To Vanessa Bell

52 Tavistock Square, W.C.1

Wednesday 12th May 1926


We have just been told as a dead secret that the strike will be settled this afternoon. This comes from Laski, but as nobody tells the truth, it may well be another maresnest. However, everybody agrees that some-thing is happening—either there will be peace today or strike going on for several weeks. It beggars description. Recall the worst days of the war. Nobody can settle to anything—endless conversations go on—rumours fly— petitions to the Prime Minister are got up. The past 3 days Leonard and I have been getting signatures from writers and editors to the Archbishop of Canterburys proposals. That is to say Miss Bulley arrives at 9.30: Gerald Brenan with his bicycle at 11: Ralph Partridge, just out of a railway accident on the Cambridge line, at 11.15. Clive is in and out all day. The telephone rings 8 times in 20 minutes. I have to argue with Jack Squire at Aldershot. Desmond is expected. Francis Birrell begs us to come and see his father [Augustine]—or better still go to the Oval and talk to Hobbs. Desmond arrives fresh from Asquith; has a whisky and soda. Maynard rings up from Cambridge—where he has been driven with Lydia in search of coal—to command us to print the Nation on the Hogarth Press. Leonard refuses twice, though several undergraduates have volunteered to motor up and act as compositors. Leonard is now employed by the Labour party to write articles; I have to take despatches to the House of Commons. Meanwhile, there are no tubes and no buses and no taxis—except those run by special constables often with fatal results. They charge 3d a ride anywhere; but after going to Westminster by bus, with a policeman on the box, and boards up to protect us from stone throwers (the streets in the West End are perfectly peaceful, as a matter of fact) walking seems preferable. Suddenly Roger and Helen arrive—it is now tea time, carrying a market basket containing chocolate and melons, which nourish and provide drink, in case of bloodshed at Camden town, which is the most riotous part of London. Roger is wilder than ever, but agrees with me in thinking it all unutterably boring and quite unimportant and yet very upsetting—Between telephone calls from Arnold Bennett and Mr Garvin and despairing inter-views with Miss Bulley who has been insulted by Edmund Gosse—Roger explains that the Gower Street house is off, as the Bedford agent exacts complete respectability and no subletting except to members, by blood, of one's own family—which says Roger he can't guarantee: so he's now after a house in Bernard Street. He has tried, but failed, to get your show put off; and then to have it broadcast. Well, with 3 weeks, I think its not sobad. (The press by the way carries on dismally—Mrs C[artwright]. arriveson Faith Henderson's bicycle, red with rust; she, too, red with exercise and fury at strikers. She and Leonard argue. But she is a monument of virtue and motherliness and at intervals I sob on her shoulder—for instance when Bob [Trevelyan] arrives having bicycled from Leith Hill, wanting cold meat at 3.30. and brings two poetic dramas for us to read—But now it is tea time, and Desmond suddenly assumes the rôle of Mussolini—marches off to see Lord Beaverbrook and the Editor of the Morning Post—which he does with great success, while Clive complains bitterly that if only wehad got Mary's car, which we cant have, because Jack has tonsilitis, and refuses to let Mary or the car out of his sight, we might have tackled Winston Churchill himself. Miss Bulley arrives for the 6th time—will not sit down—but would like 20 copies of the [Archbishop's] letter, which I proceed to type. It is now 7 o'clock, and Roger and Helen put on their boots and decide that it is time to start off for Dalmeny, with their melons, by a backroad, to avoid rioters. Walking has almost cured Roger's disease. At last they go, as Desmond returns. We then argue a little about psycho-analysis and Swinburne, which is some relief—

Soon however, Hubert Henderson rings up to say that this is the gravest moment of the strike, and there is imminent danger of civil war in South Wales. Winston has tear gas bombs in readiness: armoured cars are convoying meat through Piccadilly; all the T.U. leaders in Birmingham have been arrested. The Roneo printers refuse to print L's article on the Constitution. Will L. come to the office at once? Now it is 7.30 and we have to dine with Eileen Power and Romer Wilson: Desmond has to dine with the Asquiths: Clive is going to stand by in case he can get through to Manchester on the telephone—So we dine with Eileen Power who has heard that there is no hope of a settlement for 3 weeks; and says at intervals "This is the death blow of Trades Unionism in England"—So we go home at 11, to find Nelly hanging over the stairs to say that a man called Cook and a woman called Brown want us urgently and have been calling at intervals since 8 o'clock. As we talk, the bell rings, and Janet Vaughan appears, who says that Lord Haldane and a friend of hers are bringing out an emergency paper and will we give them our letter and list of names to be printed at once. She has a bicycle outside, and though she has just bicycled from Wandsworth where she has been acting to strikers, she will bicycle with it to Fleet Street (all papers are about the size of foolscap, and mostly typewritten.) While this is being prepared, Brown or Haldane rings up to say it is now too late. At last we go to bed. At 9.30 this morning, as I began by saying, Laski rings up—and so we go on.

Strike settled 1 p.m. This has just been broadcast—as you'll probably have heard by now. Everyone is in the greatest spirits. Books at once beginto sell—I've spent the afternoon in wild discussions with Viola, who is beside herself to get her book floated—We are probably having 24 sandwichmen on Monday. I hope your show is now safe—Work beginstonight. Miners still have to settle terms finally wh. they do on Friday.The Nation is coming out—Maynard is up—In short everybody is jubilant and almost hysterical. You probably think this all nonsense—but the relief after all these days of misery with lights half out, nobody doing anything, and the only news coming at intervals in Nelly's bedroom from the wireless is terrific. We're going to have a strike dinner and drink champagne with Clive, the Frys, and other spirits.

Please write.

We shall now be rushed off our feet I hope with orders.

Yr B.