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MANUSCRIPT NOTES FOR LORD RAINGO By James G, Hepburn (Rhode Island State University) Very few of the preliminary notes for Arnold Bennett's novels have survived. Those that are available for LOkD RAiNGO--Bennett's most important novel of his later years—consist of three short items, relating only to Part Il of the novel: a synopsis of most of Part II, a medical account of the illness with which Part Il is concerned, and a revisad and elaborated medical account. The first and third items are in Bennett's hand; the second is a typescript2 initialed and presumably written by Bennett's physician, Dr. E. H. Griffen. These notes, along with some other information, offer good evidence against the common view that Bennett wrote his novels to please a public and to make money; they also suggest that Bennett did not consider LORD RA4NG0 to be the political roman à clef that most critics describe it as being. Part I of the novel, which covers the first two-thirds of the total wordage, has two main threads: the political triumphs of Lord Ralngo during the First World War, and his relationship with his mistress. In the closing lines of Part I, at the moment of his greatest triumph, Raingo feels unwell. He goes to his mistress for solace, but she is not at home. Part 11 is a protracted death-bed scene. Raingo has caught pneumonia, and he develops pleurisy. He is cut off from power and from love. He learns that his mistress has committed suicide. Such a plot and such a division of material automatically raise the question: granted that a novel in which Lloyd George and Winston Churchill appear may tickle the public fancy, why does Bennett abandon Part Il to an unpleasant and lengthy descript ion of a man's private physical and Spiritual distress? Nine days after he finished writing the manuscript he wrote to Frank Swinnerton: "THE SATURDAY EVENING POST willb^uy it if they like the last part; but I know they won't like the last part." The POST did not buy the novel. The partial synopsis of the novel helps to show how deliberately Bennett chose and adhered to his '¿»acceptable ending. It covers the last twenty chapters, 68 to 87, synopsizir.g only the first six of these chapters individually. Immediately preceding the rest of the synopsis is the note: "The story is fully and definitively written up to this point, but not yet corrected." Since the novel was completed on January 26, 1926, and since Part I (Chapters I-60) was completed on November 9¡> 1925, this point—in time—must be the end of 1925. The note suggests that Bennett wrote the synopsis for someone else rather than for himself: probably for the editors of the POST. (The note itself along with other evidence indicates that the partial synopsis is merely the final portion of a synopsis of the whole novel, ) Presumably on the basis of the synopsis, the editors of the POST indicated their unhappiness over the intended ending. And if he had wanted to. Bennett would have had time in the final month of writing the novel to satisfy them. Superficially, nothing could have been easier: for the point at which he wrote the synopsis is also the end of Chapter 73~the last chapter to be individually synopsized, the last chapter already written—when Raingo has just made a clear recovery from pneumonia and is expected to survive. The chapter is entitled "The Change." Why not let Raingo survive, give him one more triumph, please the SATURDAY EVENING POST, and gain the several thousand pounds that tha POST was willing to pay? Though the partial synopsis of the novel offers the neatest evidence of a situation that would have tempted a commercially minded writer, and that did not tempt Dennett, only the novel itself reveals how thorough was Bennett's artistic commitment to his ending. In the opening scene of the novel Raingo, who as a child had rheumatic fever, is warned by his doctor against overexercising his heart. He. goes, home to find a telegram from the prime minister inviting him to breakfast the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 1-5
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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