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

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Sunday, 13 January 2013

Scrupulously clean

Sunday, January 13th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken

I outlined in the bath this morning an idea of a play about a man being offered a title and his wife insisting on his accepting it against his will. Spender told me that such a man had once asked him for advice in just such a problem, and he had advised the man to suppress his scruples and accept the title. Ross said that this would be a good idea for a play, and it is.

Arnold Bennett’s 1918 play The Title is very much a play of the War years, but is not a play about the War. Written at the time when Bennett had an important role at the Ministry of Information, as Director of Propaganda for France, I see the play as one of the ways in which Bennett asserted a measure of independence and distanced himself from his political masters, since it is about the abuse of the honours system. Lloyd George is never mentioned, but the finger is obviously pointing in his direction. Bennett was treading close to significant sensitivities when writing this play. The fact that it survived uncut shows, I think, that he had a very nicely tuned sense of how far it was possible to go without incurring official displeasure.It’s a good play, despite some wild but jolly improbabilities in the last act.

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