A decade of blogging

I woke this morning to an email congratulating me to the fact that this blog is ten years old today. I really hadn’t realised.

Occasionally I get fed up with commemorations and anniversaries, but here is one that I suppose I ought to mark.

Ten Years. Quite a while. Read More »

Arnold Bennett on the House of Windsor

I spent yesterday at the Manchester Central Reference Library (where I enjoyed many hours when I was a student in Manchester during the 1960s). I was looking at wartime copies of the New Statesman, and especially at Arnold Bennett’s column ‘Observations’, which he wrote over the pen-name ‘Sardonyx’.

The columns are gossipy and lively, and often include items designed to needle the great and powerful. For example, he often ended the column with quotations from  speeches made by Lloyd George when he was a rabble-rouser in opposition, which carried a hefty bit of irony now that he was Prime Minister.

I enjoyed his comments in July 1917, when the Royal family changed its name to Windsor. Read More »

Lake Rudyard – the Geneva of the Potteries

The two writers I’ve been thinking about this year are Rudyard Kipling and Arnold Bennett.

So I was delighted to come across a BBC web feature that links the two. It’s about Lake Rudyard, a popular beauty spot in the Potteries, and if you like Bennett’s novels you’ll enjoy the photos of pleasure seekers who came sightseeing, boating, and even skating on the lake.

lake rudyard

Read More »

Soldiers singing, at the end of the war

Last year I was working on a chapter about soldiers songs for the forthcoming Edinburgh Companion on the First World War and the Arts. Yesterday I came across a paragraph that I wish I’d seen before  finishing the chapter.

It’s from the New Statesman, October 19, 1918: Read More »

The Oxford Vigilance Committee

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about Arnold Bennett’s novel about wartime prostitution, The Pretty Lady, so was delighted to come across a webpage referencing the November 1916 Oxford Vigilance Committee, and its report on the immorality of wartime Oxford.

The committee sees prostitution as a ‘permanent social disease’, but the war is creating conditions in which more young women are tempted into immorality; ‘It is feared that a large number of soldiers’ wives encourage soldiers to visit them in their homes for immoral purposes.’

War has encouraged:

…a state of mind of which everyone is more or less conscious, half-excitement and half melancholy, in which the ordinary interests and standards of life are obscured, and a kind of recklessness drives one to extremes of vice, almost as easily as extremes of virtue. Among girls there exists a widespread extravagance of dress and manners, and a desire for excitement and ‘experiences’ which is at the bottom of much that is going on now in Oxford.

Read More »

English Words in Wartime

Readers of this blog may also be interested in ‘English Words in Wartime’, a blog that looks at ways in which the Great War changed the language.

It looks especially at the words noted by that splendid diarist the Rev Andrew Clark, who set himself to describing the effects of war on everyday life, and collecting the war’s language and folklore.

Others, of course, were also interested in what was happening to the language. Here’s a snippet from the Sunday Times of 1915, noting what Kipling, that inveterate student of slang, had included in his reports from the navy: Read More »

Ivor Gurney

This is just a note to say that Tim Kendall’s excellent documentary, ‘Ivor Gurney: The Poet who loved the War’, is now available to watch in full on Vimeo:

What soldiers shouldn’t read

I’ve read some good articles over the years about the reading habits of soldiers in France, and the literature supplied to them.
What I hadn’t considered much before was what they were discouraged from reading. Here’s Arnold Bennett, writing in February 1919,  about the committee who ran the Camps Library, and made sure it did not contain material damaging to their own religious prejudices: Read More »

An Officer’s Grievance

An anecdote from Arnold Bennett (New Statesman, December, 1918)

The other day I met a British officer who had been wounded nine times, captured by the Germans while in a state of unconsciousness, and in England reported killed. He seemed to be perfectly well and perfectly cheerful. But one matter had aroused his resentment. It was not that as a prisoner he had received only six parcels out of thirty-nine dispatched by his friends. It was not that on returning to life and England he had had to pay for the advertisements of his own decease in the Times and the later advertisements contradicting the same. It was that his solicitor had forwarded to him, among other bills, a bill thus conceived: “To Memorial Service (fully choral), three guineas.” Somehow the words “fully choral” rankled in his mind.

I like this Bennett anecdote from February 1919, too: Read More »

Edgar Wallace as War Poet

Edgar Wallace was once the best-known and best-selling author in Britain. His thrillers caused sensations and were read by just about everyone. His plays packed theatres.  His sales in Germany and elsewhere were immense, too. Is he still read, except as a curiosity? I don’t think his thrillers have worn as well as Sapper’s.
He started as a journalist, and reported the Boer War. Sometimes in South Africa he tried his hand at verse, and produced pieces that were tough and realistic. here’s one I didn’t know until today. It was printed in the Spectator in 1902: Read More »


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