, international complications would have quickly ensued. Mr. Mowrer prophesies that American ideals will ultimately rule the entire world. I think he may be right.
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
If a set of young men from the East End or from some provincial centre of Association football had gone in mass formation to Twickenham football ground last Monday, and by force and rowdyism rendered impossible the playing of the inter-Varsity match, there would have been a loud outcry in the papers, and in all polite circles, against their ill-mannered lawlessness. The police courts would have been densely populated next morning, and the non-payment of fines imposed would have ended in many doses of imprisonment.
Yet such conduct would have been no worse than the conduct, on that same day, of undergraduates from our ancient universities, which conduct began with processions on the tops of dining tables in fashionable restaurants and ended in the breaking up of a performance in at least one West End theatre. And which conduct occupied only a few inches of space in the papers and was forgotten by an enlightened public in less than twenty four hours. It was generally understood that university rowdyism in London had been finished for ever by certain outrageous destructive antics last year. Not so.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If years of education at public schools and universities result in exhibitions of loutish violence which have no equal in Great Britain, what are we to think of the real value of such education? Whatever young men (and increasingly young women) are taught at universities, they are not effectively taught either decency or good manners, or self-control, or respect for the elementary social rights of others. They apparently are taught to behave like savages, and to be proud of it. The immediate cause of these disgraces is of course simple drunkenness, senseless and brutish indulgence in alcohol. The excuse offered for the youths is that they are young. Which plainly implies a theory that we ought not to expect citizens to be decent, civilised and law-abiding until they have reached the age of at least twenty one. Is this a tenable theory?
It is the sheer hypocrisy which annoys me most. We live in a country which is deeply divided along class lines, and that division is maintained by the organs of government, religion and the press. The 'entitled' have the best of everything, and the rest do what they can with the crumbs. Surely it would not be unreasonable to expect the toffs to demonstrate their superiority by behaving decently? I don't advocate revolution but just occasionally I wish that something would upset the status quo.
Monday, 11 December 2017
Yesterday lunch with Thomas Vaughan, partner in god knows how many theatres, Marguerite and Gilbert Miller also. This lunch must have cost Tommy £10. The beefsteak was a failure.
Last night a dinner, organised by Albert Rutherston to Nigel Playfair, to mark his departure to the U.S.A. to produce "The Beggar's Opera" there. Milne was in the chair and made a brilliant sort of speech full of jokes proposing Nigel's health. The speeches were too few, and too short, and after them there was an anticlimax.
This morning at 12.30 I finished the writing of my first film. I have temporarily called it "The Wedding Dress". It has taken 25 days, out of which I was ill on 7 days and did nothing whatever. I should estimate that the MS is about 10,000 words. I heard recently that Shaw had received a film offer of £10,000 per original film, he to furnish two films a year. I was told that he intended to accept. I would. It strikes me that films may be the future for writers who are less concerned for their artistic integrity and more for their bank balance. That said, it is early days; who can say whether, in the future as the medium develops, films will not be seen as works of art in their own right.
I am taking an interest in a scheme to help disabled soldiers and am trying to involve Lord Rothermere. I am a sort of intermediary on behalf of Reeves-Smith, the managing director of the Savoy Company, and Alfred Scott and his wife. If I can persuade the Mirror (through Rothermere) to get involved then the prospects are good. Since the war ended I have been trying off and on to raise the public's awareness of the difficulties faced by disabled ex-soldiers. They are thrown on the world not because the state has done all it can or ought to do for them, but because the army has no further use for them. After being called heroes in the newspapers they are dismissed from the service of the state while the nation is still in their debt.
Sunday, 10 December 2017
I like it here. I have been sleeping better than I have for ages. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Dorothy. She claims that vibrations from the underground (we are above Baker Street station) are disturbing her at night. She told Frank Swinnerton that the vibrations "go right up my rectum". Interesting turn of phrase. I regret to say that, in my opinion, she is oversensitive; highly strung. To be honest it is getting on my nerves. She was the one who spotted this flat in the first place, and now she wants to move. Something is being done here every day to make the place more to our liking, but things always remain to be done. I hesitate to estimate the cost. I've only had one or two bills yet. The affair is like a diarrhoea of money.
I have been thinking about mortality and Prospero's words in Act 5 of "The Tempest" came to mind:
Last week I was at Ethel Sands' and had a great pow-wow with Virginia Woolf. Other guests held their breath to listen to us. Virginia is alright (as high-brows go!). She taunted me with believing her to be 'refined'. Well, if she isn't refined then I don't know who is.
Saturday, 9 December 2017
Yesterday I sat with Dawson and Cartledge on the magistrates bench. I made some notes. One hopeless case showing the criminality of the criminal system. A woman who had been in and out of prison since 1876 (when I was nine!), and she got another month. Probably she is inured to the system by now and really knows nothing else, but surely something could have been done all those years ago to divert her from this waste of a life. No doubt drink has become a factor and yet I feel confident that it is a consequence, not a cause. If someone took the trouble to really dig into her past, the circumstances of her birth and childhood, I would bet that the odds were stacked against her from the start.
I didn't really want to sit up on the bench. The body of the court would have been fine for me, if not better, but Dawson insisted and he is my primary source of information for "Clayhanger". He is a decent man, and so seems Cartledge, but how pompous and self-righteous they appear when hearing the cases and doling out punishments. It is not for me. Of course the Sentinel reported that I had been on the bench. They would.
I was at the dentist on Tuesday and now have a gold filling. The gold shines in my mouth. I suppose I will get used to it. I am picking up a lot of useful material and getting ideas. I went to the Grand after dinner yesterday and was profoundly struck by all sorts of things but especially the clog dancing. Its significance had never occurred to me before. I thionk I could do something on it for the Nation. And maybe I could work somthing into "Clayhanger". Towards the end I came across Warwick Savage and walked home with him. This was a pity because I had got into an extraordinary vein of 'second sight'. I perceived whole chapters. Of all the stuff I made sufficient notes.
Enthusiastic letter from Lee Matthews about the play. Let us hope that his enthusiasm is well founded.