Sunday, September 20, 2020

Diary briefs

Inside Francis Bacon - Thames & Hudson, The Guardian

Pranab Mukherjee’s diary habit - Times of India

Secret WWI diary of Kiwi - Penguin, Stuff

Mladic’s war diary made art - Balkan Insight

The POW diaries of Dr. Frank Murray - The Belfast Doctor, Irish Central

Dr. Zha’s Diary of fighting Covid-19 - CGTN, China Daily

Jane Birkin’s diaries published - Orion Books, The Guardian

Emmeline B. Wells’s diaries published online - Church Historian’s Press, Deseret News

Marian Anderson’s diaries digitised - Smithsonian, Penn Libraries

WWI diaries auctioned - Hansons Auctions, Daily Mail


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Eliasson the go-between

Happy 80th birthday Jan Kenneth Eliasson. A Swedish diplomat and politician, he served as ambassador to the US, and as Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations under Ban Ki-moon. His remarkable track record as an international mediator has been widely recognised, and was, in fact, the focus of a 2001 biography, The Go-Between: Jan Eliasson and the Styles of Mediation. The book, which starts with a preface by Kofi Annan, includes a number of references to, and quotes from, Eliasson’s personal diaries.

Eliasson was born on 17 September 1940 into a working-class family in Gothenburg, Sweden. As a gifted student, he was selected to take part in a student exchange programme with the US in 1957 (where he briefly met the future President, Senator John F. Kennedy, at a Democratic party fundraiser). In 1962, he graduated from the Swedish Naval Academy and became an officer in the Swedish Royal Navy. By 1965, he had completed a master’s degree in economics and passed the entrance exam for the Swedish diplomatic corps. He returned to the US as First Secretary in Sweden’s embassy during the early 1970s. In 1980, he opened Sweden’s first embassy in the newly renamed state of Zimbabwe. From 1982 to 1983, he acted as Diplomatic Advisor to the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. He was Director General for Political Affairs in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs from 1983 to 1987 (during which period he took part in a UN mission, mediating in the Iran–Iraq War), and from 1988 to 1992 he acted as Sweden’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York (where he also served as the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative on Iran/Iraq).

During the 1990s, Eliasson, in his capacity as Chair of the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) committee working on emergency relief, was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs in 1992, becoming its first Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs. As such, he mediated crises in Myanmar and Sudan. After leaving the UN, he worked as mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 1994 to 1999, he was Swedish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs; and from 2000 to 2005 he was Sweden’s Ambassador to the US. 

In 2005, Eliasson was unanimously elected President of the United Nations General Assembly, for its sixtieth session, a position he held for a year. Thereafter, he served again, briefly, in the government as Minister for Foreign Affairs, until his party lost the 2006 election. From 2006 until 2008, he acted for Kofi Annan as a special envoy to Darfur, Sudan. In 2012, he was appointed Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a post he held until 2016. In 2017, he was appointed by the Swedish Government as governing board chair of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. He is married to Kerstin Eliasson, former Swedish State Secretary for Education and Science, and they have three children. He has authored many books and articles and is a frequent lecturer on foreign policy and diplomacy. Since 1988, he has been a visiting lecturer on mediation, conflict resolution and UN reform at Uppsala University. Further information is available from Wikipedia and Nordics Info.

In 2010, the United States Institute of Peace published a book - entitled The Go-Between: Jan Eliasson and the Styles of Mediation - written by Isak Svensson and Peter Wallensteen, with a preface by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The book can be previewed at Amazon or Googlebooks. In their introduction, the authors say: ‘We have been fortunate enough to discuss these mediation cases with Ambassador Eliasson. [. . .] We have also had access to Mr. Eliasson’s personal diaries from these mediation experiences. Such quotes have a reference to the date they are recorded in the diary. Interviews and diary entries are translated from Swedish by the authors.’ It may be some time before Eliasson’s diaries are published if ever, but, thanks to Svensson and Wallensteen, here are four short extracts.

3-4 March 1994
‘This is almost unbelievable. Here I am in a rundown guesthouse with windows demolished by the recent bombings in tiny, mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh, which finds itself in the middle of a bloody war over its own existence and future. I have almost never felt the unique power and mechanisms of hatred and violence as clearly.’

9 April 1994
‘There is competition and power ambitions at the heart of this.... The parties clearly feel pushed around and need us - possibly to play one negotiator against another.’

20 September 1994
‘My most recent visit took place three years ago in mid-September, together with Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar. His main objective was to free the hostages captured in Lebanon. . . Even today, I still have difficulties in accepting “the deal" - the guilt of Iraq . . . in return for assistance in the Bekaa Valley.’ 

23 September 1994
‘If I do not have the confidence of the Russians. I need to consider whether I should terminate my own role, or Sweden’s role, as a mediator in this mission. However, first we need to know whether CSCE is ready to give a substantial contribution to the security of the region. If not, we should probably leave. To give our blessings to a solution that the parties do not want should not be a Swedish concern.’

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Mencken’s disagreeable character

Henry Louis Mencken, one of the most famous and controversial US journalists of the early 20th century, was born 140 years ago today. Largely self-taught as a writer, his editorials and opinion pieces for The Baltimore Sun brought him early fame. A diary he kept from the age of 50 was sealed for 25 years after his death but, on being published in the late 1980s, revealed ‘disagreeable aspects’ to his character, notably racist and anti-semitic views.

Mencken was born on 12 September 1880 into a German-American family in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of a cigar factory owner. He attended private school, and Baltimore Polytechnic, and then, rather than go to college, he joined the staff at his father’s factory, where he worked for three years. When his father died, and the factory was taken over by his uncle, Mencken left to pursue a career in journalism. He became a reporter for the Baltimore Morning Herald in 1899, and, in 1906, joined the staff of The Baltimore Sun (where he would work at intervals through the rest of his life). He soon made a name for himself writing editorials and opinion pieces. From 1914 to 1923, he coedited (with George Jean Nathan) The Smart Set, a satirical magazine influential in the growth of American literature, and from 1924 he edited American Mercury (a magazine he had also founded with Nathan).

In 1930, after a seven year courtship, Mencken married Sara Haardt, a German-American professor of English and an author 18 years his junior. Unfortunately, she died in 1935 of meningitis, leaving Mencken grief-stricken. During the Great Depression, Mencken opposed the New Deal, which cost him popularity, as did his open contempt for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and reservations regarding US participation in World War II. Apart from journalism, Mencken wrote widely. He is perhaps best known for his monumental study, The American Language, ranked as one of the top 100 influential books in the US. He also wrote on religion, ethics, politics, literature, women, and even baby care; and he published three popular volumes of reminiscences.

Encyclopaedia Britannica has this assessment: ‘Mencken was probably the most influential American literary critic in the 1920s, and he often used his criticism as a point of departure to jab at various American social and cultural weaknesses. His reviews and miscellaneous essays filled six volumes aptly titled Prejudices (1919-27). In literature he fought against what he regarded as fraudulently successful writers and worked for the recognition of such outstanding newcomers as Theodore Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis. He jeered at American sham, pretension, provincialism, and prudery, and he ridiculed the nation’s organized religion, business, and middle class.’ He died in 1956. Further information is also available at Wikipedia and the Mencken House website.

Mencken began to keep a diary from 1930, but, for several years after his wife’s death, he rarely made any entries. It was only from the early 1940s that he started keeping it again on a regular and systematic basis. On his death, at his request, the diary - some 2,000 pages of typescript - was sealed for 25 years in the vaults of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library. It was not until 1989 that Alfred A. Knopf published The Diary of H. L. Mencken as edited by Charles A. Fecher (republished by Vintage in 2012). ‘Here, full scale,’ according to the publisher, ‘is Mencken the unique observer and disturber of American society. And here too is Mencken the human being of wildly contradictory impulses: the skeptic who was prey to small superstitions, the dare-all warrior who was a hopeless hypochondriac, the loving husband and generous friend who was, alas, a bigot. Mencken emerges from these pages unretouched - in all the often outrageous gadfly vitality that made him, at his brilliant best, so important to the intellectual fabric of American life.’

Not only a bigot, in fact, but a racist and anti-semite - see the Los Angeles Times or The Paris Review. When interviewed about his book (see C-Span), Fecher acknowledged that some people might be ‘shocked and surprised’ by the ‘disagreeable aspects’ to Mencken’s character revealed in the diary, but those who had previously known his work would surely not have been so surprised. (The book’s publication led the National Press Club to question whether it wanted to change the name of its library - hitherto the H. L. Mencken Memorial Library. Fecher argued, in the same interview, that it should not be changed given that Mencken was ‘probably the greatest American journalist’. Nevertheless, in 1990 the library was renamed the Eric Friedheim Journalism Library.) The published diary can be borrowed digitally (briefly) at Internet Archive. Here are several extracts.

6 November 1930
‘When I got to New York yesterday afternoon from West Chester, Pa., I found a message from a Swedish news agency, saying that Sinclair Lewis had been given the Nobel Prize. It was splendid news to me, for it was very bad news for all the professors. The Swedes rubbed it in by saying that, after “Babbitt,” they were chiefly impressed by “Elmer Gantry.” This book, which is dedicated to me, aroused all the pedagogues and patriots at home, and got very few good notices.

In the evening I was at the Philip Goodmans’, and they discovered that Lewis and his wife, Dorothy Thompson were in town. We called upon them at their hotel in 50th street at 11 p.m. Lewis, when we got to the hotel, was in his dressing-gown. There was a bottle of whiskey on the table, but he was fairly sober. When the Associated Press called him up with the news he thought it was a joke. Convinced at last, and asked what he had to say, he said, “Another great wet Democratic victory!” The A.P. did not send this out. He and his wife are going to Stockholm in a few weeks. After that they plan to go to Russia.

Lewis, of course, made a great mistake in not refusing the Nobel Prize, as he some time ago refused (at my suggestion) the Pulitzer Prize. If I had got to him in time I’d have tried to induce him to do so. But by the time Goodman and I arrived it was all over. Dorothy was all aglow. She would have fought my proposal, and no doubt beaten me. She married a novelist somewhat in decay, and far gone in liquor - and now finds herself the wife of a Nobel prizeman, with a triumphal tour to Sweden ahead of her.

Nathan told me today that Ralph Barton, the comic artist, lately attempted suicide by poison. He has been in a low state for months, and has done very little work. Nathan says he moans for his third wife, now married to Eugene O’Neill, and has proposed to her that she leave O’Neill and return to him. She naturally refuses. O’Neill is now rich and has a country place in France.’

11 November 1938.
‘H. R. Knickerbocker, foreign correspondent for Hearst, was in Baltimore last night delivering a lecture. I met him later, and for the first time. His appearance rather astonished me. He was born in Texas and is the son of a Protestant preacher, but he looks decidedly Jewish. He has the reddish hair of a blond Jew, along with the faint freckles and pinkish eyes.

He told me that he was well acquainted with Hitler, and used to see him relatively frequently in the days before Hitler came to power. At that time there were rumors that Hitler’s iron cross was bogus, and Knickerbocker one day ventured to ask him about it. Hitler said that he had got it in the following manner:

During the war he was a dispatch rider, and one day he was sent across a part of the front that was a kind of No Man’s Land. The Germans assumed that there were no Frenchmen in it, but when he had got half way across Hitler heard French voices and on investigation found that there were a number of Frenchmen in a dugout. Hitler approached the only entrance and barked several loud orders, hoping to convince the men within that a considerable German party was above. The trick worked, and in a few minutes Hitler had the Frenchmen coming out one by one, their hands in the air. He was armed only with a pistol, but inasmuch as they came out wholly unarmed, he was able to line them up and march them back to the German lines. It was for this exploit that he received the iron cross.

Knickerbocker said that the story was told to him in the presence of an English correspondent. When it was finished Hitler said politely: “If these Frenchmen had been either Englishmen or Americans the chances are that I’d not be here.”

Knickerbocker said that Hitler in his private relations is a very amiable fellow, and has a considerable sense of humor. But whenever he gets on public matters he begins to orate. Knickerbocker said that he’ll start in an ordinary tone of voice and that in a few minutes he’ll be howling like a stump speaker, with his arms sawing the air.

Knickerbocker is also acquainted with Mussolini. He told me that Mussolini hates Hitler violently, and will undoubtedly walk out on him at the first chance.’

16 October 1941
‘I spent a couple of hours at Schellhase’s last night with Sinclair Lewis. He is in Baltimore to put on a play called “Good Neighbor,” by Jack Levin, a 26-year-old Baltimore advertising agent. I dropped in at Ford’s to pick him up, and found him back stage in the midst of a group of actors who seemed to be mainly Yiddish. He introduced me to several of them, but I didn’t catch their names.

Lewis is on the water-wagon, and during our sitting drank nothing but iced coffee. Toward the end of the evening he asked for a plate of chocolate ice cream. After we had been at Schellhase’s for an hour or more his girl showed up. She is a young Jewess rejoicing in the name of Marcella Powers, and has a part in “Good Neighbor.” She turned out to be a completely hollow creature - somewhat good-looking, but apparently quite without intelligence. Lewis told me in her presence that he had been hanging up with her for more than a year.

Before she саmе in he said that he had left Dorothy Thompson finally a year or so ago. He said that life with her had become completely impossible. She is a born fanatic and spends all of her days in howling and ranting against the wickedness of the world. Lewis told me that this oratory finally wore him down to such a point that he had to flee.

He looks almost ghastly. His face is the dead white of a scar, and he is thin and wizened. He told me that he had a new novel under way, but said that he was in some doubt that he’d ever finish it. Its principal character is a large scale do-gooder - a former college president who sits on innumerable committees and is active in every good cause. Such an idiot, in his palmy days, would have been nuts for him, but I begin to doubt, as he apparently doubts himself, that he will be able to swing the job now. Obviously, he is in a state of mental collapse, not to mention physical decay. Long-continued drink and two wives of the utmost obnoxiousness have pretty well finished him. He seemed to be immensely delighted when I told him that both Cabell and Hergesheimer had told me at different times that they regard “Babbitt” as the best novel ever written in America.’

25 August 1943.
‘I went to Washington today to see Col. Livingston Watrous of the Army, deputy director of the Special Service Division. This division is in charge of all indoctrination work, and publishes a great variety of bulletins, papers, pamphlets and books for the soldiers. I was interested especially in its series of pamphlets on the countries that American troops are now quartered in, most of them containing sections on the local languages. Those for Australia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland and Great Britain contain vocabularies of words differing in American and English. Watrous received me very politely, showed me many of the documents his men are preparing, and introduced me to some of his subordinates. He has very large quarters and a staff running to hundreds of officers and civilians. On his desk was a copy of “Heliogabalus.” He told me that he often re-read it, and asked me to autograph it, which I did.

His office is in the famous Pentagon Building at Arlington, which I saw for the first time. After the taxicab comes into sight of it there is a good mile of weaving through the maze of roads which surround it. The track doubles back on itself several times. Once inside, the visitor has to present himself at a reception desk, where very polite girls hear his business. Mine telephoned to Watrous, and then informed me that a guide would be sent down to show me to his office. She warned me that it might take the guide 15 minutes to get to the reception desk. Within ten minutes a young colored girl showed up, and I followed her along half a mile of corridors. I had been given a badge at the reception desk and had to show it when I entered the building proper. On my return I had to show it again, and also a pass that Watrous had given me, covering the pamphlets his secretary had wrapped up for me.

The Pentagon Building is so huge that it is downright comic. Also, it is extraordinarily ugly. It cost, so I have heard, more than $100,000,000, and houses nearly 100,000 jobholders. The surrounding grounds, broken up by the winding roads, are even more hideous than the building.’

3 May 1945.
‘It is a curious fact, but nevertheless a fact, that my piano technic seems to improve with age. I never practise, and seldom touch a piano save at the Saturday Night Club; in fact, the one in the house has not been opened for years. Nevertheless, I find it possible to play things today that would have stumped me a dozen years ago. Even my left hand is gaining more or less facility. In theory, the reverse should be the case, for my sight is naturally not quite as quick as it used to be, and my congenital incapacity for manual operations grows worse instead of better in other directions. But when it comes to playing second piano I am definitely better than I used to be.’

5 May 1945
‘Last night I finished reading the two volumes of the Diaries, Reminiscences and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson, brought out in London in 1869, with Thomas Sadler as editor, and reprinted “from advance sheets,” by Fields, Osgood & Company of Boston the year following. So far as I know, it has never been reprinted since. I had heard of it for many years, but never came to looking into it until a few weeks ago, when I asked George Pfeffer, the old book dealer, if he had it, and he dug up a copy from his cellar. This copy was inscribed “Margaret J. Preston, 1870,” and had probably been in stock since before I was born, for Pfeffer’s predecessor, Smith, set up business in the 70’s. It turned out to be immensely interesting stuff. Robinson was a nonentity, but he had the faculty of scraping acquaintance with famous men, and with some of them he became very intimate. His recollections of Goethe, Schiller, the Schellings, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Lamb and other eminentissimos of the early Nineteenth Century tell little about them that is unobtainable from other sources, but there are human touches that are very charming. Robinson was one of the first, if not actually the first Englishman to be educated in Germany, and his pictures of life at Jena, Weimar and Frankfurt in 1800 and thereafter are illuminating and instructive. He remained a violent Germanophile until his death at 92 in 1867. I am very fond of such books. They make capital reading for the hour or so between going to bed and falling asleep. I can’t recall ever falling asleep in fifty years, save on a few occasions when I was ill or much in my cups, without reading at least half an hour. The theory that the practise is damaging to the eyes seems to me to be buncombe. My eyes, despite some sclerotic changes, are perfectly good at 65. I not only read in bed every night; I also do nearly all my daylight reading lying down. I believe fully in the Chinese maxim that it is foolish to do anything standing up that can be done sitting, or anything sitting that can be done stretched out.’

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

For a few cattle

One hundred and twenty years ago today, a young Tasmanian soldier, John Hutton Bisdee, serving in the Boer War, risked his life to carry an officer out of danger, and thus became the first Tasmanian to be awarded a Victoria Cross. His diaries, along with other Bisdee family papers, are held at the Archives Office of Tasmania, and contain a vivid account of the day he became a hero.
John Hutton Bisdee was born in 1869 at Hutton Park, Melton Mowbray, Tasmania. He was schooled in Hobart, and then worked on his father’s property until 1900, when he enlisted in the 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen’s Contingent to serve in the South African War.
Soon after arriving in the Transvaal, Bisdee was one of an advanced scouting party ambushed. Six out of the party of eight were hit, and the horse of one of the wounded officers broke away and bolted. Still under fire, and in an exposed position, Bisdee dismounted, lifted the wounded officer onto his own horse so as to carry him out of danger. This action led to him being the first Tasmanian awarded the Victoria Cross.
>Subsequently, Bisdee had a lung infection and was invalided home; but after recovering he returned to the war in March 1901, this time with a commission as a lieutenant in the 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen’s Contingent and served until the end of the war. He later served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the First World War, during which he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, and was Mentioned in Despatches. He died in early 1930. There is a little more information available at Wikipedia, and Archives of Tasmania
A significant collection of papers once belonging to the Bisdee family - John Hutton Bisdee’s grandfather first sailed to the Antipodes in 1820 - are now held by the Archives Office of Tasmania. These include a journal written by the grandfather during his voyage, and three diaries written by Bisdee between 1898 and 1901, mostly during the Boer War. Bisdee’s diary is quoted extensively in Tasmanians in the Transvaal War by John Bufton (1905), freely available at Internet Archive (and the source of the following extracts).
1 September 1900
‘Warned last night that we should be called at 2 a.m. to repeat the day before’s movement, but this was countermanded during the night. I expect Boers were lying in ambush for us. Twenty of us sent on patrol in the afternoon under Captain Brooke and Lieutenant Wylly to secure some cattle. Had a terrible experience, which I shall never forget. We were led through a narrow neck into a veritable death trap. I cannot understand how the officers did not realise the danger. This neck led into a sort of basin with steep rocky hills rising in front. They opened fire on our five advance guardmen at short range, and then upon all of us, and how we got away at all is most wonderful. As it was we had four wounded, Wylly slightly, and Sergeant G. Shaw and Willoughby and Corporal Brown rather worse, and J. S. Brown very seriously, and the guide also severely wounded. The two latter fell into the hands of the Boers, and we fear they are in a critical state. The others are being attended to by the ambulance. The bullets came round us as thick as hail, and exploded with loud report as they struck. Captain Brooke was unhorsed. I gave him mine, running alongside myself, as he also received a slight wound in the leg. Corporal Brown’s horse was shot, and Wylly gave him his horse, as he was wounded badly in the foot. Groom then picked up Wylly on his horse, and we rode for our lives. Two men, Clark and Blackaby lost their horses (Clark gave his to Willoughby), but managed to evade the Boers, and arrived in camp late. Walter’s horse was shot, and he, stopping with J. S. Brown, was captured by the Boers, who let him go to report upon Brown’s case, and send an ambulance in. Altogether it has been a terrible experience, and seems so utterly foolhardy to go into such a place without scouts well out in front and good supports behind. All for the sake of a few cattle!
5 September 1900
‘Rest to-day. Prepared for Boers, but they kept in check and driven back by our friends, the guns.’
8 September 1900
‘Marched till 1 o’clock this morning, then had a rest for three hours, when we were sent off again patrolling after some Boers supposed to be in the vicinity. Some of our men came across two of them and gave them a hot time, but they got away, leaving bandoliers and meat bag. We stopped most of the afternoon at Saltpan, a large salt factory close by a salt lake, which lay in a deep basin. It looked like a lake frozen over. Started again at 5.30, and marched on to Waterval, which we reached at about midnight, very tired.’
This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 1 September 2010.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Mrs Indira is here

‘Half an hour after lock up yesterday there was a tremendous knocking at the outer gate and the matron came in excitedly announcing “Mrs Indira is here.” A minute later Indu followed by five other women came in. [. . .] It appears that the women intended to have a meeting but before it could commence the police arrived and made an attempt to arrest Indu and some others who were there.’ This is from a short diary kept by Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit during her third term of imprisonment by the British. Pandit, born 120 years ago today, was a key figure in the movement seeking to gain independence for India. She served her new country as an ambassador for many years, and was the first woman President of the United Nations General Assembly. Indira Gandhi was, in fact, Pandit’s niece, and later on, after independence, they would become political opponents.

Vijaya Lakshmi Nehru was born on 18 August 1900 in Allahabad (now in Uttar Pradesh but then in North-Western Provinces, British India). Her father was a wealthy barrister who served twice as President of the Indian National Congress, and her brother Jawaharlal Nehru, 11 years older, would go on to become the first Prime Minister of independent India. Vijaya was educated privately at home but also in Switzerland. After being forced to abandon a secret liaison with a Muslim journalist, she was married to Ranjit Sitaram Pandit, a successful barrister, in 1921, and they had three daughters. They both became active in the Indian nationalist movement. She was first elected to a local political post in 1934, but rose quickly to be appointed a minister in 1937 - the first woman to become a cabinet minister.

She was imprisoned by the British authorities in 1932-1933, again in 1940 (after resigning with other cabinet ministers in protest against the British including India as a participant in the Second World War), and finally in 1942-1943. Her husband died in Lucknow prison in 1944.

After being widowed, Pandit travelled in the US, lecturing, before retuning to India in early 1946 and resuming her portfolio as minister of local self-government and public health in the United Provinces. Following India’s freedom from British occupation in 1947, she joined the foreign service becoming India’s ambassador to the Soviet Union (1947-1949), the US and Mexico (1949-1951), Ireland (1955-1961) during which time she was also the Indian High Commissioner in the UK, and Spain (1958 to 1961). Between 1946 and 1968, she headed the Indian delegation to the United Nations, and in 1953 she became the first woman President of the United Nations General Assembly. 

In India, Pandit served as Governor of Maharashtra from 1962 to 1964, after which she was elected to the Indian parliament’s lower house, Lok Sabha, for Phulpur, her brother’s former constituency (Jawaharlal Nehru had died in 1964). Pandit was a harsh critic of Indira Gandhi’s years as Prime Minister. She retired from active politics, but came out of retirement in 1977 to campaign against Indira Gandhi, thus helping the Janata Party win the election that year. In 1979, she was appointed the Indian representative to the UN Human Rights Commission, after which she retired from public life. She died in 1990. Further information is available at Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopedia.com and in her memoir: The scope of happiness (see Internet Archive).

During her third and final term of imprisonment, Pandit kept a diary. This was first published in 1945 by The Signet Press (Calcutta) as Prison Days. Her preface in the book reads: ‘This little diary does not attempt to record all the events which took place during my last term of imprisonment. It was not written regularly and is of no special importance. But since the period from August 1942 onwards was enveloped in darkness and many people still have no idea what prison life means, this may help in giving a picture of the conditions prevailing in one of the better run jails of the United Provinces. The treatment given to me and to those who shared the barrack with me was, according to the prison standards, very lenient - the reader must not imagine that others were equally well treated. When the truth about that unhappy period is made known many grim stories will come to light, but that time is still far off. A few pages of the diary and some incidents have had to be omitted for obvious reasons. I offer this little book to those who are interested in understanding something of what goes on behind the prison gates.’ A copy of the original publication can be read online here. More recently, the diary has been reprinted by Speaking Tiger.

Here are several extracts (the first three available on the Speaking Tiger website, and the last two taken from the original Signet Press edition).

12 August 1942
‘I woke up with a start and switched on the light. Binda was standing at the foot of my bed. He told me the police had arrived and wished to see me. It was 2 a.m. My mind was a confused jumble of the events of the preceding twenty-four hours. The shots fired on the students’ procession were still ringing in my ears and before my eyes I could only see the faces of those young men whom I had helped to pick up and remove to hospital. I was utterly weary in mind and body and more than a little dazed.

The girls were asleep on the veranda and I did not wish to disturb them. Both Lekha and Tara had gone to bed exhausted after what they had been through the day before. They had seen sights which would not easily be effaced from their memory and were bewildered and unhappy.

I went out to the porch. The City Magistrate, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, and half a dozen armed policemen were standing waiting for me in the darkness. I switched on the light and was amazed to find the grounds full of plain-clothes men some of whom had actually come up on to the veranda. This annoyed me and very curtly I ordered them off into the garden before speaking to the City Magistrate. He was ill at ease and said he had a warrant for my arrest. ‘Why is it necessary for so many armed men to come to arrest one unarmed woman at this amazing hour?’ I asked. A search was also to take place, I was informed. I told them to go ahead with the search while I got ready for prison.’

15 August 1942
‘Food is an overrated subject. One realizes this most forcibly in jail. It is all right if one is in pleasant surroundings with the right people and the food is well cooked and well served. It is certainly possible to enjoy a meal in such a setting. But when one has to cook in the most primitive fashion and the heat is making one ill and the rations are mildewed, it is really a doubtful pleasure. I have decided to give it up and shall try to confine myself to bread and tea.

Prison tea has to be seen to be believed! My experience of tea is fairly varied, ranging from the exquisitely perfumed and delicate varieties that Madam Chiang sends me to the nondescript syrupy stuff one is obliged to swallow during election campaigns—but never have I seen or tasted anything like jail tea. I am convinced it is some special and very deadly variety of leaf grown for the poor unfortunates who are in prison. Not having any tea of my own I took this decoction once and nearly passed out. It would give me a tremendous thrill if I could make all jail officials live for one week on jail rations.’

18 August 1942
‘There is a new rule for political prisoners. We will not be permitted newspapers, letters, interviews or any article from home. Jail clothes will be provided. Our allowance will be reduced from twelve annas to nine annas per day.’

25 August 1942
‘Last night was very sultry and hot, but the yard was bathed in silver light all night. It is still hot and very muggy this morning and we seem to be in for a bad day. My head has ached ever since I got up and the throbbing is increasing inspite of the Aspro that I have taken. It is not going to be a very cheerful day for me, I’m afraid!’

11 September 1942
‘Half an hour after lock up yesterday there was a tremendous knocking at the outer gate and the matron came in excitedly announcing “Mrs Indira is here.” A minute later Indu followed by five other women came in. The others are Ram Kali Devi, Mahadevi Chaube, Lakshmibai Bapat and two young girls: Vidyavati and Govindi Devi. It appears that the women intended to have a meeting but before it could commence the police arrived and made an attempt to arrest Indu and some others who were there. There was a scuffle between the crowd and police. Indu was pulled about and bruised and had her clothes torn. Finally they were brought here. Feroz has also been arrested. There was great excitement in our barrack. Indu was put in here and the others in the barrack opposite. They talked excitedly for a long time after we had composed ourselves. Indu has no news of Bhai which is very disturbing. Bapu’s news, the little she had, was also not good.

Ranjit has been very unwell and could not leave Bombay He plans to spend ten days in Khali before returning to Allahabad. I am terribly worried about Ranjit. He wants such careful looking after.’

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Wastebasket of War

‘It’s true that I don’t know any cardinal state secrets, now that I’m serving at sea far from the center of government, but I’m sure it will be necessary to record frankly in my diary about matters of official business that won’t appear on official records, my opinions, my impressions, my speeches and actions, and my private matters, without regard to distinction, as they come into my mind day by day. This will be of some use to someone else in the future, because of my past guilt in bringing events to the state they’re in today, and because of my present post as chief of staff of the Combined Fleet that carries the burden of the welfare of the state. Accordingly, it will be appropriate to give this diary the name “Wastebasket of War” or, rather, “Seaweeds of War”. This is Matamo Ugaki - a Japanese admiral who died 75 years ago today in a kamikaze mission - writing about his reasons for starting a diary just two months before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour.

Ugaki was born in 1890 into a farming family in rural area of Okayama, western Japan. He graduated from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1912, was commissioned as ensign in 1913 and promoted to lieutenant in 1918. After graduating from the Naval Staff College he was promoted to lieutenant commander. He was a staff member of the Naval Gunnery School for three years, and was then appointed as a resident officer in Germany from 1928-1930 with the rank of commander. After promotion to captain, he was employed as an instructor at the Naval Staff College. In 1935, under Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, he was assigned as a staff officer to the Combined Fleet for a year before being given his first command: the cruiser Yakumo. The following year, he was given command of battleship Hyūga.

As the Pacific War broke out, Uhgaki became a key figure in the Japanese Navy as the Chief of Staff to Yamamoto. In April 1943, he was flying with Yamamoto in separate bombers but both got shot down. Yamamoto died while Ugaki survived, thereafter, though, blaming himself for Yamamoto’s death. The following year, he commanded the First Battleship Division in the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea. Near the end of the war, he was the commanding officer of the 5th Air Fleet, directing the kamikaze special attacks against Allied ships off Okinawa. 

On 15 August 1945, only hours after Emperor Hirohito had formally acknowledged defeat, and against the protest of his lieutenants, he donned a simple uniform without any rank insignia and flew a kamikaze mission. The Americans reported no successful kamikaze attacks that day, and thus it was assumed that Ugaki’s suicide mission ended in the sea. Ugaki was posthumously awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun. Further biographical information on Ugaki can be found at Wikipedia, World War II Database, Military History, Pacific Wrecks, and in Admirals of the World: A Biographical Dictionary, 1500 to the Present (Googlebooks).

1n 1991, the University of Pittsburgh Press published Ugaki’s diary: Fading Victory: The Diary of Ugaki Matome, 1941-1945, as translated by Masataka Chihaya, a former officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy. The title was re-issued in 2008 by the Naval Institute Press (see Amazon). The publisher says: ‘[The diary is] invaluable for its details of the Japanese navy at war, [. . .] augmented by editorial commentary that proves especially useful to American readers eager to see the war from the other side. When first published . . .  this diary was hailed as a major contribution to World War II literature as the only firsthand account of strategic planning for the entire war by a Japanese commander.’

It is explained in the book that members of Ugaki’s family preserved the diary after the war. The Etajima Museum of Naval History holds 13 of the original 15 volumes (always, apparently, written by Ugaki in a room dedicated to the Kamikaze Special Attack Forces). The volume covering the first three months of 1943 was lost after the war, and permission to use the diary entries for April 1943 to February 1944 (when Ugaki was convalescing after being shot down) was refused by his son Hiromitsu.

As a preface to his diary Matome wrote: ‘It’s true that I don’t know any cardinal state secrets, now that I’m serving at sea far from the center of government, but I’m sure it will be necessary to record frankly in my diary about matters of official business that won’t appear on official records, my opinions, my impressions, my speeches and actions, and my private matters, without regard to distinction, as they come into my mind day by day. This will be of some use to someone else in the future, because of my past guilt in bringing events to the state they’re in today, and because of my present post as chief of staff of the Combined Fleet that carries the burden of the welfare of the state. Accordingly, it will be appropriate to give this diary the name “Wastebasket of War” or, rather, “Seaweeds of War”.

Pacific Wrecks has one review of the diary, and the Kamikaze Images website another. The author of the latter explains that, generally, Matome focuses on the course of the war - with many entries summarising battle details. The website provides the following as a typical example of an uneventful day:

13 May 1944
‘Partly fair. We crossed toward the Shinnan islands and the north of Borneo. At 1830 we entered Balabac Channel. We sailed in a long line of columns. On the first day, two reconnaissance seaplanes cooperated with us in guarding from Singapore. Yesterday we didn’t dispatch any of our own aircraft. Apart from the extent to which it could help us, I was pleased to see they have come to cooperate with us at sea. After passing through the Balabac main channel, we took the northerly course, avoiding shoals. Fleet training wasn’t executed today. The sensitivity of enemy submarines' telephones has become stronger after entering the Sulu Sea.’

However, Matamo does, sometimes, include personal details in his diary, and the author of the Kamikaze Images review provides a summary of this personal content:

‘Although his wife Tomoko passed away in 1940, he remembers her fondly, especially on each anniversary of her death. On April 26, 1944, Ugaki writes (p. 364), “Today is the day on which four years ago the death of Tomoko, my wife, took place. Early in the morning I prayed for her happiness and told her spirit of my determination. It’s my firm belief that I owe her soul a great deal for my being able to do my duty today like this.” Ugaki also writes as a proud father about his son Hiromitsu, who was appointed as a naval medical officer in January 1945. Some diary entries briefly mention Ugaki’s pastimes, mainly hunting and poetry writing. Many poems he wrote in his original diary have not been included in this English translation, but a translated poem about special attack forces poignantly expresses Ugaki’s feelings toward the young men who died in suicide attacks. A few comments mention his personal health, including continuing problems with his teeth that sometimes cause him great pain. Just one week prior to the end of the war, he visits the hospital to get a crown for a tooth.’

Finally, it is worth noting that one of Ugaki’s diary entries - his last - is widely referred to in biographies. Wikipedia, for example, mentions it: ‘Ugaki made a last entry in his diary noting that he had not yet received an official cease-fire order, and that as he alone was to blame for the failure of his valiant aviators to stop the enemy, he would fly one last mission himself to show the true spirit of bushido [Samurai moral values]. HistoryNet has more on the diary and Ugaki’s final kamikaze mission.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The pithy diary of a saint

John Henry Newman, born 130 years ago today, was a key figure in the Oxford movement, and is a recently canonised saint in the Catholic Church. His collected letters and diaries have been published in 33 volumes, but his letters - voluminous and literary - are the stars of these tomes, not his diary entries which are rarely longer than a word or two.

Newman was born in London in 1801, the eldest of six children. He was educated at Great Ealing School where he converted to evangelical Christianity, and Trinity College, Oxford. After graduating, he took on private pupils while reading for a fellowship at Oriel College - being elected a fellow in 1822. He was ordained a priest in 1825, and became curate at St Clement’s Church, Oxford. The following year, he returned to tutor at Oriel, the same year as Richard Hurrell Froude. It was under the influence of Robert Froude (Richard’s father) and the clergyman John Keble that Newman became a committed High Churchman. In 1833, he was one of the main figures in the new Oxford movement, writing tracts and publishing books, aimed at promoting High Church elements within the Church of England.

As Newman’s influence in Oxford and within the Church of England was peaking, he encountered significant opposition. When his Tract 90 was denounced, doubts set in, and he lost confidence. In particular he retracted previously published criticisms of Catholicism. In 1843, he resigned his living at St Mary’s and retired to a village, Littlemore, outside Oxford. There, with a number of followers, he lived in a quasi monastic way. In autumn 1845, he was received into the Catholic Church, a move which led to breaks with friends and family alike. The following year, he went to Rome where he was ordained priest and awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity by Pope Pius IX. In late 1847, he returned to England as an Oratorian (member of a select society of Catholic priests). He founded the Oratory at Birmingham in 1848. After living in various places, he eventually settled at Edgbaston, where spacious premises were built for the community, and where he would live a relatively secluded life for most of the next forty years.

Although celibate, Newman had intense life-long relationships, especially with Froude and Ambrose St John. Some biographers consider these may have been homosexual, at least emotionally if not physically. In 1854, at the request of Irish Catholic bishops, Newman went to Dublin as rector of the newly established Catholic University of Ireland, now University College, Dublin. There, he founded the Literary and Historical Society. After four years, he retired, and published a volume of lectures entitled The Idea of a University, explaining his philosophy of education. In the mid-1860s, Newman published an autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua (freely available online at Internet Archive). A number of projects he was asked to lead or support seemed to come to nothing, and at one stage he was suspected of doctrinal unorthodoxy. However, in 1879, he was created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in recognition of his services to the cause of the Catholic Church in England. He died on 11 August 1890. 

Nearly 130 years later, in October 2019, Newman was canonised by Pope Francis. Further information on Newman is available from The Oratories of England, The London Oratory, The Oxford Oratory, the BBC, Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Newman Reader.

Newman kept a diary more or less continuously from 1824 to 1879, however most entries are pithy, consisting of a few words, and lack punctuation. Over half a century, they have been published by Oxford University Press in 33 volumes as The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman. Personally, I have only examined a handful of volumes, but in these it is Newman’s letters that take up the bulk of the space, 95% or more. Some volumes can be previewed at Googlebooks, and some borrowed for an hour from Internet Archive. The following extracts are taken Volume XXVI - Aftermaths (January 1872 to December 1873) with notes and an introduction by Charles Stephen Dessain and Thomas Gornall (1974). 

21 February 1872 
‘Ambrose sang Mass - went over with him to Rednall and planted Mulberry and Nuts.’

18 June 1872
‘bad thunderstorm and profuse rain’

19 June 1872
‘dark - rain - thunder’

20 January 1873
‘Snow    went to Derby    heavy snow’

21 January 1873
‘thawing    returned to Oratory’

22 January 1873
‘much rain    Pusey ill’

24 January 1873
‘Hurrell Froude came’

16 February 1873
‘a bad cold at this time’

10 September 1873 
‘returned to the Oratory’

11 September 1873
‘Aubrey de Vere came’

12 September 1873
‘de Vere went’

2 October 1873 
‘went with Ambrose and preached at the opening of the Olton Seminary’

See also Descended from a bishop.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Revolutionary, prime minister, author

Volodymyr Vynnychenko, a key figure in the early 20th century history of Ukraine, was born 140 years ago today. However, after failing to win independence from Russia for his country, he remained permanently in exile and focused on his writing career, producing many successful novels, plays and short stories. He also kept a detailed diary all his adult life - to date some five volumes have been published.
Vynnychenko was burn on 28 July 1880 in what is now central Ukraine but was then part of the Russian Empire. His father, once a peasant, married his mother, a widow with three children. In 1900, he enrolled in Kiev University, and the same year he joined the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party. Within a year or two, though, he was expelled from the university for taking part in revolutionary activities. During the years leading up to the First World War, he fled abroad many times to avoid arrest (though spent a year in prison at one point), returning clandestinely to continue his revolutionary activities. In 1911 he married Rosalia Lifshitz, a French Jewish doctor. He was a member of the executive committee of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers’ party (USDRP) and editor of its journal Borot’ba. During the war he lived in Moscow illegally, returning to Ukraine in 1917 to become a prominent leader in the struggle for independence. 
Vynnychenko was vice-president of the Central Rada (formed as a governing council for Ukraine) and was the first president of the general secretariat. He then headed the opposition Ukrainian National Union and the Directorate of the Ukrainian National Republic before the independence movement was crushed by the Soviets. Thereafter, in exile again, he organised the Ukrainian Communist Party and began to negotiate with the Soviet authorities for an independent Ukrainian socialist state. He was offered high-level posts in the Soviet Ukrainian government but, ultimately, efforts to attain an independent state failed. He returned to exile, first in Germany then France, focusing on his literary career - he had been publishing short stories since his student years. He produced many novels and plays, some of which were translated and performed across Europe. He also published a memoir, Rebirth of a Nation. A many-volume edition of his works was published in the 1920s, but, subsequently and until the 1980s, his works were forbidden in Ukraine. He died in 1951. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, and in the Encyclopedia of Nationalism (edited by Alexander J. Motyl and available for preview at Googlebooks).
Vynnychenko was a dedicated diarist, starting in 1911 and continuing throughout his life. To date, five volumes of his diaries have been published (in Ukrainian) by the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press: vol 1 (1911-20); 2 (1921-25); 3 (1926-28), 4 (1929-31) and 5 (1932-36), all edited and with annotations by Hryhorii Kostiuk). Some references to the diary can be found in the English-language, Faces of Displacement: The Writings of Volodymyr Vynnychenko by Mykola Soroka (McGill-Queen’s Press, 2012).
Of volume 4 of the diaries, the publisher says: [This] is an excellent primary source for the study of the life and thought of this major Ukrainian figure as well as of the cultural climate of Eastern and Western Europe from 1929 to 1931. Living in exile in France, Vynnychenko recorded his interaction with West European cultural figures, as well as his relations with the Ukrainian intelligentsia and émigré politicians. This volume contains many of his theories and musings on political, cultural, and philosophical issues. In particular, Vynnychenko comments extensively on the growing Stalinist repressions in the Ukrainian SSR and on the global economic crisis. This unique document, full of intimate reflections, political visions, and philosophical and psychological contemplations, will be of interest to a broad audience concerned with Ukrainian and world literature, culture, and history.’ A review of the same volume can be found in the January 2015 edition of East/West Journal of Ukrainian Studies (available online at ResearchGate). 
I have been unable to find any extracts translated into English and I have, therefore, chosen at random two extracts in Ukrainian from volume 1, scanned them with an OCR programme, and then translated them into English using Google’s automatic translation facility. The resulting text is surprisingly readable, though, of course, I cannot vouch for its accuracy.
25 May 1918
‘It is necessary to read Ukrainian history with bromine - before that it is one of unhappy, senseless, helpless stories, before that it is painful, annoying, bitter, sad to reread how an unhappy, obsessed, shabby nation did only that during all time of the state (or rather: semi-state) existence, which gnawed on all sides: from the Poles, Russians, Tatars, Swedes. The whole history is a series, an uninterrupted, continuous series of uprisings, wars, fires, famines, raids, military coups, intrigues, quarrels, undermining. Isn’t that the same thing happening now? They just wanted to live a state life, as the old story begins: Moscow is full of energy and does not want to let go. On the other hand, Poland is already standing, having prepared legions. The stronger one came, drove Moscow away, pushed the Poles away, and grabbed him by the throat and squeezed everything he could. The fourth, Austria, also sucked in from the side.’
23 June 1920
‘Surprisingly, when it seemed to them that I had agreed to what they liked, I was immediately given a car and even a separate train to move to Kharkiv. When it turned out that they were wrong, that I was standing on my own, so there is not even a place in a regular train. We have to beg to be allowed to leave. “All-Ukrainian Starost” Petrovsky has a separate car, cook, salon, etc. He promised to take me with him. But. It turns out that there is no place for me in his car, he recruited “specialists” for Ukraine from here. need not be.
And again we have to state that we were there in Vienna, extremely naive. Here people are such lonely people as everywhere. The worker Petrovsky, a communist and revolutionary, also sees the greatest value of life in saloon cars, cars, telephones and trifles ... [This sentence is interrupted].’

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Cannon out of the River

‘Went on the Ice about 8 o’clock in the morning & proceeded so cautiously that before night we got over three sleds & were so lucky as to get the Cannon out of the River. . .’ This is from a short diary kept by Henry Knox, born 270 years ago today and the youngest major general in the Continental Army under George Washington. He kept the journal while trekking 300 miles to Fort Ticonderoga and then back to Boston dragging captured cannon - artillery which gave the revolutionaries a decisive advantage over the British.
Knox was born on 25 July 1750 in Boston, Massachusetts, into a large family of pioneers from Northern Ireland. His father was a shipbuilder who ran into financial difficulties and died young. Knox was obliged to leave school aged nine to become a clerk in a bookstore to help support the family. He profited from access to books by teaching himself French, maths and philosophy. In 1770, he was a witness to the Boston Massacre, and testified at the trials of the accused soldiers. The following year he opened his own bookshop, which allowed him to pursue his interests in history, military matters and especially artillery. In 1772, he became a member of the Boston Grenadier Corps, a local militia group opposing British authority. In 1774, he married Lucy Flucker, against the wishes of her father, a Boston loyalist. They would have 13 children, although only one son survived to adulthood.
In 1775, Knox served under General Artemas Ward during the siege of Boston. During the winter, he trekked from Fort Ticonderoga to bring captured British artillery back to Boston - arms which proved crucial in controlling the city. When Washington arrived to take command of the Continental Army, Knox was commissioned a colonel and placed in charge of artillery. In 1777, while the army was in winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey, he returned to Massachusetts to improve the Army’s artillery manufacturing capability. He raised an additional battalion of artillerymen and established an arsenal at Springfield, Massachusetts, before returning to the main army in the spring.
In the Philadelphia campaign, Knox, by then a brigadier general, distinguished himself in commanding the artillery at Monmouth, New Jersey, and later at the decisive Siege of Yorktown in 1781. He was made a major general; and at the end of the war, he succeeded Washington as commander of the army. Knox resigned his command early in 1784 and returned to Boston. The following year he was made secretary of war in the government under the Articles of Confederation and retained the position in President Washington’s first cabinet. As such, he was responsible for implementing early policies toward Native Americans, and managing the conflicts with them. He believed that Indian nations were sovereign and possessed the land they occupied, though his views had little impact on future government policy.
Knox retired to a large estate at Thomaston, Maine, in 1795, where he involved himself in all kinds of business, including cattle farming, ship building, and real estate speculation. He was made a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1805. He died the following year, aged only 56, and was buried with full military honours. Many towns and counties as well as two forts are named after him. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, Historic Valley Force, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Knox Museum or New World Encyclopaedia.
Knox’s grandson, rear-admiral Henry Knox, presented, in the 19th century, a collection of his grandfather’s manuscripts to the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Within this collection is a short diary kept by Knox during his expedition to and from Ticonderoga. The edited text of this diary can found in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 30 (see Googlebooks). Images of all 30 pages of the original manuscript with exact transcriptions can also be found at the Online Collections website of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Here are a few extracts.
8 January 1776 
‘Went on the Ice about 8 o’clock in the morning & proceeded so cautiously that before night we got over three sleds & were so lucky as to get the Cannon out of the River, owing to the assistance the good people of the City of Albany gave, in return for which we christen’d her - The Albany.’
9 January 1776
‘Got several spare slays also some spare string of horses, in case of any accident. After taking my leave of General Schuyler & some other of my friends in Albany, I sat out from there about twelve o’clock & went as far as Claverac, about 9 Miles beyond Kinderhook. I first saw all the Cannon set out from the ferry opposite Albany.’
10 January 1776
‘Reach’d No. 1, after having climb’d mountains from which we might almost have seen all the Kingdoms of the Earth.’
11 January 1776
‘Went 12 miles thro’ the Green Woods to Blanford. It appear’d to me almost a miracle that people with heavy loads should be able to get up & down such Hills as are here, with any thing of heavy loads. 
At Blanford we overtook the first division who had tarried here untill we came up, and refus’d going any further, on acco[unt] that there was no snow beyond five or six miles further in which space there was the tremendous Glasgow or Westfield mountain to go down. But after about three hours persuasion, I hiring two teams of oxen, they agreed to go.’

Friday, July 24, 2020

Scott’s literary property

Zelda Fitzgerald, wife and muse of the great American novelist, Scott Fitzgerald, was born 120 years ago today. The couple married young, and their wild and extravagant New York lifestyle, on the back of Scott’s early publishing success, came to epitomise the so-called Jazz Age. By the age of 30, Zelda was already suffering from mental problems from which she suffered for the rest of her life. It was Nancy Milford, in her 1970 biography of Zelda, who first revealed the extent to which Scott plagiarised Zelda’s diaries. When an editor offered to publish Zelda’s diaries, she reveals, Scott vetoed the idea - Zelda apparently offered no resistance to the rather high-handed refusal, ‘and the diaries remained Scott’s literary property rather than hers.’

The youngest of six children Zelda Sayre was born into a prominent Southern family in Montgomery, Alabama, on 24 July 1900. Her father was a justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, and one of her grandfathers had been a senator. Aged 14, she attended Sidney Lanier High School. An active member of the local youth scene, she was more interested in dancing and boys than education - indeed she developed an extrovert, flamboyant personality. In 1918, she met the future novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was some four years older than herself.
After an intense courtship, Zelda agreed to marry him as soon as his first novel - This Side of Paradise - was published; and she did in spring 1920. They settled in New York, living an extravagant lifestyle, and becoming celebrities, so-called chroniclers of the Jazz Age (Encyclopaedia Britannica). The following year, when she fell pregnant, they moved to Scott’s home in St. Paul, Minnesota. Their only child, Frances, was born in 1921. Zelda began contributing articles and short stories to magazines, and helping her husband with a play, but they were running up large debts.
In 1924, the couple relocated to Antibes on France’s south coast, and Scott set about completing what would be published as The Great Gatsby. Through the second half of the 1920s, the marriage became more strained, and Zelda had an affair with a French pilot. Around 1927, she became re-obsessed with ballet, taking up a gruelling routine of exercise, and eventually being invited to join an opera ballet company in Naples. However, she declined the offer, and subsequently had a breakdown spending time in Swiss sanatoriums. In late 1931, the couple returned to Montgomery, Alabama, where her judge father was dying. Scott left for Hollywood, and Zelda was admitted to Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in Baltimore. This is where she wrote her only novel, Save Me the Waltz, a largely autobiographical version of her troubled marriage. It did not sell well, and she turned to painting.

Scott published Tender Is the Night in 1934, nearly 10 years after finishing his last novel, but by this time, the couple were greatly in debt. Scott was struggling with alcoholism, and Zelda was in and out of health clinics. In 1940, Scott died of a heart attack, and in 1948 Zelda died in a fire (one of nine) at Highland Hospital. Further information is readily available online at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, Wikipedia, and Biography.com.

Some 20 years after her death Nancy Milford’s biography - Zelda - was published by Harper & Row (1970) - this can be read online here. Milford portrayed her as a symbol of thwarted artistry, constantly  frustrated in her attempts to establish herself as an artist in her own right, and thus exemplifying the struggle women faced more generally in finding outlets and acceptance for their creativity. In particular, Milford uncovered a theme, through the first half of Zelda’s life with Scott, concerning the way he regularly plagiarised Zelda’s diaries for his own novels, treating her writing as if he owned it. There’s no trace today of Zelda’s diaries, other than in extracts from Scott’s novels. But here is some of what Milford had to say about the diaries.

‘Soon they were alone together whenever he could borrow a car; they drank gin and kissed in the back rows of the Grand Theatre during the vaudeville shows; and Zelda showed him a diary she kept which Scott found so extraordinary that he was to use portions of it in his fiction, in This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, and The Jelly Bean.’

***
‘The only other written record that Zelda had kept up to this point in her life was her diary. And that apparently was lost or destroyed a long time ago. Scott had taken it with him to New York and showed it to at least one friend of his that spring, who said that it was “a very human document, but somehow I cannot altogether understand it.” ’

***
‘George Jean Nathan, who with Mencken edited The Smart Set, which had first published Scott, began to visit them frequently during the summer. An urbane and witty bachelor, Nathan quickly took to Zelda and began a flirtation that consisted of teasing Scott and writing gay notes to Zelda facetiously signed “Yours, for the Empire, A Prisoner of Zelda.” [. . .]

During one of his weekends in Westport he had discovered her diaries. “They interested me so greatly that in my capacity as a magazine editor I later made her an offer for them. When I informed her husband, he said that he could not permit me to publish them since he had gained a lot of inspiration from them and wanted to use parts of them in his own novels and short stories, as for example The Jelly Bean.’ Zelda apparently offered no resistance to this rather high-handed refusal of Nathan’s offer, and the diaries remained Scott’s literary property rather than hers.’

***
‘While the Fitzgeralds were in New York at the Plaza, Burton Rascoe wrote to Zelda asking her to review The Beautiful and Damned. He had just begun a book department for the New York Tribune and wanted to include pieces that would add sparkle to his new venture. “I think if you could view it, or pretend to view it, objectively and get in a rub here and there it would cause a great deal of comment.” It would also help the sales of the book, he thought. Zelda accepted his challenge and wrote the review under her maiden name. It was her first published piece since high school.

The tone of the review was self-conscious as Zelda indulged in light mockery: she asked the reader to buy Scott’s book for a number of “aesthetic” reasons, which included her own desire for a dress in cloth of gold and a platinum ring. She humorously evoked a vision of herself as the author’s greedy and self-centered wife, and she saw the book as a manual of contemporary etiquette, an indispensable guide to interior decorating -and in Gloria’s adventures an example of how not to behave. About Anthony she said nothing at all; it was Gloria who dominated her attention. Zelda did not try to conceal the parallels between Gloria and herself:

It also seems to me that on one page I recognized a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters, which, though considerably edited, sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald - I believe that is how he spells his name - seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.

We cannot know to what extent Scott used Zelda’s diary but we have her word for it (as well as George Jean Nathan’s) that he did. One such portion from the novel, called “The Diary,” reads:

April 24th—I want to marry Anthony, because husbands are so often “husbands” and I must marry a lover…

What grubworms women are to crawl on their bellies through colorless marriages! Marriage was created not to be a background but to need one. Mine is going to be outstanding. It can’t, shan’t be the setting - it’s going to be the performance, the live, lovely, glamorous performance, and the world shall be the scenery. I refuse to dedicate my life to posterity. Surely one owes as much to the current generation as to one’s unwanted children. What a fate - to grow rotund and unseemly, to lose my self-love.…

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A real companion and friend

It’s 70 years to the day since William Lyon Mackenzie King died. He was one of the leading Canadian politicians of the 20th century, having been prime minister for over 20 years. He was also a very committed diarist, writing, or dictating, detailed entries for most of his life up until a couple of days before his death. All of King’s prolific diary output is freely available online thanks to Library and Archives Canada.

King was born in Berlin (later renamed Kitchener), Ontario, in 1874. His maternal grandfather, William Lyon Mackenzie, led the 1837 Rebellion in Upper Canada. King studied at the University of Toronto, the University of Chicago and at Harvard before entering the civil service. He joined the Liberal Party and won a seat in the 1908 election. The following year, he was appointed Minister of Labour in Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Cabinet. After losing his seat in 1911, he worked as a consultant for a while before, in 1919, being elected leader of his party.

Two years later, in 1921, the Liberals won a general election, and then won again in 1925 and 1926, before losing power in 1930. However, King was re-elected in 1935 and led Canada through the Second World War, benefitting from strong relationships with both Roosevelt and Churchill. He died less than two years after retiring,  on 22 July 1950. Much more biographical information is available online, at Library and Archives Canada, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, and, of course, Wikipedia.

Although King was a prolific correspondent and the author of numerous books and articles, by far his most important literary project - according to Library and Archives Canada - was the ongoing, daily writing of his diary, which began in 1893, while he was an undergraduate, and ended in 1950, a few days before his death. Taken together, the diary texts comprise nearly 30,000 pages (more than seven million words) and arguably represents one of Canada’s greatest literary achievements.

King explained his original purpose in writing a diary in the very first entry (6 September 1893): ‘This diary is to contain a very brief sketch of the events, actions, feelings, and thoughts of my daily life. It must above all be a true and faithful account. The chief object of my keeping this diary is that I may be ashamed to let even one day have nothing worthy of its showing, and it is hoped that through its pages the reader may be able to trace how the author has sought to improve his time. Another object must here be mentioned and is this, the writer hopes that in future days - be they far or near - he may find great pleasure both for himself and friends in the remembrance of events recorded, surrounded as they must be, by many an unwritten association. If either aim is reached this present diary will not have been in vain.’

According to an online exhibition hosted by Library and Archives Canada, by 1902 King’s diary had taken an additional role in his life - ‘as a confidant, a friend with whom he could share his innermost thoughts and feelings’. Shortly after the death of a friend he wrote, ‘I am taking up this diary again as a means of keeping me true to my true purpose . . . it has helped to clear me in my thought and convictions, and it has been a real companion and friend.’ King also used the diary to give himself advice (to do better, to work harder), and to berate himself (for gaining weight, for example, or wasting time at parties). Furthermore, for King, the writing of the diary was a duty, an exercise in self-discipline. In the early years, it was common for him to put aside the diary for several days or even months, but in later years it was very rare that he missed a day. He felt remorse whenever he failed to keep it up.

All of King’s diaries are online at Library and Archives Canada! Here are a couple of extracts - two connected with Shirley Temple (for no other reason than that they go with a fine out-of-copyright photograph of the two of them taken on the same day as the second extract), and the third is the very last diary entry King made a few days before he died.

17 August 1937
‘. . . The Coronation pictures were followed by Shirley Temple in Wee Willie Winkle - what I saw of the child rather annoyed than pleased me, a precociousness & forwardness, etc. however, as the play went on she ‘improved’ - there were bits that were quite lovely - a fine little actress, - but one feels it is a mistake so to raise children. . .’

21 October 1944
‘Arrived at the Parliament Buildings at noon had a really interesting afternoon as a consequence. In the Railway Committee room met Shirley Temple, her mother and father, and some of the repatriated boys. . . I was greatly attracted by Shirley Temple - a young girl of great charm, very pretty, very natural; I liked her father and mother, both of whom were quiet, pleasant people. . . I have seldom found anyone more natural than Shirley Temple was, or quicker to adapt herself to every situation. We walked out together to the platform facing Parliament Hill and I sat to her right, and St Laurent to her left. It was quite interesting to watch her methods to rouse the boys to cheer. Very self-possessed, full of joyous freedom and expression in every way. . .

After the proceedings we had a very exciting time. I walked with her to the car, allowed her father and mother to get in, and sat on a small seat myself. We were not more than started when crowds gathered in front of the car and on all sides. It was such that it was impossible for us to move. This kept up all the way to the hotel. Police arrangements not good. . . I expected to find it easy once in the hotel, but there the situation was worse than ever. There was no police, except a big man, who had gone in first and another who joined in later. The Chateau was crowded with children. Young people squeezed in around us. Shirley’s father and I tried to protect her but Mrs Temple got lost in the crowd to one side. To my amazement we had to crash through all the way, to one of elevator doors, leaving Mrs Temple behind. . .

When we came up together everyone was pretty well fatigued. I found my heart beating very fast, and finding it difficult to get my breath. I had not realised how considerable the strain had been. I was really fearful at one stage that the little girl would be crushed. Certainly, if anyone had slipped there would have been a terrible situation. It was quite shocking, having no police, and to have to have let the crowds indoors. I literally had to carry her along from the front door through the gathering to the elevator.’

19 July 1950
‘Last night was a very unfortunate night. I went soundly to sleep almost at once, but wakened because of conditions in the room, too cold, etc. Got nurse to arrange things. Took usual morphine injection about one. Found the room very cold around five past five. The nurse had left the window open, and the temperature had changed. I called to her many times. Put on the light, etc. and finally had to go to her room to come to straighten things in my room. She was saying over and over again that she was sorry. As far as I could see, she was enjoying a meal on her bed, when I looked into the room, she also said she had been writing. It was very disappointing as it was from that time that I found my breathing heavy, and had a broken night’s sleep instead of one of the best I should have had. John brought tea at seven, but again my sleep was broken until ten. I could not get properly rested. At one stage he came to change my gowns . . . I had a new drug this morning . . . Got through a little dictation with Lafleur both before and after luncheon. I really should have gone into the sun at three, but was very tired, and feeling weary, went to bed instead. Evidently this was wise as I slept very soundly until quarter to seven - almost three hours. . . I regret having missed the out-of-doors for a walk through the day. When it came to getting up for dinner, found myself alone to give me clothing part of which had been taken away. Lafleur came to the rescure. I got what was needed and later signed letters. Then, went downstairs for dinner, at quarter to eight, dictating diary to date. Very very sorry to have kept Lafleur all that time.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 22 July 2010.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Pen & Sword diaries

A newly published diary from Pen & Sword Books tells the story of Anthony Barne, a young soldier who started the Second World War as a captain in the Royal Dragoons and ended it as a confidant of Winston Churchill and a commanding officer of the 4th Hussars. According to the publisher, the diary is witty, outrageous but also poignant and philosophical. First World War diaries from Pen & Sword Books include Herbert Suzbach’s With the German Guns and Mabel Goode’s The Lengthening War.
Barne was born in 1906 at the family home, Sotterley Hall, one of four children. Aged 13, he had hoped to join the Navy but instead studied at Marlborough College before joining the army. He thrived at Sandhurst, excelling in horsemanship. On leaving, he joined the Royal Dragoons, a cavalry regiment, which departed for Egypt in 1927 then relocated to India for several years. There, at a polo match, he met Cara Holmes-Hunt who came from Melbourne and was spending a ‘season’ in India. The regiment was finally returning to England when, with the Italians mobilising in Africa, it was suddenly ordered to Egypt again. 
Barne, on leave, married Cara in England in 1937, and she joined him in Cairo, until moving to Rhodesia during the war years. Barne had an active war, being present at the battle of El Alamein, and eventually joining Churchill’s regiment, the 4th Hussars. During his two periods of command, the Royal Dragoons won two battle honours, and the 4th Hussars won eight. He was awarded the OBE. He remained in the army until 1953, stationed at various bases around England. His final posting was in Dorset, and this led him to buy a farm in the county at Culeaze, where he lived happily with Cara and their one son, Christopher. Barne died in 1996  
Charles Barne - Christopher’s son and Anthony Barne’s grandson - found his grandfathers diaries when clearing out their house. He transcribed and edited them for publication, in 2019, by Pen & Sword Books as Churchill’s Colonel: The War Diaries of Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Barne. Some pages may be previewed at Amazon
From the publisher’s blurb: ‘He wrote an entry for every day of the war, often with great difficulty, sometimes when dog-tired or under fire, and sometimes when things looked black and desperate, but more often in sunshine and optimism, surrounded by good fellows who kept one cheerful and helped one through the sad and difficult times. His diary ends in July 1945, by which time he was commanding officer of the 4th Hussars, having recently visited Downing Street for lunch alone with the Churchills. The diaries have an enormous scope covering time in Palestine and Egypt before he joins the Eighth Army, describing the retreat back to El Alamein, the battle and its aftermath. He ends the campaign commanding his regiment. He often graphically details the physical realities of war: the appalling conditions in the desert, the bombardments of the regiment from the air, the deaths and serious injuries of fellow soldiers. In 1943, he flies down to Rhodesia to see his wife and infant son before returning to Cairo to join Churchill’s regiment, the 4th Hussars. Arriving in Italy in 1944, he recounts the campaign as the Allies push north. The tone of the diaries varies wildly: often witty, sometimes outrageous but also poignant and philosophical. The voice and attitudes are entertainingly dated, but are delivered with warmth, a charming turn of phrase and a keen eye for the absurd.’ Here are two extracts from Barne’s diary.
28 September 1944
‘It rained heavily again in the night giving Kesselring a chance to recover himself. It means our tanks will be bogged down where they stand for several days I fear. I may even find them where I left them when I escape from here.
Jack White appears in the afternoon. He has worms and feels it is a good chance to be cured. It is gratifying to know I’m missing nothing but this vile weather.
Perhaps jaundice is getting me down but I truly believe we are unlikely to get the war finished this autumn and if that is so then it may well drag into next summer. What a dreary prospect. I must review my plans for the future.
8 April 1945
‘A cold, windy morning. I talk to each squadron in turn during the course of the day regarding the forthcoming battle. Each talk takes over an hour and there’s half an hour of driving between three of them. One talk is in a schoolroom, one behind a haystack and others in farmyards out of the wind.
We also have to move RHQ and have two conferences. My bus moves up while I am out so the moment I come in I can sit straight down and get the paperwork dealt with. With no increased staff I am directly working with three divisions and my own tank strength is about that of a brigade. Thank goodness the office staff are most capable, helpful and friendly.’
***
Among its many other war titles, Pen & Sword Books offers several diaries. Mabel Goode was born in 1872 in Derby to a well-off family, the youngest of three. Her father was a doctor and a mayor of Derby. Her mother died when Mabel was but six months, and her father married Emma in 1874. When her father died in 1879, it was Emma that was left to bring up her step-children, which she did in a suburb of Heidleberg, Germany, The family returned to England in 1887 when Mabel’s elder brother Stuart wanted to join the army. They lived in Kensington, London. The family took on a new servant, Price, who would go on to serve Mabel for forty years (and be one of her closest relationships - since she never married). In 1895, Mabel entered The Slade School of Fine Art. In the mid-1900s, the family moved to York, where Mabel’s other brother, Henry, had bought a practice. After the war, Henry married, and Mabel bought two properties in the Lake District, one where she lived for the rest of her life (with Price), and the other for renting out to provide an income. She spent much time painting (selling her work), and travelled often to Italy in the winter. She died in 1954.
The Lengthening War: The Great War Diaries of Mabel Goode (2016) was compiled by Henry’s great grandson (having found the diary in the bottom of a ‘dusty trunk). Mabel’s actual diary takes up some 70 of the 200 pages, with other chapters providing much historical and biographical context as well as photographs. According to Pen & Sword: ‘The diary shows us how the war came to the Home Front, from enrolment, rationing, the collapse of domestic service and growth of war work, to Zeppelin attacks over Yorkshire, and the ever mounting casualty lists. Above all else, Mabel’s diary captures a growing disillusionment with a lengthening war, as the costs and the sacrifices mount. Starting with great excitement and expecting a short struggle, the entries gradually give way to a more critical tone, and eventually to total disengagement.’ In fact, although there are glimpses of her home life and the people around her, most of the entries, and the bulk of most entries, are reports of news about the war. The book can be previewed at Googlebooks. Here is one example.
6 June 1915
‘The news from the Eastern side of the theatre of war has been very bad this week. Przemysl has been recaptured by the Germans & Austrians & they are pressing on towards Lemberg. This setback of the brave Russians is entirely due to the superior artillery, especially big guns & great supplies of ammunition of the Germans. They fired 200,000 shells in 2 hours! The Russians admit that they will for the present be obliged to act on the defensive until England can supply them with munitions & it is feared that the Germans will move large numbers of their victorious troops from the East to the West & the great guns & try to break through the English & French lines, leaving only sufficient troops to hold the Russians in check. It seems most probable & a serious outlook for us, as our supply of high explosive shells is admittedly insufficient. I fear it will very much prolong the war & cause terrible loss of valuable lives, all alas! our best. Conscription has not been brought in even now, & all the slackers & shirkers are allowed to stay at home. Lloyd George says they have sufficient men at present for the equipment which is ready for them. He has been speaking in Manchester to rouse up masters & men to do their best possible work in making shells & munitions.
Stuart is still at Dovercourt.
I heard from Henry last on Wednesday.’
***
Finally, Pen & Sword Books has also re-issued With the German Guns: Four years on the western front by Herbert Sulzbach. ‘At once harrowing and light-hearted,’ the publisher says, ‘Sulzbach’s exceptional diary has been highly praised since its original publication in Germany in 1935. With the reprint of this classic account of trench warfare it records the pride and exhilaration of what to him was the fight for a just cause. It is one of the very few available records of an ordinary German soldier during the First World War.’ The edition contains a short memoir of Sulzbach by Terence Prittie, and a note from the translator (Richard Thonger), but no index nor annotations. The book can be previewed at Googlebooks. Here are two extracts
29 December 1914 
‘I am given orders to ride to St Morel with Lance-Sergeant Debler. I take Lance-Sergeant Lauer’s horse and we ride off on the two little Arabs, across fields to Granddeuil. Nothing but mud. Lance-Sergeant Debler had business with the Captain, while I waited outside. We made our way back as night was falling, and it was very hard indeed to find one’s way.
In the evening I was on guard duty.
We receive our first mail in this position - that is, we have to fetch it ourselves from the rear by limber, which is a dreadfully difficult operation, with the vehicle and horses practically sunk in the mud. After these few days we really look like pigs. The fire gets heavier, it’s developing into an artillery battle, what they call a ‘gunners’ duel’.’
21 January 1915
‘I receive another special order, pick one of the little Arab horses and ride to the Battery. It’s 6 a.m., still pitch dark, and you can only just find your way about. From the Battery I get an order to proceed to the Battalion Staff, lying this side of some high ground only 100 metres behind the front trenches. Since this high ground lies in front of the enemy trenches, I can ride towards the front without being seen by the French; but a hellish burst of fire starts up, and small-arms and artillery fire compete with each other in making things hot for me. I’m as hoarse as a crow and can’t speak a word. I get my orders and ride back to the Battery, which is now commanded by Captain Henn, while 2/Lt Reinhardt is what you might call his right-hand man, and acts as a liaison officer with the infantry.’
With thanks to Pen & Sword Books.