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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

A bad night

Sunday, November 14th., Villa des Nefliers.

I finished "The Honeymoon" at noon yesterday.
I read the last act after dinner. It was a considerable success with Pauline Smith, but not with Marguerite as she could not follow it. I met Pauline last year at Vevey and she came to stay here in October. She is a timid girl, socially self-conscious, not very strong, with aspirations, and indeed a real talent as a writer, but very little self-assertion or confidence. I suppose I am a sort of mentor to her and intend to compel her to write a novel, and to make conversation. I am widening her taste in literature, revealing the world of modern literature, in France and Russia as well as in England.

Pauline Janet Smith (1882 – 1959) is known as one of South Africa's greatest writers. Pauline Smith was born on 2 April 1882 in Oudtshoorn, South Africa, and grew up in the Little Karoo. At the age of thirteen she was sent to boarding school in England and never lived permanently in South Africa again, though throughout her life she made a number of extended visits to the country. Her extended visit of 1913-1914, and the journal that she kept, formed the basis of many stories of "the Little Karoo" and her novel "The Beadle." In 1908 she met the English novelist Arnold Bennett, who encouraged her to write fiction about South Africa. Eventually she published the two works for which she’s best known: the story collection The Little Karoo (1925), and the novel   The Beadle (1926). She died on 29 January 1959 in Dorset, England.

Mdme Steinheil acquitted last night . I have kept the newspapers giving a full account of the whole process, as I had a sort of idea I might do something with it sometime. I could certainly contrive something very striking out of the description in to-night's Temps of the scene outside the Palais de Justice while the verdict was being awaited.

On 31 May 1908, Marguerite Steinheil's stepmother and husband were found dead in their home. Both had died of suffocation, the latter by strangling and the former by choking on her false teeth. Marguerite was found gagged and bound to a bed. She initially said that she had been tied up by four black-robed strangers, three men and a woman. Some newspapers speculated that they had come to her house in search of certain secret documents which President Faure (she had been his mistress and was with him when he died in 'unusual' circumstances) had entrusted to her keeping, possibly relating to the Dreyfus affair. The police immediately regarded her as a suspect in the killings but had no hard evidence and made a pretence of abandoning the investigation. But Steinheil herself would not let the affair rest. She made an attempt to frame her manservant, and after that fabrication was discovered, she blamed Alexandre Wolff, the son of her old housekeeper, but he was able to establish an alibi. She was arrested in November 1908 and taken to St. Lazare prison. The crime created a sensation in Paris. It was revealed that she had had a great number of admirers, including even King Sisowath of Cambodia. Opponents of the government tried to make political capital of the affair, the anti-Semitic Libre Parole even charging her with having poisoned President Faure. A sensational trial finally ended in her acquittal on 14 November 1909, although the judge called her stories "tissues of lies".

The dog woke me up last night after I had had 3 hours sleep. After that my nerves were too tightened for me to try even to sleep (as I had just finished my play). I lay awake and listened, rather frightened, to the various noises, all very faint, that I could hear. (I had quietened the dog with a slipper.) Marguerite, the clocks, another noise, regular, that I couldn't and don't understand, and still others beneath these. About 5 I went on with Taine on Balzac, and came across some magnificent pages of generalisations about the art of observation.

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