Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A boisterous yeare

Ralph Josselin - an Essex vicar, teacher and farmer - died 330 years ago this month. Though not particularly familiar as a historical name, he is remembered as an important early diarist. Indeed, his diary, with its many details of rural life in the 17th century, inspired a major research project to document the history of the village where he lived, Earls Colne, all the documents for which have been made available online. The originator of this project, Alan Macfarlane, is also the modern editor of Josselin’s diary, and he suggests Josselin might in time be seen to stand beside other great English diarists.

Josselin was born in 1617 at Roxwell in Essex, the first son and third child of a farmer. His early education was at Bishop’s Stortford, and, by his own account, he wanted to be a clergyman from an early age. He studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, receiving his BA in 1636–1637. His father died around the same time, and Josselin spent the next few years supporting himself in teaching teacher and curate posts. In 1641 he became vicar of the parish of Earls Colne, Essex, where he stayed for the rest of his life, embracing many different roles, not least teacher and farmer. Josselin died in August 1683, and was buried at Earls Colne on 30 August.

Most of what we know today about Josselin comes from his diary, first edited by E. Hockliffe and published in 1908 by the Camden Society for the Royal Historical Society. According to Hockliffe’s preface in that edition, less than half the original diary was included since many entries were of ‘no interest whatever - endless thanks to God for his goodness - ‘to mee and mine,’ prayers, notes about the weather or his sermons, innumerable references to his constant ‘rheums’  and ‘poses,’ trivial details of every day life, records of visits to his friends etc. etc.’ The aim was ‘to extract so much personal detail as is required to give a picture of the actual life of the author, and to include everything that possesses any historical interest.’ The author’s spelling was ‘carefully preserved’. In the earlier years, Josselin made entries frequently, often daily, but from about 1665 onwards there was usually only one entry a week.

Hockliffe concludes his preface: ‘A kindly if somewhat self-seeking figure [Josselin] lives again in the pages of this diary, and when his story ceases abruptiy on July 27, 1683, with a broken entry, we feel with real sorrow that we have parted from a friend.’

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required), the Camden Society’s scholarly edition omitted almost three-quarters of the original; the Josselin that emerged from it was ‘very much the public man, whose comments on the great religious and political issues of his day were what most merited attention’. ‘He was a moderate parliamentarian,’ the ODNB continues, ‘active in electioneering and petitioning and worried by the emergence of more radical groups like the Levellers, and served for a brief spell as a chaplain in the parliamentarian army and assisted locally with the implementation of measures for the reform of the church and augmentation of livings; he suffered plundering by royalist troops for his active organization of the defence of the village in 1648 at the siege of Colchester. Although unhappy at the king’s execution, he retained his support for what he called the ‘honest party’ even after the Restoration. Josselin’s well-informed comments on political events both in England and on the continent (on which he made an annual end-of-year report in his diary) reflect the social depth to political knowledge in mid-seventeenth-century England.’

Renewed examination of the manuscript diary in the 1960s led to a much fuller edition in 1976: The diary of Ralph Josselin, 1616-1683 edited by Alan Macfarlane and published by Oxford University Press. The picture that emerges from this modern edition allows the reader, the ODNB says, ‘to see Josselin properly in context, to sympathize with much that seems familiar in his life, and to puzzle over much that is foreign and strange.’ In particular, it shows him falling in love and marrying a wife, various emotions towards his children, chronic concerns about his finances (though a generous bequest from a wealthy parishioner helped establish him as a farmer in the mid-1640s) and his health, and an interest in public affairs, the weather, etc.

Of Macfarlane’s edition, the ODNB concludes: ‘By the time of [Josselin’s] death he had secured a comfortable material existence. But even to the end, his diary, maintained until the month before his death, reveals a man trying to fulfil his parochial duties, continually concerned with his children’s lives, receptive to political news (particularly of the fate of godly dissenters), and still, amid entries increasingly caught up with documenting his failing health, continuing to note, ‘God good to me’.’

Macfarlane, himself, in his introduction appears a bit mixed up in his opinion of the diary. He waxes lyrical: ‘Among many other topics to which he turns our attention are the following: accidents, food, geographical mobility, gifts, gossip, imagery, insanity, the poor, pregnancy, servants, wages. Anyone interested in the seventeenth-century thought and society is likely to find information of interest. An ordinary subject index cannot do justice to such a rich and complex document.’ And he adds, rather meaninglessly, ‘The Diary is, above all, unique as a total document.’

‘With all its redundancy and repetition,’ Macfarlane comments, the diary can ‘still be read straight through with great enjoyment’. But then he points out that ‘idiosyncrasies of grammar and style may, at first, provide difficulties,’ and that to reap ‘rich rewards’ the reader will have to ‘persevere and enter Josselin’s world, so strange and yet familiar’. Moreover, Macfarlane says that Josselin ‘does not emerge as lovable, or even endearing - his conscientious and suffering figure simply stands before us, to wonder at, pity and for all its frailty, respect.’

Finally, Macfarlane concludes, ‘posterity will judge [Josselin’s] right to stand besides Pepys, Heywood, Woodford, Kilvert - the great English Diarists of all time.’ Though, personally, I don’t think much of Macfarlane’s list of ‘great English Diarists’, Pepys apart of course.

Much of Macfarlane’s modern edition is available to read online at Googlebooks. It is also available in a slightly awkward format - one web page for each day - on an extensive website concerning the parish of Earls Colne. This was set up by Macfarlane and others, largely as a result of Macfarlane coming across the Josselin diary manuscript in the 1960s and from that developing a major research project aimed at reconstructing ‘an historical community’. As a result, Earls Colne is thought to have ‘one of the best documented histories in the world’.

The 1908 edition of Josselin’s diary by Hockliffe is fully and freely available at Internet Archive, and it is from this that the following extracts have been taken. (These are almost all the diary excerpts for 1657 to be found in the 1908 edition, and take up little more than a couple of pages. By contrast, the modern edition requires more than a dozen pages to include all Josselin’s actual entries for that same year.) Josselin’s forecast that 1657 is likely to be a boisterous year, in the first of the extracts below, appears to have been proved true by his round-up of world events in the last of the extracts.

25 March 1657
‘When I come to view my estate this yeare, I find my expenses far deeper then divers yeares formerly, and my receipts more then ever, God bee blessed. Last year my estate was about 670l. I find I have about 590l. and I have pd for land to Mr Butcher 150l. and to Mr Weale 85l. which is in whole 235l. so yt I have had a great increase this yeare of 145l. or yr abouts, with the life & health of my family, no trouble in my estate; the Lords love in Christ is my life and joy. I have received in to my hand Mrs Maries land on which I am out 108l. 9s. This yeare 1657 is like to bee a boisterous yeare in the world.’

28 March 1657
‘Talke now of a king, the Lord bee our king and lawgiver.’

17 April 1657
‘Divers men bustle to make Xt king; truly Cromwell will carry it from him at present, but surely yt is a time when Xt shall reigne more then inwardly.’

19 April 1657
‘Heard this weeke the men that are to make Christ King were plotting agst the Protector, and that he seized on divers of them.’

7 May 1657
‘Heard as if Blake desired landmen to attempt the Canaries.’

15 May 1657
‘At night M. Hubbard of London with mee to teach two boys at 3l. per annum if they come.’

23 May 1657
‘John Eldred a scholler yt brought mee in 40s. yearly went from mee; the Lord will provide.’

17 July 1657
‘Protector proclaimed at Halsted by ye Sheriffs.

30 August 1657
‘This day I publisht the act about the Sabbath, the Lord doe good by it.’ [An act to punish ale-house keepers for profaning the Sabbath by permitting swearing, drunkenness, gaming etc. in their houses.]

9 September 1657
‘After hopes of a dry Sturbridge faire it rained very much, so that the wayes were exceeding heavy and dirtie, Mr H. had some hopes to make 500l. of his hops; the last yeare he made 790l.’

30 September 1657
‘A publiq fast in regard of the general visitacon by sicknes, wch was a feavor & ague very mortal in some places.’

8 October 1657
‘Being up, & riving logs, Mr Elliston came & told mee Dr Wright was most certainly dead, I had no warning of his sicknes, I was troubled that such a providence found mee not better imployed, and disposed, but I blesse God though I am like to loose 60l. per annum, yet yt is not much trouble.’

3-4 November 1657
‘Mr Cressener acquainted mee that my Lord of Oxfords Chaplain was come to town and he thought about the schoole. Mr R. H. made some proffers in it, and I desired to observe God therein, but my owne inclinations rather tend to lay it wholly by, desirous God would open some helpe to mee in carrying on the worke of the ministry.’

9 November 1657
‘Dr Pullein sent mee an offer to procure mee the schoole, if I would helpe him to his living; I had no desire thereto.’

17 November 1657
‘Mrs Marg: Harlakenden having laid out 120l. at London, about wedding clothes, her father being exceeding angry, I appeased him, so that though he chid her by letter for her vanitie, yett he paid the scores.’

25 November 1657
‘Rd my copies of my two fift parts of ye farme on Colne Green from my Cosin Josselin; yt purchase cost mee about 310l; God blesse it to mee & mine.’

27 November 1657
‘Dr Pullein was with mee, shewed mee his grant from my Lord; he lost the living, for which I am sorry, and I the schoole; Gods will be done; I doe not find any trouble on my spirit in it; he desired mee to teach the schoole till spring for halfe the proffits; I consented; Lord I blesse thee for that kindnes and mercy.’

3 December 1657
‘Spent some time in prayer at Mr Cresseners, the Lord good to mee yr in; about yt time at London, Dr Pullein’s busines was put to that issue, that if ye Earl of Oxford would stand by his present- acon of Dr Pullein, he might come into his living; the Lords name bee praised for this kindnes, the issue is in thy hand, oh Father.’

5 December 1657
‘Riding over to the Earl of Oxfords to Bently hall, and speaking with Dr Pullein, a full issue was put to that treaty about the schoole; I not having it, in wch disposall of God I desire to bee satisfied, and sitt down contentedly, knowing that he will order and direct every thing for good to mee; I was very sicke at night and vomited, which I judged a mercy to mee.’

8 December 1657
‘Talke as if some uprore in ye kingdom, the militia horse suddenly called togither and the army foot called of again towards the sea.’

12 December 1657
‘Saw a booke esp: of Welsh prophecies, which asserts that Cromwell is the great Conqueror that shall conquer Turke and Pope. I have many yeares on scripture grounds and revolutions judged him or his govermt and successors, but esp. my heart fixt on him, to bee most great; but sad will bee things to Sts and him; this booke of prophecies giveth mee no satisfaction, but perhaps may sett men a gadding to greaten him.’

15 December 1657
‘Mrs Margaret Harlakenden married to Mr John Eldred; her father kept the wedding three dayes, with much bounty; it was an action mixed with pietie and mirth; die. 18, the company departed the priory. God gave an emint answer of prayer to him & mee in providing her so good an housband beyond expectation; Mr Bridegroom gave mee 1l. & Mr H. 1l. God in mercy requite their love and bounty.’

27 December 1657
‘If it bee worth writing this tels yt raisins of ye sun were sold at 12, 14, 16, 18d. per pound.’

8 January 1657/1658
‘Received an order to bee an Assistant in Ejecting of Ministers & Jan. 8. schoolemrs for insufficiency; had the offer of two schollers, which I undertake to teach; the Lord helpe mee in all my callings.’

25 January 1657/1658
‘This day was the last of my 41 yeare, in which God hath been with mee and blessed mee, and though Dr Wrights death cutt mee short in the schoole, yett I find my heart quiett, rowling it selfe on God, and no way questioning his providence to take care of mee. God hath given mee three children instead of 3 more which I had buried, and thus my dreame of 3 shoots in my parlor cutt down and growing up againe is made good.

Abroad in the world matters are likely to bee sad, yet I find not the apostacy to increase; this yeare the Emp. of Germany died, and no other yet chosen in his stead; his son the K. of Hungary assisted Poland, wherby the Swedes are driven into Prussia. The P. of Transilvania forced to retreate home, and was deposed for his attempt to please ye Turke. Brandenburg made peace with the Pole and left Swede. The Moscovite was in a manner quiet this summer, yet the Swede brusht him a little in Livonia. Denmarke invaded the Swede in Bremeland, to his losse in Juitland; the Hollander proclaimed warre agst Portugal & tooke pt of the Brasile fleete. The English assisted France agst Spaine & gott footing in Flanders, the Venetians beate ye Turke, but in the winter he regained some Iles as Tenedos; the Turke hath issue male. The Q. of Spain delivered of a sonne, ye King 53 yeares old and no son til now; the affaires in Italy & Catalonia not very boisterous. The Spaniards invaded Portugal by land & tooke some places; thus warre breaks out, but no eminent matter was done in the world; the English Protector setled by Parliamt and a house of Lords in title erected January 20th.’


The Diary Junction

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The workings of Delacroix

‘The craft of the painter is the most difficult of all and it takes longest to learn. Like composing, painting requires erudition, but it also requires execution, like playing a violin.’ This is the great French romantic painter, Eugène Delacroix, who died 150 years ago today. The quote comes from his diary, almost as famous in art circles as his painting, for it provides so much insight into the painter’s life. Early diary entries, for example, show his youthful passion for women; and running through all the journal there are rich references to his opinions on other artists (living and dead), as well as to the work on his own paintings and his thoughts on artistic techniques.

Delacroix was born at Charenton-Saint-Maurice, near Paris, in 1798. As a school boy, he won awards for drawing, and in 1815 began to study under the painter Pierre Guérin, and was trained in the neoclassical style of Jacques Louis David. His first painting - The Barque of Dante, also known as Dante and Virgil in Hell - was accepted by the Paris Salon in 1822. Though largely disliked by the public it was purchased by the government, and now hangs in the Louvre. That same year, he received the backing of Louis Thiers, the statesman and historian who, as interior minister in the 1830s, would put Delacroix in charge of architectural decorations.

In 1825, Delacroix travelled to England, where he had contact with, and was influenced by, the painters J. M. W. Turner and John Constable. Thereafter, he achieved popular success with canvasses of vivid colour, the most well-known of which, Liberty Leading the People, came in 1830. A year later he was awarded the Legion of Honour, and then, in 1832, he travelled to Morocco, a journey which inspired his painting hugely.

In Delacroix’s mature years, he received many government commissions for murals and ceiling paintings, and he also illustrated many works of literature. In 1857, after several unsuccessful attempts, he was finally elected to the Institut de France. Delacroix never married (despite his early interest in women - see below) and for the last two decades of his life was cared for by a housekeeper. He died on 13 August 1863. His paintings are considered to characterise 19th century romanticism, while his bold technical innovations strongly influenced the development of later modernist movements. Further biographical information is readily available from, for example, Wikipedia, Artble, or Musée Eugène Delacroix.

Delacroix was not only a great painter, but he was a first class diarist too. His journal is thought by some to be among the most important works in the literature of art history, and certainly provides much insight into his life, his painting and his pictures. Although extracts had been published earlier, a full version in four volumes did not appear until 1893, compiled from hand-written copies by Paul Flat and René Piot. A new version, in three volumes, came in 1932. This led to a translation in English by Walter Pach in 1937, and another in 1951 by Lucy Norton. This latter version was edited and annotated by Hubert Wellington, and published by Phaidon. Much more recently, José Corti in Paris has published a new version in French of the journal, as edited by Michèle Hannoosh.

Writing for the website 19th Century Art Worldwide, David O’Brien says this of the new version: Eugène Delacroix’s Journal is one of the most famous and influential texts ever written by an artist, and yet, its contents and form have never been entirely stable. It has appeared in many, very different versions. The new edition under consideration here, edited by Michèle Hannoosh, completely revises those that have preceded it. It brings a new standard to documentary research on Delacroix and significantly changes our understanding of him.’ O’Brien goes on to give many details from Hannoosh’s introduction, including a synthesis of the complicated history surrounding Delacroix’s journals, and he explains in some detail why he believes the new version is so valuable.

The earliest editions of Delacroix’s journals in French can be found at Internet Archive. Wikiquote has a generous collection of extracts in English, and the Painting OWU blog has a few too. The following extracts from Delacroix’s diary (including the very first) are taken from the printed version translated by Lucy Norton and edited by Hubert Wellington. Wellington’s introduction concludes as follows: ‘There is one unifying quality in all that Delacroix did - his passionate quest for nobility, grandeur and the sublime, in art and in the lives of the great men who had formed his standards. It runs through his painting from ‘Dante and Virgil’ to ‘Jacob and the Angel’: the Journal shows it behind all the workings of his mind.’

3 September 1822
‘I am beginning my journal; the Journal I have so often planned to write. My keenest wish is to remember that I am writing only for myself; this will keep me truthful, I hope, and it will do me good. These pages will reproach me for my instability. I am beginning in good spirits.

I am staying with my brother. It is evening, and the church clock in Louroux has just struck nine or ten. I am sitting for a while in the moonlight, on the little bench by the door, trying to collect my thoughts. But although I feel contented enough this evening, I cannot recapture the mood of last night. Then there was a full moon, and seated on the bench outside my brother’s house I spent some hours of perfect happiness. Some friends had been dining with us, and after seeing them home we walked round the pond and came back to the house; my brother read the newspaper and I took up some of the Michelangelo engravings which I have brought with me. These wonderful drawings moved me deeply and put me into a happy frame of mind. In the clear sky a big red moon was slowly climbing between the trees, and in the midst of my meditations, and just as my brother happened to be talking about love, I heard Lisette’s voice in the distance. It has a sound that makes my heart beat faster and is her greatest charm, for she’s not exactly pretty, yet there is something about her of that quality which Raphael understood so well. The line of her arms is pure, like bronze, strong-looking yet delicate, and this girl, who is really not pretty, has a beguiling way with her, an enchanting mixture of sensuality and modesty - for instance, when she came in, and although I don’t usually care for her in tight Sunday clothes, I found her irresistibly attractive at that moment, especially for that heavenly smile I was speaking about. Someone was telling a bawdy story; it amused her yet caused her to look down and sideways in embarrassment. She was quite genuinely embarrassed, for when she answered some trivial question of mine her voice trembled a little and she avoided looking at me; besides, I could see the fluttering of her breast under her kerchief. I think it was on that same evening that I kissed her, in the dark passage as we came through the house into the garden on our way back from the village. I had stayed behind with her and allowed the others to go on ahead. She kept telling me to stop, but very softly and sweetly. But it all means very little; this is not important. The thought of her will not haunt me like a violent love affair. It will be nothing but a charming memory, a flower by the wayside. Her voice reminds me of Elizabeth Salter [an English girl in service with his sister] whom I’m already beginning to forget.

On Sunday morning I had a letter from Felix telling me that my picture had been hung in the Luxembourg [Dante and Virgil exhibited at the 1822 Salon in Paris]. Today is Tuesday, and I am still full of it. I must confess that it has done me a lot of good and that when I think about it the day brightens quite appreciably. At present I can think of nothing else; it has made me long to be back in Paris, where in all probability I should find nothing but concealed envy, and would soon be bored with what makes me feel triumphant now - and where there would be no Lisette, no moonlight, and none of this peaceful atmosphere.

Must try to remember all that I have planned to do in order to keep myself busy when I get to Paris, and all the ideas I’ve had about subjects for pictures.’

5 September 1822
‘Went out shooting with my brother; the heat was stifling. I shot a quail as I swung round and Charles congratulated me. What is more, it was our only success, although I had three shots at rabbits.

In the evening we went to meet Lisette, who was coming to mend some shirts for me. I took advantage of being a little behind the others to kiss her; she struggled, and it vexed me because I could see she meant it seriously. When we next met I tried again, but she quickly shook me off saying that if she wanted to she’d be sure and let me know. Then my feelings were really hurt and I pushed her away and strolled up and down in the lane under the rising moon. I came across her once more as she was drawing water for supper, but although I felt inclined to sulk and not go back to her I finally yielded to temptation. ‘Then you don’t love me?’ - ‘No!’ - ‘Do you like anyone else?’ - ‘I don’t love anybody’, or some such ridiculous answer, meaning, ‘Let me alone!’ This time, hurt and annoyed, I crossly let go her hand and turned my back on her. She gave a faint laugh, it was not really a laugh but the remains of her half-serious protest, but it has left a disagreeable taste.’

3 March 1847
‘Today, Wednesday, repainted the rocks in the background of the ‘Christ’ and finished the lay-in, the Magdalen, and the naked figure in the foreground. I wish I had applied the paint rather more thickly in this lay-in. It is incredible how time smooths out a picture; my Sibyl seems to me to have sunk into the canvas, already. It is a thing I must watch carefully.’

6 March 1847
‘After a good night’s rest I went back to the studio where I recovered my good humour. I am looking at the ‘Hunts’, by Rubens. The one I prefer is the hippopotamus hunt; it is the fiercest. I like its heroic emphasis, I love its unfettered exaggerated forms, I adore them as much as I despise those gushing empty-headed women who swoon over fashionable portraits and M. Verdi’s music.’

10 July 1847
‘Painted the Magdalen in the ‘Entombment’.

Must remember the simple effect of the head. It was laid in with a very dull, grey tone. I could not make up my mind whether to put it more into shadow or to make the light passages more brilliant. Finally, I made them slightly more pronounced compared with the mass and it sufficed to cover the whole of the part in shadow with warm and reflected tones. Although the light and shadow were almost the same value, the cold tones of the light and the warm tones of the shadow were enough to give accent to the whole.’

18 September 1847
‘The craft of the painter is the most difficult of all and it takes longest to learn. Like composing, painting requires erudition, but it also requires execution, like playing a violin.’

The Diary Junction

Monday, August 12, 2013

Able at times to cry

The British Library has just put on display - in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures’ Gallery - one of only three journals kept by the great Anglo-American poet W. H. Auden. The Library recently paid nearly £50,000 at auction for the single volume, written in 1939, and says it ‘provides a fascinating juxtaposition of personal and political preoccupations’ and ‘gives an intimate insight into Auden during one of the most important periods in his life’. Although there is no particular link with the diaries, I cannot resist appending a few lines of Auden’s poetry from my favourite poem, Able At Times To Cry.

Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York, in 1907, the third of three sons, though the family moved to Solihull soon after, when his father took an appointment as a school medical officer. He was educated at boarding schools in Surrey (where he met Christopher Isherwood) and Norfolk, before entering Christ Church, Oxford, to study biology at first, then English. At Oxford, he made friends with, among others, Cecil Day Lewis, Louis MacNeice, and Stephen Spender, all of whom would go on to find artistic or literary fame.

From the mid-1920s, through the 1930s, Isherwood acted both as Auden’s literary mentor and occasional lover. After a sojourn together in Berlin, Auden returned to Britain and took work teaching. T. S Eliot at Faber and Faber accepted his first book of poems, published in 1930. In 1935, Auden married Erika Mann, the daughter of the German novelist Thomas Mann. It was a marriage of convenience to enable her to gain British citizenship and escape Nazi Germany. From the mid-1930s, Auden worked as a freelance lecturer and writer, and, for a while, he was employed by the GPO Film Unit, for which he wrote the famous Night Mail. Through his work for the GPO, he met the composer Benjamin Britten, with whom he went on to collaborate on many projects.

In early 1939, Auden sailed, with Isherwood, for the United States (the photograph shows them both in February 1939), and there met the poet Chester Kallman. Although their affair only lasted two years, they remained lifelong friends, and, from 1953, shared a home. During the war, Auden taught at various colleges. He was called up to be drafted in 1942, but was rejected on medical grounds; in 1945 he worked briefly with the US Strategic Bombing Survey in Germany studying German morale. In 1946, he became a naturalised American, and the following year he published The Age of Anxiety for which he won the Pullitzer Prize.

From 1948, Auden began to spend his summers in Europe, in Ishchia, Italy, and then in Kirchstetten, Austria. He was a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1954 to 1973; and Professor of Poetry at Oxford University between 1956 and 1961, though this latter post only required his presence for three weeks a year. He returned to live in Oxford in 1972, and died the following year. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Poets.org, and the Poetry Foundation.

Auden is admired, Poets.org says, ‘for his unsurpassed technical virtuosity and an ability to write poems in nearly every imaginable verse form; the incorporation in his work of popular culture, current events, and vernacular speech; and also for the vast range of his intellect, which drew easily from an extraordinary variety of literatures, art forms, social and political theories, and scientific and technical information. . . His poetry frequently recounts, literally or metaphorically, a journey or quest, and his travels provided rich material for his verse.’

The Poetry Foundation says this: ‘Much of [Auden’s] poetry is concerned with moral issues and evidences a strong political, social, and psychological context. While the teachings of Marx and Freud weighed heavily in his early work, they later gave way to religious and spiritual influences. Some critics have called Auden an “antiromantic” - a poet of analytical clarity who sought for order, for universal patterns of human existence. Auden’s poetry is considered versatile and inventive, ranging from the tersely epigrammatic to book-length verse, and incorporating a vast range of scientific knowledge.’

Auden is known to have kept only three journals, and one of them came up for auction last June at Christie’s in London. The lot was described as follows: ‘Autograph manuscript journal and notebook, 30 August - 26 November 1939 (chiefly September and early October), autograph title ‘Journal August 1938 [sic]’, in pen and pencil, many passages lightly cancelled in pencil (?after copying), written primarily on rectos, the facing blanks often used for aphorisms, quotations, reading notes, metrical experiments and other fragmentary lines, the last c.20 leaves almost entirely verse drafts, quotations and records of popular phrases, the verse including drafts and sketches for at least eight sections of ‘New Year Letter’, as well as unpublished material, 93 leaves, 4to (258 x 198mm), plus a few blanks, in a notebook (label of ‘Eye-ease paper ... “Easy on the Eyes” ’), cloth-backed boards.’

The diary opens with a brief self-description: ‘At 32½ I suppose I shall not change physically very much for some time except in weight which is now 154 lbs . . . I am happy, but in debt . . . I have no job. My visa is out of order. There may be a war. But I have an epithalamion to write and cannot worry much’. Inevitably, Christie’s description says, ‘the early pages are written in the shadow of the impending outbreak of the war in Europe, and include a substantial narration (running to 8½ pages) of his activities and preoccupations on 1 September 1939, which sheds light on the composition and content of his famous poem of the same name’.

The lot description gives further information on the diary’s content: ‘Auden is perhaps not a natural diarist - the journal is always more preoccupied with thoughts and reflections rather than activities and observations, and in the latter pages takes on rather the character of a commonplace book or verse notebook; nevertheless, it reveals much about the poet’s associations at this pivotal period of his life (including with Kallman, George Davis, Gerald Heard, Archibald MacLeish, and others), his reading (Milton, Laura Riding, Flaubert), the importance to him of music (especially Wagner), his drinking, smoking and consumption of Benzedrine and Seconal, his dreams (including one of having a wasp down his trousers) and his intellectual preoccupations, including reflections on fascism/communism, sex, marriage (‘One wants marriage ... so that one does not feel abandoned. Apart from that one takes what is handy’), Thomas Mann, the Founding Fathers, science and medicine and much else.’

Christie’s quotes the following aphorisms and observations found in the diary:
- ‘All the great heretics Pascal, Rousseau, Lawrence, Kafka etc have been sick men’;
- ‘Mean like the American habit of washing one’s hands after pissing, as if the penis were an object, too filthy for any decent person to touch’;
- ‘All bureaucrats should be obliged to prove that they have a happy love-life, and immigration officials most of all’;
- ‘Tried to read Milton’s Apology for a Pamphlet but couldn’t. The adjectives are wonderful but there are too many of them’;
- ‘My hatred of women is such that if I am not afraid of them . . . I am cruel’;
- ‘It is impossible to listen to music and get an erection at the same time’.

The auction house description concludes: ‘Providing an incomparable insight into the poet’s activities and reflections at the turning point in his life, this is the most substantial and significant Auden manuscript to have been offered at auction.’

On 12 June, the British Library purchased the diary at Christie’s for £47,475. In a press release, it stated that ‘the journal, which provides a fascinating juxtaposition of personal and political preoccupations, gives an intimate insight into Auden during one of the most important periods in his life.’ It further adds: ‘Auden’s reflections in the diary are particularly interesting as they were written during the turbulent period which saw the outbreak of war in Europe and after Auden leaves England for the United States with novelist Christopher Isherwood, a decision considered shamefully unpatriotic by the British media and which even occasioned strong criticism in Parliament.’ The journal is now on display in the Library’s Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery.

1 September 1939
‘Woke with a headache after a night of bad dreams in which C[hester] was unfaithful. Paper reports German attack on Poland ... 6.0 pm. Benjamin [Britten] and Peter Piers [sic] came to lunch. Peter sang B’s new settings of Les Illuminations and some H. Wolf ... which made me cry. B played some of Tristan which seems particularly apposite today. Now I sit looking out over the river. Such a beautiful evening and in an hour, they say, England will be at war ... 10.30 Went to the Dizzy Club. A whiff of the old sad life. I want. I want. Je ne m’occupe plus de cela. Stopped to listen to the news coming out of an expensive limousine’

3 September 1939
‘War declared this morning at 7 a.m. Listened in the afternoon to a broadcast of the first 1½ acts of Tristan. Everyone very kind, some rather drunk. The frogs sang all night. We sang spirituals out on the lawn.’

Several of the famous (and gay) writers/artists associated with Auden were regular diarists, and have, previously, been the subject of Diary Review articles: Christopher Isherwood (Isherwood giving thanks), Benjamin Britten (Britten’s firecracker crits), and Stephen Spender (The ghost of a reader). Finally, on a personal note, my own favourite poem of all time is one by Auden, written in June 1937. Originally called As He Is, it was later also titled Able At Times To Cry, and - as I cannot find it anywhere else on the web - I can’t resist appending a couple of verses here.

‘Wrapped in a yielding air, beside
The flower’s soundless hunger
Close to the tree’s clandestine tide
Close to the bird’s high fever,
Loud in his hope and his anger,
Erect about his skeleton,
Stands the expressive lover
Stands the deliberate man.

Beneath the hot incurious sun,
Past stronger beasts and fairer
He picks his way, a living gun,
With gun and lens and bible
A militant enquirer,
The friend, the rash, the enemy,
The essayist, the able
Able at times to cry.’

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A life spent hunting

Today marks the 160th anniversary of the death of Colonel Peter Hawker. A military man by profession, his main love was hunting, and, somewhat remarkably, he left behind a diary in which he recorded - from his teens to his old age - daily kills totalling nearly 18,000 birds. In his own lifetime, he published - anonymously - diary extracts about his military service in Portugal, under Wellington, during the Peninsular War.

Hawker was born in London in 1786, and was educated at Eton. Like his father and other forefathers, he entered military service, through the purchase of a commission in the 1st (Royal) Dragoons, switching after a couple of years to the 14th Light Dragoons, making captain when still only 17. He saw active service in the Peninsular War, but was obliged to retire after being wounded at Talavera, southwest of Madrid, and became a lieutenant-colonel in the North Hampshire militia.

Hawker was married twice, the first time in 1811 to Julia Barttelot by whom he had two sons and two daughters (although the elder son died in infancy). He was married for the second time in 1844 to Helen Susan the widow of Captain John Symonds. His family home was at Longparish, Hampshire, but he also had a cottage at Keyhaven on the Hampshire coast. He was a very keen sportsman, to say the least, and wrote the very popular, and much re-published, Instructions to Young Sportsmen. He also devised technical innovations for certain sporting guns, and, thanks to a great passion for music, invented hand moulds for the piano. He died on 7 August 1853. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, at the rescuing the past website, or the poodle history website!

For most of his life, and starting young, Hawker kept a diary. From this, he selected extracts and published them anonymously in 1810 as Journal of a Regimental Officer during the Recent Campaign in Portugal and Spain under Lord Viscount Wellington (i.e. during the Peninsular War). This book is introduced by two short paragraphs called an ‘Advertisement’ which state: The contents of the following pages (never intended for the public eye) were hastily noted down amidst the scenes attempted to be delineated; and the author’s sufferings from a wound have precluded him the possibility of afterwards correcting them. This candid statement will, it is hoped, plead for inaccuracies and frivolous incidents; and those persons who are most able to criticise will no doubt have the liberality to consider the disadvantages under which this narrative makes its appearance.’

After Hawker’s death, his family is said to have destroyed large parts of the diary, nevertheless extracts, particularly focusing on his sporting activities, were published, some forty years later, in two volumes: The Diary of Colonel Peter Hawker (Longmans, Green and Co., 1893). These (volumes one and two), and Journal of a Regimental Officer, are available online at Internet Archive.

The second volume of the diaries published in 1893 concludes with a list of the game Hawker recorded as having shot, so that from 1802-1853, he claimed 17,753 kills in all: over 7,000 partridges, 575 pheasants, 1329 ox-birds, 2,211 wigeon, 1,327 Brent geese, 2,116 snipes, as well as many other birds. Four types are distinguished by his having shot only one each in his life: stock-dove, Eider duck, avocet, hoopoe.

Here are a number of extracts, the first few (1802-1804) from the beginning of volume one; several in 1829 from the end of volume one; and several more from the end of volume two. They show an extraordinary preoccupation with hunting - from his teens to his deathbed.

27 June 1802
‘Arrived at Longparish House.’

September 1802
‘Altogether killed 200 head of game this month.

Instances of uncertainty in killing jack snipes: The first thirteen shots I had at these birds this year I killed without missing one; have since fired eight shots at one jack and missed them all.’

26 January 1803
‘Sketch of a bad day’s sport: Being in want of a couple of wild fowl, I went out with my man this morning about ten o’clock. The moment we arrived at the river 5 ducks and 1 wigeon flew up; we marked the former down, and just as we arrived near the place it began to snow very hard, which obliged us to secure our gunlocks with the skirts of our coats. No sooner had we done this than a mallard rose within three yards of me. I uncovered my gun and made all possible haste, and contrived to shoot before it had gone twenty yards, but missed it, which I imputed to the sight of my gun being hid by the snow. My man fired and brought it down, but we never could find it; and another mallard coming by me, I fired and struck him, insomuch that before he had flown a gunshot, he dropped apparently dead, but we were again equally unfortunate notwithstanding our dogs were with us. While we were loading, the 3 remaining ducks came by, a fair shot. Having reloaded, we went in search of them, but could not succeed. On our road home, coming through the meadow, the wigeon rose in the same place as before. I shot at it, and wounded it very much; we marked it down and sprung it again; it could hardly fly, from its wounds. Unluckily, my gun missed fire, and my man was unprepared, thinking it had fallen dead. We marked it into a hedge; before we had reached the place we spied a hawk that had followed it; from the same place the hawk was, the wigeon flew out of the hedge close under my feet. I fired at it, but, owing to agitation, had not taken a proper aim; however, a chance shot brought it to the ground; my dogs ran at it; it flew up again, but could not rise to any height, but continued to clear the hedges, and we never could find it again. To add to our misfortunes, we both tumbled into deep water.’

4 June 1803
‘Left Longparish House to join the 14th Light Dragoons on the march at Hythe.’

1 September 1803.
‘Folkestone. 4 partridges and 1 landrail. I went with Major Talbot and his brother: we were out from half-past four in the morning till eight at night, and walked above five hours before we saw the first brace of birds. Major Talbot killed a brace, and his brother 1 bird; a brace of birds and 1 rabbit were shot between us by means of firing at the same instant.’

18 February 1804
‘Left Folkestone to be quartered at Dover, till further orders.’

6 March 1804
‘Left Dover for Romney.’

3 May 1804
‘Romney. Went out in the evening, saw several very large shoals of curlews, but could not get near them; just as it grew dusk I laid myself down flat on the sands: every flock assembled into one prodigious large flight, and pitched within ten yards of me. I put them up with the expectation of killing not less than twenty, and my gun missed fire.’

14 June 1804
‘Romney. Shot an avoset (swimming). This is a bird rarely to be met with but on the Kentish coast. The above is its name in natural history; it is here known by the name of cobbler’s awl, owing to the form of the beak, which turns up at the end like the awl.’

1 September 1804
‘Romney. In a bad country we had never been in before Major Pigot and I bagged nine brace and a half of birds, exclusive of several we lost. We sprung one covey too small to fire at; Major Pigot picked out the old hen and I the cock, and bagged them both. There were sportsmen in almost every field. In the course of the day, my old dog Dick caught 8 hedgehogs.’

23 November 1804
‘Marched from Romney to be quartered at Guildford.’

2 December 1804
‘Left Guildford to stay a week at home at Longparish House.’

21 April 1829
‘After having been more or less unwell ever since I came to town, and several days confined to my bed and the sofa, I this day completed several repairs and improvements to the locks and breechings of my large gun, and got all safe away from the hornet’s nest which Joe Manton’s manufactory was in while he was in gaol, and this billet beset by ‘Philistines.’ His men worked under and for me, and had to keep an incessant eye lest anything should happen on the premises. No other workmen in London could have done such a job well to my fancy.’

28 April 1829
‘Longparish. I caught 24 brace of trout in a few hours, though the cold weather still continued.’

8 June 1829
‘London. The best Philharmonic ever known, and a duet between Sontag and Malibran considered the best piece of singing ever heard in this country.’

7 July 1829
‘Longparish. Took two hours’ fishing this evening, and killed 25 large trout.’

9 July 1829
‘Made a droll trial of a new-stocked duck gun, which was well done by my carpenter Keil. I knocked down, in seven shots, 6 bats and 1 moth. A duck at dusk flight may therefore know what to expect.’

10 July 1829
‘Fished and killed 20 very large trout indeed, and I then left off, not wanting any more fish to-day.’

20 April 1853
‘I may venture to say that I am getting on (though of course very, very slowly) towards the chance of recovery, for which prospect I have to thank Sir B. Brodie and an All-wise Providence.

Another remarkable circumstance - and a lucky one for me, who could eat nothing more nourishing than fish - the trout in our river, which were not even eatable when broiled till near July, have come in many months before their time, and ate better than I have known them to be for these last twenty years. One of my fishery tenants, Mr. Macleod, in the first week of March, had killed, in a severe winter’s day, 15 brace with a fly, and he kindly sent me a few as red and as good as salmon. This phenomenon is accounted for by the continued rains flooding all the low lands, and washing down constant winter food for the fish, which, notwithstanding the severe winter that afterwards cut up everything in March and April, never lost their high condition.’

23 April 1853
‘1 have been taken out for the last few days, for short drives in the carriage; but I am now a figure of skin and bone.’

24 April 1853
‘Another circumstance to record - Captain Duff and his friend came to my river to fish, and, in spite of the adverse weather, had a few days’ good sport; and, that is a miracle, every trout was better in season (though in April) than, for these twenty years, I have seen them - even than in June and July, the only time they have hitherto been fit to eat. They were quite red, firm, and full of curd - in short, delicious. Thus my lamentable illness has ‘cut me out of’ the best angling season on record, as well as the use of my new ignition punt gun at Keyhaven, in the finest hard weather we have had there since 1838.’

4 May 1853
‘Winter again; bitter cold gale of wind east by north. As I made but slow progress in the low and water-meadow situation of Longparish, I had made up my mind to forego all the comforts of the mansion for the more healthy air of my dear little cottage on the coast, and therefore I left Longparish for Keyhaven this day, after having passed twenty-five days and nights at the former place, without strength or appetite. We arrived at Keyhaven Cottage about six in the evening, after my very long absence from the 26th of October, 1852, up to this 4th of May, 1853. My good people were all delighted to see me, which they had made up their minds they should never do any more.’

5 May 1853
‘Keyhaven. Stephen Shuttler has done me justice in every possible way in my long absence, and kept everything in the very best order, in spite of awful floods; and then a north-pole winter in spring. N.B. Found the air here far pleasanter than at the other places. Thanks to God for all blessings up to this Holy Thursday — or Ascension Day — for 1853.’

7 May 1853
‘A total change of weather to south by west, and a pouring fall of rain all day; in the afternoon the cock flew round again to the north-east with the most furious increase of cold rain, and a heavy fall of snow - lamentable weather for my poor eyes and limbs. Instead of having a fair chance to breathe the good air here, I’ve been, ever since I entered the cottage, a close prisoner; could not even step into the garden.’

12 May 1853
‘Anniversary of my Douro affair, forty-four years ago. Cold and piercing north-easter, which is comparative luxury to the deadly poison of a white frost, insomuch that I suffered far less to-day, and my eyes got better.’

13-14 May 1853
‘Bitter white frosts again. But two hours’ fine weather on the 14th, when I got the sea air for the first time by being rowed down to Hurst and back. I came home refreshed, but much exhausted; and, on landing, who should be here but old Buckle, just arrived from Scotland. I was, however, not man enough to enjoy his ‘yarn’ as of old.’

18 May 1853
‘A beautiful day. Crossed to Yarmouth, and got driven to Freshwater for the fine sea air, but too weak to walk along the cliffs. Lots of ‘gents’ popping at rock birds and rifling the cormorants, and rookeries being stormed inland. All to tantalise me, like the gents having good sport angling the other day in view of my windows at Longparish, and I too ill to go out.’

26 May 1853
‘I sailed to Yarmouth, and got Butler’s excellent phaeton to the high lighthouse, and returned by Groves’s Hotel; but was so weak I could not enjoy my old paradise, Alum Bay, as before. The lighthouse is now kept by a Mr. Henderson, vice Coleraine, and the dangerous occupation of taking the eggs of rock birds is performed by a man named Lane, of the village below, called Weston, whose brother was lately killed in this awful pursuit.’

29 May 1853
‘Sunday. Being too weak to walk, I went in a donkey chaise to morning church at Milford (where, as well as at Longparish, Mrs. Hawker had me prayed for when expected not to recover), to return thanks to God for my escape from death in my long and dangerous illness, through which I had not been in church since the early part of last January, and never expected to be in church again, except on my way to the grave.’

July 1853
‘Longparish. From the 1st I have been so dreadfully ill that I could do nothing. My nights have been as awful as before.’

7 July 1853
‘The thunder and lightning all night caused such oppressive heat that no one could rest in bed. My sufferings could scarcely be conceived.’

8-14 July 1853
‘Too ill to get about save by quiet easy drives in the carriage, and to crawl out to look at all the grand repairs outside the house, which are now done. Attended by Dr. Hempsted twice a day, as my sufferings are alarming. We have had incessant wet weather ever since I returned to Longparish, and consequently the heavy water-meadow fogs oppressed me even more than those of London, from which I had retreated on the score of health. To-day, the 14th, Dr. Hempsted went from me to his other patient, the Earl of Portsmouth, for whom he had no hope, and who died this day at one o’clock. Peace to his soul!’


The Diary Junction