Friday, October 30, 2015

Are you a genius?

‘Oh! Ezra! how beautiful you are! With your pale face and fair hair! I wonder - are you a genius? or are you only an artist in Life?’ This is a gushing, young Dorothy Shakespear writing in a notebook about her passion for the American poet, Ezra Pound, born 130 years ago today. Pound would go on to become a most controversial literary figure. On the one hand, he propelled poetry into Modernism, and encouraged/influenced a generation of writers whose works would become far more popular than his own; yet, on the other, he would also embrace Fascism during the Second World War, and become alienatingly anti-semitic.

Pound was born on 30 October 1885 in Hailey, Idaho, but grew up mainly in Pennsylvania. He was educated at a series of primary schools, some of them Quaker, before entering the Cheltenham Military Academy, where he specialised in Latin. Thereafter, he went to the University of Pennsylvania’s College of Liberal Arts and Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. In between his academic studies - studying past languages, such as the Provençal dialect - he took trips with his family to Europe. He also pursued various women, being turned down in marriage at least twice. He embarked on a PhD, but fell out without the department head, and took up teaching, until, that is, early in 1908, when he sat sail for Europe. He spent several months in Gibraltar and Venice, where he self-published his first book of poetry A Lume Spento (With Tapers Spent).

In August of 1908, Pound moved to London where, the following year, he met the novelist Olivia Shakespear. She introduced him to her daughter, Dorothy, who he married in 1914, and to the poet W. B. Yeats (see The poet’s labour). Although Pound returned to the US in 1910, he was soon back in London, and it would be 30 years before he visited the US again. Between 1908 and 1911, Pound published six collections of verse, most of it dominated by his passion for Provençal and early Italian poetry. By this time, he was contributing reviews and critical articles to various periodicals such as the New Age, The Egoist, and Poetry, where - according to The Poetry Foundation - ‘he articulated his aesthetic principles and indicated his literary, artistic, and musical preferences, thus offering information helpful for interpreting his poetry’.

Around 1912, Pound, along with Hilda Doolittle, Richard Aldington and others developed the idea of a movement in poetry called Imagisme, with the aim of bringing clarity to the poetic form, a precision of imagery and clear, sharp language. Historically, the Imagists are considered an early influence in the much broader movement known as Modernism. Within a couple of years, though, Pound was moving away from Imagisme towards the wider movement that became known as Vorticism, as reflected in his volume of poems translated from the Chinese - Cathay. Apart from publishing his own poetry, Pound was keen to promote other writers. Between 1914 and 1916, he helped with the publication of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (initially in The Egoist), and he also persuaded Poetry to publish T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Later, he would edit Eliot’s Wasteland. He was also an early advocate of D. H. Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway.

After the war, Pound produced two of his most admired works, Homage to Sextus Propertius and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. But, in late 1920, he and his wife left London for a new start in Paris. There, Pound fell in love with Olga Rudge, an American violinist. When, in 1924, tired of France already and seeking a quieter life, the Pounds moved to the Italian city of Rapallo, Rudge followed them. In 1925, she had Pound’s daughter, Mary; and the following year Dorothy bore him a son, Omar. Both children were raised apart from their parents, and separately, Mary with a peasant woman, and Omar with Dorothy’s mother in London and then at boarding schools.

Professionally, Pound was working on a long poem - The Cantos - published between 1925 and 1940, but also turning more towards politics and economics. He took on the idea that injustice in the world was shaped by international bankers, whose manipulation of money led to wars and conflict. In 1933, he met Benito Mussolini, and became an ardent supporter; later, during the Second World War, recording hundreds of anti-semitic broadcasts for Rome Radio, but also writing many articles and sending thousands letters in support of Mussolini’s regime. In 1945, with Mussolini dead, Pound was arrested by Italian partisans, handed over to American forces, who detained him for six months before flying him back to the US to stand trial for treason.

Although Pound was not tried, he was considered insane and admitted to St. Elizabeths Hospital, Washington D.C, where, after a while, he became more than comfortable, writing (on The Pisan Cantos, for example), and receiving visitors on a regular basis. Although he repudiated his antisemitism in public, he continued to be stridently anti-semitic in his behaviour, and to maintain unsavoury friendships. It was not until 1958, that friends and allies (including Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway) managed, finally, to get him released, though this was done under the argument that he was permanently and incurably insane. He returned to Italy, where he carried on writing, publishing, in 1969, Drafts and Fragments of Cantos CX-CXVII.

Physical and mental ill-health never seemed far away in Pound's last years, with Dorothy, Olga, and his daughter Mary all caring for him at times. He managed to get to London in 1965 to attend Eliot’s funeral, and to Dublin to visit Yeats’s widow, and to the US in 1967 where he was received warmly at Hamiton College. He died in Venice in 1972, Olga by his side.

The Poetry Foundation has this assessment of the poet: ‘Of all the major literary figures in the twentieth century, Ezra Pound has been one of the most controversial; he has also been one of modern poetry’s most important contributors. In an introduction to the Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot declared that Pound “is more responsible for the twentieth-century revolution in poetry than is any other individual.” Four decades later, Donald Hall reaffirmed in remarks collected in Remembering Poets that “Ezra Pound is the poet who, a thousand times more than any other man, has made modern poetry possible in English.” ’ Further information is available from Wikipedia, Biography.com, the Poetry Foundation.

Pound was not a diarist, as far as I can tell, but Dorothy Shakespear kept a kind of diary for a few years when she first met Ezra, and extracts from this were included by Omar Pound and Arthur Walton Litz in Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear: Their Letters 1909-1914, published by Faber and Faber in 1985. The authors say: ‘Since no letters survive from 1909 we have used extensive entries from a black school notebook Dorothy kept after their first meeting [. . . and] we have also used entires from the notebook to augment the letters of 1910 and 1911.’ Here are several extracts from that notebook.

16 February 1909
‘ “Ezra”. Listen to it - Ezra! Ezra! - And a third time - Ezra!. He has a wonderful, beautiful face, a high forehead, prominent over the eyes; a long, delicate nose, with little, red, nostrils; a strange mouth, never still, & quite elusive; a square chin, slighly cleft in the middle - the whole face pale; the eyes gray-blue; the hair golden-brown, and curling in soft wavy crinkles. Large hands, with long, well-shaped, fingers, and beautiful nails.

Some people have complained of untidy boots - how could they look at his boots, when there is his moving, beautiful face to watch? Oh! fools, fools! They are the fools one cannot “suffer gladly”. I do not think he knows he is beautiful.

At first he was shy - he spoke quickly, (with a strong, odd, accent, half American, half Irish) he sat back in his chair; but afterwards, he suddenly dropped down, cross-legged, with his back to the fire: then he began to talk - He talked of Yeats, as one of the Twenty of the world who have added to the World’s poetical matter - He read a short piece of Yeats, in a voice dropping with emotion, in a voice like Yeats’s own - He spoke of his interest in all the Arts, in that he might find things of use in them for his own - which is the Highest of them all.

“Have you ever seen things in a crystal?” I asked - And he looked at me, smiling, & answered “I see things without a crystal”. He suggested the Great Inspiration he was waiting for. That he wished above all things to be in readiness, open-minded and waiting, on the Great Day when it should come. For he evidently believes it will come. “You should never get up from a book tired” - he said. [. . .]

Oh! Ezra! how beautiful you are! With your pale face and fair hair! I wonder - are you a genius? or are you only an artist in Life?

How can people look at his boots, instead of his face - It is they who impossible, not he - not the beautiful Ezra. He said of one college, that it was only another tract of the barren waste - and suffered that which is untellable.’

26 February 1909
‘He (Ezra) has passed by the way where most men have only dreamed of passing. He has done with a Soul, that might be saved or damned - He has learned to live beside his body. I see him as a double person - just held together by the flesh.

His spirit walks beside him, outside him, on the left-hand side - He has conquered the needs of the flesh - He can starve; nay, is willing, to starve that his spirit may bring forth the ‘highest of arts’ - poetry. He has no care for hunger & thirst, for cold; of an ordinary man’s evils he takes no notice - “It is worth starving for” he said one day. He has attained to peace in this world, it seems to me. To be working for the great art, to be living in, and for, Truth in her Greatness - He has fond the Centre - Truth.’

4-5 November 1909
‘Oh! Ezra! you leave me so far behind! You have passed through the wood - and the fear you felt in the darkness is even now vibrating in between the pine stems.

It is the only trace of your passing for yr. thoughts are so white, that the cobwebs cling along the path, as though none had gone trough them. Yet I know that you went by once, long ago -

Sometimes in the loneliness I cry your name, hoping to dispel the fears which crowd behind me. Well I know that you do not hear my voice, that you cannot come back to speak with me - Yet I greatly desire some sign, when my faith fails me.’

19 March 1910
‘Ezra! Ezra! beautiful face! I love beautiful things - and I know it more than ever, because when you made yourself ugly by shaving off your joyous hair, I was miserable - I was angry also for I thought I understood the charm of your appearance altogether - Now that you know you have been a fool, I am sure of it again - but the time between us (passed in) touched with despair.’

28 August 1910
‘Surely you & I, Ezra, are both dreams; we are (the) subjective existences of some man or other, who little knows that we have met & loved - we - (his) forms of his imagination! He (dreamt) formed you before he thought of me. You have had time to go (further) deeper into the Truth than I have been given.

But one day you & I met - all unbeknown to our Objective. We met in a blue, open, place - We saw each other’s hair & knew that we both loved the Sun. Later we loved each other as well. But now, the Objective has taken you to the other side of the world & he has forgotten me - left me behind.’

7 May 1911
‘To-night (and all yesterday) I have had a feeling you were “about” - Is it possible you are coming back to me? And yet the news is bad - For Mercy’s sake come back to me - I shall never rest until I have seen you again, & settled that one thing in my own mind. How can I rest?’

A spirit to our honour

‘The Year 1765 has been the most remarkable Year of my Life. That enormous Engine, fabricated by the British Parliament, for battering down all the Rights and Liberties of America, I mean the Stamp Act, has raised and spread, thro the whole Continent, a Spirit that will be recorded to our Honour, with all future Generations.’ This is a diary entry by John Adams, born 280 years ago today, who was a key figure in the American colonies advocating independence from Great Britain. He would go on to become George Washington’s vice-president, and then president in his own right.

Adams was born at Massachusetts Bay Colony on 30 October 1735, and studied at Harvard. After several years teaching in Worcester, he decided on a career in the law, becoming an apprentice at a local law firm, and being admitted to the bar two years later in 1758. He married a distant cousin, Abigail Smith, in 1764; they had five children who survived infancy. In 1768, Adams moved his family to Boston, where he was elected to the Massachusetts Assembly in 1770, and, thereafter, to the first and second Continental Congresses.

Even before moving to Boston, Adams had made a name for himself by orchestrating opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765 - this had been imposed on the American colonies by the British without consultation. After the so-called Boston Massacre, Adams, reluctantly, defended the soldiers accused of killing civilians. He succeeded in winning acquittals or lesser convictions for each of them, thereby considerably enhancing his legal reputation. Once at Congress, he nominated Washington to be commander-in-chief of the colonial armies; and, in 1776, he offered a resolution that amounted to a declaration of independence from Britain. He promoted the importance of international trade, and, specifically, argued for a treaty with France, so Congress appointed him to join others as a commissioner in Paris. On his return in 1779, he participated in the framing of a state constitution for Massachusetts.

In 1781, Adams participated in the development of the Treaty of Peace and was one of its signatories. He also served as ambassador in the Dutch Republic, securing its recognition of an independent United States, and as the United States’ first ambassador to Great Britain. While in London, he published his work, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States. On his return, he moved to Peacefield, a large house in Quincy, Massachusetts, which remained the family home for the rest of his life.

In 1789, and again in 1792, Adam was elected vice-president under George Washington; and then, he himself, was elected president in 1796 (serving from 1797 to 1801). His presidency was dominated by the threat of war with France, and argument over the US’s role in the European war between France and Britain. Moreover, in this early period of independence, Adams, a federalist, seemed to be in constant dispute with Thomas Jefferson, a Republican about the limits of federal power over the state governments and individual citizens. In the election of 1800, Adams lost narrowly to Jefferson, and retired to Peacefield. He lived to see his eldest son, John Quincy Adams, become the sixth president of the US, but died in 1826 (within hours of Jefferson). Further biographical information is readily available at Wikipedia, the White House, the Miller Center, or World Biography.

Adams kept a diary for much of his life, at least prior to being vice-president and then president, and left behind 51 small manuscript volumes describing both his daily activities and major events in which he was a participant. The diaries were first published within The Works of John Adams, as edited by his grandson, Charles Francis Adams, (10 volumes in all, published by Little, Brown in Boston between 1850 and 1856). The diary texts can be found in volumes two and three, both of them available online, either through the Online Library of Liberty or through Internet Archive.

The Massachusetts Historical Society, which holds all but the first of the manuscript diaries (which is held by Vermont Historical Society), provides a brief description: ‘The earliest diaries include John Adams’s descriptions of student life at Harvard College, his experiences as a teacher in Worcester, Massachusetts, and accounts as a lawyer and a member of the circuit court system. Beginning in 1774, most of the manuscript volumes describe the events Adams witnessed as a Congressional delegate and diplomat in Europe through the summer of 1786.’ The Society also provides a full list of Adams’s diaries, with links to images of the original manuscripts and transcribed texts for each one. Here are several extracts.

18 November 1755
‘We had a severe Shock of an Earthquake. It continued near four minutes. I was then at my Fathers in Braintree, and awoke out of my sleep in the midst of it. The house seemed to rock and reel and crack as if it would fall in ruins about us. 7 Chimnies were shatter’d by it within one mile of my Fathers house.’

21 July 1756.
‘Kept School. I am now entering on another Year, and I am resolved not to neglect my Time as I did last Year. I am resolved to rise with the Sun and to study the Scriptures, on Thurdsday, Fryday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, and to study some Latin author the other 3 mornings. Noons and Nights I intend to read English Authors. This is my fixt Determination, and I will set down every neglect and every compliance with this Resolution. May I blush whenever I suffer one hour to pass unimproved. I will rouse up my mind, and fix my Attention. I will stand collected within my self and think upon what I read and what I see. I will strive with all my soul to be something more than Persons who have had less Advantages than myself.’

22 August 1756
‘Yesterday I compleated a Contract with Mr. Putnam, to study Law under his Inspection for two years. I ought to begin with a Resolution to oblige and please him and his Lady in a particular Manner. I ought to endeavour to oblige and please every Body, but them in particular. Necessity drove me to this Determination, but my Inclination I think was to preach. However that would not do. But I set out with firm Resolutions I think never to commit any meanness or injustice in the Practice of Law. The Study and Practice of Law, I am sure does not dissolve the obligations of morality or of Religion. And altho the Reason of my quitting Divinity was my Opinion concerning some disputed points, I hope I shall not give Reason of offence to any in that Profession by imprudent Warmth.’

18 December 1865
‘How great is my Loss, in neglecting to keep a regular journal, through the last Spring, Summer, and Fall. In the Course of my Business, as a Surveyor of High-Ways, as one of the Committee, for dividing, planning, and selling the North-Commons, in the Course of my two great journeys to Pounalborough and Marthas Vineyard, and in several smaller journeys to Plymouth, Taunton and Boston, I had many fine Opportunities and Materials for Speculation. The Year 1765 has been the most remarkable Year of my Life. That enormous Engine, fabricated by the british Parliament, for battering down all the Rights and Liberties of America, I mean the Stamp Act, has raised and spread, thro the whole Continent, a Spirit that will be recorded to our Honour, with all future Generations. In every Colony, from Georgia to New Hampshire inclusively, the Stamp Distributors and Inspectors have been compelled, by the unconquerable Rage of the People, to renounce their offices. Such and so universal has been the Resentment of the People, that every Man who has dared to speak in favour of the Stamps, or to soften the detestation in which they are held, how great soever his Abilities and Virtues had been esteemed before, or whatever his fortune, Connections and Influence had been, has been seen to sink into universal Contempt and Ignominy.’

21 January 1783
‘Went to Versailles to pay my Respects to the King and Royal Family, upon the Event of Yesterday. Dined with the foreign Ambassadors at the C. de Vergennes’s. The King appeared in high Health and in gay Spirits: so did the Queen.M. [Madame] Elizabeth is grown very fat. The C. D’Artois seems very well. Mr. Fitsherbert had his first Audience of the King and Royal Family and dined for the first time with the Corps Diplomatique.’

30 March 1786
‘Presented Mr. Hamilton to the Queen at the Drawing Room. Dined at Mr. Paradices. Count Warranzow [Woronzow] and his Gentleman and Chaplain, M. Sodorini the Venetian Minister, Mr. Jefferson, Dr. Bancroft, Coll. Smith [William Stephens Smith] and my Family. Went at Nine O Clock to the French Ambassadors Ball, where were two or three hundred People, chiefly Ladies. Here I met the Marquis of Landsdown and the Earl of Harcourt. These two Noblemen ventured to enter into Conversation with me. So did Sir George Young [Yonge]. But there is an Aukward Timidity, in General. This People cannot look me in the Face: there is conscious Guilt and Shame in their Countenances, when they look at me. They feel that they have behaved ill, and that I am sensible of it.’

8 July 1786
‘In one of my common Walks, along the Edgeware Road, there are fine Meadows, or Squares of grass Land belonging to a noted Cow keeper. These Plotts are plentifully manured. There are on the Side of the Way, several heaps of Manure, an hundred Loads perhaps in each heap. I have carefully examined them and find them composed of Straw, and dung from the Stables and Streets of London, mud, Clay, or Marl, dug out of the Ditch, along the Hedge, and Turf, Sward cutt up, with Spades, hoes, and shovels in the Road. This is laid in vast heaps to mix. With narrow hoes they cutt it down at each End, and with shovels throw it into a new heap, in order to divide it and mix it more effectually. I have attended to the Operation, as I walked, for some time. This may be good manure, but is not equal to mine, which I composed in similar heaps upon my own Farm, of Horse Dung from Bracketts stable in Boston, Marsh Mud from the sea shore and Street Dust, from the Plain at the Foot of Pens hill, in which is a Mixture of Marl.’

The Diary Junction

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The bishop in Buganda

James Hannington, Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, was shot dead 130 years ago today, with his own rifle, executed - along with 50 or so expedition porters - by the order of the king of Buganda. Remarkably, one of the native Bugandans held on to Hannington’s diary - with entries right up to the day of his murder - and this found its way back to Britain, to be published just a year later, helping establish Hannington as a missionary hero.

James Hannington was born at Hurstpierpoint, near Brighton, in 1847. His father was a fabric merchant, and part of the family that ran a department store of the same name in Brighton. James left school young to join his father’s counting house, but was often abroad on family holidays. In his spare time, he obtained a commission in the 1st Sussex Artillery Volunteers, and rose to the rank of major. Aged 21, he decided to enter the clergy, and went to study at St Mary Hall, Oxford, but was not ordained deacon until 1874. After a short period in Devon, he became curate for St George’s, a chapel his father had built on his own land in Hurstpierpont, and was ordained priest soon after. He married Blanche Hankin-Turvin in 1877, and they had three children.

In 1882, Hannington offered his services to the Christian Missionary Society (CMS). He set out for Buganda, part of Uganda, heading a team of six missionaries, but he had to return early due to illness. Subsequently, in 1884, having been ordained Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, he again set off for the CMS missions in Buganda, visiting Palestine on the way. Once on the coast of Africa, he decided to pioneer a shorter route inland from the coast near Mombasa. The Bugandan king, however, had become suspicious of European missionaries by this time. He imprisoned Hannington and some 50 porters, killing most of them eight days later - Hannington was shot with his own gun on 29 October 1885. Widespread persecution of Christians followed. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, the Bishop Hannington Memorial Church, Anglican History or the Church Society.

Hannington appears to have kept a journal, and, remarkably, his last pocket diary was saved by a native Ugandan, and sold to a later expedition. It found its way back to Britain where it was edited by Rev E. C. Dawson and published by the CMS in 1886 as The Last Journals of Bishop Hannington being narratives of A Journey through Palestine in 1884 and A Journey through Masai-Land and U-Soga in 1885. This is freely available online at Internet Archive. The Last Journals, and another book written by Dawson about Hannington, were very popular, and must have helped establish Hannington’s reputation as a missionary hero. Incidentally, without Hannington’s journal there would have been no record of what happened to him and his expedition. Here are several extracts from the journal, including the very last entry.

21 June 1883
‘Went to town with Sam. Visited Kew; poor reception. Went to British Museum; warm reception. Slept at C.M. College. Gave address to the students.’

22 June 1883
‘Gave another address at morning prayers. Brighton 11 a.m. Gave address at the C.M.S. meeting in the Pavilion.’

23 June 1883
‘Rather tired with the week.’

1 October 1884
‘During the past nine months I have travelled 9,292 miles, or thereabouts. I have preached during the same time one hundred and eleven times, and spoken at one hundred and eighty-seven meetings, besides being present at thirty-four others.’

5 November 1884
‘What a bustle there is at the Liverpool Street Station! What an unusual amount of leave-taking! Even as the train moves out of the station many run alongside well-nigh the length of the platform to give one last look, one more parting blessing.

What does it all mean? Why that we are in the special train that is conveying P. and O. passengers to Tilbury, thence to embark for their several destinations.

It was but eighteen months ago that I was hurried along that same line in exactly the opposite direction. And with what different feelings! Each beat of the engine was then conveying me nearer home, and now it is tearing me away - but I must not soliloquise, for I have many things yet to say to those who have so kindly determined to see the last of us; nor can we refrain from enquiring who that queer old gentleman is in the corner. We learn that he is uncle to a noble earl, and is to occupy a berth in the same cabin as ourselves, so more of him by-and-by.

Wedged in on the steamer that is running up alongside the P. and O. boat we hear a voice at our elbow, “Hulloa! there is to be a bishop on board, won’t you get dosed with –!” with what I never heard, for just at that moment the speaker’s eye was raised from the list of passengers to the strings on my hat, thence it wandered to my gaiters, and finally stole a furtive peep at my face - where, to judge from the confusion that followed, it read in my enquiring glance, “Dosed with what, sir?”

What a motley crowd there was on deck! Officers in uniform (we learn with horror that there are three hundred troops on board), Lascars, British tars, Chinese, Indian ayahs, agents, and passengers, and nobody knowing exactly what to do or say next, until at length the bell rings, and relatives who have come to say farewell must do so now as best they can. The final wrench, the most agonising of all, because it breaks the last link with England and home.

There may be but little time for a man to get his cabin shipshape before he finds himself battling with the billows, so I take the initiative and slip below, put a week’s supply close at hand, and arrange a few little mysteries, as O. D. C, toilet vinegar, Eno, matches, and plenty of spare pocket-handkerchiefs. You expect, then, to catch a cold? No, but it might be rough for a few days!

Having completed my arrangements to my own thorough satisfaction, I was not sorry to hear the unmistakable peal of the dinner-bell; we congratulate ourselves that we are still in the Thames.’

21 December 1884
‘I am not going to say very much about Jerusalem, Jerusalem society, or Jerusalem work. The prophets always found that they got stoned when they sojourned there. Had I found that things had been made pleasant and comfortable for me, I might have been led seriously to consider whether I was not one of the false prophets, and whether my mission was not rather for ill than for good; but in the midst of the party distractions, we found shelter in the dear Preparandi School under Wilson’s wing. Perhaps if the baby - but never mind. We found ourselves revelling in a hundred recollections of the past, and had much to say about the present - and future, too, all unknown. I had but a light Sunday, preaching at the Jews’ Church in the morning and the C.M.S. in the afternoon, being present at the Jews’ Church again in the evening. Saddened by the sight of the tombs of the three bishops; - but why should I be sad? Charmed to an intense degree by a stroll down the valley of Hinnom and Jehoshaphat, past the beautiful tombs of Zechariah, James, and Absolom; and I still think, of all spots within and without the city, this is the one that charms me most - viz., to stand opposite these tombs, gazing across the Brook Kedron, on the Mount of Olives. And near the same spot to grub amongst the ash-heaps that fill the valley of Hinnom, and secure little treasures of ancient pottery, was my most delightful employment. My good friends, when we had spare time, would ask me, “Where will you go? What do you want to see?” My answer invariably would be, “The ash-heaps!” They were exceedingly cruel to me, for it was very seldom I was allowed the treat; there was almost always on such occasions some particular sight I must see.’

12 September 1885
‘Flies and mosquitos swarmed, and so did Masai. As soon as ever the sun showed, a fresh and powerful band of warriors came at once and demanded hongo. A very covetous and wicked-looking old medicine-man came with them. After some delay we settled their claims, but, before doing so, a fresh band had arrived, and far more insolent; and then a third; and then a fourth; and now the elders began to be even more troublesome than the rest; at length matters reached a pitch, and the women were ordered from camp, and fighting seemed imminent. Jones and I rushed hither and thither, and got matters straight again somehow, but I was nearly torn to pieces by the warriors pulling my hair and beard, examining my boots, toes, etc.; at last, nearly demented, I went to hide myself from them amid the trees. After three ineffectual attempts I at last succeeded, when Jones, who knew where I was, came rushing to call me. The warriors were attacking the loads. I dashed back and found them in a most dangerous mood, and backed by the elders, who were worse than all. By dint of the keenest policy I amused the warriors while Jones gave presents to the elders. Then a fresh and yet more exacting band of warriors arrived, and had to be satisfied. How often I looked at the sun! It stood still in the heavens, nor would go down. I agonised in prayer, and each time trouble seemed to be averted; and, after all, we came out of it far better than could be expected, and really paid very little - not two loads altogether, and bought six goats to boot. About sunset things grew quiet, so I went out and bagged three geese. All the men, elders, Jones, and myself agree that we must try and escape tomorrow.’

28 October 1885
‘(Seventh day’s prison.) A terrible night, first with noisy, drunken guard, and secondly with vermin, which have found out my tent and swarm. I don’t think I got one hour’s sound sleep, and woke with fever fast developing. O Lord, do have mercy upon me and release me. I am quite broken down and brought low. Comforted by reading Psalm xxvii.

In an hour or two fever developed rapidly. My tent was so stuffy that I was obliged to go inside the filthy hut, and soon was delirious.

Evening: fever passed away. Word came that Mwanga had sent three soldiers, but what news they bring they will not vet let me know.

Much comforted bv Psalm xxviii.’

29 October 1885
‘(Eighth day’s prison.) I can hear no news, but was held up by Psalm xxx., which came with great power. A hyena howled near me last night, smelling a sick man, but I hope it is not to have me yet.’

The Diary Junction

Monday, October 19, 2015

Live ten times happier

Jonathan Swift, that great Anglo-Irish satirist, man of pamphlets, died 270 years ago. His name is best remembered for Gulliver’s Travels, which has remained a classic of English literature for three centuries. However, a series of letters he wrote, in journal form, to his lifelong friend Esther Johnson, is also still very much in print - as Journal to Stella - and oft analysed, for what it says about Swift, himself, and London in the last years of Queen Anne’s reign.

Swift was born of Anglo-Irish parents in Dublin in 1667, several months after the death of his father. His mother returned to England, leaving Jonathan with an uncle. He was educated at Kilkenny Grammar, one of the best schools in Ireland at the time, and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he became friends with William Congreve. When political troubles in Ireland forced him to leave for England in 1688, his mother helped him get a position as secretary to Sir William Temple, a retired diplomat (soon to move and settle at Moor Park, Farnham). Swift remained at Moor Park for the best part of ten years, although he did return to Ireland, for two sojourns, become ordained as a priest in the Church of Ireland. Temple trusted Swift with important commissions, and introduced him to King William III. He also tutored Esther Johnson (or Stella), the daughter of Temple’s sister, worked on Temple’s memoirs, and developed his own poetical and satirical writings.

Temple died in 1699, and Swift failed to find a new position, so he returned to Dublin where he obtained a living and became prebend of Dunlavin in St Patrick’s Cathedral. 
He persuaded Esther Johnson, 20 by this time, and Rebecca Dingley, another friend from Temple’s household, to leave England and live with him in Dunlavin. As chaplain to Lord Berkeley, he spent much of his time in Dublin and travelled to London frequently over the next ten years. Swift’s first political pamphlet, published anonymously, was titled A Discourse on the Contests and Dissentions in Athens and Rome. A Tale of a Tub followed, again anonymously, although Swift was increasingly known to be the author. His works were very popular, yet severely frowned on by the church - even though he, himself, was, in fact, more loyal to church than politics.

Despite his Whig background and sensibilities, from about 1710, he became a key writer for the new Tory government under Robert Harley, attracted by Harley’s commitment to be more supportive of the Church of Ireland. Harley, indeed, had already recruited another important writer of the day, Daniel Defoe, to the Tory cause. Swift took over as editor of the Tory journal, The Examiner, and he wrote a significant pamphlet for the Tories - The Conduct of the Allies - that helped win a vote for peace with France in Parliament. His reward was not a position within the English church - Queen Anne and others had been too scandalised by A Tale of the Tub - but the deanery of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

Swift’s elevated position with the Tories did not last long. The death of Queen Anne and the accession of George I in 1714 led the Whigs back into power, and saw Tory leaders tried for treason for conducting secret negotiations with France. Swift withdrew to Dublin and his deanery, somewhat spurned by the Anglo-Irish Whig community. He turned his pen and satire to Irish affairs, much to the government’s frustration, with works such as Proposal for Universal Use of Irish Manufacture (1720) and Drapier’s Letters (1724). During these years, he also wrote his most famous and lasting work, Gulliver’s Travels, or, more accurately, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts, By Lemuel Gulliver, first a surgeon, and then a captain of several ships. He took the manuscript of this with him to London in 1726, and stayed with friends, including Alexander Pope, who helped him publish it anonymously. It was hugely popular, and went through several reprints, and by the following year had been translated into French, German and Dutch.

Swift returned to London one last time, in 1727, staying with Pope, but when he heard Esther Johnson was dying, he raced back to Ireland. She died the following January. More dark satire followed from his pen, notably, in 1729, A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick. In the latter years of his life, Swift’s health failed in several ways, physically and mentally. He died on 19 October 1745, and was laid to rest next to Esther, according to his wishes, in St Patrick’s. Further biographical information can be found at Wikipedia, the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Luminarium or reviews of Jonathan Swift: His life and His World by Leo Damrosch (at The Guardian, The New York Times, History Today).

There is no evidence that Swift kept a diary of any significance. Although The National Archives records that the Forster Collection at the V&A Museum holds ‘diary, literary MSS, personal accounts, corresp and copies of letters’, there is no reference at all in biographies to any diary kept by Swift. However, one of his most memorable and long-lasting works has been called a ‘journal’, at least since the 19th century - The Journal to Stella. And this work is included in William Matthews’ definitive British Diaries: An Annotated Bibliography of British Diaries Written Between 1442 and 1942. Indeed, Matthews says it is ‘the best reflection of social life in time of Queen Anne’. The Journal to Stella contains a series of letters written by Swift to Esther (and occasionally her companion, Dingley) between 1710 and 1713. Most biographers agree that Swift had some kind of lifelong relationship with Esther, while some argue they may have been secretly married.

Most of these letters were first published in the 18th century (1768), in a set of Swift’s collected works edited by his relation, Deane Swift. However, it was not until the end of the 19th century, I think, that they were collated together by Frederick Ryland into a single volume (the second in a series of Swift’s Prose Works) and given the title The Journal to Stella. Around a third of the letters remain extant, and are held by the British Library, but the majority have been lost, and so for them Deane Swift’s collected works remains the best source. Many further editions of The Journal to Stella have been published. Most recently, Cambridge University Press has brought out ‘the first critical edition for 50 years’, which, it says, ‘sheds new light on Swift, his relationships and the historical period’. Older editions can be read freely online at the University of Adelaide’s free ebook website (a 1901 edition with notes and introduction by George A. Aitken), or Internet Archive.

Here are several extracts from The Journal to Stella as edited by Aitken. (MD is short for ‘My Dears’ and is used by Swift rather fluidly to stand for both Stella and Mrs. Dingley, but also for Stella alone.)

9 October 1711
‘I was forced to lie down at twelve to-day, and mend my night’s sleep: I slept till after two, and then sent for a bit of mutton and pot of ale from the next cook’s shop, and had no stomach. I went out at four, and called to see Biddy Floyd, which I had not done these three months: she is something marked, but has recovered her complexion quite, and looks very well. Then I sat the evening with Mrs. Vanhomrigh, and drank coffee, and ate an egg. I likewise took a new lodging to-day, not liking a ground-floor, nor the ill smell, and other circumstances. I lodge, or shall lodge, by Leicester Fields, and pay ten shillings a week; that won’t hold out long, faith. I shall lie here but one night more. It rained terribly till one o’clock to-day. I lie, for I shall lie here two nights, till Thursday, and then remove. Did I tell you that my friend Mrs. Barton has a brother drowned, that went on the expedition with Jack Hill? He was a lieutenant-colonel, and a coxcomb; and she keeps her chamber in form, and the servants say she receives no messages. - Answer MD’s letter, Presto, d’ye hear? No, says Presto, I won’t yet, I’m busy; you’re a saucy rogue. Who talks?’

12 October 1711
‘Mrs. Vanhomrigh has changed her lodging as well as I. She found she had got with a bawd, and removed. I dined with her to-day; for though she boards, her landlady does not dine with her. I am grown a mighty lover of herrings; but they are much smaller here than with you. In the afternoon I visited an old major-general, and ate six oysters; then sat an hour with Mrs. Colledge, the joiner’s daughter that was hanged; it was the joiner was hanged, and not his daughter; with Thompson’s wife, a magistrate. There was the famous Mrs. Floyd of Chester, who, I think, is the handsomest woman (except MD) that ever I saw. She told me that twenty people had sent her the verses upon Biddy, as meant to her: and, indeed, in point of handsomeness, she deserves them much better. I will not go to Windsor to-morrow, and so I told the Secretary to-day. I hate the thoughts of Saturday and Sunday suppers with Lord Treasurer. Jack Hill is come home from his unfortunate expedition, and is, I think, now at Windsor: I have not yet seen him. He is privately blamed by his own friends for want of conduct. He called a council of war, and therein it was determined to come back. But they say a general should not do that, because the officers will always give their opinion for returning, since the blame will not lie upon them, but the general. I pity him heartily. Bernage received his commission to-day.’

14 October 1711
‘I was going to dine with Dr. Cockburn, but Sir Andrew Fountaine met me, and carried me to Mrs. Van’s, where I drank the last bottle of Raymond’s wine, admirable good, better than any I get among the Ministry. I must pick up time to answer this letter of MD’s; I’ll do it in a day or two for certain. - I am glad I am not at Windsor, for it is very cold, and I won’t have a fire till November. I am contriving how to stop up my grate with bricks. Patrick was drunk last night; but did not come to me, else I should have given him t’other cuff. I sat this evening with Mrs. Barton; it is the first day of her seeing company; but I made her merry enough, and we were three hours disputing upon Whig and Tory. She grieved for her brother only for form, and he was a sad dog. Is Stella well enough to go to church, pray? no numbings left? no darkness in your eyes? do you walk and exercise? Your exercise is ombre. - People are coming up to town: the Queen will be at Hampton Court in a week. Lady Betty Germaine, I hear, is come; and Lord Pembroke is coming: his wife is as big with child as she can tumble.’

15 October 1711
‘I sat at home till four this afternoon to-day writing, and ate a roll and butter; then visited Will Congreve an hour or two, and supped with Lord Treasurer, who came from Windsor to-day, and brought Prior with him. The Queen has thanked Prior for his good service in France, and promised to make him a Commissioner of the Customs. Several of that Commission are to be out; among the rest, my friend Sir Matthew Dudley. I can do nothing for him, he is so hated by the Ministry. Lord Treasurer kept me till twelve, so I need not tell you it is now late.’

16 October 1711
‘I dined to-day with Mr. Secretary at Dr. Coatesworth’s, where he now lodges till his house be got ready in Golden Square. One Boyer, a French dog, has abused me in a pamphlet, and I have got him up in a messenger’s hands: the Secretary promises me to swinge him. Lord Treasurer told me last night that he had the honour to be abused with me in a pamphlet. I must make that rogue an example, for warning to others. I was to see Jack Hill this morning, who made that unfortunate expedition; and there is still more misfortune; for that ship, which was admiral of his fleet, is blown up in the Thames, by an accident and carelessness of some rogue, who was going, as they think, to steal some gunpowder: five hundred men are lost. We don’t yet know the particulars. I am got home by seven, and am going to be busy, and you are going to play and supper; you live ten times happier than I; but I should live ten times happier than you if I were with MD.’

22 October 1711
‘I dined in the City to-day with Dr. Freind, at one of my printers: I inquired for Leigh, but could not find him: I have forgot what sort of apron you want. I must rout among your letters, a needle in a bottle of hay. I gave Sterne directions, but where to find him Lord knows. I have bespoken the spectacles; got a set of Examiners, and five pamphlets, which I have either written or contributed to, except the best, which is the vindication of the Duke of Marlborough, and is entirely of the author of the Atalantis. I have settled Dingley’s affair with Tooke, who has undertaken it, and understands it. I have bespoken a Miscellany: what would you have me do more? It cost me a shilling coming home; it rains terribly, and did so in the morning. Lord Treasurer has had an ill day, in much pain. He writes and does business in his chamber now he is ill: the man is bewitched: he desires to see me, and I’ll maul him, but he will not value it a rush. I am half weary of them all. I often burst out into these thoughts, and will certainly steal away as soon as I decently can. I have many friends, and many enemies; and the last are more constant in their nature. I have no shuddering at all to think of retiring to my old circumstances, if you can be easy; but I will always live in Ireland as I did the last time; I will not hunt for dinners there, nor converse with more than a very few.’

9 October 1712
‘I have left Windsor these ten days, and am deep in pills with asafoetida, and a steel bitter drink; and I find my head much better than it was. I was very much discouraged; for I used to be ill for three or four days together, ready to totter as I walked. I take eight pills a day, and have taken, I believe, a hundred and fifty already. The Queen, Lord Treasurer, Lady Masham, and I, were all ill together, but are now all better; only Lady Masham expects every day to lie in at Kensington. There was never such a lump of lies spread about the town together as now. I doubt not but you will have them in Dublin before this comes to you, and all without the least grounds of truth. I have been mightily put backward in something I am writing by my illness, but hope to fetch it up, so as to be ready when the Parliament meets. Lord Treasurer has had an ugly fit of the rheumatism, but is now near quite well. I was playing at one-and-thirty with him and his family t’other night. He gave us all twelvepence apiece to begin with: it put me in mind of Sir William Temple. I asked both him and Lady Masham seriously whether the Queen were at all inclined to a dropsy, and they positively assured me she was not: so did her physician Arbuthnot, who always attends her. Yet these devils have spread that she has holes in her legs, and runs at her navel, and I know not what. Arbuthnot has sent me from Windsor a pretty Discourse upon Lying, and I have ordered the printer to come for it. It is a proposal for publishing a curious piece, called The Art of Political Lying, in two volumes, etc. And then there is an abstract of the first volume, just like those pamphlets which they call The Works of the Learned. Pray get it when it comes out. The Queen has a little of the gout in one of her hands. I believe she will stay a month still at Windsor. Lord Treasurer showed me the kindest letter from her in the world, by which I picked out one secret, that there will be soon made some Knights of the Garter. You know another is fallen by Lord Godolphin’s death: he will be buried in a day or two at Westminster Abbey. I saw Tom Leigh in town once. The Bishop of Clogher has taken his lodging for the winter; they are all well. I hear there are in town abundance of people from Ireland; half a dozen bishops at least. The poor old Bishop of London, at past fourscore, fell down backward going upstairs, and I think broke or cracked his skull; yet is now recovering. The town is as empty as at midsummer; and if I had not occasion for physic, I would be at Windsor still. Did I tell you of Lord Rivers’s will? He has left legacies to about twenty paltry old whores by name, and not a farthing to any friend, dependent, or relation: he has left from his only child, Lady Barrymore, her mother’s estate, and given the whole to his heir-male, a popish priest, a second cousin, who is now Earl Rivers, and whom he used in his life like a footman. After him it goes to his chief wench and bastard. Lord Treasurer and Lord Chamberlain are executors of this hopeful will. I loved the man, and detest his memory. We hear nothing of peace yet: I believe verily the Dutch are so wilful, because they are told the Queen cannot live.’

The Diary Junction

Monday, October 12, 2015

Do what thou wilt

‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law [. . .] I am aflame with the brandy of the thought that I am the sublimest Mystic in all history, that I am the Word of an Aeon, that I am the Beast, the Man, Six Hundred Sixty and Six, the self-crowned God whom men shall worship and blaspheme for centuries.’ This is none other than the infamous and charismatic Aleister Crowley - born 140 years ago today - writing in a magical diary he kept while at the Abbey of Thelema, in Sicily, a commune he set up for his own sexual magic rituals. I have a personal link with Crowley - recorded in my own diaries - in that, when young, I wrote a play about him, and this involved an interview with one of Crowley’s cronies, Gerald Yorke, and researching his archive in the Warburg Institute.

Aleister Crowley was born on 12 October 1875 in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, into a religious family, his parents being Plymouth Brethren. His father died when he was 11, and he was cared for by an uncle, said to have been publicly philanthropic but surreptitiously cruel. Crowley attended a school in Streatham for a while (see also London Cross, my online book of a walk across London), as well as Malvern College and Tonbridge School briefly, before entering Trinity College, Cambridge. There he spent his time pursuing non-academic interests - mountaineering, for example, playing chess, and writing and publishing poetry - which, with money inherited from his father’s brewing business, he could afford to do.

While climbing in Switzerland, and expounding his increasingly spiritual ideas to fellow climbers, Crowley made contacts which led him to a magical society in London called the Golden Dawn, and its leader Samuel Liddell Mathers, a learned occultist. Crowley learned much about ceremonial magic from Liddell, but also from another of the society’s members, Allan Bennet, who he invited to live with him in his London flat.

In 1899, Crowley purchased a property on the south-east side of Loch Ness, renaming it Boleskine House, where he set up his own magical operations and rituals. Crowley travelled to Mexico, to go climbing, and to Ceylon, Burma and India to study Buddhist practices. In 1904, he married Rose Edith Kelly, the sister of his artist friend Gerald Festus Kelly. While honeymooning in Cairo, Crowley claimed to have been contacted by a supernatural entity named Aiwass, who provided him with a scared text he called The Book of the Law. Over the next few years, and using the text, he helped set up a new magical order, called the A∴A∴; and he became the leader of the British section of a German order Ordo Templi Orientis. He was a prolific writer, producing poetry, articles, and short stories, as well as spiritually-based texts. Rose had three children by Crowley, but he divorced her in 1909, on the grounds of his own adultery. Crowley was never other than extremely promiscuous, and later in life regularly changed partners, calling each new lover his scarlet woman.

During the First World War, Crowley decamped to the United States, where he earned money by writing and giving astronomical readings. Apart from continuing his sex-based spiritual investigations, he also took up painting and campaigned for Germany (though later he claimed he was working as a British spy). Back in Europe, in 1920, he established the Abbey of Thelema, a spiritual community in Cefalù, Sicily, where he lived with his acolytes and their children, developing his rituals and magical practices, many of them involving sex. By this time, his addiction to drugs, heroin and cocaine, had come to dominate his daily life. Still, new followers continued to arrive - some famous like the film star Jane Wolfe - and all of them were initiated into the Abbey’s bizarre practices. There was little concern at the Abbey for health and safety, with one baby (born to Crowley and his consort Leah Hirsig) and a young man dying there. (Another woman at the abbey also gave Crowley a child at this time, Astarte, who was alive until 2014 - the longest lived of Crowley’s known children.)

In time, the British media got to hear about Crowley, and stories on his depraved practices appeared in newspapers and magazines. He was dubbed the wickedest man in the world and such like. Although he denied many accusations, he was too poor to sue. It didn’t help his reputation when he published a novel called Diary of a Drug Fiend. News of activities at the Abbey finally filtered through to Italy’s Fascist government. Crowley was given a deportation notice, and the commune soon closed without him. He and Hirsig moved to Tunisia, where Crowley began writing his so-called autohagiography, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, parts of which were first published in 1929. Around the same time, he published one of his most significant works, Magick in Theory and Practice, and he became friends with Gerald Yorke, who began organising his finances.

Having moved around from Tunis, to Paris and London a lot, he moved to Berlin for a while in 1930, returning to London a year or two later. There, he launched several court cases against those he felt had libelled him, and won some of them. Nevertheless, Crowley was declared bankrupt in 1935; and, with few contributions arriving from his magical society links any longer, he was chronically short of money. He published Equinox of the Gods, containing a facsimile of The Book of the Law, which sold well. During the Second World War, he removed to Torquay until he tired of it and returned to London, only settling in Hastings in 1944. There he took a young Kenneth Grant as his secretary, and also appointed John Symonds as his literary executor. Crowley died in 1947, and his funeral was held at Brighton Crematorium - a dozen people attended.

There is much information about Crowley scattered across the internet, at Wikipedia, at the Harry Ransom Center (which holds a large Crowley archive), Vigilant Citizen, Controverscial.Com
, the Aleister Crowley Foundation, Open Culture (with video documentary), and Thelamapedia.

Crowley left behind a large number of writings: a score of poetry books, many magical texts or Libri (teachings, methodologies, practices, or Thelemic scripture), short stories, and autobiographical works. A bibliography can be found at Wikipedia and at The Hermetic Library. Among his autobiographical writings are a number of diaries, which are all archived at the Yorke Collection in the Warburg Institute, London. Not all the archived diaries, however, are original manuscripts, but typescripts made from the originals (now lost) under the guidance of Crowley’s friend Gerald Yorke (who later bequeathed all the material to the Warburg).

Crowley’s diaries were not, for the most part, written with the aim of publication. However, in his lifetime, he did publish portions, for their magical significance, in The Equinox - the official organ of his organisation, A ∴ A ∴. - many editions of this can be read online. The Hermetic Library has a list of Crowley’s diaries, though not all the works on the list can be considered diaries in any but the loosest of senses. Crowley’s one novel, Diary of a Drug Fiend, is thought to be autobiographical, however the text bears little relation to an actual diary. The full text can be read online at Milton Dodd’s blog. Otherwise, Crowley’s various diaries have made their way into publication in different forms.

The most significant of Crowley’s diaries that have emerged in published form can be found in The Magical Record of the Beast 666, subtitled The Diaries of Aleister Crowley 1914-1920 edited with ‘copious annotations’ by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant (Duckworth, 1972). In fact, this includes two separate diaries: Rex de Arte Regia kept by Crowley in New York from 1914-1918 to record his sexual operations and his efforts to perfect sexual magic; and The Magical Record of the Beast, a more general diary Crowley kept in 1920 mostly at Cefalù. At the time of writing, a pdf of the book can be read online here.)

The Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley, edited by Stephen Skinner (Neville Spearman, 1979) covers the year 1923, in Tunisia, after his expulsion from Italy. (An American version can be previewed at Amazon or Googlebooks, and a review can be read Obsidian Magazine). Otherwise, there is a text called The Amalantrah Working, a kind of diary from the first half of 1918, describing, indeed quoting, a series of hash/opium-induced visions and trance-communications received by the oddly-named Roddie Minor, who was at that time acting as Crowley’s scarlet woman. At some stage during the proceedings, Crowley underwent a form of experience involving a large-headed entity now known to occultists as Lam. The name derives from the Tibetan word for ‘way’ or ‘path’, and later Crowley was to draw a portrait of him/it that has become famous. See Ian Blake’s article on this. Finally, a further diary, a fragment really, was found recently. It concerns a visit Crowley made to Lisbon in 1930 and his meeting with the writer Fernanda Pessoa. The text can be read within a paper by Marco Pasi’s available at Brown University’s website. The paper, incidentally, provides an excellent overview of Crowley’s diary legacy.

From Rex de Arte Regia
16 January 1915
‘Weather like a fine day in May. Light of gas stove. Margaret Pitcher. A young pretty-stupid wide-mouthed flat-faced slim-bodied harlotry. Fair hair. Fine fat juicy Yoni. Object: Money. I invoked Ic-zod-heh-ca at the same time, thinking thus to propitiate the gnomes [earth elementals who preside over hidden treasure]. And I offer him a portion of the Sacrament. The ceremony was not good, as the girl was even more concentrated than I on the object of the Operation. But the Elixir [semen] was copious, well-formed, and of very pleasing quality. It was a fairly orgiastic rite, considering all.’

22 August 1916
‘Object: To become the greatest of all the Magi. Operation of long-since-unheard-of vehemence. Elixir of miraculous strength and sweetness. Mental concentration, Samadhic in intensity.’

12 October 1917
‘Object: ‘Io Pan!’ Operation: Orgie from 8.15 circa, continuous work, aided by C[ocaine] and B[randy]. Wonderful. Elixir admirable in all ways.’

From The Magical Record of the Beast
19 May 1920
‘I have been thinking over the question of the routine of the Abbey, both as to daily life and as to disciples. I want a minimum of things which disturb, and at the same time enough to breed Order. Daily Life: 1. Alostrael to proclaim the Law on waking. 2. Adoration of Ra. 3. Grace before breakfast at 7.00 a.m. 4. ditto dinner, noon. 5. Adoration of Ra. 6 and 7, ditto supper at 6.00 p.m. 8. Ritual work.

For newcomers: First week, 1, three days’ hospitality. 2. One day’s silence. 3, Three days’ instruction. 4. The Magical Oath, followed by four weeks’ silence and work. Sixth week, 5, one day’s instruction. 6. Six days’ Vision. Seventh and ninth weeks, 7. three weeks’ silence and work. Tenth week, 8, one week’s instruction and repose. Eleventh and thirteenth weeks, 9, as 7. This makes one Quarter. At the end, the survivor revises the whole period, and takes new counsel and Oath accordingly; but no routine can be appointed for this further period; all will depend on what seems advisable.

Saw Diana renewed tonight, the loveliest slim maiden, rich pale gold in a sea of blue shaded into pink, green, orange, and violet with clouds of ever delicate tone of purple and grey, in every form from solid banks to films of mist.

Her disappearance in the Hell below Amenti, where I suspect her of conduction with Tum, has been the signal for me to renew activity. Made a volcano panel. I wrote The Moralist.’

26 May 1920
‘3.40 a.m. It has been a trying night. I wrote two poems. Leah screamed terribly for over an hour until, twenty minutes ago, I felt it inhuman not to stop it, and so, in the impossibility of getting the doctor’s permission, I gave her about ⅛ grain of heroin under the tongue. She is now calm. I thought heroin better than my only alternative, ether, as he has been giving her laudanum, and ether is irritating to the system, and so contra-indicated in anything like enteritis (P.S. It acted splendidly, with no bad reaction.)

3.45 a.m. I notice that Language itself testifies to the soundness of my ontological theories; for the adjective of Naught is Naughty! Wrote two more poems.

11.00 p.m. Leah is still very ill; and this doctor rather trimmer. I think, without much confidence in himself. A tiring day, though I slept off some arrears.’

18 June 1920 [a few sentences from a much longer entry]
‘10:30 p.m. I accuse myself of not keeping my Diary properly. There ought to be a discoverable relation between my health, my worldly affairs, and the tone of my thoughts. For even Absolute Ego in eruption makes the relation between its modes of illusion a ‘true’, or harmonious one; for all moods are alike to It, despair a theme of pastime equally with exaltation. [. . .]

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law

10:36 p.m. I beginning a new MS book. My Magical Diary has been very voluminous in these last weeks; I seem to find that it is the sole mode of my initiated expression. I don’t write regular essays on a definite subject, or issue regularly planned instructions. This is presumably normal to my tense and exalted state, to the violent Motion proper to the resolution of all symbols. [. . .]

I am drunk with the pride-absinthe that I am great, the greatest man of my century, its best poet, its mightiest mage, its subtlest philosopher, nor any the less for that classed among the very few well eminent mountain-climbing, in chess-play, and in love.

I am aflame with the brandy of the thought that I am the sublimest Mystic in all history, that I am the Word of an Aeon, that I am the Beast, the Man, Six Hundred Sixty and Six, the self-crowned God whom men shall worship and blaspheme for centuries that are yet wound on Time’s spool, yea, I am insane as if with hashish in my Egomania and Folly of Greatness, that is yet Fact steel-hard, gold-glittering, silver-pure; I want to be yet more than this. [. . .]’


Aleister Crowley and me In the late 1970s - when I was but a young man - I came across Aleister Crowley’s writings, and found his life so interesting and theatrical that I thought to write a play about his life at the Abbey of Thelema. I had access to Gerald Yorke’s library of Crowley materials at the Warburg, and I interviewed Yorke himself. I did not know, until talking to Yorke, that a play about Crowley had already been written by Snoo Wilson. That play - The Beast - had been commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company but seemed to have faded from view soon after it was staged. With very few theatres/companies willing to consider unsolicited plays, the market for my play was rather small. The most receptive theatre at the time, the most welcoming for new playwrights, was The Bush, in London, where Jenny Topper was the director. But I had no luck there, or anywhere else.

Two years later, in early 1982, I found myself at The Bush to see a revival of Wilson’s play, retitled The Number of the Beast. It was hard to believe there was no link between The Bush having seen/read my Aleister Crowley play in mid-1979, and its commissioning of Wilson to revise his play on the very same subject. On entering the theatre, I was bemused to find the set looking rather like the one I had proposed for my play - i.e. the Abbey of Thelema. Indeed, I soon discovered that the play had been rewritten so that most of the action actually took place at the Abbey - just as in my own play. Coincidence? It seems unlikely. Any how, here are several extracts from my own diary (all available online) about my researching/writing the play, and about seeing Snoo Wilson’s revised version.

29 January 1979
‘Gerald Yorke enthralled me for hours. He told me tales to make the blood curdle. We took tea in the drawing room: marmalade sandwiches, biscuits and tea, no sugar. The man of means took trouble with his words but his laugh rocked me off balance. He seemed pleased that I wasn’t just another occult freak, but dismayed that I wasn’t a Thelemite. He said he had intended once to walk across to China, but found marriage better for his feet. My Aleister Crowley play project moves one step forward. Will, I ever start to write. Yorke told me that Snoo Wilson has already written a play on Crowley, a farce. I had to explain that I’d never written a play before, but that it was simply a challenge I’d set myself.’

22 February 1979
‘Pushing myself to get two or three pages of Crowley’s life written each day. The clickety clack of the typewriter seems to be the secondary thing that I do between the cleaning and the cooking and the talking or the playing. The translation of my imagination into scenes on paper is the most difficult - creating characters, working with them, showing them up through conversations. Then there is the swamp of stage directions that are the length of a novel in themselves. In capital letters stand out bold. And now, with a new ribbon in the clickety-clack machine, their blackness is overwhelming. How can I will myself to work eight-ten hours a day when the ideas run out. I have to search all the books for the next scene or spark of talk. I resort to a cigarette or cup of coffee or leave the house. Today, for example, I went to the Warburg and spent two hours submerged in Crowley in Therion, in The Beast 666, in the Great Hand of Boleskine. I handled some manuscripts typed by Leah Hirsig - ‘Record of the Abbey of Thelema’. She describes in detail the incidents relating to Betty May’s expulsion from the Abbey. It’s perfect. There was also a folder with letters written to and from AC, some about blackmail, money and debts. I touched with care AC’s magical (or drug) record for a period of two weeks at Fontainebleu in March 1922. In intricate detail, he recorded the times and amounts of cocaine and heroin he took. He also recorded conversations with himself, justifying the next dose, and how he felt he should be able to use drugs forever without becoming addicted, but nevertheless intended to wean himself off them. He noted, for example, how he would excuse an extra does of heroin because it soothed his asthma. He does continue to fascinate me, and I would like to get access to more of his papers.’

24 June 1979
‘Colin read my Crowley play. Jenny Topper at the Bush read it, and now there is nothing left of it. A dead play. No one wants it. The characters are unshaped, there is no theatrical development etc etc yawn yawn. Colin thinks I should go on writing stories. Ha ha, did you hear the one about the man called Frederic [my estranged father] who wanted to be a writer.’

20 February 1982
‘ ‘The Beast’ by Snoo Wilson was initially commissioned by the RSC almost a decade ago. In its original form it was nothing more than a farce but now it’s been extensively rewritten so that the bulk of the play takes place at the Abbey of Thelema. On entering the Bush theatre I was agreeable surprised to see a set much as the one I had imagined for my own play about Aleister Crowley. All the action takes place outside the rundown barn-temple. The acting was first class, although the writing and direction left little room for the characters to be truly difficult or even unlikeable. John Stride playing Crowley refused to shave his head but would have given a better and truer performance if had.’


Manliness of the soldier

Today marks the bicentenary of the birth of William J. Hardee, one of the best of the Confederate soldiers in the American Civil War. He is also remembered for writing an important manual on military tactics. Although he didn’t keep a diary himself, he was a celebrity of a kind, and so others often mentioned him in their diaries - David Coleman, for example, who described him as a ‘polished gentleman - possessing the gentlest feelings, with the stern manliness of the soldier’.

Hardee was born in Camden County, Georgia, on 12 October 1815, the youngest of seven children. He entered the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1834, and graduated in 1838. He accepted a commission in the army, but during the second war against the Seminoles (a group of native Americans and African Americans who had settled in Florida a century earlier) he fell ill and was hospitalised. He met and married Elizabeth Dummett; and, on recovering his health, he was sent to France for a year to study military tactics.

Hardee was promoted to captain in 1844, and served under Generals Taylor and Scott in the Mexican War, during which he was captured and returned as part of a prisoner exchange. He was promoted to major for gallantry in action in 1847, and subsequently to lieutenant colonel. After the war, he led units of Texas Rangers and soldiers before being recalled to Washington DC. There he wrote an official military manual, Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics (familiarly known as Hardee’s Tactics), which become the most widely consulted book of its kind during the Civil War.

Hardee’s wife died in 1853; thereafter he served as the commandant of cadets at West Point, but resigning his commission on the secession of Georgia from the Union in 1961. Instead, he took the rank of colonel in the new Confederate army, and set about attracting the best troops he could find. His successes led to him being nicknamed Old Reliable. He rose to brigadier general and then lieutenant general, showing his considerable military skills at the battles of Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro and Missionary Ridge. He served under General Braxton Bragg with his Army of Tennessee for a while. After taking part in the battles before Atlanta in mid-1864, he assumed command of the military department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. In the final months of the war, Hardee’s troops continued to fight battles in Georgia but the land was steadily taken by the Union, and he surrendered his army in April 1865.

During the war, Hardee had met and married Mary Foreman Lewis, an Alabama plantation owner. With the war over, they set about bringing her plantation back into operation. The family then moved to Selma, where he became president of the Selma and Meridian Railroad. He died in 1873. Further information is available from Wikipedia, The New Georgia Encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas, or The Civil War Trust.

Although not a diary keeper, Hardee’s high-level position, especially during the Civil War, meant that he often appeared in journals written by others. The Civil War Day by Day blog, hosted by the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, includes several such diary entries.

David Coleman, was a young man, of 24 at the time, who had trained as a lawyer. He fought in the Civil War, and after it was over he became a teacher to support himself and his younger brothers, later returning to the practice of law. His diary was kept for a year or so from January 1863, and contains vivid descriptions of military activity and details of daily camp life. Hardee is mentioned half a dozen times. Here is one entry taken from the Civil War Day by Day blog

24 May 1863
‘By invitation I go out and breakfast with Mrs Moore - taking Richard with me - Our walk gave us a good apetite and we enjoyed our breakfast hugely - I was almost afraid we would alarm them these hard times, but they are old and dear friends - who cannot be so easily disturbed –

We go with them all to church - myself walking with Miss Roe & Miss Hardee - And soon after a shady walk we reach the pretty country church –

I enjoyed the service - to hear once more and it might be for the last time the blending of sweet female voices accompanied by a sweet tuned melodeon, brought up pleasant but sad reflections - After we returned Mrs I gave us a delightful lunch - Genl Hardee came in to be with his daughters - It was the first time I had ever met him socially - He is very agreeable and pleasant - a finished polished gentleman - possessing the gentlest feelings, with the stern manliness of the soldier - My short intercourse with him increased my already high opinion of him - He seems to be a tender and affectionate father - May his life be long spared to his country and family.’

Coleman’s diary can be read in full online thanks to a 1999 edition of The Huntsville Historical Review. Here is a second extract from Coleman’s diary, taken from the Review.

19 March 1863
‘Great review today of Genl Hardee’s whole Corps - Genl Joe Johnston, the Commander in Chief, was present - We were drawn up in two lines - Genl Breckinridge in front - Great many spectators present - among many ladies looking bright and hopeful - The Scene was imposing - It made us feel a pride in our Army and our Generals.’

And here is another war diarist - 
Taylor Beatty, a lawyer from Louisiana, serving under General Bragg - writing about Hardee (found on the Civil War Day by Day website).

10 April 1863
‘Rode out to a review of Hardee’s troops to-day - the troops did very well - weather was good but ground dusty - A great many spectators especially ladies - for whom Genl Hardee has given the entertainment - he has several at his house - and this is the second or third time they have come up from Huntersville. The report is that the fight at Charleston is still going on.’

The brave Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell, a British war and nursing heroine, second only perhaps to Florence Nightingale, was executed 100 years ago today. She revolutionised the training of nurses in Belgium, but, when the Germans over-ran the country, she also played a very significant part in helping nearly 200 British, French and Belgian soldiers escape to Holland. She kept a detailed diary from the start of the war but then destroyed it for fear of incriminating herself and others. Nevertheless, a fragment - a page or two - survived by being sewn into a cushion!

Cavell was born near Norfolk in 1865, the eldest of four children in a religious family - her father was the local vicar. She was taught at home until her early teens, after which she went to a series schools, and then worked as a governess. She receive a small legacy, and was able to travel abroad. In 1889, she took a position in Brussels, and stayed until 1895. That year she returned home to look after her ill father, and decided to train as a nurse, first at Fountains Fever Hospital and then at London Hospital in 1896. She worked at other hospitals, including Shoreditch Infirmary (where she was matron) until 1906, when she took a trip to the Continent.

The following year Cavell moved back to Brussels to become director of a new kind of clinic and nurses’ training school - L’École Belge d’Infirmières Diplômées. This was set up, and largely led, by Dr Antoine De Page at his Berkendael Institute. Having been impressed by the training of British nurses and the care of Florence Nightingale in the Crimean and Balkan wars, he was keen on similar methods in Belgium, and, in particular, diminishing the influence of religious orders on the care of the sick. Although Cavell struggled to recruit laywomen, and convince them that nursing was a respectable profession that needed professional training, her reputation, and that of the school, soon spread. By 1912, plans were being drawn up for a new building, but construction was halted in 1914 by the German occupation.

Though her clinic remained open, Clavell also used it to shelter British, French and Belgian soldiers, and thus help them escape to the neutral Netherlands. The escape network involved Prince Reginald de Croy’s château of Bellignies near Mons, and used guides organised by Philippe Baucq. She, and others, were arrested by the Germans in August 1915, and held in Saint-Gilles prison. She confessed her part in helping nearly 200 soldiers escape, was sentenced to death for treasonous acts, and executed, alongside Baucq, by firing squad on 12 October. Internationally, her execution caused widespread outrage.

Subsequently, Cavell’s life and death received huge amounts of publicity: she became an icon for military recruitment in Britain, and her death was considered an example of German barbarism and moral depravity. Many memorials were constructed, around the world in fact, to commemorate her life, the most famous of which is the sculpture by George Frampton near Trafalgar Square (see also London Cross, my online book of a walk across London). Further information about Cavell can be found at Wikipedia, Belgian Edith Cavell Commemoration Group’s website, or the website based on a booklet written by Rev Phillip McFadyen. In addition, there are several early biographies, now out of copyright, which can be found at Internet Archive.

There seems to be no evidence that Cavell kept a diary through her life, however, she did start one during the war. Diana Souhami, in her biography - Edith Cavell (Quercus, 2010) - states that as early as August 1914, Cavell wrote to her mother to say she was keeping a war diary. However, as the net closed around her and her fellow workers, she burned all evidence that might incriminate or endanger. ‘All that survived of her diary,’ Souhami goes on to say, ‘was a fragment for a few days in April 1915. It was sewn into a cushion. Perhaps she hid it there and had left more of it, never recovered, in other secret places. Perhaps it was all that escaped the burning, and a nurse - Sister Wilkins was keen at sewing - stitched it into a cushion. After the war Edith’s sister Lillian took the cushion as a keepsake. Thirty years later she gave it to her housekeeper, Mrs Mead, whose husband wondered at its lumpiness. They opened it, and found the diary fragment. It was for two days in April 1915. It showed what a detailed record Edith Cavell must have kept of her work, and how wide was the network of resistance.’ (In commemoration of the anniversary of her death, Quercus has brought out a centenary edition of Souhami’s biography - it can previewed at Amazon).

Here are extracts from those diary fragments (incidentally, held by 
the Imperial War Museum) as reproduced in Souhami’s book.

‘People are wonderfully generous with their loyal help - I went to a new house & there secure the services of a man who comes up to take our guests to safe houses where they can abide till it is time for departure. A little widow with a big house gives shelter to some & does all the work without a servant, waiting on and cooking for them with the best courage & good will in the world’

27 April 1915
‘Yesterday a letter from Monsieur Capiau who has gone to Germany voluntarily to inquire at Essen! with some other Belgian engineers. The letter came thro a young Frenchman who with 7 others had come from N. France to escape and hopes to get over the Dutch frontier in a day or two. The frontier has been absolutely impassable the last few days. Germany and Holland have been on the verge of war over the sinking of the Catwyk. The Dutch refused to allow anyone to cross and had massed their troops & laid mines all along from Maastricht to Antwerp. A sentinel on the Dutch side was posted very 15 metres & all the young men who had left to try & cross were stuck or came back - 5 of ours were heard of at Herrenthall yesterday & the guide left to bring them back.’

[Cavell gives a description of one of her guides and carriers of information - a boy, as she called him, of 23, Charles Vanderlinden, one of a family of nine brothers, ‘all strong and fighters’.] ‘This fellow is a fine type - about 5ft 6 or 7, slightly made but very strong and muscular. He amused himself when small with boxing a great sack of sand or corn which swung forward and butted him in the face if he failed to hit in the right place. He afterwards got some lessons in boxing & obliged me with a description of the right way to catch a man’s head under the arm & ‘crack’ his neck or to give him a back-handed blow and destroy the trachea or larynx. He is also a poacher in time of peace & sets lassoes in rows so that hares racing to their feeding grounds are bound to be caught in one of them. [. . .] He will be caught one day & if so will be shot but he will make a first class bid for freedom.’

Katie Pickles, also refers to the diary fragments in her biography, Transnational Outrage (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), and provides one quotation, as follows.

31 April 1915
‘Friday glorious and warm. E: wind. 2 guides left this morning. Charles Vanderlinden with 3 Fx and 2 Be. (1F Cw!). Last two paying 60 frs each. Charles says he will take them if it becomes easier.’


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Burning at the heart

François Mauriac, a French novelist and Nobel Prize winner barely read in the English world, was born 130 years ago today. As an old man emerging from the Second World War, he was a strong supporter of Charles De Gaulle; indeed, Mauriac’s son worked for the president. For some of his life, Mauriac kept diaries, but these - like most of his novels - have not been translated into English. One extract, though, in Robert Speaight’s biography, tells of him struggling to find the balance in his writing so that ‘the young saint, my hero, is burning at the heart of the furnace.’

Mauriac was born on 11 October 1885 in Bordeaux, France. His father died soon after, leaving his mother to raise five children, of which he was the youngest. He studied at the University of Bordeaux and then at the École Nationale des Chartes, Paris, but soon left to pursue a career in literature. He managed to publish his first work, a collection of poems - Les Mains jointes - in 1909. But, it was to novels that he soon turned, publishing L’Enfant chargé de chaînes and La Robe prétexte in 1913-1914. In 1913, he married Jeanne Lafon and, between 1914 and 1924, they had four children. In 1923, Le Baiser au lépreux (The Kiss to the Leper) made him famous in France, and established his literary reputation.

Further novels followed, including Le Noeud de vipères in 1932, a marital drama often considered Mauriac’s masterpiece. The following year, he was elected to the Académie Française. As the decade progressed, he wrote more novels, but also plays. He took a strong stance against totalitarianism, and denounced Fascism in Italy and Spain. During the war he lived in occupied territory, and worked with writers of the Resistance. After the war, he was a great supporter of Charles De Gaulle, who made him Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour. From the mid-1950s, he wrote a popular weekly newspaper column, Bloc-Notes.

Mauriac was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1952. Though his fame did not spread far outside France, some consider him the country’s greatest writer after Marcel Proust. He died in 1970. One of his sons, Claude, was a writer and also worked as personal secretary to Charles de Gaulle. And, through a daughter, he was the grandfather of Anne Wiazemsky, actress and novelist who married Jean-Luc Godard. Further biographical information is available in English at Wikipedia (a fuller bio can be found at the French Wikipedia), the Nobel Prize website, Encyclopædia Britannica or Authors’ Calendar. A little more information can also be gathered from English reviews of Jean-Luc Barré’s biography of Mauriac (at the TLS for example).

Very few of Mauriac’s novels appear to have been translated into English, so it is no surprise to find that there are no diaries published in English either. However, it seems, he did keep a diary. In 1948, he published Journal d’un homme de trente ans: (extraits); and, from 1950 on, I believe, the French publisher Gallimard, began publishing his complete works. One volume, published in 1952, contains a series of his journals - see the British Library holding. But the only diary extracts I can find that have been translated into English are in Robert Speaight’s biography - François Mauriac: A study of the writer and the man (Chatto & Windus, 1976) - as per the following:

9 June 1916
‘Paris. Temptations. Passions go on velvet feet in the jungle. Huge beasts. Perfume of sensuality.’

18 July 1916
‘Must free our body of desire.’

28 January 1917
‘My son Claude to keep me pure.’

2 March 1917
‘Paris is disgusting. 
 “Great Ladies”, pederasts, lesbians, everyone is procuring for somebody else.’

1918
‘The war is ending on a picture postcard where we see the French re-entering Metz and Strasbourg . . . Frightening absence of God in the triumphal cries of Clemenceau.’

Undated
‘Perhaps it is always enough that a creature we love should live beside us, not perhaps that we should love them less, but that we should no longer realise that we love them.’

1934
‘Still, after many years, to have so much to say to one another, from the most trivial to the most serious, without any desire to astonish or to be admired - what a wonderful thing that is!. No more need of lies; man and wife have become so transparent to each other that lying can no longer be of any use. This is the only love that cherishes immobility, that feeds on the habitual and daily round.’

29 July 1953
‘At my age, the conflict between the Christian and the novelist has moved on to another plane. It’s much less a question of the Jansenist scruples that used to trouble me in describing the passions than a kind of disenchantment with everything to do with art in general, and with my own art in particular. A feeling that art is literally an idol, that it has its martyrs and its prophets, and that for many people it is a substitute for God. And not art alone, but the word - the word that has not been made flesh. [. . . Having resumed work on a new novel, L’Agneau, he is determined not to put it aside] ‘until I have found the balance that I’m looking for, and the young saint, my hero, is burning at the heart of the furnace.’

Undated
[Whatever the motives
 of General de Gaulle’s withdrawal from power in February 1946, Speaight says, Mauriac could only look back on a great dream that was dead:] ‘All the Resistance tightly gathered round its leader; the C.N.R. as the nucleus of the new Assembly; prompt punishment for traitors and assassins by regular court martial, whose impartiality was beyond suspicion - a punishment followed, after a few months, and in despite of all the complaints, by a total amnesty for those whom the legality of Vichy . . . had led astray; the prisons reserved for crime, and adolescents rescued from their corruption; and finally reforms, at once bold and proportionate to the needs of a country which has been drained of its blood, and is covered with graves and ruins.’