Reconsiderations September 2022
Arise, Sir Arnold?
On the faceoff between Virginia Woolf and Arnold Bennett.
Virginia Woolf was a snob. Her attacks on the English novelist, playwright, editor, and critic Arnold Bennett were rooted not in literary merit, but in social class. This becomes especially clear when we discover—for the first time—the truth behind Bennett, King George V, wartime propaganda, and the mystery of the knighthood that never was.
The Woolf–Bennett imbroglio was one-sided but bitter, and Bennett is widely held to have been the loser. It is Virginia Woolf whose reputation is today by far the greater as both the doyenne of the Bloomsbury Group and the high priestess of modernist literature. At the time of the dustup, however, it was Bennett who was the more famous and successful of the two. Their situations were then very publicly reversed: Woolf damaged his reputation and emerged—seemingly—the victor....
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