Monday, June 27, 2022

Ardent love of liberty

Sir Roger Twysden died all of 350 years ago today. Having inherited his father’s baronetcy and estate, he became something of a rebel against the authorities just at a time when king and parliament were starting their civil war. Imprisoned several times, he took to writing books on English history and constitutional law. None of his diary, though, saw publication until the mid-1850s, when Kent Archaeological Society published extracts. The Society claimed that any reader of Twysden’s journal could not fail to admire the man ‘for the depth of his learning, the soundness of his acquirements, his unfeigned and active piety, his domestic virtues, his loyalty, his ardent love of liberty, his truly English spirit.’

Twysden was born at Roydon Hall in Kent in 1557, the son of Sir William Twysden, a scholar and courtier during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I - the latter made him a baronet. Roger Twysden was educated at St Paul’s School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, before entering Gray’s Inn in 1623. Two years later he was elected Member of Parliament, and then in 1629, as eldest son, he succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his father, and subsequently spent several years managing the family estate and becoming a county justice of the peace. Increasingly he became disturbed by royal excesses, especially ship money, a defence tax levied without parliamentary support. But he was also disturbed by the ambitions of Parliament.

At the outbreak of civil war in 1642, Twysden joined a petition of grievances against the King, Parliament and the ecclesiastical authorities. This led to his being imprisoned; the following year he tried to escape to France, and he was again jailed. His estates were also sequestred. During his incarceration he wrote The Laws of Henry I and began a study of parliamentary history which later led to his foremost work - Certaine Considerations upon the Government of England. Although released after 1647, he continued to campaign on justice issues.

After the execution of the king in 1649, Twysden eventually reached a settlement over his estate at Roydon Hall, and retired there quietly. In the following years he wrote two historically important works, both published in his lifetime: Historiae Anglicanae Scriptores Decem, and An Historical Vindication of the Church of England. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, he resumed his position as a magistrate and was made Deputy Lieutenant of Kent. He died on 27 June 1672. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, or the late 19th century version of Dictionary of National Biography

Kent Archaeological Society first published what it called Sir Roger Twysden’s Journal in its publication, Archaeologia Cantiana, in 1858. It included a fascimile of the first page with Twysden’s own title - An Historicall Narrative of the two howses of Parliament. The Archaeologia Cantiana volume is freely available at Internet Archive. However, it is worth noting that Encyclopaedia Britannica refers to Twysden’s text as autobiography rather than a diary, and no bibliography of English diaries includes Roger Twysden. They do, however, include his wife, Isabella, whose diary was also published by Kent Archaeological Society, though not until 1940, as The Diary of Isabella, Wife of Sir Roger Twysden, Baronet, of Royden Hall, East Peckham, 1645-1651. This latter work is not available online.

The Society’s introduction to Twysden’s journal gives the following details: ‘The Diary [. . .] was completed and carefully prepared for the press by Sir Roger himself, and was evidently intended for publication during the Protectorate. It is written throughout in his singularly clear and neat hand, with the disfigurement of hardly a single correction; except in a very few instances chiefly made requisite by the Restoration. Why it was never published, it may not be difficult to conjecture, when we remember how entirely engrossed Sir Roger Twysden was, during the latter years of his life, in those learned researches to which we are largely indebted for the little we know of the early history of England. While occupied in these all absorbing labours, he probably laid aside his private memorials, entrusting the publication of them to those of his family who should come after him, a charge which they seem to have neglected, leaving thereby to us the gratification of first presenting them to the world. The manuscript is too long to be printed entire in a single volume of our serials; we therefore purpose giving it in successive portions. When we shall have subjoined his private correspondence, and a few extracts from his note-books, we shall be much mistaken if our readers do not love and admire the man as warmly as we ourselves do, for the depth of his learning, the soundness of his acquirements, his unfeigned and active piety, his domestic virtues, his loyalty, his ardent love of liberty, his truly English spirit.’

30 March 1642
‘The sayd 30th of March, Sr Edward Dering came unto me early in ye morning, wth whom I went the same day to London, leaving my deere wife great wth child in ye Country.’

31 March 1642
‘The 31, beeing thursday, I yielded myselfe prisoner to ye Sergeant.’

1 April 1642
‘The 1 Aprill, I, with the rest (onely Sr Edward Dering, who then absented hymself, though after hee appeered, was examined, and again went away), was called in to the howse of Commons, examyned on some few questions, and all of us committed to ye Sergeant of ye Mase attending them, who sent us prisoners to an howse in Covent Garden, tyll wee could bee farther questioned by a Committee of Lords and Commons, appoynted for that service, who soone after did it, examyning us upon about 30 Interrogatories, upon wch nothing appeering against us, and our answers agreeing, so far as their could not, nor did ought appeere against us, but an intent onely of petitioning, and yt too upon the Countrie’s desires, the Howse of Commons, not satisfyed, would have us answer to some 9 Interrogatories upon Oath.

But how to doe this for men that had not cast of all shew of legall proceedings was not so easy; for themselves had declared against all oaths ex officio, and every man’s mouth was full of ye Maxime, “No man was obliged to accuse himselfe;” how could wee, then, bee brought by oath to accuse each other, beeing alike criminall. Besides, who should doe it? For if it bee graunted (wch I beeleeve will bee a matter of much difficulty to prove), The Lords’ howse, or my Lord Keeper in it, may in some cases administer an Oath to a Commoner, may a Committee of the Lords and Commons doe it? I conceive they had no president for doing so. Yet that was our case. Mr Spencer, Sr George Strood, and myselfe must upon oath have accused each other, though told wee were not to answer anything concerned ourselves. But our integryty was such, nothing of consequence could be discovered more then beefore. After this, they two (and Sr Edward Dering absent) were empeached. Of my charge a stoppe was made, wch after was layd aside as forgotten; and those two having by good advise put in their answer, there was no farther prosecution of them, onely wee were commanded to call in all ye copies of this petition had beene by us distributed, wch was done accordingly.

Some may, perhaps, admire why the two howses were so transcendently incenced at this petition? why they laboured so earnestly the finding out a plot wch was never imagined? why they tooke so unheard of wayes in their proceedings? for when ever did the howse of Commons appoynt theyr members to joyn wth ye Lords in examining Commoners upon oath, much lesse such as were criminis participes, one against ye other? Why they shewde so strange partialyty as to incourage petitioning in some, yet make this a crime so heynous, as it is certajn a lawyer of the Howse went so far as to say there were in it things not far from treason? and another gentleman, of, I dare say, sincere and pious intentions, told me, defending it, I did not understand the ayme of that Petition; to whom I could onely wish the event might prove me ye foole.

But he will not think it strange, when he considers (as ye issue made good) ye leading men in the Howses had an intent themselves to govern ye nation by votes, paper Orders, and Ordenances, wth wch, if the King should not concur, or any other oppose, they would force obedience by the sword, wch this did a little too soone discover (they having no army, nor in a settled way of raysing one), and might open men’s eies, break their credit, and make them (by whose contributions they must bee at first enabled) lesse willingly contribute to their owne ruine. For these men, presently after the perpetuity graunted, resolved on a change in Church and State, swallowed up all Episcopall, and Dean and Chapters’ revenues; yet, not to lose ye Cleargy totally, persuaded such of them as had beene any way kept under by the Bishops, it should bee distributed for ye improvement of smaller livings, increasing able preachers, raysing lectures, and ye like; and this they did not doubt of effecting wthout the considerable opposition of any, unless perhaps the episcopall party in ye Lords’ Howse, wch being now removed thense, it angred them greatly to see others in any kind thuart their designes, wch they saw this Petition to doe.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 27 June 2012.

Banning foreign buttons

Narcissus Luttrell - a serial chronicler, keeping diaries and journals through much of his life - died 290 years ago today. Most of the records he kept (at least those that have survived) are devoid of personal details. He is most remembered, perhaps, for his Parliamentary Diary which Wikipedia says, ‘is often the best source available for legal and political matters of the time’. Here he is, for example, reporting on a debate concerning a proposed law to ban the import of buttons: ‘Sir John Darell, Mr. Clarke, and Mr. Harley spoke against it that it would only encourage a monopoly of the trade and make the workmen idle and exact more upon the people, and only put the importers of them to bring them in by stealth.’

Luttrell was born in Holborn of a West Country family, educated at Sheen School, and followed his father into the law. However, he also attended, for a few months, Newington Dissenting Academy, learning philosophy and logic. After the death of his father, he spent a few years travelling around England before being called to the bar in 1680. He was twice elected to the House of Commons, sitting for Bossiney (Cornwall) in the second Exclusion Parliament (1679–1680) and then in the parliament of 1690–1695 for Saltash (Cornwall). He served actively as a Middlesex Justice of the Peace for three decades from 1693. On various occasions, he also served as a deputy lieutenant, a commissioner of oyer and terminer, and a commissioner of land-tax assessment. 

In addition to Luttrell’s public service, he accumulated a valuable collection of contemporary publications, including both political and poetical works. He was married twice, first to Sarah, daughter of a wealthy London merchant, with whom he had one son; and later, after Sarah’s death in 1722, he married Mary. After a long illness, Luttrell died on 27 June 1732. Further information is available from Wikipedia, The History of Parliament, or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required).

Luttrell is largely remembered today because he left behind, what has become, a valuable historical daily record of Parliament. He first kept diaries during his travels around the country, though I cannot find any trace of these having been published. He kept so-called Chronicles (compiled from newsletters and papers) which were discovered by Thomas Babington Macaulay and published in 1857 as A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs from September 1678 to April 1714. Various volumes of this can read freely at Internet Archive.

While serving in Parliament, Luttrell kept a very detailed journal of its proceedings. These were first edited by Henry Horwitz and published in 1972 by Oxford University Press as The Parliamentary Diary of Narcissus Luttrell 1691-1693. This can be consulted freely online at Internet Archive. Wikipedia notes that Luttrell relied primarily on secondary sources for the workings of Parliament, but that ‘he is often the best source available for legal and political matters of the time’. While the legislation of the time can be found in official parliamentary journals, Wikipedia goes on to say, ‘Luttrell's diary is often the only record of debates within the Palace of Westminster’. As a result, it concludes, Luttrell ‘provides crucial political information which cannot be found elsewhere’. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, however, the diary ‘is almost wholly devoid of personal references.’ Both the parliamentary diary and the materials for Historical Relation are held by All Souls College, Oxford. Luttrell also kept a diary of private transactions between 1722 and 1725 written in Greek characters. This is held by the British Library.

Here are two extracts from the Parliamentary Diary.

12 April 1692
‘So the House met according to former adjournment - such members as were in town - and after some time the Speaker took the Chair.

And a motion was made for a new writ for Scarborough in the room of Mr. Thompson, deceased, as also another for the City of Carlisle in the room of Capt. Bubb, deceased. And the Speaker was ordered to issue his warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make writs out accordingly, which was done forthwith.

After some time the Black Rod came with this message: Mr. Speaker, the Lords Commissioners appointed by Their Majesties’ commission desire the attendance of this honourable House immediately in the House of Peers to hear the said commission read.

So the Speaker went up, attended with the House, where the commission was read in Latin. And then the Earl of Pembroke, Lord Privy Seal, spoke: By virtue of Their Majesties’ commission to us directed, we do prorogue this parliament to the 24th of May next, and this parliament is prorogued to the 24th of May next accordingly. From 12 April 1692 to 24 May 1692.’

6 February 1693
‘Sir John Brownlow presented the petition of the inhabitants of the town of Newark in the county of Nottingham and Sir Edward Hussey presented another from Sir Richard Earl, complaining of the undue election of Sir Francis Mollineux for that borough. They were received, read, and referred to the Committee of Elections and Privileges.

The bill for prohibiting the importation of foreign buttons was reported.

Sir John Darell, Mr. Clarke, and Mr. Harley spoke against it that it would only encourage a monopoly of the trade and make the workmen idle and exact more upon the people, and only put the importers of them to bring them in by stealth.

Sir Robert Cotton, Mr. Colt, and Mr. Pery spoke for the bill that it was to encourage our own manufacture - buttons being entirely so. The 

wood is our own and so is the horse hair, which is exported hence and returned you home manufactured, whereby you lose the employment of many of your poor and consequently they must lie upon your hands.

However, the bill with the amendments was ordered to be engrossed.

The engrossed bill for the aulnage [the inspection and measurement of woollen cloth] was read the third time and passed, with the title, and Sir Robert Davers to carry it up to the Lords for their concurrence.

Then the House resolved itself immediately into a committee upon the ways and means for raising the supply for Their Majesties; Mr. Attorney to the Chair.

Mr. Neale proposed for raising the remainder of the taxes to lay a duty upon all paper and parchment used for public matters and all such to be made on this sealed paper and parchment.

Sir Thomas Clarges desired before the House went upon considering how to raise any more money, the House would compute what they had already given. The land tax I reckon at £2,200,000, the project bill at £1,000,000, the revenue £1,000,000, the continued impositions besides sugar £500,000, joint stocks £57,000. And for the duties I have offered to you I will present you with a computation thereof, and when that is done I do not think there will be above £200,000 to raise. [. . .]’

So much inner power

‘This military education is a darned good thing for me. But I suspect life has a good many blows in store for me yet, else Nature would not have endowed me with so much inner power.’ This is from the diaries of Otto Braun, a precociously intelligent young man who volunteered to serve in the German army. He was born 125 years ago today, and he died, still only 20 years old, just a couple of weeks after this diary entry.

Braun was born on 27 June 1897 in Berlin, the only son of Lily Braun, a writer and women’s rights activist, and her politician husband Heinrich. Considered a child prodigy when young, Otto spent some unhappy years at boarding school, trying to escape at least once, but was mostly educated at home by private tutors. With the outbreak of war in 1914, he joined the army, fighting on the Eastern front until he was wounded in 1916. The injury meant he could not return immediately to active service, and was employed instead by the military section of the Foreign Office. Finally returning to the front line, he was killed by a shell in April 1918.

In 1924, Alfred A. Knopf brought out The Diary of Otto Braun as edited by Julie Vogelstein and translated into English by Ella Winter. This is freely available to read at Internet Archive. The book is, in fact, a collection of Braun’s letters and poems as well as diary entries. A ‘Biographical Note’ is barely a page long, so brief was his life.

In her introduction to the texts, Vogelstein says:

‘Besides historical, philosophical, political and military writings of greater or lesser magnitude - complete and incomplete, or merely outlined - there were found among [Otto Braun’s] papers a fragment of a novel, a great number of poems, and twenty-six diaries with regular entries from his seventh year until two days before his death. From these, and from over a thousand letters which we had at our disposal, his father and I made the following selection. The mass of material, and the necessity for keeping the book within reasonable bounds, severely restricted our choice.

None of the entries were intended for publication; Otto Braun was very indignant when one of his poems was printed in a periodical while he was at the front. If the poems are to be regarded as written under an inner necessity without a thought of publication, how much more so is this the case with his diaries. “In order to account to myself, so as to be absolutely honest with myself,” thus he once described his need for this form of confession. Though they are not in literary shape, we have faithfully reproduced all the MSS., and have only corrected obvious slips of the pen.’

Here are several extracts from Braun’s diaries.

20 January 1910
‘It is curious that in the darkness one can see even the tiniest glow, while in broad daylight it is difficult to see the biggest fire; I believe the same is true of human beings.’

10 February 1910
‘I had a very interesting talk with father this morning. There is so much which leaves me unsatisfied at present. What is the purpose of Man, what is his origin? Where does all Life spring from, where do all things start?’

1 June 1911
‘It is not the ascetic, to my mind, who is furthest from becoming a profligate and a voluptuary, but the man to whom this sort of behaviour does not even occur, and who can, therefore, indulge in pleasures, even to excess, without the slightest fear of becoming a profligate.’

5 June 1911
‘Wilhelm Meister. Death of Mignon. How wonderful it is that just at the very moment at which Wilhelm abandons himself to the bourgeois serenity, embodied in Teresa, Mignon dies. I have been thinking a great deal about all these things, so much so that I must let them grow clear now, like my impressions of Florence; I am not afraid that they will vanish or grow cold.’

1 April 1915
‘To-day, in front of the sergeant-major and some N.C.O.s the captain shouted at me, without any reason, in a way that I don’t wish to describe further. Such complete lack of control in an officer was very painful. Every day I grow more calm, and, I may say, more serene, in the face of such behaviour, yet these scenes leave something worse than a bad taste in the mouth, because, completely defenceless as I am, they slowly but surely undermine my moral powers of resistance, which are bent on fighting, and not at all on meek forbearance. I know people here in the squadron who have gone to pieces through the behaviour of the company commander, and that alone. Even if there cannot be the faintest possibility of his breaking me, nevertheless I will try now, come what may, to get out of his company. Lieutenant C. advised me strongly not to file a complaint, as the captain would be put in the right any way. There’s little doubt about that, but the friendly advice I had hoped to get from Lieutenant C. was not forthcoming either.’

17 April 1915
‘The sergeant-major received me with the words: “Well, Braun, you’ve managed it. And I too (?). You will not accompany us to-day, you are ordered to the Signals Section in Lodz.” I almost fell from the clouds, was overjoyed, of course, to get away, but at first rather appalled at the idea of Lodz. Put away all my dirty army kit and reported to the major and captain.’

27 July 1915
‘Beautiful weather; went on fitting up the telegraph cable. The whole time I was most excited and thought out thrilling adventures. Suddenly I got the news that I must return at once as I was transferred to the 21st Chasseurs. That is good. I shall now get to know all there is to know of the war, the danger and the terror; it had to be. My dreams this morning were glorious, glowing; may the gods to whom I pray, the spirit of my forefathers that floats over me, my own strength which I feel within me, grant that I be successful. Hope and faith, desire and will, are my guides, and so I will tread this path cheerfully and securely, filled with that confidence which has always been my support.’

24 March 1918
‘Along the Vosges to Colmar. Beautiful sunny journey. The ancient culture of these parts permeates every village in a most pleasing manner. On a hill to the left towers the gigantic ruin Drei Ahren. In Colmar the streets, squares, yards and a delightful town hall make very charming pictures. Everything grows naturally, but is trimmed and cultivated with wisdom and understanding. One could compare the work of these Gothic architects of cities with that of a sensitive gardener. The deepest impression as regards art was made on me by the interior of St. Martin, an extraordinarily harmonious structure, in which the effect of light has been treated with the utmost skill. Suddenly the communiqué - Peronne taken, the Somme crossed. Everything else vanished. What is to be our fate?’

6 April 1918
‘This military education is a darned good thing for me. But I suspect life has a good many blows in store for me yet, else Nature would not have endowed me with so much inner power to throw off unpleasant things, always to see the best, and never to despair; nor would she have given me so great an urge to assert my individuality, nor the capacity I have, not only to overcome all petty and degrading things, but also to transform them into good, with the help of my Amor fati.’

11 April 1918 [just two weeks before his final entry and his death]
‘In the Field. I received definite news that Kurt Gerschel has fallen. Thus are they all torn away, those that were any good, that were young, courageous and full of hope in the future. He was such a frank, fresh, clean fellow, honest and straight as but few are, such a lovable being! A real lesson to Anti-Semites, brave and proud and true. May he rest in peace.’

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Mrs Grundy’s Easter hat

The diaries of Edna St. Vincent Millay, sometimes called the ‘bad girl of American letters’, have been published some 70 years after her death. Many of the entries are rather banal, domestic, but occasionally there are flashes of the ‘bad girl’, such as in this entry: ‘I wrote a letter to the League of American Penwomen, telling them where to get off - for inviting Elinor [Wylie] to be Guest of Honor & then writing her canceling the invitation on the grounds that she is not a respectable person. The sanctified flatfooted gadgets. I wish I had been a Fifth Avenue street sparrow yesterday - or in other words:
I wish to God I might have shat
On Mrs. Grundy’s Easter hat.’

Millay was born in 1892 in Rockland, Maine, to a nurse and a teacher, though her parents separated while she was still young. She showed a precocious talent for poetry, and published a few poems after leaving school. One of these - Renascence - was included in The Lyric Year in 1912, and led to a benefactor paying her way at Vassar College from where she graduated in 1917. She moved to New York City that year, and began socialising with an avant garden literary set. She published her first book of poetry, Renascence and Other Poems, but to earn a living she tried acting and she also published hackverse and stories under a pseudonym.

Further poetry books and a couple of plays followed before she travelled to Europe for a two-year sojourn, acting as correspondent for Vanity Fair. In 1923, she won a Pulitzer Prize for Ballad of the Harp-Weaver. She married Eugen Jan Boissevain, a Dutch businessman and self-proclaimed feminist, who supported her career and took care of domestic responsibilities. In time, they moved to live in a large farmhouse near Austerlitz, New York state. Throughout their 26 year marriage they both had other partners. In 1925, the Metropolitan Opera Company commissioned her to write an opera with Deems Taylor. The King’s Henchman, first produced in 1927, became the most popular American opera up to its time.

Encyclopaedia Britannica has this assessment: ‘Millay’s youthful appearance, the independent, almost petulant tone of her poetry, and her political and social ideals made her a symbol of the youth of her time. [. . .] The bravado and stylish cynicism of much of [her] early work gave way in later years to more personal and mature writing, and she produced, particularly in her sonnets and other short poems, a considerable body of intensely lyrical verse.’ In mid-1936, she suffered a severe accident which left her in constant pain, and needing operations and morphine. Though previously a pacifist, WW2 changed her views, and she became an advocate for the US to enter the war, damaging her popularity in some quarters..

In 1943, Millay was the sixth person and the second woman to be awarded the Frost Medal for her lifetime contribution to American poetry. Nevertheless, her declining reputation, constant medical bills (including treatment for morphine addiction) and demands from an ill sister meant she was in often in debt during her final years. Boissevain died in 1949, and she died in 1950. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, The New Yorker or The Poetry Foundation.

Millay left behind a series of diaries from different periods in her life, but 90% of the entries are for her teen/youthful years 1907-1914 and for 1927-1935. Some 70 years after her death they have finally been published, edited by Daniel Mark Epstein, as Rapture and Melancholy: The diaries of Edna St. Vincent Millay (Yale University Press, 2022). The contents can be previewed at Googlebooks.

‘To what,’ Epstein asks in his introduction, ‘does Edna St. Vincent Millay owe the honor of having her diaries published and read in 2022, more than seventy years after her death? Her status as a poet and playwright of the first magnitude, secure until the 1940s, is now a subject of debate. Her poems remain in print and her play Aria da Capo is occasionally revived; but as of this writing her work is rarely included in textbooks or college syllabi. The reasons for this are largely political, or in any case extra-literary. The poet had the fortune and misfortune to become a legend in her own time, what we now quaintly call “a cultural icon.” Her binge drinking and promiscuity were notorious even in the 1920s when such behavior was commonplace. She became the bad girl of American letters who published her modern escapades in verses that demonstrated mastery of the classic forms and meters. No one had seen anything like it. Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, who had enough Latin between them to recognize her achievement, ostentatiously ignored the upstart whose ballads and sonnets made her rich. She needed no one’s help, and what she was writing did not fit the modernists profile of “free verse.” Her success was a reproach to modernism. Meanwhile she behaved as badly as Byron and Baudelaire, Sappho in a cloche hat, chain-smoking, sipping gin, bed-hopping - a person who would not serve as a moral role model in those times. The poetry was transgressive and subversive. Compared with the unimpeachable verse of Elizabeth Bishop, Millay’s poetry is still shocking. [. . .]

She is our greatest love poet with the possible exception of Walt Whitman. She has written many sonnets that compare favorably with the best of Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney, and John Donne. Without an axe to grind there is no knowledgeable reader who would dispute the evidence which print has made imperishable. The great poems won’t go away no matter how many professors bar the classroom door against them. As long as there are lovers, they will be reading Millay.

And so, like George Washington, Edna St. Vincent Millay is of interest to us because she was important - a groundbreaking writer. No less an authority than the English author Thomas Hardy proclaimed that America had two great attractions: the skyscraper, and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Her diary provides a window not only upon a unique personality and intelligence, but also the creative process that produced sublime works of art. Last but not least, it is of considerable value as “journalism,” the impressions of a woman of a certain class growing up in a New England fishing village, traveling to New York for education and a literary career, and later to Europe, before settling down on a blueberry farm in the Taconic Mountains in 1925. Virtually overnight the small-town girl became dangerously famous; and the diarist’s record of that adventure is one of the most dramatic chapters of her story.’

Here are several of the published diary entries.

4 November 1912
‘Two letters and a card from my Editor. Miss Rittenhouse, secretary of the Poetry Society of America, says, “Renascence is far the best thing in the book. If it doesn’t get the prize I pity your judges.” But it didn’t get the prize! Everything but money!’

6 January 1913
‘Someone (I think it may be Mr. Kennerly) sent me a copy of the January Forum. When I first caught sight of it I thought that it might be a sample copy, and then wondered if there could be anything about my poem in it. So I looked down the index - and there was a review of The Lyric Year by one Charles Vale. So I hunted up the page (mit hands vot zhook) and happened to strike the end of the article first so that I caught a fleeting glimpse of a whole page of my poem. After which, very calmly (!), I proceeded to hunt up my beginning and find out what was said about me. Almost all of Renascence was quoted and the comments were quite satisfactory. I wonder if any other of the January magazines will have mention of the book. I must look them up.’

28 February 1913
‘Today has been wonderful. I have done so many things. Wasn’t late to breakfast. Did a big washing in the laundriette. Translated about ten pages of French on the roof (glorious!), dressed, and wasn’t late to luncheon. Started for Barnard about quarter to two, and wasn’t late to French (translated the rest of my lesson on the subway), went over to Morningside Drive and had tea and a delightful talk with Miss Rittenhouse, her mother, and Mrs. Kendall (?). Got home at ten minutes past six, dressed, and wasn’t late to dinner. Had another birthday party (all the Jan. & Feb. birthday girls) and a lovely carnation. Mrs. Trowbridge asked me to read some of my poems aloud after dinner, and I did. Later translated 2 1/2 pages of Horace.’

24 April 1933
‘Sweethearts calf, a heifer, born either today or yesterday.

Thought we’d all have a picnic luncheon, so took everything down into blueberry pasture near my old shack where I wrote The Kings Henchman. Built a fire for coffee in a little stone fireplace where we’d often done so before, were very careful everybody right on hand in case a spark should fly into the grass, sudden puff of wind blew fire out into the dead grass, all seized our coats & began beating it out, but in less than a minute it was roaring up the hill towards the pasture barn & almost in the direction of the house. Ran to get help. Austerlitz & Spencertown fire departments called out by ranger who saw fire from tower, came very quickly, also many neighbours. Fought fire all afternoon, came within a few hundred feet of kitchen garden. I was sure that the house & everything in it was bound to go. Under control before dark, however. Lost only my shack, which burned flat, and I’m afraid, some beautiful white birches, lovely thorn-bushes, too. Also my little green leather cigarette case, Arthur Ficke gave me, which was in my coat pocket. Tweed jacket of my suit looks pretty exhausted, too. But I am so grateful that the buildings didn’t catch fire that I don’t mind anything else very much. There were no papers in my shack, either, which was lucky. Came home nearly dead. Ugin gave all the men white wine.

Deems, Mary, Ugin & I had a bottle of champagne.’

18 April 1927
‘The loveliest day that ever dawned. A soft warm, really caressing breeze. And so wonderful to have that woman away! Gene went down to A[usterlitz] & rescued the Mercer from Ferry’s barn, where she’s been since three days before Christmas when we got stuck in the snow at 2 a.m. on our way home from Santa Fe [New Mexico] via N.Y. She looks so beautiful in her new coat of paint that Robert gave her - such a beautiful car. I almost finished the sweet-peas. The boy who sold us the barbecue last year called this evening & we ordered a lot of shrubs & roses & things. Terribly exciting. I wrote a letter to the League of American Penwomen, telling them where to get off - for inviting Elinor to be Guest of Honor & then writing her canceling the invitation on the grounds that she is not a respectable person. The sanctified flatfooted gadgets. I wish I had been a Fifth Avenue street sparrow yesterday - or in other words:
I wish to God I might have shat
On Mrs. Grundy’s Easter hat.’

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Marches without water

Poor William Grant Stairs. Aged but 28 he died of malaria 130 years ago today. Having been caught up in the feverish ‘Scramble for Africa’ at the behest of the ruthless King Léopold II, he became a cruel leader himself. On an expedition to win mineral rights in Katanga many of his men died, and many others deserted. A diary he kept of his exploits in Africa, not published in English until the late 1990s, gives a good feel for the moral corruption of those enacting imperialist ambitions, as well as the arduous conditions they suffered.

Stairs was born in 1863, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and educated in Edinburgh before attending the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. He spent three years working for the New Zealand Trigonometrical Survey. In 1885, he was commissioned in the British Royal Engineers, though soon after he joined the privately-funded Emin Pasha Relief Expedition led by Henry Morton Stanley which sailed from London in 1887. (See more on this extraordinary expedition in The Diary Review article Rescuing the Emin Pasha.) On his return, Stairs was named a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Subsequently, and on Stanley’s recommendation, Stairs was appointed by King Léopold II of Belgium, who privately ruled over the Congo Free State, to command a mission to claim Katanga, a mineral-rich territory, now in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A rival expedition, led by the Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company, was also after the minerals in Katanga.

Stairs set out from Zanzibar in June 1891, and ultimately achieved his goal in that Katanga became part of the Congo Free State. But, he was a cruel leader, often resorting to violence, and he lost many of the 400 men he started out with, either because they died from appalling conditions on the expedition or because they deserted. He himself was frequently sick, and while onboard a steamer on the lower Zambezi he died - on 9 June 1892 - from an attack of malaria. In 1908, the Congo Free State was annexed by the government of Belgium after the increasingly brutal mistreatment of local peoples and plunder of natural resources had become an international scandal.

Wikipedia has plenty of information on Stairs, his expedition, and the part they played in the ‘Scramble for Africa’. But more can be read in the introduction to African Exploits: The Diaries of William Stairs 1887-1892 by Roy D. MacLaren (sub-titled as ‘A personal account of imperial ambitions in Africa in the nineteenth century’). This was first published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 1998, and most of it is free to read at Googlebooks. At the time, Roy MacLaren was High Commissioner for Canada to the United Kingdom.

According to the publishers, ‘few diaries of the period convey better than Stairs’s the nature and course of imperialist expeditions in Africa in the nineteenth century and the psychological and moral corruption caused by absolute power’. Stairs’s diaries of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, it continues, ‘present a candid, personal account of the long and arduous venture, including a very unflattering assessment of Stanley, whom Stairs described as cruel, secretive, and selfish’.

African Exploits is divided into two main sections: Stairs’s diary of the Emin Pasha expedition, and the diary of the Katanga expedition. According to MacLaren, the latter is less spontaneous and less personal, because it was written as per the terms of his contract, as an expedition diary. It also suffers, he says, from having to be translated back from the French (the only extant version of the Katanga diary is in French in Léopold’s journal Le Congo Illustré) and along the way has lost ‘the lively Victorian idiom which Stairs habitually employed’.

Nevertheless, here are a few extracts from the Katanga diary in African Exploits.

27 August 1891
‘I have tried, during my leisure hours, to write some verse. I certainly have not achieved anything notable, but if I have been able to analyze faithfully the changing lights and shadows of the daily life of an African expedition, I shall have realized a long-held goal.’

28 August 1891
‘Tomorrow we must tirika: sleep in the bush without water . . . an eleven hour march almost twenty miles from here to the next water. A camp without water worries me, for on the following day, the men are good for nothing.’

29 August 1891
‘We have marched twenty kilometres in five hours and fifty minutes. We passed the place where poor [Thomas] Carter [a British army officer who had tried to introduce Indian elephants to Africa] was killed several years ago. . . Our camp is near the Lake Cheia which at the moment is simply a parched expanse without a drop of water. I sent natives on ahead to search for water. . . they report only empty wells, surrounded by decomposing buffaloes, giraffes, and antelopes, all dead from thirst. Extraordinary as it is for this region, there is also the corpse of an elephant upon whose putrid flesh the Africans feed.’

30 August 1891
‘Marched from 5:15 am until 10:15 am, when we arrived at Itura with my caravan dying of thirst and exhaustion. In the wells there was no more than a small ribbon of water. An Arab whose caravan preceded ours assured the natives along that route that we rob the natives. The result is that only with the greatest difficulty have I been able to buy any food. And to think how kind and courteous I have been to the Arabs.’

31 August 1891
‘Six and a half hours of march to cover fifteen miles. We camp amidst the brush, tired beyond description and without water. Tomorrow we shall reach water after a two and a half hour march, but the following day there is a wasteland of fifteen miles to Rubuga. [. . .]

As we approach Tabora I fear increasingly the desertions of more of my men. These long marches without water terrify them and I sense that they would prefer to desert than to continue in such conditions. . . The hardships and the weariness cause me such endless cares. . . that I have become as thin as a rail and my cheekbones stand out in my face.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 9 June 2012.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

A kindly and witty diarist

‘Introduced bill to curb gambling on the stock market and it is about as popular as an alarm clock in a boys’ dormitory.’ This is from the very readable diaries of Henry Fountain Ashurst, one of the first two representatives from Arizona to be elected to the United States Senate. Ashurst died 60 years ago today, but he left behind a good set of diaries - covering more than a quarter of a century - which were published the same year. One reviewer called him ‘a kindly and witty diarist’.

Ashurst was born in 1874 in a covered wagon near Winnemucca, Nevada, the second of ten children. The family moved to a ranch near Williams, Arizona, when he was two, and he attended school in Flagstaff. Aged 13, he worked as a cowboy on the family ranch. By 19, he was the turnkey at a local jail, and while working there developed an interest in law. For a while he was employed as a lumberjack, studying law at night. He entered Stockton Business College, graduating in 1896, and was admitted to the bar in 1897. Around the same time, he began a political career, serving in the territorial House of Representatives and after two years becoming house speaker. He also spent a term in the territorial Senate. After spending a year in law college, he married Elizabeth McEvoy Reno, an Irish-born widow (with four children from her first marriage). 

Ashurst was one of the first two Senators elected when Arizona became a state in 1912. He was regularly re-elected, serving for the best part of 30 years, until he was defeated during the 1940 Democratic primary. During his early years in the Senate, he was a supporter of the Woodrow Wilson administration and served as chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs between 1914 and 1919. When the Democrats lost control of the Senate in 1918, and the presidency in 1920, he became a strident critic of Republican leaders and policy. When the Democrats regained control in 1932, he was appointed chairman of the Judiciary Committee, serving until he left the Senate.

Through his years in the Senate, Ashurst was a notably advocate for the citizens of Arizona (rather than, say, specific national policies). He was a notable public speaker. His most celebrated address - chastising Huey Long in 1939 - was  described in Time magazine as ‘one of the most devastating speeches the chamber ever heard’. He was also noted for an eccentric and flexible voting record (switching sides on probation for example), such that he appointed himself ‘Dean of Inconsistency’. In 1941, he took up a post on the US Board of Immigration Appeals, retiring in early 1943. Thereafter, he lived in Washington, D.C., devoting his time to classical poetry and public speaking. He died on 31 May 1962. Further information is available from Wikipedia, the University of Arizona Libraries website, and True West Magazine.

Ashurst kept a diary from 1910 through to 1937. This was edited by George F. Sparks and published by the University of Arizona Press, also in 1962, as A Many Colored Toga: The diary of Henry Fountain Ashurst. The full work is freely available to read online at the HathiTrust website. And a review of it can be found in the Pacific Historical Review. The review begins as follows.

‘A reading of this book will leave the professional historian with mixed emotions. He cannot fail to admire the kindly and witty diarist, and he will appreciate the wonderful opportunity Ashurst had as senator from Arizona for almost thirty years to observe and participate in events of great significance, in the years recorded here (1910-1937). A diary is an extremely individualistic form of literature, and it is ungracious or worse to criticize a diarist for not doing what he did not propose to do. Still, an honest report must state that there is something to be desired in this book. It is a worthwhile volume, as the late senator was a worthwhile political leader; but an adjective such as “great” should be attached to neither. Ashurst enjoyed close intercourse with many “greats” and the diary contains frequent observations on them, often penetrating and revealing although, one realizes upon reflection, always friendly. The Arizona solon seems by nature to have something of a dilettante, with fine instincts and talents but no inclination to penetrate very deeply into any subject, and no goal more specific than that of public service.’

1 May 1912
‘Senator Mark Smith has many friends. He is one of the best storytellers in Congress; and of all the senators, his company is the most sought. His repartee and learning make him welcome everywhere. He is of such vast experience in Congress that my unsophistications nettle him and tax his patience. He is opposing the confirmation of Judge Sloan.’

17 May 1912
‘This fight Mark Smith and I are making against the confirmation of Judge R. E. Sloan, nominated for the district bench, is difficult. I do not dislike Judge Sloan; I have tried many cases before him at nisi prius. In his later years on the bench, he became cross and sour. If Sloan comes to grief, it will be upon that age-old rock upon which many judges have been wrecked, viz., he rides, hunts, fishes, dines, and fraternizes with a few but not with all the lawyers at his bar. Those with whom he does not ride, hunt, fish, or dine are filled with jealousy and rage. He is assailed with a fury which he cannot understand.’

7 April 1913
‘The Sixty-third Congress convened in special session. I believed when elected to the Senate, I would have time and opportunity to study, to explore histories and philosophies for truths that make nations great and peoples free, but alas! all my time since the elections has been consumed by applicants for political jobs.

During last January, February, and March, delegation after delegation of place-hunters came all the long way from Arizona looking for some "appointment.” My weakness is that I have not cultivated the habit of saying NO.

When the second session of the Sixty-third Congress adjourned, President Taft gave a recess appointment to Judge Richard E. Sloan, as District Judge for Arizona, and he served until March 4, 1913, but the Democratic senators filibustered in Executive Session during December 1912 and January and February 1913, and thus defeated the confirmation of Judge Sloan.

The stock-growers are urging a tariff on imported meats, hides, wool, pelts, cattle, and sheep. I stated my views as to our party's promises in the 1912 campaign, whereupon, Senator Stone of Missouri, as is his custom, scolded me severely for “speaking prematurely.” ’

21 April 1913
‘Introduced bill to curb gambling on the stock market and it is about as popular as an alarm clock in a boys’ dormitory.’

28 November 1915
‘Dispatches from the war zone say that reports from Mesopotamia indicate that a British expedition is near Bagdad. Bagdad is the ancient metropolis of the Moslem world and is a sordid slum of a city with a few tawdry mosques that serve to recall the power and magnificence of the caliphate of the days of Haroun Al Raschid, but it is potentially one of those gateways which from time to time adventurous armies strive to take. The country surrounding Bagdad is a land of solitude and mystery, and some say it was the cradle of the human race.’

29 September 1917
‘Washington is now a boom city; it is rushing, shouting, building and hurrying. Owners of lots are letting contracts here for the construction of more hotels and theatres, although wages and the price of material have “skyrocketed” within the past thirty days. In the olden days of the West, we had “boom towns,” such as Virginia City, Gold Hill, Placerville, Carson City, Leadville, Tonapah, Goldfield, Brodie, Rawhide, Tombstone, Cripple Creek, Dawson et al, but Washington is our first “boom city.” ’

4 December 1931
‘A snowstorm of Arctic ferocity has fallen upon the Navajo Indian Reservation in Northern Arizona. Many Navajo Indians have perished in the snowdrifts or frozen in the frosts.

I spent the day at Indian Bureau in arranging relief for them.’

13 August 1932
‘It is, I suppose, a human tendency to try to advance one’s self, and even eminent philosophers seem to desire a social order fitted to the skills and qualities they possess. Plato’s preference was for a rule by the philosophers; Jefferson, a man of virtue and learning, favored a government by the virtuous and learned. The unlearned, incompetent ones, would seek equality by reducing all to mediocrity.

It is becoming obvious as the years roll on that I and the other diarists who are so “truthful” in telling tales about others rarely, if ever, write of our own mean, petty, and contemptible doings but seldom omit recording our own generous and virtuous actions. My opponents derisively say that I have flattered Neptune out of his trident yet Senator J. Hamilton Lewis recently said to me, “Why, dear Prince Hal, you have by making immaterial concessions to human vanity, stimulated many persons into worthy action.”

Be that as it may, it is nobler to be truthful and resolute than to be eloquent, lubricous, and socially and politically eligible. I have been tardy in divining that no matter how meagre, obscure, and indigent a particular human life may be, romance inheres in that life.

To my misfortune, from my earliest sentience, I accepted existence as a futility more honorably endured by complaisance than by resentment; and my failure accurately to appraise and evaluate life was a ghastly mistake, difficult of correction now. I have been a laggard in recognizing the justice of nature and the dignity of mankind. In order to live a worthwhile life, indeed, in order to enjoy even a moderate measure of graceful and felicitous existence, it is requisite that one shall approach life realizing that the universe is operated according to “a good and great plan” and that in harmony with this plan mankind, endowed with reason and conscience, may direct his affairs beneficially if his goal be justice and righteousness. To achieve any durable success one must have a fixed and settled realization that demonstrable truths do exist and that mankind is capable of applying these truths to this life.’

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Journal des Goncourt

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edmond de Goncourt, a major French literary figure of the 19th century, and the founder of Académie Goncourt which administers France’s famous prestigious literary award - the Prix Goncourt. Edmond wrote many of his books in collaboration with his younger brother, Jules, including - extraordinarily - their diary. This is considered to be one of the finest of French diaries, for its entertaining and gossipy record of Paris’s social and literary life in the second half of the 1800s.

Edmond de Goncourt was born on 26 May 1822 in Nancy, and his brother Jules in Paris in 1830. They both attended good schools in Paris, but their father died while Jules was still a child; their widowed mother then died in 1848, leaving them both a modest income. The legacy meant Edmond need not continue working as a clerk, a job he hated. Subsequently, the brothers became artists, and even went on a painting tour; they evolved into art critics and historians. But, it was to literature that the brothers - who were inseparable - would become most committed.

After an unsuccessful novel and some attempts at drama, the Goncourts began publishing books - always authored jointly - on various aspects of art and society in 18th century France. In the 1860s, they returned to fiction, and published six novels which they described as history which might have taken place. Jules, the more highly strung and delicate of the two, suffered a nervous breakdown and died in 1870, possibly from a syphilis-related condition. Edmond continued sporadically to write further books on his own; he also hosted a literary salon. The brothers’ literary style is said to have been influential in the development of naturalism and impressionism.

Edmond died in 1896; and in his will he left his entire estate to finance the Académie Goncourt to promote literature in France. Establishing the academy proved a contentious and controversial development in French literary circles, nevertheless, from 1903 to the present day, the academy’s ten-member board has awarded the now-famous Prix Goncourt for the year’s best work of fiction. Wikipedia has brief articles on the brothers, the Académie Goncourt and the Prix Goncourt. Further information is also available from Encyclopaedia Britannica and The Paris Review.

Today, the Goncourt brothers are remembered largely for their gossipy and informative diary. They began keeping a journal in December 1851. Astonishingly, the brothers wrote the journal together, as one: astonishingly, for co-authorship of books is one thing, co-authorship of a diary is another. Robert Baldick, who edited and translated an English version of the diary in the 1960s (see below), described the co-authorship process as follows: ‘Jules usually acted as the scribe, with Edmond standing behind him and leaning over his shoulder, so that, as with their novels, it is impossible to attribute any entry to one or other: even when an anecdote clearly refers to the experiences of one brother, the recording of it may well have been modified by the other, in the process of what Edmond called their ‘dual dictation’.’

When Jules died, Edmond decided to stop keeping the journal, but, as Baldick explains: ‘the compulsion to describe his brother’s long death-agony, partly to derive comfort from the memory, partly to pay tribute to the dead man, and partly no doubt out of habit, proved too strong for him. Then came the Franco-Prussian War, the Siege of Paris, the Commune, and the fascination of recording his impressions of these events enslaved Edmond once more to the Journal.’ Edmond went on writing the diary until a few months before his death.

Extracts from the journal appeared in the newspaper Figaro in 1886, and a first published volume came out a year or so later. Figaro, though, attacked it as a ‘masterpiece of conceit’. Another eight volumes appeared in Edmond’s lifetime, often attracting personal and public hostility. All of these are available online at Internet Archive. A two volume edition of the diaries was first published in English by Heinemann in 1895 as Edmond and Jules de Goncourt: With Letters and Leaves from their Journals, compiled and translated by M A Belloc and M Shedlock. These are also downloadable from Internet Archive.

Several more editions have since been published, including The Journal of the De Goncourts, with an introduction by Julius West (Thomas Nelson, circa 1915) but with no translator credited. In 1962, Oxford University Press published Pages from the Goncourt Journal, edited and translated by Robert Baldick. Baldick concluded: ‘Whether it is considered as a monumental autobiography or as a history of social and literary life in Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century, the Goncourt Journal is a document of absorbing interest and outstanding importance.’

Here are several extracts. The first three, written while Jules was still alive, are taken from Baldick’s translation; the others are taken from the online version of the Julius West edition.

17 March 1861
‘Flaubert said to us today: ‘The story, the plot of a novel is of no interest to me. When I write a novel I aim at rendering a color, a shade. For instance, in my Carthaginian novel, I want to do something purple. The rest, the characters and the plot, is a mere detail. In Madame Bovary, all I wanted to do was to render a grey colour, the mouldy colour of a wood-louse’s existence. The story of the novel mattered so little to me that a few days before starting on it I still had in mind a very different Madame Bovary from the one I created: the setting and the overall tone were the same, but she was to have been a chaste and devout old maid. And then I realized that she would have been an impossible character.’

6 May 1861
‘At four o’clock we were at Flaubert’s, who had invited us to a reading of Salammbô, together with a painter called Gleyre whom we found already there. From four till six, Flaubert read to us in his booming, sonorous voice, which cradles you in a sound like a bronze murmur. At seven we dined, and after dinner and a pipe, the reading was resumed, taking us by way of readings and summaries of what was omitted, to the end of the last chapter, the copulation of Salammbô and Mathô. It was then two in the morning.

I am now going to write what I think, in my heart of hearts, of this work by a man I like - and there are not many such men - and whose first book I greatly admired. Salammbô is less than what I expected from Flaubert. His personality, so well dissembled, so completely absent from that impersonal work, Madame Bovary, comes through here, blown up, melodramatic, resorting to bombastic writing and crude colouring, one might almost say illumination. Flaubert sees the Orient, and what is more the Orient of antiquity, in the guise of an Algerian bazaar. Some of his effects are childish, others ridiculous. The attempt to rival Chateaubriand is the great defect of the book, robbing it of originality: Les Martyrs keeps coming through. Then there is nothing more wearisome than the everlasting descriptions, the button-by-button portrayal of the characters, the miniature-like representation of every costume. [. . .] His characters’ sentiments are not the product of a certain conscience, lost with a certain civilization: they are the commonplace, universal sentiments of all humanity and not of Carthaginian humanity; and his Mathô is at bottom no more than an opera tenor in a barbaric poem.’

30 July 1861
‘I have drunk my fill, I have had my mistress. I am in that condition in which the monstrosities one has committed seem like children’s games. I am left with a craving which, in drunkenness outlasts love and copulation, a craving which shows all over a man’s face, in his mouth and in his flaring nostrils. How utterly futile debauchery seems once it has been accomplished, and what ashes of disgust it leaves in the soul! The pity of it is that the soul outlives the body, or in other words that impression judges sensation and that one thinks about and finds fault with the pleasure one has taken.

And these are the thoughts which occur to me.

The facts: nothing matters but the facts: worship of the facts leads to everything, to happiness first of all and then to wealth.

Touch this or that switch in a woman and out comes either pleasure or truth: you can make her admit at will that she is having an orgasm or that she loves you. This is appalling. Bonald’s maxim needs to be reversed: man is mind betrayed, not served, by his organs.

There are moments when, faced with our lack of success, I wonder whether we are failures, proud but impotent. One thing reassures me as to our value: the boredom that afflicts us. It is the hall-mark of quality in modern men. Chateaubriand died of it, long before his death. Byron was stillborn with it. The essence of bourgeois talent is to be gay. Voltaire spent his life taking an interest in something: himself.

There are moments of discouragement when glory seems as insignificant as the office of mayor of a little market-town.

Debauchery is perhaps an act of despair in the face of infinity.

Any man who does not see everything in terms of self, that is to say who wants to be something in respect of other men, to do good to them or simply give them something to do, is unhappy, disconsolate, and accursed.’

29 April 1877
‘I have tried in vain to explain the intensity of the hatred against us. In my opinion, the journalists have not been critics; they have been substitutes for the Royal or Republican prosecutors. How shameful! . . . and yet . . .’

9 March 1882
‘Dinner at Zola’s. A gourmet’s dinner, flavoured by an original conversation on matters pertaining to food and to the imagination of the stomach, at the end of which Turgenev undertakes to provide us with Russian snipe, the finest game-bird in the world.

From the food the conversation passes on to wines, and Turgenev, with that pretty art of description, with the artistic little touches which he alone of us all possesses, tells us about a draught of an extraordinary Rhenish wine drunk in a certain German inn.

First, the introduction into a room at the back of the hotel, putting distance between himself and the noise of the street and the rolling of carriages; then the grave entrance of the old innkeeper coming to be present, as a serious witness of the operation, at the same time as the arrival of the innkeeper’s daughter, a true Gretchen, with her hands an honest red, and marked with little white freckles, like the hands of every German school-teacher . . . and the religious uncorking of the bottle, spreading an odour of violet through the room; then, finally, the scene in all its details, described with the minute observation of a poet.

This conversation and the succulent food are from time to time interrupted by moans and complaints on our “beastly trade,” on the little happiness which good luck brings us, on the profound indifference which overcomes us for our successes, and on the annoyances which the least things opposed to our life can cause us.’

27 December 1895
‘In this volume, the last I shall print while I live, I cannot bring the Journal des Goncourt to an end without a little history of our collaboration, without describing its origins, its expression, and indicating in this common work, year in and year out, the predominance at times of the elder over the younger, at times of the younger over the elder.

Our two temperaments were entirely different. My brother had a gay, vigorous, expansive nature; I was melancholy, dreamy, concentrated; and yet it is a curious fact that our two brains received identical impressions from the external world.

Now the day that we had both done with painting, my brother and I passed on to literature. My brother, I admit, was a more elaborate, more precise stylist than I, and at that time I had only the advantage over him of being able to see things more clearly, and of being able to discern, in the mass of things and ideas around us, what might become the literary material for novels and for plays. [. . .]

Now it gradually came about that in this manufacture of our books my brother began to specialize in looking after the style, and I in looking after the creation of the work. He became a little lazy, a little disdainful of seeking and inventing although he could imagine far finer details than I could when he gave himself the trouble. Perhaps, already suffering with his liver, and drinking Vichy water, this was a beginning of his cerebral exhaustion? In any case, he had always had a repugnance for a too numerous production for a “mass of books,” as he used to say. And he would repeat, “I was born to write, in the whole of my life, one little volume in duodecimo, after the style of La Bruyere, and nothing but that little duodecimo!”

It was, therefore, only out of affection for me that he brought me the assistance of his labour to the end, saying, with a painful sigh, “What, another volume? Haven’t we really done enough in quarto, in octavo, and so on?” And sometimes, when I think of that abominable life of labour I imposed upon him, I feel something like remorse, in the fear that perhaps I hastened his end.

But while throwing upon me the composition of our books, my brother remained an enthusiast for style. I have described in a letter to Zola, written the day after his death, the loving care he put into the elaboration of the form, in the framing of phrases, in the choice of words, taking the things we had written jointly, and which had at first satisfied us both, and working them over for hours and half-days with an almost angry stubbornness, here changing an epithet, there introducing a rhythm into a period, farther on reshaping a sentence, tiring himself, exercising his brain, in the pursuit of that perfection so difficult, often so impossible, to obtain in the French language, in order to express modern sensations . . . and after this labour resting long moments, tired out, on a sofa, silently smoking an opiated cigar.

He never gave himself so completely over to this effort of style as in the last novel he was to write, in Madame Gervaisais, in which, perhaps, the disease that was to kill him gave him at times, I believe, almost the intoxication of religious ecstasy.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 26 May 2012.

Monday, May 23, 2022

A tale of defeat and bitterness

‘For a brief interval he had no questions to answer, no justifications to proffer, no explanations to make. The contrast with the general tenor of his life is striking. Later years would also bring occasional intervals of deep joy, of triumph, even perhaps of tranquillity, but his life as a whole was to be an almost unbroken tale of defeat and bitterness.’ This is about Charles Fothergill, born 240 years ago today, an ardent naturalist and failed entrepreneur many times over. The comment comes from the introduction to a book of diary notes kept by a still very young Fothergill on returning to his home county to research its natural history.

Fothergill was born into a Quaker family in York, England, on 23 May 1782. He was trained in his father’s business - ivory craft - but developed an early interest in natural history, even publishing a short folio he called Ornithologia Britannica at the age of 17. He travelled to London to become an actor, then tried to secure a commission in the Royal Navy. However, in 1805, he returned to Yorkshire to research a natural and civil history of Yorkshire, and the following year saw him in the Orkney and Shetland islands undertaking another similar idea. He commissioned celebrated engravers to illustrate the works, but only ever managed to published his Essay on the philosophy, study, and use of natural history. In his later 20s, he seems to have squandered an inheritance on racehorse breeding. In 1811, he married Charlotte Nevins and they had two sons. 

Further career attempts followed - studying medicine in Edinburgh, farming on the Isle of Man - before he and his family emigrated to Upper Canada (partly to escape debts). He settled Smith’s Creek (Port Hope) where he opened a general store. He was the first postmaster at Port Hope in 1817; and in 1818, he was appointed justice of the peace in the Newcastle District. He built a distillery at Port Hope and a sawmill and gristmill at Peterborough. However, debts again overwhelmed him, and his properties were seized. In 1821, he was appointed the King’s Printer and moved to York (Toronto). The years that followed were dogged with ill-health, the death of his wife, and schemes that came to naught.

In 1824, he won a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. In parliament, he was critical of the administration and was dismissed as King’s Printer in 1826. He failed to get re-elected in 1830. During the 1830s, he also published An essay descriptive of the quadrupeds of British North America and another paper on the situation of the salmon in Lake Ontario. However, several new business ventures failed, and he died, penniless, in 1840. Wikipedia says he is considered to be Ontario’s first resident ornithologist. Further information is also available from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography and a biography by James I. Baillie Jr. in the Canadian Historical Review.

The University of Toronto Library holds the bulk of Fothergill’s extant papers, including some diaries. Shetland Museum and Archives holds Fothergill’s diary of his 1806 travels there. The Yorkshire Archaeological Society may hold the Yorkshire diary since, in 1984, it published The Diary of Charles Fothergill, 1805: An Itinerary to York, Flamborough and the North-Western Dales of Yorkshire by Paul Romney. The introduction in this latter is available to view online at Academia.

Here are three extracts from that introduction.

‘The document published here is Fothergill’s diary of his adventures as he perambulated the county of Yorkshire between May 1805 and January 1806. It is the record of a young Yorkshire Quaker, of yeoman roots and bourgeois estate, in search of the history, antiquities, folklore, customs and other phenomena, both ‘natural’ and ‘civil’, of his native county. Much of the diary is therefore taken up with jottings relevant to those subjects: accounts of archaeological relics; scraps of local history; notes on economic life, and on local dialect and nomenclature; and, of course, descriptions of flora and fauna - for Fothergill was always a naturalist first and foremost, and above all an ornithologist.’

‘None of the data the diary offers is as interesting as the interplay between the writer’s sensibility and his subject: the past and present of Yorkshire. This interplay creates a whole that exceeds the sum of the parts, conveying to the reader a sense of the time and place which is almost novelistic in its immediacy. Indeed, the diary is almost novelistic in structure; for, as the scene shifts to and fro between York and the Ridings, and scenes of solitude and tranquillity alternate with those of society and bustle, our sense of both narrator and milieu expands, while the plot takes some surprising twists before accelerating gently but perceptibly to its bittersweet climax.’

‘The diary records what was, despite its unsatisfactory epilogue, an idyllic interlude in Fothergill’s life. In the dales he wandered amidst scenery sometimes picturesque, sometimes sublime, in a region to which the name of Fothergill was native. Here was none of the clamour, filth and expense of London, none of the claustrophobia and family strife of York. For a brief interval he had no questions to answer, no justifications to proffer, no explanations to make. The contrast with the general tenor of his life is striking. Later years would also bring occasional intervals of deep joy, of triumph, even perhaps of tranquillity, but his life as a whole was to be an almost unbroken tale of defeat and bitterness.’

Monday, May 16, 2022

Dreaming of New Guinea

‘I walked down to the sea; the stars were shining and there was a crescent moon in the west. I sat withdrawn, not thinking much, but without homesickness; felt a dull pleasure in soullessly letting myself dissolve in the landscape. I fell asleep with difficulty, dreaming about the possibilities of research in New Guinea.’ This is from the diary of Bronisław Malinowski, a Polish-born British anthropologist who died 80 years ago today. As a young man, he was inspired by The Golden Bough, switch from the physical sciences to anthropology, and went to live among the indigenous peoples in Papua New Guinea for several years. 

Malinowski  was born in 1884 in Kraków then part of the Austro-Hungarian province known as the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. His father was a professor of at the Jagiellonian University, and his mother came from a family of landed gentry. Educated at home, he was afflicted by ill health which is said to have dogged him throughout life. Nevertheless, he traveled extensively in his teens not least in the Mediterranean region with his mother (by then a widow). He attended Jagiellonian University, completing his doctorate in 1908, in philosophy with physics and maths. He spent three semesters at the University of Leipzig studying economics and psychology, before relocating to London where, inspired by James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, he studied anthropology at the London School of Economics. where his mentors included C. G. Seligman and Edvard Westermarck.

In 1911. Malinowski published a first academic paper in Polish (Totemism and Exogamy); the following year he published his first paper in English; and the year after that he brought out his first book - The Family among the Australian Aborigines - based on a reinterpretations of Australian Aboriginal data from existing literature. These gained him a reputation and promoted his plans for field research; and in 1914 he was able to go to New Guinea. Six months’ work among the Mailu on the south coast produced a monograph that helped to earn his doctorate in 1916. Much of the next few years he lived in a tent on the Trobriand Islands. He learned the vernacular, and collected a wide range data which would later feed into many of his papers. In 1919 he married Elsie Rosaline Masson, an Australian photographer and writer; they had three daughters. In 1922, he published Argonauts of the Western Pacific, which brought him international fame.

After living in the Canary Islands and southern France, Malinowski returned in 1924 to the University of London as reader in anthropology, soon to be promoted to professor. His seminars became famous, attracting prominent scientists from other disciplines, and he taught many future prominent social scientists. In particular, he followed a functionalist approach, one favouring a focus on individuals, rather than society as a whole. In the 1930s, he became interested in Africa, visiting students working among Bemba, Swazi, and other tribes in eastern and southern Africa. He wrote the introduction to Jomo Kenyatta’s book Facing Mount Kenya (prepared as a diploma thesis under his supervision). In 1938, he went on sabbatical leave to the United States, and with the outbreak of war in Europe he decided to stay, becoming Bishop Museum Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Yale University. In 1940, he married again, to Anna Valetta Hayman-Joyce, an artist. He died on 16 May 1942. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, LSE, and Culture Poland.

For two relatively short periods during his early career (September 1914 to August 1915 and October 1917 to July 1918), Malinowski kept a diary in small black notebooks. This was first edited by Valetta Malinowski (as translated by Robert Guterman) and published by Routledge and Kegan Paul as Bronislaw Malinowski: My Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term. It was reissued by Stanford University Press in 1989. This latter edition is freely available to borrow digitally from Internet Archive. The first edition carries an introduction by Raymond Firth (a New Zealand ethnologist), who added a further introduction to the second edition.

From Firth’s first introduction: ‘What then is its significance? Malinowski was a great social scientist, one of the founders of modern social anthropology, and a thinker who tried to relate his generalizations about human nature and human society to the issues of the world around him. The diary refers to that very critical period of his career when, having equipped himself theoretically for empirical studies, he began to carry out field research in New Guinea. The first section covers his apprenticeship period among the Mailu; the second, after an unfortunate gap of two years, covers most of his last year in the Trobriands. Nowadays it is recognized that while the personality of a scientist may not necessarily have a direct bearing upon his selection and treatment of problems, it must influence his work in other more subtle ways. Although chronologically very brief, and although giving no great amount of detail on professional matters, the diary does indicate vividly how Malinowski thought about issues and about people - or at least how he expressed himself when he was writing only for himself as audience.

By these criteria, while this diary of Malinowski’s in its purely ethnographic sense cannot be ranked as more than a footnote to anthropological history, it is certainly a revelation of a fascinating and complex personality who had a formative influence on social science. In reading it, one must bear in mind its purpose. I think it is clear that its object was not so much to keep a record of Malinowski’s scientific progress and intentions, or to set down the daily events of his studies in the field, as to chart the course of his personal life, emotional as well as intellectual. In the earlier section it would seem that he regarded the periodic chronicle of his thoughts and feelings as a wav of helping to organize his life, and to realize its deeper meaning. But in the later section he meant it as an instrument as well as a reference work; he saw it as a means of guiding and indeed rectifying his personality.’

From Firth’s second introduction: ‘So in this second Introduction to the Diary I would modify one judgement in the first Introduction. Though the book is undoubtedly lacking “in its purely ethnographic sense” I would no longer rank it as “no more than a footnote to anthropological history”. The concept of ethnography has altered and widened, and the book has accordingly moved over to a more central place in the literature of anthropological reflection. It is not merely a record of the thinking and feeling of a brilliant, turbulent personality who helped to form social anthropology; it is also a highly significant contribution to the understanding of the position and role of a fieldworker as a conscious participator in a dynamic social situation.’

20 September 1914
‘Today, Monday, 9.20.1-1, I had a strange dream; homosex., with my own double as partner. Strangely autoerotic feelings; the impression that I’d like to have a mouth just like mine to kiss, a neck that curves just like mine, a forehead just like mine (seen from the side). I got up tired and collected myself slowly. Went to see Bell with whom I talked about native labor. Then Ahuia at Central Court. After lunch again with Ahuia. Then I reported to O’Malley, with him to McCrann. Back home I wrote to Mother and Halinka. Went up the hill. . .’

17 October 1914
‘Saturday, 10.17. In the morning S. took me on a tour of the island - to the flagpole, to the village, then to the gardens, then across the hills to the other side where we were given coconuts, and I watched the making of toea (armshells). Then we rounded the promontory and went along the mission shore. After dinner I read a little - I had done no work as yet, waiting for the help S. promised me.’

29 October 1914
‘Yesterday morning got up fairly late; I had engaged Omaga [a Mailu informant and village constable] who waited for me below the veranda. After breakfast I went to the village where Omaga met me near a group of women making pottery. My talk with him was rather unsatisfactory. . . [In] the middle of the street a woman was making drawings. Papari joined us; we talked again about the names of the months, which Papari did not know. I was discouraged. After dinner I read the Golden Legend, then took a nap. I got up at 4, took a dip in the sea (I tried to swim), had tea; at about 5 I went to the village. Talk with Kavaka about funeral rites; we sat under palm trees at the end of the village. In the evening talked with Saville about the southern coast of England from Ramsgate to Brighton. This got me. Cornwall. Devonshire. Digression on the nationalities and character of the population (natives of Cornwall, Devonshire, the Scots). I was depressed. Read a few pages of Cherbuliez’s Vlad. Boltkif - a sketch of a spiritually unusual woman; she reminded me of Zenia. Elated, humming a tune, I walked to the village. Fairly fruitful talk with Kavaka. Watched lovely poetic dances and listened to Suau [an island to the east] music. A small ring of dancers; two dancers facing each other with raised drums. The melody reminded me of Kubain laments. Went back home where I wasted time leafing through Punch. Vision of T. Occasionally I think of Staé with real friendliness; principally the melody he composed on the way to Ceylon.’

2 November 1914
‘Got up with a bad headache. Lay in euthanasian concentration on the ship. Loss of subjectivism and deprivation of the will (blood flowing away from the brain?), living only by the five senses and the body (through impressions) causes direct merging with surroundings. Had the feeling that the rattling of the ship’s engine was myself; felt the motions of the ship as my own - it was I who was bumping against the waves and cutting through them. Was not seasick. Landed feeling broken; did not lie down at once; had breakfast and looked through the newspapers with illustrations about the war. Looked for something about Poland - there was nothing. Very tired. Right after dinner, went to bed. Slept from 2 to 5. I did not feel too well afterward. I sat by the sea - no fit of dejection. The Stas problem torments me. In fact his conduct toward me was impossible. There was nothing wrong about what I said in Lodge’s presence; he was wrong to correct me. His complaints are unjustified, and the way he expresses himself precludes any possibility of reconciliation. Finis amicitiae. Zakopane without Stas! Nietzsche breaking with Wagner. I respect his art and admire his intelligence and worship his individuality, but I cannot stand his character.’

23 January 1915
‘I am “covering the ground” of my territory more and more concretely. Without doubt, if I could stay here for several more months - or years - I would get to know these people far better. But for a superficial short stay I have done as much as can be done. I am quite satisfied with what I have done under the poor circumstances. The arsenic works perfectly. Tonight I made an experiment. I took 10 grains of quinine and toward morning I felt quite terrible. Apparently quinine is not good and doesn’t help me at all - could it have a bad effect on the red blood corpuscles? I wonder whether arsenic is a specific against malaria? If so, what is its value in Alpine countries?    

Yesterday I walked to the village at 7. Photos of the lugumi - from behind the boathouse. I discovered this was the proper place for taking photos of Mailu (village). Then I went back, took Omaga and went to Keneni’s - Pikana joined us. I ignored him, turned my back to him. He began to talk of his own accord - and he was exceptionally good. We talked about gardens, about “Bittarbeit” [voluntary exchange of garden work] etc. . . After breakfast I took a pile of tobacco and went to the village and photographed the lugumi, then . . . went to buy stuff. Usually I overpay tremendously, I think, but I bargain till I am ready to drop. After lunch lay down and read Mexico. Two fellows brought me oba’ua - little axes made of shells. I went to the village around 4, bought two bamboo sticks with feathers; then I sat by the sea with Keneni and his family. Dini, Kavaki’s brother, came. Keneni [their uncle] and Dini went home with me and gave me descriptions of the specimens. After supper, terrible thirst - drank some soda water - then, very tired - changed plates; I walked down to the sea; the stars were shining and there was a crescent moon in the west. I sat withdrawn, not thinking much, but without homesickness; felt a dull pleasure in soullessly letting myself dissolve in the landscape. I fell asleep with difficulty, dreaming about the possibilities of research in New Guinea.’

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Infested with pirates

‘Just as unfrequented dark streets in large towns favour bandits, so too the numerous straits of these seas are infested with pirates, who usually join forces to attack merchant ships. They put out to sea in long and narrow boats similar to canoes with outriggers. [. . .] The other day, about 15 of those boats, called corocores, appeared at nightfall heading towards us.’ This is from the private journal of Rose de Freycinet, the first woman in history to keep a journal during an expedition round the world. She died 190 years ago today, though her journal was only published a century or so later, and is now considered an important anthropological resource. 

De Freycinet was born Rose Pinon in Saint-Julien-du-Sault, 100km southeast of Paris, the eldest child in a middle-class family. Her father and brother died while she was relatively young, leaving Rose with the responsibility of looking after her sisters. She was educated at a school run by her mother. Aged 19, Rose married the 35-year old Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet, a member of the French aristocracy. He had already made a name for himself as a sub-lieutenant to French naturalist Nicolas Baudin by mapping Australia’s coastline. In 1817, thus, he was given command of the corvette Uranie, under the auspices of the French Navy and the Ministry of the Interior, for a circumnavigational scientific expedition. 

Before departing France, de Freycinet had a secret cabin constructed on the Uranie in order to accommodate his wife (women were forbidden from sailing on navy vessels) who boarded while disguised as an officer. For three years, they cruised about the Pacific, visiting, among other places, Australia, the Mariana Islands, Hawaiian Islands, and South America. Rose kept mostly to her cabin, teaching herself to play guitar, learning English, doing needlework, and being a companion to her husband. Her presence was largely unacknowledged by those onboard, and, ultimately, official documents concerning the expedition made no mention of her.

The Uranie was shipwrecked in a storm in early 1820. She managed to limp into the Falkland Islands but no further. Eventually, the crew boarded an American vessel, bought by Freycinet and renamed the Physicienne, and set sail for Rio de Janeiro. There they remained until September before returning across the Atlantic and arriving at Havre in November, complete with the many scientific specimens - minerals, plants, insects, animals - that had been collected during Uranie’s voyages. In Paris, Louis de Freycinet fell ill with cholera. Rose nursed him back to health, but succumbed to the illness herself and died on 7 May 1832. Further information is available from Wikipedia,, and the Western Australian Museum website.

There are several written accounts of the expedition. Freycinet’s official report (in several parts) was published in 1827 (only in French). Jacques Arago, one of the expedition’s artists, published his journal of the voyage in 1822. This was translated into English and published the following year as Narrative of a Voyage Round the World in the Uranie and Physicienne Corvettes. However, most extraordinarily, Rose de Freycinet also kept a private journal, one never intended for publication. It was written more as a series of letters than a journal in fact, some to her friend and some to her mother. These were first edited and published in French in 1927 by Charles Duplomb. In 1962, Oxford University Press published Marnie Bassett’s Realms and Islands: The World Voyage of Rose de Freycinet with extracts from the journal/letters. 

A full English edition of the journal/letters did not appear until 1996 when the National Library of Australia published A Woman of Courage: The Journal of Rose de Freycinet on Her Voyage Around the World, 1817-1820 (as edited by Marc Serge Rivière). From the publisher’s blurb: ‘Shipwrecks, disease, pirates, storms, near-starvation and picnics of penguin meat, strange customs, encounters with island royalty and travels to remote locations, all were the ingredients of a great adventure, and all were endured for love. A memorable story of an adventurous and spirited woman, this book includes beautiful colour plates reproduced from the original limited edition French publication.’ It can be previewed at Googlebooks, and a review (pdf) can be read here

‘Being not intended for publication and being both frank and [with]personal musings about people, places and events,’ Wikipedia says, ‘[Rose de Freycinet’s] writings represent an important anthropological resource.’ Here is one dated extract from A Woman of Courage (although most of Rose’s narrative as edited is not dated).

9 December 1818, Pisang Island, north-west of New Guinea
‘On account of his poor state of health, the kind Abbé de Quélen was unable to go ashore at Dili. Accordingly, only a few days after our departure he baptised the young Timorese lad whom we had taken aboard. My husband and I are his godparents and, in accordance with the wishes of the Portuguese Governor, we gave him the name of Joseph, to which I have added that of Antonio. Don Jose wanted the boy to have his name, so that, he said, we would remember him. But we shall not forget his kindness towards us any more than the happy events during this stopover.

Although our voyage was easier once we lost sight of Timor Island because of a favourable fresh breeze, it was only after we emerged from the strait that the heat, which had affected us badly ever since our arrival at Kupang, became a little more bearable for those aboard who were in good health. Our sick crewmen are suffering greatly; we fear that the Abbé may have contracted scurvy; he has lost a lot of weight on account of the heat. The Second Lieutenant, M. Labiche, suffers from dysentery; several crewmen have already died from that disease. Such unfortunate circumstances make our journey distressing. Otherwise, it would be so enjoyable as we make our way through the Moluccan Archipelago, where one comes across enchanting islands around every corner. The richness of the soil is demonstrated by the luxurious natural forests which cover these uncultivated lands. And what trees do we find in those forests? They are the very ones which produce precious spices; their scent hangs heavy in the air all around us. Thus, we have sailed past Amboina and closer still to Ceram, two Dutch settlements which are famous for having contributed so much to the wealth of that nation.

I sometimes recall that my mother wrote to me, when I was still in Toulon, that a map of Paris and its surrounding districts was sufficient at first for her to find each of the places where we lived, that thereafter she needed a map of France and, finally, that she would only be able to follow our progress on a world map. Now, a very detailed map of Oceania would be required - if one existed - to know where we were. Even then, every day I am told that Louis corrects geographical positions, erroneously recorded until now, a fact which would not surprise anyone in this part of the world where the Creator has sown islands ‘as he sows dust in our fields’. Since New Holland, we have not come across any land other than islands, and it will be some time yet before we espy another continent.

Just as unfrequented dark streets in large towns favour bandits, so too the numerous straits of these seas are infested with pirates, who usually join forces to attack merchant ships. They put out to sea in long and narrow boats similar to canoes with outriggers, and use small paddles which require a different kind of handling to our oars, in that the paddles do not rest on the side of the canoe. The other day, about 15 of those boats, called corocores, appeared at nightfall heading towards us. Louis thought it wise to go on the defensive in case of an attack, but the pirates no doubt were deterred by the strength of the corvette and went on their way.

A few days after that insignificant event, we again encountered several armed corocores, but these belonged to the Kimalaha [chief] of the island of Gebe. I am not implying that they are not pirates. Louis believes they are when it suits their purpose, and that they were lying in wait for some ships when we saw them. But the chief, old sea wolf that he was, observing that we had the weapons to defend ourselves fiercely, came on board to start negotiations. Not only was he well received, but Louis invited him to lunch, which he accepted without waiting to be asked twice. He became very attached to one of our chairs, which was presented to him at once. In return for this present which pleased him greatly, he thought of nothing better than to remove his own hat and place it on Louis’ head, who appeared to me quite comical wearing that type of straw parasol which is skilfully woven but with the same pointed shape as the lids of our saucepans.

The name of that strange character was Abdalaga-Fourou; he was fluent in Malay, so Louis was able to obtain a lot of information from him. The chiefs of the other corocores came to join him and, like him, stayed for dinner. The Kimalaha, better dressed than the others, was wearing trousers and some kind of open dressing-gown made of white calico, printed with stripes and red flowers. Under his hat, he wore a small red turban with a crown made of fine straw. He was bronzed and his face was lively and cheerful. These men endlessly chew betel and chalk, packed into pretty little boxes made of fine straw in various colours. They exchanged a lot of arrows, paddles and so on . . . for mirrors, knives, clothes and so on . . . When night fell, Abdalaga-Fourou went back to his boat, promising to return the next day. That prince had pressed Louis to go to Gebe and, while he was aboard our ship, in order to communicate more easily with his corocores, he had asked us to take them in tow. But as soon as the wind became fresh, they loosened the moorings and left us in order to return to Gebe. Consequently, Louis does not believe the Kimalaha’s promise that he will meet us at Waigeo, where we have to stop to take observations. To derive some advantage from several days’ inactivity forced upon us by the calm weather, the Commander has sent naturalists to Pisang Island. As soon as they are back and the wind is fresh again, we will set sail.’