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Pages from a scrapbook kept by Bennett’s niece Ruth including [i] family portraits and [ii] newspaper reports on Marguerite’s visit to Stoke (September 23, 1954); [iii] an original letter from Marguerite to Ruth, following her visit (3/10/54)

Pages from a scrapbook kept by Bennett’s niece Ruth including [i] family portraits and [ii] newspaper reports on Marguerite’s visit to Stoke (September 23, 1954); [iii] an original letter from Marguerite to Ruth, following her visit (3/10/54)

Pages from a scrapbook kept by Bennett’s niece Ruth including:
[i] family portraits;
[ii] newspaper reports on Marguerite’s visit to Stoke (September 23, 1954);
[iii] an original letter from Marguerite to Ruth, following her visit (3/10/54)
 

Click on the image to view the digitised PDF

Pages from a scrapbook kept by Bennetts niece Ruth

Pages from a scrapbook kept by Bennett’s niece Ruth including:
[i] family portraits;
[ii] newspaper reports on Marguerite’s visit to Stoke (September 23, 1954);
​[iii] an original letter from Marguerite to Ruth, following her visit (3/10/54)

Although Ruth (daughter of brother Septimus) by her own account met Bennett only a few times, she took a keen interest in his legacy and was one of the family members (along with George Beardmore, sister Sissie’s son) involved in the newly formed Arnold Bennett Society.  The family portrait [i] is undated but apparently taken before Bennett left the Potteries for London in 1879 and showing him without the trademark moustache.  Bennett was fond of his mother, the redoubtable-looking ‘Grannie Bennett’, but Bennett père was reputedly a strict and oppressive patriarch as dramatized in Anna of the Five Towns and Clayhanger.  Portraits from this era rarely show their subjects smiling but Bennett’s pose here is particularly awkward and his expression defiant. 

According to the newspaper clipping [ii] (assumed to be from the Sentinel), ‘One of the reasons for Mrs. Bennett’s visit is to encourage and foster the work of the Arnold Bennett Society.’  The Society had held its inaugural meeting in June 1954, chaired by Alderman Horace Barks.   Marguerite is reported as saying, in characteristically melodramatic fashion: “I am so overcome with emotion that I feel like crying.  I have wanted to return here for many years and now at last the time has arrived.”  She also apparently still wished to claim ownership of Bennett and has let it be known that her preferred appellation is ‘Mrs. Arnold Bennett rather than Madame Marguerite Bennett’.  The letter to Ruth emphasizes this as Tante Marguerite moves from the topic of a sketch of her by Barks to her reception [sic passim]: ‘What counts is the wonderfull welcome which has be giving to me by the Lord Mayor and those round her, so eager to do their best as to perpetue the memorie of your oncle, my husband; memorie which is dear to me.’  She signs herself ‘Marguerite Arnold Bennett’, as if to settle the matter. 

Over sixty years later the Arnold Bennett Society continues to thrive under its current President Denis Eldin, Virginia Bennett’s son.  Records held in the Archive reveal a list of distinguished associates, including Vera Brittain, J.B. Priestley, John Wain, Shirley Williams, Roy Hattersley and Margaret Drabble, as well as detailed accounts of the 1967 Centenary.  This digitisation project forms part of an equally extensive programme organised by the Society in 2017 to celebrate Bennett’s sesquicentenary. 

Items from the collection selected by Catherine Burgass (Honorary Research Fellow) and Leslie Powner (Chair, Arnold Bennett Society).  Text by Catherine Burgass.  Digitisation by Jeff Henson.  Thanks to Alison Pope, Helen Miller (Thompson Library), Martin Brown (History) and Romy Cheeseman (Victoria Theatre Archive).