Margaret Drabble, in her enthusiastic 1974 biography Arnold Bennett, captures the essence of the British writer's optimism in a delightful, insightful passage:

... He managed, on the contrary, by what does seem to be a miraculous stroke of luck, to be a happy man. The pleasure he took in life was enormous, and the hard struggle to gain certain pleasures in no way prevented him from enjoying them. For a man with his background, and a man who remained a liberal, progressive socialist to the end of his life, his lack of guilt in enjoying what was available to him is astonishing. One thinks of Wells, who possibly gained more, at least in terms of sexual fulfilment, but who on balance maybe enjoyed life less. Well's gloom, particularly towards the end of his life, was indeed profound; he never really liked humanity at all. There was in him a misanthropy so deeply rooted that he could not enjoy life, except in spasms. Whereas Bennett achieved a level of solid, reasonable, generous, outgoing happiness, despite his very obvious handicaps — his speech problems, his appearance, his sexual difficulties. He liked people; he liked the world. As his father died, slowly, at Trinity Hall Farm, he must have thought about these things, and wondered what the final reckoning with his father, in terms of his own temperament, would be. It would have been so easy for him to have been different; to have had the ambition, the industry, the hard work, the accompanying handicaps of diffidence and a stammer, to have had, even, genius, a real talent as a writer, and yet to have lacked the one thing that would make these things of value: the talent to enjoy them, the gift of happiness. Luckily for him, he had it, in such abundance that it balanced the score, and enabled him to say, with sincerity, that he was glad his father had made him into a hard worker. His father's shadow was large. But he did not have to live in the darkness of it, as so many do. He had his own light. Where it came from is anybody's guess.

(from Chapter 5, "Country Life"; cf. OptimistCreed (16 Apr 1999), BennettOnStoicism (29 Apr 1999), BennettOnLife (19 Mar 2000), HowToWrite (28 Nov 2000), ChristmasFaith (23 Dec 2000), DearDiary (19 Mar 2001), ...)

TopicBennett - TopicLiterature - TopicProfiles - TopicLife - 2005-10-20

(correlates: SuspectTerrain, ClassicCorrigendum, JoyToStuffRatio, ...)