On Arnold Bennett (4): Go On, Great Man!


‘My dear Bennett,

You know what life is. I have really wanted badly to write you at length about The Old Wives Tale and make you understand that it isn’t simply just genial mutual flattery and so forth that I want to send you this time […] I think the book a quite pre-eminent novel so that it at least doubles your size in my estimation. It is far too big, too fine and too restrained to get at first anything like the recognition it is bound in the long run to bring you. It is the best book I have seen this year – and there have been one or two very good books – and I am certain it will secure you the respect of all the distinguished critics who are now consuming gripe-water and suchlike, if you never never write another line. It is all at such a high level that one does not know where to begin commending, but I think the high light for me is the bakehouse glimpse of Sam Povey. But the knowledge, the details, the spirit! from first to last it never fails. I wish it could have gone into ‘The English Review’. Well, I go round telling everyone I meet about it – I wish Chapman & Hall would do the same. Go on great man!’

Yours ever. H. G. [Wells] (November 1908)

For more information on our upc0ming symposium (‘Arnold Bennett and His Circle’), see here (or e-mail us at edwardianculture@hotmail.co.uk for a draft programme of the day’s events).

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