1 July 2020 Susannah

Arnold Bennett

Arnold Bennett statue

When novelist Arnold Bennett died, aged only 63, in 1931, his memorial service was attended by all the leading politicians, men of literature, journalists and actors of the day. He was an outstandingly successful writer in his day, and yet it is now hard to find his works in a library or bookshop.

Literature has its fashions, as well as other things, but I find it sad that his books have faded from view. Most of his books are set in the Potteries, a region of small towns where ceramics and china were made – today the city of Stoke-on-Trent. I recently re-read his 1908 novel The Old Wives’ Tale, usually considered his greatest book. I also read for the first time Anna of the Five Towns and loved that. His depiction of a miser in that novel is masterly. As a teenager, I watched the 26-part TV serial Clayhanger which covered his novels Clayhanger, Hilda Lessways and These Twain, and also read the books, but it might be a time for a re-read, and a re-watch if I can find the series anywhere.

Once when he was in a bookshop Arnold Bennett bought a book about misers for sixpence. The book and the shop inspired his fabulous novel Riceyman Steps about the miserly owner of a bookshop. I think this had better be my next audio book purchase – it’s time for a re-read.

He wrote over 30 novels, plus plays and short stories. He was so famous that an omelette was named in his honour, and he really deserves to be more prominent today than he is. So why not take an Arnold Bennett journey and discover an atmospheric, perceptive and entertaining writer? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Header image credit- Arnold Bennett statue at Hanley in the Potteries district of Staffordshire, by Brian Deegan, https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/6264139
Featured image credit- Arnold Bennett c.1920, By Pirie MacDonald, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61978286
Featured image credit- Susannah Fullerton

Comments (5)

  1. roger Hall

    It is so good to see Arnold Bennett get recognition in this newsletter. I love his work and the fact that he worked himself up from nothing to become hugely admired. The Bloomsbury set were very snobbish about him because he depended entirely on his writing to make a living. He didn’t have a private income. Margaret Drabble has written a fine biograhy of him

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks for reminding me what a good author he is, Roger. I hadn’t read his books for years until you suggested a piece on him in my newsletter. Now I must get the Drabble biography. The Bloomsbury set were such snobs – they never really accepted Katherine Mansfield because she was a Colonial!

  2. Carol Noble

    I loved Anna of the Five Towns as it described so well life in those times. It certainly made me appreciate my life today.
    Love your emails. Hope you are well.


    • Susannah Fullerton

      It is a book that makes you feel grateful to be alive in our modern world. The descriptions are so realistic and you can see the streets and homes so clearly as you read.
      So glad you enjoy my newsletters.

  3. Judy Nicol

    I remember reading Old Wives Tale and loving it, and then read The Cad (I think it was) and thought it was one of the most amusing books I had read . I will love to try the audio versions of both of them again.

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