Thursday, August 15, 2019

The war at the end of the world

Died one hundred and ten years ago this day, did Euclides da Cunha, a Brazilian engineer and political writer - shot dead by his wife’s lover. In 1897, he was commissioned by a São Paulo newspaper to report on the war being fought by the government against a large group of rebellious peasants which had established a settlement, called Canudos, in the remote northeast. His dispatches were in the form of a daily diary, and these are available online (in the original Portuguese). Da Cunha went on to write a book about the conflict, which became a bestseller; to this day it remains a cornerstone of Brazilian political literature. In 1981, the world famous Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa based his novel, The War of the End of the World, on the events surrounding Canudos, and included da Cunha as a prominent character.

Euclides da Cunha was born in Cantaglo, some 140km northeast of Rio de Janeiro city, in early 1866. His mother died when he was three years old, and he went to live with relatives in Teresopolis and then Rio. In 1883, he started at Aquino College, where he first encountered Benjamin Constant, an influential military and political thinker, and in 1885, he joined the Polytechnic School. The following year, he signed up for the Military School of Praia Vermelha, where he again found himself being taught by Constant. He was expelled in 1888, for protesting during a visit of the Brazilian war minister, and took up journalism, working for the prestigious A Província de São Paulo. However, he was readmitted to the military school in 1889, and then entered the Brazilian war school (Escola de Guerra) in 1891. He graduated the following year with a degree in civil engineering. Around 1890, he married Ana Emília, daughter of Major Solon Ribeiro, and their first child (of three) was born in 1893.

That same year, in 1893, da Cunha moved to São Paulo to work in the administration for the railway organisation, but then, during the so-called Naval Revolts, he was called to serve for the Directorate of Military Works, and was sent to Minas Gerais to build barracks. Subsequently, he was appointed Superintendent of Public Works of São Paulo. In 1894, da Cunha published two influential articles in the Gazeta de Notícias, suggesting a comparison between the French Revolution and the ongoing revolts in Brazil. When a new conflict arose, with the government trying to crush a large communal settlement, named Canudos, in the northeastern state of Bahia, da Cunha was commissioned, in 1897, as a war correspondent, to personally witness events as they unfolded. Returning from Canudos, later the same year, he went to São José do Rio Pardo, in São Paulo, to manage the construction of a bridge. Around this time, he started writing Os Sertões, a work he would finish in 1900, and publish in 1902 (later translated into English as Rebellion in the Backlands). In the book, da Cunha, influenced by theories of positivism and social Darwinism, used the story of the Canudos conflict to argue for political change. Eighty years later, Vargas Llosa fictionalised the events that Da Cunha had witnessed and written about for his novel The War of the End of the World - which he dedicated to da Cunha.

Os Sertões was enthusiastically received by critics and became a best-seller in Brazil. Its success guaranteed Cunha membership of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, which he joined in 1903, and also opened up opportunities to work with the government. In 1906, after returning from an official trip to the Amazon, where he chaired a committee to survey the borders of northwestern Brazil, Cunha began to write a report that became his next most important book, Contrastes e confrontos (Contrasts and Comparisons), published in 1907. He spent the last two years of his life working on his third book, À margem da história (On the Margin of History), which was published posthumously. In 1909, he was named chair of logic at Colegio Pedro II. However, at this time, difficulties in his personal life came to a climax. His wife had been having an affair for years with a much younger man, and had even born him two children (one had been accepted by da Cunha as his own, the other had died). On 15 August, he went to his wife’s lovers house intent on murder, but instead was shot dead himself. Further information can be found online at Wikipedia (though the Portuguese entry is more detailed) or Encyclopedia.com

During the time that da Cunha spent observing the situation in Canudos, he wrote a daily diary which was published in the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo. Some forty years later, the diary was edited by Gilberto Freyre and published as Canudos: diário de uma expedição (José Olympio, 1939). The diary can be found online at Literatura Brasileira (though only in Portuguese).

I have used Google Translate (with a handful of edits) for this (crude and fault-full) English translation of one entry.

20 August 1897
‘Still awaiting, awkwardly, the next departure for the backcountry, I walk - unknown and lonely - like an ancient Greek in the streets of Byzantium the old streets of this great capital, in a persistent inquiry about its beautiful traditions and retaining its interesting old-town features coming almost intact from the past to these hectic days.

And I regret that the capital and exclusive purpose of this trip prevents me from studying it better and transmitting the impressions received.

Because this cross current of strange and diverse sensations is really inevitable, irresistibly invading the subject and pre-established programs.

In one hour sometimes the most mismatched impressions assail me.

Visiting the São Bento Monastery recently, for example, where the arriving wounded now accumulate, after traversing through extensive rows of constricted beds, I descended to the lower floor.

I crossed the long aisles cautiously, with calculated steps, my eyes fixed on the ground, trying not to tread on the grave limbs on which all devotees tread indifferently and where they still read, half-erased by the persistent friction of boots, names among them - oldest in our history. And stripping me of all the purpose that led me there - bending over the slabs that appear as the undiscovered palimpsest of marble in the remotest days, I remained long, absorbed.

What a huge transition in just five minutes, in this insensitive and quick passing, as I descended a staircase, from a busy, noisy present to the silent gloom of the indefinite past.

Fortunately, as I went on, I senselessly struck the wide doorway and as I passed through it, I suddenly turned back to the present.

Assomava, forced uphill and into Castro Alves Square, in a beam of glittering bayonets, the 4th infantry battalion. It comes from far, from the south - it's the last one we wait for.

With it are twenty-five battalions of line, to which are added the police corps here, of Sao Paulo, Pará, Amazonas and contingents of Artillery and Cavalry.

I calculate with a reasonable approximation of at least 10,000 men the troop that will fight the rebellion in the backlands.

And in the face of this armed multitude, it haunts me more than the natural dangers of war, the incalculable sum of efforts to feed it through regions almost impractical by the sharp unevenness of the roads that straighten into the mountains and narrow into long gorges.

A quick calculation shows us that this 10,000-necked minotaur will be sick, fasting almost one hundred and fifty sacks of flour and two tons of meat a day.

And this excludes elementary foodstuffs that constitute a luxury under the strict conditions of war.

This fact expresses one of the most serious and difficult conditions of the campaign: it is the tenacious, inglorious and frightening combat to an enemy who dies and revives every day, involving in the same trances friends and adversaries - hunger.

The natural conditions of the terrain, making it difficult to transport quickly, creating all sorts of stumbling, have already determined, as is well known, the appearance of that in our army - living forces at the mercy of chance, from imbu roots, or damp stalks of mandacarus sap, or hunting the scapegoats of the plateaus, in bold mounts in the caatingas.

Now this unfortunate situation is only attenuated today and every train that arrives deceives it for only one day.

Imagine now the series of difficulties that will come with the greatest accumulation of men.

In addition to slow marches, the lack of freighters makes the ammunition carried very small. Because, we must say frankly, what lies beyond Monte Santo, and even beyond Queimadas, is the desert in the meaning of the term - arid, harsh, unpopulated.

The scattered surrounding populations were lost far away, hiding in the woods, populating the most remote camps, abandoning houses and possessions, terrified by the terrifying scarecrow of war. Yes, you're right.

The narrative of the journey of those who have come, however free from the primitive ambushes, striking across the roads that radiate from Monte Santo, unfold through the absolutely empty and monotonous backcountry.

Only at one point and another as a sinister variant: for a refinement of satanic wickedness the jagunços arranged serially on the two sides of the road the bones of the dead from previous expeditions.

Uniforms, caps, gallons, talines, glittering red trousers, broad cloaks, ragged shirts, saddles, and blankets, hanging from the tree limbs, sway gloomily over the head of the grounded traveler passing through two rows of arranged skulls, lined at the sides.

It is a dreadful picture, capable of disturbing the most robust soul.

The unsuccessful Colonel Tamarindo - an old jovial soldier as there were few - was recognised by his uniform in this fantastic setting; without a head, stuck in a dry branch of Angico and having on his bare shoulders, hung like a hanger, and down the skeleton, down the skeleton.

The whole first column passed in amazement at the formidable spectre of the old commander.

All of these causes justify the indescribable panic that is currently raging in the backcountry and the disorderly ebb of entire populations to the remotest points.

The army is now raging in a desert of thirty lightning bolts, and it is absolutely necessary that the action of this expedition - which will be the last - be swift and fulminating in spite of all necessary sacrifices.

I believe we leave after all these days. I will then judge, in situ, what I have known so far through narratives that do not always fit the same conclusions.

And may that wild but interesting nature, that barbaric nook of our land, under the persistent attraction of its still unknown aspect, make light and quick these hours of longing that I cannot define.’

Saturday, August 10, 2019

First circumnavigation of the globe

Half a millennium ago this very day, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan launched a Spanish expedition that would complete the first ever circumnavigation of the world - it is, thus, one of the most famous exploration voyages in history. Magellan himself, however, was killed in a battle with native Philippines, and four of the expeditions five ships, along with most of their crews, were lost. Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian scholar and explorer, kept a journal of the entire journey. Although the original was lost, four manuscript copies - one in Italian and three in French - survived. Of these, one held by Yale University is considered the most complete and handsomely produced. Digital images of this are freely available online, as are texts of the journal in English.

On 10 August 1519, Magellan set sail with 270 men and five ships - the Armada de Molucca - from Seville, descending the Guadalquivir River to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, at the mouth of the river, where they remained more than five weeks before finally setting sail on 20 September. The main goal of the expedition - largely financed by King Charles I of Spain - was to find a western route to the Moluccas or Spice Islands (as the eastern route was controlled by Portugal under the terms of a treaty). The expedition crossed the Atlantic and discovered the strait that bears Magellan’s name, allowing it to pass South America into the Pacific Ocean (which Magellan named).

The fleet reached the Philippines, where it remained for some while, engaging frequently with the local indigenous people, some of whom were friendly and some not. Magellan was murdered in a battle on 27 April 1521, as were many others. Within a few weeks, the fleet was reduced to two ships, with Juan Sebastián Elcano eventually captaining the Victoria. By November, the expedition had reached the Moluccas - completing its mission. The following month, Elcano sailed for Europe, but the other ship - Trinidad - remained behind for repairs, and was eventually captured by the Portuguese then wrecked in a storm. After numerous other hardships during the three years, not least mutinies, starvation, scurvy, storms, only 18 men and the one ship (the Victoria) completed the return trip to Spain, arriving at Seville on 8 September 1922. Further details are available at Wikipedia.

One of the 18 survivors of the voyage was the Italian Pigafetta (see The Diary Junction) whose detailed journal has become the most important primary source of information about the expedition. He was born into a rich family in Vicenza in northeast Italy, around 1480-1491 (his exact birthdate being unknown). He studied astronomy, geography and cartography before serving the Knights of Rhodes on board their vessels. Until 1519, he accompanied the papal nuncio, Monsignor Francesco Chieregati, to Spain. He was in Seville when he heard of Magellan’s forthcoming expedition and was taken on as a supernumerary with a modest salary. He was wounded in the same skirmish as Magellan was killed, but survived the expedition, and returned to the Republic of Venice where he wrote up his journal, and made handwritten copies for distribution to European monarchs. He died around 1531.

Although the original journal kept by Pigafetta has long since been lost, four hand-written copies of the manuscript have survived into modern times - three in French and one in Italian. At least one of these can be viewed online at the World Digital Library, which says of it: ‘This version, in French, is from the library of Yale University, and is the most complete and handsomely produced of the four surviving manuscripts. It includes 23 beautifully drawn and illuminated maps.’

Published versions of Pigafetta’s journal have appeared over the years in various forms. An English translation (by Lord Stanley of Alderley) was issued by the Hakluyt Society in 1874 - see Internet Archive. But in 1906, a more rigorous edition was published by The Arthur H. Clark Company as Magellan’s Voyage Around the World (also available at Internet Archive). This was translated, edited and extensively annotated by James Alexander Robertson, who says: ‘The present edition first gives the English reader access to a translation of the true text of Pigafetta [. . .] together with the original Italian of Pigafetta [. . .] (the oldest and most complete of the four existing manuscripts).’ For more on the 500th anniversary of the Magellan voyage see The Magellan Project, España Global, VCentenario or The Daily Beast

Meanwhile here is an extract - detailing the death of Magellan - from the 1906 edition in English of Pigafetta’s text.

26-27 April 1521
‘On Friday, April twenty-six, Zula, a chief of the island of Matan [Mactan, and island in the Philippines] sent one of his sons to present two goats to the captain-general, and to say that he would send him all that he had promised, but that he had not been able to send it to him because of the other chief Cilapulapu, who refused to obey the king of Spagnia. He requested the captain to send him only one boatload of men on the next night, so that they might help him and fight against the other chief. The captain-general decided to go thither with three boatloads. We begged him repeatedly not to go, but he, like a good shepherd, refused to abandon his flock. At midnight, sixty men of us set out armed with corselets and helmets, together with the Christian king, the prince, some of the chief men, and twenty or thirty balanguais. We reached Matan three hours before dawn. The captain did not wish to fight then, but sent a message to the natives by the Moro to the effect that if they would obey the king of Spagnia, recognize the Christian king as their sovereign, and pay us our tribute, he would be their friend; but that if they wished otherwise, they should wait to see how our lances wounded. They replied that if we had lances they had lances of bamboo and stakes hardened with fire. [They asked us] not to proceed to attack them at once, but to wait until morning, so that they might have more men. They said that in order to induce us to go in search of them; for they had dug certain pitholes between the houses in order that we might fall into them. When morning came forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our thighs, and walked through water for more than two crossbow flights before we could reach the shore. The boats could not approach nearer because of certain rocks in the water. The other eleven men remained behind to guard the boats. When we reached land, those men had formed in three divisions to the number of more than one thousand five hundred persons. When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries, two divisions on our flanks and the other on our front. When the captain saw that, he formed us into two divisions, and thus did we begin to fight. The musketeers and crossbowmen shot from a distance for about a half-hour, but uselessly; for the shots only passed through the shields which were made of thin wood and the arms [of the bearers]. The captain cried to them, “Cease firing! cease firing!” but his order was not at all heeded. When the natives saw that we were shooting our muskets to no purpose, crying out they determined to stand firm, but they redoubled their shouts. When our muskets were discharged, the natives would never stand still, but leaped hither and thither, covering themselves with their shields. They shot so many arrows at us and hurled so many bamboo spears (some of them tipped with iron) at the captain-general, besides pointed stakes hardened with fire, stones, and mud, that we could scarcely defend ourselves. Seeing that, the captain-general sent some men to burn their houses in order to terrify them. When they saw their houses burning, they were roused to greater fury. Two of our men were killed near the houses, while we burned twenty or thirty houses. So many of them charged down upon us that they shot the captain through the right leg with a poisoned arrow. On that account, he ordered us to retire slowly, but the men took to flight, except six or eight of us who remained with the captain. The natives shot only at our legs, for the latter were bare; and so many were the spears and stones that they hurled at us, that we could offer no resistance. The mortars in the boats could not aid us as they were too far away. So we continued to retire for more than a good crossbow flight from the shore always fighting up to our knees in the water. The natives continued to pursue us, and picking up the same spear four or six times, hurled it at us again and again. Recognizing the captain, so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice, but he always stood firmly like a good knight, together with some others. Thus did we fight for more than one hour, refusing to retire farther. An Indian hurled a bamboo spear into the captain’s face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the Indian’s body. Then, trying to lay hand on sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because he had been wounded in the arm with a bamboo spear. When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide. When they wounded him, he turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Thereupon, beholding him dead, we, wounded, retreated, as best we could, to the boats, which were already pulling off. The Christian king would have aided us, but the captain charged him before we landed, not to leave his balanghai, but to stay to see how we fought. When the king learned that the captain was dead, he wept. Had it not been for that unfortunate captain, not a single one of us would have been saved in the boats, for while he was fighting the others retired to the boats. I hope through [the efforts of] your most illustrious Lordship that the fame of so noble a captain will not become effaced in our times. Among the other virtues which he possessed, he was more constant than ever any one else in the greatest of adversity. He endured hunger better than all the others, and more accurately than any man in the world did he understand sea charts and navigation. And that this was the truth was seen openly, for no other had had so much natural talent nor the boldness to learn how to circumnavigate the world, as he had almost done. That battle was fought on Saturday, April twenty-seven, 1521. The captain desired to fight on Saturday, because it was the day especially holy to him. Eight of our men were killed with him in that battle, and four Indians, who had become Christians and who had come afterward to aid us were killed by the mortars of the boats. Of the enemy, only fifteen were killed, while many of us were wounded.

In the afternoon the Christian king sent a message with our consent to the people of Matan, to the effect that if they would give us the captain and the other men who had been killed, we would give them as much merchandise as they wished. They answered that they would not give up such a man, as we imagined [they would do], and that they would not give him for all the riches in the world, but that they intended to keep him as a memorial.’

Snake chief doesn’t like horse

‘While we were eating, we were visited by a Snake chief, a large and powerful man, of a peculiarly dignified aspect and manner. He was naked, with the exception of a small blanket which covered his shoulders, and descended to the middle of the back, being fastened around the neck with a silver skewer. As it was pudding time with us, our visitor was of course invited to sit and eat; [. . .] He had not eaten long, however, before we perceived a sudden and inexplicable change in his countenance, which was instantly followed by a violent ejectment of a huge mouthful of our luxurious fare. The man rose slowly, and with great dignity, to his feet, and pronouncing the single word “shekum,” (horse,) in a tone of mingled anger and disgust, stalked rapidly out of the camp, not even wishing us a good evening.’ This is from the diaries of John Kirk Townsend, an ornithologist and doctor, written while on an expedition to explore Oregon. During the journey, Townsend, born 210 years ago today, discovered and collected many new bird species which he later gave to John James Audubon who painted them for his famous Birds of America.

Townsend was born on 10 August 1809 into a Quaker family in Philadelphia. He attended the Friends’ Boarding School at Westtown in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The school had a reputation for science, and while there he became interested in ornithology. He trained as a physician and pharmacist. In 1833, he joined the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and the American Philosophical Society. The following year he took part in Nathaniel Wyeth’s second expedition across the Rocky Mountains to Oregon, and is credited with discovering several new species of birds and mammals. On arriving at Fort Vancouver, he was invited to stay, and for six months served as the fort’s surgeon. While there, he explored the surrounding area, often depending on Native Americans to capture elusive specimens. He later described their cultural practices; however, he also known to have robbed Indian graves of skulls.

Townsend left Oregon in 1836 for Hawaii. From there he traveled back to Philadelphia via Cape Horn. After his return in 1837, he sold almost 100 (preserved) birds to John James Audubon, the famous American ornithologist and painter, who described them in his exquisitely illustrated Birds of America (originals of which are now among the most expensive books ever sold). Townsend was hired as curator of the collections of both the Academy of Natural Sciences and the National Institute for the Promotion of Science in Washington, D.C., but he also tried his hand at dentistry. He died aged only 42 in 1851, a victim of cumulative arsenic poisoning (arsenic powder being commonly used in the preservation of mammal and bird skins). Further biographical information is available at Wikipedia, The Oregon History Project, National Park Service or Linda Hall Library.

In 1939, Townsend published his Narrative of a Journey Across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River and a Visit to the Sandwich Islands, Chilli etc. with a Scientific Appendix. This is freely available at Internet Archive. Here are two typical diary entries form the narrative.

20 August 1833
‘At about daylight this morning, having charge of the last guard of the night, I observed a beautiful, sleek little colt, of about four months old, trot into the camp, whinnying with great apparent pleasure, and dancing and curvetting gaily amongst our sober and sedate band. I had no doubt that he had strayed from Indians, who were probably in the neighborhood; but as here, every animal that comes near us is fair game, and as we were hungry, not having eaten any thing of consequence since yesterday morning, I thought the little stranger would make a good breakfast for us. Concluding, however, that it would be best to act advisedly in the matter, I put my head into Captain W.’s tent, and telling him the news, made the proposition which had occurred to me. The captain’s reply was encouraging enough, “Down with him, if you please, Mr. T., it is the Lord’s doing; let us have him for breakfast.” In five minutes afterwards, a bullet sealed the fate of the unfortunate visitor, and my men were set to work making fires, and rummaging out the long-neglected stew-pans, while I engaged myself in flaying the little animal, and cutting up his body in readiness for the pots. 

When the camp was aroused, about an hour after, the savory steam of the cookery was rising and saluting the nostrils of our hungry people with its fragrance, who, rubbing their hands with delight, sat themselves down upon the ground, waiting with what patience they might, for the unexpected repast which was preparing for them.

It was to me almost equal to a good breakfast, to witness the pleasure and satisfaction which I had been the means of diffusing through the camp.

The repast was ready at length, and we did full justice to it; every man ate until he was filled, and all pronounced it one of the most delicious meals they had ever assisted in demolishing. When our breakfast was concluded, but little of the colt remained; that little was, however, carefully packed up, and deposited on one of the horses, to furnish, at least, a portion of another meal.

The route, this morning, lay along Boisée. For an hour, the travelling was toilsome and difficult, the Indian trail, leading along the high bank of the river, steep and rocky, making our progress very slow and laborious. We then came to a wide plain, interrupted only by occasional high banks of earth, some of them of considerable extent, across which ran the path. Towards mid-day, we lost sight of these banks, the whole country appearing level, with the exception of some distant hills in the south-west, which we suppose indicate the vicinity of some part of Snake river.

We have all been disappointed in the distance to this river, and the length of time required to reach it. Not a man in our camp has ever travelled this route before, and all we have known about it has been the general course.
In the afternoon, we observed a number of Indians on the opposite side of the river, engaged in fishing for salmon. Captain W. and two men immediately crossed over to them, carrying with them a few small articles to exchange for fish. We congratulated ourselves upon our good fortune in seeing these Indians, and were anticipating a plentiful meal, when Captain W. and his companions returned, bringing only three small salmon. The Indians had been unsuccessful in fishing, not having caught enough for themselves, and even the offer of exorbitant sums was not sufficient to induce them to part with more.

In the afternoon, a grouse and a beaver were killed, which, added to the remains of the colt, and our three little salmon, made us a tolerable supper. While we were eating, we were visited by a Snake chief, a large and powerful man, of a peculiarly dignified aspect and manner. He was naked, with the exception of a small blanket which covered his shoulders, and descended to the middle of the back, being fastened around the neck with a silver skewer. As it was pudding time with us, our visitor was of course invited to sit and eat; and he, nothing loath, deposited himself at once upon the ground, and made a remarkably vigorous assault upon the mixed contents of the dish. He had not eaten long, however, before we perceived a sudden and inexplicable change in his countenance, which was instantly followed by a violent ejectment of a huge mouthful of our luxurious fare. The man rose slowly, and with great dignity, to his feet, and pronouncing the single word “shekum,” (horse,) in a tone of mingled anger and disgust, stalked rapidly out of the camp, not even wishing us a good evening. It struck me as a singular instance of accuracy and discrimination in the organs of taste. We had been eating of the multifarious compound without being able to recognise, by the taste, a single ingredient which it contained; a stranger came amongst us, who did not know, when he commenced eating, that the dish was formed of more than one item, 
and yet in less than five minutes he discovered one of the very least of its component parts.

It would seem from this circumstance that the Indians, or it may be the particular tribe to which this man belongs, are opposed to the eating of horse flesh, and yet, the natural supposition would be, that in the gameless country inhabited by them they would often be reduced to such shifts, and thus readily conquer any natural reluctance which they might feel to partake of such food. I did not think until after he left us, that if the chief knew how the horse meat he so much detested was procured, and where, he might probably have expressed even more indignation, for it is not at all unlikely that the colt had strayed from his own band.’

9 September 1833
‘The character of the country has changed considerably since we left Walla-walla. The river has become gradually more narrow, until it is now but about two hundred yards in width, and completely hemmed in by enormous rocks on both sides. Many of these extend for considerable distances into the stream in perpendicular columns, and the water dashes and breaks against them until all around is foam. The current is here very swift, probably six or seven miles to the hour; and the Indian canoes in passing down, seem literally to fly along its surface. The road to-day has been rugged to the very last degree. We have passed over continuous masses of sharp rock for hours together, sometimes picking our way along the very edge of the river, several hundred feet above it; again, gaining the back land, by passing through any casual chasm or opening in the rocks, where we were compelled to dismount, and lead our horses.

This evening, we are surrounded by a large company of Chinook Indians, of both sexes, whose temporary wig-wams are on the bank of the river. Many of the squaws have young children sewed up in the usual Indian fashion, wrapped in a skin, and tied firmly to a board, so that nothing but the head of the little individual is seen.

These Indians are very peaceable and friendly. They have no weapons except bows, and these are used more for amusement and exercise, than as a means of procuring them sustenance, their sole dependence being fish and beaver, with perhaps a few hares and grouse, which are taken in traps. We traded with these people for a few fish and beaver skins, and some roots, and before we retired for the night, arranged the men in a circle, and gave them a smoke in token of our friendship.’

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Nothing but snow and icy wind

‘Finally reach Camp 3 at 6 a.m., almost totally exhausted. While the others prepare something to eat. I massage Canali’s feet. The pains begin to lessen. Outside the tent there is nothing but snow and icy wind, and so it remains for the entire day. We stay in the tent for just so long and then decide to continue our descent. To remain much longer at this height would be extremely dangerous, especially for Canali. Yet, as we attempt to go a few paces beyond the tent, we are soon driven back, convinced that to descend under such conditions is tantamount to suicide.’ This is from a dramatic diary kept by Riccardo Cassin, one of the most famous mountaineers of the mid-20th century, on the descent from a pioneering a climb - now called Cassin Ridge - on Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. Cassin died 10 years ago today, having reached the ripe old age of 100.

Cassin was born in 1909 in the village of San Vito al Tagliamento, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but now part of Italy, 80km northwest of Trieste. When only three, his father emigrated to Canada where he died within a short time. Cassin left school at the age of 12 to work for a blacksmith; aged 17 he moved to Lecco where he took a job at the steel factory. Although he was interested in boxing for a while, he turned to climbing in his early 20s, and by 1935 had made the first ascent of Piccolissima of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo in the Dolomites. He started climbing on the granite of the Western Alps in 1937, and the following year made one of his most celebrated ascents, Walker Spur on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses in the Mont Blanc massif. He became one of the leading mountaineers of the inter-war period, making a total of 2,500 ascents, of which over 100 were first ascents. In 1940, he married Irma with whom he had three sons.

During the war, Cassin fought with the partisans against the German occupiers, being decorated for his actions in the partisan campaign during the years 1943-45. From 1947 or so, he started designing and producing mountaineering equipment, pitons, ice aces, caribiners and harnesses. In 1954, Cassin felt slighted by Ardito Desio, the chief expedition leader for the Italian Alpine Club, who left him out of the Italian expedition that made the first ascent of K2 in 1954; thereafter, he concentrated on organising and leading expeditions himself. In 1961, he planned the expedition that made the first ascent of (what is now known as) Cassin Ridge on Mount McKinley in Alaska, an achievement that earned him a telegram of congratulation from President Kennedy. In 1967, Cassin’s production firm became a limited company, and, in 1997, the Cassin brand was bought by CAMP, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of equipment for climbing and associated activities. Cassin lived to be 100 years old, dying a few months later on 6 August 2009.

The Guardian obituary has this assessment: ‘Tough, warm and good-humoured, Cassin had an obstinate, down-to-earth approach to the practicalities of climbing, underpinned by shrewd intelligence and an artist’s eye for the most beautiful routes up the most difficult peaks. Cassin’s legacy is a series of new climbs completed around the world before and after the second world war, climbs that still dominate the sport's consciousness as immutable landmarks.’ Further biographical information can also be found at Wikipedia, Summit Post, or in obituaries at The Independent and The New York Times.

Cassin kept a diary of the Mount McKinley expedition in 1961, and filled it in with some notes afterward. The diary was published within a few weeks by Life magazine (25 August 1961), and this is freely available at Googlebooks. Here are a few extracts.

17 July 1961
‘The weather is bad from early morning on; the air is thick with snow and the wind threatens to carry away everything at Camp 1. To the right and to the left of us there are almost sheer walls and we remain tied together at all times. Beneath us awaits 6,000 feet of nothing.

Toward 5 p.m. the snow stops and the storm calms down a bit. We don’t lose a minute. All of us leave at once for Camp 2, carrying food and equipment. We climb on two separate ropes for three hours, three men to each rope.’

18 July 1961
‘We leave very early, carrying two tents, food and other supplies. At about 7 p.m. we finally arrive at the site selected for Camp 3. We set up the tents in the face of freezing winds.’

19 July 1961
‘It’s decided that today we'll set out for no less than the summit. Canali and I are tied together. From the spur we pass slightly leftward to the mouth of a couloir [gorge] filled with snow and ice where we are able to climb more swiftly. It is no longer snowing, but strong winds attack us from the west without respite and make every forward step a torture. Icicles bristle from the rocks on either side and cut our faces. By 10 p.m. we have finally reached the base of the rocks that stand between ourselves and the summit.

We are exhausted and numb from the cold. The temperature is down to 30-40 below zero.

Our crampons [spiked boot-attachments] and boots are frozen together into a single mass, and for the first time Canali complains that his feet are cold.

It is Zucchi now who takes the lead; he struggles desperately and nothing can stand in his way. The summit cannot be far away now. Canali does the best he can to reactivate the circulation in his feet which he knows are little by little freezing up.

The summit is close and an unconquerable will takes hold of us and aids us tremendously in our progress. Finally at 11 p.m. and almost in darkness we reach the mighty summit. Filled with emotion, we throw our arms about each other. The icy wind prevents us from opening our mouths to speak, even for a moment; but in our eyes is written anything that our lips might speak.

But we cannot wait, we must descend again directly. Alippi, I, Canali, Perego, Airoldi and Zucchi, in this order, take leave of the summit after spending barely 15 minutes atop it.

Canali is not well. I ask him what’s wrong and he fails to answer. He begins to vomit, although he has had nothing to eat for 17 hours.

Once off the rocks immediately beneath the summit, we descend the steep couloir, all roped together.

Suddenly I hear sounds of scuffling behind me. I turn about and see Canali falling down the couloir. In an instant I plunge my ice ax into the hard snow, whip the rope once quickly around it and rapidly bring Canali to a halt. I begin to wonder whether he can proceed much further. For safety’s sake I change our order on the rope. I remain last with Canali close to me so as to keep a better eye on him. Several times during the descent of this very steep couloir, I must take pains to prevent him from slipping.

We reach the base of the couloir and begin the traverse to Camp 3. I try to give Canali a couple of vitamin tablets but he refuses them and continues to complain of the terrible cold in his feet.

The wind continues to harangue us without respite and the snow begins to fall again. But we keep on descending as the storm becomes more and more violent.’

20 July 1961
‘Finally reach Camp 3 at 6 a.m., almost totally exhausted. While the others prepare something to eat. I massage Canali’s feet. The pains begin to lessen. Outside the tent there is nothing but snow and icy wind, and so it remains for the entire day. We stay in the tent for just so long and then decide to continue our descent. To remain much longer at this height would be extremely dangerous, especially for Canali. Yet, as we attempt to go a few paces beyond the tent, we are soon driven back, convinced that to descend under such conditions is tantamount to suicide.’

21 July 1961
‘Until 11 a.m. the weather continues to be unspeakable, but then calms down a bit and we set out. But though the wind is no longer tormenting us, the snow begins to fall more and more thickly.

Canali can no longer get into his shoes. There is now no alternative for Canali but to change to a pair of boots lined with reindeer fur; but it is impossible to attach crampons to such boots. They are too soft and the toe folds up, rendering the crampons useless.

Both for Canali and for his companions on the same rope, it is extremely difficult to go on in this manner. Yet there is no other way. Canali’s own efforts at this point are superhuman and heroic, and even Zucchi and myself seem to exceed our own capacity in assisting him.

In this way we finally reach the glacier halfway down the wall.

Alippi, who has given his reindeerskin boots to Canali, is now shod in four pairs of woolen socks, and he too, unable to use crampons, must submit to a continuous martyrdom.

At one point I was standing close to Perego in an effort to ease Alippi down a slope when suddenly the latter slipped and all but dragged the three of us down the wall. Fortunately he fell onto a stretch of soft snow.

We reach Camp 2. Perego, Alippi and Airoldi prefer to bivouac there. But Canali's condition has me greatly worried. Visibility is still zero and, to make matters worse, all of our tracks upward are now concealed by fresh snow.

At this point the spur is extremely narrow and steep, and on both sides the slope falls off perpendicularly. We are forced to grope for foot and handholds under the snow. Fortunately these suffice. The effort is killing. At long last we arrive at Camp 1, completely done in. We know that Base Camp means salvation, yet Canali’s condition is such that we cannot proceed a step further at the moment.

Yet even here our difficulties are not over. None of the provisions left at this camp can be eaten without being heated first, and our stoves no longer function. After a great while we succeed in melting a liter of snow, but nothing else.

I set to work massaging Canali’s feet. The drugs that I’ve given him begin to work. Zucchi and I are despondent at being unable to do more for him. At Base Camp we have everything, but we are too exhausted to get there. We attempt to sleep, but Canali moans throughout the night and we remain awake.’

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Diary briefs

Hangman’s diary sells at auction - BBC, The Sun

The world’s oldest diary? - Daily Express, Wikipedia

War journalist’s diary to be auctioned - Hansons, The Times

Diary of journalist with Custer - State Historical Society of North Dakota, The Jamestown Sun

Diary of the first Israeli astronaut - Israel21c

Diary of C18th Maltese priest - Times of Malta

Diary may shed light on story of Deborah Sampson - The Smithsonian

Elton John diary extract goes viral - The Independent

Great escape prison diary - The Sun, Mail Online

Dr Nigel Rusted’s diaries online - Memorial University of Newfoundland

Historic diary of a student - Seton Hall University

Moshe Sharett’s struggle for peace - Indiana University Press, Googlebooks


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Dark as soaring pine

Witold Gombrowicz, a Polish born writer famous for his eccentric diaries, died 50 years ago today. His translator believes these diaries can bring you wild, extravagant dreams, and revive your imaginative garden plot. He recommends you ‘let Gombrowicz rise from your garden, dark as soaring pine, translucent as a magnolia blossom.’

Gombrowicz was born in 1904 at Małoszyce near Opatów, 100km or so south of Warsaw, then part of the Russian empire, and was the youngest of four children. In 1911, his family moved to Warsaw, where he was schooled at Saint Stanislaus Kostka’s Gymnasium, before studying law at Warsaw University, earning a master’s degree in 1927. He spent a year in Paris, where he studied at the Institut des Hautes Études Internationales, before returning to Poland. In 1933, Gombrowicz published Pamiętnik z Okresu Dojrzewania (Memoirs of a Time of Immaturity), a collection of humorous stories; four years later came his first novel, Ferdydurke (which brought him some literary fame), and a year after that his first play, Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy.

In 1939, Gombrowicz was working as a journalist on board a new transatlantic passenger vessel, MS Chrobry, heading for South America, when he heard the news about Germany’s invasion of Poland. He decided to remain in Argentina until the war was over, but he stayed until 1963. During this time, he tried to establish himself as a writer in Buenos Aires, but mostly his works - including a Spanish translation of Ferdydurke - failed to bring him any success. He did, however, manage to publish in the Parisian journal Culture, and, in time, he had more books published in Polish, not least Pornografia (1960). From 1947 to 1955, he worked as a bank clerk, thereafter he was able to make a modest living from his literary output.

On his return to Europe, partly thanks to a scholarship from the Ford Foundation, he went first to Berlin - the closest he would get to his native Poland, now Communist, which had run a campaign to discredit him. But he soon moved to Vence, in France, with Rita Labrosse, a Canadian he had met in Paris who acted as his secretary. By this time, he was well known globally, his books having been translated into several languages, and his plays produced internationally. His last book, Cosmos, was published in 1965, and it won him, in 1967, the Prix International. A year later he married Labrosse. He died on 24 July 1969. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Words without Borders, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or Porta Polonica

Three volumes of diaries are among the most important of Gombrowicz’s literary output - indeed the Paris Review calls them his masterpiece. Three volumes have been translated by Lillian Vallee and published in English: Diary - Volume One 1953-56, Diary - Volume Two 1957-61, and Diary - Volume Three 1961-66 (Northwestern University Press 1988, 1989, 1993). 
A single volume compendium of the diaries is in print and available from Yale Unversity Press which says: ‘Not a traditional journal, Diary is instead the commentary of a brilliant and restless mind.’ Some pages of this can be previewed at Googlebooks.

These are not ordinary diaries by any stretch of the imagination. Entries are rarely dated, and are often more like notes; daily preoccupations are replaced by metaphysical introspection; and making any sense isn’t always the writer’s main preoccupation! Here is the concluding paragraph of the translator’s Afterword: ‘This is not a book for the pusillanimous or the pedantic. But if you want wild, extravagant dreams, if you want to reclaim every dead plant and neglected corner of your imaginative garden plot, take Diary, read it twice, dance with it in the rain, pass it on to a loony friend. Let Gombrowicz rise from your garden, dark as soaring pine, translucent as a magnolia blossom.’

And here is Pankaj Mishra assessment of the diary in The New York Times: ‘In Witold Gombrowicz’s hands, the journal became an iconoclastic polemic addressed to a small readership of fellow exiles. He began it with a nice bit of self-mockery: “Monday. Me. Tuesday. Me. Wednesday. Me. Thursday. Me.” Certainly humorless self-love, as Anaïs Nin’s diaries reveal, is fundamentally inimical to this quasi-literary form. It works best as a severe tribunal for the self that frequents the world and, dependent on fickle opinion for affirmation, is periodically injured and insulted.’

The following (dated) extracts all come from the original third English volume.


30 October 1966
’30.x.66
I must (because I see that no one will do this for me) finally formulate the main problem of our times, one that completely dominates the entire Western episteme. This is not a problem of History, or a problem of Existence, or a problem of Praxis or Structure or Cogito or Psychology or any other of the problems that have spread across our field of vision. Our main problem is the problem of the smarter, the dumber.

I return to it, although I have brushed up against it on many occasions. . .  The Stupidity that I sense is getting stronger all the time, in a way that is increasingly humiliating, that crushes and weakens me; it has gotten stronger since I moved closer to Paris, the most blunting of cities. I do not assume that I am alone in feeling I am within its reach; it seems to me that all those who participate in the great march of modem consciousness have not been able to muffle in themselves its acompanying step. . . its tearing through the undergrowth right here, right here. . . I wondered and I still wonder how to settle on a Law that would most concisely describe the specific situation of the European spirit. I see nothing except

THE SMARTER, THE DUMBER

Actually I am not talking about a certain contingent of stupidity, not yet overcome, that development will come to terms with sooner or later. This would be a matter of stupidity progressing hand in hand with reason, which grows along with it. Have a look at all the picnics of the intellect: These conceptions! These discoveries! Perspectives! Subtleties! Publications! Congresses! Discussions! Institutes! Universities! Yet: one senses nothing but stupidity.

I must warn you that I am formulating the law the smarter, the dumber without a bit of jesting. No, this is really so. . . And the principle of inverse proportionality seems to get at the very essence of this, for the more noble the quality of reason, the more despicable the category of stupidity; stupidity has become cruder thanks to nothing but its own coarseness, and it eludes the increasingly more subtle instrument of intellectual control . . . our reason, too smart to defend itself against stupidity that is too stupid. In the Western episteme what is stupid is stupid in a gigantic way - and that is why it is elusive.

I will allow myself by way of an example to indicate the stupidity accompanying our, ever more rich, system of communication. Everyone will admit that this system has been splendidly developed of late. Precision, wealth, the profundity of language in not just brilliant expositions but even in peripheral ones, bordering on publicism (like literary criticism), are worthy of the greatest admiration. But the inundation of wealth brings about a flagging in attention, therefore increasing precision is accompanied by increasing disorientation. The result: instead of a growing understanding, you have a growing misunderstanding.

And there are even cruder complications marching onto the scene. Because the critic (let us stick with this example) is, it is true, learned, saturated with readings, oriented, but also overworked, overscheduled, bored, barren; he races to one more premiere, to see one more play, and, after such a onetime look, to hurriedly dash off one more review - which will be thorough and superficial, excellent and slapdash. And, unfortunately, I don’t see that the Western episteme will be capable of solving the contradictions of the communication system, it cannot even register them, as they are beneath its level. . .  The vulnerability of the episteme when faced with the most blatant stupidity is a characteristic feature of our times.

An acquaintance of mine told me a story from before the war. They were drinking a nightcap on the veranda when Uncle Simon showed up. “What?” I asked. “Why, Simon has been resting in the cemetery for the past five years!” “Well, yes.” she replied. “He came from the cemetery in the suit he was buried in, he greeted us, sat down, drank some tea, chatted a bit about the crops, and returned to the cemetery.” 

“What?! And what did you do?! . . .” “What did you want us to do, my dear, in the face of such cheek. . .” And this is why the episteme cannot muster a riposte: it is too shamelessly stupid!

But - what luxuries!

L’ecriture n’est jamais qu’un langage, un système formel (quelque verité qui l’anime); à un certain moment (qui est peut-être celui de nos crises profondes, sans autre rapport avec ce que nous disons que d’en changer le rhythm), ce langage peut toujours être parlé par un autre langage; écrire (tout au long du temps) c’est chercher à découvrir le plus grand langage, celui qui est la forme de tous les autres. (Roland Barthes)

Hm . . . what? . . . One has to admit: they do not lack cheek!

We so-called artists are mountain climbers from birth; this kind of intellectual-verbal hike really agrees with us; if only it did not make us dizzy.’

1 January 1967
‘1.i.67
Rita and I stepped into 1967 yesterday. The two of us, without champagne, looking out our window at the silence, emptiness, our beautiful Place du Grand-Jardin, the steep roofs of old Vence, the cathedral tower, with the stony walls of the mountain far away, which the moon floods with a mystical light.

The moon was so strong that one could see a sheet of water beyond Cap d’Antibes on the other side.

Almost nothing happens to me. The unremarkable state of my health has become something of a cloister for me. I live like a monk. Breakfast at nine, then writing, mail at noon, car excursion into the mountains a stroll, we come back, lunch, newspaper, nap, correspondence, reading. . . . Most often we visit Maria Sperling and J6zefJarema, who have a lovely house and an even more beautiful garden on one of the slopes overlooking at nine, then writing, mail at noon, car excursion into the mountains a stroll, we come back, lunch, newspaper, nap, correspondence, reading. . .  Most often we visit Maria Sperling and Józef Jarema, who have a lovely house and an even more beautiful garden on one of the slopes overlooking Nice.

There is no lack of visits because this is the drawing room of Europe, someone is constantly appearing, from America, Australia, Sweden, Poland, there are scads of kings, financiers, maharajas, admirals, movie stars during the holidays. But nothing ever happens. Sometimes, with an effort bordering on self-torment, I try to unearth in my head some lost detail from years ago. For example, I wondered about this yesterday evening and right before falling asleep last night and this morning: in which courtyard, on what street, did I run for cover from the downpour then, in September 1955, in Buenos Aires, during the revolution, when I fled from my endangered apartment to Russo’s.

In spite of everything, there is a lot of bitter irony in this: that now, after an Argentine fast of many years, I have finally made it to such an elegant country, to such a high civilization, to such landscapes, to such bakery goods, fish, delicacies, such roads, beaches, palaces, cascades, and elegant things that, unfortunately, I with my television, record player, frigidaire, and dog, cat, I in the mountains, in the sun, in the air, at the seaside, that I would have to enter a monastery. But in the depths of my soul I acknowledge that the Force, which has not allowed me to consume my success too greedily, is right. I have known for a long time, from the very beginning - I was warned in advance - that art cannot, should not, bring personal gain. . . that it is a tragic business. Something else seems unjust to me: that my artistic work has furnished me so few of the pure pleasures that are allowed the artist; if writing gives me a certain satisfaction, then it is a cold, stubborn, and even reluctant satisfaction; but how often do I write like a kid at school doing his homework; and more often in terror; or in nagging uncertainty. It is true that there were times when I was on the verge of total obsession, I was in no state to tear myself away, for hours after tearing myself from the paper I would persist in a strange, barren excitement, repeating sentences and phrases just written down (I remember one such maniacal stroll in Buenos Aires, near the river, when my head was buzzing not even with sentences but with loose words from The Marriage). But this had the character of speeding, some sort of gallop, trembling, shaking, and did not have much in common with joy.

Perhaps this is unjust and a little cruel, that my lofty vocation was accompanied by such an awful lack of illusions and pitiless sobriety. The anger that mounts in me when I think about artists like Tuwim, D’Annunzio, or even Gide, would it not be connected to their being able to read someone their text without the desperate suspicion that they were boring him? And I also think that a little of that feeling we call the societal meaning of the artist would be more desirable than my certainty that socially I am a zero, a marginal being. This is quite sad, however: to devote yourself to art but at the same time to be beyond it, beyond its ceremony, hierarchies, values, charms - with a practically peasant distrust - with a peasant’s cunning and reluctant smile.

And if one were to accept that at the heart of this matter is an extremely pleasant and salutory thoughtlessness, then why, I ask, have I never known those plots and games, those artistic pranks and frolics, that the Skamandrites - or the romantics in Victor Hugo’s day - the surrealists, or other frisky young people knew? My time was bloody and raw, agreed. War, revolution, emigration. But why had I chosen this time (when I was being born in 1904 in Małoszyce)?

I am a saint. Yes, I am a saint. . . and an ascetic.

In my life there is a contradiction that knocks the plate out of my hands at the very moment it nears my lips.’

21 August 1967
’21.viii.67
I have been thinking and thinking . . . this is the third week. ... I don’t understand a thing! Nothing! L. finally arrived, looked everything over in great detail, and finally said the same thing, that it was worth at least $150,000. At least! In this dry, pine forest, a crunching underfoot, as if from Poland, with a royal panorama at the top, with princely views onto the processions of castles, St. Paul, Cagnes. Villeneuve, as if rising from the illuminated sea.

A beautiful oak hall on the first floor and three large rooms in the suite. On the first floor two more rooms with a common yet spacious bathroom. Solid verandas and . . .
Why does he want only forty-five thousand (but in cash)? Has he gone crazy? This elusive rich man. . . who is he? Could he be one of my readers? Is this price exclusively for me? The lawyer says: Such are my instructions.

???’

3 September 1967
‘3.ix
I cannot think about anything else. At any rate the twenty thousand will make things much easier. . .’

7 September 1967
‘7.ix
Should I buy it?’

9 September 1967
‘9.ix
I bought it.’

14 September 1967
‘14.ix
Now the measuring - the counting, deliberations - arguments.

I want Jarema’s wall hanging with its deep and juicy juxtapositions of black-green-ruddy texture to stand in the hall with its oak paneling, the counterpart to the goldish red tapisserie of Maria Sperling, saturated with a black net of rhythms . . . and hanging there, at the end of the suite of rooms, on the wall of my study.

An indistinct mulatto at the bottom.

And he is a maniac, maniac, maniac!

It never in my life occurred to me to have a son. And actually it is a matter of real indifference to me whether legitimate or illegitimate. My spiritual development, my entire intellectual development, were of the kind that today I am beyond the orbit of this dilemma. And the fact that some half-mulatto shows up on my doorstep with a tender “daddy” . . . from where, how, why?. . . who cares, I could get used to the idea in the end, get accustomed to it. But as far as blackmail. . .

Who gave him money for the trip from Brazil? And these constant about-faces, tricks, pirouettes with the nomenclature, with the name, what for? To shock? To stun, to weaken? Is he counting on being able to make my head spin with his multiple-name dance of a half-breed, with this dance of a warring Apache, he, the supposed (because even this is not certain) son of an indistinct mulatto, conceived of an accidental night, by way of passing, driving by, of a hotel night, which has dropped into the night of forgetfulness. . . I know nothing. . . I don’t remember.

Out of the empty blackness comes a son!

I bought Louis Philippe armchairs, have to reupholster them, in dark green.’

1 November 67
‘1.xi.67
Rosa, Rosa, Rosa, and Henry, Henry, Henry and Rosa, Rosa, Rosa and Henry, Henry, Henry.

What Henry are you talking about!

In the rotundities of my study.’

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Our Time of Day

The British actor and political activist Corin Redgrave was born 80 years ago today. He kept diaries some of the time, and his second wife Kika Markham has used these, along with her own diaries, to write a memoir - Our Time of Day: My Life with Corin Redgrave. ‘With great empathy and wit,’ the publisher says, ‘Kika records their lives on and off stage - two great actors from two theatrical families.’ As it happens, I have a vague personal connection with Corin and Kika in that they first met while working on a famous 1930s film produced by my grandfather.

Redgrave was born in northwest London on 16 July 1939, to the famous actor Michael Redgrave and his actress wife Rachel Kempson. He had two sisters, Vanessa who was older, and Lynn who was younger. Michael was educated at Westminster School, and King’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a first in English. (Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi and Trevor Nunn were among his friends there.) He joined the Royal Court Theatre as an assistant director in 1962. That same year he married Deirdre Deline Hamilton-Hill, and they were to have two children.

Redgrave soon turned to acting, and through the 1960s appeared on stage and in films, not least in Fred Zinnemann’s Oscar-winning A Man for All Seasons. In the 1970s, acting began to take second place to his involvement in radical politics: encouraged by Vanessa, he joined the Workers’ Revolutionary Party founded by Gerry Healy. He became increasingly involved with the group as a full-time organiser; and when it split, he remained loyal to Healy and his new Marxist Party. Redgrave’s marriage had been dissolved some while earlier, and, in 1985, he married his second wife, Kika Markham, also an actress, and they had two children.

Only with the ending of the Cold War did Redgrave return wholeheartedly to acting, enjoying significant roles such as in In the Name of the Father (1993), about the wrongful imprisonment of the Guildford Four, and in the romantic comedy, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). He also had success in the West End and on Broadway, especially with Tennessee Williams’s Not About Nightingales (receiving a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play in 1999). In the mid-1990s, he wrote an acclaimed memoir of his father (whom he had helped with his autobiography a decade earlier) Michael Redgrave, My Father, which incorporated extracts from Michael’s diaries. Corin Redgrave was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, and in 2005 suffered a heart attack, but, nevertheless, made a triumphant return to the stage in 2007, with the one-man play Tynan, and as the lead in Trumbo in 2009. He died in 2010. Further information is available from Wikipedia, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required), or IMDB.

Like his father, Corin kept a diary, at least sometimes. I have not been able to establish how regularly he did so, or what diary material he might have left behind. However, Kika Markham in her memoir - Our Time of Day: My Life with Corin Redgrave (Oberon Books, 2014) - includes many extracts from his diary as well as from her own. Some pages can be previewed at Amazon or Googlebooks. and a review can be read at The Guardian. The publisher’s blurb states: ‘Our Time of Day was inspired by Corin’s revelation that after suffering brain damage he could remember little of his marriage - despite the fact that for over thirty happy, passionate and turbulent years he and Kika had shared their love of acting, family and left-wing politics with ceaseless energy and commitment. With great empathy and wit, Kika records their lives on and off stage - two great actors from two theatrical families. She draws upon intimate records of the thoughts and feelings that they had both expressed in personal diaries, writing with often brutal honesty. Finally she charts the poignant trajectory of Corin’s illness, from the moment he suffered a near-fatal heart attack during a speech on behalf of the Dale Farm gypsies, to severe memory loss, cancer and his eventual death from an aneurysm in the brain. Throughout these troubled years both continued acting in plays and films, as well as strenuously pursuing the human rights causes they held so dear.’


I, myself, have a distant connection with Corin and Kika. In the second paragraph of chapter one in Markham’s memoir, she explains how she knew Corin: ‘Michael Redgrave, Corin’s father, and David Markham, my father, had worked together in a film about the struggle of the miners in the 1930s: The Stars Look Down, based on the novel of the same name by A. J. Cronin.’ My grandfather, Igee Goldsmith, was the producer of that film - see my 2011 Diary Review piece on Cronin.

Here are several extracts from Corin Redgrave’s diaries as reproduced in Markham’s memoir.

9 February 1999
‘It’s an age since I wrote this diary. All my good intentions to write it at least every other day have been sabotaged by the unusually heavy workload of writing for the magazine [The Marxist].

It’s the second very long day of technical rehearsal. I have a nice spacious dressing room, with a shower and loo. When I get the chance I’ll get a divan brought in, and a fridge, and put some of our beautiful photos on the wall. They made me cry with joy, and a little bit with pain, because they make you seem so close and yet you’re so far. At night I play your “I’m beginning to miss you”, and I could swear you must be thinking of me, except I know - or I hope - you’re asleep.

My dresser, Dino, has been dressing Uta Hagen. She’s on in a play off-B’way, which will run for another three weeks. Another good reason you should hurry on over if humanly possible, to catch her while she’s still here. Dino says she’s a ‘miracle’ and I’m sure he’s right.’

28 March 2009
‘We took part in a rally in Trafalgar Square.

I read Robert Fisk.

We stood together on the platform - Kika read the diary of Zena el Khalil.

It was an honour to take part in such a dire, dreadful situation. It was important to feel that we could contribute, even in a small way.

We met Harvey and Jodie which was delightful. And Arden was there, dear Arden.’

16 June 2009
‘Lying in bed is not necessarily tiredness, but finding a way to start the day. Arden told us some wonderful news. He got a 2:2 for his degree!! BRAVO ARDEN!!!! It hasn’t been easy for him, with me being ill, and with him changing course in mid-stream. Tony Kushner came to supper. We talked a lot about writing.’

Monday, July 15, 2019

On Magpies, on!

‘Well - that worst part is over. Tomorrow, to pack, & then onto the Road & away. Details, like lorries & portable pianos & car insurance, remain to be settled - but nought shall stay our triumphant flight. On Magpies, on!’ This is from a journal kept by the writer Iris Murdoch, born 100 years ago today, when still a young woman and touring with a group of actors called The Magpie Players. The diary, published posthumously, is said by its editor, Peter Conradi, to show ‘a person vividly alive and fascinated by her world, trying to make sense of it by writing it down, seeking to be in charge of her own destiny.’

Murdoch was born in Dublin on 15 July 1919. However, within weeks, her father took up a job in London, working at the ministry of health. She was educated at the Froebel Demonstration School, at Badminton School as a boarder from 1932 to 1938, and at Somerville College, Oxford, where she studied classics and philosophy. After leaving Oxford, in 1942, she worked for HM Treasury, until mid-1944 when she joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Initially stationed in London, she was transferred in 1945 to Brussels, then to Innsbruck, and finally to Graz, Austria, where she worked in a refugee camp. Subsequently, she took up philosophy as a postgraduate at Newnham College, Cambridge, before, in 1948, becoming a fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford, where she taught philosophy until 1963.

Murdoch published her first novel - Under the Net - in 1954. In 1956, she married John Bayley, an English academic and literary critic. Though the relationship lasted the rest of her life, Murdoch is known to have had many affairs. She produced a new novel every one or two years - including The Bell (1958), A Severed Head (1961) and The Black Prince (1973) - some of which won literary prizes. Her greatest success came with The  Sea, The Sea which won the 1978 Booker Prize. In 1987, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 1994, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In 1997, she was awarded the Golden PEN Award by English PEN for ‘a Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature’. She died in 1999, and later the same year Bayley released Iris: A Memoir (later turned into a film). Further biographical information is available online at Wikipedia, The Guardian (and here), The Irish Times, Encyclopaedia Britannica, The New York Times.

Murdoch kept diaries for much of her life. In Iris Murdoch: A Life (HarperCollins, 2001), the biographer Conradi explains that she left behind edited journals (1939-1996) ‘which constituted an invaluable resource, carrying her unique ‘voice’.’ Indeed, it seems, he was the first to have access to her journals, referring to, and quoting from them, generously throughout his biography. Many pages can be freely read at Amazon and at Googlebooks. In 2010, Conradi also published Iris Murdoch - A Writer at War: Letters & Diaries 1938-46 (Short Books, subsequently Oxford University Press, 2011). The diary extracts take up one third of the book, and cover the period in 1939 when she was on tour with a theatre group, The Magpie Players. A few pages can be previewed at Amazon, and reviews can be read The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent.

One of Conradi’s aims in producing this latter work, he says, is ‘to reclaim the living writer as she begins her adult life’. He explains: ‘Dame Iris in life so august, remote and intensely private, was in death unwittingly reduce to two opposed stereotypes: in vulgar language bonking (younger Iris) or bonkers (elderly Iris). If you’re American: screwing or screwy. Both sensationalisms reduced her to gross physicality, by-passing and demeaning the one thing about her that was truly remarkable - the freedom of her mind.’ He goes on to say: ‘The journal and these letters show her, by contrast, as a person vividly alive and fascinated by her world, trying to make sense of it by writing it down, seeking to be in charge of her own destiny. That she was disturbed by a troubled love-life does not prevent her being a role-model for young women today. Such experiences, which mark the growing-up of most of us, were to feed her strenuous moral philosophy and her fiction alike. And in these writings she walks and talks and lives once more.’

In 2017, Kingston University, London, announced that Audi Bayley, the widow of John Bailey, had gifted Murdoch’s private journals, covering the period from 1939 to 1996, and that consequently it now had ‘the most significant collection of Murdoch-related material in the world’. ‘These journals,’ a university press release said, ‘provide unparalleled insights in to [sic] the remarkable and complex life of a woman whose private and public personas were often at odds with each other. [. . .] A first glance at the journals revealed that some entries had been edited by the late author with phrases having been physically cut out of pages by Murdoch herself, [. . .] The second journal is missing and assumed destroyed as it spans the period during the Second World War when Murdoch was caught up in a controversial love triangle [. . .] The account of the first days of her marriage has also been removed. Among the collection is a journal from the 1980s which is packed with descriptions of domestic incidents and accounts of dreams. Most significantly, there are hundreds of cryptic comments on philosophy, theology, literature and the writing process itself.’

Here’s a selection of Murdoch’s diary entries as chosen/edited by Conradi: the first two long ones (August 1939) are taken from Iris Murdoch - A Writer at War: Letters & Diaries 1938-46, and the remaining short ones are all from page 274 in Iris Murdoch: A Life.

23 August 1939
‘Well, we did put on a show - but only just. We didn’t know our lines (some of us), our costumes weren’t finished, & held together with pins, parts of the scenery were unpainted, & we had to cut out chunks of the programme because it was under-rehearsed. But we put on a show & what’s more they liked it! 'The whole day was a glorious nightmare of sewing on clips & fasteners & buttons & bells, & drawing innumerable magpies on innumerable sheets of paper for innumerable purposes. Hugh & I took half an hour off after lunch & walked up to the meadow where the horses were & talked about the Party. I was amazed when he told me he had been in only a few months & there was I imagining him an Old Bolshevik. Hugh is full of surprises.

He makes a very good dead Cuchulain in the ‘Lay of the Heads’, and even shewed great enthusiasm for the part!

We were supposed to have a ‘Dress & Lighting Rehearsal’ at 3.30, but of course it did not materialise. At 3.30 I was just beginning Joan’s ‘Queen o’ fairies’ dress, & the bulbs for the spotlights hadn’t come! About 5 Joan and Hugh & I went and lay on the grass exhausted & Joan did the Times crossword & moaned about the political situation. The papers seemed scared & I suppose a grave crisis is on but I can’t seem to feel any emotion about it whatsoever. This is such a strange, new, different, existence I'm leading, & so entirely cut off from the world.’

About 6 o/c we rehearsed Tam Lin & it was appalling. Denys, of course, nervous creature, went off the deep end, & said O I wish we weren’t doing this! But I tried to reassure him, privately thinking he was quite right.

Tom almost lost his temper several times during the afternoon - quite unheard of. But Joan was magnificent & sorted all the costumes out, & was sweet to us when we rushed about & said Joan, where is that cloak? Joan, where are my shoes. . .

And at 8 o’clock there we were, Joan & Moira & I singing the theme song & trembling all over. ‘Julius Caesar’ was on first, & Moira told me afterwards it was terrible. Victor had to be prompted every other line, & she sang her song wrong. Alas. Then we did Tam Lim and it went wonderfully, never better. And they liked it!

Denys was exultant. (Joyce said afterwards my arm movements were perfect & reminded her of Peggy Ashcroft! I like that girl Joyce, she says the right things.) ‘Broomfield Hill’ didn’t get across so well, tho’ Joan’s dress was splendid, like a young parachute.

‘Clydewa’er’ was the hit of the evening tho’, with Hugh compering, & doubled the House up in laughter. Joan gave a fine little introductory speech to the ‘Lay of the Heads’ & it went down amazingly well. No one laughed! ‘The Keys’ also went far better than I’d expected. Hugh filled all the sceneshifting intervals with a brilliant & endless stream of songs & patter which the audience loved. First he was American & sang cowboy songs, then he sang in Welsh, then Irish & Scottish songs. The production went moderately smoothly, with only one major blunder, when Joan was left sitting alone in the middle of the stage for 3 minutes in ‘Donna Lombarda’, while Joyce & I desperately jabbed Denys’s costume as full of safety pins as a porcupine is of quills. The ‘Play of the Weather’ went well, tho’ Cecil said it was ‘a shaggy performance, just hanging together, with everyone inventing their lines for themselves.’ I think some of the audience were shocked at the bawdier parts, tho’ the curate in the back row whom we’d fixed on as a test case, laughed heartily thro’out.

Well - that worst part is over. Tomorrow, to pack, & then onto the Road & away. Details, like lorries & portable pianos & car insurance, remain to be settled - but nought shall stay our triumphant flight. On Magpies, on!’

27 August 1939
‘[Water Eaton Manor] A peaceful day. We left Northleach with mingled relief & imprecations, after the men had been well rooked by a charming but villainous robber of a Youth Hostel warden. And, as a grand finale, Joyce had her purse stolen. O Northleach, Northleach we shall pass this way but once! We went to Water Eaton via Shipton-under-Wychwood, & left our big props & the trailers behind there. Water Eaton is a fine Elizabethan manor belonging to Prof. Carr Saunders, the London university population expert. We weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms by the professor & his lady. Not exactly. But we found Frances was there with her two harps - so that compensated for a slight aloofness on the part of the family & a noticeable scarcity of basic nourishment. We wandered the gardens, lay on the grass, & Tom talked vaguely of rehearsing this & that. My opinion of everyone in the company is going up by leaps & bounds with 2 exceptions. Tom & Jack. Tom really is maddening. He refuses to make up his mind, and when he does make it up, he won’t tell anyone. He was well served this afternoon, for as a result of his not divulging what ballads we were going to rehearse, half the company went off in a punt & left him fuming. Actually it was mean of them too to wander off without a word, & I ticked Joyce & Moira off about it when they came back. Frances played her harp in the family chapel & I came & sang softly to it, & happily we passed the day. At 6 we gave a show to the Carr Saunders & aristocratic & arty friends. It was beautiful to do Tam Lin out of doors in such a superb setting, & it went well. Tom wrecked Donna Lombarda by too early an entrance, but on the whole all was delightful.

After the show Hugh & I wandered down to the Cherwell which flows thro’ meadows below the house, & sat & watched the moon rise. A group of white swans sailed silently past. It was a most magical evening. Hugh lay down beside me with his head touching my side, & I sat and looked across the river. Then gradually we gave expression to what had been tacit between us for several days. There is something incredibly tender & gentle about Hugh, for his all terrific strength & bluffness.

I went back late to the house to find Moira & Joan had been waiting for me. They then took Joyce & me in the car to the people we were to stay with in Yarnton. Both Joyce & myself, by some unlucky change had lost our cases, & were in great distress. However, we survived the night. We were staying with a hearty old couple, good working class stock, but unintelligent. The star of people who are nice to you when you come canvassing, bu who will not buy a copy of the ‘Daily Worker’ as they ‘already get the Herald, thank you very much.’

13 December 1948.
‘I need a strongbox to keep this damn diary in. Probably I ought to destroy all the entries of the last 3 weeks. Why am I unwilling to? . . . Must root out the weak desire for an audience (the lurking feeling eg that I write this diary for someone - E[lizabeth], P[hilippa], D[onald], or X, l’inconnu, I still believe in l’inconnu -? ). Way to sincerity, a long way.’

30 January 1949.
BS [unidentified] lectured me on politics & the old nostalgia stirred, part conscience, part guilt, part sheer romanticism and part sheer bloody hatred of the present set-up. To no end, but it stirred. It occurs to me that I entertain the idea: ‘One day I shall return to the party’, and the idea ‘One day I shall join the Roman church’ like two escape valves. It is not that I am utterly unserious about them - but they not held close, but part of some far project ... Thought later: what marks one out as a confined person, with no dimension of greatness? Some lack of sweep, some surreptitious idolatry. In my case, I feel there must be some will to please which is on my face like a birthmark. Who lacks this smallness? D[onald], and Pippa [Philippa], unconfined people, and E[lizabeth] too.’

18 May 1952.
‘Looking back in this diary. What an unstable person I seem to be ... I shall be to blame if I don’t build now where I know it is strong, in the centre, through loneliness. (Aloneness) ... I wrote today on the top of my lecture paper: marriage, an idea of reason!’

14 June 1952.
‘There is a lot which I don’t put into this diary, because it would be too discreditable - & maybe even more painful. (At least - no major item omitted but certain angles altered - and painful incidents omitted.)’

27 October 1958.
‘The instinct to keep a diary: to preserve certain moments for ever.’

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Crossed a singular slough

‘Started about sunrise, crossed a singular slough. Crossed a hard bottom covered knee deep with liquid black stagnant marsh mud, through which the men waded.’ This is from a diary kept by Simon Newcomb, an American astronomer, written on the way back to Boston from Manitoba where he had gone to observe a total solar eclipse. Newcomb, who died 110 years ago today, is considered to have been the most honoured American scientist of his day. He seems to have kept some diaries, but only a few extracts have been published - including the one above - and these can be found online in a short paper in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Newcomb was born in the town of Wallace, Nova Scotia, in 1835, the son of a school teacher who moved around teaching in different parts of Canada. Aged 16, he was apprenticed to Dr. Foshay, supposedly a herbalist. But, after serving two of his five years with the quack, he ran away, walking most of the 120 miles to Calais, Maine, from where he worked his passage on a boat to Salem, Massachusetts before reuniting with his father. He taught and tutored for several years in Maryland and near Washington, studying all the while, especially maths and astronomy. In 1857, he was appointed a functionary in charge of calculations at the Nautical Almanac Office in Cambridge, Massachusetts; he also enrolled at the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University, graduating BSc in 1858.

In 1861, Newcomb became professor of mathematics and astronomer at the United States Naval Observatory, Washington D.C., where he set to work on the measurement of the position of the planets as an aid to navigation, becoming increasingly interested in theories of planetary motion. He married Mary Caroline Hassler, daughter of a US Navy surgeon, in 1863, and they had four children.

In 1867, Newcomb published a revised value for the solar parallax (one which remained standard until his own revision in 1895). That same year, he first suggested the importance of determining an accurate velocity of light as a means to obtaining a reliable value for the radius of the earth’s orbit. With this aim, he started experiments in 1878, for a while collaborating with Albert Michelson. In 1877, Newcomb was appointed superintendent of the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac Office. He launched a programme to reform the entire basis of fundamental data involved in the computation of the ephemeris - a monumental task, but one he eventually completed.

Newcomb authored a large number of papers on almost every branch of astronomy. He also published several mathematical textbooks as well as astronomical books for a popular audience, including Popular Astronomy (1878), The Stars (1901), and Astronomy for Everybody (1902). He was a founding member and first president (1899-1905) of the American Astronomical Society. He served as president the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1876-1878), president of the American Mathematical Society (1897-1898), and member (1869) and vice president (1883) of National Academy of Sciences. According to Encyclopedia.com he was ‘the most honoured American scientist of his time’ and ‘his influence on professional astronomers and laymen was unparalleled’. He died on 11 July 1909. Further information is also available from Wikipedia, MacTutor, National Academy of Sciences, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and Newcomb’s own memoir The Reminiscences of an Astronomer.

The Library of Congress holds an archive of Simon Newcomb papers, among which are included ‘Diaries and Commonplace Books, 1852-1918’; but no further information is provided. Arthur L. Norberg says, in his essay on Simon Newcomb’s Early Astronomical Career (Isis, vol. 69, no. 2, 1978) that ‘the Newcomb diaries and correspondence allow us to reconstruct the details of Newcomb’s life from this period;’ and he footnotes the diaries several times. Otherwise, the only other published reference to diaries kept by Newcomb can be found in a paper by Kennedy, J. E. & Hanson, S. D for the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Vol. 90, p.292 - 1996) - available online at the Astrophysics Data System website.

The abstract to that paper reads as follows: ‘In I860 Simon Newcomb journeyed from Boston to Manitoba to observe a total solar eclipse. A microfilm copy of Newcomb’s Diary for the trip, along with a typescript, is held by the University of Saskatchewan Archives. Wherever entries appeared of relevance to astronomy or contained supplementary information about the trip to view the eclipse, they have been included here as excerpts. The scientific data on the Sun, which Newcomb and his party planned to obtain at totality, were summarized in a newspaper account by a reporter who accompanied them on a segment of their travels. Newcomb endured extreme hardships during his hazardous journey and clouds prevented him from viewing to his satisfaction the totally eclipsed Sun.’ And here are several of those excerpts.

11 June 1860
‘Talked with Mr. Inkster of Ft. Garry ... was informed by him that canoes were sometimes delayed on the lake whole days by storms.’

25 June 1860
‘Arrived at Fort Garry at 10 1/2 o’clock a.m. Found Gov[ernor] Mactavish, who said that we should have to get our boat &c. at the “lower Fort,” 22 miles down. Opened our instruments, and took out sextant & spy glass. (Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, had instructed William Mactavish. Governor of Assiniboia and officer-in-charge of Upper Fort Garry, to provide whatever assistance the eclipse party required in carrying out their scientific pursuits. Mactavish arranged for their transportation, albeit in a leaky canoe, as well as provisions, a guide and paddlers for the two crossings of Lake Winnipeg. On their return to Fort Garry, Mactavish then arranged for the party’s return by wagon-train over the plains to St. Paul.]’

27 June 1860
‘Sent Kippling out in the morning to offer £3 10s each for canoe-men. In the afternoon, he returned stating that the middlemen wanted £4 10s each, and the bowman £5 10s. We shall probably have to engage four middlemen & a bow[ma]n at these rates.’

28 June 1860
‘Spent the forenoon in getting our provisions and equipment for the trip. Cost, including wages, [£]260. Started for Cumberland House at 3 1/2 p.m. in Sir George Simpson’s North canoe. Encamped at sunset, near the house of Peguis, Indian chief after whom we named our camp. Canoe still leaking. Comet fainter.’

29 June 1860
‘Started soon after sunrise. Had to stop every 1/2 hour and bale out canoe. Arrived at Lake Winnipeg at 8 3/4 a.m. A meteor in the evening in N.N.W. left a tail behind it which lasted 45 minutes, and moved 15° toward west.’

9 July 1860
‘Opened instruments this morning, and observed altitudes of Sun. Found chronometer to be fast of local time by 1h 48m 13s, and Latitude] to be 52° 4' 9" ±3". Tried to observe Polaris, but could not, owing to the badness of the mercury.’

17 July 1860
‘Men still paddling, but rather sleepy, they make very slow progress owing to the swiftness of the current. In the afternoon clouds and rain, and every appearance of a cloudy morning for the eclipse.’

18 July 1860
‘Eclipse morning. Cloudy till eclipse was 1/4 way through. End of totality at 8h 15m 0s per chronom[eter] of eclipse at 9h 15m 23s.2. Emersion of elongated spot at 9h 1m 34s. Darkness not so great as I had expected. Cirrus clouds luminous in the N.E. during totality. Took observations for time and Latitude with difficulty owing to the unsteadiness of the ground. Went to The Pas in the afternoon.’

24 July 1860
‘Men paddled all last night; arrived at Cedar Lake House between 2 and 3 a.m. Ran down to the portage, arriving there early in the forenoon. Had portage finished by about 10 o’clock. Arrived at the mouth of the Saskatchewan before 2 p.m.’

8 August 1860
‘Awakened after 5 a.m. by the landing of the boat. Found that we were 2 or 3 miles past Willow Is[land]. Arrived at the mouth of the Red River at 10 a.m. Started up the river at 11 1/4 with side wind. Passed many Ind(ian] lodges. Arrived at Stone Fort, (or Lower Fort Garry) at 7 1/2 p.m.’

9 August 1860
‘Slept last night at Fort, in civilized bed. At 8 a.m. started for Fort Garry on foot, arriving at 1 1/2. Roads were very bad the first few miles. Found that steamboat had not arrived, or been heard from, though she was due Saturday last. Wrote an account of our voyage for the Nor’Wester. Stopped at Royal House. Mr. Lilly up to-night.’

28 August 1860
‘Started about sunrise, crossed a singular slough. Crossed a hard bottom covered knee deep with liquid black stagnant marsh mud, through which the men waded. Camped alongside an Indian or other circular mound 30 feet in diam[eter] & 4 high. Place is called Snake Hill, and the river Snake River.’

12 September 1860
‘Arrived at Anoka shortly after 11 a.m. From there walked very slowly, and got into stage about 3 1/2 o’clock, about 3 miles above Manomin. Arrived at St. Paul about dark, went to P.O., and got a letter from Capt. Davis, enclosing draft for $89. Capt. D[avis] had written to Mr. Terry expressing apprehension for our safety. Called on Gov[ernor] Ramsay.’

13 September 1860
‘Went on board the steamboat Alhambra (stem wheel boat) at 8 a.m. Boat aground frequently.’