Saturday, April 12, 2014

The wonderful echo

Charles Burney, the much revered music historian and father of the famous diarist, Fanny Burney, died 200 years ago today. Although not known as a diarist himself, he did keep detailed diaries on two journeys through Europe while researching the history of music. Much of the detail in these diaries concerns, rather laboriously, matters only musical, but he does write about what he hears and sees with an exquisite precision - even when his subject is but a famous echo.

Burney was born at Shrewsbury, Shropshire, in 1726. He attended The King’s School in Chester, where his music master, a previous student of John Blow (see John Blow’s bad singing), was organist at the cathedral. On leaving the school, he was taught first by his half-brother and then apprenticed in London to Dr Thomas Arne. From 1746, the aristocrat Fulke Greville adopted Burney as a musical companion, but they parted when Greville wanted to go abroad, and Burney wanted to stay with his new love, Esther Sleepe, who he then married (in 1749). Left otherwise without funds, he won an appointment as organist of St Dionis-Backchurch, Fenchurch Street.

In 1751, Burney went to Lynn Regis in Norfolk, where he was again elected organist, taught music students, and lived for nine years. During that time he began to entertain the idea of writing a general history of music. In 1760, he returned to London with a young family (his daughter Fanny would go on to become one of the most famous diarists of the age), but his wife Esther died soon after. In 1769 he married Mrs Stephen Allen of Lynn.

Burney published concertos for harpsichord which were much admired, and, in 1766, he produced, at Drury Lane, a translation and adaptation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s opera Le Devin du village, under the title of The Cunning Man. In 1770, Burney left London to travel in Europe to collect material for a history of music; and he undertook a second Continental journey in 1772. The first volume of his history appeared in 1776, with further volumes appearing in 1782 and 1789. In between, he continued teaching, he finished other notable musical and written works, and contributed many articles to Ree’s Cyclopaedia. In 1783, he was appointed organist to the chapel at Chelsea Hospital, where he lived, and then died on 12 April 1814. For more biographical information see The Burney Centre hosted by McGill University, Westminster Abbey’s website, or Wikipedia.

After each trip to the Continent, Burney published a book of his travels made up largely of the journal he had kept on route. The first of these, published by T. Becket & Co, came out in 1771: The Present State of Music in France and Italy or The Journal of a Tour through those Countries, undertaken to collect Materials for a General History of Music. This is freely available online at Internet Archive. His record of the second tour, published also by T. Becket & Co, came out in 1773, with a similar title: The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands and United Provinces. This is also available at Internet Archive.

One hundred and fifty years later, Cedric Howard Glover revisited Burney’s journals, and, in 1927, Blackie & Son published Dr. Charles Burney’s Continental Travels 1770-1772. In this volume, however, Burney’s actual diary entries are merged into a general text composed by Glover. He explains, in his introduction, his decision to revisit and re-edit the journals:

‘The primary object of Dr. Burney’s travels was the acquisition of material for the General History of Music which it was his ambition to compile, and his Journals are therefore mainly concerned with the results of his researches. However interesting to the public of his own day, there can be no question that the sections of his Journals devoted to purely musical matters are in the main responsible for the somewhat rapid decline in popular favour which his books experienced. Yet embedded in accounts of interviews with long forgotten musicians, we can still find plenty to delight and entertain us.

The Journals contain graphic descriptions of encounters with many of the notable figures in the literary and musical history of that time - Voltaire and Rousseau, Mozart and Gluck, Laura Bassi, the lady professor of Bologna, and Sir William Hamilton, antiquarian and collector. Few Englishmen had the luck to hear Frederick the Great play the flute at Potsdam, or to watch Henry, Cardinal York, the last of the Stuarts, say Vespers in Rome.

But it is not only the personal side of the Journals which arrests our attention. There is much to interest us in Dr. Burney’s adventures on the road. He gives us a striking picture of the devastation and misery caused by the Seven Years’ War, of his own discomforts on the journey by river on a log raft from Munich to Vienna, and of the villainy in general of postboys and innkeepers. Finally, there is the pleasure of watching the actions and reactions of an engaging personality. A man of his age, with no great complexity of character, Dr. Burney makes us share his pleasures even in the condescensions of the great. His insatiable curiosity is infectious; nothing is too trivial to enlist a sympathetic attention. [. . .]

The Journals have long played their part in the formation of musical history; the present volume sets out to win them the favour of a wider circle of readers than the musical lexicographers by bringing into prominence the many factors of varied interest contained in them; these, it is hoped, may prove a substantial contribution to the history of those remote days when Continental travelling required the courage and endurance now demanded of an Arctic explorer.’

Here, though, are several extracts from the original published journal of Burney’s travels in France and Italy. (At the time, an f-like s was still being used at the start of, or in the middle, of words).

13 June 1770
‘This morning I fpent in the library of the College Des Quatre nations, founded by cardinal Mazarin. It is a noble one. I confulted the catalogues, and found feveral of the books I wanted.

In the evening I heard two pieces performed at the Theatre Italien, in which the finging was the worft part. Though the modern French compofers hazard every thing that has been attempted by the Italians, yet it is ill executed, and fo ill underftood by the audience, that it makes no impreffion. Bravura fongs, or fongs of execution, are now attempted; but they are fo ill performed, that no one ufed to true Italian finging can like any thing but the words and action. One of thefe pieces was new, and meant as a comic opera, in all its modern French forms of Italian mufic, (that is, mufic compofed in the Italian ftyle) to French words. No recitative, all the dialogue and narrative part being fpoken. And this piece was as thoroughly d—d as ever piece was here. I ufed to imagine that a French audience durft not hifs to the degree I found they did upon this occafion. Indeed quite as much, mixt with horfe laughs, as ever I heard at Drury Lane, or Covent Garden. In fhort, it was condemned in all the Englifh forms, except breaking the benches and the actors heads; and the inceffant found of hifh inflead of hifs. The author of the words, luckily, or rather judicioufly, lay concealed; but the compofer, M. de St. Amant, was very much to be pitied, for a great deal of real good mufic was thrown away upon bad words, and upon an audience not at all difpofed, efpecially in the two laft acts (there were three) to hear anything fairly. But this mufic, though I thought it much fuperiour to the poetry it accompanied, was not without its defects; the modulation was too ftudied, fo much fo as to be unnatural, and always to difappoint the ear. The overture however was good mufic, full of found, harmony, elegant and pleafing melody, with many paffages of effect. The hautbois at this theatre is admirable; I hardly ever heard a more pleafing tone or manner of playing. Several of the fongs would have been admirable too; if they had been fung with the true Italian expreffion. But the French voice never comes further than from the throat; there is no voce di petto, no true portamento or direction of the voice, on any of the ftages. And though feveral of the fingers in this theatre are Italians, they are fo degenerated fince they came hither, that if I had not been affured of it, their performance would have convinced me of the contrary. The new piece had several movements in it very like what is heard at the ferious opera. (It muft be remembered that the whole was in verfe, and extremely ferious, except fome attempt at humour in Calliot’s part) which, however, did not prevent the audience from pronouncing it to be deteftable.’

14 June 1770
‘This being Fete Dieu or Corpus Chrifti Day, one of the greateft holidays in the whole year, I went to fee the proceffions, and to hear high mafs performed at Notre Dame. I had great difficulty to get thither. Coaches are not allowed to ftir till all the proceflions, with which the whole town fwarms, are over. The ftreets through which they are to pafs in the way to the churches, are all lined with tapestry; or, for want of that, with bed-curtains and old petticoats: I find the better fort of people, (les gens comme il faut) all go out of town on thefe days, to avoid the embarras of going to mafs, or the ennui of ftaying at home. Whenever the hoft ftops, which frequently happens, the priefts fing a pfalm, and all the people fall on their knees in the middle of the ftreet, whether dirty or clean. I readily complied with this ceremony rather than give offence or become remarkable. Indeed, when I went out, I determined to do as other people did, in the ftreets and church, otherwife I had no bufinefs there; fo that I found it incumbent on me to kneel down twenty times ere I reached Notre Dame. This I was the lefs hurt at, as I faw it quite general and many much better dreffed people than myfelf, almoft proftrated themfelves, while I only touched the ground with one knee. At length I reached the church, where I was likewife a conformift; though here I walked about frequently, as I faw others do, round the choir and in the great aifle. I made my remarks on the organ, organift, plain-chant, and motets. Though this was fo great a festival, the organ accompanied the choir but little. The chief ufe made of it, was to play over the chant before it was fung, all through the Pfalms. Upon enquiring of a young abbe, whom I took with me as a nomenclator, what this was called? C’eft prefer, ‘Tis profing, he faid. And it fhould feem as if our word profing came from this dull and heavy manner of recital. The organ is a good one, but when played full, the echo and reverberation were fo ftrong, that it was all confufion; however, on the choir organ and echo ftops I could hear every paffage distinctly. The organift has a neat and judicious way of touching the inftrument; but his paffages were very old fafhioned. Indeed what he played during the offertorio, which lafted fix or eight minutes, feemed too ftiff and regular for a voluntary. Several motets, or fervices, were performed by the choir, but accompanied oftener by the ferpent than organ: though, at my firft entrance into the French churches, I have frequently taken the ferpent for an organ; but foon found it had in its effect fomething better and fomething worfe than that inftrument. Thefe compofitions are much in the way of our old church fervices, full of fugues and imitation; more contrivance and labour than melody. I am more and more convinced every day, that what I before obferved concerning the adapting the Englifh words to the old canto fermo, by Tallis, at the Reformation, is true - and it feems to me that mufic, in our cathedral fervice, was lefs reformed than any other part of the liturgy.

At five o’clock I went to the Concert Spirituel, the only public amufement allowed on thefe great feftivals. It is a grand concert performed in the great hall of the Louvre, in which the vocal confifts of detached pieces of church mufic in Latin. I fhall name the feveral performances of this concert, and fairly fay what effect. each had upon myfelf, and upon the audience, as far as a ftander-by could difcover. . .’

21 July 1770
‘It did not feem foreign to my bufinefs in Italy to vifit the Palazzo Simonetto, a mile or two from Milan, to hear the famous echo, about which travellers have faid fo much, that I rather fufpected exaggeration. This is not the place to enter deeply into the doctrine of reverberation; I fhall referve the attempt for another work; as to the matter of fact, this echo is very wonderful. The Simonetto palace is near no other building; the country all around is a dead flat, and no mountains are nearer than thofe of Swifferland, which are upwards of thirty miles off. This palace is now uninhabited and in ruin, but has been pretty; the front is open, and fupported by very light double Ionic pillars, but the echo is only to be heard behind the houfe, which, next to the garden has two wings. [Illustration . . .]

Now, though it is natural to fuppofe that the oppofite wails reflect the found, it is not eafy to fay in what manner; as the form of the building is a very common one, and no other of the fame confruction, that I have ever heard of, produces the fame effects. I made experiments of all kinds, and in every fituation, with the voice, flow, quick; with a trumpet, which a fervant who was with me founded; with a piftol, and a mufquet, and always found agreeable to the doctrine of echos, that the more quick and violent the percuffion of the air, the more numerous were the repetitions; which, upon firing the mufquet, amounted to upwards of fifty, of which the ftrength feemed regularly to diminifh, and the diftance to become more remote. Such a mufical canon might be contrived for one fine voice here, according to father Kircher’s method, as would have all the eifect of two, three, and even four voices. One blow of a hammer produced a very good imitation of an ingenious and practifed footman’s knock at a London door, on a vifiting night. A fingle ha! became a long horfe-laugh; and a forced note, or a found overblown in tire trumpet, became the moft ridiculous and laughable noife imaginable.’

Beautiful blueberries

Happy 60th birthday Jon Krakauer, US author of several best-selling true-story books. I have no idea whether Krakauer is a diarist himself, but in two of his books - one about a young man who died on a solitary adventure in Alaska, and the other about Pat Tillman, a famous football player-turned-soldier killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan - he makes very good use of his subjects’ diaries.

Jon Krakauer was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on 12 April 1954, but was raised in Corvallis, Oregon, from the age of two. His father was a doctor and mountaineer, and he took Jon climbing from the age of eight. Jon studied at Hampshire College, where he graduated in environmental studies. He married Linda Mariam Moor in 1980. They lived in Seattle, Washington, before moving to Boulder, Colorado. But Krakauer divided his time between Colorado, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest, supporting himself primarily as a carpenter and commercial salmon fisherman, but also writing for Outside magazine.

Some of Krakauer’s essays and articles on mountain-climbing were collected in his first book, Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains, published in 1990. Then, in 1993, he wrote a 9,000 word article for Outside on Christopher McCandless an American hiker and idealist who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness and died four months later, probably from starvation. Krakauer went on to write a very successful book about McCandless - Into the Wild (Macmillan 1996) - partly based on a diary that was found with his body, and which documented his struggles to stay alive.

In 1996, Krakauer climbed Mt. Everest, but four of his party, who reached the summit with him, died in a storm. An analysis of the tragedy for Outside was highly regarded, and is said to have led to a general re-evaluation of the commercialisation of what had once been a romantic, solitary sport. His book on Everest, Into Thin Air (Villard, 1997), became another best-seller, and was widely translated.

A third non-fiction best-seller followed in 2003 with Under the Banner of Heaven (Doubleday), about offshoots of Mormonism, and the practice of polygamy within them; and a fourth best-seller came in 2009: Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (Doubleday). Tillman was an American football player who gave up sport to enlist in the army, in 2002, following the September 11 attacks. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The army initially reported that he had been killed in action, but it later became clear that his death by friendly fire had been covered up. Krakauer’s book draws on Tillman’s journals and letters.

In the first paragraph of the first chapter Krakauer writes: ‘During Pat Tillman’s stint in the Army he intermittently kept a diary. In an entry dated July 28, 2002 - three weeks after he arrived at boot camp - he wrote, “It is amazing the turns one’s life can take. Major events or decisions that completely change a life. In my life there have been a number.” He then catalogued several. Foremost on his mind at the time, predictably, was his decision to join the military. But the incident he put at the top of the list, which occurred when he was eleven years old, comes as a surprise. “As odd as this sounds,” the journal revealed, “a diving catch I made in the 11-12 all-stars was a take-off point. I excelled the rest of the tournament and gained incredible confidence. It sounds tacky but it was big.”

And here are several extracts from the first of Krakauer's best-sellers, Into the Wild, all of them quotes from McCandless’s diary. The first three are from a diary McCandless kept soon after leaving university and heading off on his solitary travels. During this period, he called himself Alexander, and wrote about himself in the third person. The rest of the entries are from the weeks preceding his death in Alaska in August 1992, probably from starvation, although Krakauer argues that McCandless poisoned himself by eating the wrong kind of berries. Sean Penn wrote and directed a film adapted from the book in 2007.

5 December 1990
‘At last! Alex finds what he believes to be the Weltreco Canal and heads south. Worries and fears return as the canal grows ever smaller. . . Local inhabitants help him portage around a barrier . . . Alex finds Mexicans to be warm, friendly people. Much more hospitable than Americans.’

6 December 1990
‘Small but dangerous waterfalls litter the canal.’

9 December 1990
‘All hopes collapse! The canal does not reach the ocean but merely peters out into a vast swamp. Alex is utterly confounded. Decides he must be close to the ocean and elects to try and work way through swamp to sea. Alex becomes progressively lost to point where he must push canoe through reeds and drag it through mud. All is in despair. Finds some dry ground to camp in swamp at sundown. Next day, on 12/10, Alex resumes quest for an opening to the sea, but only becomes more confused, traveling in circles. Completely demoralized and frustrated he lays in his canoe at day’s end and weeps. But then by fantastic chance he comes upon Mexican duck hunting guides who can speak English. He tells them his story and his quest for the sea. They say there is no outlet to the sea. But then one among them agrees to tow Alex back to his basecamp, and drive him and the canoe to the ocean. It is a miracle.’

28 May 1992
‘Gourmet Duck!’

1 June 1992
‘5 Squirrel.’

2 June 1992
‘Porcupine, Ptarmigan, 4 Squirrel, Grey Bird.’

3 June 1992
‘Another Porcupine! 4 Squirrel, Grey Bird.’

9 June 1992

Although McCandless was enough of a realist, Krakauer observes, to know that hunting game was an unavoidable component of living off the land, he had always been ambivalent about killing animals. Believing that it was morally indefensible to waste any part of an animal that had been shot for food, McCandless spent days toiling to preserve what he had killed before it spoiled.’

10 June 1992
‘Butchering extremely difficult. Fly and mosquito hordes. Remove intestines, liver, kidneys, one lung, steaks. Get hindquarters and leg to stream.’

11 June 1992
‘Remove heart and other lung. Two front legs and head. Get rest to stream. Haul near cave. Try to protect with smoker.’

12 June 1992
‘Remove half rib-cage and steaks. Can only work nights. Keep smokers going.’

13 June 1992
‘Get remainder of rib-cage, shoulder and neck to cave. Start smoking.’

14 June 1992
‘Maggots already! Smoking appears ineffective. Don’t know. Looks like disaster. I now wish I had never shot the moose. One of the greatest tragedies of my life.’

A couple of days later
‘Consciousness of food. Eat and cook with concentration . . . Holy Food.’

And then on the back pages of the book that served as his journal, he declared: ‘I am reborn. This is my dawn. Real life has just begun. Deliberate living: Concious attention to the basics of life, and a constant attention to your immediate environment and its concerns, example -> A job, a task, a book; anything requiring efficent concentration (Circumstance has no value. It is how one relates to a situation that has value. All true meaning resides in the personal relationship to a phenomenon, what it means to you).

The Great Holiness of FOOD, the Vital Heat.
Positivism, the Insurpassable Joy of the Life Aesthetic.
Absolute Truth and Honesty.
Finality - Stability - Consistency’

5 July 1992
‘Disaster . . . Rained in. River look impossible. Lonely, scared.’

McCandless’s inability to cross the river (now much more swollen than when he had first crossed it earlier in the year), which would have allowed him to hike back to the highway, appears to have led to his death some weeks later. 

Krakauer quotes a few more journal entries, but, he says, the signs are ominous.

30 July 1992

2 August 1992

5 August 1992

12 August 1992 [the last dated entry]
‘Beautiful Blueberries.’

Monday, April 7, 2014

Elizabeth Freke’s misfortunes

‘I was in a most grievous rainy, wet day married without the knowledg or consent of my father or any friend in London.’ This is part of the first entry in an extraordinary diary - or more accurately a set of reminiscences - left behind by Elizabeth Freke, who died 300 years ago today. Her life - as recounted in the autobiographical writings - from the secret marriage onwards seems to have been unusually full of dispute and troubles, not only with her husband but many others besides. According to one reviewer of the published diary, ‘she wields her resentment like an iron ball swung round her head ready to let fly’.

Elizabeth was born in Wiltshire, the eldest daughter of Raufe Freke and Cicely, a cousin of the famous Nicolas Culpeper (who wrote the London Dispensatory). After her mother’s early death, she and her sisters were raised by her father and a maternal aunt. When 30, she eloped with her second cousin Percy to London. She had a child, a son, and then went to Ireland, where Percy’s father lived at Rathbarry in County Cork, leaving the boy with her father.

In subsequent years, Freke travelled back and forth, quarrelling with her husband, about money and about where they should live. And while her father kept providing her with funds, her husband kept spending them. Ultimately, her father bought her an estate at West Bilney, in Norfolk, which she managed to keep for herself, and to where she eventually retired after leaving Ireland for the last time. Percy came to Norfolk when he was ill, and died there, causing Elizabeth much stress. Later, she suffered from asthma and pleurisy, and died in Westminster on 7 April 1714 while visiting London. She was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Elizebeth Freke is only remembered today because of her autobiographical writings - recorded in two separate manuscripts - and the historical and social interest of those writings. Some of these were first edited by Mary Carbery and published in 1913, by the Journal of the Cork Historical & Archaeological Society, as Mrs. Elizabeth Freke Her Diary, 1671 to 1714. Although the term ‘diary’ was used - presumably because many of the autobiographical entries left by Freke were dated in diary format - it is clear from the content that the bulk of them were written much later on. Melosina Lenox-Conyngham included some of Freke’s so-called diary entries in her Diaries of Ireland (published by Lilliput Press, Dublin in 1998).

Much more recently, a US professor, Raymond Anselment, re-examined the Freke papers in the British library, and produced a more detailed and considered version of Freke’s literary legacy. This was published by Cambridge University Press in 2001 as The Remembrances of Elizabeth Freke, 1671–1714. Some pages can be read online at Googlebooks and at Amazon.

In his introduction, Anselment discusses the two manuscripts left behind by Freke, i.e. the two versions of her autobiographical writings, and how Carbery ‘cut, conflated, and rearranged’ them. Although he says that the composition of neither manuscript can be dated precisely, he does conclude that Freke began writing her remembrances in 1702, aged 60, ‘perhaps relying on earlier notes for the specific details of her first thirty years of marriage’. From then on, he also concludes, Freke’s increasingly substantial entries were written ‘fairly soon after the entry dates’.

‘In writing and then rewriting autobiographical remembrances recalling three decades of marriage and ensuing years of widowhood,’ the publisher’s blurb says, ‘Elizabeth Freke strikingly redefines the relationships among self, family, and patriarchy characteristic of early modern women’s autobiography. Suffering and sacrifice dominate an extensive ledger of disappointment and bitterness that reveals over time the complex emotions of a Norfolk gentry woman seeking significance and even vindication in her hardships and frustrations. [. . .] By making available both versions of the remembrances in their entirety, this new, multiple-text edition clarifies the refashioning inherent in each stage of writing and rewriting, recovering with unusual immediacy Freke’s late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century domestic world.’

Dr Amy Erickson, in a review of Anselment’s book for the Institute of Historical Research, says this: ‘Elizabeth Freke has the distinction among my autobiographical acquaintance of being the memoirist I would least like to meet. This is not because she was toothless, lame, blind and probably bald and, as she said in 1711, ‘a diseased criple with a rhumatisme and tisick confined to a chair for this eighteen months past’. It is because she wields her resentment like an iron ball swung round her head ready to let fly.’

And Erickson goes on to explain further: ‘These are not remembrances in the sense of reminiscences. They are not a record of family or piety or maternal devotion, as many early modern women’s memoirs might be categorised. They are explicitly ‘remembrances of my misfortuns ... since I were marryed’. The bitterness is directed primarily, but by no means exclusively, at her husband and son, and with good reason. Her sister, her cousin (who is her financial agent), her tenants, and the Bishop of Norwich also mistreat her to varying degrees. All of these relationships are described in terms of property - in relation to gifts (the cash value of which is always recorded), ingratitude or theft.’

Here are a few extracts from the early pages of The Remembrances of Elizabeth Freke, 1671–1714.

14 November 1671
‘I was privately married to Mr Percy Frek by Doctter Johnson in Coven Garden, my Lord Russells chaplain, in London, to my second cosine, eldest son to Captain Arthur Frek and grandson to Mr William Frek, the only brother of Sir Thomas Frek of Dorsettshiere, who was my grandfather, and his son Mr Ralph Frek my deer father. And my mother was Sir Thomas Cullpepers daughter of Hollingburne in Kentt; her name was Cicelia Cullpeper. Affter being six or 7 years engaged to Mr Percy Freke, I was in a most grievous rainy, wet day married without the knowledg or consent of my father or any friend in London, as above.’

26 July 1672
‘Being Thursday, I were again remarried by me deer father by Doctter Uttram att St Margaretts Church in Westminster by a licence att least four years in Mr Freks pocttett and in a grievous tempestuous, stormy day for wind as the above for raigne. I were given by me deer father, Ralph Frek, Esqr, and the eldest of his four daughters and the last married, being contracted to him by promise for five years before, butt unwilling to give my sisters any president of my misfortunes prognosticated to mee by the two tempestuous and dreadful days I were married on and which I looked on as fatal emblems to me. Eliza. Freke.’

26 August 1672
‘Mr Frek, Agust 26 coming over St James Parke about 12 a clock att night, challenged my lord of Roscomon either to fight him in St James Parke presently or to pay him down a thousand pounds my lord has long owed Mr Freke. Butt the 26 of Agust att three a clock in the morning ten men of the lifeguard came and fetched Mr Freke out of his bed from me and immediatly hurryed him to Whit Hall before Secretary Coventry, I nott knowing what itt was for more then words spoken. This was the begining of my troubles for my disobedience in marrying as I did. Eliz Freke’

4 March 1690
‘Mr Frek left me and went away again for Ireland, I nott knowing of itt above two days before, to endeavour the getting of his estat, tho given away by King James to Owen Maccarty. My Husband being then outtlawed for an absentee had all his estate of above 700 pounds a yeare with all his stock and good given away by the said kinge and his greatt house att Rathbarry burnt down by the Irish to preventt its being made a garrison, as itt had held outt on nine months for King Charls the First by Captaine Arthur Frek, my husbands father.’

30 March 1692
‘Mr Frek, haveing now left me to shifft for my selfe above two years, never lett me have any quiett butt commanded me to leave all my affairs att Billney and come over to Ireland. Wher, affter halfe a years concideration I forced my selfe to undertak againe a jorney to Ireland, and in order to itt wentt with my son and servants to London in my deer sister Nortons coach and left my house and goods in the care of Jams Wallbutt, then my servantt and affter my cheating tenant.’

The Diary Junction

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The King’s bathing habits

Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville was born two hundred and twenty years ago today. In memory of one of the greatest of 19th century political diarists, I am republishing here the whole of a chapter (Chapter 10) from my book Brighton in Diaries published by The History Press. (See also The Diary Review article about Charles’s brother Henry: I went with the queen.)

Of all the 19th century diarists who recorded public and political events, Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville, is probably the most important. Arthur Ponsonby, who wrote two learned reviews of English diaries in the 1920s, says that as a commentator on contemporary events he ‘holds a unique position’, for ‘he wrote history as it was in the making’. Other political and social diaries of the time ‘fade into insignificance when compared with his very full and detailed chronicle’. Indeed his early diaries, when published a decade after his death for the first time, caused an uproar. The Prime Minister at the time, Benjamin Disraeli, called them an outrage, and Queen Victoria, taking her cue from him, was indeed outraged - at the things written about her uncles many decades earlier.

Greville was born in 1794 into a branch of the family of the Earls of Warwick. Educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, he paged for King George III for a short while before working as a private secretary to Earl Bathurst. Then, for more than 35 years, he was Clerk to the Privy Council, a job which brought him into contact with many important people of the time. He was much liked, and maintained good relations with both Whigs and Tories, often being employed as a negotiator during ministerial changes. His interests extended from horse racing (he owned horses and managed the Duke of York’s stables for some years) to literature. In 1859, he resigned the clerkship of the council, and in 1865 he died.

Sympathetic and kind, grumpy and vain

Described as sympathetic, generous and a delightful companion, he was also said to bustle with kindness. Smooth and urbane, Greville’s features were marked by a long, pointed chin and a strong nose which led to him being given the nickname of ‘Punch’; though he was also known as the ‘Gruncher’, on account of being grumpy when troubled by an attack of gout or his growing deafness. He could be vain too. Benjamin Disraeli, writing to a friend in 1874, said: ‘I knew him intimately. He was the vainest being - I don’t limit myself to man - that ever existed; and I don’t forget Cicero and Lytton Bulwer [Edward Bulwer-Lytton - a very popular writer of the day, he who coined the epigram, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’]. Although he never married, one of his mistresses bore him a son who died as a young man journeying back from India.

Well known and well liked as he was while alive, Greville’s eminence today is entirely thanks to his diaries. Having always intended them for publication, Greville gave them to Henry Reeve, a Privy Council colleague. ‘The author of these Journals,’ Reeve says, ‘requested me, in January 1865, a few days before his death, to take charge of them with a view to publication at some future time. He left that time to my discretion, merely remarking that Memoirs of this kind ought not, in his opinion, to be locked up until they had lost their principal interest by the death of all those who had taken any part in the events they describe.’

The first three volumes of The Greville Memoirs - A Journal of the Reigns of King George IV and King William IV were published by Longmans, Green in 1874. And they caused a scandal. In Disraeli’s letter (the same one as mentioned above), he writes: ‘I have not seen Chas. Greville’s book, but have read a good deal of it. It is a social outrage. And committed by one who was always talking of what he called ‘perfect gentlemen.’ I don’t think he can figure now in that category.’ According to Queen Victoria’s biographer, Christopher Hibbbert, she wrote that she was ‘horrified and indignant at this dreadful and really scandalous book. Mr Greville’s indiscretion, indelicacy, ingratitude, betrayal of confidence and shameful disloyalty towards his Sovereign make it very important that the book should be severely censored and discredited,’ she wrote indignantly.

Five more volumes followed, in the 1880s, entitled The Greville Memoirs: A Journal of the Reign of Queen Victoria.

The gaudy splendour of the Pavilion

18 December 1821
‘I have not written anything for months. ‘Quante cose mi sono accadute!’ My progress was as follows, not very interesting: To Newmarket, Whersted, Eiddlesworth, Sprotborough, Euston, Elveden, Welbeck, Caversham, Nun Appleton, Welbeck, Burghley, and London. Nothing worth mentioning occurred at any of these places. Sprotborough was agreeable enough. The Grevilles, Montagu, Wilmot, and the Wortleys were there. I came to town, went to Brighton yesterday se’nnight for a Council. 

I was lodged in the Pavilion and dined with the King. The gaudy splendour of the place amused me for a little and then bored me. The dinner was cold and the evening dull beyond all dulness. They say the King is anxious that form and ceremony should be banished, and if so it only proves how impossible it is that form and ceremony should not always inhabit a palace. The rooms are not furnished for society, and, in fact, society cannot flourish without ease; and who can feel at ease who is under the eternal constraint which etiquette and respect impose?

The King was in good looks and good spirits, and after dinner cut his jokes with all the coarse merriment which is his characteristic. Lord Wellesley did not seem to like it, but of course he bowed and smiled like the rest. I saw nothing very particular in the King’s manner to Lady Conyngham. He sat by her on the couch almost the whole evening, playing at patience, and he took her in to dinner; but Madame de Lieven and Lady Cowper were there, and he seemed equally civil to all of them. I was curious to see the Pavilion and the life they lead there, and I now only hope I may never go there again, for the novelty is past, and I should be exposed to the whole weight of the bore of it without the stimulus of curiosity.’

The King’s bathing habits

19 August 1822
‘I went to Brighton on Saturday to see the Duke [of York - George IV’s brother and heir presumptive at the time]; returned to-day. The Pavilion is finished. The King has had a subterranean passage made from the house to the stables, which is said to have cost 3,000l or 5,000l; I forget which. There is also a bath in his apartment, with pipes to conduct water from the sea; these pipes cost 600l. The King has not taken a sea bath for sixteen years.’

I shot 376 rabbits

16 September 1829
‘Went to Brighton on Saturday last to pay Lady Jersey a visit and shoot at Firle. Jersey and I shot 376 rabbits, the greatest number that had ever been killed on the hills. The scenery is very fine - a range of downs looking on one side over the sea, and on the other over a wide extent of rich flat country. It is said that Firle is the oldest park in England. It belongs to Lord Gage.’

Heard at Brighton

‘I heard at Brighton for the first time of the Duke of Wellington’s prosecution of the ‘Morning Journal,’ which was announced by the paper itself in a paragraph quite as scurrilous as those for which it is attacked. It seems that he has long made up his mind to this measure, and that he thinks it is a duty incumbent on him, which I do not see, and it appears to me to be an act of great folly. He stands much too high, has performed too great actions, and the attacks on him were too vulgar and vague to be under the necessity of any such retaliatory measure as this, and he lowers his dignity by entering into a conflict with such an infamous paper, and appearing to care about its abuse. I think the Chancellor was right, and that he is wrong.

[In December 1829, the editors and proprietor of ‘Morning Journal’ were found guilty of libel on ministers and parliament and sentenced to a year in Newgate. The paper closed a few months later.]

There is a report that the King insists upon the Duke of Cumberland [another of George IV’s brothers] being Commander-in-Chief, and it is extraordinary how many people think that he will succeed in turning out the Duke. Lord Harrington died while I was at Brighton, and it is supposed that the Duke of Cumberland will try and get the Round Tower [part of Windsor Castle], but probably the King will not like to establish him so near himself. 

The King has nearly lost his eyesight, and is to be couched as soon as his eyes are in a proper state for the operation. He is in a great fright with his father’s fate before him, and indeed nothing is more probable than that he will become blind and mad too; he is already a little of both. It is now a question of appointing a Private Secretary, and [Sir William] Knighton, it is supposed, would be the man; but if he is to abstain from all business, there would seem to be no necessity for the appointment, as he will be as little able to do business with his Private Secretary as with his Minister.’

With tagrag and bobtail about him

19 January 1831
‘G[eorge] Lamb [politician and writer] said that the King [William IV] is supposed to be in a bad state of health, and this was confirmed to me by Keate the surgeon, who gave me to understand that he was going the way of both his brothers [George IV etc.]. He will be a great loss in these times; he knows his business, lets his Ministers do as they please, but expects to be informed of everything. He lives a strange life at Brighton, with tagrag and bobtail about him, and always open house. The Queen is a prude, and will not let the ladies come décolletées to her parties. George IV, who liked ample expanses of that sort, would not let them be covered.’

King, Queen, Princes, Princesses, bastards, and attendants 

14 December 1832, Brighton
‘Came here last Wednesday week; Council on the Monday for the dissolution [of Parliament]; place very full, bustling, gay, and amusing. I am staying in De Ros’s house with Alvanley; Chesterfields, Howes, Lievens, Cowpers, all at Brighton, and plenty of occupation in visiting, gossiping, dawdling, riding, and driving; a very idle life, and impossible to do anything. The Court very active, vulgar, and hospitable; King, Queen, Princes, Princesses, bastards, and attendants constantly trotting about in every direction: the election noisy and dull - the Court candidate beaten and two Radicals elected. Everybody talking of the siege of Antwerp and the elections. So, with plenty of animation, and discussion, and curiosity, I like it very well. Lord Howe is devoted to the Queen, and never away from her. She receives his attentions, but demonstrates nothing in return; he is like a boy in love with this frightful spotted Majesty, while his delightful wife is laid up (with a sprained ancle and dislocated joint) on her couch.’

The prize-fighter John Gully comes good

17 December 1832, Brighton
‘On Sunday I heard Anderson preach. He does not write his sermons, but preaches from notes; very eloquent, voice and manner perfect, one of the best I ever heard, both preacher and reader.

The borough elections are nearly over, and have satisfied the Government. They do not seem to be bad on the whole; the metropolitans have sent good men enough, and there was no tumult in the town. At Hertford Buncombe was routed by Salisbury’s long purse. He hired such a numerous mob besides that he carried all before him. Some very bad characters have been returned; among the worst, Faithful here [George Faithful - a nonconformist preacher and attorney - was one of the first two MPs returned for Brighton after it was created a Parliamentary Constituency]; Gronow at Stafford; Gully, Pontefract; [. . .] 

Gully’s [John Gully - see also Chapter Seven] history is extraordinary. He was taken out of prison twenty-five or thirty years ago by Hellish to fight Pierce, surnamed the ‘Game Chicken,’ being then a butcher’s apprentice; he fought him and was beaten. He afterwards fought Belcher (I believe), and Gresson twice, and left the prizering with the reputation of being the best man in it. He then took to the turf, was successful, established himself at Newmarket, where he kept a hell, and began a system of corruption of trainers, jockeys, and boys, which put the secrets of all Newmarket at his disposal, and in a few years made him rich. 

At the same time he connected himself with Mr Watt in the north, by betting for him, and this being at the time when Watt’s stable was very successful, he won large sums of money by his horses. Having become rich he embarked in a great coal speculation, which answered beyond his hopes, and his shares soon yielded immense profits. His wife, who was a coarse, vulgar woman, in the meantime died, and he afterwards married the daughter of an innkeeper, who proved as gentlewomanlike as the other had been the reverse, and who is very pretty besides. He now gradually withdrew from the betting ring as a regular blackleg, still keeping horses, and betting occasionally in large sums, and about a year or two ago, having previously sold the Hare Park to Sir Mark Wood, where he lived for two or three years, he bought a property near Pontefract, and settled down (at Ackworth Park) as John Gully, Esq., a gentleman of fortune. [. . .]

When Parliament was about to be dissolved, he was again invited to stand for Pontefract by a numerous deputation; he again hesitated, but finally accepted; Lord Mexborough withdrew, and he was elected without opposition. In person he is tall and finely formed, full of strength and grace, with delicate hands and feet, his face coarse and with a bad expression, his head set well on his shoulders, and remarkably graceful and even dignified in his actions and manners; totally without education, he has strong sense, discretion, reserve, and a species of good taste which has prevented, in the height of his fortunes, his behaviour from ever transgressing the bounds of modesty and respect, and he has gradually separated himself from the rabble of bettors and blackguards of whom he was once the most conspicuous, and tacitly asserted his own independence and acquired gentility without ever presuming towards those whom he has been accustomed to regard with deference. His position is now more anomalous than ever, for a member of Parliament is a great man, though there appear no reasons why the suffrages of the blackguards of Pontefract should place him in different social relations towards us than those in which we mutually stood before.’

6 August 1835
‘Yesterday to Brighton, to see my horse Dacre run for the Brighton stake, which he won, and back at night.’

Mrs. Fitzherbert and her papers

31 March 1837
‘Among the many old people who have been cut off by this severe weather, one of the most remarkable is Mrs Fitzherbert, who died at Brighton at above eighty years of age. She was not a clever woman, but of a very noble spirit, disinterested, generous, honest, and affectionate, greatly beloved by her friends and relations, popular in the world, and treated with uniform distinction and respect by the Royal Family. The late King, who was a despicable creature, grudged her the allowance he was bound to make her, and he was always afraid lest she should make use of some of the documents in her possession to annoy or injure him. This mean and selfish apprehension led him to make various efforts to obtain possession of those the appearance of which he most dreaded, and among others, one remarkable attempt was made by Sir William Knighton some years ago.

Although a stranger to Mrs Fitzherbert, he called one day at her house, when she was ill in bed, insisted upon seeing her, and forced his way into her bedroom. She contrived (I forget how) to get rid of him without his getting anything out of her, but this domiciliary visit determined her to make a final disposition of all the papers she possessed, that in the event of her death no advantage might be taken of them either against her own memory or the interests of any other person. She accordingly selected those papers which she resolved to preserve, and which are supposed to be the documents and correspondence relating to her marriage with George IV, and made a packet of them which was deposited at her banker’s, and all other letters and papers she condemned to the flames. For this purpose she sent for the Duke of Wellington and Lord Albemarle, told them her determination, and in their presence had these papers burnt; she assured them, that everything was destroyed, and if after her death any pretended letters or documents were produced, they might give the most authoritative contradiction to their authenticity.’

The Diary Junction

Friday, March 28, 2014

George Kennan’s diaries

‘What bothers me is a total separation of personal life and intellectual life, so that when I tend to personal affairs, even to the children, the intellect stagnates.’ This is George F. Kennan, one of the most important US policy strategists of the Cold War period, writing in his diary on the cusp of resigning from diplomatic life. Kennan’s diaries - spanning an astonishing nine decades - have just been published to great acclaim, not just for their intellectual content, but for their self-critical and emotional revelations, too, which tell us much about the man himself, not just his ideas.

Kennan was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in February 1904, but his mother died soon after. He grew up close to his sisters, though not to his lawyer father or stepmother. After being schooled at St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, he studied at Princeton University, graduating in 1925. Thereafter, he joined the newly formed Foreign Service, and, after training in Washington, was posted as a vice consul to Geneva, and then to Hamburg, before being selected to study Russian in Berlin. This led on to a posting in Latvia, and then, at the start of diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union in the mid-1930s, to Moscow. In 1931, he had married Annelise Sorensen, and they were to have four children, the first, Grace, born in 1932.

Kennan did not last a year in Moscow before suffering a breakdown, which led him back to Vienna and a sanatorium, and a considerable amount of self-analysis, partly inspired by the teachings of Sigmund Freud. A move back to Moscow followed, where Stalin’s bloody purges were under way, thence to light duties in Washington, before a return to Europe (Prague, then Berlin). After the US entered the war in December 1941, Kennan was interred for six months, and, on his release, moved to Lisbon, London, and back to Moscow. There, according to biographers, Kennan felt that his opinions were being ignored by the new president, Harry S. Truman, and he tried repeatedly to persuade policymakers to abandon plans for cooperation with the Soviet Union in favour of a sphere of influence approach in Europe and a western European federation to reduce the Soviets’ power there. In early 1946, near the end of his term in Moscow, he sent to Secretary of State James Byrnes, what would become known as the ‘long telegram’, an appeal to understand that, ‘At bottom of Kremlin’s neurotic view of world affairs is traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity.’

Returning to the US, Kennan stayed with the State Department and went to work for the National War College in Washington DC, advising and lecturing on what would soon become known as the Cold War. Around this time, he developed his political ideas subsequently known as ‘containment’. By 1948, when the US administration was intent on escalating the Cold War, Kennan advised steering clear of military action, and finding ways instead to ease tensions - he had always advocated, he said, political, not military, containment. In the negotiations over post-war Germany, he visited Hamburg, and was affected deeply by the devastation he found there, leading him, over time, to question the validity of any war.

In 1951, Kennan helped initiate talks that would lead to an armistice in Korea, and he was appointed Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Once in Moscow, though, he found the country even more regimented than before, and his own position hampered by Truman’s unwillingness to negotiate with the Soviets. Before a year had passed, Kennan had been expelled by the Soviet government for a foolish comment to the press, likening his isolation in Moscow to that he had experienced in Nazi Germany. Back in the US, he was frustrated by the Eisenhower administration but continued to be an advisor. In 1956, he was appointed as professor of historical studies at the Princeton Institute, and the following year published the Pulitzer prize-winning Russia Leaves the War. While an Eastman Professor at Oxford, the BBC invited him to deliver the 1957 Reith Lectures, his views on nuclear weapons, arousing much controversy.

John F. Kennedy appointed Kennan as US ambassador to Yugoslavia in 1961, but again Kennan soon found himself uncomfortable in a diplomatic role, frustrated at US policy and unable to stop a worsening of bilateral relations. He resigned in 1963, and subsequently spent the rest of his career as a writer and academic, an influential critic of US foreign policy. He lived to be 101, dying in 2005, by which time history was judging him kindly: The New York Times called him ‘the American diplomat who did more than any other envoy of his generation to shape United States policy during the cold war’; The Economist said he was revered as ‘America’s greatest living diplomat’ in his later years; and the Financial Times said of him that he was a ‘rare example of a diplomat who changed history through the power of his ideas and the clarity of his writing’. Wikipedia and Spartacus have fairly detailed biographies.

Kennan kept a diary, not always all the time, but all his life, from 1916 to 2004. There are some 8,000 pages stored with his papers at the Princeton University Library. Kennan, himself, chose some extracts for publication a quarter of a century ago, in 1989, published by Pantheon, New York - Sketches from a Life. The introduction and some pages can be read at Amazon. Now, however, the full set of diaries, spanning all of Kennan’s life, have been edited by Frank Costigliola and published by W. W. Norton as The Kennan Diaries.

‘In these pages,’ the publisher states, ‘we see Kennan rambling through 1920s Europe as a college student, despairing for capitalism in the midst of the Depression, agonizing over the dilemmas of sex and marriage, becoming enchanted and then horrified by Soviet Russia, and developing into America’s foremost Soviet analyst. But it is the second half of this near-century-long record - the blossoming of Kennan the gifted author, wise counselor, and biting critic of the Vietnam and Iraq wars - that showcases this remarkable man at the height of his singular analytic and expressive powers, before giving way, heartbreakingly, to some of his most human moments, as his energy, memory, and finally his ability to write fade away.’

The Kennan diaries has been well received in the US, but reviewers have generally acknowledged that the book is as much about Kennan the man, as about his politics. Fareed Zakaria, in The New York Times, says ‘Kennan shined a powerful light on the world beyond. But in his own land, from the beginning to his last days, he remained a bewildered guest.’ Douglas Brinkley in the Washington Post says, ‘great merits aside, “The Kennan Diaries” should come with a warning label: Beware of enough gloomy prognostications to give the book of Revelation a run for its money.’ And George Shultz, former Secretary of State, is quoted by the publisher as saying of the book: ‘An informed mind, a clarity of expression, candor in a private diary - all are present in George Kennan’s fascinating commentary on a period when the tectonic plates of the world changed. Read, enjoy, agree or disagree, and be stimulated to think.’

But I can find few reviews, to date, among the UK media, except for one by Matthew Walther in The Spectator. It’s such a wrong-headed, idiotic review, I cannot resist quoting a bit: ‘The longest, chronologically, and probably the most boring diary I have ever read. Unlike the great diarists - Greville, Nicolson, Lees-Milne - Kennan writes very little about others. His diary is a record of himself, a Domesday book of the acres and perches he has surveyed in his own head: a wide range of ambitions, complaints, masturbatory fantasies, unpublished literary criticism, amateurish verse. [. . .] Above all it is a collection of cocksure opinions.’

Kennan’s diaries are certainly not boring, they are the opposite, almost always interesting, intriguing, intelligent. Walther’s comment that Kennan writes very little about others is a dead giveaway: he, Walther’s must want gossip, tittle-tattle, but Kennan, when writing for himself in the seclusion of his diary was not a name-dropper. Ideas, particularly about policy, but also about culture and society, are what excited him, drove him to put pen to paper; and beyond ideas, he was unusual in being so interested in his own feelings to the point of trying to pin them down, and fix them, as it were, in the diary pages. It is this kind of self-criticism, self analysis that lifts the diary from being simply of political interest to one that has more universal appeal, to one that has something to say about the human condition. And, as for ‘cocksure opinions’, Walther’s might not matter, but as one of US’s most important foreign policy advisers, Kennan’s opinions certainly did matter, and thus are of great interest.

Costigliola has done a very fine job with The Kennan diaries, synthesising 8,000 pages down to about 700 (leaving out much about sailing, apparently). He has kept footnotes to a minimum, provided short biographical notes for every year - astonishingly there is only one year between 1927 and 2004 (1943) lacking any diary entry - and included a useful index. Here are a few extracts, more can be read online, again, at Amazon, and at Googlebooks.

8 April 1934
‘I have always thought of literature as a type of history: the portrayal of a given class at a given time, with all its problems, its suffering and its hopes, etc. For that reason, the diplomatic corps has always defied literary approach. From that point of view, it is too insignificant, too accidental, to warrant description.

Perhaps that is all wrong. Perhaps they should be described simply as human beings, not as diplomats (so-called) of the twentieth century. If Chekhov could describe Russian small town folk with an appeal so universal that even the American reader gasps and says: “How perfectly true,” why cannot the Moscow diplomatic folk be written up the same way.’

3 September 1934
‘Here human flesh lives in one seething, intimate mass - far more so, even than in New York. It streams slowly, endlessly, in thick, full currents, along the boulevards, between the dark trees, under the gleam of the street lights; it is carried, as herded, tired animals are carried, in box-cars, in the long trains of street cars. And it is human life in the raw, human life brought down to its fundamentals - good and evil, drunk and sober, loving and quarrelling, laughing and weeping - all that human life is and does anywhere, but all much more simple and direct, and therefore stronger.

There is something unmistakably healthy in it all: not the health we strive for by the elimination of microbes and danger and physical hardship, but the health bred of the experience and survival of all these ills. Revolution, like nature, is lavish and careless. Its victims are no more to it than the thousands of seeds which are cast to the wind, in order that one tree may grow. But in its blind masterfulness, it has at least given new scope for the survival of the fittest, the nervously and physically fittest, who are by no means the most intelligent, or the freest from dirt and disease. The principle of natural selection, deprived of its beneficial operation by vaccinations and nursing homes and birth control, has been allowed to come into its own in its full ruthlessness. This is the answer to the question: how do the Russians stand it? Many of them didn’t stand it. And these whom you see on the street: they are the elite, not the elite of wealth or of power or of the spiritual virtues, but nature’s own elite, the elite of the living, as opposed to the hoi polloi of the dead!

It is this tremendous health, this earthy vitality, which attracts the over-civilised, neurotic foreigner. The fact that he himself could not stand it for six months, that it would crush him as it crushes all forms of weakness, does not dissuade him. There is something in its very cruelty which appeals to his sick fantasy. It is a form of flagellum [flagellation] perhaps, like all deliberate self-abnegation.’

24 June 1963
‘I feel that I have been dead for months. I do not even recognise my former self. This evening, strolling around town with Christopher [in Valkenburg, The Netherlands], I suddenly saw, staring me in the face from a bookshop window, my own name on a Dutch translation of Russia & The West. [. . .] I had the feeling of “Hello, stranger,” & I wondered whether the fellow who wrote that book would ever return.

What bothers me is a total separation of personal life and intellectual life, so that when I tend to personal affairs, even to the children, the intellect stagnates . . .

Have the feeling, even now, that I ought to be writing about this trip. But writing: what? About this Western Europe? I used to think there was something mysterious & wonderful about it. Today, I know there is not. I looked at this place tonight and I realised that here there could not even be a literature, because there is no nature except in parks & without nature, as a foil at least, there is no real human experience.

Why was it different in the railway age? Was it really only that I was younger?’

Monday, March 24, 2014

Diary briefs

The Kennan Diaries (to be reviewed here soon) - W W Norton, The Spectator

The Diary of Arthur L Linfoot - blog, BBC

Space diary revelations - New Scientist

Nicolas Sarkozy loses diary appeal - The Guardian, BBC

The Diary of Rywka Lipszyc - Jewish Family and Children’s Services, the Rywka Diary

Arizona women’s diaries - Sharlot Hall Museum

Peter Wilby on Benn’s diaries - The Guardian, (see also below)

Oprah Winfrey’s diaries to stay private! - Inquisitr, Radar Online

Wimbledon wartime diaries - My uncle Fred

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Arsenal, Highbury and me

I’m not a football (soccer) fan as such, but I was brought up to support the great London club, Arsenal. My stepfather, Sasha, would take me - this was when I was a teenager - to games at Highbury fairly regularly, and my enthusiasm for ‘the beautiful game’ lasted into my early 20s, and even today, though professing no real interest, I still check Arsenal’s results, and a win adds sparkle to the rest of the day. The result from yesterday’s game (22 March 2014) - the 1,000th with Arsene Wenger as manager - was about as bad as it can get, a 6-0 loss to London rivals Chelsea.

Wenger’s 1,000th game seems as good a moment as any to trawl my diaries for some Arsenal flavour, as it were. My earliest diary entry dates from 1 January 1963, and my first mention of Arsenal is a few weeks later, in February. Most of the mentions of Arsenal in my diaries are a simple scoreline, but a few come with more colour (sometimes a bit too much - see 11 November 1967).

After decades of dwindling interest in football (apart from World Cups which I’ve always loved to watch on TV), I found myself invited to Highbury in 2004, a year or two before Arsenal’s move to the Emirates, and the visit inspired a lengthy diary entry.

23 February 1963
‘Went to the football match - Arsenal v Spurs. Spurs won 3-2. It was a very exciting game.’

17 April 1964
‘Got my Arsenal photograph from Typhoo Tea.’

22 January 1966
‘Arsenal were knocked out of the cup today. They’re useless.’

3 October 1967
‘Defended Arsenal with Mob.’

28 October 1967
‘Arsenal-Fulham. Pouring down with rain, horrible and cold. Exciting match 5-3.’

11 November 1967
‘Lunch of steak then rushed off to Arsenal along A10. Driver would not let Father pass so he said he would carve him up. Mother said don’t, then started shrieking, opened car door. At Arsenal said she couldn’t come. I rushed off [to stands, my parents had season tickets], got a good view point, great match. Mother still there. Arsenal 2 Everton 2.’

20 January 1973
‘Arsenal fluked a noble victory against Chelsea.’

12 March 1974
‘About 6:30 tubed up to Arsenal v Barcelona, 35,000, 1-3, Georgie’s testimonial, fair old game basically. Johan Cruyff really fabulous.’

7 December 2004
‘I reckon that I’ve not been to the Arsenal in 30 years, not since I was a teenager. It was busy on the train and at Highbury & Islington station but not football crowd busy. There were, though, enough supporters heading for Arsenal for us to be able to follow them. We ended up arriving on the east side of the stadium, which meant we had to walk all the way round, and through the throngs, to the other side - to Highbury Hill in fact (where the entrance to the West side is right next door to where my old friend, Angela used to live).

What’s the point of football? It’s surprising to experience how many people come to watch football. Passing through the crowds, I couldn’t help thinking again about how few people, by comparison, go to watch live theatre or music. There can be a bit of a crush outside a theatre, before and after, but it’s a miniature crowd compared to that of a football match. It’s mostly men, of course, but there are still plenty of women, often not very visible because they are togged up in warm jackets and hats similar to those worn by their men.

The Arsenal stadium, which is only a season or two from being pulled down, looks much the same as it did in the 60s I suspect. I don’t actually remember it, but it did look very familiar. There are more commercial outlets on the external facade of the stadium and around it’s perimeter, but no doubt the programme sellers and touts are similar to the ones that were there in my day. And inside, it was quite pleasing to find that much was the same: the turnstiles, the cream and red decor, the signage. It all had a 50s feel about it, and even the glitzy flat screens high up on the walls showing glimpses of other matches or interviews alongside adverts somehow only served to emphasise the period nature of the rest of the furbishings.

As my companion Carla said, one of the best moments, is when you walk up the steps into the stadium proper, and emerge at the high point to see, for the first time, the whole stadium beneath you, the gloriously green rectangular pitch, lit up brightly by the floodlights (disguising the greyness of the day) already busy with players warming up, the huge stands on all four sides, filling up quickly with supporters, the huge screens (which definitely weren’t there in the past) in the corners, showing the team line-ups and interviews. Carla’s dad’s seats are fantastic. They are fairly close to the centre of the stand, they are at the aisle end of a row (my stepfather’s seats, I seem to remember, were at the furthest end from an aisle, and were right at one edge of the stand, i.e. with a great view of corner-takers), and they are only three rows up from the front of the lowest balcony. They must be the most expensive ordinary seats in the stadium. (Later, my brother Julian said he’d heard that a season ticket for the new Arsenal stadium, entitling a holder to attend some 25 home matches, would cost in the region of £4,000 - that’s ridiculous.)

We arrived about 20 minutes early, which was fine, because I could stand at the front of the stand, watch all the activity (the women’s team came on briefly to receive an award), the action on the screens, and the stadium filling up. Meanwhile, Carla called her father, I think, and talked to some other regulars nearby. The thick glossy programme (£3) carried an article by Thierry Henry about how he was actually looking forward to the new stadium because the Highbury pitch is a small one. I never knew this, or that pitches could vary in size. For a forward, he said in the article, it’s much better to have a bigger space to move around in. The programme also contained some nostalgic photos and stories from the 1955-56 season. I noticed the programme looked just like the ones I used to collect. And then I wondered what had happened to my old Arsenal programmes (and, I found out on Sunday, that Julian still has them!).

The football was mediocre, but the experience of being there was not. I was surprised at how close we were to the action, and how live and vital it felt (as compared to television), and how good it was to be able to look at the whole pitch, and all the players, rather than just at one camera view. Also - and this is odd I suppose - I noticed how human the players were, how small and ordinary; and how prone they were to making mistakes; and how big a role chance plays in the many clashes that take place for disputed balls (whether on the ground or in the air). Arsenal, of course, were facing a team, Birmingham City, that had come looking for a tight and closed game, looking to restrict Arsenal’s movement in the hope of a goal-less draw, perhaps. For much of the first half it worked, and there was barely a shot at goal at either end. But then a fortunate, hefty punt by Pieres in the Birmingham penalty area, managed to slip by a host of legs and slide into the right hand corner of the goal. This gave Arsenal more confidence and meant Birmingham had to start looking for a goal, so the play freed up considerably.

In the second half, Henry (not playing his best because of an Achilles injury) scored two clever goals. One came because he simply judged the flight of a cross ball so much better than the defenders. He was crouched only a few metres in front of the goal, but was in exactly the right place to receive the ball arching down from a Lundberg cross. It was a defenders’ mistake, for they should certainly have caught the ball in flight much higher up. The ball simply landed on Henry’s head and was guided into the goal. The goalkeeper had also failed to see where the ball was headed. Henry’s second goal was masterful and brilliant. He picked up the ball on the left wing, and ran it fast, past a defender, into the right side of the penalty area, at quite a narrow angle, maybe 30 degrees no more. The defender was on him from behind, the goalkeeper came out to meet Henry, and probably thought there was no way he could get the ball into the net around him. But, he did. He gently guided the ball along the ground into the far corner of the net, as if there were no obstacles to his shooting at all. Arsenal won 3-0.’

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The hopes of the Left

After suffering a stroke in 2012, dear old Tony Benn - a ‘national radical treasure’ according The Guardian, but ‘merciless towards colleagues’ according to The Spectator - died on 14 March. One of the most recognisable and idiosyncratic of British MPs over the last 50 years, he was also the most faithful and stalwart of diarists, publishing nine volumes covering very nearly three-quarters of a century.

Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn was born in London in 1925, the son and grandson of MPs. His contact with leading politicians of the day dates back to his earliest years, biographies note, he met Ramsay MacDonald, for example, when he was five, David Lloyd George when he was 12 and Mahatma Gandhi in 1931, while his father was Secretary of State for India. Benn studied at Westminster School and then at New College, Oxford, before marrying an American, Caroline Middleton DeCamp, in 1949. They had four children (one of whom, Hilary, has been an MP since 1999).

Following the Second World War Benn worked briefly as a BBC Radio producer, but was then unexpectedly selected to succeed Sir Stafford Cripps as the Labour candidate for Bristol South East, a seat he won in the 1950 election. In 1960, Benn’s father died, and he automatically inherited a peerage. Consequently, according to the law of the day, he was disbarred from sitting in the Commons, and subsequently - after a legal action - lost his seat. He then campaigned for a change in the law which resulted in the 1963 Peerage Act, and he became the first peer to renounce his title. He returned to Parliament after winning a by-election the same year.

Benn was an elected member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee from 1959 to 1994, and was Chairman of the Party in 1971-1972. Between 1964 and 1979, he served in the Wilson and Callaghan cabinets with various portfolios (technology, energy and industry). When Wilson resigned in 1979, Benn put himself forward for the party leadership, but on winning 11% of the first round ballot, he withdrew in favour of Michael Foot, who lost to Callaghan. Benn was closely associated with the trade union movement, and was a strong supporter of the miners strike in 1984-1985. In 1988, he again stood for leadership of the party, against Neil Kinnock, but lost heavily.

After 50 years in Parliament, Benn retired from the House of Commons in May 2001, so as to - he famously said - ‘devote more time to politics’. Indeed, he did become a highly vocal lobbyist against Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he also became something of a media celebrity and entertainer, performing a one-man show, reading his diaries on the radio, appearing at Glastonbury, and generally enjoying media life. Benn suffered a stroke in 2012, spent much of the following year in hospital; and he died on 14 March.

There is plenty of biographical information about Benn online, at Wikipedia, and in many obituaries - The Telegraph, BBC, The Guardian. There is an official Tony Benn website, but the home page says: ‘This website is currently unavailable as it is being completely redesigned to add new content during 2005.’ Hutchinson, Tony Benn’s publisher, but now part of Random House, has a pitifully brief author page. Although for the most part, commentators have assessed Benn in positive ways - The Guardian called him ‘a national radical treasure’, and the BBC dubbed him a ‘folk hero’ - not so Matthew Parris in The Spectator who believes that the convention to speak only good of the dead should not be applied to politicians. ‘On the whole polite to enemies outside his circle,’ Parris wrote, ‘he was merciless towards colleagues within it and often less than straightforward in his dealings with some of them.’

Benn’s most abiding legacy is likely to be his diaries, not only because they are so complete, covering half a century of Britain’s political history, but also because they are well-written, easy to read, and highly opinionated. Benn started keeping a diary as a teenager, with the first published entries dated to 1941, and more regular and detailed entries dated to 1944. It was not until 1987, however, that a first volume of his diaries was edited by Ruth Winstone, and published by Hutchinson - Out of the Wilderness: Diaries, 1963-1967. Three further volumes followed in quick succession (all published by Hutchinson and edited by Winstone): Office Without Power: Diaries 1968-1972 (1988); Against the Tide: Diaries 1973-1976 (1989); and Conflicts of Interest: Diaries 1977-1980 (1990).

The diaries were very well received, and brought Benn a wider audience and more public attention. Commenting on a 1995 collected edition, Alan Clark said: ‘The Benn Diaries, intensely personal, candid and engaging as they are, rank as an important work of historiography’ (Daily Telegraph); Peter Hennessy said: ‘Quite apart from the brio of illuminating a life almost entirely free of boredom (another rarity), the collected Benn has some critical patches of postwar history recorded hot’ (The Times); Ben Pimlott said, ‘Immensely readable and revealing’ (Sunday Times); Ruth Dudley Edwards said: ‘An archive of incalculable value’ (Independent); and the Financial Times called Benn ‘the best political diarist of our time’.

The next quarter of a century saw another five volumes, still published by Hutchinson (by then part of Random House): Conflicts Of Interest: Diaries 1977-1980 (1990); The End of an Era: Diaries 1980-1990 (1992); Years of Hope: Diaries, Letters and Papers 1940-1962 (1994); Free at Last!: Diaries 1991-2001 (2002); More Time for Politics: Diaries 2001–2007 (2007); A Blaze of Autumn Sunshine: The Last Diaries (2013). Many pages from these books can be read freely online at Googlebooks (as per the links above), while a ‘widget’ lets one preview some of them on the Random House website.

The Diary Review quoted several extracts from Benn’s diaries in a piece following the death of Margaret Thatcher last year (Thatcher gives a cuddle). Here are several more extracts, from Benn’s period in power, under Prime Ministers Wilson and Callaghan, all taken from The Benn Diaries - new single volume edition (Arrow Books, 1996).

5 March 1974
‘A week ago, I thought I might be out of Parliament altogether and now I am in the Cabinet as a Secretary of State for Industry. I feel I have to keep the hopes of the Left alive and alight. The job is enormous and the press is entirely hostile and will remain so. I have to recognise that in putting forward my proposals to the Cabinet, all will be opposed; but there are four powerful Secretaries of State on the left - myself, Michael Foot, Peter Shore and Eric Varley - and we are a formidable team.’

6 April 1974
‘I wrote a note to Anne Crossman following Dick’s death yesterday. Dick was a remarkable man, immensely intelligent and kind when he wanted to be but, of course, the teacher throughout his life - always preferring conflict, which cleared his mind. He was absolutely unreliable in the sense that he often changed his views, but he always believed what he said, which is something you can’t say of others. He was also capable of being unpleasant and my friendship with him had deteriorated sharply in recent years. At any rate, he will be remembered through his diaries, which will be the best diaries of this period ever published [see The Diary Junction]; though I hope my own, if they are ever transcribed, will also turn out to be a reasonable record.’

26 September 1975
‘The papers today reported the admission by the FBI that they had engaged in over 250 domestic burglaries for political and other purposes. There was also a report in the New York Times that the CIA was again giving money to West European socialist parties to intervene in Portugal. Just before the Executive at 10 I had a word with Bryan Stanley of the POEU [Post Office Engineering Union] and I mentioned my concern about telephone-tapping.”Oh yes,” he said, “there’s no question about it. I believe the Tories were engaged in a widespread surveillance campaign involving the telephone-tapping of activists in the trade union movements and the Labour Party, as well as the Communist Party. The aim was to prepare a general dossier and, in the run-up to an Election, blacken the character of political opponents.” ’

21 October 1975
‘The Daily Mirror ran a story under the heading, ‘Britain to become the nuclear dustbin of the world’, by a Stanley Bonnet. In fact, the man behind it was Bryn Jones from Friends of the Earth, who is the industrial correspondent on the Mirror. It was about the BNFL [British Nuclear Fuels Ltd] contract under which we would reprocess 4,000 tons of irradiated fuel from Japan and would then have the problem of disposing of the toxic waste. I decided to go on the ‘World at One’ so a chap came along to interview me. I think I put the case across and told the Department to put out a background note.’

6 December 1975
‘There was a very funny item in the Guardian this morning called ‘What Makes Tony Benn Run?’ by Martin Walker. It estimated that on my eighteen pints of tea a day for forty years, I would have drunk 29,000 gallons, used 20,000 KW hours of electricity and a ton and a quarter of tea, etc. It quoted what doctors said, what the Tea Council said; that the Jockey club would argue this was a higher rate of caffeine addiction than was permitted for racehorses.’

1 March 1976
‘Went to the House and couldn’t decide whether to vote for compulsory seat belts. I thought it was a form of tyranny that would make me look a Stalinist. But I rang Caroline and she said, “Think of the babies, the children would all want to, and lives might be saved.” So I voted in favour and it was carried by a huge majority.’

7 March 1976
‘Dinner at the Foots. There is a very strong rumour that Harold Wilson is about to retire. Nobody knows where it comes form except some funny things have evidently been happening. There is a possibility that some papers which were stolen from Harold’s desk may envelop him in some way in a scandal. Jill [Foot] is very much in favour of Harold going and I have little doubt that she, Michael and Peter would all support Denis as leader. But if Roy stood, as I think he would have to, and Denis, Jim and Tony Crosland, but Michael didn’t stand, then it would be a very curious line-up. Whether I stood would depend on whether I was nominated and by whom.’

16 March 1976
‘A day of such momentous news it is difficult to know how to start [. . .] I went to Cabinet at 11. Harold said, “Before we come to the business, I want to make a statement.” Then he read us an eight-page statement, in which he said that he had irrevocably decided that he was going to resign the premiership and would stay just long enough for the Labour Party to elect a new leader. People were stunned but in a curious way, without emotion. Harold is not a man who arouses affection in most people. [. . .]

I listened and set all the arguments down on paper. The case for standing is winning, or to win next time, to get an alternative policy across, to influence other candidates, to establish a power base. The case against is that people will say you’re frightened that you might be humiliated, attacked by the trade union leadership, massacred by the press. In the end I decided I would stand.’

27 May 1976
‘Harold Wilson’s honours list is still the big news item today. It is unsavoury, disreputable and just told the whole Wilson story in a single episode. That he should pick inadequate, buccaneering, sharp shysters for his honours was disgusting. It has always been a grubby scheme but the Establishment never reveal the grubbiness of their own peerages and honours. Still, we’ve never had anything quite like this in the Labour Party and it has caused an outcry. It will clearly help to get rid of the honours system.’

3 May 1979
‘For eleven hours Caroline and I drove around the constituency, in cold weather which turned to hail and snow. I sat on the roof of the car in a blanket with rubber overtrousers, wearing a wooly cap and anorak. It was freezing. We went round every single ward and it was terribly exhausting. [. . .]

At midnight we went to my count. The result was finally announced at 5 in the morning - scandalously inefficient. I was fed up and our Party workers were a bit depressed. To cut a long story short, the Returning Officer gave the result without inviting the candidates on to the platform. My majority went down from 9,000 to 1,890; the Liberal vote slumped and the Tories picked up the extra votes. I felt mortified, although I’m in for five more years. I made a speech outside, as dawn broke, to a crowd of supporters. I declined steadfastly to go on any of the Election post-mortem programmes. The media were utterly corrupt in this Election, trying to make it a media event.’

4 May 1979
‘A dramatic day in British politics. The most right-wing Conservative Government and Leader for fifty years; the first woman Prime Minister. I cannot absorb it all.

I have the freedom now to speak my mind, and this is probably the beginning of the most creative period of my life. I am one of the few ex-Ministers who enjoys Opposition and I intend to take full advantage of it.’

The Diary Junction

Friday, March 14, 2014

There’s nothing to eat

‘I didn’t have one cent to buy bread. So I washed three bottles and traded them to Arnaldo. He kept the bottles and gave me bread. Then I went to sell my paper. I received 65 cruzeiros. I spent 20 cruzeiros for meat. I got one kilo of ham and one kilo of sugar and spent six cruzeiros on cheese. And the money was gone.’ This is from the diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus, a poor black woman who lived in a favela, or slum, in São Paulo, Brazil. Her diary, written on scraps of paper, caused a sensation when it was first published in 1960. Today marks the centenary of her birth.

Carolina Maria de Jesus was born on 14 March 1914 (see the Portuguese Wikipedia for this date) in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, near the border with São Paulo state. Although from a poor family, she started school at the age of seven, thanks to the philanthropy of a local landowner; and, although she only received two years of formal education, this seems to have been enough to set her apart from the normal experience of poor black girls. She went to São Paulo city where she worked as a domestic servant.

On becoming pregnant with the first of three children (by different fathers), de Jesus lost her job, and ended up living in a favela. More or less at the same time, she began writing a diary on scrap paper she found, and eventually accumulated many notebooks made up from these scraps. A young reporter, Audalio Dantas, stumbled on de Jesus and her diary in 1958 and presented some extracts in a local newspaper. In 1960, they were published by Livraria Francisco Alves as Quarto de Despejo (The Rubbish Place).

More than a 1,000 people swamped the publisher’s bookshop on the first day of sales; and the first printing of 10,000 copies sold out in São Paulo within three days. In less than six months 90,000 copies had been sold in Brazil; and the book is said to have sold more than any other Brazilian book in history. Carolina was invited to speak about the favela problem on radio and television, and she gave lectures on the problem in Brazilian universities. The book has become required reading in sociology classes and the São Paulo Law University gave her the title of ‘Honorary Member’, the first person without a university education to be so honoured.

However, de Jesus did not cope well with fame, money and public attention, and, over time, she failed, or opted not, to transcend her status as a lowly, black woman. Nor, indeed, did she become an activist for the underprivileged, as some would have liked. She died in 1977. Further information is available from Wikipedia, a paper by Robert M. Levine on the Latin America Studies website, or a biography by Levine and José Carlos Sebe Bom Meihy - The Life and Death of Carolina Maria de Jesus - some of which can be read online at Googlebooks.

Quarto de Despejo was first translated into English by David St. Clair and published in the US in 1962 by the New American Library as Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus; and in the UK by Souvenir Press as Beyond all Pity (reissued in 2005 as a contribution to the Make Poverty History campaign). It was also translated into many other languages. Some 20 years after her death, University of Nebraska Press published I’m going to have a little house: The Second Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus (translated by Melvin S. Arrington Jr. and Robert M. Levine); and Rutgers University Press published The Unedited Diaries of Carolina Maria de Jesus 
as edited by Levine and Meihy (Dantas having edited de Jesus’s diary heavily for the original edition).

Here are several extracts from Beyond All Pity:

15 July 1955
‘The birthday of my daughter Vera Eunice. I wanted to buy a pair of shoes for her, but the price of food keeps us from realizing our desires. Actually we are slaves to the cost of living. I found a pair of shoes in the garbage, washed them, and patched them for her to wear.

I didn’t have one cent to buy bread. So I washed three bottles and traded them to Arnaldo. He kept the bottles and gave me bread. Then I went to sell my paper. I received 65 cruzeiros. I spent 20 cruzeiros for meat. I got one kilo of ham and one kilo of sugar and spent six cruzeiros on cheese. And the money was gone.

I was ill all day. I thought I had a cold. At night my chest pained me. I started to cough. I decided not to go out at night to look for paper. I searched for my son Joao. He was at Felisberto de Carvalho Street near the market. A bus had knocked a boy into the sidewalk and a crowd gathered. Joao was in the middle of it all. I poked him a couple of times and within five minutes he was home.

I washed the children, put them to bed, then washed myself and went to bed. I waited until 11:00 for a certain someone. He didn’t come. I took an aspirin and laid down again. When I awoke the sun was sliding in space. My daughter Vera Eunice said; “Go get some water, Mother!” ’

16 July 1955
‘I got up and obeyed Vera Eunice. I went to get the water. I made coffee. I told the children that I didn’t have any bread, that they would have to drink their coffee plain and eat meat with farinha. I was feeling ill and decided to cure myself. I stuck my finger down my throat twice, vomited, and knew I was under the evil eye. The upset feeling left and I went to Senhor Manuel, carrying some cans to sell. Everything that I find in the garbage I sell. He gave me 13 cruzeiros. I kept thinking that I had to buy bread, soap, and milk for Vera Eunice. The 13 cruzeiros wouldn’t make it. I returned home, or rather to my shack, nervous and exhausted. I thought of the worrisome life that I led. Carrying paper, washing clothes for the children, staying in the street all day long. Yet I’m always lacking things, Vera doesn’t have shoes and she doesn’t like to go barefoot. For at least two years I’ve wanted to buy a meat grinder. And a sewing machine.

I came home and made lunch for the two boys. Rice, beans, and meat, and I’m going out to look for paper. I left the children, told them to play in the yard and not to go into the street, because the terrible neighbours I have won’t leave my children alone. I was feeling ill and wished I could lie down. But the poor don’t rest nor are they permitted the pleasure of relaxation. I was nervous inside, cursing my luck. I collected two sacks full of paper. Afterward I went back and gathered up some scrap metal, some cans, and some kindling wood. As I walked I thought - when I return to the favela there is going to be something new.’

2 May 1958
‘I’m not lazy. There are times when I try to keep up my diary. But then I think it’s not worth it and figure I’m wasting my time.

I’ve made a promise to myself. I want to treat people that I know with more consideration. I want to have a pleasant smile for children and the employed.

I received a summons to appear at 8pm at police station number 12. I spent the day looking for paper. At night my feet pained me so I couldn’t walk. It started to rain. I went to the station and took Jose Carlos with me. The summons was for him. Jose Carlos is nine years old.’

3 May 1958
‘I went to the market at Carlos de Campos Street looking for any old thing. I got a lot of greens. But it didn’t help much, for I’ve got no cooking fat. The children are upset because there’s nothing to eat.’

30 May 1958
‘I changed Vera’s clothes and we went out. Then I thought: I wonder if God is going to have pity on me? I wonder if I will get any money today? I wonder if God knows the favelas exist and that the favelados are hungry?

Jose Carlos came home with a bag of crackers he found in the garbage. When I saw him eating things out of the trash I thought: and if it’s poisoned? Children can’t stand hunger. The crackers were delicious. I ate them thinking of that proverb: he who enters the dance must dance. And as I was also hungry, I ate.

More new people arrived in the favela. They are shabby and walk bent over with their eyes on the ground as if doing penance for their misfortune of living in an ugly place. A place where you can’t plant one flower to breathe its perfume. To listen to the buzz of the bees or watch a hummingbird caressing the flower with his fragile beak. The only perfume that comes from the favela is from rotting mud, excrement, and whisky.

Today nobody is going to sleep because the favelados who don’t work have started to dance. Cans, frying pans, pots - everything serves to accompany the off-key singing of these night bums.’

1 July 1959
‘I am sick and tired of the favela. I told Senhor Manuel that I was going through hard times. The father of Vera is rich, he could help me a little. He asked me not to reveal his name in the diary, and I won’t. He can count on my silence. And if I was one of those scandalous blacks, and went there to his office and made a scene? “Give me some money for your child!” ’

The Diary Junction