Arnold Bennett: Lost Icon
During his 1920s heyday, Arnold Bennett was one of Britain’s most celebrated writers. As the author of The Old Wives’ Tale and Clayhanger he was household name, writing just as much for the common man as London’s literati. His face was plastered over theatre hoardings and the sides of West End omnibuses. His life represents the ultimate rags-to-riches story of a man who ‘banged on the door of Fortune like a weekly debt-collector’ as one of his obituaries so vividly put it. Yet for all his success, few were aware how cursed Bennett felt by his life-long stutter and other debilitating character traits. In the years running up to his death in 1931, his affairs were close to collapse as he fought a losing battle on three fronts: with his estranged wife; with his disenchanted mistress; and from a literary perspective with Virginia Woolf.
As the first full length biography of Bennett since 1974, Patrick Donovan’s work draws on a wealth of unpublished diaries and letters to shed new light on a personality who can be considered a ‘Lost Icon’ of early twentieth century Britain.