Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The father of anarchism

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, considered by some to be the father of anarchism, was born 210 years ago today. He came from humble, rural origins, was largely self-taught, but nevertheless became one of the ideology’s most influential theorists. Intriguingly, although he kept a diary for the last 20 years of his life, it has never been edited or published, and only a few extracts are available in English - thanks to a biography by the Canadian writer George Woodcock.

Proudhon was born in Besançon, France, on 15 January 1809, the son of a poor tavern keeper. He lacked any early schooling, and was set to work as a cowherd, and in the tavern. Later, funds were found to send him to Besançon school for a while, when they ran out he was apprenticed to a printer. A thirst for learning, though, led him on to self-study at the local library, not least Latin. He went to work at the Gauthier press, becoming a proofreader. As such, his interest in politics was sparked by meeting the utopian socialist Charles Fourier, also from 
Besançon, whose book was being prepared for publication. Similarly, he also became friends with Gustave Fallot, a scholar from Montebéliard.

In 1830, Proudhon became certified as a journeyman compositor, but work was hard to come by. He spent a while in Paris, at the behest of Fallot, where he mingled with Fallot’s learned friends. When a cholera epidemic hit the capital, he returned to Besançon. After a printing venture failed, he decided to pursue a scholarly career, and subsequently won a bursary from the Academy of Besançon allowing him to return to study in Paris. In 1840, he published his first work Qu’est-ce que la propriété? (What Is Property?). In 1943, he moved to Lyon to work for a water transport company, and there became involved with a secret society of weavers called The Mutualists. He adopted some of their views on how associations of workers could bring about change, and later adopted the term Mutualism for his own form anarchism. In 1846, he published his most important work: Système des contradictions économiques ou philosophie de la misère (The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty), in which he opposed some of the ideas of Karl Marx.

In early 1848, Proudhon travelled to Paris, where he edited anarchist periodicals and participated in the February uprising. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly of the Second Republic in June that year, but confined himself mainly to opposing the emergence of authoritarian tendencies. He tried to set up a people’s bank, but was imprisoned in 1849 for criticising the president, Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III). The terms of his imprisonment were light, and he still managed to marry, have a first child, continue editing his papers, and even author two more books: Confessions d’un révolutionnaire (1849) and Idée générale de la révolution au XIXe siècle (1851).

Proudhon was released in 1852, but found his professional life hampered by the imperial police. His three volume De la justice dans la Révolution et dans l’église was seized, and he fled to Belgium. He was sentenced to prison in absentia, and remained in exile until 1862. Returning to Paris, he was again gaining influence among Paris craftsmen, and was among the founders of First International (or International Workingmen’s Association) aiming to unite a wide range of left-wing groups. He died in 1865. Wikipedia provides this summary assessment: ‘He was the first person to declare himself an anarchist, using that term and is widely regarded as one of the ideology’s most influential theorists. Proudhon is even considered by many to be the “father of anarchism” ’. Further biographical information is also available at Encyclopaedia Britannica, Anarchy Archives, Encyclopedia of Marxism or Spartacus Educational.

Proudhon was a committed diarist. He left behind 11 manuscript diaries covering the years from 1843 to 1964. They have never been edited or published (apart from a few extracts in the French periodical La Grande Revue in 1908). However, the Canadian writer and ‘anarchist thinker’, George Woodcock, used the diaries extensively in his 1956 work Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: a biography (Black Rose Books). This ran to a second and third edition (1987); the latter is freely available to view at Libcom.org (‘a resource for all people who wish to fight to improve their lives, their communities and their working conditions’ - i.e. anarchist communism).

Woodcock embedded the diary extracts into his prose, and so mostly they are undated. I’ve chosen the following extracts from the biography to provide examples of Proudhon’s diaries (which I’ve italicised).

‘Nothing is known about his first love beyond the references he himself makes, and these are inexplicit. “I know today,” he was to write in his diary for 1846, “what at twenty made my spirit so full, so loving, so enraptured: what made women seem to me so angelic, so divine; what in my dreams of love (wherein faith in God, in the immortal soul, in religious practice, mingled and combined with faith in infinite love) made my religion so precious to me. . . I was Christian because I was in love, in love because I was Christian - I mean religious.” ’

‘A second reason for doubting Marx’s influence lies in the marked difference between the methods advocated by the two men in connection with the idea of association. Proudhon was opposed to political action, and he hoped, unlike Marx, that the desirable changes in society could be brought about without violence. On the first point he remarks categorically in his diary for the spring of 1845: “The social revolution is seriously compromised if it comes through a political revolution.” On the second point he notes: “The workers, once they are organised and marching through work to the conquest of the world, should in no event make an uprising, but become all by invading all through the force of principle.” Again, he remarks: “No hatred, no hatred. Eliminate by principle.” And he adds a hope of being able “to dispossess the proprietors, at their solicitation and without indemnity.” The latter end he expects to achieve by the creation of economic associations for the exchange of products and for co-operative work, and the scene of the struggle he locates, not in the streets or the parliament house, but in the workshop. “The new socialist movement will begin by . . . the war of the workshop.” ’

‘A new interest which his increased prosperity allowed him to follow at this period was the stage, and many of the more interesting entries in the diary he began this year are concerned with the theatre. He regularly attended the Opera and the playhouses, and wrote perceptive and caustic comments on the performances. After hearing Rossini’s William Tell, for instance, he noted with discrimination: “Tragedy, comedy and music have independently reached a high point of perfection, but as they have not arrived there simultaneously, the performance cannot attain completeness.” And towards the great actress Rachel, whom he saw in Phedre, he reacted in shocked hostility. She seemed to him a personification of the romantic excesses which he regarded as the great disintegrating factor in French art and literature. “From the beginning to the end of the tragedy she acted like an old tart in love with a handsome boy, and in the grip of an attack of hysteria ... When Rachel moves you, it is by grating on your nerves, not by touching your feelings.” ’

‘Yet if he was never led into transports of love, there are enough indications to suggest that he was a more hopeful and a happier man for having met Euphrasie. A passage in his diary for July, 1847, indicates this in an oblique way. “A man marries a woman ten or twelve years younger than himself, in order that his youth may be prolonged all life long ... Up to 15 or 16 years, he has his father, mother and teacher, from 16 to 30 he is young, from 30 to 40 he is young again through his wife, after 40 he is so through his children. Thus youth exists always for man; it is a miracle of love and sympathy.” Euphrasie was fourteen years younger than Proudhon, and he was clearly hopeful of a renewal of mental vigour from his relationship with her.’

‘On the 23rd June he entered in his diary: “The Terror reigns in the capital, not a Terror like that of ’93, but the Terror of the civil and social war . . . What is happening here is what has always been seen: each new idea has its baptism; the first to propagate it - misunderstood and impatient, get themselves killed for too much philosophic independence.” ’

‘A much more disconcerting visitor was George Sand, who, in February, 1852, embarrassed Proudhon by calling on him and Marc Dufraisse. He was surprised to realise that this detested personification of feminist romanticism was not lacking in good qualities, and there is a certain compassion in the way he described her in his diary: “A long, cold, tired face; a woman of great good sense, great good heart and little passion, her speech curt, clear, positive and simple. G. Sand has burnt the candle at both ends, rather, I believe, from fancy than from sensuality or passion. . . . She is too mannish, too poised, too sedate. . . . Nothing in her, nothing, nothing of the feminine!” Yet these impressions seem to have been too fleeting to soften Proudhon’s hostile estimate of George Sand’s performance and influence, and in De la Justice a few years later he was to judge her work with extreme harshness.’

These entries - here as found in Woodcock’s biography - were all written in 1851.
‘3rd December. “Never has such an assault been committed on the good faith of a nation. . . . The insult is too sharp, the nation is lost if it gives in!
4th December. “I rise at 5.30 in the morning: I have had a feverish and inflammatory sleep, with intolerable beating of the arteries. . . If I were free, I would bury myself under the ruins of the Republic with her faithful citizens, or else I would go to live far from a land unworthy of liberty.”
5th December. “How right I was, in 1843, to cry out against that absurdity of universal suffrage. No, the masses are not and will not for a long time be capable of a good action for themselves.
10th December. “Through the defection of the working class, Paris has lost the battle.
14th December. “She [Mme Suchet confirms the news of the] shooting of citizens taken at the barricades. . . Thus, he is not content to defend himself; he has not even recoiled before massacre, before crime. France is under oppression. The insolence of the conquerors knows no bounds; indignation is growing.
15th December. “A sign of Parisian stupidity. Most people go about repeating, with B’s newspapers, that without the coup d’état, we should have had the revolution, that is to say, pillage, arson, murder, robbery. And they have under their eyes the atrocities, the nameless atrocities of the army!” ’


Monday, January 14, 2019

Philippine hero’s birth date

Carlos P. Romulo, one of the most decorated Filipinos in history, was born 120 years ago today. Although there is widespread disagreement across the web about the date of his birth, it’s a diary clue that seems to provide the most reliable date. He was a president of the United Nations General Assembly in its early years, and a long-term foreign minister at home - he served, in one capacity or another, eight Philippine presidents. There is no evidence that he was diarist, but he does feature in the diaries of various other leading politicians of the day, as revealed by The Philippine Diary Project - a database of diary entries concerning Philippine history.

Romulo was born in Intramuros, the historic centre of Manila, on 14 January 1898, though his well-off parents soon moved to live in Camiling, Tarlac, some 150km north of Manila. After graduating from the University of the Philippines in 1918, he studied for a masters at Columbia University. Back in Manila, he was appointed professor of English, and chairman of the English department at University of the Philippines, eventually succeeding to become, first, a regent of the university, and then president. In 1924, he married Virginia Llamas, and they had four sons.


In 1931, Romulo was made editor-in-chief of TVT Publications. In the late 1930s, he helped found the Boy Scouts of the Philippines movement. In 1941, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for a series of pioneering articles on the politics of Southeast Asia; and that same year he joined the staff of General Douglas MacArthur as press relations officer. He also served as secretary of information and public relations in the wartime cabinet of Manuel Quezon (for whom he’d acted as secretary earlier in their careers). As aide-de-camp to MacArthur, he rose from the rank of colonel to brigadier general.

In 1945, Romulo acted as Philippine delegate to the United Nations Organization Conference in San Francisco; and he was then Philippine ambassador to the UN from 1946 to 1954 (including a period as president of the General Assembly). In 1950-1951, he acted as secretary of foreign affairs and, from 1952 on (with some gaps) he served as Philippine ambassador to the US. Terms as president of the University of the Philippines and as secretary of education followed, before he returned to the post of secretary/minister of foreign affairs, a position he held from 1968 to 1984. He died in 1985, having become one of the most decorated Filippinos in history. He also published nearly 20 books, politicial, historical, autobiographical and even fiction. Further information is available from a website hosted by The Carlos P. Romulo Foundation, and maintained by Romulo’s great granddaughter (Liana Romulo), Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or the United Nations.

There seems to be an interesting controversy over when Romulo was actually born. The UN website gives his year of birth as 1901, Encyclopaedia Britannica says 1899, and Wikipedia says 1898 at the top of its biography but 1899 in the side box of facts! However, the Romulo website displays several pages from the diary of Romulo’s father, Gregorio Besacruz Romulo. One of the pages, in translation, reads: ‘On 14 of January 1898 at 3:45 pm (Friday) my wife, thank God, happily gave birth to a boy in the house Legaspi No. 19 (Intramuros) and nine days after his birth he was baptized, his godfather Don Enrique Llopis y Becerra (lawyer).

Another entry reads: ‘On Wednesday 23 of March 1898 at 10 am I had my two children Lourdes and Carlos vaccinated - the first was one year and 10 months old; the second [. . .] two months and 9 days old. The doctor who vaccinated them was my friend Don Jose R. Torres, recently licensed.’

There is no evidence that Romulo himself kept a diary, but he does feature in the diaries of several other leading politicians of the time. The excellent Philippine Diary Project contains many diary extracts from Philippine history, and a search for Romulo brings up the following extracts, among others.

Diary of Francis Burton Harrison

24 August 1942
‘Quezon, whom I had not seen for nearly a month, looks well but complains that he cannot make any great effort; and that his blood pressure is still very high. He spends most of the day in a silk dressing wrapper. He was closeted in his room for some time with Carlos Romulo, whom he afterwards characterized to me as politically “foolish” but adds that Romulo is a man who carries out everything entrusted to him.’

9-10 January 1943
‘Bernstein then presented the question of a movie drama in Hollywood, now in course of preparation, showing an American nurse and an American officer’s adventures on Bataan. A Filipino doctor had been proposed, and Romulo considered it, and insisted that he should appear as himself! Quezon said quietly that Romulo did not look sufficiently like a Filipino - was more like a Chinese. Proponed Dr Diño, his personal physician instead - said he was a real Malay type and also had had previous experience of acting.

Knowing as I did, from another source, of the terrific row Romulo and Quezon had recently had over Romulo’s book I saw the Fall of the Philippines, I was somewhat diverted by this calm discussion. Quezon had been so angry with Romulo that he had told him, “to get the hell out of here, and never come back” and had deprived him of his uniform as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Philippine Army when he was on the lecture platform.’

Diary of Antonio de las Alas

19 May 1945
‘Don Vicente Madrigal talked also of Gen. Carlos P. Romulo. He said that Romulo is even rougher and more uncompromising than Confesor and Secretary Cabili. One day he saw copies of the Philippines Herald being sold in the streets. He learned that the newspaper’s daily publication started a week before. Romulo appears as Chief Editor. Don Vicente sent word to Romulo stating that he was glad that the Philippines Herald was already being published. It must be remembered that Don Vicente is practically the owner of the Philippines Herald as he owns the majority of the stocks. Romulo offered his regrets and apology to Don Vicente for not having informed him. Romulo added that the publication of the Herald would have to be suspended as Gen. MacArthur did not want any of the old newspapers to begin publication. Later the Free Philippines began its publication.

When Romulo arrived from the U.S., he did not visit Madrigal nor offer any help to him. Madrigal considers Romulo the most ungrateful man he has ever known. He bought the Herald upon the entreaty of Romulo who did not want the Herald to fall into the hands of the Roceses. He made Romulo the Editor. Romulo wanted to go to Chunking and other places in the Orient to be able to write on the conditions in those places. He had no money, however. Don Vicente granted him an unlimited credit that allowed Romulo to visit many places in the Orient and write a series of articles. These made him very famous in the literary world. The articles earned him the Pulitzer Prize, which also brought in some cash. After all he has done for Romulo, as Mr. Madrigal puts it, Romulo’s attitude of indifference towards him was the height of ingratitude.’

4 July 1945
‘In connection with Romulo again, after the nomination for candidates for Senator in 1941, Romulo, who was an intimate friend of mine, showed coolness towards me. I attributed it to the fact that I was nominated and he was not. His resentment was absolutely unjustified. We all worked for him and we were able to get a big majority in the convention promise support for Romulo. Although Pres. Quezon always said that he wished the convention to act freely, the fact was that he controlled the nominations. He was the one who prepared the list of candidates and the names in his list were the ones nominated in the convention. When we submitted the name of Romulo, the President flatly refused for two reasons: he belonged to the same organization (Philippines Herald) as Don Vicente Madrigal. As Madrigal had already been chosen, Romulo could not be a candidate. The other reason was that he was not supported by a majority of the delegation from his own province, Tarlac. How could he expect other provinces to support him when his own province would not even vote for him? But there was a clear majority in favor of Romulo in the convention. It was probably influenced by the Free Press poll in which he got first place among an array of big men. Because of this, I had been calling him “Senator”. When later I was nominated and he was not, I noticed that he changed, probably believing that if I had not been included he would have been nominated. But it was all in accordance with the desire of President Quezon.’

17 July 1945
‘It was reported that there was a plan to launch a team composed of Osmeña for President and Romulo for Vice President. It is also said that Romulo had declined. It is too bad. We wish Romulo were a candidate so that the people can show that they do not consider Romulo the hero he seems to think he is.’


Diary of Ferdinand E. Marcos

20 February 1970
‘But Romulo is getting senile. That note of his in answer to the stiff protest of the Americans was off the beam. It speaks of there being valid ground for the attacks against the Americans and the Americans to ponder on the solution of the problems between the two countries. I have to replace Romulo soon. This is not the way to treat a wounded ally.’

Friday, January 11, 2019

Curzon’s fate was sealed

‘[Leo] Amery related the important part he played in choice of Baldwin as PM in 1923. [. . .] Amery did not think Curzon suitable on personal grounds as PM. He went round to see Salisbury, who confessed that he had not previously thought that any alternative to Curzon was possible. But eventually he agreed to accepting Baldwin. Amery and Bridgeman immediately went round to Stamfordham’s house: he was already on way to Palace. They caught up with him in St James’s Park. There, standing for about twenty minutes, they convinced Stamfordham, and Curzon’s fate was sealed.’ Today is the 160th anniversary of the birth of Lord Curzon, he who had an illustrious career in India, and then, famously, fell out with Lord Kitchener. Twenty years later, Curzon looked to be a shoe-in for prime minister to replace the dying Bonar Law, but - as this anecdote from the newly-published diaries of Kenneth Rose shows - a few senior Tories with the ear of the Sovereign’s private secretary (Stamfordham) were able to change the course of history.

George Nathaniel, 1st Marquess Curzon, the eldest son of Lord Scarsdale, was born on 11 January 1859, at the family home, Kedlestone Hall, Derbyshire. He was ignored by his parents, and had a tyrannical governess. As a teenager, while riding, he suffered a serious spinal injury which left him needing to wear a corset for the rest of his life.
He was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, where he was President of the Union. Curzon was soon researching and writing speeches for Lord Salisbury, who, on becoming prime minister, made him assistant private secretary. In 1886, he entered Parliament as Member for Southport. With Salisbury’s approval, Curzon spent much of the next four years travelling widely, largely in Asia, and publishing books on his findings.

In late 1891, Salisbury appointed Curzon to the post of under secretary of state for India. In 1895, he married Mary Victoria Leiter, the daughter of a Chicago millionaire, and they had three daughters before Mary died, tragically young, in 1906. Also in 1895, Curzon was promoted by Salisbury to under secretary of state for foreign affairs. Four years later, in 1899, he was appointed Viceroy of India. Although his career in India is described as illustrious, at the end he stood down from the Viceroyship following an acrimonious dispute with Lord Kitchener over the organisation of the Indian army. The dispute left him a political outcast for the best part of a decade. He remained busy, however, winning an election to be chancellor of the University of Oxford, a role he took on with zeal.

With the onset of war, Curzon joined the coalition cabinet of Herbert Asquith, and, then, under Lloyd George, took over as leader of the House of Lords with the office of lord president. In 1917, he married Grace Duggan, widow of a rich Argentinian rancher. In the postwar government led by Lloyd George, and then Bonar Law, he was appointed foreign secretary, and painstakingly dealt with the problems of postwar Europe and the near east. Many expected him to become prime minister when the ailing Bonar Law stepped down, but Stanley Baldwin was chosen instead. Curzon died two years later in 1925. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or Gov.uk.

Although there is no obvious evidence among Curzon’s archived papers (as listed by the National Archives) that he left behind any diaries, the Richard Cocks Society (about which I can find nothing online) published, in 1985, a book called Lord Curzon’s Japan Diaries, as edited by Anthony Farrington (about which I also know nothing).

However, Kenneth Rose, who wrote a formidable biography of Curzon published in 1969 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) called Superior Person; a portrait of Curzon and his circle in late Victorian England, was a diarist, and his diaries include several substantial entries about Curzon. Rose, who also penned an award-winning biography of King George V, died in 2014, but it is only now that a first collection of his diaries has just been published: Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Journals of Kenneth Rose: Volume One 1944-1979 (Weidenfeld & Nicholson) edited by D. R. Thorpe. Some pages can be previewed at both Googlebooks and Amazon.

Jane Ridley’s review of Journals in Literary Review says: ‘As a history of the Establishment in the second half of the 20th century, these journals will become indispensable and definitive. They are the equivalent for that period of the journals of Harold Nicolson and Chips Channon for the first half, combining sharp observation and anecdote with political and social insights. They are also extremely entertaining.’ And Philip Ziegler in The Spectator has this to say: ‘Kenneth Rose’s diaries do not make history and do not set out to do so. There are no significant revelations which will change the way we look at events or radically alter our judgments of important public figures.  But they do illuminate history and give it life. If one cannot be there oneself then Rose provides as good an apparatus for eaves-dropping as can well be conceived. He deserves our gratitude.’

Here are four extracts from Rose’s diaries about Curzon.

13 July 1950
‘Conversation with Count Sforza [Italian minister of foreign affairs] at Palazzo Chigi, Rome. I asked Sforza for an estimate of Curzon’s character and work. ‘I liked and respected Curzon, but I have never known a man of such blue blood who was so great a snob. Curzon worshipped titles, orders and decorations.’

I asked Sforza whether he had ever spoken to Curzon on subjects other than politics. ‘Generally I enjoy talking to British statesmen on outside subjects. I have talked to Bonar Law of the Canadian temperament, and to Ernest Bevin on religion. But Curzon was a monument, and one cannot speak informally to a monument!’

I asked Sforza how far one should take L.G.’s constant interference into consideration. ‘It is impossible to judge Curzon alone, because L.G. constantly opposed him. I know of no parallel case in which a PM so attacked his Foreign Minister. There was an immense difference in temperament. L.G. was an adventurer and loved confidential talks and secret agents. L.G. wanted his revenge on the upper classes.’

We discussed the conference at Lausanne, 1923. ‘To achieve success, a conference with a beaten enemy must be quick. But Curzon was very verbose, and while he talked, the Turks grew stronger.’ ’

1 May 1951
‘Conversation with Leo Amery [retired Conservative politician] in Eaton Square about Curzon. Amery saw little of him before World War I when the university was appealing for a large fund. Curzon was Chairman of the committee, and asked all its members to write begging letters to friends. Two or three weeks later he summoned them again, and like a schoolmaster asked each person in turn how many they had written. One replied three, another two, etc. And Amery was proud at having sent twenty (dictated) letters. Curzon looked round the committee in scorn. ‘I have written 3,000 letters,’ he said, ‘and all in my own hand!’


Curzon played a great part in bringing about conscription, but by the time he became Foreign Secretary in October 1919 he had lost his grip, and could only argue or write memoranda, never taking bold and immediate action.

Amery was a Secretary to Cabinet Committees. First Cabinet he ever attended was in December 1916. Curzon cleared his throat and began, ‘You may not be aware . . .’. At this point he was interrupted by Balfour. ‘It’s all right, George, we all know you have written a monumental work on Persia!’

In the Conservative Party, Curzon was mistrusted, e.g. House of Lords reform. Amery wanted Asquith to make extra peers and so be forced to reform compositions of the second chamber. But Curzon wanted exclusive H of Lords. In coalition from 1919 to 1922, the government was really in the hands of four men - Winston, Lloyd George, F.E. Smith and Austen Chamberlain. Curzon was rather out of it, and so felt no doubts about leaving coalition in 1922.

Amery related the important part he played in choice of Baldwin as PM in 1923. Amery had gone skiing and met Bonar Law passing through Paris on his return. Amery was told by Bonar Law that he must shortly resign premiership [owing to ill health]. Back in London as First Lord of the Admiralty, Amery was visited by Bridgeman, who had just seen Salisbury. Bridgman told Amery that Curzon was definitely to be PM. This was not unexpected as Curzon had been presiding over Cabinets in absence of B.L. (although B.L. would have preferred Cave to do so). Amery did not think Curzon suitable on personal grounds as PM. He went round to see Salisbury, who confessed that he had not previously thought that any alternative to Curzon was possible. But eventually he agreed to accepting Baldwin. Amery and Bridgeman immediately went round to Stamfordham’s house: he was already on way to Palace. They caught up with him in St James’s Park. There, standing for about twenty minutes, they convinced Stamfordham, and Curzon’s fate was sealed. Later that day Balfour arrived and suggested that Curzon being a peer should be offered as reason for choice of Baldwin: real reason was Curzon’s domineering temperament. Unfortunately, Stamfordham sent a clumsily worded telegram to Curzon, which caused him much unnecessary distress. Curzon was wonderfully magnanimous to Baldwin. Also to Amery, who had thought it his duty to deny Curzon’s greatest ambition.’

13 March 1952
‘Saw the Earl of Halifax about Curzon. Curzon was pathetic in his later years. He was often overruled by the Cabinet and that hurt him very much.

When Curzon laughed he did so from the waist and shook all over.

One day the Cabinet was discussing Oswald Mosley. Curzon expressed the hope that the Cabinet would not be deflected from its proper course by ‘the conduct of my sinister son-in-law’.

Even if Curzon had been in the House of Commons in 1923 he would still not have become Prime Minister. He was too unpopular in his own party.

Halifax agrees that Chamberlain wanted him, Halifax, to be Prime Minister in 1940 - ‘but this was a stupid plan for a variety of reasons'.

The day Curzon died in 1925, Halifax met Lord Salisbury in the street and said to him: ‘Were you a great friend of Curzon?’ Salisbury replied: ‘Yes, I suppose I was, if he had any.’

Halifax once casually mentioned to Curzon that he was going to look at the chateaux on the Loire. The next day he received sheets and sheets and sheets of information about them in Curzon’s own hand.’

24 August 1952
‘Conversation with Sir Thomas Beecham at his Edinburgh hotel, after hearing him conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He drinks iced milk, and I am given sherry and a cigar at 5 p.m.

Much talk about politicians and music. On Curzon - ‘A great statesman, the last of the statesmen. Sometimes, owing to fatigue, he was reticent, restrained and brief. In congenial company, he shone. The three best conversationalists in England were Curzon, Balfour and Harry Cust. Delius was good in argument. George Bernard Shaw did not shine in conversation.

Neither A.J.B. nor Curzon were good at public speaking. Lansdowne was the worst of all at it - but the most charming. Winston Churchill spoke as if with pebbles in his mouth, and had an irritating trick of letting his voice rise at the end of a sentence.

What a pity Curzon did not succeed Bonar Law as PM. Instead, there was Baldwin, who led us onto the rocks, and Neville Chamberlain, who led us into the quicksands.’

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Suffragists of every religion

‘I almost had to pinch myself to make sure that I was alive. Really this day has been one of the happiest of my life - now I have shaken the hands of Mohammedan, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian suffragists, and I’ve seen many a Christian missionary show contempt for the cause. [. . .] And I am in China - China!!!.’ Carrie Chapman Catt, born 160 years ago today, was a powerful figure in the American women’s right movement, leading up to adoption of women’s suffrage in 1920. She was also an important figure in the international movement for women’s suffrage, travelling widely, not least to China. She kept diaries on these travels, none of which have been published, although one biography does contain some extracts.

Carrie Lane was born on 9 January 1859 (though some sources give 9 February) in Ripon, Wisconsin, but moved to Charles City, Iowa, when seven. She studied at Iowa Agricultural College (now the state university), where she joined the Crescent Literary Society and helped bring about a change to the rules so as to allow women to speak. She also started an all-female debating club. She graduated with science degree in 1880, becoming a teacher and then a superintendent of schools in Mason City, the first woman to take that role in the district. In 1885, she married Leo Chapman, a newspaper editor, though he died the following year of typhoid. Subsequently, she worked as a reporter in San Francisco, again the first woman to do so in the city.

In 1887, Catt returned to Charles City; and in 1890, she married George Catt, a wealthy engineer, who supported her campaigning for women’s suffrage. She served as state organiser for the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association, and then began working nationally for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). In 1892, she was asked by Susan B. Anthony to address Congress on proposed changes to woman’s suffrage. Catt, herself, was twice elected president of NAWSA, in 1900-1904 (she resigned early due to her husband’s ill health - he died in 1905) and 1915-1920. During her second term especially, Catt successfully led NAWSA and the suffrage movement in general to win support from President Woodrow Wilson in 1918, and to the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which prohibits US states and federal government from denying the right to vote to US citizens on the basis of sex) in 1920.

In 1902, Catt had helped found the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, and was its president from 1904 to 1923. Thereafter, she continued to remain an active campaigner for women’s suffrage internationally. In the 1920s and 1930, she embraced the peace movement, and turned her focus towards anti-war causes, being particularly active in campaigning to change immigration laws so that Jews, being persecuted in Germany, could more easily take refuge in the US. For her efforts she was rewarded with the American Hebrew Medal. In 1941, she received the Chi Omega award at the White House from her longtime friend Eleanor Roosevelt. After the death of her second husband, Catt had two long-term close friendships with, first, Mollie Hay, and then Alda Wilson. Catt died in 1947. Further information is readily available online, from Wikipedia, Wisconsin Historical Society, Carrie Lane Chapman Catt Girlhood Home and Interpretive Center, Historical Dictionary of the 1940s, and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Some pages of Kristin Thoennes Keller’s biography, Carrie Chapman Catt: A Voice for Women (Compass Point Books, 2006) can be previewed at Googlebooks.

Catt seems to have been a busy diarist when travelling. The Library of Congress has some of her diaries, but those from her 1911-1912 round-the-world trip are held by University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries. The latter gives the following summary of its holdings: ‘Diaries of Carrie Chapman Catt, a noted leader in the woman suffrage movement, written during a trip around the world. Included are descriptions of places, people, and activities, including meetings with women's suffrage groups and their leaders; details of daily life; and commentary on area politics. The diaries are especially detailed for Catt’s visits to Palestine, South Africa, Ceylon, India, the East Indies, the Philippines, China, Korea, and Japan. Most of the diaries are original with some typewritten copies and some summaries written later by Catt.’

The only source online I can find for information on these diaries is Jacqueline Van Voris’s biography, Carrie Chapman Catt: A Public Life (The Feminist Press, 1987). This can be previewed at Googlebooks and Amazon. Van Voris makes the following general comment: ‘Running through Catt’s diary is a startled appreciation at discovering women who had been fighting bigotry and sex prejudice all their lives. She was gratified to find feminists everywhere: often the women were not aware that they were part of a worldwide movement.’

In one annotation, Van Voris explains: ‘There are eight typewritten diaries of varying lengths covering Catt’s trip around the world in 1911-12. The diaries are neatly typed on standard 8½" by 11" paper. Throughout Catt pasted postcards, some newspaper clippings, and a few snapshots. [. . .] The collection consists of 589 pages as follows: 1. South Africa, 181 pages; 2. the Holy Land, 55 pages; 3. Ceylon, 31 pages; 4. India and Sumatra, 46 pages; 5. Java, 98 pages; 6. the Philippines, 39 pages; 7. China, 95 pages; 8. Korea, Japan, and Hawaii, 44 pages.’ Elsewhere, in another annotation, Van Voris records: ‘Catt kept a diary of her travels in Europe and South America from October 8, 1922 to March 17, 1923. It had apparently been started in 1917 (although she later misdated it 1916) but had only three days’ entries. Catt had come across it when she was cleaning out her apartment and decided to keep it on this trip.’

Here is one extract from Catt’s diary quoted by Van Voris. ‘We met nine splendid, sweet, refined, enthusiastic, hopeful, lovable young women, and three equally splendid young men. We told them about the Alliance and that we wanted to have China join it. We asked them what they had done and were doing. What a splendid story they told us. I almost had to pinch myself to make sure that I was alive. Really this day has been one of the happiest of my life - now I have shaken the hands of Mohammedan, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian suffragists, and I’ve seen many a Christian missionary show contempt for the cause. How curious is the plan for the onward march of the world’s army of humans! Now my dear Chinese suffragists are going to give me a reception. And I am in China - China!!!.’ Van Voris adds this comment; ‘Catt did not use exclamation points often but in her excitement she splattered her diary with them.’

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Such interesting anecdotes

‘At court on the Queen’s birth-night, her Majesty dressed in buff satin, trimmed with the sable just made her a present of by the Empress of Russia. The Princess of Brunswick was there, coming on a visit to her mother, then ill. We used to think her, though not handsome, a good figure, but she is now grown so fat and plain, that, tho’ cover’d with jewels, I never saw a woman that look’d more unfashionable.’ This is from the diaries of Caroline Powys, born 280 years ago today. The diaries, which were published at the end of the 19th century, are considered by some to be a ‘fascinating record of upper-class life in the second half of the eighteenth century’ and to be rich in ‘such interesting anecdotes of royalty’.

Caroline Girle was born on 27 December 1738, the only child of a surgeon and his wife in Beenham, Berkshire. They moved in 1754 to Lincoln’s Inn Field where Powys’s father had built a house. When he died, she moved to Caversham, Oxfordshire, with her mother. In 1762, she married Philip Lybbe Powys of Hardwick House, Whitchurch, Oxfordshire, thus becoming mistress of the house that had been in the Lybbe family since 1526. Caroline and Philip had two sons (one who was commissioned into the Grenadier Guards, and the other who became a clergyman) and two daughters, though one died in infancy. When their sons left home, Philip and Caroline moved, in 1784, to Fawley rectory, Buckinghamshire, to live with her bachelor brother-in-law. Philip died in 1809, and their son Thomas (who had been given the living at Fawley in 1810) died in early 1817 leaving a widow and 11 children. Caroline, herself, died later the same year. There is not very much information about Caroline available online. Wikipedia’s entry is very short, but there is a little more detail in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB - log-in required).

Caroline started keeping a diary when on holiday at the behest of her father, but continued the habit for most of her life, until rheumatism made it difficult to write. According to the Powys/Lybbe ancestry site, ‘the Diaries give a warm and detailed account of eighteenth century life as a country lady’. There were about 20 volumes, distributed round the family. In the late 19th century, Emily J. Climenson was able to reassemble them and produce an edited version for publication, in 1899, by Longman, Green, and Co - Passages from the Diaries of Mrs. Philip Lybbe Powys of Hardwick House, Oxon, A.D. 1756 to 1808. The full text is freely available online at Internet Archive. Half of the diaries subsequently disappeared, while the remainder were eventually given to the British Library. According to Anne Pimlott Baker’s bio for the ODNB, the diaries provide ‘a fascinating record of upper-class life in the second half of the eighteenth century’. See also Eighteenth Century Recipes for more about a manuscript recipe book Caroline left behind.

The ODNB gives a summary of some of the more interesting content of the diaries: ‘While still living in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1761 she saw Earl Ferrers being taken from the Tower of London to Tyburn to be hanged for murder, and saw the hearse return; also in 1761 she describes the coronation procession of George III. After her marriage the diary records social life in the country, with visits to neighbouring country houses, often newly built, with gardens laid out by Capability Brown, such as Caversham Park; assemblies and balls during the Henley winter season, with lists of those attending; visits to Bath and London, with plays and concerts, including performances by Mme Catalani in Bath and Mrs Sheridan in London; travels, always in England, including a visit to Ramsgate in 1801, where she could hear Nelson bombarding French ships off Boulogne; local events, as when she watched Cliveden burn down in 1795; details of alterations to the gardens at Hardwick, with lists of fruit trees planted; recipes, including one for lavender drops, a cure for the palsy; and menus, including that for a dinner given in 1798 by her brother-in-law in Canterbury for Prince William of Gloucester. After a ball in the Upper Assembly Rooms in Bath in January 1791 her list of all the members of the nobility there fills more than a page, ‘besides baronets and their wives innumerable’.’

In her introduction, Climenson explains why she chose to edit and publish the diaries: ‘[They] present such an accurate picture of life, manners, and customs of the upper class of that period, that though my work of collating, noting, and linking together the many, some twenty books, lent to me by various members of the family, was chiefly undertaken on their account, I feel that they cannot fail to interest the general reader, containing as they do such interesting anecdotes of royalty, and other notable people, descriptions of country seats, places, towns, manufactures, amusements, and general habits of the period which now form history, and that, comparatively little studied; for the immediate century beyond our own days, I fancy, is more often ignored, and less understood, than the more distant periods of time, at whatever period we live.’

Here are several extracts.

13 July 1771
‘Being at my brother Powys’ at Fawley, one I suppose of the most elegant parsonages in England, commanding from a very good house a prospect uncommonly noble, he took us to Mr. Michell’s new house, which makes so pretty an object from his own place. The house was not finish’d, stands in a paddock, rises from the river on a fine knoll commanding a view which must charm every eye. The hall, and below-stairs, if we could then judge, seem too minute, the plan of the bedchambers exceedingly convenient and pleasing, kitchen offices are all very clever. About a mile from the house, through a sweet wood, you mount a vast eminence which brings you to an exact Chinese house call’d Rose Hill, from being built in the centre of a shrubbery of roses, honeysuckles, &c. The situation of this commands what some call a finer prospect than the other house, but the variety of each is pleasing. A poor woman lives here, and ’tis a sweet summer tea-drinking place inside and out, in the true Chinese taste.’

18 January 1772
‘At court on the Queen’s birth-night, her Majesty dressed in buff satin, trimmed with the sable just made her a present of by the Empress of Russia. The Princess of Brunswick was there, coming on a visit to her mother, then ill. We used to think her, though not handsome, a good figure, but she is now grown so fat and plain, that, tho’ cover’d with jewels, I never saw a woman that look’d more unfashionable.’

28 January 1772
‘This week the town was in a vast bustle at the opening of the Pantheon, and Mr. Cadogan was so obliging to send me his tickets for the first night. As a fine room I think it grand beyond conception, yet I’m not certain Ranelagh struck me not equally on the first sight, and as a diversion ’tis a place I think infinitely inferior, as there being so many rooms, no communication with the galleries, the staircase inconvenient, all rather contribute to lose the company than show them to advantage.’

12 August 1778
We went to pay a visit to Mrs. Annesley, Bletchingdon House, Oxon. In this part of our county there are more fine houses near each other than in any, I believe, in England. We were reckoning nineteen within a morning’s airing worth seeing. I must say something of that we were at, as Mr. [Capability] Brown would style it, “A place of vast capabilities,” stands high, the ground lays well, and the views round it far preferable to most in that county. Mrs. Annesley’s is large, tho’ only seven windows in front, the present approach thro’ a fine stone gateway with iron rails, you ascend a large flight of steps into a large hall, opposite you a second flight carries you into a second or larger hall, in which fronts you by far the noblest staircase I ever saw. ’Tis of Manchineale wood, and after going up about twenty steps it turns to the right and left, making a gallery at the top which looks down into the hall, this gallery leads to all the chambers. On the ground floor are four parlours, library, and state bedroom; many rooms were fitted by the Lord Anglesey who built it, but which Mr. Annesley was going to finish, but his sudden death prevented, and as his lady justly observes, it would be absurd in her to lay out money there, as her eldest son will have so immense a fortune, it would only be injuring her younger children, and she is too good a mother to do that; indeed, hers and their happiness seem’d centr’d in each other. I think I never felt more for any one than I did for her at hearing an account of his death (tho’ now years since), from a lady who is there every year, and was at the time. I own I am always foolish with regard to dreams, and now from these worthy good people, whose veracity I cannot doubt, I fear I shall in future be still more superstitious.

Mr. and Mrs. Annesley were a most happy couple, had known each other from childhood, had been married, I suppose, about ten years, had two sons and two daughters. She waked herself and him one night with crying so violently in her sleep that he was quite alarm’d. He insisted on knowing what dream she had had; she only said she had dreamt he was not well, but it was, that he fell down in a fit. He laughed at her as she lay crying for an hour or two, and going to sleep again, she again dreamt the same. ’Tis impossible, the lady says, to tell her anxiety the whole next day, he laughing it off, and at dinner he said, “Well, my dear. I’m not sick yet, I think, for I never was so hungry in my life;” she answered, “Indeed I am very foolish, but I shall be better in a day or two.” That night pass’d over, but, poor man, next day at tea-time he was nowhere to be found; when she heard this, she flew about like a wild creature into every room. Going into their bedchamber and not seeing him, she was running out of it when the youngest child says, “Mamma, perhaps papa is in the closet,” and throwing open the door, there he lay dead; she immediately fainted, and what she must that instant have felt is hardly to be imagined. She has never been in that room or the library since, and if anybody mentions dreams, only says, “Pray don’t talk on that subject.” We spent a most agreeable week there, there being a good deal of company, fourteen of us in the parlour, but tho’ our party was large, it did not hinder our seeing places every day we were there, and the first place, as the nearest, we went to was Blenheim. . . . The environs of Blenheim have been amazingly improved by Brown since I was last there, many rooms furnish’d and gilt, and as there are many fine pictures, must be always worth seeing. A fine ride round the park of five miles which we went, and afterwards three round the shubbery. The Duke, Duchess, and many of their children, with other company, were driving about in one of those clever Dutch vehicles call’d, I think, a Waske, a long open carriage holding fifteen or sixteen persons. As forms are placed in rows so near the ground to step out, it must be very heavy, but that, as it was drawn by six horses, was no inconvenience, and ’tis quite a summer machine without any covering at the top.’

30 December 1785
‘We have now confined ourselves fifteen weeks with our dear son Philip, nor paid one visit but of a morning. You have not heard of his unfortunate journey here, as his tedious illness was owing to that. I’ve often told you what a good young man he is, and that he always chooses to be with us in the country except the four days at a time when he is upon guard. On the 15th September we had a letter to say he would come down the next day, as he believed something had flown in his eye as he was walking in the Park, and it gave him great uneasiness. He had shown it to the surgeon of his regiment, who said he would bleed him in the morn, gave him a cooling mixture, and desired him to go into the country; not on horseback, but in a chaise, keeping his eye from the air, and it would soon be well. All this was done; but it being a very dark, rainy evening, that, tho’ the postboy and himself knew the road perfectly through our wood, they lost it, and found themselves in a horse-way of Mr. Freeman’s, near the root-house, where they knew there were many pits. Phil got out; they put the horses behind, and with much difficulty dragg’d the chaise down again into the coach-road; but he had not gone above ten minutes when he was overturn’d over a stump. The chaise, glasses, &c., were now broke. They did not attempt to raise it, but each took a horse, and at last reach’d home, and found they had been about an hour and a half in the wood, when twenty minutes is the usual time! Poor Phil went immediately to bed, being greatly fatigued, and the pain in his eye vastly increased, as he had lost his bandage, and his arm, too, had bled again; in short, he was a most miserable object, and gave us all infinite anxiety, and for many days the inflammation increased. He was in too much pain to return to London, but fortunately a Mr. Davenport, an eminent surgeon, has bought an estate near Marlow, and retired from town, and he was so kind as to come immediately, and has order’d our surgeon here how to proceed, and is so good as to come to him every two or three days. He now mends amazingly, as all the faculty tell us. Time and warm weather only can make a perfect cure; but as for many weeks we were apprehensive for the sight, we are most thankful. ... It is hardly possible to imagine with what fortitude he bears the sufferings he has gone through, though he has not since the accident tasted a bit of meat or drunk a drop of wine, had a perpetual blister ever since, and blooded every three or four days for many weeks. His health is certainly better than even I knew it, most probably from the discipline, some of which might be necessary for a young man in full health with a good appetite, and who never minds over-heating himself in shooting, cricket, &c.

Truly, Mr. Powys’ enduring this treatment was a survival of the fittest!’

28 August 1805
‘We set off to walk all round the environs of Matlock; ascended the rock call’d Matlock, 120 yards high; on each side a row of lofty elms, call’d the “Lover’s Walk.” We crossed the river Derwent in a boat kept for that purpose, and ascended by a winding path up the rocks to the finest natural terrace, call’d the Hay Rock, from whence you have a perpendicular view down a vast precipice to the river.’


The Diary Junction

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Crispness!

‘It is no exaggeration to say that Quentin Crisp could well be the wittiest man alive. For that very reason, unfortunately but understandably, he is often spoken of as the Oscar Wilde de nos jours. [But] whereas Wilde was reduced to wallowing in lachrymose self-pity and writing mawkish verse until his lonely death at the age of forty-six, Quentin at the age of eighty-six is still cheerfully holding the door open for latecomers to his party. Do come in. I promise you a good time.’ This is from an introduction to Quentin Crisp’s New York Diaries, written and published only a few years before his death. Crisp, born 110 years ago today, was one of the 20th century’s more eccentric artistic and literary celebrities.

Denis Charles Pratt was born in South London, on Christmas Day 1908, to a lawyer and his wife, a former governess. He went to Kingswood House School, Surrey, and won a scholarship to Denstone College, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, in 1922. From 1926, he studied journalism at King’s College, London, but failed to graduate, switching to art classes at Regent Street Polytechnic. Already, by this time, he was frequenting cafes in Soho, meeting rent boys, and wearing women’s clothes. For a short while, he worked as a prostitute. From 1930, he lived in central London, settling in a Pimlico bedsit, where his extravagant appearance led, mostly, to hostility from neighbours. He worked as technical drawer. Around this time, he changed his name to Quentin Crisp.

With the outbreak of war, Crisp tried to join the British Army but was turned down for ‘suffering from sexual perversion’. In 1940, he moved to a flat in Chelsea where he remained until the early 1980s. He gave up office work, preferring to earn money as a life model, and by writing. A breakthrough came in 1975 when he published his autobiography, The Naked Civil Servant. It was soon turned into a television film starring John Hurt as Crisp, transforming both into celebrities. In the book, Crisp famously explained why he never bothered to clean: ‘After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse’. Crisp also developed a one-man theatre show, with which he toured the country. In August 1979, he performed this show for a couple of weeks during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. (In fact, at the time, I myself was working with a theatre group (The Phantom Captain) that was renting the venue hosting Crisp’s show. One of my duties was to stage manage his show, and another was to run screenings of The Naked Civil Servant - there’s a brief mention of this in my own diaries.)

In 1981, Crisp emigrated to the US, settling in New York’s East Village area. He continued to tour his one-man show and to write books, but he was also in demand increasingly for television and as an actor in films - a part in Orlando, for example, took him back to the UK in 1992. Despite his effete personality and evident homosexuality, he never identified with the growing gay movement - he called AIDS ‘a fad’, and homosexuality ‘a terrible disease’ - nor did it embrace him. Nevertheless, by the time of his death in 1999, he had been famous for years, as a much loved and eccentric individual. Further information is available at Wikipedia, the Crisperanto website, Pink News, The New York Times or The Independent.

I have no idea if Crisp kept a diary regularly, but a few years before his death, in 1996, HarperCollins published Resident Alien: The New York Diaries. Some pages can be previewed at Googlebooks. It doesn’t look or read like a diary (though the content inside is titled ‘The Journals’), since the diary entries are only dated by year and the season. Crisp reported - in an interview with Spike Magazine - that he only wrote diary entries at the end of each month. He also complained that the publisher had removed all the dates. It’s also worth noting that six of Crisp’s monthly diary entries from 1997 are available online at Crisperanto.

In his introduction to Resident Evil, Donald Carroll writes: ‘It is no exaggeration to say that Quentin Crisp could well be the wittiest man alive. For that very reason, unfortunately but understandably, he is often spoken of as the Oscar Wilde de nos jours. The comparison, however well-intentioned, does Quentin a disservice. For Oscar Wilde, wit was a weapon, a duelling sword with which he could take on all comers and defeat them with his swordplay. For Quentin, wit is more a magic wand of revelation - no less rapier-like than Wilde’s, no less glinting in the sunlight of retelling, but waved gently rather than brandished. Because Wilde never came to terms with the truth about himself, because he was for ever trying to graft his persona on to his person, he used his wit to score points off those who would challenge him. Quentin, on the other hand, with no secrets to keep from himself or others, no territory to defend, has always used his wit to embrace the world that now, at last, so enthusiastically embraces him. As a result whereas Wilde was reduced to wallowing in lachrymose self-pity and writing mawkish verse until his lonely death at the age of forty-six, Quentin at the age of eighty-six is still cheerfully holding the door open for latecomers to his party. Do come in. I promise you a good time.’

Here is the last paragraph of Crisp’s own foreword to the same book: ‘Those who are compelled to work do not deplore the changes that have come to modern life. They welcome fast transport, immediate communication, universal hygiene, modern medicine and the fact that now justice reaches into the smallest pockets of society. But I, who have not worked in many a long year, do not notice these improvements. I am concerned with the high gloss on society, not with its inner machinery. I am a free-loader, a dillettante, a butterfly on the wheel. And that’s putting it nicely.’

And here is the start of his diary entry dated by the  publisher as Spring 1992.

‘To hell and back. On March 9th, I set out timorously for England; I returned home in a state of total nervous and physical collapse on the 24th. The purpose of this misguided journey halfway across the globe was to make a minuscule appearance as Elizabeth I, in a movie to be entitled Orlando and made from a novel of that very name by the very Mrs Woolf of whom the Burtons were so afraid. All her books were highbrow, and this was certainly the most highbrow. It concerns a young man whom we first meet at Hatfield House in the middle of Hertfordshire (where the young Elizabeth spent much of her childhood), and who lived through the centuries until the present day, incidentally changing his sex on the way, sometime during the seventeen hundreds. This fantastic tale was said to be a tribute to Vita Sackville-West, with whom prurient literary historians claim that Mrs Woolf conducted an illicit liaison. (I personally, don’t think Mrs Woolf believed in sex; she was too much of an aesthete.)

On arriving in London, I went to stay at the Chelsea Arts Club where, at breakfast the next morning, everyone cried out in tones of deepest reproach. ‘Thought you were never coming back.’ I was truly ashamed, because a farewell party had been given for me there two and a half years ago. I could only bow my head and offer, as an extenuating circumstance, that I had returned for the money.

After a day or two, during which I had been fitted for a dress and a wig, Miss Tilda Swinton, the star of the film, arrived to welcome me to England with a bouquet of roses and a gift. Her most recent role was that of Queen Isabella in Edward II, a film directed by Mr Jarman: we can therefore assume that she is accustomed to appearing in unabashed festival material and, indeed she seems to prefer it to real movies.

Once my part in Orlando began in earnest, I left the club and moved to Bush Hall, a small hotel in Hatfield, so as not to rise at five in the morning on the days when work began at seven. There I was given a room so large that I could have a party for twenty people in it, and was treated with such deference that, on the occasion when I ate lunch there, the proprietor himself served me with his own two hands.

On my first day of work, I realized instantly that I was doomed to a life of agony. Two amazingly long-suffering dressers wedged me into a costume in which two padded rolls forming a kind of bustle, a hooped skirt, a quilted petticoat, another petticoat, and finally an outer skirt were all tied round my waist before I was laced into a corset so tight that it raised a blister on my stomach. Over all this, I wore a cloak that trailed the ground behind me and on which two elk-hounds and Miss Swinton occasionally stepped, causing me to utter a cry of apprehension and to totter about the lawn. Never in the history of dress design has so much glass been affixed to so many yards of tat.

Apart from all this, I was made up clown-white with a dusting of rouge on my cheeks and eyelids and clamped into a huge red wig at times surmounted by a tiara. Apparelled thus, before I could leave the trailer, called a ‘relocatable’, a gentleman, appropriately named Christian, had to hold up my skirts and, watching my feet, utter instructions such as ‘One step down. Now the other leg. Right. You’re on level ground.’ Carrying all this haberdashery caused my back to ache ferociously, and that was before I had fallen back in a high chair so that my skull crashed against the opposite wall of the make-up room and my back muscles were stretched out of shape.

Sometimes I worked in one or the other of the vast rooms of Hatfield House, sometimes in the grounds, and once, in the middle of the night, on a lake that was really more like a pond. For this scene, real men were employed to row a small boat back and forth several times while, in another boat, a charming young man called Mr Somerville sang in a falsetto voice a song telling the world that I was ‘the fairest queen’. What he thought of this assignment I did not dare to enquire.

During this ordeal, Miss Potter, the director, Miss Swinton, the star, and everyone concerned were all most solicitous and kind, but I cannot deny that I am heartily glad that it is over.

Although I try never to read books, I am now perusing two concurrently, dipping into whichever happens to be on hand when a spare moment occurs. One of these is Mr Cocteau’s diary, entitled (in translation) Past Tense, and the other is called Final Exit, by a Mr Humphry, a journalist who used to write for The Sunday Times in London and the Los Angeles Times, chiefly about civil liberties, radal integration, and voluntary euthanasia.

I have now forgotten who lent me the former of these two volumes, but doubtless he will reclaim it one fine day. It has a foreword by Mr Ned Rorem, which by itself is worth the price of the entire book. He was with Mr Cocteau at most eight times during the thirteen years of their acquaintance, but says that to meet him once was to know him. He writes, ‘While you were with him, you were seemingly the sole beneficiary of his charitable flood of fire. I have known few people with such infectious charm. It may be opportunism, but it can’t be faked, and it can’t be bought.’

Final Exit is a handbook for anyone wishing to commit suiride. This was sent to me by a Mr Hofsess who, some years ago, came to New York, like the rest of us, in the hope of ruling the world. He stayed at least long enough to do most of the work on a book of mine, entitled Manners From Heaven. He then returned to Vancouver and, to my astonishment, has become king of the local branch of the Hemlock Sodety. He wishes me to write something about this book and I will. I have always liked death, especially other people’s death, but have recently been contemplating my own with a certain amount of relish. Not long ago, during a television interview, I was asked if I was worried by the idea of mortality. I replied that I was not and added that next Tuesday would do fine for my own demise. This remark caused a concerned citizen to ask how I could possibly be so bored that I was eager to die. The question was natural because he was a young man. Ennui is the disease of youth. The prevailing malady of the old is fatigue. I have never been bored since I came to live in Manhattan, but, inevitably, I am gradually becoming permanently tired.

Even before senility set in, my views about death were sanguine, or, to put the matter another way, I have never shared the prevailing opinion that life is wonderful come what may. I have often been surprised when someone who has suffered a permanent injury in some disaster, says, ‘I’m lucky to be alive.’ If I were in a plane crash, for instance, and all my luggage - let alone one of my limbs - had sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, I would not consider myself lucky to be alive. So, if told of someone’s death, I will say, ‘How terrible —’ and look at the floor for an appropriate interval, but I can’t really feel it is terrible because in my view death is the least awful thing that can happen to someone.

It is our bodies that want to live for ever, but surely we ought to be in control of our physical appetites. However, this is a state that it is easier to praise than to achieve. Nobody wants a violent or a painful death, and this is where Mr Humphry’s book comes in so handy. It is totally unsentimental, absolutely free from religious bias, and admirably practical. My only divergence of opinion from that of the author is that I do not think that the relatives of the person committing suicide should be consulted or involved in any way. They may have something to gain from the proposed death and may therefore feel guilty. In all other respects, I am full of praise for Final Exit and for its author.’

A vicious feast

‘A vicious feast, wherein I exceeded in meat and drink, for want of circumspection and prudence, a sin against God. . .’ This is from the spiritual diary of the Dublin-based physician John Rutty, born 320 years ago today. He wrote several medical and nature books, but is best remembered for his spiritual diary. James Boswell and Samuel Johnson found the latter somewhat ‘laughable’ but also ‘a minute and honest register’ of the state of Rutty’s mind.

Rutty was born in Melsham, Wiltshire, into a Quaker family on Christmas Day 1698. He attended various schools, and went abroad, to Leyden in Holland, to conclude his medical studies. He settled in Dublin, Ireland, working as a physician - and remained there all his life. He was actively involved in the city’s intellectual life, and published numerous books, often with a medical or environment focus, such as A Methodical Synopsis of Mineral Waters, and Chronological History of the Weather and Seasons and of Prevailing Diseases in Dublin. He also wrote A Natural History of the County of Dublin, and finished The History of the Quakers in Ireland, which had been started by Thomas Wight. He died in 1775. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Library Ireland, and Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900.

In 1753, Rutty began to keep a spiritual diary and continued making entries till a few months before his death. In his will, he left instructions for it to be published unedited. A first edition - A Spiritual Diary and Soliloquies by J. Rutty, etc - appeared in 1776. This is freely available online at Googlebooks. Also available at Googlebooks (and Internet Archive) is Extracts from the Spiritual Diary of John Rutty, M.D. published in 1840. The biographer and diarist, James Boswell, showed a review of Rutty’s diary to his friend Samuel Johnson, and briefly mentions their conversation about it in his Life of Johnson. ‘[The diary] exhibited, in the simplicity of his heart, a minute and honest register of the state of his mind; which, though frequently laughable enough, was not more so than the history of many men would be, if recorded with equal fairness.’

Here are several extracts from Rutty’s diary.

7 October 1753
‘Two precious illuminations. First, of the necessity of preparation for death brought closer to my view. Second, of the necessity of maintaining an equal degree of spiritual indignation against other superfluities, as well as those that strike common sense and observation.’

28 October 1753
‘Poverty of spirit in a sense of my own vileness in God’s presence; yet humbly hoped for the blessing annexed to them that hunger and thirst after righteousness.’

20 November 1753
‘A sweet time, and humiliation; but accompanied by a false vision, prompting to an imaginary duty, from pride.’

30 December 1753
‘ “Is not my word a fire?” O that I might find it so in consuming sensuality, and particularly in eating, drinking, sleeping, smoking, to be used not as ends, but as means of health; not to live to eat, drink, &c. but the inverse. Here is purgatory.’

12 October 1754
‘One sacred, solemn lesson has been learnt from my late severe three afflictions, and which, I humbly hope, will more than compensate for all, viz. To drink little as sufficient - a lesson, wherein are deeply interested soul, body, and temporal estate.’

18 October 1754
‘Tyranny over inferiors is injustice, and the genuine offspring of inordinate self-love. A pretty free access by prayer, for a considerable time past.

22 October 1754
‘Visited my grave-digger, on a just commemoration of my wonderful deliverance from the grave.’

3 October 1759
‘At the school meeting, spoke to the children in a spiritual capacity; but Satan buffeted afterwards, prompting to pride: but light and truth triumphed. Thou art to rejoice in no gift, but this only, that thy name is, or may be, written in the Lamb’s book of life.’

28 December 1762
‘Attended a burial, on principle, where I trod on the graves of several of my associates. Surely, the sight of one corpse is a stronger argument than any words can possibly be! even of thy own mortality, and of the necessity of a preparation for it.’

23 August 1765
‘A vicious feast, wherein I exceeded in meat and drink, for want of circumspection and prudence, a sin against God, the framer of the constitution, and not less than defiling his temple: O God, in the name of thy beloved, pardon this sin, and prevent for the future, I beseech thee: give more of thy fear!’

26 June 1773
‘Now finished the fair transcript of my Materia Medica, the principal work of my life; a work of no present advantage to me, but I hope will prove so to others: but still, this far inferior to the spiritual medicines, and the labours in the gospel, as body is to soul, and earth to heaven. Lord, grant to pursue these matters in the holy subordination.’

The Diary Junction

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Diary briefs

Gran’s sledging journals fetch £150k  - Christies, Fine Books Magazine, The Guardian

WWI diary of British POW - Chronicle Live, Great War Forum

Man charged over sale of Lennon diaries - Reuters, The Guardian

Diary of climber Anatoli Boukreev - The Astana Times, Wikipedia

Murdered US missionary kept diary - The Washington Post, Irish Times

Newly released diary from Nanjing Massacre - Xinhua Net

US pilot’s WWII diary - Argus Leader, Amazon

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Not particularly exhilarated

‘I don’t feel particularly exhilarated - rather the reverse. Just as, during the election, when I was being mobbed in the market & found myself thinking ‘It was roses, roses all the way’, so now I can’t help being most impressed by the fortuitous & insubstantial nature of these political promotions.’ This is Sir Kenneth Younger, born 110 years go today, writing in a diary about his promotion to ministerial status in Clement Atlee’s government after the 1950 election. Although he served briefly as acting Foreign Secretary, and then, after the 1951 election, in the Shadow Cabinet, he had tired of party politics before the decade was finished, and stood down from his Parliamentary seat not long after turning 50.

Younger was born on 15 December 1908 into a Conservative family living in Gargunnock, Stirlingshire, Scotland - his grandfather having been a Conservative Party chairman. He was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford; after reading for the Bar, he was called to the Inner Temple in 1932. In 1934, he married Elizabeth Stewart; they had two daughters and one son. During the war, however, he served in the Intelligence Corps in several capacities, rising to the rank of Major. After the war he was adopted as Labour candidate for Grimsby. Biographers suggest that he may have turned away from his Conservative background partly because of the Conservative-led appeasement policies in the 1930s and partly because of the Spanish Civil War. In the 1945 general election, Younger won his seat easily, and was appointed PPS by Philip Noel-Baker, Minister of State for Air in Clement Atlee’s government.

Younger was briefly involved with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and with the British delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, but after a reshuffle by Atlee he became Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Office. Following the 1950 general election, he was promoted to Minister of State at the Foreign Office, deputy to Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin. When Bevin fell ill, Younger took on the role of acting Foreign Secretary, at a time when the Korean War had started, the Communists had taken hold in China, and the European Coal and Steel Community was being created. Bevin resigned because of ill health in 1951, but Atlee deemed Younger insufficiently experienced to replace him. In any case, Atlee called a snap general election that year which he lost. From 1955, Younger was Shadow Home Secretary; but he was becoming disillusioned with party politics, and he resigned his seat in 1959.

Younger continued to serve in public life, though, as Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and as chairman of the Howard League for Penal Reform. He chaired the Advisory Council on the Penal System in 1966, the Committee of Inquiry on Privacy from 1970 to 1972, and Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Area Health Authority for two years. He was appointed KBE in 1972; and he died in 1976. There is surprisingly little biographical information about Younger online other than at Wikipedia and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required).

Although there is no evidence that Younger was a diarist by nature (there is no mention of diaries, for example, within his National Archives entry), he did keep a detailed political diary for about 18 months in 1950-1951. This was edited by the historian Geoffrey Warner, and published by Routledge in 2005 (part of its ‘British politics and society’ series) as In the Midst of Events: The Foreign Office diaries and papers of Kenneth Younger February 1950-October 1951. The book can be previewed at Googlebooks, or the full text can be freely downloaded from EPDF. By the evidence of Warner’s book, Younger’s diary entries were usually rather long and often separated by a week or two. Warner’s approach to the diary is to embed extracts (always dated) into his own narrative, sometimes splitting them into several sections.

Here is part of the preface by Peter Catterall (the book series editor): ‘Kenneth Younger never quite attained the first-class political status which goes with Cabinet rank. However he was able, during the eighteen months or so covered by this edition of his diaries, to influence the conduct of British diplomacy, particularly during the lengthy illness that marked the closing stages of Ernest Bevin’s tenure as Foreign Secretary. In their course, as well, he proves an acute observer of the difficulties facing the Attlee government at that time, not least in the international arena. Naturally, the problem of confronting or containing the communist threat looms particularly large in his account. It is interesting to observe that Younger, after discussing the Schuman Plan for a European Coal and Steel Community and the British alternatives to it, soon notes that “The Korean situation has now knocked Schuman right into the background of public consciousness”. Other foreign policy problems are certainly mentioned, particularly the lengthy Abadan crisis in 1951, occasioned by the Iranian attempt to nationalise the British oil assets in their country. But the theme which dominates these pages is the Cold War and the question, made more acute by the Korean War, of how the western powers should respond to both the Soviet Union and China. [. . .]

The dispassionate flavour of Younger’s diaries partly derives from their method of composition. As Geoffrey Warner points out, in a sense they are not diaries at all, being written up only once every few weeks. These entries are reflective musings, rather than real-time accounts. This poses particular problems for their editor. A diary which offers a daily account can form a continuous, internally coherent narrative. One as discontinuous as this requires instead that the editor must, perforce, provide linking text in order to contextualise the original account. Doing so is a delicate task. The editor must avoid being overly intrusive, whilst also striving not to go to the opposite extreme and becoming merely dull. Warner admirably succeeds in this balancing act. Younger’s original entries are illuminated by appropriate commentaries and enlivened by a leavening of quotations from contemporary letters and documents, or from subsequent interviews. These very much add to the value of this text and the light it casts on the foreign-policy dilemmas of the period. Whilst the Cold War dominates the landscape, as Younger’s comments show, there was nevertheless a lively internal and inter-allied debate about how that Cold War should be handled. In the critical account it offers of Anglo-American relations in a crucial period, however, it is also an important contribution to the study of alliance diplomacy, and in particular to the understanding of this significant, if often fraught, partnership.’

Here are two extracts.

28 February 1950
‘The P.M. spent yesterday and to-day in forming his government. At 3 o’clock I was sent for and told that he wants me to be Minister of State [at the Foreign Office] in succession to Hector McNeill who is being promoted to the Scottish Office or some other cabinet post. I hadn’t expected promotion, and I hadn’t really wanted it, but I can’t help being gratified at having got it. I know Chuter is largely responsible, as he told me had recommended me for promotion. It appears that I am also well thought of by Ernest Bevin - why, is something of a mystery. It is a big promotion for me. My reaction is partly incredulity & partly nervousness. I hadn’t really thought of myself as getting above the general run of parliamentary secretaries so soon. I think I have done well at the Home Office, both administratively and in the House [of Commons], but it has all been on a rather pedestrian level. Reliability rather than brilliance must certainly be what recommends me to the P.M.

I don’t feel particularly exhilarated - rather the reverse. Just as, during the election, when I was being mobbed in the market & found myself thinking ‘It was roses, roses all the way’, so now I can’t help being most impressed by the fortuitous & insubstantial nature of these political promotions. However it is a grand job, & will extend me to the full. I can only do my best & hope that things will go all right. It is not at all clear how much I will have to go abroad, but now that we have this tiny majority, I may not be able to go so much. . .’

5 August 1950
Parliament rose a week ago. Ernie Bevin is due back in the office on Monday and I am due to leave for three weeks’ holiday on the same day. I am hoping not to have to put my feet inside the office from now to 1st September. That probably ends the long period during which I have in effect been continuously ‘in charge of the office’, and as continuously overworked. It has been a great experience and on the whole I have come through it with reasonable credit. I do not think I have made many glaring mistakes and I think I have taken as much of the burden off Ernie [Bevin] and the P.M. as was practicable. Obviously with matters like Korea & the Schuman Plan, many of the decisions could only be taken by senior ministers acting together if not by the whole cabinet. I am not able to sway the cabinet as Ernie might, & I would have been wrong to try. All I could do was to know my stuff, put my points clearly & persistently & rely on the P.M. to handle the Cabinet if necessary. In point of fact there has been surprisingly little disagreement over most of the issues of recent weeks. . .

I shall not trouble to write much about the substance of the work I have been doing. Much of it has related to Korea, which is a matter of history. With most of the decisions being taken in Washington, & with the Security Council sitting in New York [,] there has been a daily rush to clear and send out urgent instructions almost every day. Often we have had to face situations caused by the hamhandedness & excitability of the Americans who are, understandably, in an emotional and difficult state. At the present time they are engaged in a desperate effort to stabilise a front which is little more than a bridgehead around Pusan.

It is not sure that they will succeed and their prestige is of course very much involved. In consequence they are not inclined to pay much attention to the longer-term issues arising from their lack of policy in the Far East, and we are fighting a constant battle to prevent them from deliberately courting trouble with China, over Formosa and other matters.

Underneath what often seem petty disagreements and misunderstandings there is I think an important difference of viewpoint between us. The Americans, with only a few exceptions[,] seem to have decided that a war with ‘the communists’ is virtually inevitable & likely to occur relatively soon, say within 3-5 years. They regard all communists alike, no matter what their nationality[,] and assume that they are all dancing to Moscow’s tune & are bound to do so in future. It follows from this that the main problem is how to win the war when it comes, & there is no room for any subtleties in dealing with the Chinese. They are enemies & must be recognised as such.

We on the other hand, despite growing pessimism, still give first place to the effort to prevent war. We do not accept it as inevitable, & we are therefore unwilling to prepare uninhibitedly for an early war if by so doing we make war more likely or seriously impair our ability to raise our own & other living standards over a longer period of years. I do not suppose the Americans would admit to the point of view I have mentioned. They may not even be conscious of it. But most of their soldiers act on it & it is only upon that assumption that US political behaviour makes any sense at all. This applies particularly in their attitude to China. They are simply not interested in our view that China, if properly handled, could in the long run be separated from Moscow. Because such a development does not seem likely to happen quickly, the Americans discount it. There will, they argue, be a war anyway before anything useful can happen.

All this is very dangerous. We now have the two great powers both apparently believing, for different reasons, that a major war is bound to come, & that in itself makes war much more likely.

When I left the office today William Strang said ‘I do not suppose things will have changed much by the time you get back.’ I can certainly see no prospect of a change for the better. The most likely changes, if there are any at all, would be the defeat of the Americans in Korea & their complete evacuation (which is still a possibility) and a Chinese attempt to take Formosa, which the Americans would resist. Either of these events would lead to a serious deterioration of the whole Far Eastern position.

I made a vain attempt to get the Cabinet to discuss the consequences of a US-Chinese clash over Formosa, but Ernie wouldn’t have it. He was afraid of some decision which might tie his hands when the time came. My view is that by backing the Americans we would endanger everything that we have achieved in Asia by our forward policy in India, Burma etc. and that we might split the Commonwealth irretrievably into white and coloured. All the same, refusal to back the Americans would be a great shock to the worldwide alliance, the Atlantic Pact and the collective effort against Soviet communism. Faced with the choice, my own very reluctant view is that we would have to go with the Americans. Either way the prospects for world peace, let alone progress, would be immensely bleak.

Already unpleasant results of this are making themselves felt in the shape of increased arms production, and the prospect of having to renounce further progress on the economic & social front for some years. Such a situation may well put an end to social democratic parties in the west, including even the Labour Party. If our main effort is to be military, and everything else becomes almost stagnant, it is hard to see how our policy can differ from the Tories[’] except perhaps in ensuring somewhat greater equality of sacrifice. Moreover rearmament & large armed forces arouse enthusiasm among the Tories and nothing but despondency among us and our supporters. It is doubtful whether we can in such circumstances maintain national leadership for more than a limited period. If things get worse, coalition will loom up, official Labour & the Tories will get identified, and the communists and fellow travellers will get a big chance to take over the leadership of the opposition. I cannot foresee what I might do in such circumstances. I might easily find a coalition policy impossible, but whether I should find any more acceptable political resting place I do not know. I have a feeling that I should be obliged to rethink my basic position all over again in terms of the new situation.
I do not find much comfort in most of my colleagues on such subjects. Very few of them are, I think, interested in first principles at all. Their approach is pragmatic, and anyway they are mostly too busy to go in for political philosophy or ideological thinking. I have been too busy myself in recent months. Nye Bevan is, of course, an exception. I usually agree with him in Cabinet, though he occasionally goes off on a wild tangent. His position is none too strong just now & he is not a member of the inner circle who really decide things. If therefore there should be any spiritual crisis within the [Labour] movement or the government, Nye would probably take a line of his own and I should be very tempted to follow him.

I admire both the P.M. and Cripps in their different ways. Intellectually Cripps is really remarkable, & Attlee certainly has an authority which would surprise outside observers. It is true that he does not frame policy personally. He leaves that to Cripps, Morrison & Bevin. He is however a very good coordinator & executive, and his detachment from personal relationships makes him quite formidable within his well recognised limitations. I can’t say the rest of the Cabinet impresses me much. As a body the Cabinet shows little cohesion or basis of common thinking. Many members would be at least as happy in a Tory government, and happiest of all in a coalition. The younger members - Harold Wilson, Hector McNeil & Patrick Gordon Walker - are very competent in their jobs, but politically I don’t warm to any of them. The two latter are too obviously on the make. It appears that they have been grooming themselves to succeed Ernie if he has to pack up! It looks as though he will disappoint them for a while at least. Equally Herbert Morrison is waiting impatiently for Clem Attlee to go. At present I think he would be bound to succeed to [the] leadership, but I should be very sorry to see him there. He is a very astute politician but in my view lacks real stature. Although in many ways he is far abler than Clem, I do not think he has as broad or as elevated a conception of national & world affairs as Clem. As P.M. I believe he might let us down badly. . .’