To-day a business crisis which has been active for a fortnight ended with a definite arrangement that I should accept the editorship of Woman. A fortnight of secret conclaves suddenly hushed at the sound of a door opening; of poring over figures and lists of names and correspondence; of devising schemes, each one superseded by a better, a more perfect one; of planning and counter-planning; of saying the same thing over and over again to a colleague merely because it was impossible to leave the subject and impossible to say anything fresh; of publicly expressed hopes and private pessimism; of forced jocularities; of feverish, incessant thinking by day and night, awake and asleep, walking or sitting, silent or speaking. Almost my first taste of a strictly business, personal anxiety! A few years of such anxiety (the lot of many men), even a year of it, even a month, would drive me, I fancy, to clerkhood again, just for the sake of being free from responsibility and worry.
Edith Evors, my new secretary, is the first genuine middle-class bachelor woman, living alone in London lodgings, that I have been intimately familiar with. A tall woman, slightly under thirty, with big limbs and a large, honest, red-cheeked face, and a quiet, intense voice. Transparently conscientious; with little self-reliance, but a capacity for admiring self-reliance in others. She lives in Bloomsbury, and at night goes to socialist and anarchist lectures. "It is dreadful", she said to me today, "to think how little one can do!" She cannot make her own clothes, though her earnings are only 30 shillings a week, and she grudges "every moment spent in their repair". But personally she is neat enough in an unadorned, aggressively simple way. She is serious, earnest, practical in small affairs, and visionary in great ones. Full of easily aroused pity and indignation. Physically strong and healthy.
Last night, Young, who is an amateur palmist, examined my hand. He diagnosed my character with considerable accuracy; and, prying into the future, found there wealth, but not a long existence. The "life-line", indeed, puzzled him.
Yesterday I finished reading Somerset Maughan's "Of Human Bondage". I consider it to be a masterpiece. If it is largely autobiographical, as is widely believed, then Maughan deserves great credit for his bravery in thus displaying his innermost feelings. Philip Carey is a completely authentic character, and his journey of self-discovery must touch a chord in many men of a certain age; most definitely it did in me! For me, the only slightly false note was Philip's persistence in his relationship to the awful Mildred; surely no-one would submit to such repeated personal abasement? I have seen it suggested that Mildred is depicted as female only for the sake of convention, to escape the wrath of the censor, and that the relationship portrayed was actually a homosexual one: perhaps that would make Philip's obsession, self-disgust, and chronic ambivalence more credible?