Arnold Bennett on Novelists and Reporters

On Sep 1st 1914, Arnold Bennett wrote to the New Statesman to defend novelists against the claim, made in the magazine, that “Almost without exception our leading novelists have rushed into print as experts of all matters of foregn policy and military strategy.” Bennett wrote:

As war is predominantly an affair of human nature, a triumph of instinct over reason, it seems to me not improper that serious novelists (who are supposed to know a little about human nature and to be able to observe accurately and to write) should be permitted to express themselves concerning the phenomenon of a nation at war without being insulted.

Bennett defended his own profession, but could be harder on journalists. He wrote to a serving soldier in 1917:

I do want you to realise that intelligent people here, though civilians, well understand that most of the stuff printed in the dailies about the army is largely tosh.

He reserved his praise for the (fictionalised) writings of Patrick MacGill:

I think MacGill has written one or two excellent things on the Push.

Whereas of Philip Gibbs he wrote:

P. Gibbs is a very conscientious man; I know him and I like him but… I think he is incurably sentimental, and therefore false.

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