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. Bennett was not impressed, it would seem, by the town of Windsor (‘ a tourist resort with unfortunate yet curious souvenirs’). He commented:
There are persons who ask why, after all, the King should change his name just now. Was it, they demand, really advisable for him to imitate the horde of City Teutons who have sought to prove by deed poll that things are not what they obviously are?
Good point, well made.
Occasionally his column raises the possibility of republicanism, but notes that the republican movement of the 1870s has long died out. He notes this with regret, I think.
I read a book a while back that claimed Bennett was given the top job at the Ministry of Information as a reward for wartime journalism in support of the government. I don’t think the author had read these columns. Or Bennett’s Daily Mail articles, either.