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Arnold Bennett Letter

Identifier: MSS 0159

Scope and Contents

This undated, unsigned autograph draft of a letter is written to Mr. Lewell Collins discussing money matters related to the writing of one of Bennett's plays. "I wrote the book -- 50%. You do the play -- 50%. If you cannot do the play, why should I lower my percentage? Still, I quite recognize that in interesting Mr. Knoblauch (Knoblock) in the play you have interested a man of exceptional skill in such matters." Bennett collaborated with Edward Knoblock on a number of plays, among them Milestones (1912), London Life (1924), and Mr. Prohack (1927, based on his novel). Bennett may very well be referring to the latter play in this letter.


  • undated


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Biographical or Historical Information

Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) was an English novelist, playwright and critic. He was born in the town of Hanley, Staffordshire, the eldest of six children of a solicitor. Strict Wesleyan Methodists, his parents were also musical, artistic and well-read. Bennett acquired a knowledge of French as well as a sound education, including art instruction, and continued to paint throughout his life.

In 1885, Bennett joined his father's office with the idea of going to London University for a law degree; instead, he joined another solicitor's firm as a clerk at the age of twenty-one, and set out to become a writer. In 1893 he took a job with a weekly magazine, Woman, where he provided beauty hints and advice to the lovelorn as "Gwendolyn." By 1896 he had become editor of the magazine, but resigned in 1900 to devote himself to more serious work. Bennett's first major novel, Anna of the Five Towns, was published in 1902, and he moved to Paris, where he remained for ten years.

Bennett collaborated on plays with Eden Phillpotts and published a succession of novels and plays during his stay in Paris. His The Old Wives' Tale, published in 1908, is widely considered a masterpiece. By the time he returned to England in 1912, Bennett had established himself as a man of influence in English letters.

During World War I, Bennett achieved a different kind of notoriety as a propagandist for the Allied cause in England. He was sent to France to report discreetly on conditions at the front, and published Over There in 1915.

Although Bennett was criticized for writing too many popular novels, some of his works are still deemed to have great artistic merit. He went to France at the end of 1930, but became ill and returned to London where he died in 1931, after a struggle with typhoid fever. He had become such a famous figure that straw was laid in the streets to deaden the noise during his illness.


0.01 Linear Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) was an English novelist, playwright and critic. This undated, unsigned autograph draft of a letter is written to Mr. Lewell Collins and discusses fiscal matters related to the writing of one of Bennett's plays.

Method of Acquisition

Purchased November 2000.

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Repository Details

Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

P.O. Box 26170
320 College Ave.
Greensboro NC 27402-6170 US