Monday, June 27, 2016

The giddy Wanda Gág

Wanda Gág, an American artist and author best known for her Millions of Cats children’s book (apparently, the oldest US picture book still in print), died 70 years ago today. She kept an interesting and intimate diary all her life, but only a selection from her youthful diaries have ever been published.

Gág was born in 1893 in rural Minnesota, the first of her parents’ seven children. Her father, an artist, had come from Bohemia, as had her mother’s parents. She wrote, later in life, that she grew up in an atmosphere of Old World customs and legends, and that her mother and she as well as all her siblings often drew and wrote stories. After the death of her father, in 1908, the family suffered financially, and Wanda struggled - against those advising she should work - to maintain her education. However, The Minneapolis Journal published some of her illustrated stories in their Junior Journal, which helped.

After graduating in 1912, Gág taught for a few months, but then continued her studies, attending the The Minneapolis School of Art from 1914 to 1917, after which, with a scholarship, she moved to the Art Students League of New York, where she took lessons in composition, etching and advertising illustration. Around the same time, she completed a first illustrated boon on commission - A Child’s Book of Folk-Lore - and by the end of the decade was earning a living as a commercial illustrator.

The 1920s saw Gág become increasingly successful, involved in various publishing ventures and exhibitions. A one-woman show at the Weyhe Gallery in 1926 led to her being dubbed as ‘one of America’s most promising young graphic artists’. She also published essays on feminism, and illustrated covers for left-leaning magazines (such as The New Masses). To get away from commercial work, she rented a property in the country, calling it Tumble Timbers, where she could work on her fine art. She continued to support her unmarried siblings, some of whom lived with her from time to time, and even did work for her. She had various intimate relationships, though the most enduring was with her business manager, Earle Humphrey, who she married late in life.

Wooed as an illustrator by Ernestine Evans, director of Coward-McCann’s new children’s book division, Gág instead offered her own story with illustrations - Millions of Cats. It proved a winner, attracting awards, remaining in print since, and being judged one of the top 100 children’s stories. Further children’s books followed, but none so successful. She went on to translate and illustrate fairy tales by the Grimm brothers, while her art was recognised repeatedly with inclusion in major exhibitions, not least one at the Museum of Modern Art in 1939. She died of lung cancer on 27 June 1946. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, Minnesota Historical Society, Penn Libraries, or Wanda Gág House.

Gág kept a diary all her life, but while still alive chose only to edit and publish a selection from her youth: Growing Pains: diaries and drawings for the years 1908-1917 (Coward McCann, 1940). This is freely available online at Internet Archive, but has also been reprinted by Minnesota Historical Society Press. ‘Thirty-one notebooks originally compiled this diary,’ she wrote in her introduction ‘they are full of diagrams, self-portraits and other sketches, with many crossed-out words, ink spots - even tear blots. Several of the books are wrinkled and blurred from being stored in a damp cellar, and a few are lost.’ These notebooks, she explained, were carelessly stored in Minnesota for many years, but were eventually sent on to her in New York. ‘I had often wondered how I would feel upon re-reading them and had even speculated about it in my diary at times.’

In concluding her short introduction, Gág wrote about how she came to keep a diary in the first place: ‘At about this time I came across an old half-empty ledger of my father’s. In our household anything which could be drawn or written upon was in great demand; a notebook of any kind was a positive treasure. I pounced on the old ledger and, prompted perhaps by the fragmentary business accounts in my father’s handwriting, I began recording my earnings and expenditures, what drawings I had sent where and when, and other notes pertaining to my new business ventures. I was never able to limit myself to plain figures and facts in keeping accounts; and so reports on the weather, new additions to the baby’s vocabulary, family incidents, even youthful thoughts and yearnings, found their way into my “ledger.” And that, to the best of my memory, is how I came to start this diary.’

The following extracts are taken from Growing Pains. However, the Penn Libraries archive of Gág’s papers holds nine boxes with 59 diaries, dating from 1908 to 1945, as well as a dozen other notebooks - all itemised on the website. As far as I can tell, the only extracts from the later diaries have been published in Wanda Gág: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Prints by Audur H. Winnan (University of Minnesota Press, 1993). The publisher says this of the book: ‘Using excerpts form Gag's expressive diaries and letters, Winnan fleshes out a portrait of the artist. With extraordinary candor, Gag describes her intimate personal thoughts and experiences, and her friendships and encounters [. . .] Throughout her writings, Gag reflects on her career, the restrictions placed on women, and her sexual desires. This portrayal reveals both the internationally recognized artist who drew inspiration from van Gogh and Cezanne, and the vibrant, erotic woman who admitted to being amazed by her own passions.’

19 November 1913
‘Today I was out in the hall waiting for Sketch Class and two second-year students, Dave Hendrickson and Bob Brown, came along and stopped to look at my sketches. Bob Brown declared that my technique was very good (technique is Greek to me) and he said that I did not work in lines and that was a good thing. They think it’s so funny that I sit up nights and draw, and they think it’s funny too that I sketch myself. I thought all people who aspired to be artists drew as much as I do but it seems they don’t. I thought too that all, or at least a good many, of the art school students would be queer, but they aren’t; and it sometimes makes me wish that I weren’t so different. For I am - there is absolutely no getting around it. And a whole lot of my new acquaintances are in that stage now where they misunderstand me. I will stick to my old theory which is this: That I usually make a fairly good impression (I don’t mean to compliment myself by saying this, but it’s true and it only serves to make it so much harder afterwards) but that after they know me for a while they are disappointed in me. Then, if they have the faith to stick by me thru this second stage, they will find my true nature - at least as much of it as I ever show. Roughly speaking, at first they think I’m jolly, then they think I’m frivolous, and finally they find out that, after all, I am more serious than anything else. Paula has been the only one that I know of who has not come to the second stage after a year of my acquaintance. She stood by me for four years but even she is beginning to doubt me. Larry Morse said that I was “giddy” and altho Paula does not agree there, the remark has served to make her think-to think that perhaps he was not so far wrong. I am frivolous sometimes - giddy too, and silly - I can’t deny it. But often I act that way only to hide my real feelings. Besides (and I told this to Paula) if I were not frivolous once in a while, I am afraid I’d go mad or something like that, because I’d think too much. No one can know what it is to be I.’

20 January 1914
‘This noon at dinner we were discussing Love, Art & Marriage again. Miss Dean declared that she didn’t think there was any real love in the world. She believed in mother love, sister love, brother love and the rest, but not in The Love. I told her I had had that bee in my bonnet once too. She said, “Oh I know why you got over it,” and when I wanted to know why, she said, “Since you met Mr. Edgerley.” I told her I did not love Mr, Edgerley nor any other boy.

I reeled off the old story about taking Love & Art together etc. She thought I ought to sacrifice my art for my love. Theresa declared that I couldn’t take care of my children if I wouldn’t give up art, and I said if I would get married I’d drape my babies up in chiffon and sketch them, and that my husband would have to pose as king or beggar (according to what my latest fit would be like). To this Miss Dean said, “I pity your poor family!” and we ended up with a good all-around laugh.’

20 January 1915
‘Yesterday was an event in my life - I started painting in oils. I am rather timid about handling my brush for I am not at all used to the medium, so my study is abominally smooth and insipid. It looks something like the work of that eternal aunt or sister or cousin of everyone you meet “who does beautiful oil studies and has never taken a lesson in all her life.” But ding, I have a long road to travel in oil painting. It seems that Emma Brock (a former student who did some good illustrations last year) has returned. They say she doesn’t care about eating either.

I am beginning to like Mr. Goetsch and I think in a short time I shall like him very much indeed. Only some fine day we will have a good hot little discussion, I think. You see he thinks himself smart about some things, and I think myself smart about some things, and some day we’ll both think ourselves smart about the same thing. I don’t know how he found out I was an artist’s daughter, but yesterday during sketch class he looked at my crumpled wrapping paper and absolutely impractical method of holding the whole drawing outfit, and said, “Tz! Tz! Tz! And you an artist’s daughter?” I said, “Well, that just proves that I am an artist’s daughter. Artists aren’t practical.” And he laughed and went on.

I made a sketch last night which I consider rather decent but to which no one, up to this time, has taken a fancy to. I like it because it is bold and simple, and I think that I have successfully hidden the fact that it was studied out very carefully in the first place. I mean it looks as if it had been dashed in, only it hasn’t. [. . .] I am taking Color Harmony now and have stacks of make-up work to do.’

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Bachmann’s diary fragment

My mind’s still in a whirl. Jack Hamesh was here. [. . .] We talked until evening and he kissed my hand before he left. No one’s ever kissed my hand before. I’m out of my mind I’m so happy and after he’d gone I climbed up the apple tree, it was already dark and I cried my eyes out and thought I never wanted to wash my hand again.’ This is a diary fragment written by the Austrian Ingeborg Bachmann, born 90 years go today, in the aftermath of the Second World War. She would go on to become an important German language poet and author, and to be much studied, after her tragically early death, by feminist scholars.

Bachmann was born on 25 June 1926 in Klagenfurt, Austria, the daughter of a headmaster. She studied at several universities before, in 1949, finishing her doctorate on the philosophy of Martin Heidegger at Vienna university. She worked for the Allied radio stations, which also produced her first radio dramas, and she became involved with a literary circle known as Gruppe 47, which included Hans Weigel, Heinrich Böll, and Günter Grass among its members.

In 1953, Bachmann moved to Rome, where she developed her literary work, with poems initially, successfully publishing Gestundete Zeit (Deferred Time) and Anrufung des Großen Bären (Invocation of the Great Bear). In 1958 she started a relationship with the Swiss writer and architect, Max Frisch, and consequently moved to Zurich. The relationship lasted only until 1962, and the break-up caused Bachmann much distress. She spent a year in Berlin before returning to Rome.

Bachmann also wrote essays, short stories and opera libretti, the latter in collaboration with Hans Werner Henze (Der Prinz von Homburg in 1960, and Der junge Lord in 1965). In 1971, she published her only novel, Malina. One night, in September 1973, she was seriously injured by a fire which occurred in her bedroom, and was taken to hospital. She died a few weeks later, possibly because the doctors that treated her had been unaware of her barbiturate addiction.

According to the Literary Encyclopedia, ‘Ingeborg Bachmann has been recognized as one of post-1945 German literature’s most important writers at least since 1954, when she was featured on the cover of West Germany’s prominent news magazine, Der Spiegel. Der Spiegel acclaimed Bachmann’s poetry a “stenograph of its time”, treating her poems as a turning point in post-war writing, a signal that German literature had overcome the Nazi past and resumed its proper place on the stage of world literature.’ Further information can be found at Wikipedia (more details in the German language entry), The Poetry Foundation, Institute of Modern Languages Research, or About Vienna.

There is no evidence that Bachmann was a diarist, but, in 2011, Seagull Books (University of Chicago Press) published a small book called War Diary with a few pages of a diary she kept in 1944 -1945, more in odd notes than a day-to-day form. Most of the book is taken up with letters written to her by a British officer, Jack Hamesh. According to the publisher, ‘War Diary provides unusual insight into the formation of Bachmann as a writer and will be cherished by the many fans of her work. But it is also a poignant glimpse into life in Austria in the immediate aftermath of the war.’ A review can be read at The Quarterly Conversation, which concludes with this comment: ‘It is somewhat curious that this and other juvenilia, such as the Letters to Felician, have been translated into English while so much of her critical writing remains unavailable.’

Here though are a couple of extracts (among the only ones which are actually dated) from the brief diary portion of the book.

11 June 1944
‘Liesl’s falllen in love with an Englishman, he’s immensely lean and tall and he’s called Bob. She says he’s very rich and went to Oxford. She talks of nothing else but him. Yesterday she said her only wish was to get away from here and go to England. I think she hopes he’ll marry her. But marriage between the English and Austrian women is forbidden by the military government. She said the wretched conditions here are never going to end and she’s been through too much, she can’t take any more and she wants to have a life at last. I can well understand her but then I get annoyed with her because she thinks I ought to marry an Englishman too and get away from here. Of course I want to get away but so that I can go to university and I’ve no desire to get married at all, not even to an Englishman for a few tins of food and silk stockings. Most of the English who are here are very nice and, I believe, decent. But I’m much too young, Arthur and Bill are very nice and we often talk a lot together and laugh a lot. We often play games like ‘Drop the Handkerchief’ and ‘Statues’ in the garden. Arthur’s always giving little Heinerle chocolate and a few days ago he suddenly went to Mummy, who’s still bedridden, and put some tea and biscuits on the quilt for her. She calls him Carrot-top because he has such red hair and she likes him best. I think he’s in love with Liesl as well. Bill too, but even more, and Arthur’s terribly jealous of Bob. Bob is quite unapproachable, we once spoke a couple of words but never again, not even when I thanked him for letting Liesl have the car to bring her mother back from hospital.’

14 June 1944
‘My mind’s still in a whirl. Jack Hamesh was here, this time he came in a jeep. Naturally, everyone in the village stared and Frau S. came over the stream twice to have a look in the garden. I took him into the garden because Mummy’s in bed upstairs. We sat on the bench and at first I was all of a tremble so that he must have thought I’m mad or have a bad conscience or God knows what. And I’ve no idea why. I can’t remember what we talked about at first but all at once we were on to books, to Thomas Mann and Stefan Zweig and Schnitzler and Hofmannsthal. I was so happy, he knows everything and he told me he never thought he’d find a young girl in Austria who’d read all that despite her Nazi upbringing. And suddenly everything was quite different and I told him everything about the books. He told me he was taken to England in a kindertransport with other Jewish children in ’38, he was actually eighteen then but an uncle managed to arrange it, his parents were already dead. So now I know how he comes to speak such good German, then he went into the British army and now in the zones of occupation there are lots of former Germans and Austrians working in the FSS offices, because of the language and because they know conditions in the country better. We talked until evening and he kissed my hand before he left. No one’s ever kissed my hand before. I’m out of my mind I’m so happy and after he’d gone I climbed up the apple tree, it was already dark and I cried my eyes out and thought I never wanted to wash my hand again.’

A five star general

Henry (Hap) Arnold, the only American ever to achieve the five star rank of general in two separate branches of the US military, was born 130 years ago today. Even before WWI, he was one of the first military airmen, and by WWII had risen through the ranks to become the US’s air force chief. Despite repeated heart attacks, he travelled extensively through the war, visiting US bases and theatres of war, keeping very detailed diaries on each trip.

Arnold was born in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, on 25 June 1886. His father, a doctor, came from a prominent family, and worked for many years as an army surgeon. Having planned on going to university and becoming a minister, he changed his mind and entered the military academy at West Point, aged only 17, when his older brother defied his father by not doing so. Arnold was commissioned in 1907 as a second lieutenant, Infantry, and served in the Philippine Islands for two years, before returning to Governors Island, New York until April 191. He was then was detailed to the Signal Corps and sent to Dayton, Ohio for instructions by the Wright Brothers in flying, thus becoming one of the earliest military aviators. Thereafter, he became increasingly proficient, setting various records. After a flying accident in 1912, he took a staff assignment as assistant to the new head of the aeronautical division in Washington D. C. before being returned to an infantry posting. In 1913, he married Eleanor Pool (known as Bee), and was soon back in the Philippines.

During WWI, Arnold rose to the rank of colonel and was executive officer to the chief of the air service. In the summer of 1918, he was dispatched to France to brief General John J. Pershing on new aviation developments. After the war, he joined William Mitchell in his campaign for more military air power; and supported him during his court-martiall. Arnold survived that fiasco, as some called it, but was effectively demoted. Nevertheless, he worked his way back into favour, being promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1931 as commanding officer of March Field, California. In 1934 he personally organised and led a flight of Martin B-10 bombers in a round-trip record flight from Washington, D.C. to Fairbanks, Alaska. The following year, he was made brigadier general and was put in command of the air force’s 1st Wing, and was soon assistant to the chief of Air Corps in Washington, Major General Oscar Westover. However, when Westover died in an air crash, in September 1938, Arnold was named the new chief and promoted again this time to the rank of major general.

In mid 1941, the US Army Air Force was formed with Arnold as its chief. He oversaw the formation of the country’s air strategy during WW2, and also planned the formation of the Eighth Air Force in Britain, which would later play a key role in the strategic bombing of Germany. Arnold was promoted to lieutenant general, given autonomy to operate his air units without US Army influence, and made a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. By the end of 1944, he had been named General of the Army, a five-star rank. During the war, he travelled extensively across the world, but this took a toll on his health, and he suffered four heart attacks that required hospitalisation. He retired in 1946 to his ranch in California, having been the first and only general of the Air Force and the only American to hold five-star ranks in two separate branches of the US military. He received many honours at home and abroad. He died in 1950, and received a state funeral. Biographical information about Arnold is readily available online at Wikipedia, US Air Force, World War II Database, or History Net.

During WWII, Arnold kept very detailed diaries, but these were not published until 2002, when Air University Press, Alabama, brought out American Airpower Comes of Age: General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold’s World War II Diaries (two volumes), as edited by Major General John W. Huston. Both are available to preview at Googlebooks (vol. 1 and vol. 2)

In his introduction, Huston says: ‘Although the need for a comprehensive biography of Gen Henry H. “Hap” Arnold exists, this volume does not constitute such a biography. Nor is this work intended as a history of the Army Air Forces in World War II. The aim of the editor has been to place in historical context the thoughts and immediate impressions of Arnold as he recorded them in the diaries he kept through each of his 12 trips abroad during the war. The diaries provide centerpieces for the 12 chapters of this work, each of which is devoted to the trip covered therein. [. . .] These journals represent his immediate thoughts and spontaneous reactions rather than the reflective ruminations of a professional American military officer. Arnold had worn an Army uniform for almost 38 years when he began these volumes. His travels over the 51-month span included six major wartime diplomacy/strategy conferences that took him to all but one continent, into most war zones, and through four heart attacks. No matter where he traveled or what topics were discussed, his freshly recorded impressions made at the end of a busy day were not revised or supplemented by second thoughts or considerations of propriety.’

Huston further comments: ‘To this editor, they appear honest, illuminating, and reflective of the character, strengths, and shortcomings of General Arnold. No other American senior officer has left such an extensive, revealing, and contemporary account of World War II from such a vantage point.’ Here are a couple of extracts from the first volume, in all their military detail! (Square brackets are as inserted by the editor.)

10 August 1941
‘[Argentia, Newfoundland] Tried to copy Freeman’s British program for a fighting air strength of 10,000, [planes including] 4.000 H. B. [heavy bombers]; the thing scares me, it is so big and I know that they cannot meet it. British prod. [production of] H. B. [heavy bombers] 500 a month, US prod. H. B. 500 a month. We can’t do it as easily as that: 2,000 pilots a month. Where will they come from? Wishful thinking.

Time for boat to Prince of Wales, waited 30 minutes. US Destroyer came alongside. President came aboard, band playing Star Spangled Banner, sailors all paraded on afterdeck. Each Chief of Staff with his opposite: Pound. Stark; Dill. Marshall; Freeman, Arnold; Roosevelt, Churchill sitting out in front, in center of hollow square. Church services very impressive.

After church, conference with Freeman. His program is now clear: Britain has built it around our entire production; 100% of all planes produced in US go to Britain; US Army, Navy, Dutch, Chinese, get none; Britain gets all. [US] O P M [Office of Production Management] figures have at last confused almost everyone; believe it wrong to send them out so indiscriminately. Freeman told of misapplication of figures and deliveries and very much disappointed. Told him I could not change policies, all I could do was to make recommendations re change of policies.

Lunch call came while talking. Officers, US Navy, British Navy, Air Forces, Armies, all assembled in Ward Room, sherry; President and Prime Minister went in to lunch and the rest of us. Table seating attached. Prince of Wales withdrew from action with Bismarck. Had Bismarck followed with attack perhaps Prince of Wales, being more or less out of action, would not have come off so light. However, Bismarck missed that bus. After lunch. PM toasted President: President toasted King [George VI]. Good lunch: caviar, vodka, mock turtle soup, grouse, champagne, potatoes, peas, rolls, ice cream with cherry sauce, port, coffee, brandy. PM and President both spoke for a few minutes. President withdrew.

Destroyer told by Admiral Pound we would have a meeting of Chiefs of Staff. Waiting with Freeman then Stark and Marshall went aboard destroyer with President. Destroyer pulled away amid cheers from British sailors. No staff meeting until 9:00 a.m. Monday. Stopped and chatted with the PM awhile. Captain of ship told me that my boat was ready. Said goodbye to PM. Much to my surprise saw marines, band and sailors lined up at gangplank. They gave me a send-off as a Chief of Staff, I did my best to receive it as one. Back to Tuscaloosa with Burns, 4:50 P.M.

This has been a most interesting day. The church service out on deck in Placentia Bay with British warships. Canadian corvettes and destroyers and US warships was most inspiring. I can’t make up mind as yet whether most of us are window dressing for the main actors or whether we are playing minor roles in the show. Freeman will not talk training nor has he as yet been willing to take up civilian aid in the Near East. Looked over [British] Chiefs of Staff memo re the strategic situation. It is a sound paper in some respects from my point of view but needs study, much study before we accept it.

Back to Augusta at 5:50: Marshall, Dill. Freeman, Arnold, Burns. Watson in with President: PM Churchill joined later. Talked over production of tanks, big bombers, increase of production, Liberia airfields, Dakar, Azores, Cape Verdes, Canaries, Azores. Still talking priorities and their all-around effect when 7:00 came up and we had to get out.

Fog and high rain as we took off in barge and went aboard the Prince of Wales; that is the weather I had heard was normal in Newfoundland. We have been very fortunate so far. Sat around for a while in the Admiral’s cabin waiting for the dinner guests of General Dill: Dill, Marshall, Freeman, Welles, Cadogan, Burns, Hollis, Bundy, Leach and Arnold.

Leach, captain of Prince of Wales: it was in Scapa Flow with men from yards still in turrets when it received word to take off in pursuit of Bismarck. Captain was away fishing; he returned posthaste and arrived before steam was fully up to pressure. Ship must have been hit badly as Captain said the carnage, wounded and dead on bridge was so bad that he withdrew from action. He was only man not wounded or killed. They had a hard time intercepting the Bismarck, their courses approached at 90°, but due to snow and sleet missed. Then he changed course and paralleled Bismarck until they made contact. Home to Tuscaloosa in rain at 11:00 p.m.’

24 September 1942
‘[Noumea, New Caledonia] First Nimitz, then Ghormley, finally McCain: “Your bombers are doing no good over in England; your fighters are being wasted in Europe; here is where they can be of use; here is the only place where they can get results; MacArthur may need them but we need them more than he does.” The whole question revolves around: Where is this war to be won? What is our plan for winning the war? Is this not a local affair and should it not be treated as such? In any event, everyone from the Chief of Naval Operations on down should be indoctrinated with one plan for winning the war. So far everything we have seen indicates the necessity of having one theatre extending from Honolulu to Australia; one commander who can dictate an operating policy against one foe; one man who can move his forces to the place where they will be most effective; one plan for using all our forces and rotating them to be used as reinforcements and as replacements.

Two airports for landing at Noumea: (1) Plaines des Graiacs, 150 miles out of town; (2) Ton Tou Ta, much smaller. 40 miles from town. (l) has long 500 [sic] [5.000] foot runways made of iron ore; everything turns red and engine cylinders get badly scored; (make] low approaches and anything can land; most of planes parked here were well-dispersed; men live in tents, no town anywhere in sight. (2) shorter runways only used for fighters and transient planes, 40 miles to town over fair road.

Noumea reminds me of New Orleans insofar as buildings and signs are concerned. Natives are black but not negros, make excellent soldiers, not spoiled. Absence of wild life although deer and wild boar are supposed to be in hills. No citrus fruits, mangoes or coconuts.’

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sir Haggard’s diaries

Sir Henry Rider Haggard, the British author of many an adventure story set in colonial Africa, often in sympathy with the native populations, was born 160 years ago today. He may have kept a private diary when younger, but the only diary extracts to have been published - Private Diaries and Diary of an African Journey - date from the last decade of his life. In the latter book, Haggard records an interesting conversation with the wife of South Africa’s first Prime Minister about the country’s future.

Haggard was born into a large family, in Norfolk, England, on 22 June 1856. His father was a barrister and his mother a writer. He was schooled at Ipswich Grammar, and then in London to enter the Foreign Office, but he never sat the necessary exams. Instead, in 1875, his father sent him to South Africa to work for his friend, Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal. By 1878, he had secured himself a job as registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal. In 1880, he returned to England briefly, and there married Marianna Louisa Margitson with whom he had one son (who died young), and three daughters.

The family left South Africa in 1882, and settled in Ditchingham, Norfolk. Haggard turned to the law and was called to the bar in 1884, but, by then, he was more interested in writing novels. His most famous work, King Solomon’s Mines, was published in 1885, and other stories based in Africa followed, most notably She, which has become, according to Wikipedia, one of the best-selling single-volume books of all time. Also according to Wikipedia, his novels portray many of the stereotypes associated with colonialism, ‘yet they are unusual for the degree of sympathy with which the native populations are portrayed.’

Although Haggard failed to get elected to Parliament in 1895, he became involved with reform in the agricultural sector, sitting on land use commissions, and occasionally travelling to the colonies. Apart from his many fiction works, he wrote several non-fiction books, including Rural England (1902) and an autobiography (The Days of My Life, 1926). He was knighted in 1912 and made a KBE in 1919. He died in 1925. There is not much biographical information about Haggard freely available online, other than at Wikipedia. However, The Days of My Life is available as a University of Adelaide ebook or at Project Gutenberg Australia.

From the start of the First World War, Haggard kept a detailed diary. This was edited by D. S. Higgins and published by Cassel in 1980 as The Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard, 1914-1925. According to Kirkus Reviews, the diary extracts (only some two per cent of the total) make for ‘a live and affecting document’; however the impression the journal leaves is of ‘a fragile, worn-out relic from a bygone era’. Morton N. Cohen, author of Haggard’s biography for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required) is less generous: ‘[The diary] is, sadly, the account of a sour old man who sees himself betrayed by fate, a disillusioned imperialist with authoritarian, racist leanings, who ranted against the Jews, communists, Bolsheviks, trade unionists, the Irish, and Indian nationalists (the editor of his diaries omits from the published text most of Haggard’s harangues).’

Haggard also kept a diary sometimes earlier in his life, although how often is not clear. In 1899, Longmans, Green & Co published a farming diary for the year 1898, A Farmer’s Year (freely available at Internet Archive), and, in 1905, it published A Gardener’s Year (Internet Archive). Both books have diary-like entries, though they were written by Haggard as information books with publication in mind. In 2001, C. Hurst, by arrangement with the University of Natal Press, South Africa, published Diary of an African Journey (1914), as edited by Stephen Coan. Some pages of this can be viewed at Googlebooks (the source of the following extracts). Also, it’s worth noting that Haggard mentions - albeit only a couple of times - a diary in his autobiography.

7 March 1914
‘On this day, together with a number of other people, we were invited by the government to what might be termed a ‘joyride’ round Table Mountain. For one of our party, Mrs. Tatlow, it proved nothing of the sort. The motor she was in collided with another. She was thrown or fell out and has been left behind in bed at the Queen’s Hotel (I write this at Oudtshoorn) suffering from something like slight concussion. We lunched in a tent at the famous house of Groot Constantia. This place was granted in 1684 to Van der Stel, who was the next governor to Van Riebeeck. He built the house and began to cultivate the vines from which the well-known wine Constantia was made. Its last owners were the Cloetes who sold it in 1885 with 280 acres of land to the government for the small sum of £5 500. Since that time the state could have done well on their bargain if, as I was informed by the manager, they refused an offer for it of £28 000. Here there are 103 acres under vines and 56 under fruit trees. The house with its large cool rooms all adorned with ancient and appropriate furniture is really beautiful.

At luncheon which was given in a tent I sat next to, and had an interesting conversation with, Mrs. Botha, who expressed herself as very pleased that I agreed with her husband, the Prime Minister [Louis Botha], as to the uselessness of attempting to emigrate poor white folk to South Africa when already there were enough of them. Such people, unskilled and resourceless, she said, would come right up against the competition of the native, and their exclusion, which in some quarters was set down to race feeling, was really in their own interests. The only openings were for farmers with some capital, a scarce class. We discussed the outlook of the white inhabitants of South Africa in the future and both agreed that it seemed very doubtful - chiefly because of this native question. The native could no longer be suppressed, or even oppressed: he must follow his destiny and often he was an able and a competent person. In practice South Africa must face the fact that all it has to rely on, so far as the whites are concerned, is its present population and their progeny. But here came the trouble - the restriction of population (i.e. race suicide) is creeping in, even among the Boers, except quite in the backveld districts where it would reach ere long. One no longer saw the large families of 30 years ago: they grew smaller and smaller. Moreover those who were growing up, for some subtle reason, in enterprise, in virility and femininity in their widest sense, were not the men and women of the stamp of our generation. She had often said as much to her own children. What was to be the end of it? She could not tell but the future was dark and dubious. Perhaps at last South Africa would be the heritage of the black races with an admixture of white blood. The danger of war between whites and Bantu had gone by, but there were other dangers. Thus what I saw on the previous day, white man and black, working side by side was one of them: it meant the approach of equality. Once that was established how could the dwindling white people hold their own against an increasing race, already four or five times as numerous?

She said it was hard work for a man like her husband to be Prime Minister of the Union in these days and hard for his wife also. It was both exhausting and difficult to deal with politics continually and keep his hands quite clean. We both agreed that time and experience were wonderful softeners of strong views. Thus today I should not write another Jess and she would not think about the English as she had thought even a dozen years ago. She told me that although it seemed a strange thing for her to say, the deportation of the captured Boers had been a very good thing for the people. The sight of other lands had opened their minds and made them more progressive; also they had learnt what the British Empire meant. Such is a summary of this enlightening talk made from notes taken that evening, and I think one that is accurate, although compressed. Mrs. Botha struck me as an able woman in a quiet way and I liked her very much.’

10 March 1914
‘Woke up lo find that we were running over bush-clad sourveld with a few ostriches wandering round lonely Boer steadings. While I was dressing the iron lid of the washbasin fell on and crushed the top plate of the false teeth which were recently fitted with so much discomfort. A most annoying incident. Luckily I have the old temporary set with me which the dentist wanted to destroy.

At lunch time we came to a range of mountains called Outniqiua, or some such name, that tower above a little township of about 2 000 inhabitants, called George, which is largely inhabited by retired persons in search of quiet. The situation is fine on a flat plain dominated by tall grassy peaks down which run waterfalls that look like lines of wandering silver. At the beginning of the pass we went through government plantations of gums [eucalypts] of about 10 years of age which are doing splendidly. There are several of these here. Next we passed through some native bush in the kloofs, then came broom, heather and bracken, clothing the broad hill shoulders. From the crest of the pass the view was grand. The flat plain below diversified with plantations surrounding the scattered town of George and in the distance the great sea. All this district might be afforested, the hills with pines and the plains with gums. As the land seems to be worth no more than 10s. an acre it would be an excellent purpose to which to put it. About 4 o’clock we entered the Oudtshoorn valley, a hot and fertile place surrounded by hills, and everywhere saw ostriches feeding on lucerne in their wired camps.

On arrival we were met by the mayor and notables and taken off to see the farm of Mr. John le Roux where, after 34 years or so. I renewed my acquaintance with that ungainly but profitable fowl, the ostrich. By the way, at the station a gentleman whose name I think was Rex came up and asked me if I remembered him - as I did not he produced from his pocket an official order of the Pretoria High Court, written and signed by myself in 1878, appointing him a sworn interpreter. I wonder if he always carries it about with him. I was glad to see that the order was properly drawn and written in a better hand than I can boast nowadays. The signature, however, is identical with that I use at present.’

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fire in the music

Joseph Martin Kraus, a German-born composer who found fame in, and thanks to, the Swedish court of King Gustav III, was born 260 years ago today. He was sent by Gustav on a grand tour of Europe, and for a few months kept a rather haphazard diary of his travels, meetings and concert visits, often providing detailed and opinionated critiques of the latter.

Kraus was born in the central German town of Miltenberg in Franconia on 20 June 1756, though the family moved to Buchen in Baden-Württemberg in 1761. He began to show musical talent at an early age, and was taught piano and violin. Though pressed to study law at the University of Mainz, he moved to University of Erfurt where he focused more on music. He was obliged to remain for a year at home while his father underwent prosecution for misuse of office, but during this period he wrote Tolon, a drama in three acts, and several musical works for the local church. In 1776 he returned to study, this time at the University of Göttingen, where he came into contact with members of the Romantic literary movement, Sturm und Drang.

A fellow student at Göttingen persuaded Kraus, in 1778, to move to Stockholm where King Gustav III was well known as a patron of the arts. However, there were hard times for Kraus, and it took him three years before winning favour from the king, and being asked to write music for his opera libretto Proserpina. Following a successful premier, he was appointed vice-Kapellmeister of the Royal Swedish Opera and director of the Royal Academy of Music. Subsequently, Gustav paid for Kraus to go on a grand tour of Europe, one lasting over four years, and during which he met many leading musical figures of the day - not least Gluck, Salieri and Haydn.

During his travels, Kraus composed many works, including symphonies sometimes later attributed to others, and his flute quintet in D Major. On his return to Sweden, in 1787, he was appointed as director of curriculum at the Royal Academy of Music, and the next year he succeeded as Kapellmeister. Although he seems to have favoured instrumental music, the demands of Gustav’s court were for operas, arias and the like. In 1792, he was present at a masked ball when Gustav was assassinated. His death left the arts that he had nurtured in distress. Kraus wrote Funeral Cantata and the Symphonie funèbre, which were played at the burial ceremony. Klaus died of TB a few months later. Further information is available at Wikipedia, Naxos, and Allmusic.

During the early months of his grand tour, from October 1782 into 1783, Kraus kept a rather haphazard diary -  the contents alternate between painstaking detail and superficial description, and switch from imperfect Swedish to German here and there. The extant manuscript, held by Universitets-bibliotek in Uppsala, Sweden, consists of no more than 11 leaves written on both sides. According to Bertil van Boer, who wrote an essay on the diary for The Journal of Musicology in 1990, the main text ‘is a combination of travel/route description, drafts of letters, opinionated critiques of musical instruments, literary and musical works, and concerts, and descriptions of people he met during his journey.’ The essay, titled The Travel Diary of Joseph Martin Kraus, is available online at JSTOR with log-in.

In introducing Kraus’s diary, van Boer refers to the growing tradition among young people to be sent on a Grand Tour as part of their education. Specifically, though, in the music world, he refers to the diaries of Charles Burney which not only give a detailed picture of music in the Europe during the middle part of the eighteenth century, but were used as a substantial foundation for his history of music - see The wonderful echo for more. He goes on to examine and analyse Kraus’s diary in some detail - calling it ‘a hodgepodge’, and noting, for example, that Kraus only mentions three of his own musical compositions. Van Boer provides a few quotes from the diary, translated into English, including the following.

6 April 1783
‘The sixth was an academy for the benefit of a newly-established musical society; Die Israeliten in der Wilste composed by Max. Ulbikh was performed. The orchestra was strong but did not contain the promised list of 180 members, but rather only some 70-odd people. In general, the music contained much fire. The overture in D Minor had three movements; the first expressed the uproar of the people quite well. The second, in A Major, and the last, in D Major, didn’t belong at all. He [Ulbrich] proceeds into the first chorus with an idea [taken) from the first movement. [Carl Philipp Emanuel] Bach has understood the same meaning in this chorus better, I believe. The role of the First Israelite was sung by Fraulein Theresia Tauber. The aria “Will er” was too modern, the performance of the singer very poor, and her inability was even more apparent in the cadenza in the last line (“Ach, wie seyd ihr so begluckt [Begluckt seid ihr, ach]”). The Aaron was Hoffman, a wretched bass. His aria was also too modern, and in both of these arias the main problem was that the accompaniment was too strong. The same can be said for the third aria sung by Signorina Cavalieri; it was too soloistic, and the concertante complement to the voice in the English horn was not terribly successful in terms of expression.

The chorus of Israelites (“Du hist der Ursprung,” etc.), however, was far above the former and Bach’s entire work, insofar as the arias and choruses contain fire. The movement is in C Minor and a fugue. With a very well-done contrast. Father Moses interrupt the chorus with his remarks, and the answer of the people to Moses’s question - Hast du die Werke voll Wunder schon vergessen, die fur dich dein Gott getan?” - cannot bought be thought more appropriate: “Gott schlummerte” (Ungrateful people! So do you!). The composer has altered the words according to the circumstances [in general]; in this chorus as well, but with sinfully exposed gaps. The aria of Moses immediately following, however, is too trivial. The duet of both Israelites could, in another meter, be appropriate for any [secular] concert. I should mention in this regard that both singers competed quite prettily with each other as to who could be the most raging. The recitative of Moses mixed with the chorus that follows is pretty but [contains] nothing new. Moreover, the first movement of Moses’s prayer, in which the guilt and the nature of the piece certainly demands heightened tension, is fiat. The fully-worked-out chorus in C Major is well-conceived, and the [word]-painting of the women slaves is shown altogether enchantingly. This concludes the first act.

The same comments are valid for the second act, though the music is much less worthy of a church. The theme of the first recitative is too childish for the subject and characters; the chorus which begins with a solo by M[oses] ditto, the aria of the first Israelite in G Major ditto, and the unusually trivial aria of Moses with an obbligato violoncello ditto. In the second half (“Dies ist der Helden”) the accompaniment is so strong that one cannot hear the voices. In the recitative which precedes the aria, the composer paints [the words] “Doch einst vor meinem Blicken, seh’ ich die Zukunft aufgehellt” with a rising crescendo in the timpani, adding one wind instrument after another on top. The recitative ends in the same fashion but with less effect. The following aria for Signorina Cavaliert is [set] for obbligato oboe, flute, bassoon, horns and a blend of onions and garlic. The last chorus is mediocre. In general, the first half [of oratorio] far outshines the second. The fault [for this] lies partially with the text. In the last part, the composer has thoughts here and there that were heard in the first.

The execution was quite good - but not exact in piano [passages]. I did not observe many of the lesser crescendos [i.e. dynamics], and each of the desks of violins had its own bowings. The bass line was also not clear owing to the softness of the contrabasses and the lack of violoncellos. The composer has also overworked the [vocal] basses too much.

Between the two acts [I] heard the emperor’s wind band consisting of a oboes, 2 clarinets. 2 horns, [and] 2 bassoons. The composition by Johann Went was very well set for the nature of the instruments but nothing new for the mind. The execution was as admirable as could be desired. . .’

8 April 1783
‘The eighth was the same academy [as the sixth]. All of my earlier comments also apply here. Instead of the previous musical interlude (i.e., the HarmoniemusikJ, I heard Herr (Ludwig) Gehring on the flute. The tuning of his instrument was a half-step sharp, and I didn’t think that the year he was gone from Gottingen had done him as much good as it could have. The piece by [Friedrich] Graf was wonderful, as usual (p. 6r-7r].’

14 April 1783
‘The fourteenth I finally visited Gluck. He was quite polite, but told me personally that it was difficult to express himself now after his illness. His right hand also did not have its former perfect flexibility. Klopstock’s Hermannsschlacht is not yet written out, especially since, according to him, the Emperor was plaguing him about Les Daniades at the same time. At first, he wanted to use Salieri to write down [the latter] on paper for him - but he noted that it would be too much trouble, and on the orders of his doctor, he let it be. Salieri is allowed to set the opera in Paris under his own name. Cluck very clearly let it become known that Salieri has quite retained his thoughts, furthermore that he was not in favor of putting the opera on under his own name. He gave me his portrait and showed me the original painting which is a masterpiece of expression. He often repeated his contention that a simple song belonged of necessity to a stage piece. He was the first to make actors of the chorus in Paris, for previously they only stood there like statues. He allowed Orphée to be translated, but he was not satisfied with the first poet. He then accepted a mediocre one who did things more in accordance with his wishes. He is very satisfied with the scenes in Armide: “Un seul guerrier” [and] “Poursuivons notre ennemi jusqu’au trépasse,” etc. . .’

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Not a lot for me to do today

Constable, part of the Little Brown group, has just published the diary of a young woman - Sarah Stamford - who was working as a BBC secretary in 1971. It’s a rather unusual and very slight publishing venture when gauged against the kind of diaries that are usually brought out by mainstream publishers. The Daily Telegraph has given it a bit of a splash, but one that’s headlined with a quote about Jimmy Savile!

Sarah Stamford was born in Purley, Surrey, in the early 1950s. Her older brother died in 1961, and her mother died in 1965, after which her father remarried. Sarah attended a private girls’ school, and then a secretarial college in South Kensington, London. Her first job was as a junior secretary in the School Broadcasting Council, an outpost of the BBC, after which she went on to work on radio programmes and television plays. She married twice (latterly becoming Sarah Shaw), and brought up two children. Later in life she took an Open University degree, a post graduate librarian qualification and worked as a librarian at Selwyn College, Cambridge.

Having retired, Shaw was preparing to move, to live in Bridport, when she found an old diary she had kept when 19, in the year of her first job. She told the Bridport News, how she contacted some friends from her BBC days to have a laugh about the diary and how they suggested she do something positive with it. So, she self published the manuscript in 2015 through, titling it 1971: The secret diary of a BBC secretary. One of her friends passed the book on to a literary agent, and - she told the Bridport News - ‘It snowballed from there, it was totally unexpected.’ Constable released the book as Portland Place: Secret Diary of a BBC Secretary earlier this month. The Daily Telegraph gave it major coverage on 29 May, rather tastelessly, in my opinion, using a quote from her memory of the past about Jimmy Savile in the headline.

According to Little Brown, ‘Sarah’s diary describes the life of a suburban girl who certainly wasn’t ‘swinging’ but who was, ironically, not only working on a cutting edge BBC survey on sex education but also in the throes of an unlikely affair with middle-aged, working-class, Irish lift attendant, Frank. Sarah talks humorously and frankly about what it was like to be a young, working woman at the time as well as life at the BBC during the 1970s and the difficulties of navigating her first romance. She is funny and self-effacing with a self-knowledge that only few attain. Her innocence and naivety are hugely charming and the diary forms a valuable snapshot of a time not so far away that is now lost to us.’ Now lost to us? Really!

This is a strange book to be published under the Constable imprint, which, after all, dates back to the late 18th century when it was first established and brought out Walter Scott’s famous works. Shaw’s diary is easy to read, mildly interesting, sweet, but so what? Most diaries considered worth publishing by major players - such as Little Brown - are by significant figures in the political or artistic worlds, or have a wartime connection, and certainly cover more than a single year. Diaries by those who are not celebrities, who are not in the public eye, should be considered for publication more often - but surely there are far more interesting and significant examples than this one.

Several pages of Portland Place can be viewed on Amazon, and these extracts are taken from there.

4 January 1971
‘Snow. Got up in the cold, dark morning and walked over the golf course to Chipstead Station to get the train to London. It was eerie in the dark, and I nearly fell over. The commuters are an odd lot. all freightfully jolly. They come in two types - thin, cold and distinguished, or round, warm and fond of a pint.

Louise is still on holiday so there wasn’t a lot for me to do today.

Gill (secretary to the Senior Education Officer) was back at work but busy, so I had lunch with Adrienne, who works for one of the officers. She comes from New York. As I am a fan of George Gershwin, I really wanted to ask her if she knew anything about him or his family, but I lost my nerve as I didn’t want to bore her or sound stupid. I think we both see each other as specimens of a type: she is a New York Jewess and I am a solid old English girl. Her earrings and clothes tickle me. It’s amazing how Americans dress - you can spot them a mile off.

For lunch we usually go over to the canteen at Broadcasting House, which is open twenty-four hours a day. The food is OK; their salads with chips are good. During the day we get tea and coffee from the BBC Club on the ground floor of the Langham: in the evenings they open up a bar in the rooms beyond, which smell of booze and cigarettes. In both places there’s always the chance of spotting a celebrity: only being so close to BH, the home of radio, you find yourself ignoring someone until he speaks and then you recognise the voice. I’ve seen John Timpson from the Today programme in the Club, also Pete Murray and David Jacobs [Radio 2 DJs], and a few months ago I saw Cliff Richard talking to someone in Portland Place outside BH.

The BBC has lots of societies staff can join, all of them free of charge. I’m thinking about the Film Club. Gill and I have already joined the chess section, which meets every Monday after work downstairs in the Langham. Several tables are laid out with boards and pieces, around which various middle-aged men. mostly with beards, sit like cats watching mouse-holes.

Gill and I have a different approach. We play our games at two or three times their speed, and wash them down with a few glasses of wine. Gill is very good at chess, and she kindly pointed out to me when I had won a game. Her husband Kaz, a Hungarian artist, came along as well, but he is of a better standard so he plays with the mouse-hole men. He has a slightly nauseating sense of humour. Still, that’s a first impression.

Back to the hostel in Francis Street, near Victoria Station. This is run by something called the Girls’ Friendly Society, which sounds alarming. The rooms are strung along the corridors like prison cells, all smelling of disinfectant and boiled vegetables. When you need to go to the bathroom, there is always the possibility you will run into a shuffling old woman with bits of last week’s breakfast down her jumper.

Each room has a cream door with its name in black paint, like Badges, Heartsease, Charles and Olivia, Peace, Hope, Suffolk Archdeaconry and my favourite, The St George and Hanover Square Bourdon lodge Committee. My room is called Robinson. It has a bed, a small wardrobe and chest and my little bookcase, and is so narrow that I can stand with my arms outstretched and touch both the side walls.’

5 January 1971
‘Got a prospectus from the City Literary Institute. Decided to leave it until the Whitsun term as I seem to be too late for the current series of classes.

Did some work for Miss Handley in the Publications Office. She must be about forty and is quite funny. She’s pleasant-looking. but her eves never seem to be firmly fixed into her face. She keeps saving how I am being so helpful, but actually I am just pleased to have something to do. Or maybe she is simply being polite. Lunch with Gill and Adrienne, then went shopping with Gill in British Home Stores. In the evening I went to the cinema to see Start the Revolution Without Me with a couple of old school friends. One of them is going to work at the British Film Institute in the stills archives. Funny, because that’s the sort of job I would like to do, but I’m probably better off in the long run at the BBC. I might leave the SBC in a year or so - I don’t think it would be healthy for me to stay for too long. I might die of boredom.’

13 January 1971
‘Finished checking the document with Gill, who will now have to retype some of it because, in true SBC style. Miss Sharp and Mr Jones wish to rewrite their sections. As I had a dental appointment in Purley, I left work at 3 p.m. and headed off, reading Photoplay. It is cheaper than Films and Filming and has colour photos. I arrived too early so I wandered around the town a bit, peering at the old houses. So many looked sad and ashamed of their gardens. My dentist is my Uncle Rupert, my mother’s brother, so an appointment is a family as well as a medical occasion. He did a filling for me and then we came back together on the bus. He told me stories about the family including how, in the 1910s when he was a boy living in Purley, and they used to hoist a flag over Reedham Orphanage to show which university team had won the boat race, he would run upstairs to his bedroom to watch out of the window for the signal. Can’t imagine anyone being that excited about the boat race nowadays. Stayed at Chipstead overnight.’

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sand's Journal Intime

George Sand, the famous French writer, cigar smoker and lover of artists, died 140 years ago today. A hard working and prolific author of novels, she also wrote plays and an autobiography. Her commitment to the diary form was, however, intermittent. Nevertheless a collection of her personal writings, under the title Intimate Journal - taken from the French Journal Intime - were published in English in 1929, and have been reprinted several times since then.

Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupin was born in 1804, in Paris, and educated at Nohant, her grandmother’s estate, and at a convent in Paris. In 1821, she inherited Nohant, and a year later married Casimir Dudevant. In 1831, though, she left Nohant and her husband and went, with two children, to Paris. The same year she published a first novel, Rose Et Blanche, written in collaboration with Jules Sandeau, from whom she took her early pen-name (Jules Sand), and articles in Le Figaro. Her second novel Indiana, in 1832, written under the pen-name George Sand, brought her near instant fame. It told of a naive woman abused by an older husband and deceived by a selfish seducer.

Thereafter, Sand became a celebrity of sorts, famously dressing in men’s clothes much of the time, and having many love affairs, the most famous of which was with the composer Chopin. Her novels, and there were many, were largely romantic, with the heroes often workmen or peasants, living in the countryside of her childhood near Nohant. They were also often autobiographical, coloured by whoever she was involved with at the time, and overtly romantic with love usually conquering obstacles of class and convention.

Sand’s later years were lived at Nohant, comfortably in a relatively stable relationship with a younger artist, Alexandre Manceau, though he died in 1865, ten years before she herself died on 8 June 1876. There is surprisingly little biographical information readily available online about Sand, at least in English - her Wikipedia biography is much more comprehensive in French than it is in English - though some can be found at Notable Biographies and NNDB. There are also a couple of biographical works freely available online: George Sand - Some aspects of her life and writings by Rene Doumic and translated into English by Alys Hallard in 1910 (Internet Archive or Full Books); and George Sand by E. Caro in 1888 (Internet Archive).

Sand was not a committed diarist though she did leave behind some diary writing in the form of letters addressed to lovers and occasional musings on her intimate relations and on her own shortcomings. These were collected together and first published but Williams & Norgate in an English translation in 1929 as The Intimate Journal of George Sand. It has been reissued several times since then - see Googlebooks for a 1977 version by Cassandra Editions, or Chicago Press Review for a 2000 edition.

There are also the diaries - not translated into English as far as I know - that were kept by Manceau. Evelyne Bloch-Dano, author of The Last Love of George Sand: A Literary Biography (translated by Allison Charente, Arcade Publishing, 2013) explains: ‘George Sand had kept a periodic journal during key moments of her life, more to organise her thoughts than to keep a precise record of her days. She lived too much in the present to feel the need. Alexandre [Manceau] decided to record his lady’s activities, meetings, readings, works, and promenades every day, until his death. At first the Diaries were written in the first person, as if Sand was dictating them, but they morphed into the third person after a few weeks. Marceau would also make personal notes throughout the entries, creating an entirely separate character. The Diaries were his own work, even if George added her own details from time to time or occasionally took up the pen in his place.’

There’s very few examples of Sand’s diary entries freely available online. A few quotable quotes from The Intimate Journal can be found at this Blog. But the following extract, concerning her lover, Alfred de Musset, is taken from Rene Doumic’s book; as is the subsequent diary entry from the Goncourt brothers (see Journal des Goncourt) about a visit to Sand.

24 December 1834
‘And what if I rushed to him when my love is too strong for me. What if I went and broke the bell-pull with ringing, until he opened his door to me. Or if I lay down across the threshold until he came out!’

30 March 1862
‘On the fourth floor, No. 2, Rue Racine. [. . .] We could see a grey shadow against the pale light. It was a woman, who did not attempt to rise, but who remained impassive to our bow and our words. This seated shadow, looking so drowsy, was Madame Sand, and the man who opened the door was the engraver Manceau. Madame Sand is like an automatic machine. She talks in a monotonous, mechanical voice which she neither raises nor lowers, and which is never animated. In her whole attitude there is a sort of gravity and placidness, something of the half-asleep air of a person ruminating. She has very slow gestures, the gestures of a somnambulist. With a mechanical movement she strikes a wax match, which gives a flicker, and lights the cigar she is holding between her lips.

Madame Sand was extremely pleasant; she praised us a great deal, but with a childishness of ideas, a platitude of expression and a mournful good-naturedness that was as chilling as the bare wall of a room. Manceau endeavoured to enliven the dialogue. We talked of her theatre at Nohant, where they act for her and for her maid until four in the morning. . . . We then talked of her prodigious faculty for work. She told us that there was nothing meritorious in that, as she had always worked so easily. She writes every night from one o’clock until four in the morning, and she writes again for about two hours during the day. Manceau explains everything, rather like an exhibitor of phenomena. “It is all the same to her,” he told us, “if she is disturbed. Suppose you turn on a tap at your house, and some one comes in the room. You simply turn the tap off. It is like that with Madame Sand.” ’

The Diary Junction

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Thoughts, epiphanies, poems

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of Allen Ginsberg, one of the most prominent members of the so-called Beat Generation, which also included Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. Unlike Kerouac, whose diaries were not published until long after his death - see The rush of what is said - Ginsberg published several volumes of journals during his lifetime. Ginsberg himself, however, described them as ‘thoughts, epiphanies, vivid moments of haiku, poems, but not a continuous diary of conversations like Virginia Woolf, or Anais Nin, or Boswell.’

Ginsberg was born on 3 June 1926 into a Jewish family in Newark, New Jersey, though he grew up in Paterson, 15 miles further north. His father was a published poet and teacher, and his mother a communist and unstable depressive. He attended Columbia University on a scholarship from the Young Men’s Hebrew Association of Paterson. There he met William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, all later to be pivotal figures of the beat movement. Their behaviour was generally considered wayward, not least because of dabbling with drugs. By 1948, his last year at Columbia, Ginsberg had decided to become a poet, supposedly thanks to hearing the voice of William Blake in a vision. The following year, he spent several months in a mental institution as a consequence of pleading insanity when stolen goods were discovered in his dorm.

In late 1953, Ginsberg travelled to Mexico, and then settled in San Francisco. He fell in love with Peter Orlovsky, also a poet, who would subseqently remain his lifelong partner. In 1955, inspired by a poem by Kerouac, he wrote the long poem Howl which he performed at a reading he organised - Six Poets at the Six Gallery (known now as the Six Gallery reading). The poem, full of raw language and acceptance of his own homosexuality, would bring him world attention, not least because it was the subject of a failed obscenity charge. During the trial, Ginsberg and Orlovsky moved to Paris, living off the royalties from Howl and a disability pension that Orlovsky collected as a Korean veteran. For a period, they went to Tangier to stay with Burroughs who was working on, what would become, Naked Lunch.

In 1958, Ginsberg returned to New York City, troubled by his mother’s death two years earlier in an asylum. There he wrote, what is considered his best work - Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg, an elegy for his mother based on a traditional Hebrew prayer for the deceased. Thereafter, he continued experimenting with drugs, and travelling widely, most significantly in India where he sought out holy men, remaining for the best part of two years. Having turned to Buddhism, he wrote, in Japan, The Change, about how meditation rather than drugs would help him towards enlightenment. Back in New York City, he befriended A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, helping him with money, organisation and contacts. By this time, he was also incorporating chanting and music (he had acquired a harmonium in India) into his poetry readings.

In the mid-1960s, Ginsberg became strongly associated with the hippy and antiwar movements, and is credited with creating the idea of ‘flower power’, using positive values, peace and love, in demonstrations. He was constantly at odds with the establishment. In 1965, alone, he was asked to leave Cuba and Czechoslovakia by their respective governments. At home he was arrested at various demonstrations, and, in 1972, was jailed in Miami for protesting against President Richard Nixon. A few years later, he was arrested with Orlovsky for sitting on train tracks to try and stop a train loaded with radioactive waste.

In his later years, Ginsberg was a public figure, the archetypal Beat Generation writer. Despite increasing health problems, he continued to publish steadily and travel often, giving readings across the globe. He died in 1997 - for more biographical info see Wikipedia, Allen Ginsberg Project, Poetry Foundation, American National Biography Online, or various obituaries (New York Times, for example, or The Independent).

Ginsberg began using notebooks in childhood, collecting source material for poetry and prose, and for drafting poems. Anansi, in Toronto, published a first selection of extracts in 1968, 35 pages worth, under the title Airplane Dreams: Compositions from Journals (described as ‘not exactly poems, nor not poems’.) Two years later, David Halewood Books and City Lights Books jointly published Ginsberg’s Indian Journals (describing, in prose and verse, his drug-induced experiences in the sub-continent). Grove Press brought out, in 1977, Journals: Early Fifties, Early Sixties, as edited by Gordon Ball. And nearly 20 years later, but still with input from Ginsberg himself, HarperCollins issued Journals: Mid-Fifties, also edited by Gordon Ball (1995). A selection of reviews can be found at the website of Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

According to Ball’s introduction, the printed text of the last book of journals draws on material entered by Ginsberg in twelve notebooks (and related separated pages) from June 1954 through mid-July 1958. Though presented as a single entity, he says, the editing has involved considerable interleaving between one journal and another, and sometimes yet a third; and both Ginsberg and Gordon Ball ‘lightly pruned and shaped’ the text.

The book also contains a few pages dictated by Ginsberg in 1984 (many journals notes were similarly dictated) which have been presented under the title: ‘Meditations on Record Keeping by Poet’. In these meditations, he describes how he was aware of a ‘historical change of consciousness and some kind of cultural revolution’, and how there was a contest between further liberation or 1984 authoritarianism. He felt he needed to record this in some way, and mentions some of society’s troubles (censorship, drugs, a growing military budget). He then says: ‘I saw all that at stake and thought best to keep a record: in my own writing but also just sort of an archive. So after I milked the notebooks for poems, I just kept hold of the notebooks for whatever I had in it, though I didn’t keep like a historical record of conversations - that wasn’t my function; I thought Kerouac had done that, historical record of scenes, conversations, characters, and persons. He had covered that and I couldn’t possibly compete with him; the best I thought I could do was just keep a record of my own changes of self-nature and perceptions - you know, intermittent perceptions, spots of time. So my notebook is thoughts, epiphanies, vivid moments of haiku, poems, but not a continuous diary of conversations like Virginia Woolf, or Anais Nin, or Boswell.’

Here are samples from two dated extracts in Journals: Mid-Fifties (though the vast majority of entries are undated, and many are poetry rather than prose).

31 March 1955
‘Tiring of the Journal - no writing in it - promotes slop - an egocentric method.

Life’s quiet finally, no love, another plane, after-hours from the office, struggle completed (high tonite on terpinhydrate of codeine), music, rugs, a lousy room and evening robes in which to read, a typewriter.

Lately in revising I’ve noticed a tendency - revising year pile of notes - to adjust the notes to small groups of lines as in 3-line stanza, begun however before reading the Williams late forms - the division being by active words, number of active words in phrase.

“the sad heart of August dies”

the nouns & verbs have a single weight, the adjectives usually less unless strong words or long ones. Count mainly by eye. But requirement of regularity of some lines is a clarity I find apparent lately, so that the notes don’t present themselves totally amorphous. The lines are not yet free enough - for this reason the concentration process is useful again in order to get a sense of measuring small lines - with later possibility, the expansion to a large form with lines distributed over the page

but equal, each parallel indentation equal or equivalent

So that the structure has a structure at least as an excuse for its form

following, as we might guess, the given possibilities of lengths of speech mind-think lines - there will probably be a select number to recognise & distinguish, the double:

and the triplet
“fantastical physical
Neal’s naked breast” ’

21 December 1956
‘Strange faces in the subway - the minute I sat down I realized I had power to see them straight in the eye and dig the eternal moment’s mask - as they ride by dreaming rocked in the dark with neon on their faces.

The 59th St. stop - recollecting Burroughs and Lucien, Columbus Circle, IRT Station, the dark pavement and endless outpouring of students and ballet dancers and musicians and fairies on this platform, waiting in their youth for life to begin - while I come back here dead (for the fourth time), disconnected. The new IRT B’way train - brighter and shinier - futuristic 1930s air conditioning aluminum big flowers growing out of the roof - parkay tile floors, glassy lights, shining steel poles to hold on to, even the people seem cleaner and richer - and the seats so nice and soft, red cushions.

A man with a notebook in front of me making notes for an ad. My own rusty (gaudy) book.

Beside me a fat well-dressed little kid bow tie, bright Jewish eyes, ass-length salt and pepper jacket - he don’t work on nothing, just lies in bed and eats ham in the morning. And gets up to ride the subway showing off all afternoon, at nite he goes back to supper and eats huge pork chops with lots of greasy potatoes and peas.

Approaching 116 St. Columbia Stop.’