Five Fascinating Facts About … Arnold Bennett.

Compiled by Julie Barham

1. Bennett was an ardent Francophile, frequently looking to France as a source of literary inspiration. He would moor his yacht and paint views from peaceful French coastal beauty spots, and his 1918 bestseller The Pretty Lady portrays a French prostitute.

2. He wrote many stories about the idea of New Woman, and the debate about women’s role and strengths remained central to many of his novels right until his final novel in 1930.

3. He had a lot of ideas about the nature of writing. His view was that characters and their setting were central to writing fiction, a view savagely parodied in Virginia Woolf’s essay, Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown He also thought that fiction should be essentially autobiographical:

Good fiction is autobiography dressed in the colours of mankind.

4. Bennett carried a crumpled £5 note around for twenty years to give to the first person he saw reading one of his novels.

5. The Potteries Museum in Stoke on Trent holds Bennett’s Opera coat which he never got round to picking up from the cleaners.

Julie blogs at Northern Reader

Read Julie’s reprint reviews of Clayhanger and Anna of the Five Towns too.

P.S. You can see Delia’s version of Omelette Arnold Bennett here.

2 Comments

  1. I love the idea of his coat at the museum and that he never picked it up from the cleaners! I’m terrible about putting off errands like that. I do have a couple of Bennett books on the shelf that I do want to read, Hilda Lessways and The Grand Babylon Hotel. I loved The Old Wives’ Tale which hardly anyone reads anymore.

  2. It is a big coat as well! I managed to get a first edition of Hilda from an Oxfam bookshop,in “used” condition. I will read it carefully…

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