Friday, March 24, 2017

The existence of orgonity

Wilhelm Reich, an Austrian psychoanalyst who claimed to have discovered healing powers in the biological energy of orgasms, was born 120 years ago today. He was a controversial figure, increasingly, as he got older, finding himself ostracised and outlawed by the establishment. He kept diaries for much of his life, most of which have been published, revealing as much about his professional ambitions as his personal delusions.

Reich was born on 24 March 1957 in Galicia, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (although it is now in Ukraine). Shortly after his father’s death in 1914, he was obliged to flee his home when the Russian army invaded. During the First World War he served with the Austrian Army, and then entered medical school at the University of Vienna. In October 1920, he joined the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association, and thereafter worked at University Hospital and at Freud’s Polyanalytic Polyclinic. He also studied neuropsychiatry under the nobel prize winner, Professor Wagner-Jauregg.

In 1924, Reich married Annie Pink, a fellow analyst-in-training. Their first daughter, Eva, was born the same year; a second daughter followed in 1928. 
In 1930, Reich moved to Berlin where he joined the Communist Party, but the party did not accept his views on birth control and sex education and expelled him in 1933. His unique ideas on sexuality and politics were leading him increasingly to be outside mainstream medicine. In 1934, the International Psychological Association expelled Reich.

Subsequently, Reich fled from the Nazis, spending a few years in Scandinavia before going to the US in 1939. He re-married in 1946; his second wife, Ilse Ollendorf, having already born him a son, Peter, two years earlier. Most of the latter part of Reich’s life was dedicated to developing controversial ideas on ‘orgone’ energy, through his Orgone Institute. He died in 1957 in prison, where he was serving a two year term for illegalities in the selling of his ‘orgone energy accumulator’. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Wilhelm Reich Trust, or Logos Journal.

Reich began to keep a diary in 1919 when still a medical student, at the time he also wrote a memoir. This material was used by editors Mary Boyd Higgins and Chester M. Raphael for Passion of Youth: An Autobiography 1897-1922 published in 1988 by Farrar, Straus, Giroux (New York). Subsequently, the same publisher produced three further volumes of Reich’s personal writing, as edited by Higgins: Beyond Psychology: Letters and Journals 1934-1939 (1994), American Odyssey: Letters and Journals 1940-1947 (1999), Where's the Truth?: Letters and Journals, 1948-1957 (2012). The first three of these books are freely available online thanks to Ross Wolfe (Passion of YouthBeyond Psychology, American Odyssey), and substantial parts of the fourth (Where’s the Truth?) can be previewed at Googlebooks.

The following extracts are taken from American Odyssey.


7 February 1941
‘I am actually a decent, self-critical fellow and people who call me a charlatan ought to be ashamed of themselves. Just reviewed my journals on the orgone from two years ago. How precisely I felt mv way through all that!! I feel somewhat moved by my own actions. How easy it is for someone to criticize from his high horse, but how difficult it is to overcome the worry, doubt, hesitation, the sleepless nights, the feelings of worthlessness, because one's thoughts are so “verboten.”

12 April 1941
‘Clarity of thought dwells in immense loneliness, in spaces like those separating the stars, billions of light-years wide, so that the bodies do not clash but simply revolve in solitude. Bodies are unhappy and cannot think clearly when they are crowded, where one foot treads upon another. Occasionally they feel impelled toward the crowd. in order to see whether it has changed and whether they still fit in But the members of the crowd have not changed. They continue to push and shove for a little space. They do not sense, cannot imagine the vast infinities, for they fancy themselves secure when they inhale a neighbor’s sweaty scent. Once in a while you find a person who looks as if he were able to imagine the infinities. You speak to him of loneliness and as he listens a glow brightens his face. He appears to understand even though he does not. Finally you discover that he is commonplace, extremely banal, narrow, lethargic, vain. He has sighted loneliness in the mirror - and he flees - or he accompanies you a part of the way, soars with you, only to crash back down into the crowd - wasted energy! Then you live in solitude once again where you can think and breathe freely.
It is good to dive into the crowd once in a while, to convince oneself that it is a mere shuffling, back and forth, with no purpose or goal, just shuffling, back and forth.
Then you return to breathing the pure, fresh air of the mountains, where it storms and worlds collide. Happy? No! But alive!’

14 November 1941
‘Apparatus returned by Einstein. His behavior is inexplicable. 1. He is a coward? 2. He doesn't want to get involved. 3. He was turned against me.’

28 September 1941
‘One illusion numbers among the prerequisites of all achievement: the lofty feeling of succeeding someday. I am aware, however, that it lies in the nature of all development to turn against itself.

This is a law of nature; it belongs to the knowledge of functional biophysics! According to this, when sex economy spreads, as Marxism, psychoanalysis, and Christianity did, it will be a living corpse. It is not human malice but rather biological degeneration which causes the destruction. Unarmored plasma repeatedly attempts to raise itself to the stature of cosmic functioning by making discoveries, striving “ahead.” It’s as powerless as a drop of water on a sea of fire. We don’t even know what “consciousness” is. Thus we always sink back into lifelessness after our mighty efforts.

Only one thing could suspend this law: a gigantic discovery transcending the cosmic, natural law, like the disclosure of how consciousness perceives itself. In other words, a discovery which would put the natural law at mankind’s disposal. This will begin with the discovery of the function of self-perception in living plasma. Until then there is no solace.’


3 April 1944
‘A new member of society: Ernst Peter Robert Reich, my son. Bom at 1 a.m. after great pain. His facial expression is “earnest” and “pensive.” I hope he remains that way. Eva and the nurses claim that he’s very much like me. He immediately began nursing with quiet eagerness. No difficulties at all. In utero he experienced many a wave of his parents’ orgastic pleasure.

Numerous interrelated facts have given rise to my conviction that sexual lifelessness in a mother is harmful to the child in her womb. Conversely, I feel that experiencing the pleasure of the mother’s body is natural and promotes a child's development.’


19 November 1946
‘Further changes. I have been told that “everyone” in New York is talking about my work. “Everyone”!

The Soviet Russians news agency, Tass, has ordered a copy of The Mass Psychology of Fascism for a book review.

There is a new movement among church people: away from the church toward social work on diseased mankind!

Until now antireligious mechanism and religious mysticism were in direct opposition. In the U.S.S.R. the conflict was clear and outspoken.

Now, through the discovery of the orgone, a unification of natural science and religion has become possible. Natural science will have to accept the existence of emotional or biological energy, and religion will have to accept the existence of orgonity.

The age-old conflict which divided me against myself for twenty-five years was that between science and politics. Today, in 1946, this conflict has manifested itself socially in the form of a clash between Wolfe, who favors the strictly scientific, and the church people, who incline toward social work.

One cannot dismiss this invasion of sex economy into the church (as Wolfe does) simply because one is against the church!

Wolfe and Gladys Meyer, his wife, do not want Protestant ministers to be trained as sex-economic social workers. Meyer herself was once a member of the church and now hates it. They feel that the important thing is the orgone, and that people are only a secondary consideration. The ministers, they say, should leave the church if they want to work in the field of sex economy.

Today I invited Wolfe to have a talk. His reply was: “I don’t feel there’s any sense in it under the present circumstances.” What are the present circumstances”? Just today I sent Wolfe two patients.’


27 November 1947
‘I wonder about the Midwest of the U.S.A. Different human beings?

Should I step into the open, into the masses?

Am I sitting like a crab on its hind legs? Should I wait for invitations to lecture or arrange them myself? West Coast wanted lectures. There is this deadly deadlock between people’s wanting and not being capable of doing.


I must wait until they come to me, socially, and not only sexologically.’

28 November 1947
‘Danger.


Karl Frank just told me that Mildred Brady’s husband is a communist, and Wertham also. This miserable pack of political hounds should be driven out by force.’9 December 1947
‘They, the lawyers themselves, do not believe in the existence of the orgone. They did not read the literature. Culver said, when I gave him the letters of the physicians about the orgone: “Now I feel better” - that is, he did not believe a word before that.

It is obvious, quite obvious, that I have become unfit for dealings with average people. I am too far off in my ways of being.’


16 December 1947
‘The Food and Drug Administration retracted its vice suspicion; but now “I am sending out orgone accumulators to cancer patients”? The FDA is surely pushed by someone all out to kill the accumulator. This is a fight of Pest + State + Politics against open, honest work. The BIG GAME is on.’

The Diary Junction

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

God save the Queen

‘Here again after another week of “progress” as it is called, through Ontario - that is, being bucketed from one place to another by night & going through the round of being received at the station, addresses presented, a procession round the town, reception at the Fair grounds, an attempt to go round the exhibits in the midst of a huge crowd, a long luncheon with nothing possible to eat, & visits to various schools, hospitals, convents & other institutions. We live our days to the tune of God save the Queen, from the moment the train stops till it departs.’ This is from the diary of Lady Aberdeen, born 160 years ago today, who was a philanthropist and social reformer active throughout her life, at various times in Scotland, Canada and Ireland. This particular extract shows Lady Aberdeen expressing a rare weariness of public life; otherwise her Canada diary (the only one published) is a veritable catalogue of the activities of her husband (governor general of Canada) and her own philanthropic pursuits and concerns.

Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks was born on 15 March 1857 the fifth of seven children in a prominent Scottish landowning family. Her father was a partner in a brewing business as well as a Liberal MP. She spent her childhood on the family estate in Invernesshire and in London, receiving her education from governesses and tutors. Her father opposed her attending the newly-founded Girton College for women at Cambridge University. In 1877, she married  John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, Earl of Aberdeen; they had five children (four of whom survived into adulthood), dividing their time between London and Aberdeenshire.

Lady Aberdeen was an active social campaigner with an interest in encouraging emigration to the British Empire. To that end, she established the Onward and Upward Association to help domestic servants take correspondence courses. In 1883, she became the first president of the Aberdeen Ladies’ Union which, among other things, sponsored young women emigrating to Canada. She also became head of the Women’s Liberal Federation, supporting women’s suffrage. In 1890, the Aberdeens toured across Canada, and bought a homestead, the Coldstream Ranch, in British Columbia which, later, would become recognised for pioneering commercial fruit growing in the region.

In 1893, Lord Aberdeen was appointed governor general of Canada. Once settled there, Lady Aberdeen quickly became engaged in planning social events, in support of her husband, and for her own philanthropic concerns. 
She travelled extensively, attending many events and collecting information for her husband; and was more politically active than any of her predecessors. She became the first president of the International Council of Women, the founder of the National Council of Women of Canada, and the first sponsor of the Women’s Art Association of Canada.

When the Liberal Party returned to power in 1906, Lord Aberdeen served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, until 1915. Lady Aberdeen continued her programme of social reform in Ireland, pioneering the Women’s National Health Association and becoming active in efforts to improve children’s health and preventing the spread of tuberculosis. After retirement to their home in Scotland, the Aberdeens continued to be involved in various social causes. They also wrote a memoir together - We Twa. Lady Aberdeen died in 1939, five years after her husband. For further information see Wikipedia, The Canadian Encyclopedia, or Undiscovered Scotland.

Twenty or so years after her death, The Champlain Society, Toronto, published The Canadian Journal of Lady Aberdeen, 1893-1898, as edited by John Saywell. All 600 pages, including a 100-page biography, can be found online at the website of the University of Toronto (although navigation through the pages is a bit rudimentary). Here are several extracts.

24 December 1893
‘We had our first service in our dear new little wooden chapel to-day. The men have been working night & day to get it finished by Christmas Day & they have done it. H.E. read prayers this morning & this evening Mr Winfield took the evening service. It is quite simple of varnished pine wood, a dark red drugget on floor, dull red & green windows & chairs for seats. We feel already that it will make all the difference to us. H.E. has put it up entirely himself, although the Government offered to pay, but we wanted no questions about this asked in Parliament. It will cost about $2000 (between £400 & £500) & then there is the little organ to come.

A busy evening preparing Christmas presents & stockings. A white blanket coat trimmed with red makes an excellent costume for Santa Claus to make his rounds - but Archie’s dog “Lady” thought I was a burglar & growled vigorously.’

25 December 1893
‘Such a horrible muggy day for our first Canadian Christmas. Yesterday & to-day it has been thawing vigorously - & in the space of a few days there have been differences of temperatures of 60°, which are rather trying. Great lamentations over no skating or snow sports for to-day.

We had a delightful home-like service in the new Chapel, conducted by Mr Winfield, who pending the time that he gets a charge is to be appointed chaplain & tutor to Archie & Marjorie in Latin & English Literature. We are very fortunate in finding him here ready to hand - he is an Oxford man & took orders in the English Church - was in W. Africa, the Bermudas, New Brunswick & then here in connection with the Reformed Episcopalian Church a small body seceding from the Anglican church on account of High Church doctrine. It is supposed that there is not much in the way of ritualistic practices, but v. High Church teaching. Mr Winfield has latterly felt it utterly unsatisfactory to belong to a Church without a past & without a future & so resigned his charge & has joined the Presbyterian Church. But he reads the English service in new chapel quite willingly. He is a cultured man, & is v. fond of children having one little boy of his own of eight. He is a great admirer of H.D.

The children had a day of games with Cosmo in their company all day. We went over to the Cottage to see Carry this afternoon - it was raining though it had begun to freeze again - & it was ridiculous to see the rain freezing as it fell & making it quite difficult to shut one’s umbrella.

Marjorie has made a lot of wonderfully neat Christmas presents this year - & has sent 15 home & given twenty here. She made a little bookcase for me & a printed maple leaf almanack for her Father - & lots of pretty little things for people in the house. Archie carved a ruler for me very well, & made a little model cottage covered with birch bark & thatched with straw as a letter box for his Father.

For the staff we had some enamelled maple leaf brooches & pins made by Birks which were eminently successful. Lord Ava was most lavish in his presents all round. We had a Christmas tree decoration for the dinner table to-night which looked well, with the Irish silver-gilt potato rings.’

30 December 1893
‘Photograph of all our party taken this morning on garden steps - first in furs & then in blanket coats by Topley. Luncheon at 12 then off with children to Assault at Arms given by Governor-General’s Foot-Guards at Opera House. This regiment a militia regiment which excites Capt. Kindersley’s ire inasmuch as it has adopted a uniform v. nearly resembling the Coldstream Guards. One man, Sergeant-Major Morgans, an old soldier from home did wonderful sword feats cutting a piece of lead two inches thick right through with one blow - cutting a stick hung on two loops of paper, suspended on two razors without cutting the paper & so on - a good deal of fencing & sword & bayonet encounters which greatly amused children.’

10 December 1894
‘First-rate lecture this afternoon in connection with Montreal Women’s Club by Dr James Cameron on the deformities & ill health caused by improper postures adopted by children in sitting & standing. Drawing room to-night - about 300 to 400 people - very pretty ceremony & all well carried out - held in Art Association Rooms lent us for purpose. Veils & feathers worn as a rule. This is the first time there has been a Drawing Room held here for many years & it has caused much discussion.’

3 February 1896
‘Some doubt has been expressed as to whether our historical fancy dress Ball should proceed because of the mourning. But as it is fixed for a month after Prince Henry’s death, as its being put off would not only entail loss not only on the tradesmen but on the guests who have gone to a good deal of trouble in ordering their dresses, & as postponement to after Lent would be very precarious seeing the state of political affairs, we think there can be no doubt about its going on. It is to be on the 17th, the last possible day before Lent, & now people are fairly interested in it. At the outset, the project had a good deal of cold water dashed at it - there was not time - people would not dress - people had not the money & so on. Then when we arranged with Montreal costumiers to provide dresses for gentlemen from $5 to $10, wigs & shoes extra & to give designs for costumes for ladies free, leaving them to have them made up, there came the political crisis. The costumiers came & took rooms at Ottawa & sat there & waited, but no one came - everybody was at the House.

Dr Bourinot, the clerk of the House of Commons (and a great authority on constitutional history), has been my mainstay. He suggested all the personages we might represent and their characteristics & has entered into the whole affair with enthusiasm. To tell the honest truth, we started this idea of having a Ball representing the outstanding periods of Canadian history, with the hope that it might lead to the young people reading up a bit & that it might divert Ottawa gossip at least into past times, away from all the painful & humiliating episodes of the present political situation & the everlasting discussion of hockey & winter sports varied with Ottawa society scandal. It was a sort of forlorn hope, but actually it appears to be succeeding - the last fortnight has made a great difference & now you hear everyone anxious to trace out the lineage & deeds of General this & Admiral that & of Madame la Marquise or the others. We had a meeting of the ladies who have undertaken to organise dances representing the various periods last Saturday & ascertained their views on various points. I enclose a copy of what we have put in the papers on this point.’

26 September 1896
‘Here again after another week of “progress” as it is called, through Ontario - that is, being bucketed from one place to another by night & going through the round of being received at the station, addresses presented, a procession round the town, reception at the Fair grounds, an attempt to go round the exhibits in the midst of a huge crowd, a long luncheon with nothing possible to eat, & visits to various schools, hospitals, convents & other institutions. We live our days to the tune of God save the Queen, from the moment the train stops till it departs, & one sometimes wonders inwardly whether the moment will not arrive when instead of keeping up an inane smile, we will not seize someone & turn then round & shake them or do something desperate to make at least a change.

I fear this is all horridly ungrateful, for everybody has been most kind & people have vied one with another to see who could do most for us. I think there has been a general desire to show that the feeling of the country was not with Sir Charles in his attack on H.E.

The long talked of debate come off last Monday evening, just when we were leaving. Everybody was prepared for a long evening of it - the old gentleman made a carefully prepared speech & kept himself mostly within bounds & was only pulled up twice, by the Speaker for speaking disrespectfully of H.E. Capt. Sinclair who was present, thought he spoke better than Laurier, who seemed rather taken unawares. Several of the Liberal leaders were ready with speeches, but when Laurier sat down, no one on the Opposition side got up & to the amazement of everybody, the debate collapsed. Neither Foster, Haggart or Ives were even present & the Conservative party generally had made up its mind not to support their leader in this. So he has made rather a mess of his great constitutional question. It seems rather a pity that the opinions of some of those most interested in the matter & also the despatches to & from the Colonial Office should not be put on record so as to ensure the same line being kept for the future. But doubtless there is safety in allowing the subject to drop now & we at least may be amply satisfied with the result.

Our tour this week comprised Peterborough, Stratford-on-Avon, Goderich, Tavistock, Brantford, Woodstock & Lindsay. The Shows have been very good & the fruit superb, especially the apples over which the proprietor of Coldstream is apt to linger considerably. The English market is found to be far away the best & for the best apples from Goderich they have been getting 17/- a barrel.

The local authorities are not quite sufficiently alive to the danger of crowds trying to converge on one centre & we have had several escapes from accidents owing to platforms etc. being not sufficiently strong. At Peterborough the platform was fairly stormed & it collapsed - it was not high, & no one was hurt, not even an old gentleman of over 90 who was precipitated down. At Stratford we had to pass from the Rink (where the addresses were presented & where there was a great crowd, although it was but 9.30 a.m.) back to our carriage across a wooden bridge some 20 feet high. The crowd got flurried & would not move on - more & more came pressing on from the Rink & the bridge began cracking & swaying in horrible style with all these people on it. However the cracking frightened them on happily in time - next day another platform began to crack & at the evening reception at Goderich, the crowd became utterly unmanageable & fought with the militia who had been brought in by Capt. Wilberforce’s request to help keep the passage way. The mayor sent for the police & threatened to arrest any more who gave trouble, but there was great discomfort & the poor wretches who struggled through to the so-called “reception” & to present addresses looked decidedly dishevelled & irritable. The Irish gave a nice address there about Home Industries. To make things better, the electric light went out & we finished our entertainment by the light of a single oil lamp. The militia did very well that night. We were ensconced in a retreat consecrated to Mr Walker of Walkerville’s whiskey & ale. It was bitterly cold for two days & I have succeeded in bring back a baddish cold. H.E. has kept very well, I am thankful to say & we have slept on the car throughout, the Grand Trunk kindly lending us another car. At Tavistock I found myself suddenly announced by H.E. to make a German speech at 9 a.m. without any meditation, as he had been told that the inhabitants were mainly German. I don’t believe.’

Sunday, March 12, 2017

An orgy in the Vatican

Cesare Borgia, one of the most infamous of the Borgia family, indeed labelled by some as ‘the most handsome, dashing, and despicable Borgia of all’, was killed in battle 510 years ago today. He is considered the inspiration for Niccolò Machiavelli’s political treatise The Prince, but he also figures often in a diary kept by the papal court’s Master of Ceremonies at the time, Johannes Burchardus. One particularly notable passage from the diary concerns an orgy in the Vatican - as arranged by Cesare.

Cesare Borgia was born in Rome in the mid-1470s, the illegitimate son of Rodrigo Borgia who would later become Pope Alexander VI, and the grandnephew of Pope Callixtus III. Cesare was trained for a career in the Church, attending schools in Perugia and Pisa, and then studying law at the Studium Urbis. Aged around 15, he was made Bishop of Pamplona, and at 17, after his father had been elevated to Pope, he was made archbishop of Valencia, and then a cardinal.

Cesare was clearly precocious, and biographers say he was also brave, handsome and ambitious. However, he was also ruthless: some historians believe he was responsible for the murder of his older brother Giovanni - his father’s favourite. In 1498, Cesare resigned his office, being the first cardinal in history to do so, becoming an ambassador for the pope to France. For helping King Louis XII receive a papal annulment of his marriage, Cesare was rewarded with the title of Duke of Valentinois. When King Louis invaded Italy in 1499, Cesare was by his side on entering Milan. Subsequently, Cesare was sent by his father, the pope, to subdue rebellious cities in northern Italy. With the full force of the papal armies, he established a new state of Romagna for himself. In 1501, the pope named him a Papal Gonfalonier and Duke of Romagna.

In 1503, however, both Cesare and Alexander VI fell ill with fever; the son recovered but the father died. The new pope, Pius III, supported Cesare, reconfirming him as Gonfalonier, but he died within weeks, leading to the election of Giuliano Della Rovere as Pope Julius II - a deadly enemy of the Borgias. Pope Julius soon sought to recover the northern Italian cities for the Papacy, and Cesare himself was arrested in Naples, then a Spanish possession, and imprisoned. In 1506, he escaped, and fled to Navarre, then ruled by his brother-in-law John III, for whom he served briefly as a military commander, before being killed at the siege of Viana on 12 March 1507. Further information is available from Wikipedia, The Borgia Bull, New World Encyclopedia, or Encyclopedia.com.

‘Cesare is best known,’ Encyclopedia.com summarises, ‘as a model leader, the ideal of the Renaissance prince, in the eyes of Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine historian who believed Cesare’s combination of ambition and cunning were best suited to rule in his times. The historian, serving as an ambassador for Florence, spent some time at Borgia’s court in 1502-1503 and described his actions and tactics in his work The Prince. Borgia’s conquest of Romagna and the murder of his rivals at Senigallia on New Year’s Eve 1502 in particular earned Machiavelli’s praise.’

Apart from Machiavelli, historians turn to the diary of Johannes Burchardus (or Johann Burchard) for biographical information on Cesare. Burchardus was born in Alsace, and rose to high rank in the church, being appointed Master of Ceremonies under Pope Sixtus IV, and retaining the position through several popes until his death in 1506. But his main claim to be remembered is as a chronicler, for his Liber Notarum, a record of life in the papal court. Though editions of the work had been published earlier, it was not until the early 20th century that a first full and critical version was published, in Latin. An English version, edited by Dr F. L. Glaser followed in 1910: Pope Alexander VI and his court: extracts from the Latin diary of Johannes Burchardus. This is freely available at Internet Archive.

One of the most infamous passages from the diary records an orgy in the Vatican as organised by Cesare: ‘On the evening of the last day of October, 1501, Cesare Borgia arranged a banquet in his chambers in the Vatican with fifty honest prostitutes, called courtesans, who danced after the dinner with the attendants and the others who were present, at first in their garments, then naked. After the dinner the candelabra with the burning candles were taken from the tables and placed on the floor, and chestnuts were strewn around, which the naked courtesans picked up, creeping on hands and knees between the chandeliers, while the Pope, Cesare, and his sister Lucretia looked on. Finally prizes were announced for those who could perform the act most often with the courtesans, such as tunics of silk, shoes, barrets, and other things.’ The so-called Banquet of Chestnuts - disputed by some - has its own Wikipedia page.

Here are several other extracts from the diary of Burchadus relating to Cesare.

20 April 1499
‘On Saturday, the 20th of April, 1499, the Pope received a letter from France advising him that the marriage contract had been concluded by the former Cardinal Cesare Borgia and the Lord d’Albret in the name of his daughter, by which, as was reported, and as it was in fact set down in the contract, the Pope was to give a dowry of 200,000 ducats, and the marriage was not to be performed until his Holiness had nominated the brother of the bride a cardinal.’

23 May 1499
‘On the 23rd of May, 1499, a courier arrived from France with the report for the Pope that his son Cesare, the former cardinal, had contracted the marriage with the Lady d’Albret, on Sunday, the 12th of May, and had performed it and did take her eight times, one after the other.’

18 November 1499
‘On Monday, the 18th of November, 1499, Cesare Borgia returned secretly through the Porta Cavallegieri to Rome with a chamberlain and the brother of the deceased John Marades and stayed with the Pope in the palace until Thursday, the 21st. On the morning of this day he departed and rode away secretly with an escort of papal soldiers to the city of Imola, which he took over soon afterward by force together with the castle. The Lords of the city, the sons of the deceased Count Girolamo Riario, nephew of Cardinal Riario, were robbed with violence.’

23 January 1503
‘On Wednesday, the 23rd of January, 1503, the report was circulated in Rome that Cesare had brought under his rule recently Chiusi and Pienza as well as the places of Sarteano, Castle della Pieve and Santo Quirico, where only two old men and nine old women were found. The men of the Duke hung them up by the arms and lighted fires beneath their soles, in order to force them through this torture to confess where property had been hidden. But they could or would not confess and perished under the torture. The villainous band tore the roofs from the houses, the beams, windows, doors, chests and barrels, from which they had let the wine run out, and set fire to everything. They took with them whatever they could plunder in the places they passed through, as well as in Aquapendente, Monte- fiascone, Viterbo, and everywhere else.’

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Flying over the Poles

Richard E. Byrd, one of the most decorated US naval officers, died 60 years ago today. He was an aviation pioneer, credited with the first solo flights over the North and South Poles, and organised several major expeditions to the Antarctic leading to the US having a permanent base on the continent. Like most explorers, he kept diaries and notebooks, and some extracts have appeared in his own books. However, there’s been only one published work based on the diaries themselves, and that diary material, in fact, has fuelled a debate over whether Byrd’s flight ever reached the North Pole.

Byrd was born at Winchester, Virginia, in 1888, second son of a wealthy Virginian politician who was also an apple grower and proprietor of the Winchester Star newspaper. The older son, Harry, would become Governor of Virginia and serve in the US Senate. Richard attended the Shenandoah Valley Academy, the Virginia Military Institute, and the University of Virginia. He was enrolled as a cadet at the US Navel Academy in 1908, and, on graduating in 1912, was assigned to USS Kentucky; he served on two other vessels before being reassigned to USS Missouri during the Mexican War.

In 1914, Byrd rescued two seamen from drowning, for which he was later honoured, and he took his first flight in an airplane. Also that same year, he was assigned to the gunboat USS Dolphin which was involved in the US’s intervention in Veracruz. On board, Byrd met the future Fleet Admiral, William D. Leahy, as well as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used ship occasionally to transport himself and his family. Byrd served on Dolphin until he was medically retired in 1916 for a foot injury. A year or so earlier, in 1915, Byrd married Marie Ames of Boston. They would have four children, and, from 1924, live in large brownstone in Boston purchased by Marie’s father.

After retirement from active duty, Byrd became involved with aviation, receiving his pilot wings in 1918. He was assigned to a transatlantic aviation project, helped set up the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, and worked as a flying instructor. But, his polar career began in 1924 when he was given command of a small naval aviation detachment, part of Commander D. B. MacMillan’s Arctic expedition to western Greenland. This experience is said to have given him the ambition to be the first to fly over the North Pole.

On 9 May 1926, Byrd and Floyd Bennett, the navy’s chief aviation pilot, attempted a flight over the North Pole in a Fokker trimotor named Josephine Ford (after the daughter of Ford Motor Company president who helped finance the expedition). The flight from Spitsbergen and back lasted nearly 16 hours without mishap (apart from an oil leak). Byrd and Bennett claimed to have reached the Pole, a distance of 1,535 miles, and, subsequently, they were both awarded the US Congressional Medal of Honor. Byrd was promoted to the rank of commander, and his status as a national hero helped him raise funds for further ventures. However, whether Byrd and Bennett did, in fact, reach the North Pole has been much debated. The key point of early doubts being that Byrd’s plane might not have had the speed to achieve the distance claimed.

In 1927, Byrd not only helped Charles Lindbergh (see Our civilization’s survival) in his preparations for a non-stop flight across the Atlantic, thus winning the Orteig Prize, but made his own successful transatlantic crossing a few weeks later. This achievement which won him further honours in France and the US, and promotion to the rank of rear admiral. Byrd next turned his attention to the South Pole, leading three expeditions to explore and map the region (1928-1930, 1933-1935, and 1939-1941), the first two financed privately and the third undertaken at the behest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and financed by the government. During the first, Byrd as navigator and three companions made the first flight over the South Pole. During the second, Byrd spent five months alone in a hut enduring extremely cold conditions, and was seriously ill when rescued. Among other achievements of the third expedition, he discovered Thurston Island. 


However, Byrd was recalled in 1940 to active duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, serving mostly through the Second World War as an advisor to the navy fleet Commander in Chief, Ernest King. Among other duties, he evaluated Pacific islands as operational sites. After the war, Byrd was placed in charge of Operation High Jump, the most ambitious Antarctic expedition ever attempted involving 4,700 men, 13 ships (including an aircraft carrier), and 25 airplanes. In 1955, he was made officer in charge of the US’s Antarctic programmes and became the senior authority for government Antarctic matters. He helped supervise a major scientific and exploratory expedition in 1955-1956 (Operation Deep Freeze) which marked the start of a permanent US military presence in Antarctica. Byrd died on 11 March 1957. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Virginia, or South-Pole.com.

The Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center Archival Program at Ohio State University holds the papers of Admiral Richard E. Byrd. The finding aid lists 10 diaries sporadically included within correspondence lots, but it also includes a section on ‘notebooks’, detailing close to 100 of them, dated between 1925-1957 (though some are undated). In Byrd’s own published books, he refers to his ‘detailed and voluminous’ ‘diary’ - so the notebooks at Ohio State might well also be diaries rather than merely notebooks.

Alone, a book about Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition, was first published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in 1938, and reissued in 1966 by Shearwater Books - a modern reprint by Island Books can be previewed at Googlebooks. In his preface, Byrd writes: ‘The original intention was to use my diary, which was very detailed and voluminous, as the prime ingredient in the book; but I soon discovered that it was almost impossible to maintain an intelligible sequence and proportion by relying on the diary alone, since it was inescapably full of repetitious matter, cryptic references to things meaningful to myself, and random jottings; beside, there were many very personal things directed to my family which I did not wish to include.’

In fact, Byrd refers to his diary repeatedly through the text, and discuss the entries (often noting ‘as my diary testifies’). Here he is at the start of chapter three: ‘During the four and a half months I occupied Advance Base alone, I kept a fairly complete diary. Nearly every night, before turning in, I sat down and wrote a thoroughgoing account of the day’s doings. Yet, I have been surprised and puzzled, on reading the entries four years later, to find that not more of the emotions and circumstances which I have always associated with the first few days alone were actually committed to paper. For, afterwards, it seemed that I was never busier. Although I was up mornings before 8 o’clock and rarely went to bed before midnight, the days weren’t half long enough for me to accomplish the things I set out to do. A fagged mind in the midst of a task has little patience with autobiographical trifles. As witness:’ And then he quotes from the diary.

29 March 1934
‘. . . Last night, when I finished writing, I noticed a dark patch spreading over the floor from under the stove. A bad leak had opened up in the fuel line. Worried about the fire risk, I shut off the stove and searched all through my gear for a spare line. I couldn’t find one, which annoyed me; but I finally succeeded in stopping the leak with adhesive tape borrowed from the medical chest. Result: I was up until 4 o’clock this morning, most of the time damned cold, what with the fire out and the temperature at 58° below zero. The cold metal stripped the flesh from three fingers of one hand.
(Later) This being the twenty-second anniversary of the death of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, I have been reading again his immortal diary. He died on this same Barrier, at approximately the same latitude as that of Advance Base. I admire him as I admire few other men; better than most, perhaps, I can appreciate what he went through . . .’

The only publication of Byrd’s diaries to date (that I have been able to find) is To the Pole: the diary and notebook of Richard E. Byrd, 1925-1927 as edited by Raimund E. Goerler and published by Ohio State University Press in 1998. This can be previewed at Googlebooks. It contains diary extracts from Byrd’s Greenland Expedition in 1925, the North Pole flight in 1926, and his Transatlantic flight in 1927. Among the diary extracts about the North Pole flight are various navigational calculations, some of which were erased at the time, but which have been uncovered by researchers. These have tended to fuel more debate over whether Byrd and Bennett did, in fact, fly over the Pole. A review of the controversy, by Goerler (of the Byrd Polar Research Centre), found that, even with the new evidence in the book, it is not possible to be certain one way or the other.

Here are several extracts from To the Pole.

3 January 1925
‘Is the human race an accidental by-product of the cosmical processes? If God directs us, remaining silent and inscrutable to us, then he means either that he does not want us to know him or he is indifferent or he has made the knowing of him a difficult task.’

20 June 1925
‘The 20th has come at last and we left Wiscassett [Maine] at 2:45 PM today on schedule date. As anxious as I have been to get started on the expedition, I have felt so sad at leaving my precious family that I haven’t been able to mention the subject to Marie. I am doing her (apparently) a miserable mean trick in causing her to go through all the apprehensions she has felt for weeks and will for weeks to come. I feel mightily low and wicked today on account of it and the wonderful send off we got from thousands of people has meant absolutely nothing to me for nothing could matter with this terrible ache I have tried so hard to hide.

Dear little Dickie [Richard Byrd Jr.] didn’t realize what it was all about and that made me feel still more useless. Poor little fellow. He is too young to realize what an irresponsible “dad” he has. Marie as always was a wonderful sport.

With all this on my mind, I had to make a speech on the City Common to hundreds of people and also accept for the naval unit wonderful hunting knives presented to the personnel by the National Aeronautic Association of Maine.’

28 July 1925
‘7:45 a.m. Ran into flat pack ice today about 60 miles north of Upernivik. At first the flat pack ice was in cakes and far apart but gradually the cakes got larger and larger until about 5 this morning the Peary and Bowdoin were completely surrounded by an apparently unbroken field of ice. A number of the boys went over the ship’s side on the ice and walked several miles from the ships seal hunting. [Bromfield?] from the Bowdoin shot a seal in the head (a seal floats only when shot in the head). The seal was in a lead opened up by the Peaty as she came through the ice. We went after her in one of the Bowdoin boats. The Peary has been under a great strain bucking ice for the past seventeen hours. She is however very staunch and powerful and has stood the strain well.

10 PM A lead opened up for us about 8 AM and we got out of the solid ice but there was continual bucking of large flat cake[s] of ice until 6 PM. Now the water is a dead calm and only a few ice bergs are in sight.’

13 August 1925
‘Good weather has at last come. The NA-2 & 3 are out of commission. Bennett and I are going tonight for the blessed old navy. We must make a showing for her. Everything went wrong today. NA-1 lost cowling overboard. NA-2 went down by nose. Almost lost her. NA-3 nearly sunk by icebergs and injured lower wing on raft.

Later. MacMillan wouldn’t let me go. He seems to have given up. MacMillan seems to be in [a] great hurry to pack up and go back. Wonder what is in his mind.’

24 August 1925
‘Laying in Booth Sound on account of bad weather.’

25 August 1925

‘Captain doesn’t know where we are. So won’t send a radio tonight. Reached Conical Rock finally. Laying behind here on account bad weather.’

30 August 1925
‘Iceberg rolled over somewhere in bay making a tidal wave that nearly drowned bay, a very dramatic incident.’

8 September 1925
‘Terrible storm tonight. Wind 80 miles per hour. Two small boats from Danish gunboat Island Falk could not make their ship. Came alongside our ship. Both boats sank and came within an ace of losing several of the nine or ten Danes - a very dramatic moment. I have only once before experienced such wind - a typhoon in the China Sea. Much excitement on board last night.’

29 April 1926
‘Greatly disappointed today to hear from Amundsen by radio that we could not go alongside dock as there are two Norwegian ships alongside.

Amundsen sent a lieutenant from the Norwegian gunboat that is alongside the dock out to meet us. He informed us that he didn’t know when we could go alongside dock.

We arrived about 4 PM. Asked the captain of the gunboat if we could go alongside him. He reluctantly consented. I called on Amundsen immediately but he was at supper. Met him later and went to his quarters with him

I then called on captain of the gunboat and asked him when we could get alongside dock and get our plane ashore. He replied Monday. I then requested that he let us go alongside when he is not coaling at night and put the plane ashore. He would not do that.

We cannot wait for days and I ordered the floats lowered so as to take the plane on four of our boats rigged together by planking.

I then called on Smithmeyer, the director of the coal mine. He told us that we would have to move from alongside the gunboat to allow a Norwegian whaler to get alongside and coal. We anchored out about 300 yards at midnight. Got our pontoon made and at this writing have the small plane’s [the Oriole’s] wing put aboard.

Got radio that Wilkins is OK at Point Barrow. Hurrah! Smithmeyer told us to go alongside dock. Small space other side [of] gunboat. We would surely have gone aground. I cannot understand.’

2 May 1926
‘Worked all night on beach to get plane ready but had bright sunlight. Built little hanger of [illegible]. Took lunch with Amundsen who professes great friendship but gave Lt. Balchen (who is a peach and wanted to help us and has helped us) orders not to come near us again.’

29 June 1927
‘Left 4.25 standard [Eastern Standard Time]
4:29 altitude 300 feet turning. After turn completed 400. Raining slight.
5:50 Altitude 2200 feet. Not so much vibration now. Well beyond Cape Cod. Still visible few ships. Few ships. Cold. Having quite [a] time keeping Bert [Acosta] on course. Balchen still aft with us. Cans [of] gas affect standard compass. Must get them out of way soon.
As I looked through our trap door passing north of Halifax a cl[o]ud was under us and the shadow of the America on the cloud had a beautiful rainbow around it. Oil leak near [illegible]. Leak fixed with glue.
Sometimes have difficult time attracting attention ahead [from other crew members] to send radio or change course. Lights don’t work so well. Found a long stick and hit Noville on shoe with that.
Went forward at 3:15 to pilot. I got caught in passage way.
For ten hours we have seen no land or water. It’s now ten A.M. I sit here wondering if the winds have been with us. If they haven’t we don’t reach land.
8:30 Impossible to navigate.’

30 June 1927
‘12:30 Dawn is here very beautiful over horizon.
2:00 Clouds are right up to us. Nothing seen below for 10 hours.
3:30 Ice began to form.
5:00 Dense fog that can’t climb out of. Terribly dangerous. No water yet.
5 (?) [sic] Haven’t seen water or land for 13 hours.
9:00 Can see water now
10:30 Things at last are pleasant.
12:30 Taking longer than I thought to get to land.’

See also The first aerial explorer for more about the diary of another aviation pioneer, Sir George Hubert Wilkins.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Death in my heart

‘There is nothing but death in my heart. It is as though I have been pumped with lead. There is nothing to look forward to at all, at all . . . even financially, I’ve had it this time. I owe my rent, the car tax, the car insurance, I’ve had my pay and it is gone. I have 10 pfgs in the house and no petrol in the car. There is nothing to look forward to at all. I am also going through an acute sense of self-pity again and deadening loneliness.’ This is Waguih Ghali, a self-exiled Egyptian writer, whose deep depression, intensely described in his diaries, led eventually to suicide. A first volume of these diaries has just been published by The American University in Cairo Press.

Ghazi was born in 1929 or 1930 (the actual date seems unknown) in Alexandria, Egypt, part of a Coptic family, but his father died when he was young, and his mother remarried. As he grew older, he was considered something a wild youth, careless with money and property. From 1944 to 1947, he was sent to Victoria College, a private institution run like a British public school. Friction with his stepfather, led him to spend more time at the college’s Cairo campus, where he stayed with relatives, particularly his maternal aunt, Ketty. After studying medicine at Cairo University for a while, he transferred to the Sorbonne, Paris, but dropped out, leaving Paris in 1953.

Ghali struggled with symptoms of manic depression throughout his life, and he never found a place to settle for long or work that fulfilled him. He became a sponger, a libertine, too fond of alcohol and casual sex, like others in the sixties, but he was also charming and principled. An antipathy towards the Egyptian government left him reluctant to return to his home country. He lived in London and Sweden in the second half of the 1950s, during which time he wrote several personal essays published in The Guardian, and then moved to Rheydt, West Germany, where he remained from 1960 to 1966. It was in Germany that he finished and published his only novel - Beer in the Snooker Club (André Deutsch, 1964) - which achieved some literary success.

While editing the book for André Deutsch, Diana Athill, one of its editors, became involved with Ghali. Concerned about his welfare in 1966, she arranged for him to move to London and live in her flat. It was not an easy friendship, stormy and full of conflict. One major argument flared up, for example, when Athill happened to read what Ghali had written about her in his diary. In 1967, following the Arab-Israeli war, he visited Israel for six weeks, acting as a free-lance journalist. He filed two articles for the London Times and a piece for the BBC, but, by then, the Egyptian authorities had denied renewal of his passport.

In late 1968, while still living in Athill’s flat, Ghali committed suicide. Some time later, in the mid-1980s, Athill published a memoir about her relationship with Ghali - After a Funeral. Until recently, this was the main source of information on the Egyptian writer. Wikipedia has a brief briography, and there is a more nuanced analysis of Ghali and his novel available in The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English by Nouri Gana which can be previewed at Googlebooks.

However, now more biographical information has become available with the publication, by The American University in Cairo Press, of a first volume of Ghali’s diaries - a second volume is to follow in the summer. The diaries cover, and shed much light on, the last four years of Ghali’s life as well as, through reminiscences, aspects of his youth. The Diaries of Waguih Ghali: An Egyptian Writer in the Swinging Sixties 1964-1966 has been meticulously edited by May Hawas of the University of Alexandria. Although Athill had, apparently, inadvertently allowed the original diaries to be lost or destroyed, she had also given permission, much earlier to a researcher, Deborah Starr (now an associate professor at Cornell University) to photocopy the diaries, and it is these photocopies that Hawas has worked on for the new publication.

‘The diaries are an interesting read for their own sake,’ says Hawas in her introduction. ‘In the context of the success of Ghali’s novel and the diversity of its audience, as well as the pathos of the writer’s own life, the diaries also represent for Ghali’s fans a much-awaited second work.’ She goes on to look at how Ghali’s diaries (the published volume and the forthcoming one) reflect the Swinging Sixties (as in her subtitle), and how they illuminate the parasitic nature of his relationship with Athill.

Particularly interesting, however, is her brief analysis of the role that keeping a diary played in Ghali’s life. Hamas notes that in his final diary entry - yet to be published, in the second volume - he explains how and why he is going to commit suicide. She says: ‘Although Ghali starts the diary by explaining that he writes to save himself from going mad, it is in these last sections in particular where he elaborates on the role that the diary has played in his life: how writing it has relieved his feelings, but how it has also displaced effort which otherwise might have been channeled into writing a novel. In his suicide note, Ghali stresses his desire to have his diaries published, spelling out the degree to which his creative energy has been directed toward the diary, even if it was not the novelistic work he had really wanted to produce. In some way, the diaries replace the novel as another creative genre, like the short story or novel or poem, simply another way, in his words, that a writer could “create something.” ’

In the first volume of diaries, Hawas also includes a compilation of correspondence between Starr and Athill between 1999 and 2014. In one exchange, Hawas asks Athill, ‘Did Ghali leave you any instructions about what to do with his personal papers after he died?’ Athill replies, ‘Waguih left the bundle in my bedroom with a note saying I should do with it what I saw fit.’ What she saw fit, however, did not apparently include publishing the diaries. Athill is still alive, living in a retirement home, and, all being well, will celebrate her 100th birthday this coming December.

Here are several extracts from The Diaries of Waguih Ghali: An Egyptian Writer in the Swinging Sixties 1964-1966. (Ellipses between brackets - [. . .] - indicate where Hawas has cut material; if not between brackets the ellipses are a standardised version of Ghali’s own and variable trailing dots.)

4 June 1964
‘Am at the office. Lovely sunny day. Woke up in an excellent mood. Sang in the car going to work. Perhaps even relieved that that Liselotte thing is finished with. Had a nice walk in the sun to the bank. Bought Simone de Beauvoir’s Le deuxième sexe - in English, unfortunately. But something to read in lieu of depression and thinking. “Thoughts are a disease of the flesh,” said Thomas Hardy.

Will go swimming at noon. Let me live today for today and damn everything else. I’ve got enough to eat, haven’t I? A flat? A car. What do I want? A woman? I’ll go get one from a dancing hall this weekend. Fuck her and throw her. It is the only language they understand. They love that. They’ll love you for it. Leave my bloody anaemic sentimentality and sickliness - Let me be fresh, for Christ’s sake. Am in a good mood today.’

3 December 1964
‘In bed at night. This will be pompous and horrid but nevertheless: been reading An Area of Darkness (Naipaul). He will, hélas, never be a great writer (not popular, either, complimentary nowadays). Too engrossed with himself, his feelings, his thoughts which should only be a concern to himself and not expect others to feel. The ‘cab’ in Alexandria, whether imaginary or not, is too insignificant to build a philosophy upon, a theory and work. “He was a child, an innocent, a maker; someone for whom the world had never held either glory or pathos; someone for whom there had been no place.” This (page 43) could have emanated from a review (a cheap one, probably) of a work or man, but not a description of a man’s life in a work (Ramon in this case). No, no, ‘l’effort préalablement conçu’ as it were.’

26 September 1965
‘There is nothing but death in my heart. It is as though I have been pumped with lead. There is nothing to look forward to at all, at all . . . even financially, I’ve had it this time. I owe my rent, the car tax, the car insurance, I’ve had my pay and it is gone. I have 10 pfgs in the house and no petrol in the car. There is nothing to look forward to at all. I am also going through an acute sense of self-pity again and deadening loneliness. Hélas, I want to die again. Happiness is denied me, and if, at times and out of cowardliness, I believe in God, I see him only as a cruel sadist. What, if he exists, is he doing to me? Why did he give me my brain and way of thinking and my emotions, and then stifle them all the time, torment me all the time? I have nothing to look forward to and I am dead internally. I don’t want to live anymore. I have suffered too much, suffered too much in spite of at times having tried to accept it, and make my life bearable with small things . . . the other car, the radio in it, the trips to Holland, and an aloofness from life . . . But I get knocked all the time, terribly knocked, and at the moment I can’t support it anymore. The thought of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow is unbearable. I walk about in my flat, all in disorder since yesterday . . . vestiges of Brigitta. I walk up and down, sit down, smoke, every minute is a torture as I wait for it to pass, only to bring another more dreadful minute. I have reached the bottom again . . . self-pity, horror at the future, loneliness, and utter despair:

[. . .] Sat., [. . .] 2.30 or so, Brigitta came. I was only expecting her at seven. She wanted to go for a swim. She went for her trunks, and I shaved quickly and picked her up at Marienplatz. I could feel she wasn’t in love with me. The pool was closed, but we scrambled in and had a swim. It was a warm lovely day. The man came and told us we were not allowed in, so [we] went away and came to my place. I was a bit nervous, and although I took her in my arms now and then and kissed her, there wasn’t the real response I know. We both had a shower at my place and I found her very beautiful. [. . .] We sat and talked and then she said, “I really didn’t want to come today.” “I felt that perhaps you didn’t and even that you might not [. . .],” I said. We had drank a bit, and one was frank. It was about 7.30.
“I don’t want to have an affair with you . . . I don’t love you,” she said.
“Yes,” I said. And then I asked, “The affair is ended today?”
“Yes,” [. . .] she said.
It meant I wasn’t going to possess her. Death struck me at once. Lead, tons of it, was poured into me. The idea of food, of eating [. . .], gave me nausea.

“You must be hungry,” I said. “Start making the salad. I shall cook the steak. [. . .] I can’t eat, sweetheart,” I said. “I can’t now because I am a bit dead inside.” She said she understood. At once I switched on my charm. I wasn’t going to moan, to be a bore. I treated her as [a] Queen and called her queen. I laughed, set the table for her . . . put a candle [. . .] on the table. Joked. Served her like a waiter, and as she was eating, I went out in the garden, sat on the steps, and smoked a cigarette, one full of misery and utter despair. She came out and called me in. I went in, laughed, watched her eat (she was tucking it in, alright). Drank a few schnapps with her, then cleared the table while she made coffee. I lay on the sofa and we talked for a while. I had plucked a rose from the garden and she found it beautiful. I told her that anyway I was mad . . . that there was a sort of madness in me. We held hands and then I pulled her and she came in my arms as I lay on the sofa. I told her two short stories of Dostoevsky and one of Gogol’s. Gogol’s story of the poet and the bird which struck her heart in the rose’s thorn [sic] to bloom a rose for the beloved, and the poet throwing the rose away, and Dostoevsky’s story of the clerk who died because he couldn’t believe in his happiness. I had my hands beneath her pullover and tried to undo her soutien.

“No - no, Waguih,” she said.
“Why not?” I asked softly. “It is the last time anyway,” and I undid it and pulled her pullover off and again she tore at my things and pulled them off my head and we caressed passionately and then she took her things off. I told her more stories and we kissed and caressed. Then I took her to bed, and made wonderful love to her. I kissed her breasts and her armpits, and she kissed my chest and neck, and after the first time, we lay relaxed and happy and she murmured she would love to spend a whole night in my arms, then I kissed her body and her breasts and made love to her for many an hour, but suddenly I hated this rubber contraption and tore it away and told her I hated it, and she said, “yes”. . . and I came in her. And it is just the critical time. She worried about it, and I am worried too. I gave her an aspirin to take, pretending it’s another kind of pill . . . just to stop her worrying. What will worrying do?

We kissed and I drove her near home. She will not come again. “For a while,” I told her. “I must get over you.” “Of course,” she said. When I let her out of the car, I gave her the rose which I had tucked in the car . . . and a very small folded paper. “I dropped a tear for you and collected it to give you.” Stupid romantic, but she was touched. I walked with her for a while, and in the corner, kissed her. “Goodbye . . . and God bless you,” I said . . . and it is finished.

I am glad and grateful we made love. It would have been terrible otherwise. Glad I haven’t parted humiliated . . . But it is finished. Ended. A pretty little affair, except that no affair is ‘little’ to me, and I am demolished today. Utterly dead. Writing this has helped a bit . . . What can I look forward to?’

27 September 1965
‘Thanks God [sic] for this Diary again, because, being the way I am I must pour out my heart somewhere or other. But I don’t feel as bad as yesterday this morning. Certainly harder and not as soft and as repulsive as yesterday. [. . . ] What is good with this girl, is that I know it is finished, know I shall not see her anymore, so that eliminates a whole lot of ramifications of pain. And strangely, I don’t really love her this morning anymore, in the sense that it is not love, but something I possessed and have lost. I shall try very very hard not to think of her at all. What frightens me most of all, is the period between 5.30 and 8.30 at home. When I return from work, I dread being alone in my flat and suddenly hate the flat itself and everything in it. I do not know what I shall do about money. The whole picture is terribly hopeless.’

18 October 1965
‘I am beginning to hate this Diary somehow - it has become a ‘person,’ who goes on and on putting up with my complaints and groans . . . and whenever I look at it, see it, it is only a reminder of the utter misery that I am. How the weekend dragged - and dragged. Again utterly dead and empty inside. Sunday swimming and racquets again, then a few beers with Kurt and Zander in the evening. Zander’s mother had invited me to lunch, where I learnt from Zander that Brigitta was with Bubbi on Saturday evening.

As I said, I am just absolutely and utterly empty inside. Thoughts of suicide, the whole hog. Damn.

Evening
I think I shall not write this Diary for some time. It depresses me to look at it.’

22 October 1965
‘As I said, the Diary does depress me. Have worked well the last three days on the novel. It is my salvation. I am slowly entering my cocoon, and when I am in it, I am alright. I’ve discovered an isolated pub, which is becoming my local. One or two beers now and then, all alone, dreading any of my acquaintances finding the pub [. . .] But the novel [unfinished at the time of his death] is my salvation.’

16 December 1965
‘I have not been to work since - and I certainly can’t face going. I have handed in my notice for the 15th of January and will play sick as long as possible . . . et après?. . . après ça la deluge, as we know well from experience. But deluge or not, I can’t really worsen very much. I seem to have improved slightly during the last week [. . .].

Here is my day: I go to bed about 2 a.m., having drunk myself to sleepiness. In the morning I force myself to go on sleeping as long as possible. I am usually up at about two in the afternoon. Wash, have two coffees and many cigarettes, then I drive to town for another coffee. I walk about a bit [. . .] and return home. I try and write, but it is nearly impossible. I do write, though, a few pages of a play I am writing together with Kurt Flocken - the same Kurt Flocken of Liselotte days. When I say ‘with’ him I mean I write it in English, then when he comes he takes it down in German (usually my German) . . . For someone who pretends to have literary leanings, he is hopeless. Anyway, my dictating to him is not unpleasant, and it forces me to write a few pages a day because I know he will be coming. After that we go to a pub and drink till 1 or 2 a.m . . . and a new day starts. I ward off the depression with those pills, but have decided to go without them, and without the booze for a few days. [. . .]

Diana Athill’s letters have been short and not too affectionate lately. How well I understand that and sympathise with what I take to be the inevitable revulsion I must now unconsciously cause in her. Those horrible moaning and weeping letters I have inflicted on her for so long. She would have been a monster if she didn’t finally react with some sort of disgust. And then, of course, this lunatic, selfish and absolutely egoistical proposal of mine for her to let me live in her flat for six months or so AT HER OWN COST!! Obviously I was looney to propose such a thing . . . yet. Bless her, she at once wrote to the Home Office to try and get me permission to live in London for six months . . .

Brenda Laring, who strangely turned very affectionate and friendly lately, and concerned about me, hasn’t replied to me last letter . . . a detailed description of my state of despair and fear . . .

But I remember the state I was in as I wrote to Diana suggesting she bring me to England . . . literally begging for her mercy. I remember how I was, how I feared for my sanity . . . how I could foresee that what I was going through is just simply, medically let us say, physiologically . . . unbearable.

As I said, except for this sudden attack this afternoon . . . and coupled with a sudden yearning for Brigitta, I seem to have been steadily improving. And my finances? I have been regularly winning lately. In fact if I add all I have won the last two months, it must add to about DM 200 [. . .]

I have calmed down since that attack (I played patience while it seized me) . . . I am sitting cosily, even the radio on (something I couldn’t bear to listen to until lately). Sometimes I get very hungry and eat a lot, but usually I am on an empty stomach. About my finances, le déluge will start at about the beginning of February I suppose . . .

I have discarded the novel because it started with unrequited love, and it reminds me of B. I have also read Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum and again saw what literature can be . . . what insipid caca’s [sic] most of us write. [. . . ]

My mother has sent me two very affectionate letters . . . No word from Ketty or Samir. I think they would like to be left alone.

There was something I wanted to mention. During the last two years, I have suffered terribly from matters of the heart, and anyone reading this Diary, and reading the affair with Liselotte, and then Brigitta, would laugh . . . This, to me, is one of the cruellest things I am experiencing, the fact that, in essential, it is a laughable matter. What is this ‘love’ I am talking about? Liselotte . . . Brenda . . . Iricka . . . Brigitta . . . all in the space of one year or so? I can see it too, and how cruel and terribly bitter that what is laughable distresses so intolerably. And with those last wise words, will end today’s reportage.’

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Oh how weak is man

Some 210 years ago today was born Wilford Woodruff. As a very young man he was drawn to the new religious teachings of one Joseph Smith, and was soon being sent out as a missionary by the Latter-day Saints. He rose rapidly in the church, eventually becoming its fourth leader. Though he had many wives himself, he is remembered for guiding the church towards outlawing polygamy, and thus easing its acceptance by the Union. Also, his lifelong diary is much admired as being a unique resource concerning the church’s early history.

Woodruff was born on 1 March 1807, one of nine children, in Farmington, Connecticut. His father was a miller, but his mother died when he was very young; he was brought up by a step-mother. He worked for his father as a young man, but in 1832 moved to Richland, Oswego Co., New York, where he was recruited by elders of the Latter-day Saints church, baptised and ordained as a teacher in 1834. He moved to the church’s centre, in Kirtland, Ohio. There he met the founder, Joseph Smith, and he was soon ordained a priest. Over the next few years, he was sent on various missions, and rose quickly through the church’s hierarchy, being called to the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1837, to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1838, and, the following year, to the Apostleship. He married his first wife, Phoebe Carter, in 1837; in the next 40 years, he would marry eight more times. His wives are said to have born him 34 children.

In the late 1830s, Woodruff led a party of church of members to Nauvoo, Illinois, where they settled, and where Woodruff became a member of the city council, as well as chaplain for the Nauvoo Legion, a local militia. During the 1840s, Woodruff made two successful missions to Britain; and in 1847 he was a member of the first pioneer company of Latter-day Saints to arrive in Utah’s Great Basin. He became a successful farmer with extensive livestock herds, as well as orchards. He served for 14 years as head of the Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society, and in 1855 became president of the Utah Territorial Horticultural Society. He was also very involved in the early 1860s (but unsuccessful) bid by Utah to join the Union. In 1856, he was appointed as the Latter-day Saints church’s historian, a role he then held for over 30 years.

In 1877, Woodruff became president of St. George’s, the Latter-Day Saints’ first temple in Utah, and was instrumental in developing its ceremonial procedures. When John Taylor (who had succeeded Brigham Young as leader of the church) died in 1887, Woodruff assumed the leadership (being ordained president in 1889). However, at the time, he was still in hiding from federal agents wanting to arrest him for polygamy; and the church itself was facing increasing political, legal and financial pressure because of its stance on plural marriages. In 1890, Woodruff issued a Manifesto that officially terminated the practice of polygamy, an act which then eased the way for Utah to be accepted in the Union in 1896. Woodruff died in 1898. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of Mormonism or the Latter-day Saints Church History website.

Apart from being the leader that formally ended polygamy within the church, Woodruff is also remembered and admired for his diary. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism says it is ‘a meticulous multivolume work covering nearly the entire history of the Church in the nineteenth century’, and that it ‘contains the only record of many events and speeches of Church leaders’. A biography of Woodruff by Matthias F. Cowley called Wilford Woodruff - History of His Life and Labors as recorded in his daily journals was published by Deseret News in 1909. But despite the title, the narrative is based on the diaries rather than quoting from them. However, in 1982, a selection of extracts from Woodruff’s 15 journals was published by Kraut’s Pioneer Press. This is freely available at Internet Archive.

Here is part of the publisher’s preface: ‘Wilford Woodruff kept one of the most important journals in the early Church. Recorded within its pages are some of the greatest moments in the Church’s history, much of which might otherwise have gone unrecorded. He was personally acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor, and kept a faithful record of many of their private meetings and counsel. Here for the first time in print are selected out the choicest gems of doctrine and history as they were recorded by this great man.’ And here are several extracts.

19 February 1837
‘I repaired to the house of the Lord and stood in the midst of the congregation of the Saints, where I beheld President Joseph Smith Jr. arise in the stand and for several hours addressed the Saints in the power of God. Joseph had been absent from Kirtland on business for the Church, though not half as long as Moses was in the mount. Many were stirred up in their hearts and some were against him as the Israelites were against Moses, but when he arose in the power of God in their midst, as Moses did anciently, they were put to silence for the complainers saw that he stood in the power of a Prophet. O how weak is man.’

15 May 1842
‘True information has just reached us that the noted Governor Boggs of Missouri who by his orders expelled ten thousand Latter-day Saints, has just been assassinated in his own house and fallen in his own blood. Three balls were shot through his head, two through his brains and one through his mouth, tongue and throat. Thus this ungodly wretch has fallen in the midst of his iniquity and the vengeance of God has overtaken him at last, and he has met his just deserts though by an unknown hand. This information is proclaimed through all the papers and by dispatched messengers and hand bills through the land. Thus Boggs hath died as a fool dieth and gone to his place to receive the reward of his works.’

30 June 1843
‘Excerpts from the synopsis of the remarks of Joseph Smith following his close escape from officials of Missouri; the excerpts indicate the bellicose expressions uttered publicly on this occasion: “. . . If our enemies are determined to oppress us and deprive us of our rights and privileges as they have done and if the authorities that be on the earth will not assist us in our rights, nor give us that protection which the laws and Constitution of the United States and of this State guarantee unto us, then we will claim them from higher power from heaven and from God Almighty and the Constitution, etc. I swear I will not deal so mildly with them again, for the time has come when forbearance is no longer a virtue, and if you are again taken unlawfully, you are at liberty to give loose to blood and thunder, but act with Almighty power.”
“. . . Will not the State of Missouri stay her hand in her unhallowed persecutions against the Saints; if not, I restrain you not any longer; I say in the name of Jesus Christ, I this day turn the key that opens the heavens to restrain you no longer from this time forth. I will lead you to battle, if you are not afraid to die and feel disposed to spill your blood in your own defense you will not offend me. Be not the aggressor; bear until they strike on the one cheek, offer the other and they will be sure to strike that, then defend yourselves and God shall bear you off. Will any part of Illinois say we shall not have our rights, treat them as strangers and not friends and let them go to Hell. Say some, we will mob you and be damned, if I under the necessity of giving up our charted rights, privileges and freedom which our fathers fought, bled and died for, and which the Constitution of the United States and this state guarantee unto us, I will do it at the point of the bayonet and sword.”
“. . . Furthermore if Missouri continues her warfare and continues to issue her writs against me and this people unlawfully and unjustly, as they have done and our rights are trampled upon and they take away my rights, I swear with uplifted hands to heaven I will spill my blood in its defense. They shall not take away our rights and if they don’t stop leading me by the nose, I will lead them by the nose; and if they don’t let me alone, I will turn up the world. I will make war. When we shake our own bushes, we want to catch our own fruit.” ’

17 September 1843
‘In Maine, I walked part of the way home with Father. I talked of taking Rhoda Foss home with me. Father said it would be well if I was a mind to it. I am quite at a stand, don’t know what Phebe will say about it. I returned to Sister Foss and spent the night. I conversed with her during the evening and blessed her. She is strong in faith and desires to go to Nauvoo and intends soon to come and make a visit and stay as long as she pleases. Shosh is not very well contented down east; had rather come to the west. There is quite a western fever in a number of our friends in Maine.’

30 August 1846
‘President Young then addressed the meeting and said that it was an Eternal Principle that before God would chose a man to rule any part of his kingdom, he must first learn to be ruled, and that the Lord was preparing a people for that purpose and fifty years would not pass away before many who are now present will each rule over many more than what I do this day.’

16 May 1851
‘At Summit Creek, met with the citizens to agree upon electing officers. President Young said that he cared nothing about the feeling of the nation who had driven us out. We should not follow in the path of political foolery. We should have one candidate and but one as delegate to Congress. We can speak our feelings freely, but when we vote, let it be for the candidate of our choice. Should we have two candidates and they have about equal votes, the United States would know we had apostatized from our faith and union, or we were trying to deceive them. We would stand better in their eyes to take our own independent course and get united. If we have but one track, the Saints will walk on it. If we have two tracks, there will be a plenty of devils to run on them. If we begin right, we shall go right. If we begin wrong, we shall keep wrong. The United States are afraid of our union and so is the world. In speaking of the Indians, he said these Indians were the descendants of the Old Gadianton robbers who infested these mountains for more than a thousand years.’

19 October 1856
‘President Young said I have got a letter from Elder Hyde. He officiated as clerk in Drummonds Court and wrote things there day after day against God, our religion and the people for a few dimes. He ought to be cut off from the Quorum of the Twelve and the Church. He is no more fit to stand at the head of the Quorum of the Twelve than a dog. His soul is entirely occupied with a few dimes and it is much more in his eyes than God, Heaven, and Eternal Life. He is a stink in my nostrils.’

7 February 1879
‘For the first time in my life I have had to flee away from the enemies for the gospel’s sake or from any other cause. They are now trying to arrest me on polygamy. And as I had to leave St. George at 7 o’clock, I got into a wagon from the temple with David H. Cannon and drove all night.’

16 December 1879
‘I dreamed at night that President Taylor was sealing all in the Church, plural marriages to them that wished it. We met in the Council of the 12. I thought the glory of God rested upon us and we did all our work openly and the government had no power over us and we rejoiced together.’

See also Father of Mormon history and Mobocracy is rife, the former concerning the diaries of Leonard J Arrington, and the latter about those of Brigham Young.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Gabrielle, Celestine or Evangeline?

‘I know not what name to give it, not my new baby, but my new poem. Shall it be ‘Gabrielle,’ or ‘Celestine,’ or Evangeline’?’ This is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, once the country’s most popular poet, mulling over, in his diary, what name to give a work that would become one of his most famous. Longfellow, born 210 years ago today, kept a diary for most of his life, and though the entries are often brief, they are also very lyrical. By way of a postscript, I found the prologue to Evangeline in my own diaries, way back in 1975, and a reference to it 20 years later when I was visiting Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor.

Longfellow was born on 27 February 1807 in Portland, Maine, the second of eight children. His mother’s father had been a general in the American War of Independence and a Member of Congress, and his father was a lawyer. He went to private school where, among other subjects, he learned Latin, and published his first poem aged 13. At 15, he entered Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. There he met Nathaniel Hawthorne who would become a lifelong friend. While at Bowdoin, Longfellow published as many as 40 poems. Thereafter, he travelled to Europe and spent three years on a grand tour.

On returning to Maine in 1829, Longfellow took took up an offer from Bowdoin to teach languages and act as the college’s librarian. In 1831, he married Mary Potter, a childhood friend, but, during a second sojourn in Europe - at the behest of Harvard College - she had a miscarriage and died soon after. He returned to the US, and took up the professorship of modern languages at Harvard, renting rooms in Cambridge, at the Craigie House (once George Washington’s HQ during the Siege of Boston). He began publishing books of poetry, Voices of the Night (1939) and Ballads and Other Poems (1941). Soon after the former, he also published Hyperion, a prose romance inspired by his trips abroad and his hitherto unsuccessful courtship of Fanny Appleton (whom he had first met in Switzerland).

In 1843, after a seven year courtship, Longfellow and Appleton finally married, and Fanny’s father bought them Craigie House as a wedding present. They lived there for the rest of their lives, having six children. In 1847, Longfellow published his famous poem Evangeline, which helped increase his literary income. In 1854, he retired from Harvard to concentrate on writing, and five years later Harvard awarded him an honorary doctorate of laws. In the summer of 1861, a tragic fire led to Fanny’s death. In trying to save his wife, Longfellow burned his face, and subsequently wore a beard to cover the scarring. Biographers say he never fully recovered from his wife’s death. He spent several years translating Dante’s Divine Comedy; a weekly meeting with friends came to be known as the Dante Club.

During the last 15 years or so of his life, Longfellow’s fame continued to grow, and he was awarded many honours, and met many other famous figures. He supported the abolitionist cause and hoped for a reconciliation between the northern and southern states after the American Civil War. He published several more books; and he travelled to Europe, receiving an honorary doctorate from Cambridge, and meeting Queen Victoria in 1868. He died in 1882. For further information see Wikipedia, Maine Historical Society, Poets.org, Poetry Foundation, or a Houghton Library’s online exhibition.

Longfellow kept a diary throughout his life, rarely making long entries. Despite their brevity, they often exhibit his poetical and lyrical view (physically and metaphorically) of the world around him. The journal entries were first edited and compiled by his brother Samuel within a two volume biography - Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: with extracts from his journals and correspondence (1886, Ticknor and Co, Boston).


An extended version of the Life (dominated by the journals) was also included by Samuel Longfellow in The Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: with bibliographical and critical notes and his life, with extracts from his journals and correspondence (14 volumes, 1886-1891, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston). The journals in particular can be found in vol 12 (also labelled volume I of the Life) covering the years 1807-1842; vol 13 (volume II of the Life) covering the years 1843-1861; and vol 14 (volume III of the Life) covering the years 1862-1882. Here are several extracts from each of the three volumes.

17 October 1838
‘Face swollen with tooth-ache; look like King Henry VIII. A working day in college. Have I been wise to give up three whole days [in the week] to college classes? I think I have; for thus I make my presence felt here, and have no idle time to mope and grieve.’

18 October 1838
‘Wrote a chapter in Hyperion. Thus slowly goes on the work. Well or ill, I must work right on, and wait for no happier moments. This is a glorious autumn day. The coat of arms of the dying year hangs on the forest wall,as the coat of arras on the walls of a nobleman’s house in England, when he dies.’

7 December 1845
‘I know not what name to give it, not my new baby, but my new poem. Shall it be ‘Gabrielle,’ or ‘Celestine,’ or Evangeline’?’

20 May 1846
‘Tried to work at Evangeline. Unsuccessful. Gave it up and read Legard’s letters, which give one a favorable idea of his abilities and aims. In the afternoon drove to town. Dined at Prescott’s at five [the eminent historian 
William H. Prescott, author of The History of the Conquest of Peru among others]. He received us in his library, where I found Rev. Mr. Young, Rev. Mr. Ellis, and West the painter, looking at the two rival Mexican editions of the Conquest of Mexico. Near by, Theophilus Parsons and Alexander Everett talking together. Felton, Sumner, and Hillard came in later. We discussed the French liquid ll, whether it should be heard or sunk into a y. Then marched down to dinner. Many matters discussed at table; among others the Puritans; then the Fathers of the Revolution.’

6 July 1846
‘Examination in Modem Languages. The Spanish classes did very well; the Italian not so well; the German best of all, as is usually the case. A warm, weary day, made more weary by a long Faculty-meeting in the evening. So ends the college year with me, and vacation begins. Dear vacation, when alone I feel that I am free! I have a longing for Berkshire or the sea-side. Both Nahant and Stockbridge beckon; and Niagara thunders its warning and invitation. And now let me see if I cannot bring my mind into more poetic mood by the sweet influences of sun and air and open fields.’

9 July 1846
‘Idly busy days; days which leave no record in verse; no advance made in my long-neglected yet dearly loved Evangeline. The cares of the world choke the good seed. But these stones must be cleared away.’

17 November 1846
‘I said as I dressed myself this morning, “To-day at least I will work on Evangeline.” But no sooner had I breakfasted than there came a note from ___ to be answered forthwith; then ___, to talk about a doctor; then Mr. Bates, to put up a fireplace; then this journal, to be written for a week. And now it is past eleven o’clock, and the sun shines so brightly upon my desk and papers that I can write no more.’

15 May 1855
‘I am plagued to death with letters from all sorts of people, of course about their own affairs. No hesitation, no reserve, no consideration or delicacy. What people!’

17 May 1855
‘A beautiful morning. Went and sat an hour with Lowell in his upper chamber among the treetops. He sails for Havre the first of June.’

20 May 1855
‘Sumner just returned from New York, where he has been lecturing on Slavery to huge audiences in theatres. A great success, and a great sign of the state of the public mind.’

31 January 1859
‘Prescott’s funeral at the Chauncey-Place Church, at three in the afternoon. It was very impressive and touched me very much. I remember the last time I spoke with Prescott. It was only a few days ago. I met him in Washington Street, just at the foot of Winter Street He was merry, and laughing as usual. At the close of the conversation he said, “I am going to shave off my whiskers; they are growing gray.” “Gray hair is becoming,” I said. “Becoming,” said he; “what do we care about becoming, who must so soon he going?” “Then why take the trouble to shave them off?” “That’s true,” he replied with a pleasant laugh, and crossed over to Summer Street. So my last remembrance of him is a sunny smile at the comer of the street!’

8 August 1877
‘A lovely summer day; I wanted to be in many places at once.’

27 February 1879
‘My seventy-second birthday. A present from the children of Cambridge of a beautiful armchair, made from the wood of the Village Blacksmith’s chestnut-tree.’

 13 June 1880
‘Yesterday I had a visit from two schools; some sixty girls and boys, in all. It seems to give them so much pleasure, that it gives me pleasure.’

By way of a postscript, I, myself, as a young man was much enamoured of Longfellow’s Evangeline, and copied the prologue into my diary in 1975, and learned it off by heart. Here are the first few lines.

‘This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.’

And then, 20 years later, I remembered the poem when visiting Wistman’s Wood, an ancient patch of oak woodland on Dartmoor, and wrote this in my diary.

25 October 1996
‘[Wistman’s] wood was beautiful. The oaks were indeed small old and decrepit and covered in moss and lichens some of which was hanging down and reminded me of the Longfellow poem Evangeline. The clinging mist and rain added to the atmosphere making it seem, if anything, that much more of an ancient place. We clambered around the moss-covered boulders through which the trees had been growing for so many years and inspected the different trees, admiring the patterns of the gnarled and partly dead branches and the various flora they supported, not least good strong ferns growing among the lichen and moss.’