Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Vice-chancellor Priestley

‘The Emperor blubber itself has a very delicate flavour. As a treat this morning Campbell gave us each a small strip of Emperor’s breast done as a filet-de-boeuf, with a small piece of fat on top, and it was an excellent change after the unvarying stews we have had for months.’ This is Raymond Priestley, born 130 years ago today, writing in his diary while holed up in Antartica with the so-called Northern Party of Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition. The Northern Party survived two winters in the region, and Priestley went on to become a highly respected university administrator, and to maintain his diary habit all his working life.

Priestley was born, on 20 July 1886, into a Methodist family in Tewkesbury, England. His father was headmaster of the local grammar school. While studying geology at Bristol university he was recruited to Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition to Antartica (1907-1909). He was also a member of Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova expedition in 1910-1912, and subsequently wrote Antarctic Adventure. He entered Cambridge University, but when the war intervened, he served as adjutant at the Wireless Training Centre, and then with the 46th divisional signal company in France. During the war, he married Phyllis Mary, and they had two daughters. After the war, he completed his studies, as well as writing several books: Breaking the Hindenburg Line, The Work of the Royal Engineers, 1914–19: the Signal Service, and a work on glaciology. He also helped set up the Scott Polar Research Institute in the University of Cambridge in 1920.

From the 1930s, Priestley held a series of academic and government administrative posts in England, and then in Australia, in particular becoming Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne (1935-1938), and then Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham University (1938-1952). In 1944, he spent several months in the West Indies with a committee from the UK tasked with investigating the possibility of setting up a university in the region. He was knighted in 1949, and retired in 1952, but continued to work in different capacities (including, for example, being president of the Royal Geographical Society from 1961 to 1963). He died in 1974. Further information can be found at the Australian Dictionary of National Biography, University of Birmingham or Wikipedia.

Priestley kept a diary throughout his life, from his Antarctic expedition days to his chancellorship of Birmingham University. He based his first book - Antarctic Adventure - on the diary he kept while with Scott’s expedition. Published by Fisher Unwin in 1914, first editions of this book can sell for over £1,000; however, it is also freely available online at Internet Archive. Although Priestley says, about half way through the narrative, that he has tried to avoid the diary form as much as possible, he then says ‘it is impossible to give a lifelike description of our routine, our thoughts, and our feelings during this abnormal life without the help of some extracts from the records written at the time’. Thereafter, he quotes liberally from his own diary.

The diaries Priestley kept while in Australia were published by Melbourne University Press in 1998 and again in 2002 as The Diary of a Vice-Chancellor: University of Melbourne 1935-1938. A review can be found at Don Atikin website. And, an excellent and detailed summary of all 14 of Priestley’s diaries held by Birmingham University, from 1938-1954, can be found on the university’s website, as can a photograph of one of the manuscript diaries. Furthermore, The University of the West Indies website offers two links to the text of a diary Priestley kept in 1944 while visiting the region. (However,  at the time of writing, the links do not seem to work.)


Here, though, are several extracts from Priestley’s diary as found in Antarctic Adventure.

22 February 1912
‘The worst of a wind is that you can do nothing to it. If you are being annoyed by a man or an animal bigger than yourself, you can at least get on the other side of a fence and throw stones at him or it, but here we are hung up by an infernally cold wind and able to do nothing against it whatever, while it is gradually tearing our tent in pieces. We are all getting less physically fit and feeling the cold more, and this is showing itself by the continual presence of cold feet, and by constant attacks of cramp in different parts of the body. It is to be hoped that the ship is all serene and not blown out north by the wind. Before the gale commenced Levick and Abbott reported that they saw a trail of smoke off the ice tongue, and we therefore think that she may be sheltering in Relief Inlet, but at times like this all of us have strong imaginations. We are all suffering very much, and myself in particular, from an almost intolerable itching of the feet when circulation is restored after they have been very cold. The barometer isn’t much use to us nowadays. As far as I can make out if it goes up it means the gale is going to be stronger, if it goes down the wind is going to increase. When the barometer remains steady the gale remains steady too. Cheerful, isn’t it?’

7 May 1912
‘While still in bed this morning we heard the gale blowing hard outside, and when we got up we found we were snowed in as we have never been before. During the morning Dickason and I tunnelled through the drift and have managed thus to extend the roof of the shaft for about 6 feet in length. We found a regular hurricane outside, but no drift. Levick and Browning have butchered three of the Emperors, and Campbell and Abbott have therefore been cooking under great difficulties, for the galley is full of meat and carcasses, and there is a bad backdraught down the chimney. We had a lot of Emperor penguin meat and blubber in the hoosh to-night. The meat has been a great success, but the blubber has made the gravy pure oil, and has beaten some of us, though I am thankful to say not myself. The Emperor blubber itself has a very delicate flavour. As a treat this morning Campbell gave us each a small strip of Emperor’s breast done as a filet-de-boeuf, with a small piece of fat on top, and it was an excellent change after the unvarying stews we have had for months. I am reading my diary of last year in monthly parts for the amusement of the company. We all find an especial, though a tantalizing pleasure in the few descriptions of meals I have entered as part of our routine at Cape Adare. We still feel the monotonous diet, but are otherwise quite reconciled to our fate.

The cave is keeping quite warm at present, and of course the insulation is much improved by each wind with drift. All the sea ice beyond the bay has gone out again, and the Drygalski Ice Tongue and the moraines are hidden by dense drift, which is just missing us except in the strongest gusts. Dickason and I were both blown down once or twice when we were standing at the entrance to the shaft.’

25 May 1912
‘Westerly wind with heavy drift continues, and we have been drifted up all day. This afternoon we had to do away with the blubber fires because of the smitch, for the drift kept on filling the chimney and preventing the draught from flowing. Afterwards Dickason started the hoosh over the primus, and this rapidly used up our limited supply of oxygen. First of all the reading-lamps went out and refused to be lighted with a flaring spill, and then the spill went out and could not be relighted at the primus. Next the primus went out and could not be relighted because the matches would not burn. By this time we were opening up the chimney and the drift at the entrance to the shaft, and Campbell drove his ice-axe through the latter with immediate relief to everybody. Since then things have gone pretty well, but we all have had bad headaches, which we had put down to the smitch, but which were more probably due directly to lack of oxygen. It is a great nuisance this new danger having arisen after we thought we had avoided the utmost malice of the weather, but it is lucky we were not caught at night and all asphyxiated in our beds. I suppose that the coating of ice which has formed on the inside of the snow-roof has spoiled the ventilation. After dinner Campbell and Abbot cleared the drift from the mouth of the shaft and pushed the flagstaff down the chimney.’

14 June 1912
‘Half a gale blowing. Clear, and stars shining. Another day in bed. Rather smitchier than usual. We have just had a word who should go out and clear the chimney and cut away a projecting piece of sealskin in our passage roof which is a constant menace to our eyes and noses, and which has perhaps been the cause of more hasty language than any other individual thing about the camp. I have not yet mentioned one essential portion of our equipment - the toothpick. Campbell is the only member of the party who still possesses a toothbrush, and the present diet is eminently suited to cause the collection of small shreds of meat between our teeth. In spite of this we are able to keep them in as good condition as we can at home by the judicious use of bamboo toothpicks with sharp points to remove the meat and of pieces of soft wood to rub the front of the teeth. These latter instruments are made from the white wood of the Fry’s chocolate boxes, and their blunt chisel ends are moistened and chewed first to secure pliability. They are rather better than a toothbrush. The hard biscuit, of course, looks after the grinding surfaces for us. I think at present that I am looking forward to a good bath and a clean up as much as I am to a good meal of bread, butter, and jam, which is saying a good deal. Another tin of oil was finished this morning. We have every reason to be satisfied with the oil consumption, which is becoming less and less, while Dickason watches over his primus like a hen over her chickens. The men are just finishing off their private sewing, and then they start work on their tents. The day after one has been messman is always the pleasantest of the three, for one feels one has earned the right to a day in bed.

To-day has been a great day of controversies. First Levick and myself found ourselves at variance about the chocolate ration, and the amount of chocolate left at Cape Adare. The second argument was whether or not one of the expedition fruit-cakes would freeze at spring sledging temperatures, and this was followed by two lengthy battles between Campbell and Levick on points of national ethics and imperial politics respectively. Finally we had a three-cornered battle as to which is the most economical and soul-satisfying way of eating one’s single biscuit. We are all three set in our own way: Campbell eats his at breakfast, Levick part at breakfast and part in each hoosh, and myself part when I feel the want of it, about midday or a little earlier, and part at dinner.’

6 July 1912
‘The worst of our day as messman is the infernal crick we get in our backs from never being able to stand upright. Mine is at present aching terribly, but the pain soon passes off in our bags.

Levick is too broad for our inner door, and we have just spent an amusing five minutes watching his attempts to get through with a joint of meat in one hand and a cooker in the other. Luckily, as a rule we run to slimness, and no one else has much trouble.

The atmosphere is becoming tolerable again, but we have ruined the pure white of the roof and wall until a few more smitchless days enable pure crystals to form over the dirty ones.

Browning has slight indigestion and Dickason has complained of a bad stitch in his side, but otherwise we are in excellent health.

We are running out of penguins and of bones for the fire, and shall be short of sea ice in a day or two, so I hope for fine weather, for the penguins especially make all the difference between palatable and monotonous hoosh.’

Monday, July 18, 2016

The battle for Okinawa

Today marks the 130the anniversary of the birth of Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., who led American soldiers and marines in the Battle of Okinawa - the single bloodiest battle in US naval history. Though he had won the island of Okinawa, Buckner lost his life as the conflict was coming to an end. He left behind a notebook of diary entries about the battle which, 60 years on, was published alongside the diary of the commander who took his place.

Buckner was born on 18 July 1886 in Munfordville, Kentucky. The following year, his father, Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner, would become Governor of Kentucky, and, later would try, unsuccessfully, for a seat in the senate. Buckner Jr. attended Virginia Military Institute and then West Point military academy before being commissioned in the infantry. He served in the Philippines, and then, during WWI, in the Washington D. C. offices of the air service. Thereafter, he was employed as an instructor at West Point and other establishments, developing a reputation as an exacting drillmaster.

In 1940, Buckner was promoted brigadier general (major general in 1941) and placed in command of the Alaska Defense Command, a position he held until 1944. He is said to have worked diligently with very limited resources to build air bases and train the only combat infantry unit in the area, but clashed repeatedly with the commander for the northern Pacific. He saw some action when the Japanese attacked a part of the Aleutian Islands, and proposed an advance on the enemy from Alaska - though the idea was not adopted.

Having been promoted again to lieutenant general, Buckner was sent to Hawaii to organise the 10th Army (comprising army and marine corps units), and charged with invading the strategic Ryukyu Islands. The Battle of Okinawa, between April and June 1945, was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific, partly because of the ferocity of the fighting and the intensity of Japanese kamikaze attacks, but also because of the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armoured vehicles employed. Indeed, it is considered the single bloodiest conflict in the history of the US Navy. Subsequently, the US was reluctant to invade the Japanese mainland, and it decided on the use of atomic bombs.


Buckner died from some of the last Japanese shelling on the island in June 1945; he was then replaced by Joseph Stilwell. Buckner was posthumously promoted to the rank of general. Further information is available from Wikipedia, the Kentucky Encyclopaedia, Remember the Deadeyes, or The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia.

Buckner left behind a logbook with handwritten diary entries of the Okinawa campaign. The military historian Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, now an associate professor at the Newport Naval War College, put Buckner’s diary together with a journal kept by his successor Stilwell and edited them for publication in 2004 by Texas A&M University Press as Seven Stars: The Okinawa Battle Diaries of Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. and Joseph Stilwell. He suggests three reasons for giving importance to the two diaries: ‘as history, these journals offer a new window into the last days of World War II’; they are a record of high-level leadership in conflict; and they provide a unique opportunity to witness the conduct of joint operations (i.e. marine and army corps). Some pages can be read at Googlebooks and at Amazon.

12 March 1944
’After lunch we went out with Adm. Turner in his barge and boarded our command ship the Eldorado. . . . We sailed shortly before six, a long looked-forward to occasion.

After sailing, Turner took me aside and dwelt on the difficulties and uncertainties of our mission which he characterized as a “son of a bitch” and asked what I thought about it. I expressed confidence and started to argue him out of his misgivings. I found then that he wasn’t worried at all, but was trying to find out if I was.

After supper, Turner talked to Post and myself about the shore party setup of the Marines whom he has less confidence in along these lines than he has in Army units. He said that the Marine shore party work at Iwo Jima was poor, particularly that of the V Corps and the 4th Div.’

6 April 1944
‘The Japanese cabinet fell today.

The northern flank continued to advance without opposition and the southern force [began] to [encounter] a strong Jap position.

During the morning Adm. Spruance came aboard and with Adm. Turner and myself conferred on the next phase of the campaign. We all were in agreement. Adm. Spruance’s flagship had recently been hit by a suicide plane whose bombs went completely through the ship, broke a propeller shaft and exploded on the other side of the vessel. He is now on the New Mexico.

From 3:30 p.m. on we were under constant air attack largely by suicide planes. Six or seven ships were hit, mostly destroyers in our picket screens. Also an ammunition ship which was abandoned.

Very few planes got to the transport area. I saw only four hit the water near our ship.

An ammunition dump blew up on Kadena airfield and a gasoline barge burned on shore - possibly from falling anti-aircraft shells that shot down a friendly plane and caused 41 casualties in shore parties.’

4 May 1944
‘Last night heavy air attacks struck Yomitan field and the fleet. Eight men were killed in a Hospital. Our CP and the field were shelled again. In the south the Japs tried to envelop both our flanks in barges and penetrate the center at the same time during the night that the air attacks came (about midnight). Each attacking force was a Bn. Naval gunfire sank the eastern Bn, the center was stopped but the western group got ashore opposite the 1st Mardiv. About 200 in one group were killed but part of another group got inland with about 80 Jap infiltrators that are still at large.

After breakfast I had a staff meeting and gave out decision regarding the capture of neighboring islands for radar stations to control planes. Adm. Turner is impatient about this, so the 2nd Mardiv will have to be used if speed is important.

Spent the day at Ie Shima. Thomas (Iscom) recovering from pneumonia. Interviewed his staff to see how I could help their project. They predict readiness of field for fighter group; May 12. Adm. Spruance sent staff officers to find out date. Our land based planes shot down 45 Jap planes today. I sent congratulatory message to Mulcahy - my third.’

Night music struck down

‘I feel as if a lovely delicate child, tender and humorous, had been knocked down by a truck and lay dying.’ This is the US playwright Clifford Odets, born 110 years ago today, commenting in his diary on the opening night reviews of his play Night Music. Though regarded as a key figure in the development of American theatre for his socially-relevant dramas, neither his name nor his plays are remembered as well as those of Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller, or example, perhaps, because he gave in to pressure from McCarthy to name names, or because of, some writers suggest, his ’narrative of decline’.

Odets Was born in Philadelphia on 18 July 1906 the oldest of three children born to Jewish immigrant parents. Later the family moved to the Bronx, New York, where he went to high school, but dropped out to study acting. Having relocated to Greenwich Village, he worked in a number of jobs (such as radio elocutionist and camp drama counsellor) and performed with various theatre groups, before landing a first casting on Broadway in 1928. He worked with the Theatre Guild for a bit, and was then selected, in 1931, to join the newly formed Group Theatre. Famously, this based its performances on the kind of method acting devised by Stanislavski and recently introduced into the US. Elia Kazan, who would go on to become a much feted director on Broadway and in Hollywood, was another member.

Employed only as a rarely used understudy, Odets began to use his time to write plays, but continued to take part in the Group Theatre’s training and rehearsal schedules. His plays, inspired by and suffused with Group Theatre’s techniques, were left wing and socially hard-hitting. However, at first they were not good enough for the group’s leader, and it was not until early in 1935 that one was produced - Waiting for Lefty. The opening night was a huge success. Within weeks, the group was opening with Awake and Sing!, a play Odets had been working on for some time, and which Encyclopaedia Brittanica (1979 edition) says ‘foreshadowed’ Arthur Miller and ‘related Odets with Tennessee Wiilliams’. Further plays followed, including Rocket to the Moon (1938) which led to Odets being featured on the cover of Time, and the highly successful Golden Boy. However, Night Music, which opened in 1940 with Elia Kazan in the lead, was a flop; and it was a disaster for Group Theatre, presaging the company’s end.

By the mid-1930s, Odets had relocated to Hollywood (though he would continue to travel to New York regularly) to work as a screen writer, often declining to be credited, and as a director (None but the Lonely Heart, 1944). There he met and married the German-born actress Luise Rainer (who by then had won best actress awards in 1936 and 1937), though the marriage would last but three years. He marred another actress, Bette Grayson in 1943, and they had two children before divorcing in 1951. Odets was investigated by Joseph McCarthy in 1953, and is suspected of having named names; certainly he continued to work in Hollywood, but lost friends.

Though there have been several major biographies of Odets, his name is clearly not as well remembered as that of Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller.
 On the centenary of writer’s birth, in 2006, The New Yorker concluded: ‘It’s possible that Odets’s narrative of decline is what has kept him from claiming the privileged place in the theatrical discussion that he deserves. Odets’s plays showed a way for the next generation of playwrights to combine linear movement with psychological complexity and depth. He brought a new demotic music to stage speech. His subject was always the struggle of the heartbroken American soul under capitalism. “I will reveal America to itself by revealing myself to myself,” Odets wrote. His plays and his life, full of unique lament and liveliness, eloquently fulfill his prophecy.’ Further biographical information is also available at Wikipedia and Penniless Press.

Odets kept a diary for just one year, in 1940, though it was not published until 1988 (by Grove, New York) with the title The Time Is Ripe: The 1940 Journals of Clifford Odets. The book is not widely available in the UK (no copy at the British Library, for example), and there is not much about it online either. However, Kirkus Reviews has a short piece; and Library Journal says this: ‘His journal shows a gigantic ego lavishing severe judgment on friend and enemy alike, and an overactive libido seeking the perfect woman (he had access to a breathtaking array of them). Although Odets was hard on everyone, he judged himself most severely. This journal records the dark journey of a life and time out of joint yet seeking their proper form. Interspersed are glimpses of major figures in modern American theater and film.’

The only quotes from the book I can find online are thanks to The Sheila Variations (‘not a film’) blog - both extracts below concern Odets’s play The Night Music.

22 February 1940
‘This is the time for opening the play. Harold gave the cast a brief line run-through, but I stayed at home, sleeping, resting, lounging it out against my slowly constricting nerves. Restless, finally, I jumped into the roadster and rode out to Sunnyside to take Bill and Lee to dinner. I chattered away, quite calm, really, to that peculiar point of indifference which comes from having done all that one can do in a situation. We rode into New York and had dinner across the street from the theatre, at Sardi’s. A lot of the people who are going across the show were eating dinner there - it was like running the gauntlet. Stella Adler was there with a party, smoke-eyed and neurotic - usually when you are dying she is more dramatic about the event than you are! Finally I pushed my way through a lot of well-wishing people and went over to the theatre. The cast was in fine shape, quietly making up in their own rooms; no noise, no excitement backstage, things routine and orderly.

The audience was no better or worse than the usual opening night crowd. If anything they were an edge more respectful. Harold I had met outside the theatre for a moment - he was white and tired and was going to see a musical comedy, true to his habit of never attending an opening. I, on the other hand, get a kind of perverse spiteful pleasure from attending an opening. I saw none of the critics but shook hands with several friends.

The performance of the play was tip-top - the cast had never been better. The play suffered from what had always been wrong with it because of a certain lack in the direction - a lack of clear outlining of situations, a lack of building up scenes, a certain missing in places of dramatic intensity. But none of these things was enough to do vital harm to a beautiful show, smooth, powerful and yet tender, fresh, moving, and touching, with real quality in all the parts. But I could see during the first act that the audience was taking it more seriously than it deserved; and I knew that the old thing was here again - the critics had come expecting King Lear, not a small delicate play. It all made me very tired, but at the end I thought to myself that it didn’t matter, for the show was more or less what I intended; it was lovely and fresh, no matter what the critics said. And I knew, too, that if another and unknown writer’s name had been on the script, there would have been critical raves the next day.

People surged backstage after the curtain - they all seemed to have had a good time. There were the usual foolish remarks from many of them - “Enjoyable, but I don’t know why,” etc., etc. Also, a good deal of insincere gushing from a lot of people who would like nothing better than to stick a knife in your ribs. God knows why!

I invited some people down to the house for a drink. Along came the Eislers, Kozlenkos, Bette, Julie [John] Garfield, Boris Aronson, old Harry Carey and his wife, Morris and Phoebe later, Harold, Aaron Copland and Victor [Kraft[, Bobby Lewis and his Mexican woman, etc. etc. We drank champagne, Scotch when the wine ran out, smoked, filthied up the house, listened to some music. Then they went and I dropped into bed, dog-tired, unhappy, drunk, knowing what the reviews would be like in the morning. In and out I slept, in and out of a fever - all of modern twentieth-century life in one day and a night.’

23 February 1940
‘The biggest shock I have experienced since the auto crash in Mexico a year ago was the reviews of the play today. Perhaps it was the serious lack of sleep which kept me so calm and quiet. I wanted to send the Times man a wire telling him I thought his notice stupid and insulting, but I gave up that idea after a while. Equally distressing to me was the attitude at the office, an ugly passivity. They are quite inured there to the humdrum commercial aspect of doing a play this way - close if the notices are bad.

My feelings were and are very simple. I feel as if a lovely delicate child, tender and humorous, had been knocked down by a truck and lay dying. For this show has all the freshness of a child. It was Boris A. who called the turn. He said, “This show is very moving to me, a real artwork, but I don’t think they will get its quality - it is not commercial.”

In the morning I cashed fifteen thousand dollars worth of the baby bonds I hold. I thought to spend it on advertising, to keep the show open, etc., but by the time I finished at the office in the afternoon it was easy to see the foolishness of that; the show costs almost ten thousand a week to run.

So, friend, this is the American theatre, before, now, and in the future. This is where you live and this is what it is - this is the nature of the beast. Here is how the work and delight and pain of many months ends up in one single night. This is murder, to be exact, the murder of loveliness, of talent, of aspiration, of sincerity, the brutal imperception and indifference to one of the few projects which promise to keep the theatre alive. And it is murder in the first degree - with forethought (perhaps not malice, perhaps!), not second or third degree. Something will have to be done about these “critics”, these lean dry men who know little or nothing about the theatre despite their praise of the actors and production. How can it happen that this small handful of men can do such murderous mischief in a few hours? How can it be that we must all depend on them for our progress and growth, they who maybe drank a cocktail too much, quarreled with a wife, had indigestion or a painful toe before they came to see the play - they who are not critics, who are insensitive, who understand only the most literal realism, they who should be dealing in children’s ABC blocks? How can the audience be reached directly, without the middleman intervention of these fools?

I think now to write very inexpensive plays in the future, few actors, one set; perhaps hire a cheap theatre and play there. Good or bad, these “critics” must never be quoted, they must not opportunistically be used. A way must be found to beat them if people like myself are to stay in the theatre with any health and love. Only bitterness results this way, with no will or impulse for fresh work. The values must be sorted out and I must see my way clearly ahead, for I mean to work in the American theatre for many years to come.

I have such a strong feeling - a lovely child was murdered yesterday. Its life will drag on for another week or ten days, but the child is already stilled. A few friends will remember, that’s all.’

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Arabian Diaries

Gertrude Bell, an early 20th century British traveller and archaeology enthusiast, died 90 years ago today. Her expertise in the Middle East led her to become a key player in the formation of Iraq after WWI. Diaries she kept through many of her adventures were eventually given to Newcastle University which has made them freely available online. For two years or so, starting just before the war, she reshaped her diary entries for sending to a British army officer with whom she was in love, and these have been published as The Arabian Diaries.

Gertrude Bell was born in 1869, into a wealthy north-of-England family. Her mother died when she was just three, but her father married again - Florence, a writer - when she was seven. Gertrude was educated at Queen’s College in London and then at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, achieving a first in history. Thereafter, she journeyed in Europe and also spent several months in Bucharest and in Tehran, where her uncle was British representative. Her travels continued with two round-the-world trips, one in 1897-1898 and one in 1902-1903.

Bell travelled widely in the Middle East, learning Arabic, meeting many Arab tribal leaders and investigating archaeological sites. She published several travel/archaelogy books, such as Syria: The Desert and the Sown; and she also collaborated with T. E. Lawrence. British Intelligence recruited her during the WWI, and subsequently, with the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, she was appointed Oriental Secretary to the High Commissioner in Baghdad, where she was an important influence in the creation of modern Iraq, and in the naming of Faisal, the recently deposed King of Syria, as first King of Iraq. As Honorary Director of Antiquities in Iraq, she established the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. She died on 12 July 1826 from an overdose of sleeping pills, though whether this was an accident or a deliberate act has never been established. She never married, though had a close relationship during the war with Charles Doughty-Wylie. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, American Diplomacy or The Guardian.

Most of Bell’s letters and diaries (1877-1919) were given by her half sister to Newcastle University, which hosts a dedicated Gertrude Bell website, including transcribed copies of her diaries.

Some extracts from Bell’s diaries were edited by Rosemary O’Brien and published by Syracuse University Press in 2000 as Gertrude Bell - The Arabian Diaries, 1913-1914 (see Googlebooks). However, although Bell’s diaries are published therein, O’Brien says the centrepiece of her book are, what she calls, the ‘Doughty-Wylie Diaries’. She explains: ‘It was Bell’s custom to record her journeys in small notebooks and to sift through them afterward when drafting private reports, articles, or books. On the Arabian trip, however, she kept parallel records: Two notebooks were eventually filled with daily entries, which, cited as “Diaries,” appear without revisions as appendixes to this volume. A third notebook contains a brilliant reshaping of the daily entry material, written for Charles Hotham Montague (Dick) Doughty-Wylie, a British army officer with whom Gertrude Bell was in love.’

The publisher offers this blurb: ‘The fundamental themes of her life - reckless behaviour; a divided self which combined brilliance of intellect with a passionate nature; a sense of history; and the fatal gift of falling in love with a married man - are all here in remarkable detail.’

The following extracts are taken from The Arabian Diaries: the first three come from the ‘diaries’ contained in the book’s appendices, and the fourth comes from the main part of the book, i.e. what O’Brien calls the ‘Doughty-Wylie Diaries’.

18 December 1913
‘Fine, cold, snow on the hills. We took 2 hrs 20 min. to get off. Left at 8.35 and had an hour’s bad struggle through the muddy zera’ the camels falling down at intervals. When we were S. of the Roman camp our rafiq joined us, Hamad al Lafi of the Ghiyath. The latter seem to be gom with everyone except the Sayyad and the Jumlan who are fellah tribes of Damascus. But, being with us he does not fear to meet the B. Hassan with whom he is gom. We want one of them as a rafiq. He goes with us for a mej. a day. The big chiefs of the Hasenneh are Sa’ad and Muhammad ibn Milhem who receive ma’ash from the Govt. The B. Hassan are a new group; they were once part of the Ghiyath. We got into the volcanic country at 11.30 and marched over broken ground straight onto a tell called el ‘Abd which we reached at 2.30 and found a muddy rain pool where we filled our girbehs. Grass growing between the stones and on the patches of low ground which are free of stones. A man of the Jumlan Sayyad rode out to see who we were; they are camped to the S. of us under the hog’s back which was my first bearing, 102° from ‘Adra. Got into camp at 4 in a low patch with the Saigal tells immediately in front of us. Beautiful sunset glow. We saw one of the Dumairis at his husbandry. He sowed first and ploughed afterwards. The Jumlani Sayyadi was much surprised to see me, but I offered no explanations. Excellent mushrooms-fitr. We saw a good deal of naitu today but there are no shajar tonight.’

9 January 1914
‘The temp fell to 22° in the night and our unwelcome guard had a bad time. Spent the day waiting for the Qaimmaqam of Salt. F. and Abdallah came back (the chowwish had offered to bring them back in the middle of the night) and we all spent the morning making a new tent pole for me, the soldiers aiding. Heaps of gazelle in the hills. Sat in F.’s tent and drew out a section of Kharaneh in afternoon. Cold and horribly windy. Jusef Ch. who has been away all day, came back in a good and obliging temper. It is all rather fancy I must say.’

10 January 1914
Disgusting day, cold, wind and sleet. We got out of camp and rode to the station where I waited for the baggage. Jusef Chowwish and 4 soldiers with us. A little way from the station we saw soldiers - it was the Q. who turned back to Zuwaideh [el-Juweiyida] by another road. When we reached Zuwaideh he had gone on to ‘Amman with the Yuzbashi. Hurried on and got to the hill down to ‘Amman, with little rain. I walked down, got onto Jusef’s horse and cantered up to the Serai, where I found the Q, Halim Beg Abu Sha’r, the Yuzbashi, Ishaq Effendi, and the Mudir, Muhammad Beg. All very friendly. I explained my doings, laid my complaint before them about the Yuzbashi and convinced Halim Beg that I was harmless. He telegraphed the same to Damascus. Two young men, Hanna Bsharra, and Ferid, son of Habib Effendi with whom I lodged at Salt. Hanna presently explained to me that Halim, a Xian, did not want to take any responsibility and I had better telegraph to Devey, which I did. My men pitched tents in pouring rain, below the theatre and before the Odeon.’

17 April 1914
‘It was quite cool today - comparatively; 85 was the highest temperature I registered and we profited by the weather and made a 10 hours march, without fatigue. A dull part of the desert, this is; long shallow steps leading us up into the high Hamad. I think we have left Mesopotamian heat behind and it looks as if it might rain, in which case we shall be flooded out, being in low ground for the sake of our evening lights, and under such insufficient canvas too. Khair inshallah! Today we saw fresh prints of horsemen. ‘Adwan (who is a charming man by the way) opined that they were Shammar of the Jezireh [al-Jazirah], Mesopotamia, looking for ‘Anazeh. with whom they are at feud. I feel no kind of anxiety as to ghazzus while I have ‘Adwan with me. A man from the house of the great shaikh of the Dulaim, a relative of his, and employed by the Government in collecting the cattle tax - it would be impossible to find a surer rafiq. When I part from him the fun may begin, but perhaps not - the Shamiyyeh [Shamiyah] is tolerably safe. Anyways I don’t bother at all; we have been through places so much worse and come out whole and sound. The Government has raised the sheep tax by more than a piastre - I suppose that’s the wax[?l. How much of it do they receive, I wonder? ‘Adwan says truly that the shaikhs eat more than the Government. The long fatigue of travel is upon me and I talk little while we ride. Whenever I talk ‘Adwan greets me with smiles and fair answers. I love these desert people and the sudden heart-whole part they play in your fortunes. And then you leave them and what do they think afterwards? I believe they have a pleasant memory of service rendered and of the quick intimacy of the few days’ journey. One of my rafiqs, far away on the other side of the Nefud, said once over the camp fire “In all the years when we come to this place we shall say: ‘Here we came with her, here she camped.’ It will be a thing to talk of, your ghazzu. We shall be asked for news of it and we shall speak of it and tell how you came.” I expect they will, and it makes me dreadfully anxious that they should tell nothing but good, since they will judge my whole race by me. That recollection very often checks the hasty word when I am tired, and feeling cross, or bored - heavens! how bored, cross and tired some times! Then I try to remember that they will tell how I came.’


Monday, June 27, 2016

The giddy Wanda Gág

Wanda Gág, an American artist and author best known for her Millions of Cats children’s book (apparently, the oldest US picture book still in print), died 70 years ago today. She kept an interesting and intimate diary all her life, but only a selection from her youthful diaries have ever been published.

Gág was born in 1893 in rural Minnesota, the first of her parents’ seven children. Her father, an artist, had come from Bohemia, as had her mother’s parents. She wrote, later in life, that she grew up in an atmosphere of Old World customs and legends, and that her mother and she as well as all her siblings often drew and wrote stories. After the death of her father, in 1908, the family suffered financially, and Wanda struggled - against those advising she should work - to maintain her education. However, The Minneapolis Journal published some of her illustrated stories in their Junior Journal, which helped.

After graduating in 1912, Gág taught for a few months, but then continued her studies, attending the The Minneapolis School of Art from 1914 to 1917, after which, with a scholarship, she moved to the Art Students League of New York, where she took lessons in composition, etching and advertising illustration. Around the same time, she completed a first illustrated boon on commission - A Child’s Book of Folk-Lore - and by the end of the decade was earning a living as a commercial illustrator.

The 1920s saw Gág become increasingly successful, involved in various publishing ventures and exhibitions. A one-woman show at the Weyhe Gallery in 1926 led to her being dubbed as ‘one of America’s most promising young graphic artists’. She also published essays on feminism, and illustrated covers for left-leaning magazines (such as The New Masses). To get away from commercial work, she rented a property in the country, calling it Tumble Timbers, where she could work on her fine art. She continued to support her unmarried siblings, some of whom lived with her from time to time, and even did work for her. She had various intimate relationships, though the most enduring was with her business manager, Earle Humphrey, who she married late in life.

Wooed as an illustrator by Ernestine Evans, director of Coward-McCann’s new children’s book division, Gág instead offered her own story with illustrations - Millions of Cats. It proved a winner, attracting awards, remaining in print since, and being judged one of the top 100 children’s stories. Further children’s books followed, but none so successful. She went on to translate and illustrate fairy tales by the Grimm brothers, while her art was recognised repeatedly with inclusion in major exhibitions, not least one at the Museum of Modern Art in 1939. She died of lung cancer on 27 June 1946. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, Minnesota Historical Society, Penn Libraries, or Wanda Gág House.

Gág kept a diary all her life, but while still alive chose only to edit and publish a selection from her youth: Growing Pains: diaries and drawings for the years 1908-1917 (Coward McCann, 1940). This is freely available online at Internet Archive, but has also been reprinted by Minnesota Historical Society Press. ‘Thirty-one notebooks originally compiled this diary,’ she wrote in her introduction ‘they are full of diagrams, self-portraits and other sketches, with many crossed-out words, ink spots - even tear blots. Several of the books are wrinkled and blurred from being stored in a damp cellar, and a few are lost.’ These notebooks, she explained, were carelessly stored in Minnesota for many years, but were eventually sent on to her in New York. ‘I had often wondered how I would feel upon re-reading them and had even speculated about it in my diary at times.’

In concluding her short introduction, Gág wrote about how she came to keep a diary in the first place: ‘At about this time I came across an old half-empty ledger of my father’s. In our household anything which could be drawn or written upon was in great demand; a notebook of any kind was a positive treasure. I pounced on the old ledger and, prompted perhaps by the fragmentary business accounts in my father’s handwriting, I began recording my earnings and expenditures, what drawings I had sent where and when, and other notes pertaining to my new business ventures. I was never able to limit myself to plain figures and facts in keeping accounts; and so reports on the weather, new additions to the baby’s vocabulary, family incidents, even youthful thoughts and yearnings, found their way into my “ledger.” And that, to the best of my memory, is how I came to start this diary.’

The following extracts are taken from Growing Pains. However, the Penn Libraries archive of Gág’s papers holds nine boxes with 59 diaries, dating from 1908 to 1945, as well as a dozen other notebooks - all itemised on the website. As far as I can tell, the only extracts from the later diaries have been published in Wanda Gág: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Prints by Audur H. Winnan (University of Minnesota Press, 1993). The publisher says this of the book: ‘Using excerpts form Gag's expressive diaries and letters, Winnan fleshes out a portrait of the artist. With extraordinary candor, Gag describes her intimate personal thoughts and experiences, and her friendships and encounters [. . .] Throughout her writings, Gag reflects on her career, the restrictions placed on women, and her sexual desires. This portrayal reveals both the internationally recognized artist who drew inspiration from van Gogh and Cezanne, and the vibrant, erotic woman who admitted to being amazed by her own passions.’

20 January 1914
‘This noon at dinner we were discussing Love, Art & Marriage again. Miss Dean declared that she didn’t think there was any real love in the world. She believed in mother love, sister love, brother love and the rest, but not in The Love. I told her I had had that bee in my bonnet once too. She said, “Oh I know why you got over it,” and when I wanted to know why, she said, “Since you met Mr. Edgerley.” I told her I did not love Mr, Edgerley nor any other boy.

I reeled off the old story about taking Love & Art together etc. She thought I ought to sacrifice my art for my love. Theresa declared that I couldn’t take care of my children if I wouldn’t give up art, and I said if I would get married I’d drape my babies up in chiffon and sketch them, and that my husband would have to pose as king or beggar (according to what my latest fit would be like). To this Miss Dean said, “I pity your poor family!” and we ended up with a good all-around laugh.’

19 November 1913
‘Today I was out in the hall waiting for Sketch Class and two second-year students, Dave Hendrickson and Bob Brown, came along and stopped to look at my sketches. Bob Brown declared that my technique was very good (technique is Greek to me) and he said that I did not work in lines and that was a good thing. They think it’s so funny that I sit up nights and draw, and they think it’s funny too that I sketch myself. I thought all people who aspired to be artists drew as much as I do but it seems they don’t. I thought too that all, or at least a good many, of the art school students would be queer, but they aren’t; and it sometimes makes me wish that I weren’t so different. For I am - there is absolutely no getting around it. And a whole lot of my new acquaintances are in that stage now where they misunderstand me. I will stick to my old theory which is this: That I usually make a fairly good impression (I don’t mean to compliment myself by saying this, but it’s true and it only serves to make it so much harder afterwards) but that after they know me for a while they are disappointed in me. Then, if they have the faith to stick by me thru this second stage, they will find my true nature - at least as much of it as I ever show. Roughly speaking, at first they think I’m jolly, then they think I’m frivolous, and finally they find out that, after all, I am more serious than anything else. Paula has been the only one that I know of who has not come to the second stage after a year of my acquaintance. She stood by me for four years but even she is beginning to doubt me. Larry Morse said that I was “giddy” and altho Paula does not agree there, the remark has served to make her think-to think that perhaps he was not so far wrong. I am frivolous sometimes - giddy too, and silly - I can’t deny it. But often I act that way only to hide my real feelings. Besides (and I told this to Paula) if I were not frivolous once in a while, I am afraid I’d go mad or something like that, because I’d think too much. No one can know what it is to be I.’

20 January 1915
‘Yesterday was an event in my life - I started painting in oils. I am rather timid about handling my brush for I am not at all used to the medium, so my study is abominally smooth and insipid. It looks something like the work of that eternal aunt or sister or cousin of everyone you meet “who does beautiful oil studies and has never taken a lesson in all her life.” But ding, I have a long road to travel in oil painting. It seems that Emma Brock (a former student who did some good illustrations last year) has returned. They say she doesn’t care about eating either.

I am beginning to like Mr. Goetsch and I think in a short time I shall like him very much indeed. Only some fine day we will have a good hot little discussion, I think. You see he thinks himself smart about some things, and I think myself smart about some things, and some day we’ll both think ourselves smart about the same thing. I don’t know how he found out I was an artist’s daughter, but yesterday during sketch class he looked at my crumpled wrapping paper and absolutely impractical method of holding the whole drawing outfit, and said, “Tz! Tz! Tz! And you an artist’s daughter?” I said, “Well, that just proves that I am an artist’s daughter. Artists aren’t practical.” And he laughed and went on.

I made a sketch last night which I consider rather decent but to which no one, up to this time, has taken a fancy to. I like it because it is bold and simple, and I think that I have successfully hidden the fact that it was studied out very carefully in the first place. I mean it looks as if it had been dashed in, only it hasn’t. [. . .] I am taking Color Harmony now and have stacks of make-up work to do.’

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Bachmann’s diary fragment

My mind’s still in a whirl. Jack Hamesh was here. [. . .] We talked until evening and he kissed my hand before he left. No one’s ever kissed my hand before. I’m out of my mind I’m so happy and after he’d gone I climbed up the apple tree, it was already dark and I cried my eyes out and thought I never wanted to wash my hand again.’ This is a diary fragment written by the Austrian Ingeborg Bachmann, born 90 years go today, in the aftermath of the Second World War. She would go on to become an important German language poet and author, and to be much studied, after her tragically early death, by feminist scholars.

Bachmann was born on 25 June 1926 in Klagenfurt, Austria, the daughter of a headmaster. She studied at several universities before, in 1949, finishing her doctorate on the philosophy of Martin Heidegger at Vienna university. She worked for the Allied radio stations, which also produced her first radio dramas, and she became involved with a literary circle known as Gruppe 47, which included Hans Weigel, Heinrich Böll, and Günter Grass among its members.

In 1953, Bachmann moved to Rome, where she developed her literary work, with poems initially, successfully publishing Gestundete Zeit (Deferred Time) and Anrufung des Großen Bären (Invocation of the Great Bear). In 1958 she started a relationship with the Swiss writer and architect, Max Frisch, and consequently moved to Zurich. The relationship lasted only until 1962, and the break-up caused Bachmann much distress. She spent a year in Berlin before returning to Rome.

Bachmann also wrote essays, short stories and opera libretti, the latter in collaboration with Hans Werner Henze (Der Prinz von Homburg in 1960, and Der junge Lord in 1965). In 1971, she published her only novel, Malina. One night, in September 1973, she was seriously injured by a fire which occurred in her bedroom, and was taken to hospital. She died a few weeks later, possibly because the doctors that treated her had been unaware of her barbiturate addiction.

According to the Literary Encyclopedia, ‘Ingeborg Bachmann has been recognized as one of post-1945 German literature’s most important writers at least since 1954, when she was featured on the cover of West Germany’s prominent news magazine, Der Spiegel. Der Spiegel acclaimed Bachmann’s poetry a “stenograph of its time”, treating her poems as a turning point in post-war writing, a signal that German literature had overcome the Nazi past and resumed its proper place on the stage of world literature.’ Further information can be found at Wikipedia (more details in the German language entry), The Poetry Foundation, Institute of Modern Languages Research, or About Vienna.

There is no evidence that Bachmann was a diarist, but, in 2011, Seagull Books (University of Chicago Press) published a small book called War Diary with a few pages of a diary she kept in 1944 -1945, more in odd notes than a day-to-day form. Most of the book is taken up with letters written to her by a British officer, Jack Hamesh. According to the publisher, ‘War Diary provides unusual insight into the formation of Bachmann as a writer and will be cherished by the many fans of her work. But it is also a poignant glimpse into life in Austria in the immediate aftermath of the war.’ A review can be read at The Quarterly Conversation, which concludes with this comment: ‘It is somewhat curious that this and other juvenilia, such as the Letters to Felician, have been translated into English while so much of her critical writing remains unavailable.’

Here though are a couple of extracts (among the only ones which are actually dated) from the brief diary portion of the book.

11 June
‘Liesl’s falllen in love with an Englishman, he’s immensely lean and tall and he’s called Bob. She says he’s very rich and went to Oxford. She talks of nothing else but him. Yesterday she said her only wish was to get away from here and go to England. I think she hopes he’ll marry her. But marriage between the English and Austrian women is forbidden by the military government. She said the wretched conditions here are never going to end and she’s been through too much, she can’t take any more and she wants to have a life at last. I can well understand her but then I get annoyed with her because she thinks I ought to marry an Englishman too and get away from here. Of course I want to get away but so that I can go to university and I’ve no desire to get married at all, not even to an Englishman for a few tins of food and silk stockings. Most of the English who are here are very nice and, I believe, decent. But I’m much too young, Arthur and Bill are very nice and we often talk a lot together and laugh a lot. We often play games like ‘Drop the Handkerchief’ and ‘Statues’ in the garden. Arthur’s always giving little Heinerle chocolate and a few days ago he suddenly went to Mummy, who’s still bedridden, and put some tea and biscuits on the quilt for her. She calls him Carrot-top because he has such red hair and she likes him best. I think he’s in love with Liesl as well. Bill too, but even more, and Arthur’s terribly jealous of Bob. Bob is quite unapproachable, we once spoke a couple of words but never again, not even when I thanked him for letting Liesl have the car to bring her mother back from hospital.’

14 June
‘My mind’s still in a whirl. Jack Hamesh was here, this time he came in a jeep. Naturally, everyone in the village stared and Frau S. came over the stream twice to have a look in the garden. I took him into the garden because Mummy’s in bed upstairs. We sat on the bench and at first I was all of a tremble so that he must have thought I’m mad or have a bad conscience or God knows what. And I’ve no idea why. I can’t remember what we talked about at first but all at once we were on to books, to Thomas Mann and Stefan Zweig and Schnitzler and Hofmannsthal. I was so happy, he knows everything and he told me he never thought he’d find a young girl in Austria who’d read all that despite her Nazi upbringing. And suddenly everything was quite different and I told him everything about the books. He told me he was taken to England in a kindertransport with other Jewish children in ’38, he was actually eighteen then but an uncle managed to arrange it, his parents were already dead. So now I know how he comes to speak such good German, then he went into the British army and now in the zones of occupation there are lots of former Germans and Austrians working in the FSS offices, because of the language and because they know conditions in the country better. We talked until evening and he kissed my hand before he left. No one’s ever kissed my hand before. I’m out of my mind I’m so happy and after he’d gone I climbed up the apple tree, it was already dark and I cried my eyes out and thought I never wanted to wash my hand again.’

A five star general

Henry (Hap) Arnold, the only American ever to achieve the five star rank of general in two separate branches of the US military, was born 130 years ago today. Even before WWI, he was one of the first military airmen, and by WWII had risen through the ranks to become the US’s air force chief. Despite repeated heart attacks, he travelled extensively through the war, visiting US bases and theatres of war, keeping very detailed diaries on each trip.

Arnold was born in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, on 25 June 1886. His father, a doctor, came from a prominent family, and worked for many years as an army surgeon. Having planned on going to university and becoming a minister, he changed his mind and entered the military academy at West Point, aged only 17, when his older brother defied his father by not doing so. Arnold was commissioned in 1907 as a second lieutenant, Infantry, and served in the Philippine Islands for two years, before returning to Governors Island, New York until April 191. He was then was detailed to the Signal Corps and sent to Dayton, Ohio for instructions by the Wright Brothers in flying, thus becoming one of the earliest military aviators. Thereafter, he became increasingly proficient, setting various records. After a flying accident in 1912, he took a staff assignment as assistant to the new head of the aeronautical division in Washington D. C. before being returned to an infantry posting. In 1913, he married Eleanor Pool (known as Bee), and was soon back in the Philippines.

During WWI, Arnold rose to the rank of colonel and was executive officer to the chief of the air service. In the summer of 1918, he was dispatched to France to brief General John J. Pershing on new aviation developments. After the war, he joined William Mitchell in his campaign for more military air power; and supported him during his court-martiall. Arnold survived that fiasco, as some called it, but was effectively demoted. Nevertheless, he worked his way back into favour, being promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1931 as commanding officer of March Field, California. In 1934 he personally organised and led a flight of Martin B-10 bombers in a round-trip record flight from Washington, D.C. to Fairbanks, Alaska. The following year, he was made brigadier general and was put in command of the air force’s 1st Wing, and was soon assistant to the chief of Air Corps in Washington, Major General Oscar Westover. However, when Westover died in an air crash, in September 1938, Arnold was named the new chief and promoted again this time to the rank of major general.

In mid 1941, the US Army Air Force was formed with Arnold as its chief. He oversaw the formation of the country’s air strategy during WW2, and also planned the formation of the Eighth Air Force in Britain, which would later play a key role in the strategic bombing of Germany. Arnold was promoted to lieutenant general, given autonomy to operate his air units without US Army influence, and made a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. By the end of 1944, he had been named General of the Army, a five-star rank. During the war, he travelled extensively across the world, but this took a toll on his health, and he suffered four heart attacks that required hospitalisation. He retired in 1946 to his ranch in California, having been the first and only general of the Air Force and the only American to hold five-star ranks in two separate branches of the US military. He received many honours at home and abroad. He died in 1950, and received a state funeral. Biographical information about Arnold is readily available online at Wikipedia, US Air Force, World War II Database, or History Net.

During WWII, Arnold kept very detailed diaries, but these were not published until 2002, when Air University Press, Alabama, brought out American Airpower Comes of Age: General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold’s World War II Diaries (two volumes), as edited by Major General John W. Huston. Both are available to preview at Googlebooks (vol. 1 and vol. 2)

In his introduction, Huston says: ‘Although the need for a comprehensive biography of Gen Henry H. “Hap” Arnold exists, this volume does not constitute such a biography. Nor is this work intended as a history of the Army Air Forces in World War II. The aim of the editor has been to place in historical context the thoughts and immediate impressions of Arnold as he recorded them in the diaries he kept through each of his 12 trips abroad during the war. The diaries provide centerpieces for the 12 chapters of this work, each of which is devoted to the trip covered therein. [. . .] These journals represent his immediate thoughts and spontaneous reactions rather than the reflective ruminations of a professional American military officer. Arnold had worn an Army uniform for almost 38 years when he began these volumes. His travels over the 51-month span included six major wartime diplomacy/strategy conferences that took him to all but one continent, into most war zones, and through four heart attacks. No matter where he traveled or what topics were discussed, his freshly recorded impressions made at the end of a busy day were not revised or supplemented by second thoughts or considerations of propriety.’

Huston further comments: ‘To this editor, they appear honest, illuminating, and reflective of the character, strengths, and shortcomings of General Arnold. No other American senior officer has left such an extensive, revealing, and contemporary account of World War II from such a vantage point.’ Here are a couple of extracts from the first volume, in all their military detail! (Square brackets are as inserted by the editor.)

10 August 1941
‘[Argentia, Newfoundland] Tried to copy Freeman’s British program for a fighting air strength of 10,000, [planes including] 4.000 H. B. [heavy bombers]; the thing scares me, it is so big and I know that they cannot meet it. British prod. [production of] H. B. [heavy bombers] 500 a month, US prod. H. B. 500 a month. We can’t do it as easily as that: 2,000 pilots a month. Where will they come from? Wishful thinking.

Time for boat to Prince of Wales, waited 30 minutes. US Destroyer came alongside. President came aboard, band playing Star Spangled Banner, sailors all paraded on afterdeck. Each Chief of Staff with his opposite: Pound. Stark; Dill. Marshall; Freeman, Arnold; Roosevelt, Churchill sitting out in front, in center of hollow square. Church services very impressive.

After church, conference with Freeman. His program is now clear: Britain has built it around our entire production; 100% of all planes produced in US go to Britain; US Army, Navy, Dutch, Chinese, get none; Britain gets all. [US] O P M [Office of Production Management] figures have at last confused almost everyone; believe it wrong to send them out so indiscriminately. Freeman told of misapplication of figures and deliveries and very much disappointed. Told him I could not change policies, all I could do was to make recommendations re change of policies.

Lunch call came while talking. Officers, US Navy, British Navy, Air Forces, Armies, all assembled in Ward Room, sherry; President and Prime Minister went in to lunch and the rest of us. Table seating attached. Prince of Wales withdrew from action with Bismarck. Had Bismarck followed with attack perhaps Prince of Wales, being more or less out of action, would not have come off so light. However, Bismarck missed that bus. After lunch. PM toasted President: President toasted King [George VI]. Good lunch: caviar, vodka, mock turtle soup, grouse, champagne, potatoes, peas, rolls, ice cream with cherry sauce, port, coffee, brandy. PM and President both spoke for a few minutes. President withdrew.

Destroyer told by Admiral Pound we would have a meeting of Chiefs of Staff. Waiting with Freeman then Stark and Marshall went aboard destroyer with President. Destroyer pulled away amid cheers from British sailors. No staff meeting until 9:00 a.m. Monday. Stopped and chatted with the PM awhile. Captain of ship told me that my boat was ready. Said goodbye to PM. Much to my surprise saw marines, band and sailors lined up at gangplank. They gave me a send-off as a Chief of Staff, I did my best to receive it as one. Back to Tuscaloosa with Burns, 4:50 P.M.

This has been a most interesting day. The church service out on deck in Placentia Bay with British warships. Canadian corvettes and destroyers and US warships was most inspiring. I can’t make up mind as yet whether most of us are window dressing for the main actors or whether we are playing minor roles in the show. Freeman will not talk training nor has he as yet been willing to take up civilian aid in the Near East. Looked over [British] Chiefs of Staff memo re the strategic situation. It is a sound paper in some respects from my point of view but needs study, much study before we accept it.

Back to Augusta at 5:50: Marshall, Dill. Freeman, Arnold, Burns. Watson in with President: PM Churchill joined later. Talked over production of tanks, big bombers, increase of production, Liberia airfields, Dakar, Azores, Cape Verdes, Canaries, Azores. Still talking priorities and their all-around effect when 7:00 came up and we had to get out.

Fog and high rain as we took off in barge and went aboard the Prince of Wales; that is the weather I had heard was normal in Newfoundland. We have been very fortunate so far. Sat around for a while in the Admiral’s cabin waiting for the dinner guests of General Dill: Dill, Marshall, Freeman, Welles, Cadogan, Burns, Hollis, Bundy, Leach and Arnold.

Leach, captain of Prince of Wales: it was in Scapa Flow with men from yards still in turrets when it received word to take off in pursuit of Bismarck. Captain was away fishing; he returned posthaste and arrived before steam was fully up to pressure. Ship must have been hit badly as Captain said the carnage, wounded and dead on bridge was so bad that he withdrew from action. He was only man not wounded or killed. They had a hard time intercepting the Bismarck, their courses approached at 90°, but due to snow and sleet missed. Then he changed course and paralleled Bismarck until they made contact. Home to Tuscaloosa in rain at 11:00 p.m.’

24 September 1942
‘[Noumea, New Caledonia] First Nimitz, then Ghormley, finally McCain: “Your bombers are doing no good over in England; your fighters are being wasted in Europe; here is where they can be of use; here is the only place where they can get results; MacArthur may need them but we need them more than he does.” The whole question revolves around: Where is this war to be won? What is our plan for winning the war? Is this not a local affair and should it not be treated as such? In any event, everyone from the Chief of Naval Operations on down should be indoctrinated with one plan for winning the war. So far everything we have seen indicates the necessity of having one theatre extending from Honolulu to Australia; one commander who can dictate an operating policy against one foe; one man who can move his forces to the place where they will be most effective; one plan for using all our forces and rotating them to be used as reinforcements and as replacements.

Two airports for landing at Noumea: (1) Plaines des Graiacs, 150 miles out of town; (2) Ton Tou Ta, much smaller. 40 miles from town. (l) has long 500 [sic] [5.000] foot runways made of iron ore; everything turns red and engine cylinders get badly scored; (make] low approaches and anything can land; most of planes parked here were well-dispersed; men live in tents, no town anywhere in sight. (2) shorter runways only used for fighters and transient planes, 40 miles to town over fair road.

Noumea reminds me of New Orleans insofar as buildings and signs are concerned. Natives are black but not negros, make excellent soldiers, not spoiled. Absence of wild life although deer and wild boar are supposed to be in hills. No citrus fruits, mangoes or coconuts.’

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sir Haggard’s diaries

Sir Henry Rider Haggard, the British author of many an adventure story set in colonial Africa, often in sympathy with the native populations, was born 160 years ago today. He may have kept a private diary when younger, but the only diary extracts to have been published - Private Diaries and Diary of an African Journey - date from the last decade of his life. In the latter book, Haggard records an interesting conversation with the wife of South Africa’s first Prime Minister about the country’s future.

Haggard was born into a large family, in Norfolk, England, on 22 June 1856. His father was a barrister and his mother a writer. He was schooled at Ipswich Grammar, and then in London to enter the Foreign Office, but he never sat the necessary exams. Instead, in 1875, his father sent him to South Africa to work for his friend, Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal. By 1878, he had secured himself a job as registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal. In 1880, he returned to England briefly, and there married Marianna Louisa Margitson with whom he had one son (who died young), and three daughters.

The family left South Africa in 1882, and settled in Ditchingham, Norfolk. Haggard turned to the law and was called to the bar in 1884, but, by then, he was more interested in writing novels. His most famous work, King Solomon’s Mines, was published in 1885, and other stories based in Africa followed, most notably She, which has become, according to Wikipedia, one of the best-selling single-volume books of all time. Also according to Wikipedia, his novels portray many of the stereotypes associated with colonialism, ‘yet they are unusual for the degree of sympathy with which the native populations are portrayed.’

Although Haggard failed to get elected to Parliament in 1895, he became involved with reform in the agricultural sector, sitting on land use commissions, and occasionally travelling to the colonies. Apart from his many fiction works, he wrote several non-fiction books, including Rural England (1902) and an autobiography (The Days of My Life, 1926). He was knighted in 1912 and made a KBE in 1919. He died in 1925. There is not much biographical information about Haggard freely available online, other than at Wikipedia. However, The Days of My Life is available as a University of Adelaide ebook or at Project Gutenberg Australia.

From the start of the First World War, Haggard kept a detailed diary. This was edited by D. S. Higgins and published by Cassel in 1980 as The Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard, 1914-1925. According to Kirkus Reviews, the diary extracts (only some two per cent of the total) make for ‘a live and affecting document’; however the impression the journal leaves is of ‘a fragile, worn-out relic from a bygone era’. Morton N. Cohen, author of Haggard’s biography for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required) is less generous: ‘[The diary] is, sadly, the account of a sour old man who sees himself betrayed by fate, a disillusioned imperialist with authoritarian, racist leanings, who ranted against the Jews, communists, Bolsheviks, trade unionists, the Irish, and Indian nationalists (the editor of his diaries omits from the published text most of Haggard’s harangues).’

Haggard also kept a diary sometimes earlier in his life, although how often is not clear. In 1899, Longmans, Green & Co published a farming diary for the year 1898, A Farmer’s Year (freely available at Internet Archive), and, in 1905, it published A Gardener’s Year (Internet Archive). Both books have diary-like entries, though they were written by Haggard as information books with publication in mind. In 2001, C. Hurst, by arrangement with the University of Natal Press, South Africa, published Diary of an African Journey (1914), as edited by Stephen Coan. Some pages of this can be viewed at Googlebooks (the source of the following extracts). Also, it’s worth noting that Haggard mentions - albeit only a couple of times - a diary in his autobiography.

7 March 1914
‘On this day, together with a number of other people, we were invited by the government to what might be termed a ‘joyride’ round Table Mountain. For one of our party, Mrs. Tatlow, it proved nothing of the sort. The motor she was in collided with another. She was thrown or fell out and has been left behind in bed at the Queen’s Hotel (I write this at Oudtshoorn) suffering from something like slight concussion. We lunched in a tent at the famous house of Groot Constantia. This place was granted in 1684 to Van der Stel, who was the next governor to Van Riebeeck. He built the house and began to cultivate the vines from which the well-known wine Constantia was made. Its last owners were the Cloetes who sold it in 1885 with 280 acres of land to the government for the small sum of £5 500. Since that time the state could have done well on their bargain if, as I was informed by the manager, they refused an offer for it of £28 000. Here there are 103 acres under vines and 56 under fruit trees. The house with its large cool rooms all adorned with ancient and appropriate furniture is really beautiful.

At luncheon which was given in a tent I sat next to, and had an interesting conversation with, Mrs. Botha, who expressed herself as very pleased that I agreed with her husband, the Prime Minister [Louis Botha], as to the uselessness of attempting to emigrate poor white folk to South Africa when already there were enough of them. Such people, unskilled and resourceless, she said, would come right up against the competition of the native, and their exclusion, which in some quarters was set down to race feeling, was really in their own interests. The only openings were for farmers with some capital, a scarce class. We discussed the outlook of the white inhabitants of South Africa in the future and both agreed that it seemed very doubtful - chiefly because of this native question. The native could no longer be suppressed, or even oppressed: he must follow his destiny and often he was an able and a competent person. In practice South Africa must face the fact that all it has to rely on, so far as the whites are concerned, is its present population and their progeny. But here came the trouble - the restriction of population (i.e. race suicide) is creeping in, even among the Boers, except quite in the backveld districts where it would reach ere long. One no longer saw the large families of 30 years ago: they grew smaller and smaller. Moreover those who were growing up, for some subtle reason, in enterprise, in virility and femininity in their widest sense, were not the men and women of the stamp of our generation. She had often said as much to her own children. What was to be the end of it? She could not tell but the future was dark and dubious. Perhaps at last South Africa would be the heritage of the black races with an admixture of white blood. The danger of war between whites and Bantu had gone by, but there were other dangers. Thus what I saw on the previous day, white man and black, working side by side was one of them: it meant the approach of equality. Once that was established how could the dwindling white people hold their own against an increasing race, already four or five times as numerous?

She said it was hard work for a man like her husband to be Prime Minister of the Union in these days and hard for his wife also. It was both exhausting and difficult to deal with politics continually and keep his hands quite clean. We both agreed that time and experience were wonderful softeners of strong views. Thus today I should not write another Jess and she would not think about the English as she had thought even a dozen years ago. She told me that although it seemed a strange thing for her to say, the deportation of the captured Boers had been a very good thing for the people. The sight of other lands had opened their minds and made them more progressive; also they had learnt what the British Empire meant. Such is a summary of this enlightening talk made from notes taken that evening, and I think one that is accurate, although compressed. Mrs. Botha struck me as an able woman in a quiet way and I liked her very much.’

10 March 1914
‘Woke up lo find that we were running over bush-clad sourveld with a few ostriches wandering round lonely Boer steadings. While I was dressing the iron lid of the washbasin fell on and crushed the top plate of the false teeth which were recently fitted with so much discomfort. A most annoying incident. Luckily I have the old temporary set with me which the dentist wanted to destroy.

At lunch time we came to a range of mountains called Outniqiua, or some such name, that tower above a little township of about 2 000 inhabitants, called George, which is largely inhabited by retired persons in search of quiet. The situation is fine on a flat plain dominated by tall grassy peaks down which run waterfalls that look like lines of wandering silver. At the beginning of the pass we went through government plantations of gums [eucalypts] of about 10 years of age which are doing splendidly. There are several of these here. Next we passed through some native bush in the kloofs, then came broom, heather and bracken, clothing the broad hill shoulders. From the crest of the pass the view was grand. The flat plain below diversified with plantations surrounding the scattered town of George and in the distance the great sea. All this district might be afforested, the hills with pines and the plains with gums. As the land seems to be worth no more than 10s. an acre it would be an excellent purpose to which to put it. About 4 o’clock we entered the Oudtshoorn valley, a hot and fertile place surrounded by hills, and everywhere saw ostriches feeding on lucerne in their wired camps.

On arrival we were met by the mayor and notables and taken off to see the farm of Mr. John le Roux where, after 34 years or so. I renewed my acquaintance with that ungainly but profitable fowl, the ostrich. By the way, at the station a gentleman whose name I think was Rex came up and asked me if I remembered him - as I did not he produced from his pocket an official order of the Pretoria High Court, written and signed by myself in 1878, appointing him a sworn interpreter. I wonder if he always carries it about with him. I was glad to see that the order was properly drawn and written in a better hand than I can boast nowadays. The signature, however, is identical with that I use at present.’

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fire in the music

Joseph Martin Kraus, a German-born composer who found fame in, and thanks to, the Swedish court of King Gustav III, was born 260 years ago today. He was sent by Gustav on a grand tour of Europe, and for a few months kept a rather haphazard diary of his travels, meetings and concert visits, often providing detailed and opinionated critiques of the latter.

Kraus was born in the central German town of Miltenberg in Franconia on 20 June 1756, though the family moved to Buchen in Baden-Württemberg in 1761. He began to show musical talent at an early age, and was taught piano and violin. Though pressed to study law at the University of Mainz, he moved to University of Erfurt where he focused more on music. He was obliged to remain for a year at home while his father underwent prosecution for misuse of office, but during this period he wrote Tolon, a drama in three acts, and several musical works for the local church. In 1776 he returned to study, this time at the University of Göttingen, where he came into contact with members of the Romantic literary movement, Sturm und Drang.

A fellow student at Göttingen persuaded Kraus, in 1778, to move to Stockholm where King Gustav III was well known as a patron of the arts. However, there were hard times for Kraus, and it took him three years before winning favour from the king, and being asked to write music for his opera libretto Proserpina. Following a successful premier, he was appointed vice-Kapellmeister of the Royal Swedish Opera and director of the Royal Academy of Music. Subsequently, Gustav paid for Kraus to go on a grand tour of Europe, one lasting over four years, and during which he met many leading musical figures of the day - not least Gluck, Salieri and Haydn.

During his travels, Kraus composed many works, including symphonies sometimes later attributed to others, and his flute quintet in D Major. On his return to Sweden, in 1787, he was appointed as director of curriculum at the Royal Academy of Music, and the next year he succeeded as Kapellmeister. Although he seems to have favoured instrumental music, the demands of Gustav’s court were for operas, arias and the like. In 1792, he was present at a masked ball when Gustav was assassinated. His death left the arts that he had nurtured in distress. Kraus wrote Funeral Cantata and the Symphonie funèbre, which were played at the burial ceremony. Klaus died of TB a few months later. Further information is available at Wikipedia, Naxos, and Allmusic.

During the early months of his grand tour, from October 1782 into 1783, Kraus kept a rather haphazard diary -  the contents alternate between painstaking detail and superficial description, and switch from imperfect Swedish to German here and there. The extant manuscript, held by Universitets-bibliotek in Uppsala, Sweden, consists of no more than 11 leaves written on both sides. According to Bertil van Boer, who wrote an essay on the diary for The Journal of Musicology in 1990, the main text ‘is a combination of travel/route description, drafts of letters, opinionated critiques of musical instruments, literary and musical works, and concerts, and descriptions of people he met during his journey.’ The essay, titled The Travel Diary of Joseph Martin Kraus, is available online at JSTOR with log-in.

In introducing Kraus’s diary, van Boer refers to the growing tradition among young people to be sent on a Grand Tour as part of their education. Specifically, though, in the music world, he refers to the diaries of Charles Burney which not only give a detailed picture of music in the Europe during the middle part of the eighteenth century, but were used as a substantial foundation for his history of music - see The wonderful echo for more. He goes on to examine and analyse Kraus’s diary in some detail - calling it ‘a hodgepodge’, and noting, for example, that Kraus only mentions three of his own musical compositions. Van Boer provides a few quotes from the diary, translated into English, including the following.

6 April 1783
‘The sixth was an academy for the benefit of a newly-established musical society; Die Israeliten in der Wilste composed by Max. Ulbikh was performed. The orchestra was strong but did not contain the promised list of 180 members, but rather only some 70-odd people. In general, the music contained much fire. The overture in D Minor had three movements; the first expressed the uproar of the people quite well. The second, in A Major, and the last, in D Major, didn’t belong at all. He [Ulbrich] proceeds into the first chorus with an idea [taken) from the first movement. [Carl Philipp Emanuel] Bach has understood the same meaning in this chorus better, I believe. The role of the First Israelite was sung by Fraulein Theresia Tauber. The aria “Will er” was too modern, the performance of the singer very poor, and her inability was even more apparent in the cadenza in the last line (“Ach, wie seyd ihr so begluckt [Begluckt seid ihr, ach]”). The Aaron was Hoffman, a wretched bass. His aria was also too modern, and in both of these arias the main problem was that the accompaniment was too strong. The same can be said for the third aria sung by Signorina Cavalieri; it was too soloistic, and the concertante complement to the voice in the English horn was not terribly successful in terms of expression.

The chorus of Israelites (“Du hist der Ursprung,” etc.), however, was far above the former and Bach’s entire work, insofar as the arias and choruses contain fire. The movement is in C Minor and a fugue. With a very well-done contrast. Father Moses interrupt the chorus with his remarks, and the answer of the people to Moses’s question - Hast du die Werke voll Wunder schon vergessen, die fur dich dein Gott getan?” - cannot bought be thought more appropriate: “Gott schlummerte” (Ungrateful people! So do you!). The composer has altered the words according to the circumstances [in general]; in this chorus as well, but with sinfully exposed gaps. The aria of Moses immediately following, however, is too trivial. The duet of both Israelites could, in another meter, be appropriate for any [secular] concert. I should mention in this regard that both singers competed quite prettily with each other as to who could be the most raging. The recitative of Moses mixed with the chorus that follows is pretty but [contains] nothing new. Moreover, the first movement of Moses’s prayer, in which the guilt and the nature of the piece certainly demands heightened tension, is fiat. The fully-worked-out chorus in C Major is well-conceived, and the [word]-painting of the women slaves is shown altogether enchantingly. This concludes the first act.

The same comments are valid for the second act, though the music is much less worthy of a church. The theme of the first recitative is too childish for the subject and characters; the chorus which begins with a solo by M[oses] ditto, the aria of the first Israelite in G Major ditto, and the unusually trivial aria of Moses with an obbligato violoncello ditto. In the second half (“Dies ist der Helden”) the accompaniment is so strong that one cannot hear the voices. In the recitative which precedes the aria, the composer paints [the words] “Doch einst vor meinem Blicken, seh’ ich die Zukunft aufgehellt” with a rising crescendo in the timpani, adding one wind instrument after another on top. The recitative ends in the same fashion but with less effect. The following aria for Signorina Cavaliert is [set] for obbligato oboe, flute, bassoon, horns and a blend of onions and garlic. The last chorus is mediocre. In general, the first half [of oratorio] far outshines the second. The fault [for this] lies partially with the text. In the last part, the composer has thoughts here and there that were heard in the first.

The execution was quite good - but not exact in piano [passages]. I did not observe many of the lesser crescendos [i.e. dynamics], and each of the desks of violins had its own bowings. The bass line was also not clear owing to the softness of the contrabasses and the lack of violoncellos. The composer has also overworked the [vocal] basses too much.

Between the two acts [I] heard the emperor’s wind band consisting of a oboes, 2 clarinets. 2 horns, [and] 2 bassoons. The composition by Johann Went was very well set for the nature of the instruments but nothing new for the mind. The execution was as admirable as could be desired. . .’

8 April 1783
‘The eighth was the same academy [as the sixth]. All of my earlier comments also apply here. Instead of the previous musical interlude (i.e., the HarmoniemusikJ, I heard Herr (Ludwig) Gehring on the flute. The tuning of his instrument was a half-step sharp, and I didn’t think that the year he was gone from Gottingen had done him as much good as it could have. The piece by [Friedrich] Graf was wonderful, as usual (p. 6r-7r].’

14 April 1783
‘The fourteenth I finally visited Gluck. He was quite polite, but told me personally that it was difficult to express himself now after his illness. His right hand also did not have its former perfect flexibility. Klopstock’s Hermannsschlacht is not yet written out, especially since, according to him, the Emperor was plaguing him about Les Daniades at the same time. At first, he wanted to use Salieri to write down [the latter] on paper for him - but he noted that it would be too much trouble, and on the orders of his doctor, he let it be. Salieri is allowed to set the opera in Paris under his own name. Cluck very clearly let it become known that Salieri has quite retained his thoughts, furthermore that he was not in favor of putting the opera on under his own name. He gave me his portrait and showed me the original painting which is a masterpiece of expression. He often repeated his contention that a simple song belonged of necessity to a stage piece. He was the first to make actors of the chorus in Paris, for previously they only stood there like statues. He allowed Orphée to be translated, but he was not satisfied with the first poet. He then accepted a mediocre one who did things more in accordance with his wishes. He is very satisfied with the scenes in Armide: “Un seul guerrier” [and] “Poursuivons notre ennemi jusqu’au trépasse,” etc. . .’