Enoch Arnold Bennett

Enoch Arnold Bennett

date of birth : 1867 | date of death : 1931
Born in 1867, Hanley, Staffordshire, England, novelist, playwright, critic, essayist, Bennett wrote 30 novels, and even many of the lesser ones display the essential Bennettian values, ironic yet kindly, critical yet with a large tolerance. His reputation declined in the 1920s and ’30s but soon rose, partly as the result of a reevaluation of his work by a group of young writers who felt themselves to be artistically in his debt.

Birth, Birthplace, Time of birth:

Arnold Bennett was born in 1867 in Hanley, Staffordshire, England.

Father's name: Enoch Bennett
Mother's name: -
Brother: -
Sister: -
Spouse: Marguerite Soulié
Children: Virginia (Mary)

Personal Information:

Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight

Life events:


The English novelist and dramatist Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) was the author of "The Old Wives' Tale", a masterpiece of realism.

Early Life

Arnold Bennett was born on May 27, 1867, in Hanley, one of the pottery-making "Six Towns" of central England. The youth, called Enoch, spoke with a stammer and was determined to make his living in literature. After attending local schools and working in his father's law office, he moved to London in 1888 to become a writer. In 1893 he was employed by the magazine Woman, and in 1898 he published his first novel, A Man from the North. During these years he began to call himself Arnold Bennett. In 1902 Bennett published two novel, Anna of the Five Towns and The Grand Babylon Hotel - the first realistic, the second sensational. They represent the pattern of his work: fiction of serious artistic purpose produced at the same time as material of no artistic value. Bennett lived in France from 1902 to 1913. Shortly after his fortieth birthday he married Marguerite Soulié. The couple seemed happy but within a few years proved incompatible. During these years Bennett wrote magazine articles, self-help books, plays, short stories, and novels - a tremendous output. Most of it, however, was written only to make money. But Tales of the Five Towns and the trilogy Anna of the Five Towns (1902), Leonora (1903), and Sacred and Profane Love (1904) are worth mention, for in them Bennett began his realistic studies of life in the industrial "Five Towns," changed from the actual "Six Towns" for reasons of euphony.

The Old Wives' Tale

The sight of an old woman in a restaurant in Paris in 1903 gave Bennett the idea for a novel that would, as he wrote, "go one better" than Guy de Maupassant's realistic novel Une Vie. While writing other books he nourished the idea, and in 1907 he began to write it. The novel came quickly, a thousand words or more each day. After various interruptions, including the writing of Buried Alive (1908) and the production of his play Cupid and Commonsense (1908), The Old Wives' Tale was completed and published in 1908. It is the story of the sisters Constance and Sophia Baines from their girlhood in Bursley, one of the "Five Towns," to their deaths 50 years later. Constance stayed at home; Sophia, like Bennett, escaped to Paris. The story realistically depicts the minute changes by which the girls become old women. The Old Wives' Tale brought Bennett fame and money. He secured his position as an eminent author with the "Clayhanger" novels (Clayhanger, 1910; Hilda Lessways, 1911; These Twain, 1916), which are meticulous studies of love, marriage, and society in the "Five Towns." Meanwhile, he capitalized on his position with light novels, a travel book about the United States, and several plays, of which Milestones (1912), written with E. Knoblock, is best known. During World War I Bennett served his country as a journalist and civil servant. He separated from his wife in 1921, and in 1922 he met Dorothy Cheston, an actress, by whom he had a daughter in 1926. In the 1920s Bennett's critical reputation declined, and his carefully objective realism became old-fashioned. During this period his literary productions were not equal to his best, though Riceyman Steps (1923) evinced a brief return of his talent. His popular reputation, however, was never higher, and his novels and journalistic work made him one of the highest-paid writers of his day. Displays of his portrait on posters advertising his works made his pleasantly distinctive face with its heavy-lidded gaze and prominent teeth familiar to thousands. After a trip to France during which he caught typhoid fever, Bennett died on March 31, 1931.


Arnold, educated at the Middle School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, was well grounded in Latin, and he learnt a good deal of grammatically accurate French. He later attended a local art school, contributed some cheeky paragraphs to the town's newspaper, tried his hand at some fiction in the manner of his two favourite authors, who were Ouida and Zola; and at the age of eighteen entered his father's office to finish preparing for matriculation at London University and to study for a law degree which he never took.

Occupations and Career:

He was a novelist, playwright, critic, and essayist whose major works form an important link between the English novel and the mainstream of European realism. After the publication of his first novel, A Man from the North (1898), he became a professional writer. In 1894, he became assistant editor of the periodical Woman. From 1900 he devoted himself full-time to writing, giving up the editorship. He continued to write journalism despite the success of his career as a novelist. Yet to these years belong also whom God hath Joined (1906), The Old Wives' Tale (1908), and the first volume in the Clayhanger trilogy (1910). These works between them justly established Bennett as a major exponent of realistic fiction. At the same time he maintained his output of lighter fiction, including most memorably The Card (1911), and he also produced a steady stream of literary journalism. In this regard, the short pieces he wrote about books under the pseudonym Jacob Tonson, which were published at regular intervals between 1908 and 1911 in A. R. Orage's New Age, deserve mention. These pieces initiated the type of brief literary essay, aimed at the general ‘cultivated’ reader, which later writers such as J. B. Priestley and V. S. Pritchett took up, and which was perfectly adapted for weekly journals. In 1911 Bennett visited America, which led to Those United States (1912). The visit was a financial success; Bennett sold the serial rights of his projected novel, The Price of Love, to Harpers for £2000 (it was published in novel form in England in 1914), eight essays to Metropolitan for £150 each (they were later gathered together as The Author's Craft, 1914), and the American rights of a hastily planned fourth volume of Clayhanger for £3000. Bennett was accompanied on his voyage over by Edward Knoblock, an American dramatist whom he had first met in London at the Author's Club in May 1911. Bennett, keen to learn more of the craft of writing for the theatre, collaborated with Knoblock on a play entitled Milestones. This, together with other plays successfully produced for the stage, including The Great Adventure (1913; a dramatization of his 1908 novel Buried Alive), brought him yet further fame and money. In 1926, at the suggestion of Lord Beaverbrook, he began writing an influential weekly article on books for the Evening Standard newspaper. Bennett wrote 30 novels, and even many of the lesser ones display the essential Bennettian values, ironic yet kindly, critical yet with a large tolerance. His reputation declined in the 1920s and ’30s but soon rose, partly as the result of a reevaluation of his work by a group of young writers who felt themselves to be artistically in his debt. The Journals of Arnold Bennett, 1896–1928 were published in three volumes (1932–33).

Awards /Honors:

Bennett won a literary competition hosted by Tit-Bits magazine in 1889 and was encouraged to take up journalism full-time. Bennett won the 1923 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Riceyman Steps.



  • A Man from the North – 1898
  • The Grand Babylon Hotel – 1902
  • Anna of the Five Towns – 1902
  • The Gates of Wrath – 1903
  • Leonora – 1903
  • A Great Man – 1904
  • Teresa of Watling Street – 1904
  • Sacred and Profane Love – 1905 (Revised and republished as The Book of Carlotta in 1911)
  • Tales of the Five Towns – 1905 (short story collection)
  • Whom God Hath Joined – 1906
  • Hugo – 1906
  • The Grim Smile of the Five Towns – (short stories 1907)
  • The Ghost--a Modern Fantasy – 1907
  • Buried Alive – 1908
  • The Old Wives' Tale – 1908
  • The Card – 1910
  • Clayhanger – 1910
  • Denry the Audacious – 1910
  • Helen with a High Hand – 1910 (Serial title: The Miser's Niece)
  • Hilda Lessways – 1911
  • Milestones – play written with Edward Knoblock
  • The Matador of the Five Towns – (short stories 1912)
  • The Great Adventure. A Play of Fancy in Four Acts – play
  • The Regent – 1913 (US Title: The Old Adam)
  • The Price of Love – 1914
  • These Twain – 1916
  • The Pretty Lady – 1918
  • The Roll-Call – 1918
  • Mr Prohack – 1922
  • Riceyman Steps – 1923
  • Elsie and the Child – 1924
  • The Clayhanger Family – 1925, the complete trilogy consisting of Clayhanger, Hilda Lessways, and These Twain
  • Lord Raingo – 1926
  • The Woman who Stole Everything and Other Stories – 1927
  • The Vanguard – 1927 (published in the UK as The Strange Vanguard, 1928)
  • Accident – 1928
  • Imperial Palace – 1930
  • Venus Rising from the Sea – 1931


  • Journalism For Women – 1898
  • Fame and Fiction – 1901
  • How to Become an Author – 1903
  • The Reasonable Life – 1907
  • Literary Taste: How to Form It – 1909
  • How to Live on 24 Hours a Day – 1910
  • The Feast of St. Friend: A Christmas Book – 1911
  • Mental Efficiency – 1911
  • Those United States – 1912 (Also published as Your United States)
  • Paris Nights and Other Impressions of Places and People – 1913
  • The Author's Craft – 1914
  • Self and Self-Management – 1918
  • Things That Have Interested Me – 1921
  • The Human Machine– 1925
  • How to Live – 1925, consisting of How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, Mental Efficiency, and Self and Self-Management
  • The Savour of Life – 1928


Piccadilly – 1929


Don Juan de Mañera

Death, place of death, Time of death, place of burial:

Bennett died of typhoid at his home in Baker Street, London, on 27 March 1931, after returning from a visit to Paris where, in defiance of a waiter's advice, he had drunk tap water in a restaurant. His ashes are buried in Burslem cemetery in Burslem, Staffordshire, England.

Quotes and Memoirs:

Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.
It is well, when judging a friend, to remember that he is judging you with the same godlike and superior impartiality.
We shall never have more time. We have, and always had, all the time there is. No object is served in waiting until next week or even until tomorrow. Keep going... Concentrate on something useful.
Your own mind is a sacred enclosure into which nothing harmful can enter except by your permission.
Pessimism, when you get used to it, is just as agreeable as optimism.
It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the viewis from the top.
We need a sense of the value of time - that is, of the best way to divide one's time into one's various activities.
Happiness includes chiefly the idea of satisfaction after full honest effort. No one can possibly be satisfied and no one can be happy who feels that in some paramount affairs he failed to take up the challenge of life.
There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.
A cause may be inconvenient, but it's magnificent. It's like champagne or high heels, and one must be prepared to suferfor it.
Always behave as if nothing had happened, no matter what has happened.
Of all the inhabitants of the inferno, none but Lucifer knows that hell is hell, and the secret function of purgatory is to make of heaven an effective reality.
Much ingenuity with a little money is vastly more profitable and amusing than much money without ingenuity.
Does there, I wonder, exist a being who has read all, or approximately all, that the person of average culture is supposed to have read, and that not to have read is a social sin? If such a being does exist, surely he is an old, a very old man.