29 September [1929] Barstow

My darling Clemmie,

We are far from the enchanting scene depicted above. We are travelling across the Californian desert in Mr Schwab's [railway] car, & we have stopped for 2 hours at this oasis. We have left the train for a bath in the hotel, & as it is so nice & cool I will write you a few of the things it is wiser not to dictate.

Hearst was most interesting to meet, & I got like him - a grave simple child - with no doubt a nasty temper - playing with the most costly toys. A vast income always overspent: Ceaseless building & collecting not vy discriminatingly works of art: two magnificent establishments, two charming wives; complete indifference to public opinion, a strong liberal & democratic outlook, a 15 million daily circulation, oriental hospitalities, extreme personal courtesy (to us at any rate) & the appearance of a Quaker elder - or perhaps better Mormon elder.

I told you about Mrs. H. (the official) & how agreeable she made herself. She is going to give me a dinner in N.Y. & look after the boys on their way through. At Los Angeles (hard g) we passed into the domain of Marion Davies; & were all charmed by her. She is not strikingly beautiful nor impressive in any way. But her personality is most attractive; naïve childlike, bon enfant. She works all day at her films & retires to her palace on the ocean to bathe & entertain in the evenings. She asked us to use her house as if it was our own. But we tasted its comforts & luxuries only sparingly, spending two nights there after enormous dinner parties in our honour. We lunched frequently at her bungalow in the film works - a little Italian chapel sort of building vy elegant where Hearst spends the day directing his newspapers on the telephone, & wrestling with his private Ch. Of the Excheq - a harassed functionary who is constantly compelled to find money & threatens resignation daily.

We made gt friends with Charlie Chaplin. You cd not help liking him. The boys were fascinated by him. He is a marvellous comedian - bolshy in politics - delightful in conversation. He acted his new film for us in a wonderful way. It is to be his gt attempt to prove that the silent drama or pantomime is superior to the new talkies. Certainly if pathos & wit still count for anything it is out to win an easy victory.

I stayed in the main at the Biltmore hotel - wh is the last word in hotels . . .Mr Page who obtained 'the honour' of entertaining us - a hearty banker - refused to allow us to pay anything. . . I met all the leading people & have heard on every side that my speech & talks (to circles of ten or twelve) have given much pleasure. . . I gave a dinner & a lunch to the leading men I liked best, mostly British born, & all keenly pro-England. (With much difficulty I succeeded in extracting the cost of these meals from the Bill & paying them myself.). . . These Californians swells do not of course know Hearst. He dwells apart. The first time they had ever come in contact with him or the film world was at the luncheon he gave to me. They regard him as the Devil. But when they heard him speak in friendly terms about England, they all said how right I had been to stay with him & praised the good work. . . .

We went on Sunday in a yacht to Catalina island 25 miles away. We had only one hour there. People go for weeks & months without catching a swordfish - so they all said it was quite useless my going out in the fishing boat wh had been provided. However I went out & of course I caught a monster in 20 minutes!

I have also made friends with Mr Van Antwerp & his wife. He is . . . a gt friend of England [and] a reader of all my books - quite an old fashioned figure - He is going to look after some of my money for me. His [stockbroking] firm have the best information about the American Market & I have opened an account with them in wh I have placed £3,000. He will manipulate it with the best possible chances of success. All this looks vy confiding - but I am sure it will prove wise.

Now I have to rush for my train wh is just off.

Goodbye my sweetest Clemmie

With tender love from your devoted


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