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UnenviableHappiness

Margaret Drabble describes British writer Arnold Bennett on vacation in 1927, almost 60 years old and delighted (in a semi-Stoic fashion) with his life — his belatedly-found true love, the infant daughter that they now have together, and the simple thrill of the road:

On 5 April he set off from Victoria Station to Rome, having arranged to meet Otto Kahn and his party some days later in Sicily. He travelled alone, by train, noting the Fascist Englishwoman (a card-carrying one) who unsuccessfully tried to engage him in conversation at lunch on the train, the alcoholic waiter, the beautiful sunset and other such things, and reading The Brothers Karamazov for the fourth time. In Rome he slept well, did some churches, took some notes, wrote some letters, had lunch in a trattoria, and caught the six o'clock train to Naples. As ever, when reading his travel notes, travel journals, or memoirs (this trip was to reappear later as Mediterranean Scenes) one cannot help but comment on his happiness. It is a happiness that rouses no envy, for it is solid, unecstatic, almost attainable: the fine balance of interests, internal, external, sensual, intellectual, the self-reliant, self-contained, yet in no way introverted good faith of the hopeful voyager, represent at least a possible image of unselfish yet independent well-being. It is a kind of ideal, and rarely achieved, I suppose, but it looks democratic rather than exclusive. Though what could be more exclusive than the Duke of Westminster's yacht? Perhaps one finds Bennett so cheering and reassuring simply because he existed, because he got there, because he enjoyed it. Out of all those millions in the Potteries, one of them managed to take a train to Taormina, sail the Aegean, and enjoy every minute of it. What would he had said of the package tour, the £25 weekend in Sicily from Gatwick, the coach trips? He would surely have approved. One cannot imagine his deploring the quality of tourist one meets abroad these days. He liked his luxury, but he didn't mind sharing it.

(from Arnold Bennett: A Biography, Chapter 14, "In the Thick of Things"; cf. HisOwnLight (20 Oct 2005), PaulineSmith (14 Dec 2005), VastInjustice (13 Jan 2006), ...)


TopicBennett - TopicLiterature - TopicProfiles - TopicLife - Datetag20060227



(correlates: ArnoldBennettRequiem, VastInjustice, PaulineSmith, ...)