Monday, August 04, 2014

Fading Resolutions And An Unfinished Sentence

I spent some time in the local archives last week looking through the papers of the author Phyllis Bentley who will be the subject of my next "People of Halifax" article (I will put up a link to it once it is finished). There is something rather disconcerting about poring over the private diaries and letters of someone else, something slightly voyeuristic, something you feel you have to apologise for after the event. Nevertheless, it gives you an amazing feeling of closeness to the person concerned, and as I read her letters to her mother from 1934 when she was on a lecture tour of America, or her private diaries from 1919 when she was just embarking on her literary career, I felt I knew her just a little. One of the papers in the archive was a couple of pages torn from a notebook, undated, and headed "Resolutions". As I attempted to interpret the fading pencil script, I nodded my head, united with her in that universal brotherhood and sisterhood of people who make resolutions. Here are resolutions 1 to 6 : after that they fade into a faint glow of leaded good-intentions.

1  To get up early and work for an hour (or more) before breakfast.
2. To write something original (i.e. not a review) every day.
3. To finish D as soon as possible in spite of all feelings of discouragement unless some definite idea for altering her comes to mind.
4. To take warning by examples around me as regards speech and to speak in a clear, firm, though quiet tone. To speak good English, not using Yorkshire inflections and shunning slang. To speak with precision, to think before I begin a sentence, and never to leave a sentence unfinished. To speak with moderation and never sharply.
5. To be cheerful but dignified in manner, not constantly making jokes and trying to be amusing at the expense of my real self. To think and speak of less trivial things and let my serious interests appear.
6. To go more into society.

I am not entirely sure what "D" was - perhaps the working title if one of her novels. I have now been up for a couple of hours and haven't had breakfast yet. The majority if what is written above (other than the resolutions) is original. I am not sure I can get rid of my Yorkshire inflections. I rather like speaking of trivial things, and as far as leaving sentences unfinished is concerned ....


  1. I know what you mean about reading other people's correspondence, in collecting photos, I do occasionally end up with letters, usually from 80 to 100 years ago or so, and it feels a bit intrusive or invasive to be reading them. Reading an old letter is a totally different experience from reading the back of a postcard which has been open to all and sundry forever.
    I made a salad before breakfast today, but it probably didn't take me an hour.

  2. It is an interesting look into people's lives but you gain some very useful ideas from the success or failure of the author.

  3. Those specs do nothing for her.

  4. So that’s how Phyllis looked. I read her Inheritance trilogy in 1968, following the TV dramatisation with John Thaw and James Bolam. I was reading it in the school library when my English Master passed through and asked what the novel was. He looked at the cover and said, “Is that the poor man’s Sons and Lovers?” Remember, I come from Nottingham.

    1. "The poor man's Sons and Lovers" - love it. Wish I had that quote before I finished the piece. It is not up yet, I'll put a link on the blog when it is up.

  5. Interesting photo--do you know where or by whom it was taken? She also looks young, despite the specs.


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