Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Farington, painter and diarist

Joseph Farington, a British landscape painter and an active member of the Royal Academy from its inception, was born 270 years ago today. His forte, according to modern biographers, lay in the accurate topographical drawings he prepared for engravings of British views - of the Lake District, for example, and the River Thames. However, he is probably better remembered today for the detailed diary he kept over a period of more than 30 years. It provides a vivid picture of late 18th and early 19th century London, particularly its art scene, as well as the places he visited on his travels in Britain and abroad.

Farington was born in Leigh, Lancashire, on 21 November 1747, the son of a local vicar. After studying in Manchester, he moved to London to train with the landscape painter Richard Wilson, and won several prizes, awarded by the Society of Artists, for landscape drawings. He joined the Royal Academy when it was founded in 1769, and remained an active member for most of his life. In 1776, he married Susan Mary Hamond, a relative of the Walpole family, but they had no children. When she died, in 1800, Farington suffered a breakdown, and was unable to draw or paint for some months.

It is difficult to make a real appraisal of Farington’s paintings, Evelyn Newby says in the Oxford National Dictionary of Biography (log-in required), as they are scattered in many private and public collections, and rarely appear in art sales. But, she adds, Farington’s forte lay in the careful and accurate topographical drawings he prepared of British views for engravings which proved popular among tourists. Having lived in the north of England in the latter part of the 1770s, a first folio of such works, published in 1785, was titled Views of the Lakes of Cumberland and Westmorland. A decade later came History of the River Thames in two volumes. He also contributed to other series of artworks, notably Britannia depicta and Magna Britannia, neither of which, though, were ever completed due to excessive costs. He died in 1821. Further biographical information can also be found at Wikipedia. (See also Farington on Dance.)

Farington is particularly remembered today for his diary, which he started writing in 1793 and continued until the day of his death. It provides a vivid picture of the London art world in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and much else besides - society, politics, literary events, and his journeys in England and abroad. According to Newby, Farington wrote a diary for his own amusement and as an aide-mémoire. The manuscripts were passed down through the artist’s family until sold at auction in 1921 to the Morning Post (a conservative newspaper published in London from the 1770s to 1937 when it was acquired by The Daily Telegraph). They were then edited by the newspaper’s art critic James Greig for serialisation, before being published by Hutchinson & Co between 1922 and 1928 as The Farington Diary in eight volumes. In 1934, the originals were gifted to George V, and are now housed in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle - the Royal Collection Trust website provides a considerable amount of information about the original manuscripts. Between 1978 and 1984, Yale University published the diaries in 16 volumes; and, more recently, in 1998, it issued a 1,000 page index of those volumes compiled by Newby.

The following extracts are taken from the first and second of the Hutchinson volumes (and can also be found in Brighton in Diaries).

24 February 1800
‘This day the greatest calamity that could fall upon me I suffered in the death of the best, the most affectionate, the most amiable of woemen, my beloved wife. Unexpected indeed was the blow, long had I reason to consider her delicate frame with apprehension, but as she had encountered the severity of many winters so I fondly hoped she might do this and that a more favorable season would restore Her strength. The time was now come when this hope was to be fruitless. Yesterday evening she was declared to be better, but in the night a change took place & at 3 o’clock this day I witnessed the departure of what I held most dear on earth. Without a sigh, with the appearance of only gentle sleep, did my beloved expire, to be received by that God to whom Her duty had been exemplary. May He in his mercies dispose my heart to follow the example of Her who discharged every duty so as to excite the love & respect of all, so that those remaining years which it may please God to allow to me may be devoted to His service and I may be rendered fit to hope for the mercies of my Creator through the mediation of Jesus Christ our blessed Lord Saviour.’

3 April 1800
‘This day I added this continuation of my journal, which I could not do before since that period when I was deprived of the great blessing of my life.’

11 April 1800
‘Mr Crozier called on me this morning and strengthened my mind with conversation and advice suited to my situation. He told me the consequence of continuing in the desponding way I have been in wd. be mental derangement or a nervous consumption. Both in a moral & religious view He shewed it to be my duty to get the better of my grief and that must be by having recourse to Society & to exercise & amusements - that medicine wd. do little for me.’

10 October 1802
‘At ¼past four oClock we dined & at Ten at night went on board the Packet which soon got under way. There were 15 people Passengers. In the Great Cabin there were 12 Bed places in two rows; the lowest very near the ground. I got an Upper Bed place & abt ½past 10 laid down, as did most of the Passengers. The night passed comfortably enough as I did not suffer the least inconvenience from the motion of the vessel. At eight oClock in the morning we were well on our way. A Calm of three Hours had delayed us in the night, but we now proceeded at the rate of 5 or 6 miles an hour. The Weather was Cloudy, but pleasant.

I had some conversation with one of the Passengers a Scotch Gentleman who was returning after having made a tour in France and Italy. He said when He arrived at Calais from England He purchased a Horse and rode the whole way from that town to Genoa where He disposed of his Horse & went on by other conveyances. He noticed how very generally the land in France was in a state of Agriculture, but He thought the people appeared to be but indifferent farmers. He mentioned how detested the French are by the Italians, and the English respected. He had coasted along part of the Shores of Italy in one of their Coasting vessels which He described as having subjected him to greater endurance than He had ever before suffered. It was the most disagreeable situation that can be imagined. He travelled from Genoa to Pisa, 150 miles, on Mules & had very bad accommodation on the way. The weather in Italy in the Summer was extremely hot.

We arrived off Brighton abt. a quarter past 2 oClock in the afternoon, when a Custom House boat came along side & took out all our Baggage, and the Passengers, and landed us at Brighton at three oClock. The fare from Dieppe to Brighton was a guinea and a half for each person, and two shillings 6d. to the Crew. We were conducted to the Custom House Office and our Trunks were more strictly examined than they had before been at any place. Some painting Brushes which I had brought over were detained. We each paid 3s. 6d. for this examination and our Trunks were then carried to the Old Ship Inn which we made our Head-quarters. On going to the Custom House Office again after their hurry of business was over, we found them disposed to let our Brushes pass with. paying duty as being articles of little value, nor did we pay any additional fee.

When I landed on the Beach John Offley was standing before me. Seeing a Vessel coming in from France He walked down to meet it thinking it possible that I might be a Passenger. We also met Mr Sharpe, who had been with us at Paris, and had lately brought his family to Brighton. Fuseli, Halls and myself dined together at the Inn & Sharpe came to tea. Fuseli’s anxiety & impatience to be in London had now so encreased that not being able to procure places in the Coach for tomorrow morning He & Halls at Eleven oClock set off in a Post Chaise. He said “His mind was in London” and He must go. He was there at breakfast the following morning.

Our excursion was thus completed. Our absence from England had been but short and I could not have expected that on returning any very sensible impression would have been made upon my mind. I had not prepared myself for any other than what France would make upon me. It proved otherways. I felt on my return a difference the most striking; it was expressed in everything; and may be explained by saying that it was coming from disorder to order. From Confusion, to convenience: from subjection to freedom. I no longer saw the people covered with the patches of necessity, or the ridiculous mixtures of frippery imitations of finery with the coarse clothing of poverty. All appeared appropriate and substantial, and every man seemed respectable because his distinct & proper Character was consistently maintained. What must be the nature of that mind that would not feel grateful that it was his Lot to be an Englishman; a man entitled from his Birth to participate in such advantages as in no other country can be found

Such a state for man must naturally have an influence upon the manners of a people. It certainly was manifest to me that the difference in the deportment of the English when compared with the French, is as great as the causes which produce it. I could not be insensible to that Air of independence bordering upon haughtiness, which is manifested in the English Character, but is little seen among the people I had left. Wealth, and Security, and the pride of equal freedom, together habituate the mind to a conscious feeling of self importance that distinguishes the people of England from those of other Countries. But if this effect is produced, if there is less of what is called the Amiable, it is amply made up by a quality of a much higher kind, which is integrity. That is a word which the English may apply to their character by the consent of the whole world more universally than any other nation that exists in it.

The American who was at Dieppe rendered the panegyric of an Englishman unnecessary. He had been an inhabitant of France; Had traversed Germany; and was acquainted with Italy. He had experienced the varieties of each Country, and formed his judgment upon it. His decision was, “that each of the Countries had something to be admired, and something to be approved; But that there was but One England in the World.” ’

14 October 1802
‘Went to breakfast at Mr Kirby’s, the Marine House [Brighton] where I engaged to board at 2 guineas a week. After breakfast walked upon the East Terrace. Saw the Prince, also Lord Thurlow & his daugr. Mrs Brown, and Lord Elenborough to-day. The Prince is much abt. riding & walking. His established companions are Admiral Payne, who has an apartment in the Pavilion, in which, being much a valetudenarian, he has a fire even in July; Trevies, the Jew; Day, who was formerly in India; and Cole Coningham. When the Prince is invited to dine out at Brighton it is usual to ask those persons also.’

20 October 1802
‘While we were walking, the Prince with Mrs Fitzherbert were also on the Steine together, and called on Lord Thurlow. Lord & Lady Elenborough were also there. She of rather a tall size, and her aspect is mild & agreeable. Lord Elenborough is abt. 52 years of age. He was at Cambridge and took his degree when Mr Keddington did. Lord Thurlow has now all the appearance of an old man, being very gouty & infirm.’

13 September 1803
‘In conversation this evening Mr Evans mentioned the singular circumstance of a countryman of his, who gained a fortune by being mistaken for another man. Bob Wilson, as He was called by His friends, had a property of about £400 a year, which being gay and a man of Show, He was supposed rather to have diminished. He came to England, and went to Brighton, with a view to try what confidence & dressing well would do. A short time before He went to Brighton there had been a Mr Wilson, an Irishman, there whose person was remarkably handsome, and who had been proclaimed by the Ladies to be the most captivating of his Sex. The reports of him reached other places and Miss Townshend, a daughter of the Countess of Dalkeith by the late Right Honble. Charles Townshend, had heard his praises, at a time when she was preparing to go to Brighton. On her arrival there she went to the rooms, at the very time that Bob Wilson first made his appearance there, and after the much talked of Mr Wilson had left the place.

Bob was the best dressed man in the room, and his air & manner easy & confident, but his face remarkably plain. It happened however that Miss Townshend heard his name, and Her imagination doing the rest, she fancied she saw in Bob all that she had heard in praise of Mr Wilson. Bob saw the attention with which she regarded him, was introduced to Her danced with her, and in Ten days or a fortnight ran away with & married Her & got £10,000; and Her Brother dying, an estate said to be £3,000 per annum.’

20 July 1804
‘[Porden, the architect, said] He was rapidly proceeding with Lord Grosvenors House at Eaton. The Stone is excellent & it is procured at 10 miles from Eaton. The pinnacles (it is a Gothic design) are executed in Cast Iron, which He said is more desirable than stone & He gets that for 14 shillings which wd. cost in Stone, £9. The frames of the windows are also of Cast Iron. He sd. the mine discovered on Lord Grosvenor estate brings him in £30 or £40,000 a yr. He was building stables at Brighton for the Prince of Wales, of a Circular form in imitation of the famous Corn Market at Paris which was burnt in 1803. The Prince at present takes much interest in building. [The stables are now the Hall known as the Dome which adjoins Brighton Art Galleries and Library.]’


The Diary Junction

Sunday, November 19, 2017

My first day at No. 10

‘My first day at No. 10. It began at 9.30 a.m. and finished at 6.30. In the course of it I met the Prime Minister, who was shy but welcoming, Mrs Chamberlain (who looks utterly vague) [. . .] I read with interest the various drafts, by the Prime Minister, Churchill, Cadogan, Vansittart and Corbin, suggested for the reply to Hitler’s peace proposals. When the proposals are rejected it is thought likely that Hitler will launch a tremendous onslaught. For the moment calm reigns on land, sea and air.’ This is Sir John Rupert Colville, who died 30 years ago today, writing in his diary about his first day working for Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as a very young assistant private secretary. But, he would stay at No 10 to work for Winston Churchill during the war and then again in the 1950s. His diaries provide a detailed portrait of Churchill, ‘whose blazing presence and wealth of eccentricity’, according to one reviewer, ‘light up almost every page’.

Colville, the youngest of three sons, was born in London in 1915. His father, the Honourable George Colville, was a barrister, and his mother, Lady Cynthia Colville, was a lady in waiting to Queen Mary. As a child, he served as a page of honour to King George V. Educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, he joined the diplomatic service in 1937. After two years, he was seconded to 10 Downing Street to act as assistant private secretary to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. He served in that same position at No. 10  under Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee. However, after the outbreak of war, he was resolved to sign up, and, eventually, in October 1941 he overcame opposition from his employer, the Foreign Office, to join the Royal Air Force volunteer reserve. He trained in South Africa before being commissioned as a pilot officer and joining 268 squadron of the second Tactical Air Force, flying Mustang fighters. He remained with the air force until the end of 1943 (despite Churchill pressuring him to return to No. 10) and then was allowed to rejoin his unit for the invasion of France before returning to Whitehall in August 1944.

In 1947, Colville left the Foreign Office to become private secretary to Princess Elizabeth, but he only stayed two years before returning to the civil service and being posted to Lisbon as first secretary. Before then, however, in 1948, he married Lady Margaret Egerton, with whom he had two sons and one daughter (who became one of Queen Elizabeth’s many godchildren). In 1951, when Churchill returned to power, Colville left Lisbon to be his principal private secretary, and remained so until Churchill’s retirement in 1955. Subsequently, Colville took up various appointments in the private sector, was a trustee of the Churchill estates, and wrote biographical and autobiographical books, some of them about Churchill. He was knighted in 1974, and died on 19 November 1987. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, The Peerage, or Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required)

Colville kept diaries for at least 20 years, from the start of the war until 1957. These are held at Cambridge University’s Churchill Archives Centre, and all but one are publicly available. Colville himself edited these diaries which were published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1985 as The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries 1939-1955. They are considered particular valuable for the insight they give into Churchill. Indeed more recent editions (see Amazon), such as that in 2004 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, picture Churchill 
(not Colville, the author) on the cover .

Paul Addison’s review in the London Review of Books at the time of initial publication stated: ‘Some readers will enjoy [Colville’s] diaries mainly as a portrait of Churchill, whose blazing presence and wealth of eccentricity light up almost every page. But in the background a larger subject looms up. Three-quarters of the book depicts the Second World War as seen from the pinnacles of Tory and aristocratic society. Densely populated with characters major and minor, and echoing with the table-talk at White’s and the Turf, the Colville diaries are a unique record of a governing class still functioning with superb aplomb in the midst of the People’s War.’


Indeed, Churchill lights up the pages of many other diaries, see for example A third dose of pneumonia (Charles McMoran Wilson) and Went to see P.M. (in bed) (Alexander Cadogan).

Colville explains, in his introduction to The Fringes of Power, how he came to begin writing a diary, and then, eventually, to publish it: ‘On August 23rd I had been due to sail to New York on my first visit to the U.S.A. for a month’s holiday in Wyoming where some close Anglo-American friends had rented a ranch. I looked forward with excitement to seeing America; and I had a strong emotional incentive, which had been growing throughout the summer. Hitler put a stop to all that, for all leave was cancelled just before my ship was due to sail, so at the beginning of September 1939 I was waiting at my desk in Whitehall for war to be declared, twenty-four years old, a Third Secretary in the Diplomatic Service of two years’ standing and tempted to resign before, on my twenty-fifth birthday, my employment should become a reserved occupation from which there would be no escape while the war lasted. Unsure of what was going to happen next, I decided to keep a diary.

I have used extracts from it in several books I have written, and I lent a large part of it to Martin Gilbert for background information and quotation in the concluding volumes of his official life of Winston Churchill. Now, a long time after it was written, I present it in consecutive form, having eliminated a high proportion of the trivial entries which are of no general interest, but leaving in a few which may perhaps help to recapture the “atmosphere” of the time.’

Here are several extracts from the published diaries.

10 October 1939
‘My first day at No. 10. It began at 9.30 a.m. and finished at 6.30. In the course of it I met the Prime Minister, who was shy but welcoming, Mrs Chamberlain (who looks utterly vague), Sir Horace Wilson and Captain David Margesson. The latter said, “You know my daughters, I believe”, with a rather penetrating stare! [The penetrating stare was due to his knowledge that I was deeply in love with his younger daughter, who was beautiful, gay and intelligent.]

I sit in the same room as Miss Watson and Lord Dunglass. Miss Watson showed me how to deal with some of the enormous post which arrives every day now, and I also began looking into the question of the Ecclesiastical patronage with which I am to deal, and about which my predecessor, Jasper Rootham, came to talk to me in the morning.

I read with interest the various drafts, by the Prime Minister, Churchill, Cadogan, Vansittart and Corbin, suggested for the reply to Hitler's peace proposals. When the proposals are rejected it is thought likely that Hitler will launch a tremendous onslaught. For the moment calm reigns on land, sea and air.’

21 October 1939
‘It was a day like summer, and although the leaves were by no means off the trees we could scarcely have had a better shoot. Pheasants were plentiful, the shooting was good, and we killed well over 250.

At lunch I sat next to an American girl called Gracia Nevill, who gave me a description of an hour’s conversation she had had with Hitler at Berchtesgaden and described the complete difference in him when he was talking of politics and when he was talking of other matters. In the former case he was a fanatic, in the latter a quiet and very impressive conversationalist.’

2 July 1940
‘Tomorrow at dawn we put into operation a plan called CATAPULT which entails the seizure of all French ships in British ports and, later in the day, an ultimatum to the big French capital ships at Oran.

The P.M. says that in the event of invasion London should be defended. To take it would cost the Germans many lives. Secret Service reports from Norway make it clear that invasion is being prepared from there as well as from other quarters. It is suggested that Iceland and the Shetlands may be among the first objectives, that a feint will be made against the East Coast, but that the real attack will be from the West.

Beaverbrook wants to resign because of his difficulties with the Air Ministry and, in particular, with the Air Marshals. Winston won’t hear of any such thing at the present moment and, of course, it does rather look as if B. wanted to leave now, at the peak of success in aircraft production, before new difficulties arise. It is like trying to stop playing cards immediately after a run of luck.

Brendan Bracken is apparently to be allowed to supervise the appointment of bishops - which I find a little hard to stomach. Brendan is all very well - intelligent, forceful and often sensible - but he is not the man to deal with bishops.

Winston returned about 10.45 p.m. from a tour of defences in the South and life became both hot and hectic.’

14 May 1945
‘At No. 10 I found everybody looking rather strained after a week of violent rejoicing and tumult. Mrs Churchill was just back from Russia where her tour has been a remarkable success.

The volume of work is if anything more pressing than when I left. Victory has brought no respite. The P.M. looks tired and has to fight for the energy to deal with the problems confronting him. These include the settlement of Europe, the last round of war in the East, an election on the way, and the dark cloud of Russian imponderability. In Venezia Giulia we stand on the brink of an armed clash with Tito, secure of Russian support, who wishes to seize Trieste, Pola, etc., from Italy without awaiting the adjudication of the Peace Conference. The Americans seem willing to stand four square with us and Truman shows great virility; but Alexander has alarmed them - and incensed the P.M. - by casting doubts on the attitude of the Anglo-American troops, should there come an armed clash with the Yugoslavs. Equally, as regards the Polish question, Russia shows no willingness to compromise and storm clouds threaten. Finally, as if we had not enough, de Gaulle sends a cruiser full of troops to Syria, where the position is delicate and the feeling against French domination strong, and there is a possible threat of a show-down, with British troops involved, in the Levant.

At 2.30 the P.M. went to bed, leaving almost untouched the voluminous weight of paper which awaits his decision. He told me that he doubted if he had the strength to carry on.’

23 May 1945
‘The P.M. went to the Palace at noon, as pre-arranged, and asked to resign. Then there was a pause, as the P.M. was anxious to emphasise to the public that the King has the right to decide for whom he shall send, and at 4.00 he returned to be invited to form a new, and a Conservative, Government. On the whole I think the people are on the P.M.’s side in this preliminary skirmish and it is generally supposed that many will vote for the Conservatives merely out of personal loyalty to W.S.C. Parliament will be dissolved in three weeks and the election will be on July 5th.

At No. 10 no work is being done by the P.M. We are all having to deal ourselves with many papers which ought to be submitted to him and I have persuaded the Foreign Office to send us the very minimum of minutes. I “weed” every day some sixty per cent of the Foreign Office telegrams. I suppose that three times as much paper comes to us now as in 1940 and that the P.M. sees half as much. But, of course, the problems, though more immediately grave then, were simpler in that the machinery of Government was far less elaborate and we had no Allies. Now there are boards and committees without number and two mighty Allies to be considered at every turn, apart from the host of lesser concerns such as French tactlessness in the Levant, Greek claims to the Dodecanese, internal Italian feuds, etc., etc. In 1941, when I left to join the R.A.F., I used often to be comparatively idle for days at a time and to think we were overstaffed. Now, apart from the Prof., Desmond Morton and Harvie-Watt we are six Private Secretaries (of whom Anthony Bevir, concentrating on Patronage, and Miss Watson on Parliamentary Questions, take no part in the routine of the office in current affairs), three male clerks, three eminently efficient women who look after the vast files of secret papers, and about sixteen typists, etc. Yet we seem to be understaffed.’

16 July 1954
‘Things came to a head today, at any rate within 10 Downing Street. Before luncheon Harold Macmillan came to see Lady Churchill and told her that the Cabinet was in danger of breaking up on this issue. When he had gone she rang me up and asked me to come and see her. I in fact knew more about the situation than she did and since she proposed to “open” the matter to Winston at luncheon, I suggested I should stay too.

She began by putting her foot into it in saying that the Cabinet were angry with W. for mishandling the situation, instead of saying that they were trying to stop Salisbury going. He snapped back at her - which he seldom does - and afterwards complained to me that she always put the worst complexion on everything in so far as it affected him. However, he did begin to see that Salisbury’s resignation would be serious on this issue, whereas two days ago when I mentioned the possibility to him he said that he didn’t “give a damn”. On the other hand it became clear that he had taken the steps he had, without consulting the Cabinet, quite deliberately. He admitted to me that if he had waited to consult the Cabinet after the Queen Elizabeth returned, they would almost certainly have raised objections and caused delays. The stakes in this matter were so high and, as he sees it, the possible benefits so crucial to our survival, that he was prepared to adopt any methods to get a meeting with the Russians arranged.’

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Laid out on the deck

‘We were then allowed to leave our stations to get some supper. In order to get aft it was necessary to go along the mess deck. Many people did not know till then that we had been hit, but one realised it terribly then. There was an extraordinary reek of T.N.T. fumes, which mixed with the smell of disinfectant and blood was awful. Nearly all the killed, some twenty-four in number, were lying laid out on the deck, and many were terribly wounded, limbs being completely blown off and nearly all burnt.’ This is Patrick Blackett, born 120 years ago today, writing in a diary he kept as a teenager while serving in the British Navy during the First World War. He went on to become a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and to play an important role in the Second World War as Director of Naval Operational Research.

Blackett was born in London on 18 November 1897, the son of a stockbroker. He was schooled in Guildford, then at the Royal Naval College, on the Isle of Wight, and at Dartmouth. During WWI, he was assigned to active service as midshipman on HMS Carnarvon, serving in the Falkland Islands, and, having been transferred to HMS Barham, at the Battle of Jutland. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1918, but resigned from the navy in early 1919 to study mathematics and physics at Cambridge. After graduating from Magdalene College in 1921, he worked as an experimental physicist at the university’s Cavendish Laboratory (under Ernest Rutherford) becoming a fellow of King’s College in 1923.

Blackett married Constanza Bayon in 1924; they had one son and one daughter. Soon after, he spent time at Göttingen, Germany, working with James Franck on atomic spectra, but he remained at the Cavendish Laboratory until the early 1930s. He then spent four years at Birkbeck College, University of London, as professor of physics. During this period, he became more involved with government military issues, joining a committee that advocated development of radar for defence against enemy air attack. In 1937, he moved to Manchester University, as the Langworthy Professor, where he launched a major international research lab. He was a committed socialist, and would often campaign for the Labour Party.

At the start of WWII, Blackett joined the Royal Aircraft Establishment where he worked on the design of the Mark 14 bombsight, and by 1940 he had become a scientific adviser to General Frederick A. Pile, the commander-in-chief of anti-aircraft command. By the end of 1941, he was Chief Adviser on Operational Research (later Director of Naval Operational Research) at the Admiralty, where he was a major influence in the British strategy against U-boats. Towards the end of the war, and thereafter, his left-wing views were often at odds to mainstream thinking (he argued against saturation bombing of German cities, for example, and British development of an atomic bomb). In 1948, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his investigation of cosmic rays using the counter-controlled cloud chamber (his own invention).

In 1953, Blackett was appointed professor and head of physics at Imperial College, where he became senior research fellow in 1965. The same year, he was made president of the Royal Society, and a Companion of Honour by the Queen. In 1969, he was created a life peer. He died in 1974. Further information is readily available online at Wikipedia, the Nobel Prize website, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required), Informs, or a YouTube animation!

As a young man, during WWI, Blackett kept a diary. Today, this is held by his son, Nicolas. However, he has transcribed it and deposited copies at the Admiralty Library, Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth, and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Although the diary has not been published, quotes from it can be found in the biographical essays that make up Patrick Blackett: Sailor, Scientist and Socialist (Frank Cass, 2003, edited by Peter Hore), notably in the opening chapter - Boy Blackett - written by Blackett himself, and chapter four (which overlaps the same time period) - Blackett at Sea - written by Hore. Some pages can be freely sampled at Googlebooks.

After the 25 May 1917 diary entry (see below), Hore explains: ‘The diary upon which this story depends was becoming more and more spasmodic. . . What entries there are increasingly reflect his moods and intellectual curiosity rather than the routine of life in a destroyer in the Grand Fleet. There was one entry between May and August, which had needed the restorative effect of a vigorous sail in the ship’s whaler (‘the mizzen unshipped and two reefs in the main and fore’). On 30 September he had required the stimulation of near drowning, when, after Sturgeon had broken down in a gale and was struggling to pass a tow, he narrowly avoided being swept off the rolling deck into the sea.’

31 May 1916
‘The day dawned glorious but with a slowly falling glass. When I got up I heard that the Lion, five miles ahead of us had sighted a submarine and the Royalist fired at it. During my forenoon watch we had several submarine scares, once when the Lion sighted one ahead of us. We could not see her, however. Some suspicious neutral trawlers were about as usual. Our station was five miles astern of the Battle Cruiser Squadrons. The latter were six in number, the Lion and 1st BCS in one line and the Indefatigable and New Zealand on their port beam. The Australia is in dock as is also the Queen Elizabeth. We went to Exercise Action in the forenoon to clear away and to get the cages loaded. I slept all the afternoon and just after tea, about 3.50 p.m. ‘Action’ was sounded. When we realised it was without the ‘G’: real action that is, we wondered what was up. Of course I could not find my Gieve [life belt] - I had put it in the gunroom five minutes before, but it had apparently vanished. We closed up and learnt that some light cruisers of the enemy had been sighted. Just before five o’clock we loaded and trained on a light cruiser - the first German ship I have seen since the Falkland Islands. At 4.57 p.m. we opened fire at about 18,000 yds. range. A few minutes earlier we had seen the flashes of the Battle Cruisers firing ahead of us. After two salvoes at the light cruiser, both of which failed to hit, we shifted target on to the 2nd German battle cruiser from the left, probably the Seydlitz. The visibility was not good but our shooting might have been much better. I saw a lot of misses for deflection. I could see through my periscope quite well at first, but later it got misty and was eventually smashed. We were firing on and off, when we could see, and for the first part were not being fired at. After a short time we passed a destroyer picking up survivors from an oily patch on the water. I had, of course, no idea what it was that had sunk but learnt later that it was the Queen Mary. I also saw one of our ‘M’-class destroyers with her bow out of the water and very much down by the stem. I did not like it a bit when we began to be fired at, seeing the splashes a few yards short, all their shots falling very close together. The noise of them falling was just like our six inch guns going off. Things did not seem to be going very well then, but I was very cheered to see one beautiful straddle we made on one of the German Battle Cruisers, one of our shots bursting on the waterline armour. I saw the flash of it. We then fired four more salvoes rapid and straddled again. After this I saw an explosion aft. We then shifted target. About a quarter to six the British battle cruisers turned sixteen points to starboard and crossed our line of fire. About 6 p.m. we also turned and during it got a bad strafing from the German 3rd Division, their crack squadron. As the Battle Cruisers crossed in front of us I saw that there were only four instead of six, so knew they must have been badly strafed. I saw one of the Lion’s turrets out of action by a shell, also one of the Princess Royal’s.

About this time we got the cheering news that the Grand Fleet was coming up. We carried on firing at ranges varying from 24,000 yds. to, at the end, as little as 8000 yds. Most of the time we could see nothing but the flashes of their guns. These were very curious. The guns fired in succession beginning with the after gun, so that one saw a succession of flashes, not all at once, as with our director control, or haphazard as in individual control. It was very horrible seeing the flashes, then waiting for the salvoes to fall. They formed very small splashes of far lesser height than ours, and they caused practically no interference with our fire.

The terrible part of it was that we could not see them to reply, for they had the modern ‘weather gauge’ not of wind but of light. We were silhouetted against the bright western sky and they were merged in a great haze.

About this time we got our ‘five minutes hate’. It really lasted much longer and was extraordinarily unpleasant. It is estimated that some five hundred 12-inch bricks were fired at the Barham and the rest of the squadron. How we survived with so very few hits I have no idea. Many people say that we were saved by one of the armoured cruiser squadrons. They got in front of us and made a very great smoke screen, which I believe was meant to shield themselves, but it effectively screened us and saved us from a far worse strafing. The terrible fate of the ships I did not see luckily. We do not quite know why Arbuthnot (R.A.Defence) got there at all.

Soon after this the German destroyers attacked and met ours in the middle between the lines. One got through and about five torpedo tracks were seen from the ship, all of which we avoided, but one mouldy [torpedo] struck the Marlborough. This ship was three ahead of us in the line of the Grand Fleet, when deployed but she continued in the line after being hit. She had a ten degree list. Everyone was very relieved that the Grand Fleet had joined up, for it was exceedingly unpleasant alone. About this time we trained fore and aft and lined up. I went on top of the turret and saw the battle line extending miles into the mist. The German ships were not visible. We avoided more than one torpedo attack by submarine and the Revenge, two ships ahead claims to have rammed and sunk one. The 1st Battle Squadron was next ahead of us and did a good deal of shooting. The 4th ahead of them did less and the 2nd in the van practically none. If we had only another hour of daylight I drink very few Germans would have got back. We tried to close them about 9 p.m. but had to draw off eventually owing to the gathering dark.

We were then allowed to leave our stations to get some supper. In order to get aft it was necessary to go along the mess deck. Many people did not know till then that we had been hit, but one realised it terribly then. There was an extraordinary reek of T.N.T. fumes, which mixed with the smell of disinfectant and blood was awful. Nearly all the killed, some twenty-four in number, were lying laid out on the deck, and many were terribly wounded, limbs being completely blown off and nearly all burnt. I then learned that the Padre and Paymaster had been killed in the Forward Medical Distributing station. When I got to the gun-room flat, I found the whole place completely wrecked. The gun-room and the Eng. Comm’s cabin were merged into one and the flat outside riddled with holes. The after cabin was also in an appalling mess.

I got some food in the wardroom and then returned to my turret. As I was going there I saw a very violent action, some way off on our starboard beam. Some of our light cruisers had met and blown up a German one. Various actions continued all night, the flashes being very visible and one huge explosion being seen. The night was very trying, waiting closed up - trying to sleep in turns.

We expected to renew the action at dawn and had everything ready.’

1 June 1916
‘Dawn was welcomed as an end to waiting. I had the morning watch and left my turret to go on to the bridge. The weather was thick and beastly. We were with the rest of the Grand Fleet and were steaming up and down, in order to try and keep the huns from returning to port. The battle cruiser suddenly appeared and then went off again. There were five, not six of them, the Indomitable and Inflexible having joined up. The German fleet had been reported S.W. of us. Until 2 a.m. we were in touch with them and small actions were going on. But after that we lost touch owing to the thick weather. We could only see about three miles. The battle cruisers reported sighting a Zep. It was probably this that enabled them to escape.

We sighted nothing but a mine, which passed fairly close to us. About noon we turned round and made for Scapa, rather disappointed to have not finished the show off, but I must say longing to get into a defended harbour and sleep. For it had been a great strain, twenty-four hours at actions stations, and part of it, when we were under a very heavy fire without being able to reply, had been terrible.

I learnt at intervals of incidents in the fight which I had not seen: the blowing up of the three British battle cruisers after a very few salvoes, the terrible strafing the 1st armoured cruiser squadron got, ending in the Defence and Black Prince blowing up and sinking, and the Warrior blowing up aft and being taken in tow by the Engadine, but sinking eventually.

Several destroyer attacks were made and a lot of light cruiser and destroyer actions occurred between the lines. We sank one German destroyer by 6 inch fire - I think the one that torpedoed the Marlborough. A submarine was sighted close to the ship but disappeared on being fired at. The Revenge claims to have sunk one by ramming. As to the enemy losses it is very difficult to decide anything as we could see so little. But one ‘Kaiser’ class certainly blew up amidships and a battle cruiser or two very badly strafed indeed. One curious three funnelled ship was sunk, but what she was we do not know.

We had great hopes of good results from the night’s actions, for we had seen one light cruiser given hell by ours and left a glowing mass.

We had several fires on board but they had been very quickly put out. The worst hit was forward. A shell, or rather two came in on the starboard glacis. They both burst on or near the mess deck. One, the forward of the two, wrecked the boys’ mess deck and medical store, splinters smashing the starboard hydraulic pump and the telemotor in the lower conning tower. It was this hit which killed Mr. Blythe. The other shell hit the cordite in the forward end of the battery and then burst in the Forward Medical Distributing station causing many casualties. The irony of it lay in the fact that the sick bay, from where everyone had been removed, as it was unprotected, was entirely untouched. The cordite fire in the battery caused many serious burns and only escaped flashing down to the magazine by a miracle; a fragment did actually penetrate there, Lieut. Porter did very well in the battery, putting the fire out and rescuing the men. He got badly burnt.

We steamed back to Scapa with the Grand Fleet, the weather getting nasty as we went.

The Valiant, being uninjured, left us for Rosyth. The Warspite, who had boon damaged in the engine room hauled out of the line and then went back to Rosyth. The Marlborough managed to get back to Immingham.

We arrived at Scapa about 12.30 a.m. on June 2nd and at once started to oil and get out empty cordite cases. The C. in C. and numerous other flag officers came on board to examine the damage and we heard we were to dock in Plymouth at once and had been allowed a month to repair and refit it.

At last we get a night in, we are still terribly tired.’

25 May 1917
‘I was sleeping lightly between a first & morning [his watches on the bridge, 2000 to midnight and 0400 to 0800], when a distinct noise of the helm hard over woke me. I slipped off my bunk & put on sea boots, then realising that we had increased speed, walked on deck. There I first noticed the funnel sparking, so guessed we had gone on quickly. When I reached the bridge (I had a sweater but no coat on) I saw a man bending over the starboard depth charge release handle, so at once knew what was up. I said to the Captain ‘Is it really a Hun, this time?’ but the reply was inaudible or possibly not given. Anyhow, ‘Safety pins out’ to the man at the handle release, answered the question. I went to the port gear and took out the pin. My eyes, not being yet accustomed to the dark, did not spot the submarine, until I saw her bow sticking out of the water some half cable on our starboard quarter. The starboard charge was let go. Nothing happened for a bit, so that I almost feared a dud, but then a shake and a crash dispelled my fear. I then noticed some smoke hiding the position of the sub, & said to the Captain that she was making smoke. A little later I realised that it was smoke from the charge. So it cannot have been far off. We then turned, zigzagged & swept with searchlight, but all to no effect. She was down & whether damaged or not we do not know. She had been sighted steering south about a mile on our starboard bow. We went full steam to ram. But when at 3 cables off she dived. Just as we crossed the track her bow appeared on our starboard beam, whereas she dived when on our port beam. So we must have missed her stem which was down by inches. Probably the depth charge exploded within 100 feet of her. So there is a chance that some damage was done. It is sickening to have missed by so little. The time was 2.10 GMT & the day was beginning to lighten. We searched the whole area, between the [Realge] & the French coast, but saw no signs. If only we had an explosive sweep to help the search!’

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A plot mind is curiously rare

‘On the other hand the fact, of which I was long ignorant, that I possess hidden away what is called a “plot mind” became of very great importance to me as a writer. A plot mind, is curiously rare, and does secure for its owner a kind of immortality. By that I mean that long after the writer is dead, the books go on being reprinted. Wilkie Collins is an example of this. Another is Dumas père who in his day was regarded by the French critics very much as were in my day the author of The Mystery of the Hansom Cab, and so on.’ This is from the diary of Marie Belloc Lowndes, who died 70 years ago today. Although barely remembered today (her diaries published in the 1970s have never been reprinted), she was a very popular crime writer in the first half of the 20th century. Most famously, she penned The Lodger, later made into a successful film by Alfred Hitchcock.

Marie Adelaide Belloc was born in Marylebone, London, in 1868, but then partly raised in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France. Her parents were intellectuals, a French barrister and an English writer/feminist, and she had a younger brother, Hilaire. Her father died, however, when both children were still very young. Marie was largely educated at home (though she spent two years at a convent in Sussex), becoming a voracious reader.  In her 20s, she became a journalist working in both England and France for the Pall Mall Gazette. She married Frederick Lowndes, an editor at The Times, in 1896, and the couple settled in Westminster where they raised three children. She remained a Catholic throughout her life, with a profound religious belief, though she seldom spoke about it.

In 1898, Belloc Lowndes published (anonymously) her first book: H.R.H. The Prince of Wales: An Account of His Career. Thereafter, she wrote mostly novels, many of them mysteries, as well as plays and memoirs. The Lodger (1913), a fictionalised account of Jack the Ripper, was her most famous work, and was turned into a film by Alfred Hitchcock. She was a supporter of women’s rights, knew many artistic, literary and political figures of her time (was a regular guest at 10 Downing Street during Asquith’s premiership), and encouraged young writers. In the 1930s, she made annual visits to the United States. She died on 14 November 1947. A little further information - she is not well remembered these days - can be found at Wikipedia, Encyclopedia.com, or The Encyclopedia of British Women’s Writing 1900-1950.

Both Marie and her brother, Hilaire, also a writer of some renown, were diarists. Although none of Hilaire’s diaries have been published (see a list of his papers at Boston College Libraries), Marie’s were published by Chatto & Windus, in 1971, as edited by her daughter Susan Lowndes: Diaries and letters of Marie Belloc Lowndes, 1911-1947. The foreword states: ‘When we, her daughters, came to examine her papers, we found her diaries, often with long gaps, owing to her constant writing commitments, and we decided that they could be of interest to a larger circle. Her great absorption in the political and literary worlds of her day and the account of the years of the Second World War, cast many sidelights on those times.’ A short review of the book can be read at Tanya Izzard’s blog.


Here are several extracts from Maria Belloc Lowndes’s diaries.

9 March 1923
‘I have had large sales in cheap editions. Thus The Lodger sold something like half a million at sixpence in the Reader’s Library. My early books were all published in America, and years after Barbara Rebell had been brought out there by Scribner, Americans would speak to me with real affection for the book and tell me they constantly re-read it. I have always believed that had I continued to write the kind of books that I began writing, and which I naturally preferred writing, I should probably have made, for me, a very much greater and better reputation than that which has fallen to my lot.

On the other hand the fact, of which I was long ignorant, that I possess hidden away what is called a “plot mind” became of very great importance to me as a writer. A plot mind, is curiously rare, and does secure for its owner a kind of immortality. By that I mean that long after the writer is dead, the books go on being reprinted. Wilkie Collins is an example of this. Another is Dumas père who in his day was regarded by the French critics very much as were in my day the author of The Mystery of the Hansom Cab, and so on.

The story of The Lodger is curious and may be worth putting down if only because it may encourage some fellow author long after I am dead. The Lodger was written by me as a short story after I heard a man telling a woman at a dinner party that his mother had had a butler and a cook who married and kept lodgers. They were convinced that Jack the Ripper had spent a night under their roof. When W. L. Courtney, the then literary editor of The Daily Telegraph, in order to please a close friend of mine, commissioned a novel from me (I then never having written a novel for serial publication) I remembered The Lodger. I sent him the story and he agreed that it should be expanded. This was a piece of great good fortune for me, and would certainly not have been the case among any subsequent editors of my work.

As soon as the serial began appearing - It was I believe the first serial story published by The Daily Telegraph - I began receiving letters from all parts of the world, from people who kept lodgings or had kept lodgings. I also received two postcards of praise from two very different people, the one being Lord Russell and my old friend Robert Sherard, who had written interesting and revealing books concerning Oscar Wilde, including a severe and justified indictment of the Life by Frank Harris.

When The Lodger was published, I did not receive a single favourable review. When it came to sending a quotation for an advertisement for the American edition, I was not able to find even one sentence of tepid approval. Then, to my surprise, when The Lodger had been out two or three years reviewers began to rebuke me for not writing another Lodger, and reviews of the type of ‘Mrs Belloc Lowndes’ new book is a disappointment’ appeared.


Then, to my surprise, when The Lodger had been out two or three years reviewers began to rebuke me for not writing another Lodger, and reviews of the type of ‘Mrs Belloc Lowndes’ new book is a disappointment’ appeared.’

22 October 1935
‘I have read Curtis Brown’s book Contacts. I was deeply interested in his account of Shaw. Every word he said was true as to Shaw’s odd ways with regard to contracts. Philip Sassoon asked Shaw’s advice about his contract with Heinemann - Shaw wrote him a long amusing letter and also pulled the contract to pieces.

I was, however, surprised to note that Curtis Brown claims to have made the arrangements concerning Mr Asquith’s War book. He may have done this with regard to foreign American rights, etc. He did not do so with regard to the English rights, for I heard at the time from the man concerned, that a representative of the publishers went down to see the Asquiths about something concerning one of Margot’s books.

After they had had their talk, the publisher put down on the table a cheque for two thousand pounds made out to Asquith. Asquith took it up and said, “What’s this?” The man said, “This is a fifth part of what we are willing to pay if you write your War memoirs”. It was well-known that Asquith had said he would never write his Memoirs in any shape or form.

Asquith walked across to the window - a French window leading into a garden at the other end of which stood the large barn where Margot worked. He waited there for an appreciable time, then he turned round and said “I’ll do it”. Taking up the cheque he observed “This bait has caught the fish”.

He had never kept a diary, and it was his custom to destroy all the letters he received. He was, however, a great letter-writer. There were at least ten women to whom he wrote quite often. When faced with the necessity of writing the book, he wrote to all these ladies and asked them to return his letters. They all refused, with the exception of Mrs Harrisson. She at once did what he asked, and that is the explanation of his having left her £2,000. But for her he could never have written the book.

It was with great regret that I read Asquith’s letters to Mrs Harrisson when she decided to publish them. My regret was owing to the fact that they gave an entirely false impression of the writer. Asquith had an enormous following among Nonconformists. They regarded him as a stern man of God, a Cromwell, who by some freak of circumstance had married Margot Tennant of whom they knew very little, and of the little they knew they disapproved. To all these people, the publication of what appeared to be a series of love letters came as a fearful shock. To the people who knew Asquith, the letters meant less than nothing because they were all well aware that all through his life - even before his first wife’s death, he had always had these affectionate friendships with women.

After the Harrisson letters came out, Margot was terribly distressed at the effect they produced. I had a talk with her about it and I entirely agreed with her that there were several women who could have produced letters of exactly the same kind, many of these ladies being well-known women who certainly were not in love with Asquith nor he with them. He always began a letter to any woman who could in any way be described as attractive with ‘darling’ or ‘dearest’. In a way this was strange, because he did not fling about those terms in everyday life.

One woman known to me still has an Italian marriage-chest full of letters from him. She is a highly intelligent woman; the letters to her are really worth printing for he wrote with great freedom on all political and literary subjects.

When Mrs Harrisson lent Asquith the letters for the purpose of his memoirs, after making notes, he began tearing them up. Margot stopped him, exclaiming: “Don’t do that! She probably values your letters very much”. If this story is true, how very much she must have regretted having stopped him in his work of destruction. The person to get all the criticism was the editor Desmond MacCarthy. I do not feel he was to blame, owing to the simple fact that he was so close a friend both of Asquith and of Margot that what amazed and shocked those who did not know them, made no impression on MacCarthy at all.’

24 March 1915
‘The Arnold Bennetts dined with me to meet Sir George Riddell and Pamela McKenna. Bennett told me of the vast sums he was making: a hundred pounds for a 1,500 word article in the new Sunday paper. He gets two hundred pounds from American papers for each article he writes of the same length and £3,500 for serial rights of a novel. He has fixed up three serials for £10,000 with an American paper. He gave a funny account of the Editor of Munsey’s going to see Sir Gilbert Parker. Sir Gilbert received him with hauteur, whereupon the American said: “What you’ve first got to do is to come off your perch - and listen to what we want. I can only do business on those lines.” The great man gave in and got off his perch.’

29 September 1938
‘The crisis is not over, as so many people seem to think, but it certainly is suspended and I should be much surprised if it comes to war now. I still entirely believe that Hitler was bluffing and - I think it will come out in time - that if only he had been told quite plainly that the three great countries were going to war if he attacked the Czechs, he would have drawn back exactly as he did in May. Though there can be no doubt Chamberlain meant it for the best, I am convinced that had he not flown to Germany, but contented himself with simply sending a threat from London he would actually have done better for the whole world than he has done now, for it is plain that whatever happens, the Czechs will be to a great extent sacrificed.

All the main roads out of London are an astonishing sight jammed with cars, and the scenes at the railway stations are also extraordinary: as a man said to me, “Just like an August Bank Holiday!”
The Westminster boys were all sent home yesterday. I hear that the Dulwich boys have also gone - each parent paying £3 so that proper army huts might be built on the Kent-Sussex border. This flight from London is a great misfortune for tradespeople and indeed anyone connected with trade in any way. Large numbers of people have given their servants a week’s notice and a week’s money, so London is full of servants with no jobs.

Yesterday a great rush for provisions began. One lady I heard of has her house quite full of tinned foods of every kind. The only thing I bought was my special brand of China tea: I have got 14 lbs which will last me for a year. I also got last week rather more methylated, rice and matches than usual, but nothing out of the way.

I was guided by my experience in the last year. The fact that I had a gross of matches in the early August of 1914 was of the greatest value. It is one of the things - strange to say - in which there quickly becomes a shortage. I also found then the great value of rice when cooked and mixed with fried onions and a little butter: it really makes a meal for anyone. I ran out of methylated in the last war and had great trouble making my early morning tea before my work - in fact, I was forced to use the Tommy Cookers and the stuff people used for heating their hair tongs, both expensive and unpleasant to use.

I have committed one act of great extravagance: I have bought a new wireless for Wimbledon. For many years I have had an ordinary battery model, given me by a dear friend. It cost £30 but is hopelessly out of date, a great worry and perpetually having to be mended. I said to myself it would be a frightful thing for me should war come, to be out at Wimbledon with no wireless, so yesterday I telephoned a man I know who is in a big radio concern.

He brought me out the best new Ecko model and fixed it up for me with an aerial. I decided to do so when I realized that if war should come any money I get from America would be enormously more in pounds than in dollars. The day before yesterday I should have made 4/- on every pound.’

The Diary Junction

Monday, November 13, 2017

At sea with Von Löwenstern

‘The Thames has been formally blockaded. All merchant ships are being stopped. Sailors have taken over two transports to America with riggings and ship’s provisions. The ships’ officers have been arrested and are being held hostage.’ This is a taster from the diaries of Hermann Ludwig von Löwenstern, an Estonian sailor who took part in Russia’s first naval expedition round the world, and who was born 240 years ago today. The diaries have been published in German and English thanks to Victoria Joan Moessner, professor of German at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Von Löwenstern was born in Estonia on 13 November 1777, the fourth of ten children. He entered the Russian naval service at 15, first as a volunteer, then as a midshipman. He was in England, during a sailor’s revolt, in 1797, and from there, in 1799, he sailed with the Russian navy to Gibraltar, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, and the Crimea. In 1801, he traveled overland to St. Petersburg and Reval, where he received permission to leave Russian service and enter the French. In 1802, with his father’s financial help, he moved to Paris, where he decided against joining Napoleon’s troops, but, nevertheless enjoyed the city’s sights as well as a love affair with his innkeeper.

In early 1803, von Löwenstern returned to Estonia by way of the universities in Leipzig and Jena before journeying on to Berlin, where he learned of Russia’s proposed voyage around the world. He returned to St. Petersburg, where he was readmitted to the Russian Navy, and appointed fourth officer on the lead ship, Nadezhda. The expedition sailed via Tenerife, Brazil, Japan, China and Scotland before returning to Russia in 1806. He retired from the navy in 1815, married Wilhelmina von Essen, and took over running several estates in Estonia. He died in 1836. There is no further biographical information readily available online, although there is a Wikipedia article in German about his father (who had the same name).

Von Löwenstern kept a personal diary from the age of 20 until his late 30s (when he retired from seafaring), but he never intended it for publication. Indeed, the diary remained unpublished in English until, that is, Moessner edited and translated parts for her book: First Russian Voyage around the World: The Journal of Hermann Ludwig von Löwenstern 1803-1806 (University of Alaska Press, 2003). The publisher’s blurb states: ‘Because Löwenstern never published his diary, it was not submitted to the official censorship process that scrutinized and altered all publications in Tsarist Russia. Thus it contains frank descriptions of historical events, arguments, sightings, and opinions that were left out or removed from other accounts that were subject to editorial scrutiny. His diary makes a particularly critical contribution to our knowledge about the history and politics of nineteenth-century Russia and the lands visited by the expedition.’

A review of the three-volume edition of the diaries in the original German (also edited by Moessner) can be read at the Edwin Mellen Press website. It states: ‘The reader is given a day-by-day account of a Baltic German Russian naval officer’s life during the age of global scientific exploration in the course of the age of Napoleon, as he matures from midshipman to captain of a Turkish ship taken as a prize in the Black Sea.’

More recently, however, Moessner has translated into English, edited and published the rest of von Löwenstern’s diaries as The Diaries of Hermann Ludwig von Löwenstern: 1793-1803 and 1806-1815 (Page Publishing, 2014, - a US vanity press). A press release for the book can be read at PRWeb, and some pages of the book itself can be viewed at Googlebooks. Here are several extracts.

24 May 1797
‘The Thames has been formally blockaded. All merchant ships are being stopped. Sailors have taken over two transports to America with riggings and ship’s provisions. The ships’ officers have been arrested and are being held hostage, as Parker with the delegates has declared, for the lives of the imprisoned delegates on land. They undressed a Chirurius [surgeon], smeared him with tar, sprinkled with feathers, and towed him on land behind a jolly boat. They have insulted many officers in the most sensitive manner and dunked a couple midshipmen in the water from the end of a yardarm. The delegates have a president whom they choose every day anew. Unfortunately, the entire English fleet is in rebellion.’

5 June 17979
‘We sailed with a fresh wind toward Texel to show the Dutch that, even though the sailors in England were revolting, the sea was nevertheless not empty of English ships.’

19 June 1797
‘If you compare here to England, everything in Copenhagen seems bad and tasteless and especially desolate and empty. From Bodisco I learned that brave Reimers has died.’

7 July 1798
‘In Texel we counted over seventeen ships of war. While turning in the evolutions, one English ship after another sailed past us, a nice view. The disputes about the remarks that each one of us made help pass the time.’

9 August 1798
‘I went on land with Demidoff in his small four-oared boat. We were in danger of losing our lives several times with that small thing. The mast was too tall and the sail too large. We sailed into the river. After buying myself a hat, and we had bought ourselves several items, the wind became brisk. That is why we hurried to get out of the current. Ungern was along. The heavy breakers at the mouth thwarted our plan. We were pigheaded enough, even though the English on the shore called to us that we would surely capsize, to attempt to go through the breakers; until soaked to the skin with the boat full of water, we were hurtled back. That cold bath had brought us to our senses.

[Note on the edge of the page] Demidoff drowned in the same boat in the Neva.

The current was against us. We therefore had to leave the boat at the mouth and go on foot back to Yarmouth. We hurried to use the theater tickets we had received for a comedy. That cold bath and our quick pace had stirred up my blood. The heat in the theater made me dizzy and I fainted. My comrades, with the help of several Englishmen, carried me out of the theater to an inn where we spent the night.’

7 September 1799
‘After a very quiet trip, we dropped anchor at five o’clock in the evening on the roadstead in Naples. The Turks, without landing any place, sailed straight to Constantinople. The view of the city is very beautiful; the city rises like an amphitheater up to St. Elmo. Vesuvius contributes greatly to Naples’s beauty. We found two Russian frigates and an English warship ahead of us.’

26 February 1800
‘My present way of life is as follows: Mornings I get up depending on my watch, early or late, drink my coffee; and smoking tobacco, I chat [with others] and go up and down during the morning, because you cannot get anything to read here at all. Immediately after table at two o’clock I go on land to my music master, stay there an hour, and afterwards visit Budberg, Fanaberia, or Salaguboff. If I find a boat, I usually go on board at five o’clock. In the evening I study my seamanship. After the evening meal I drink a glass of grog and go to bed in good time. Thus, one day follows the next. Only seldom do I visit Count Mammona (or Mammont, as the others call him) because I cannot speak the language. Sometimes I also go, if I have to wait for a boat, to the casino (actually an inn) and watch the hazard game. Sometimes I amuse myself by excursions in the six-rudder longboat, etc.’

5 March 1800
‘The feeling is oppressive to be admonished to pay when one has no money. My music master asked me today for two dahlias, which I owe him for past hours. I had to turn him down, and request his patience. I do not have a heller in cash, and I do not know where I should get the money in order to pay my old teacher.’

The Diary Junction

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Muckraker or historian?

Ida Tarbell, muckraker or more accurately one of the first ever investigative journalists, was born 160 years ago today. She came to fame in the first years of the 20th century for a detailed exposé of how John D. Rockefeller had, at times illegally, built up his Standard Oil company. She kept a diary briefly, when in the public limelight because of the Standard Oil revelations; and this has been used by one biographer. Images of the diary manuscript have been made publicly available thanks to her alma mater, Allegheny College.

Tarbell was born on 5 November 1857 in Erie County, northwest Pennsylvania, but the family moved in 1860 to Titusville, a centre for new oil production. Her father, a carpenter, built wooden oil storage tanks, although later he became an oil producer and refiner, and would suffer when the railroads and large oil producers agreed a price fixing scheme. Ida did well at school and and went on to study biology at Allegheny College in 1876, the only woman in her class, and then to work as a teacher at Poland Union Seminary in Ohio. After a couple of years teaching, she decided she preferred writing, and turned to journalism. She found employment with The Chautauquan, a teaching supplement for home study courses. In 1886, she progressed to become the publication’s managing editor.

In 1890 Tarbell moved to Paris to research a biography of Madame Roland for her postgraduate studies. To support herself, she wrote short features on prominent Frenchwomen and Parisian life for a syndicate affiliated with Samuel McClure’s magazine. McClure then offered her a staff position on his magazine, for which she wrote, first, a popular series on Napoleon Bonaparte, and then, once back in the US and based in Washington D.C., another on Abraham Lincoln. The articles were collected into a book, and made her name as a writer and an expert on Lincoln. She moved to New York City, where McClure’s was based in 1898, and in 1902 began a series of articles which would become her most famous work: The History of the Standard Oil Company. This was the result of much detailed investigative research (before the concept of investigative journalism existed). While praising Standard Oil’s owner John D. Rockefeller for various accomplishments, she also exposed the illegal means by which he had monopolised the oil industry in its early years. Popular opinion labelled her type of journalism as ‘muckraking’ though she considered herself more of a historian.

In 1906, Tarbell purchased a country retreat in Easton, Connecticut, with 40 acres, though for the next 18 years she continued to live in New York City, only retiring to Easton aged 67. That same year, 1906, Tarbell left McClure’s and spent most of the subsequent decade writing for American Magazine, which she co-edited. She also wrote books, including The Business of Being a Woman, The Ways of Women (which put her at odds with the suffragist movement of the era) and an autobiography (in 1939), All in the Day’s Work (which includes a chapter Muckraker or Historian?). Many of these are freely available online at Internet Archive. She also served as a member of various government conferences and committees concerned with defence, industry, unemployment, and other issues. She died in 1994. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Allegheny College, Smithsonian.com, Biography.com, or Connecticut History.

Although not a well known name internationally, Tarbell’s reputation nationally has not dimmed in time, and a good number of books have been written about her, or with her as their main focus: Ida M. Tarbell: The woman who challenged big business - and won by Emily McCully; Taking on the Trust: How Ida Tarbell Brought Down John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil by Steve Weinberg; and Muckrakers: How Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens Helped Expose Scandal, Inspire Reform, and Invent Investigative Journalism by Ann Bausum. However, the definitive biography of Tarbell is considered to be Kathleen Brady’s Ida Tarbell: Portrait of a Muckraker (Putnam, 1984, subsequently University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989). A good portion of this can be read freely online at Googlebooks.

Brady’s biography is the only one, as far as I can tell, to make use of a diary Tarbell kept briefly during the period that the Standard Oil articles were making her famous. She includes a few short extracts in Chapter Eight: Unexplored Land. (F
or clarity I have italicised those paragraphs I’ve taken directly from Brady’s narrative.)

‘So much was happening,’ Brady writes, ‘that even she [Tarbell], who said she always shrank from self-knowledge, felt that she somehow had to sort things out. She was overwhelmed by reaction to the Standard story - especially since she originally doubted that anyone would care to read it. She was shaken by the death of her father and the hedonism of Sam McClure. Tarbell felt the need of a faithful companion, and so she bought a diary. In the next year, much would be written there.’

Brady continues: ‘As she struggled under the strains of the magazine, she thought she might be able to write her problems away by confiding them to a journal. She opened her small leather diary, took up her pen, and wrote: “May 5, 1905. Bought nearly two months ago and not a word written - bought as books of this kind have been before for a companion and so dead to life I could not use a companion. There has come a point where it is life or death-in-life - and I am not willing to give up life. If the innermost accesses are to be entered I must go there alone. I am conscious so much of myself is evading me. And this poor little book is a feeble prop in my effort to reach the land I've never explored.”

Her diary was a safety valve which allowed her to release her strongest emotions. Her first long entry there revealed a very flustered woman with a great reservoir of romantic love and no perspective when it came to a man who impressed her. James was at that time revisiting America after an absence of twenty years. Enthusiastic reception to The Golden Bowl brought him the opportunity of a lecture tour. Having traveled through the South, the Midwest, and California, he was at the end of his journey and back for a last visit to New England. George W. Cable, then a prominent writer of stories set in the South, hosted a dinner to precede James's lecture and invited the Hazens, the writer Gerald Stanley Lee and his wife, and Ida Tarbell. She at first declined the honor. She wrote in her diary: “All the rudeness - the ignorance, the imbecility, and inarticulateness of my life flared up in me and I blushed to think of sitting near. But they wanted me and I wanted to go. I dared to do it. I lay awake nights thinking of it. Afraid and eager. For I knew there was something there for me.”

She so yearned for James’s esteem, it seemed no one else’s had ever mattered. “It is a thirst for his particular formal assurance I’m on the right road. I’m real as far as I go. I am not a sham - that the soul is not dead or sleeping for the soul is there  - the being one with its noble walk, its wide vision knows that is something. I wanted to be assured. How pitiful I am!” [. . .]

She wrote staccato fashion in her diary: “I might have done better, was sadly conscious all the time that was the end of HJ for us. Am in a funk of soul because there could be no more. We talked a little of Paris, its charm. I know what she says to him. She says it to me too well - that much in common! I told him how I missed him chez Daudet and when he left he said, ‘I hope we shall not miss again.’ ”

Still under the spell of James she wrote: “A great leap and then dull renunciation! Que bon? I am not equal to it. But I deliberately sought another chance to see him. He had asked when I went home. I said I went to Boston and he was - or did I fancy it - disappointed! Ce qu’on veut il voit!” ’


And then, a few pages later, Brady refers to Tarbell in three more (separate) paragraphs as she goes into some detail as to how Tarbell and other staff members, affronted morally by McClure’s adultery, left his employ.

‘To it was added the lingering hurt of his philandering and her need for a change. When [Tarbell] started her diary, it seemed she had no place to run. Now seven months later it seemed that if escape was needed, she could flee Sam McClure. Her rupture from The Chautauquan nearly fifteen years before lifted the dead weight of closed opportunities and approaching age. Might she have thought in her innermost self, her “land I've never explored,” that the way to rejuvenate herself was to rebel? To give up security and opt, as she had done in her youth, for freedom?’

‘McClure frantically tried to discuss it with Ida, but she said [John] Phillips [an associate editor] would speak for her. She scribbled in her diary: “Persisted only that I didn’t like the whole business [of the insurance company and so on] - the way it had been done - all the crazy features (he seems to acknowledge craziness now).” McClure was dumbstruck to learn that Tarbell preferred Phillips to him. Tumultuous days followed.’

‘The financial state of McClure’s was so complicated and the principals so emotional that matters were not settled for a year. Boyden, Steffens, Baker, Siddall, Dunne, David McKinlay of the book company, and McClure’s cousin Harry joined Tarbell and Phillips in their walkout. As for her diary, Ida Tarbell never felt the need to write in it again.’


Allegheny College’s Pelletier Library holds a substantial archive of Tarbell’s papers, including a very small amount of diary material: three pages from 1888, and the more substantial 25 page document from 1905-1906. Much of the archive - including the two diary manuscripts - is available to view as pdfs on the college’s website (though Tarbell’s handwriting is hard to read at times, and there is no transcription).

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

How I saved the Balfour papers!

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. This was, in effect, a statement of support by the UK government for the establishment in Palestine of a home for Jewish people. Such is the historical importance of the Declaration that an original autograph memorandum of the text was sold (along with other papers) in 2005 for the staggering sum of $884,000. Yet, had it not been for me - albeit unwittingly - these papers may never have come into the public domain. In hearsay evidence of this claim, I offer unedited extracts from my diaries.

The Balfour Declaration was contained in a letter, dated 2 November 1917, sent by the UK’s Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community. It read: ‘His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.’ A week after Balfour sent the letter, it was published in newspapers around the world, and support from other nations followed. The Declaration had major long-term consequences, not least in the foundation of Israel.

In 2005, Sotheby’s, New York, put up a surprising lot for sale, Lot 217: ‘Two original drafts of the Balfour Declaration, part of the highly important Zionist Archive of Leon Simon, which also includes a signed letter from Chaim Weizmann asking his colleagues to review the draft, and further documents concerning the formulation of the Balfour Declaration, and of the British Mandate in Palestine.’ The lot also included many handwritten and typed letters, telegrams, essays and memoranda.

In a catalogue note, Sotheby’s explained the context: ‘Foundation documents for the State of Israel including the autograph memorandum of the text which would later be issued, with the war cabinet’s modifications, as the Balfour Declaration, made at the 17 July 1917 meeting of the Zionist Political Committee at the Imperial Hotel, on Hotel stationery, by Leon Simon, a key participant. This was the text sent to Balfour for his approval. If the Declaration of Independence can be viewed as the first formal political step in the foundation of the United States, then the Balfour Declaration can be so viewed in the history of Israel, and the present memorandum is the equivalent of an autograph draft of the text by Thomas Jefferson. Few documents can be owned that are more evocative of the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people for the formation of Israel, or that have had greater political impact on the present-day world.’ The auction house estimated the sale price as between $500,000 and $800,000 - it sold for $884,000.

The two key documents - the autographed memorandum drawn up by Leon Simon and the typed version with hand-written notes - were put on display for the first time earlier this year in a joint exhibition of the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) in New York City and the National Museum of Jewish History (NMJH) in Philadelphia - 1917: How One Year Changed the World. ‘This little paragraph on a piece of paper,’ said Rachel Lithgow, director of AJHS in New York, gave ‘a downtrodden people hope after 2,000 years.’ See Smithsonian.com for more on the exhibition. Incidentally, the photographs included in the article of the two drafts are credited ‘courtesy of Martin Franklin’, presumably the current owner of the documents.

The provenance provided by Sotheby’s for lot 217 was that the papers had been ‘purchased from the estate of Miss Aviva Simons [sic]’ (daughter of Leon Simon) - a simple fact that was slightly elaborated in newspapers articles around the world describing the seller as ‘anonymous’. But, thanks to my diaries I can add significant details to that simple fact. This is because I was there, in Aviva Simon’s house sorting out the very books and papers to be sold. After her death, David, one of the trustees or executor (I’m not quite sure which) of her estate engaged Andrew to clear the house while realising as much money as he could from the contents. Andrew, who was a good friend of mine and of David’s daughter, had some considerable experience of dealing in second hand goods. I was at a loose end so volunteered to help him out. For the rest I must defer to my diary.

17 December 2003
‘I’ve been helping Andrew to sort out the mess in a house once owned by Aviva Simon, who died earlier this year. Aviva, a spinster, was the daughter of Sir Leon Simon and Lady Ellen Simon. Sir Simon was Postmaster General for 20 years, he was also a well-known zionist leader and he translated the works of the Zionist leader Ahad Haam. He also wrote a biography of the man. Lady Ellen Simon’s maiden name was Umanski. Her brother, Arthur Umanski, changed his name to Underwood. He was a chemical engineer and something of an academic in the subject too. As far as I can work out, Aviva inherited 154 Hanover Road (near Willesden Green) from her mother, who must have inherited it from her brother. The house, which is an unbelievable tip, contains personal effects belonging not only to Aviva, but also to Leon Simon, Ellen Simon and Underwood. But there is no order to any of the things in the house, and most of everything is hidden inside plastic bags, inside plastic bags, inside plastic bags.

Andrew has been employed by David, who is the father of Offra (who lives in Spain and who I know), who is an executor (although Andrew has been using the word trustee - so I must check on that) of Aviva’s estate. David is related to Aviva somehow, but I’m not clear on that either. Andrew is being paid £120 a day to clear out the house, plus he’ll get 10% of the income he raises from selling the effects. The idea is to try and raise some cash from the belongings, rather than just getting in a house clearance service. So, Andrew is determined to pick through every last plastic bag, every last matchbox, every last tin (there’s a lot of old tins), every last drawer in search of treasures. When he told me about the job, and the 1,000s of books, I volunteered to help.

I went up on Monday. Since he’d arranged for a book dealer friend to come in during the afternoon, our first priority was to try and expose all the books. There was one large room, which Andrew hadn’t yet touched, and so I set to on that one. Although the room, like the rest of the house, was a complete tip (imagine a rubbish dump with 200 plastic bags piled up around old furniture), there were no rats or live insects; and generally everything was clean rather than dirty - although very dusty. So, it was not such a trial to work through everything. Andrew kept hoping to find a holy grail, something worth a lot of money, but I only found things worth a modest amount - a few nice pieces of material, gold fillings, a few old coins. For me, the interest was in the books and the papers. There were so many papers, so many letters and correspondence; every suitcase, every handbag, every drawer, every sturdy file, was crammed with papers of one description or another, from bills to share certificates, to invitations to Simon’s 70th birthday, to discussions about what should be done with Simon’s books. Andrew has little interest in books, or in the papers, he likes the trinkets, the crockery and the paintings. 

Andrew’s friend Piers came and stayed a couple of hours. A day later he phoned through with an offer of £3,000, which was a lot more than I was expecting. Andrew said Piers had found three valuable books - but we don’t know whether that means they’re worth £500 a piece or triple that; nor do we know which books they are. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Piers had invented the three books of value, I mean it might be two or four, and by telling us three he’s guarding against Andrew or I informing any other bookdealer to look for three gems (for if they’re are only two, another dealer might search to midnight and not find the third, or if they’re are four, he might stop looking at number three) - seems a bit paranoid though. I suggested we should get another quote, and I volunteered to organise that. But it was only once I got on the phone that I realised I didn’t have enough information about the collection, and so I wasn’t able to sell it sufficiently to prospective viewers. I have though, in the end, got two people coming. But now I feel I need to get the books into a better order than they are, which means I’ll have to spend the rest of the week there.

Part of the interest for me has been uncovering the family histories and connections, through the letters. It took a while, but I finally worked out that a library in Oxford had already received most of Leon Simon’s books, once in 1993, when his wife died, and more recently when Aviva’s sister, who had a separate lot of her father’s books, donated 600 volumes. I also discovered that Underwood lectured at University College and had an equation named after him!’

23 December 2003
‘I spent more time at the Simon house, on Friday and Saturday. I had arranged for two book dealers to come and offer for the books; but neither of them were interested in making a real effort. One offered £400, and the other didn’t even bother offering once I’d told him we’d had an offer in the thousands (he even assumed it was only £1,000). I realised that the dealers who advertise regularly in yellow pages and the Ham & High are those who are looking for a quick buck, to make a killing, not real dealers prepared to put the time and effort into handling a large quantity of moderately-priced books. I’ve also done some research on the internet, mostly on a site called Biblion, where dealers can advertise their antiquarian books. I found, for example, examples of Picturesque Palestine (four volumes) sells for around £700 in good condition (Piers had signalled that this was one of the valuable books in the collection); and that a couple of books I brought home with me (first editions of a P.G. Wodehouse novel and one of a Bertrand Russel book) might be worth £30-50. In fact, there’s probably 100 or more first editions which could be worth £20 apiece - not to a dealer, but sale price. And I’m sure there’s a dozen or more books that are worth more, plus several hundred more which might be a worth a fiver each. Following my failure to get any higher offers, I expect the books will be sold to Piers. But we still have the problem of what to do with the Judaica (a 1,000 or so books on Jewish history, Palestine, Zionism etc). I’ve contacted a couple of dealers, at least one of whom believes he may have seen the collection some years ago; and I’m also trying to persuade Andrew we should consider auctioning them, but it would cost money to get an auctioneer out to evaluate them. Andrew’s gone out to Spain for Christmas, so the clearance is on hold for a while; I may get back involved to follow through with trying to dispose of the Judaica.’

12 January 2004
‘Went to London yesterday. First to Kensal Rise, to the Simon/Underwood house, to join Andrew and a Jewish expert, Moshe Rosenfeld, to look over the Jewish books. Moshe spent a couple of hours in the house, but he seemed more interested in chatting about general Jewish things, then in really giving us much info on the books. He wasn’t very enthusiastic about the collection, largely because of its strong Zionist focus, but, later, when he went to have another look at the books, he kept looking at individual volumes and saying they might be valuable. I don’t think he knew that much. He said he would talk to a friend of his, a real book dealer, later that day and get back to Andrew. I expect I’ll hear him from him tonight.’

24 January 2004
‘Andrew’s finally decided what to do with the books. He’s selling them to a Jewish dealer for £3,000. This is the same price as his friend Piers offered right at the start, before I interfered and said we should get a Jewish dealer in to look at the Judaica. But Andrew’s happy because the Jewish dealer (Weisse somebody or other, a friend of the Moshe that Andrew and I met a couple of Sundays ago) will take all the books (thus clearing them from the house) and will take them himself, whereas Piers had asked Andrew to bring them up to Suffolk for him. The added benefit of this deal, so Andrew tells me, is that Weisse has not looked at the non-Judaica books, even though he’s included them in his offer of £3,000. Initially, he had offered only £1,700 for the Judaica, but, on being told about the existing bid, he upped his offer to £3,000 for all the books.’

There’s nothing further in my diary about the Simon estate until 18 months later.

30 June 2005
‘On the phone, Andrew told me about the saga of The Balfour Declaration. The package of papers put together for sale at Sothebys in New York on 16 June went for over $800.000. However, Aviva Simon’s estate, for whom Andrew and I did the clearance, has been heavily involved in trying to claw back some of the value. There was an attempt, as I understand it, to bring an injunction to stop the auction, but that didn’t succeed, and then Sotheby’s suggested a 50:50 split between the vendor (Weisman, I think) and the Aviva Simon estate, but the vendor was having none of that. And now there’s a legal battle under way, in which the Aviva Simon estate (relying heavily on Andrew’s testimony and paperwork) is trying to prove that Weisman only bought the Simon books, not the papers - and it’s the papers that made up the Balfour Declaration lot. There were apparently two receipts, one handwritten by Andrew which did not mention papers, and a second, months later asked for by Weisman, typed up and on headed notepaper. For this second receipt, Weisman asked for the list of contents to be changed to include ‘papers’. Or so the story goes. The Aviva Simon estate is concerned about the way Weisman obtained the second receipt. Although it does seem clear that Weisman did know of the Balfour Declaration papers by the time he asked for the second receipt, it’s not clear that he knew they were there when he bought them from us for £3,000. I’m not sure what will happen, but it may be a question of one side calling the bluff of the other. I mean David could ask for a police prosecution, and Weisman might prefer not to have to bother with dealing with that; on the other, David might be told by the police to bog off; or Weisman might be prepared to brazen it out.’

I don’t know how the dispute was ever resolved but, if the story in my diary is collect, it’s clear that a dealer of some description called Weisman (or similar name) bought the materials from the Aviva Simon estate for £3,000. He was astute enough at some point to recognise the importance of the Balfour Declaration papers, and subsequently clever enough to make a lot of money out of them. But, if I hadn’t stalled Andrew from selling them to the first book dealer as I did (with the aim of extracting more value from the books and Judaica in particular) those papers might never have seen the light of day. It’s all too easy to imagine the two scraps of paper in a recycling bin! Moreover - though, this is more speculative - if the estate had followed my suggestion to bring the books and papers to auction itself, it may have realised far more than £3,000, and my friend Andrew’s 10% might have looked like treasure after all.