Category Archives: Quotations

Something in the general feel of everything

piccadilly-circus

Celebrating the Relief of Mafeking in Piccadilly, 1900

‘Out in the crowd against the railings, with his arm hooked in Annette’s, Soames waited. Yes! the Age was passing! What with this Trade Unionism, and Labour fellows in the House of Commons, with continental fiction, and something in the general feel of everything, not to be expressed in words, things were very different; he recalled the crowd on Mafeking night, and George Forsyte saying: “They’re all socialists, they want our goods.” Like James, Soames didn’t know, he couldn’t tell – with Edward on the throne! Things would never be as safe again as under good old Viccy!’ (John Galsworthy, In Chancery, 1920)

Happy New Year! Welcome to the Age of 2016….

The Lloyd-Georgian period?

David Lloyd-George

David Lloyd-George

‘Today essentially belongs to the Minister who once presided at the Board of Trade. Several attempts indeed have been made to describe the literature, art and drama of the present as “Edwardian,” from a very proper and loyal spirit, to which I should be the last to object […] But somehow the whole thing has fallen through; in this dramatic aeon the adjective “Edwardian” trips on the tongue; our real dramatists are all Socialists or Radicals; our poets and writers Anarchists (Mr. Arthur Machen being an honourable exception); and our artists are the only conservatives of intellect. Our foreign policy alone can be called “Edwardian,” so personal is it to the King. Everything else is a compromise; so our time must therefore be known – at least ten years of it – as the Lloyd-Georgian period.’ (Robert Ross, Masques and Phases, London 1909)

On Arnold Bennett (6): Jolly Gargoyles

the-grand-babylon-hotel

‘Now the danger that dogs Mr. Bennett’s more sober achievements, built up with such Euclidean logic, tracing causes with such exquisite clarity, is that they may fail to convey the sense of the fantastic element in life, the untamed force that pounds through the fabric so incalculably, dishevelling and exalting the neat systems. Two and two make five in real life; in Clayhanger perhaps they too often add neatly up to four. It is this Gothic element in things that makes such a jolly gargoyle as The Grand Babylon Hotel a more faithful symbol of reality than some such sterner stuff; and it is this heightened irrational strain that one wants to see swaggering through the cool symmetry of Clayhanger like 0rgan-music throbbing through a church’ (Dixon Scott, review of The Card in The Manchester Guardian, 23rd February 23rd, 1911)

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).

On Arnold Bennett (5): Greatness beyond Glamour

'Man Reading' by Barnett Freedman (c.1925)

‘Man Reading’ by Barnett Freedman (c.1925)

‘The hero, Clayhanger, is merely a nice young fellow who likes to read and yearns for a more elegance and refinement than his home can offer him. Without great force or energy, he is industrious and honest; without overwhelming abilities, he has a taste for literature and art; without deep tenderness, he has kindly emotions and a fund of fairness and good-will […] There is no glamour of romance thrown about the situation; there are no adventures. No attempt at all is made to rectify reality. But it is a very great novel, none the less; so great that it throws into the shadow all the novels of the last decade. Even [H.G. Well’s] Tono-Bungay, full of meat and life as it was, seems slim and unpleasant in comparison.’ (Unsigned review of Clayhanger, North American Review, December 191o)

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)

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

wellsben

‘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).

On Arnold Bennett (3): The Most Modern Writer I Know

Electric Tram in Stoke-on-Trent

Electric Tram in Stoke-on-Trent

‘All Mr. Bennett’s stories have the one striking attribute – a lavish vitality expended, not on sentiment or on philosophy, but on sheer joy in contemporary life as a spectacle. His novels and what he calls his fantasias are equally modern in spirit. He is the most modern writer I know; for modernity with him is not not so much a matter of reflection or argument, but the air in which his temperament naturally exists. I do not deny him reflections or arguments; on the contrary, he reflects and argues, as a critic, exceedingly well. But primarily he is a poet, and I know no other absolutely modern English novelist of whom this can be said. Such things as the Bursley electric trams and Bursley corporation, London law courts, and plutocratic excesses in the Riveria, are integral and fully dissolved elements of his imaginative experience. He feels their poetic content quite spontaneously. If his medium were verse instead of prose, his work would utterly confute the Stevensonian dogma that the word “hatter” is impossible for emotional verse’ (J. E. Barton, ‘Fiction and Mr. Arnold Bennett’, New Age, 3rd December 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).

On Arnold Bennett (2): Realism and Reality

conbenn

‘My dear Sir,
The reading of the Man from the North has inspired me with the greatest respect for your artistic conscience. I am profoundly impressed with the achievement of style. The root of the matter – which is expression – is there, and the sacred fire too […] Generally, however, I may say that the die has not been struck hard enough. Here’s a piece of pure metal scrupulously shaped, with a true – and more – a beautiful ring: but the die has not been struck hard enough. I admit that the outlines of the design are sharp enough. What it wants is a more emphatic modelling; more relief […] Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to have it out with you, the book there on the table, to be thumped and caressed. I would quarrel not with the truth of your conception but with the realism thereof. You stop just short of absolutely real because you are faithful to your dogmas of realism. Now realism in art will never approach reality. And your art, your gift, should be put to the service of a larger and freer faith’ (Joseph Conrad to Arnold Bennett, 10th March 1902)

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).

On Arnold Bennett (1): Sincerity, Truthfulness, and Insight

johnsquare

St. John’s Square, Burslem

Following our series of quotations from books by Arnold Bennett, we have decided to compile some choice comments on Arnold Bennett and his fiction, by a range of well-known and unknown writers. First up, an unsigned review from the US:

‘Unhappily named and ungainly in appearance, filling nearly six hundred pages of close typography, opening in a way that promises to tax the reader’s endurance, and concerned from beginning to end with mean or commonplace characters, not one of whom is tricked out with the attributes that are commonly thought necessary to arouse sympathy and retain interest, The Old Wives Tale, by Mr. Arnold Bennett, is nevertheless a remarkable work of fiction, a book of such sincerity, truthfulness, and insight as to make the ordinary novel seem hopelessly shallow and artificial by comparison.’ (Unsigned Review, Dial, Chicago, 1st October 1909)

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).

In the Words of Arnold Bennett (9): On Belief

Hornsey High Street, 1873

Hornsey High Street, 1873

‘She could never say, with joyous fervour: “I believe!” At best she could only assert that she did not disbelieve – and was she so sure even of that? No! Belief had been denied to her; and to dream of consolation from religion was sentimentally womanish; even in her indifference she preferred straightforward, honest damnation to the soft self-deceptions of feminine religiosity. Ah! If she could have been a Roman Catholic, genuine and convinced […] But she was not a Roman Catholic. She could no more become a Roman Catholic than she could become the queen of some romantic Latin country of palaces and cathedrals. She was a young provincial girl staying in a boarding-house at Hornsey, on the Great Northern line out of London, and she was suffering from a nervous breakdown. Such was the exterior common sense of the situation.’ (Hilda Lessways, 1911)

This quotation is the ninth part of a series dedicated to the work of the great Edwardian writer Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), on whom we will be co-hosting a symposium (‘Arnold Bennett and His Circle’) at Keele University on 17th-18th October. More details here.

In the Words of Arnold Bennett (8): London and Paris

Niels Moeller Lund 'The Heart of the Empire', 1904

Niels Moeller Lund ‘The Heart of the Empire’, 1904

‘Annunciata was very English. It had been vouchsafed to her that the English race was the master-stroke of the eternal powers. The very defects of the English were good qualities. All other races were inferior; the thing was obvious. And if there was one other race that Annunciata in especial contemned, that race was the French. The French were not serious; they were not moral; they were frivolous. You could not rely on them. Their women were dolls; their men were wicked, besides being paltry and grotesque to the eye. Germany had humiliated them – catch Germany trying to humiliate England! – and there they were enjoying themselves and “going on” as though nothing had happened. She had read that Parisian theatres were often crowded during the siege of Paris. That settled the French, so far as Annunciata was concerned.’

‘Lawrence did not greatly love London. It appealed to his imagination, but in a sinister way. To him it was the city of vast and restless melancholy. And though there was nothing of the sentimental in his composition, and he despised the facile trick of fancy which attributes to cities, heroically, the joys and griefs of the unheroic individuals composing them, London did nevertheless impress him painfully as an environment peculiarly favourable to the intensification of sorrow. Whenever he went to London it seemed to him to be the home of a race sad, hurried, and preoccupied; the streets were filled with people who had not a moment to spare, and whose thoughts were turned inwards upon their own anxious solicitudes, people who inevitably die before they begun to live, and to whom the possession of their souls in contemplation would always be an impossibility. The unique and poetic grandeur of the theatre which the character of this race had created for the scene of woes, only added to the situation the poignancy of visual beauty. Instead of lightening it increased the burden.’
(Whom God Hath Joined, 1906)

This quotation is the eighth part of a series dedicated to the work of the great Edwardian writer Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), on whom we will be co-hosting a symposium (‘Arnold Bennett and His Circle’) at Keele University on 17th-18th October. More details here.