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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Back to Burslem

Friday, December 30th., Burslem.

I left Paris last Wednesday week, and stayed two nights with Wells. I read the typescript of the first part of his new novel "The Comet". He said that his financial position was becoming more and more secure.

In the Days of the Comet "William “Willie” Leadford is a brash and rebellious young socialist smitten with a young woman named Nettie, whom he has grown up knowing since childhood. Both are a part of the English lower classes at the dawn of the 20th century at a time when England and Germany have gone to war. As the story unfolds a comet has been observed on a collision course with the Earth. More distressing to Willie, Nettie has run off with another man named Verrall. Willie, still living at home with his mother whom he treats poorly, is enraged and vows to take revenge on the runaway couple. After days of fruitless searching he comes upon the young couple and suddenly begins firing off shots and running after them as they flee. Just before catching up to the lovers, Willie trips and falls unconscious. The comet has smashed into the Earth and a green vapour is released putting everyone to sleep until three hours later when the change in the atmosphere has dissipated. The world awakens in an altered state. Humankind has a new socialist view on life and strives now to create a utopian order by righting the wrongs of the past. The war between Germany and Britain is immediately ceased. Soldiers can't even remember why they are lying on the ground with rifles next to them! Slums are being torn down to make way for safe and humane housing for the poor under-class. Several days later Willie comes upon Verrall and Nettie admitting his previous anger and rage. All is forgiven and Nettie even suggests she share the two men in her life rather than have to do without either one. Willie however, now feeling empathy and love for his mother, returns home to be with her. Life is now peaceful and everyone is equal to one another thanks to the effects of the comet's collision with the Earth."

I came to Burslem on Friday.
I ought to have gone to Philpotts's today but was stopped by a wire yesterday.
Walking through the town yesterday I saw two childs' funerals exactly of the same kind; a procession of five or six pairs of women in black with white trimmings; two pairs carried the small oak coffin which was covered with wreaths and which they held by white cords over their shoulders. Immediately behind the coffin, the chief mourners, in one case a man and a woman. The coffin occurred about the middle of the procession. These little forlorn, smug processions ambling towards the cemetery were very curious.

The use of toxics like lead and arsenic in glazes, smoke from the kilns, and the dust-filled air of Victorian “pot banks” resulted in an average life expectancy of 46 among pottery workers in 1900. Stoke-on-Trent also endured Britain’s highest infant mortality rate at that time. Health inspectors of the time noted a high rate of “lowered intelligence” among the population, the result of environmental conditions for a workforce that included 50 percent of the towns’ women, most of whom would have worked while pregnant.

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