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Bennett, Arnold
1867-1931

Novelist and journalist, born in Burslem on 27 May 1867. He was brought up in a staunchly Wesleyan family but, like Edwin, the young hero of Clayhanger, reacted strongly against being sent throughout childhood to Sunday School, that powerful institution of Victorian religion.. He rejected its influence at the age of 21, but immortalised the ‘Five Towns’ of the Potteries, in his fiction. His wry, ironic attitude to Wesleyanism comes out clearly in some of his novels, , such as the ‘Clayhanger’ trilogy and is examined in the opening chapter of Margaret Drabble’s biography. Although he inherited many of the Methodist strengths of character, the religion was more than he could stomach, finding Wesleyanism in Burslem small-minded, bigoted and censorious. The pride of Wesleyan architecture in Burslem, Swan Bank chapel, is demoted in the novels to ‘Duck Bank’.

Nevertheless, though he spent much of his later years in London and Paris, he was shaped by the Potteries and by its Methodism in ways that were decisive for his whole life. He imbibed the spirit of Wesley’s injunction, ‘Never be unemployed; never be triflingly employed’, was disciplined in his use of time and a great self-improver , a prolific author throughout his adult years and generous to others in need. He died in London on 26 March 1931.

Sources

  • Oxford DNB
  • Margaret Drabble, Arnold Bennett: a biography (1974)

Entry written by: JAN
Category: Person

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