Saturday, July 17, 2010

Diary briefs

Details emerge from Mladic’s secret wartime diary - The New York Times

On board HMS Medusa, 1802-1810 - University of Glasgow, BBC

After You by Natascha McElhone (diary kept after the death of her husband) - Penguin Books, The Guardian

E. M. Forster - A New Life by Wendy Moffat (using unpublished diaries) - Bloomsbury, The Independent

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A planters life!

‘I said my prayers and ate milk and pears for breakfast. About 7 o’clock the negro boy that ran away was brought home. My wife against my will caused little Jenny to be burned with a hot iron, for which I quarreled with her.’ Such was life, 300 years ago today, in the household of William Byrd, a gentleman planter and a man often at odds with his wife over the use of money and the treatment of slaves. We know a lot about his private life - including when he danced his dance and rogered his wife! - thanks to his secret diaries, which were not decoded or published until the 194os.

William Byrd II was born in 1674 at Westover Plantation in Charles City County, Virginia, his father having emigrated from England and become an Indian trader and slave importer. Byrd was sent to England to be schooled and to study law, but returned to Westover on the death of his father in 1705 to run the, by then, large and rich estate. By marrying Lucy Parke, the daughter of Colonel Daniel Parke II, a wealthy land owner and also the governor of the Leeward Islands, Byrd increased both his wealth and power in the region. In 1709, he was made a King’s Councilor, an appointment he held for the rest of his life.

Although Byrd fought with his wife almost daily, it seems, they also loved each other passionately. But she died young, in 1715, from smallpox. That same year, he returned to England where he stayed until 1726. Thereafter, having married again (Maria Taylor) he settled into his role as head of the plantation, and part of the ruling clique. He built a large house at Westover, helped found the city of Richmond, and collected the largest library in the colonies. He died in 1744. More biographical information is available online from Wikipedia or The British Empire.

However, Byrd is mostly remembered for his talent as a writer. The History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina, an account by Byrd of the surveying of the border between the US states of North Carolina and Virginia in 1728, is considered one of the earliest colonial literary works and a minor humorous masterpiece.

Byrd was also a letter writer and diarist of some note, though some of his diaries written in shorthand were not decoded or published until the 20th century. Dietz Press published The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover 1709-1712 (edited by L B Wright and Marion Tinling) in 1941, and Another Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, 1739-1741, the following year. Nearly 20 years later Oxford University Press published The London Diary, 1717-1721, and other writings.

Several websites have substantial extracts from Byrd’s diaries, including the National Humanities Center, and student resource pages at University of Maryland. Here are a few typical examples.

9 April 1709
‘I rose at 5 o’clock and read a chapter in Hebrew and 150 verses in Homer. I said my prayers devoutly and ate milk for breakfast. My wife and I had another scold about mending my shoes but it was soon over by her submission. I settled my accounts and read Dutch. I ate nothing but cold roast beef and asparagus for dinner. In the afternoon Mr Custis complained of a pain in his side for which he took a sweat of snakeroot. I read more Dutch and took a little nap. In the evening we took a walk about the plantation. My people made an end of planting the corn field. I had an account from Rappahannock that the same distemper began to rage there that had been so fatal on the Eastern Shore. I had good health, good thoughts and good humor, thanks be to God Almighty. I said my prayers.’

15 July 1710
‘About 7 o’clock the negro boy [or Betty] that ran away was brought home. My wife against my will caused little Jenny to be burned with a hot iron, for which I quarreled with her. It was so hot today that I did not intend to go to the launching of Colonel Hill’s ship but about 9 o’clock the Colonel was so kind as to come and call us. My wife would not go at first but with much entreaty she at last consented. About 12 o’clock we went and found abundance of company at the ship and about one she was launched and went off very well, notwithstanding several had believe the contrary. When this was over we went to Mr Platt’s to dinner and I ate boiled beef. We stayed till about 5 o’clock and then returned home, where all was well. I found an express from above with a letter from Joe Wilkinson desiring to be discharged from my service when his year was out.’

12 August 1710
‘I had a quarrel with my wife about her servants who did little work. I wrote a long and smart letter to Mr Perry, wherein I found several faults with his management of the tobacco I sent him and with mistakes he had committed in my affairs. My sloop brought some tobacco from Appomattox. Mr Bland came over and dined with us on his way to Williamsburg. I ate roast shoat for dinner. In the afternoon Mr Bland went away and I wrote more letters. I put some tobacco into the sloop for Captain Harvey. It rained and hindered our walk; however we walked a little in the garden.’

24 September 1710
‘The Governor’s horses got away but Colonel Hill sent men after them and got them again. We had chocolate for breakfast and about 10 o’clock rode home to my house, where we refreshed ourselves and then the Governor and I went to church in the coach and my wife was terribly out of humor because she could not go likewise. Mr. Anderson preached very well and pleased the Governor. After church I invited abundance of gentlemen home where we had a good dinner. My wife after much persuasion came to dinner with us. The company went away in the evening and the Governor and I took a walk on the river side. The Governor was very willing to favor the iron works. We sat up till 9 o’clock.’

31 December 1710
‘My daughter was very sick all night and vomited a great deal but was a little better this morning. All my sick people were better, thank God, and I had another girl come down sick from the [slave] quarters. I danced my dance. Then I read a sermon in Dr Tillotson and after that walked in the garden till dinner. I ate roast venison. In the afternoon I looked over my sick people and then took a walk about the plantation. The weather was very warm still. My wife walked with me and when she came back she was very indisposed and went to bed. In the evening I read another sermon in Dr Tillotson. About 8 o’clock the wind came to northwest and it began to be cold.’

1 January 1712
‘I lay abed till 9 o’clock this morning to bring my wife into temper again and rogered her by way of reconciliation. I read nothing because Mr Mumford was here, nor did I say my prayers, for the same reason. However I ate boiled milk for breakfast, and after my wife tempted me to eat some pancakes with her. Mr Mumford and I went to shoot with our bows and arrows but shot nothing, and afterwards we played at billiards till dinner, and when we came we found Ben Harrison there, who dined with us. I ate some partridge for dinner. In the afternoon we played at billiards again and I won two bits. I had a letter from Colonel Duke by H-l the bricklayer who came to offer his services to work for me. Mr Mumford went away in the evening and John Bannister with him to see his mother. I took a walk about the plantation and at night we drank some mead of my wife’s making which was very good. I gave the people some cider and a dram to the negroes. I read some Latin in Terence and had good health, good thoughts, and good humor, thank God Almighty. I said my prayers.’

28 August 1712
‘I danced my dance. The weather was cloudy and warm. My wife was indisposed for want of sleep, having been disturbed by mosquitoes, which we have more of this year than ever I knew. I read some law till dinner and then I ate some hogs’ haslet. In the afternoon I went to the granary to see the people work and then returned and read some Latin till the evening and then I took a walk about the plantation and saw my people making cider. My wife was indisposed very much at night which made me go to bed soon. I said my prayers and had good health, good thoughts, and good humor, thank God Almighty. In the night my wife was disturbed with mosquitoes and could not sleep herself nor would she let me sleep.’

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sabara on my wall

In the mid-1980s, I was living in Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, and exactly a quarter of a century ago today, I had travelled to a small pretty colonial town in Minas Gerais state called Sabara. There, I chanced on a festival, which included a brass band contest and a running event. A month or so later, back in Rio, I went to my first auction, and, experienced an astonishing coincidence, one which led me to buy a painting of a Sabara church - it has hung on a wall of wherever I’ve been living ever since.

I have indulged The Diary Review twice before with entries from my own diaries, one about The Demolition Decorators and one about Love in Pyrghos. Here is a third indulgence from my Pikle website: one entry written on that day in Sabara 25 years ago, and another written later about the aucton.

Sunday 14 July 1985, Sabara
‘Have escaped from the bustle of the city to Sabara where there is a different form of bustle - a festive jollity. A few dozen people gather in groups around two bands. One - wearing light green denim suits with even lighter green shirts beneath - consists of youths , and the other - in darker green military suits - wears blue ties with white shirts and hats. Now, though, in the distance we hear a third band marching towards us. The sun shines but is threatened by grey and dense clouds approaching. Several people, clearly organisers, carry papers and refer to them occasionally. Now the band is loud, just around the corner, a car is diverted from driving through the street. Here they are - blue suits and caps with blue ties. All three bands are similarly sized and similarly configured. Some of the younger women are tapping their feet to the melody. And yes, here comes a fourth band - light blue shirts and grey trousers. This one is half women (hence the absence of jackets).

It’s a band competition, of course. To see all the musicians file under the newly-painted grey and bright red arches wearing their clean and pressed uniforms, carrying their gleaming silver instruments, is a rare picture.

Why do I sometimes want to cry when I look into the faces of these people. It’s been happening a lot in the last few days, few weeks - a face at a window, a waiter in a restaurant, a shop assistant. I am sensitive to something without or within me - I don’t know what. Looking at these faces perhaps I’m aware in myself a lack of a sense of belonging or place, and, yes, for a framework in which I don’t have to struggle for emotional acceptance. But I don’t think it is so clearly my own yearning, or only my own yearning because I am also keenly sensible to the dramatic monotony of people’s lives - but, as an outsider, a voyeur, an escaper from the monotony, I have no right to engage in elements of pity.

Praca Rita. It is here, I suppose, the competition will take place. There is an air of preparation. It is an extraordinarily pretty square. Its centrepiece is a round wooden bandstand painted blue and white and built on a wall of slate, encircled by cobbles. There are several lawns and flowerbeds and mosaic pavement areas with white benches. Seven flat-topped trees have rowan style leaves and giant seed pods; the base of the trunks and the bulging root formations are painted white. In the bandstand are loudspeakers and two small tables holding various trophies. Food, jewellery and gift stalls are being laid out in the square, but in a quiet way, hardly disturbing the tranquil preparations of the organisers or the growing level of chatter among the arriving crowds.

A banner in Praca Melo Viana tells me that a marathon will take place, with 3m cruzeiros in prizes, and 34 trophies and 70 medals. This square is not so pretty, its various elements resting uncomfortably next to each other. At the narrow end is Dan Pedro II with its shops while at the broader end, some remaining walls of the church Nossa Senhora do Rosario dos Pretos stand as a focus for the centre of the village. The tourist info says this church is no more than a monument to the work and talent of slaves: its building was interrupted when slavery was abolished. To the left of the walls is an old baroque public fountain - the Chafariz do Rosario. A brass tap emerges out of the mouth of the two ugly pouting faces. Some women scrub their pots here regardless of the tourists or the festivities.

It’s around 10:00 and I’m back in Praca Rita. It’s full of people. The six or seven bands have been marching through the village, and now they’re back. It’s a stirring sound hearing them all play together. I asked the name of one appealing tune - Cisne Branco, meaning white swan.

My mind is fertile today, and I want to make an observation about taking advantage of the fun, the novelty, the optimism of fairs and festivals. When I travelled I was always grateful for help given me by people met here and there. I was aware that I was taking from the world, and never giving back. I was, thus, determined to pay my debt back in terms of giving lifts and hospitality. I believe I have gone some way towards doing that. But now I realise that I owe a sort of festival debt. All the celebrations, fetes, festivals, fairs I’ve attended leave me in the red. When, if, I settle down I will owe the world, time and effort towards making the monotony of life more colourful.

The crowd is milling. One band has moved to the stand and begins the competition. After the first piece, a luxurious deep and rich voice joins the band, the words she sings are full of hope and nationalism. I wanted her to go on forever.

I found some public toilets with toilet paper. I was most grateful for I haven’t defaecated in three days, and it was the first time I’d used toilet paper in months - it’s a much less clean method than water.

Within the confines of the thick and roofless walls of the ruined Rosana is another, smaller church. It is modest by comparison, but the inside is charming, painted white with strips of blue (like Praca Rita). A sizeable platform has been erected in the square for a dance, presumably tonight, with seats all around.

Praca Rita 1:15. The bands still continue to play taking turns on the blue and white bandstand. The marathon runners, now exhausted, are scattered round the village; some alone are taking off their shoes; others are exercising their limbs; others stand casually around, their faces streaked with salt, talking to admiring friends or relations. I slept for a while in Praca Melo Viana, comfortably on my back with the sun on my face. Now I sit in a blue and white restaurant waiting for the inevitable rice and beef. (After yesterday’s rice and beef at the university canteen, I desperately wanted a toothpick or dental floss to clean the unnatural crack between my lower left molars - all day it nagged, and yet all day, as it happens, I’d carried my bag around and it held both floss and toothpicks!).

Museo de Ouro 2:30. This must be one of my top ten of small museums (I remember another wonderful one in Arles). Gold panning and mining instruments are displayed in the cellar rooms, along with scales of various types. 17th and 18th century furniture fills the upstairs rooms.

I should have known the bus station would have a queue a mile long. I walked and walked along the river seeing truck drivers bucket water over their dusty vehicles, children flying kites, boys sitting reading or dreaming on rarely used railway tracks, women carrying burdens on their heads making their ways along well-worn paths. Fortunately, a coach stopped for me. I ran up its steps full of gratitude and virtually fell into a wall of tracksuited smiles and gleaming gold and silver trophies.’

Friday 16 August 1985, Rio
‘I also treated myself to an auction. Here is the sequence of events, the synchronous events. I was interested in buying a windsurfer (that will be a real treat if I ever get round to it) so I bought Rio’s equivalent of Exchange & Mart - Balcao. Of course, my eye wondered to the book and antique section where I found an auction advertised for that very evening. How could I resist. I found the auction room near the old tunnel. It was a long narrow room with perhaps 30 rows of six chairs. The auctioneer looked like a business shark - in one hand he held a miniature wooden hammer, and in the other a small microphone. A few pictures were hung on the walls and I could see a few paintings piled on the floor. Only one painting caught my eye - a glass-framed rough-coloured sketch of a church. I sat as close to the front as I could. Middle class, young-to-middle-aged painting lovers filled the room to bursting. A waiter idled up and down the corridor offering glasses of wine (good idea that). I flicked through a catalogue and only one item attracted my eye - Igreja da Sabara - and this was because I’ve been to Sabara very recently, and loved it. Lot 44. I decided to wait patiently for lot 44 before leaving. As the sale progressed I did not see one painting brought to the front and auctioned that I would ever consider hanging on my wall. Prices varied between 200,000 and 5m. I was surprised, but pleased, to be able to understand the auctioneer’s figures. Honest to the laws of mathematics, it never occurred to me for a minute that lot 44 would turn out to be the same painting as I’d noticed and liked on the wall. The synchronicity was pure, and - as a consequence I’m sure - a spell fell over the entire audience of maybe 200 people allowing me to buy lot 44 for the minimum price of 200,000. I slipped away thoroughly pleased with myself.’

The greatest ballet in Europe

Marius Petipa, one of the most influential ballet masters and choreographers of all time, died a century ago today. Born in France, he spent most of his life in St Petersburg creating lavish ballets for the Imperial Theatres, some of which still survive. He was almost certainly a diarist of habit, according to Lynn Garafola, a dance historian and critic, though only diaries from the end of his life survive. Garafola re-found these diaries, and translated them from the original French into English for a dance magazine in the early 1990s. Her introduction to them is available online, but the diaries themselves are not. She says of them that they are the ‘scaffolding of a life that made art not with words but in the wordless medium of movement’.

Petipa was born in Marseilles in 1818 and educated at the Grand College in Brussels. Both he and his brother Lucien were drawn into the dance world by their father Jean, a ballet master. Petipa’s debut came when he was still a child in one of his father’s productions in Brussels. As a consequence of the Belgian revolution the family moved to Bordeaux and then to Nantes where Petipa became a principal dancer in 1838. A year later, Petipa and his father toured the US. Subsequently, Petipa lived and danced in Spain for four years, an experience which had a significant influence on his developing choreographic work, before moving to St Petersburg, where he joined the Imperial Theatres as a dancer in 1847.

By the 1850s, Petipa was becoming more involved in choreography. He married a fellow dancer Mariia Surovshchikova in 1854, and they had two children. She danced in many of his ballets, A Regency Marriage, for example, The Parisian Market and The Blue Dahlia. His first major success came in 1862, with The Pharaoh’s Daughter, which led him to become recognised as one of the Imperial Theatres ballet masters, and in 1871 he rose further, to become the Premier Maître de Ballet. In the mid-1870s, he separated from his wife and married another dancer, Lyubov Savitskaya, more than 30 years his junior, who bore him six children.

Over the next three decades, Petipa produced over 60 ballets, most of them lavish spectacles that could only have been produced in the opulent atmosphere of the Imperial Russian court. He always researched his ballets exhaustively with detailed plans, including for painters and composers, that subsequently became the basis of modern classical ballet in Russia. Famously, he collaborated with Tchaikovsky on The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty. Eventually, his ballets fell out of fashion and he retired, or was retired, around 1903. Ill health obliged him to move to Gurzuf in southern Russia in 1907. He died three years later, on 14 July 1910. Further biographical information can be found at Wikipedia, Royal Opera House or Ballet Encyclopedia.

It is likely that Petipa was a habitual diarist, but only a collection of diary entries from the end of his life - between the ages of 84 and 89 - have come to light. Excerpts were first published in a Russian translation (from the French originals), which then were then translated into German in 1975. Extracts from this were translated yet again into English and appeared in Dance Magazine in 1978. However, in the early 1990s, Lynn Garafola, now Professor of Dance at Barnard, the New York liberal arts college for women, re-found the original diaries at Moscow’s Central State Archive of Literature and Art. She then translated and edited them for publication in Studies in Dance History (Vol 3.1 spring 1992) - but there appear to be no extracts of the diary entries themselves available anywhere on the internet. Moreover, printed volumes of Studies in Dance History are not easy to find.

However, Garafola’s informative introduction to the diaries IS available online, at Googlebooks, as part of a collection of her essays entitled Legacies of Twentieth-century Dance and published by Wesleyan University Press in 2005. In the introduction she says: ‘Although these are the only diaries to come to light, they are almost certainly not the only ones he wrote. On the contrary, the unvarying form of the entries, their absolute regularity . . , and the fact that they pick up in medias res leave no doubt that diary-keeping had long been part of his daily routine.’

Garafola adds that the diaries she translated cover a significant period in Petipa’s life, ‘for it witnessed the completion of his last two ballets, The Magic Mirror and The Romance of the Rosebud and the Butterfly, and his forced retirement from the Imperial Theatres’. She also explains that Petipa’s diary entries are ‘brief and matter-of-fact - the scaffolding of a life that made art not with words but in the wordless medium of movement’.

The Diary Junction has several Petipa links, and Wikipedia has one brief diary extract from his diaries. In 1907 he wrote: ‘I can state that I created a ballet company of which everyone said: St Petersburg has the greatest ballet in all Europe.’

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Weiser goes to Ohio

Conrad Weiser, a German immigrant but one of America’s great early Indian interpreters and a key figure in the development of colonial Pennsylvania, died 250 years ago today. One of many important missions took him west into the Ohio Valley to meet several Indian tribes who were in conflict with Pennsylvania over the interpretation of a treaty signed four years earlier, and during that journey he kept a diary which is freely available online.

Weiser was born in 1696, in the Duchy of Württemberg, now part of Germany. By 1709, the people in that area were suffering from French invasions as well as from disease. His mother died from the fever, and his father soon took the family to England as refugees. There they joined three thousand other Germans on ten ships, paid for by the English Crown, to cross the Atlantic and live in camps in the New York colony. After a few years, though, Weiser and his family moved 50 miles north in the colony to settle in the Schoharie Valley.

Young Weiser, aged only 15 or 16, volunteered to live with the Mohawk indians further along the valley, and thus learned much about their language and customs. In 1720, he married a German girl, and in 1729 they moved to build a homestead near the present town of Womelsdorf, in Pennsylvania, which became a centre of hospitality both for Germans and visiting Indians.

From the early 1730s, Weiser became the official interpreter for Pennsylvania, and was involved in every important Indian transaction for several decades. He was a key player, Wikipedia’s biography says, in treaty negotiations, land purchases, and the formulation of Pennsylvania’s policies towards Native Americans, especially the Iroquois. Indeed he helped keep them allied with the British as opposed to the French, thus contributing to the continued survival of the British colonies and the eventual victory of the British over the French in the French and Indian Wars.

During the second half of the 1730s, Weiser became enamored of a Baptist preacher and went to live on a monastic settlement away from his wife and children, leaving only for visits to his family and for diplomatic missions. In 1741, though, he returned home and to the Lutheran church. Otherwise he was a busy man of considerable talents, not least as a farmer, merchant and tanner. He helped plan the new town of Reading, founding a church there, and to establish Berks County. He was appointed as a colonel during the French and Indian Wars, during which he planned and established several forts. He died 250 years ago today, on 13 July 1760. There is plenty of information about Weiser online, not least at the websites of Berks HIstory Center and the Conrad Weiser Homestead museum.

One of Weiser’s deeds was to act as interpreter for the Treaty of Lancaster, between representatives of the Iroquois and the colonies of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia in 1744. But, in the years that followed, colonial officials in Pennsylvania (and Virginia) acted as if the Iroquois had sold them settlement rights to the Ohio Valley; the Iroquois believed otherwise.

In 1748, Pennsylvania sent Weiser to Logstown, a trade village on the Ohio River, where he held council with chiefs representing 10 tribes, including the Iroquois, and negotiated a treaty of friendship. Weiser kept a diary of that journey, but it was not published until 1904, when The Arthur H. Clark Company included it in its first volume of Early Western Travels, edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites - Conrad Weiser’s Journal of a tour to the Ohio; August 11-October 2, 1748.

Here are a few entries from the early part of the diary. The full text - including many interesting and useful footnotes - can be read at Internet Archive. (One note is worth reproducing, about wampum, the traditional, sacred shell beads: ‘The importance of ‘wampum’ in all Indian transactions cannot be over-estimated. It was used for money, as a much-prized ornament, to enforce a request . . , to accredit a messenger, to ransom a prisoner, to atone for a crime. No council could be held, no treaty drawn up, without a liberal use of wampum.’)

24 August 1748
‘Found a dead Man on the Road who had killed himself by Drinking too much Whisky; the Place being very stony we cou’d not dig a Grave; He smelling very strong we covered him with Stones & Wood & went on our Journey; came to the 10 Mile Lick, 32 Miles.’

25 August 1748
‘Crossed Kiskeminetoes Creek & came to Ohio that Day, 26 Miles.’

26 August 1748
‘Hired a Cannoe; paid 1,000 Black Wampum for the loan of it to Logs Town. Our Horses being all tyred, we went by Water & came that Night to a Delaware Town; the Indians used us very kindly.’

27 August 1748
‘Sett off again in the morning early; Rainy Wheather. We dined in a Seneka Town, where an old Seneka Woman Reigns with great Authority; we dined at her House, & they all used us very well; at this & the last-mentioned Delaware Town they received us by firing a great many Guns; especially at this last Place. We saluted the Town by firing off 4 pair of pistols; arrived that Evening at Logs Town, & Saluted the Town as before; the Indians returned about One hundred Guns; Great Joy appeared in their Countenances. From the Place where we took Water, i.e. from the old Shawones Town, commonly called Chartier’s Town, to this Place is about 60 Miles by Water & but 35 or 40 by Land.

The Indian Council met this Evening to shake Hands with me & to shew their Satisfaction at my safe arrival; I desired of them to send a Couple of Canoes to fetch down the Goods from Chartier’s old Town, where we had been oblig’d to leave them on account of our Horses being all tyred. I gave them a String of Wampum to enforce my Request.’

28 August 1748
‘Lay still.’

29 August 1748
‘The Indians sett off in three Canoes to fetch the Goods. I expected the Goods wou’d be all at Chartier’s old Town by the time the Canoes wou’d get there, as we met about twenty Horses of George Groghan’s at the Shawonese Cabbins in order to fetch the Goods that were then lying at Franks Town.

This Day news came to Town that the Six Nations were on the point of declaring War against the French, for reason the French had Imprison’d some of the Indian Deputies. A Council was held & all the Indians acquainted with the News, and it was said the Indian Messenger was by the way to give all the Indians Notice to make ready to fight the French. This Day my Companions went to Coscosky, a large Indian Town about 30 Miles off.’

30 August 1748
‘I went to Beaver Creek, an Indian Town about 8 Miles off, chiefly Delawares, the rest Mohocks, to have some Belts of Wampum made. This afternoon Rainy Wheather set in which lasted above a Week. Andrew Montour came back from Coscosky with a Message from the Indians there to desire of me that the ensuing Council might be held at their Town. We both lodged at this Town at George Croghan’s Trading House.’

31 August 1748
‘Sent Andrew Montour back to Coscosky with a String of Wampum to let the Indians there know that it was an act of their own that the ensuing Council must be held at Logs Town, they had order’d it do last Spring when George Croghan was up, & at the last Treaty in Lancaster the Shawonese & Twightwees have been told so, & they stayed accordingly for that purpose, & both would be offended if the Council was to be held at Coscosky, besides my instructions binds me to Logs Town, & could not go further without giving offence.’

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Young Ward’s passion

‘My spirit has been for almost two months the lowest it has ever been in my life, on account of the profound disappointment in the love which I had acquired for a girl, so pretty but so false.’ So wrote a young Lester Frank Ward, considered by some as the father of American sociology, with the very first entry in his diary a century and a half ago today. A few days later, he writes, ‘My girl I am going to abandon you eternally, you whom I have loved so deeply! It will kill me, but let me perish.’ A month later, though, all has changed: ‘And there we bathed ourselves in the passion of love until the crowing of cocks announced it was day.’

Ward was born in Joliet, Illinois, in 1841. Largely self-educated, he did study for a while at the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute in Towanda, Pennsylvania. He married his ‘girl’, Elizabeth Bought (or Vought), in 1962, and he served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Thereafter, he moved to Washington DC, where, for 15 years, he was employed by the United States Treasury Department. During this period he studied at (what would become) George Washington University.

In 1882, he was appointed Assistant Geologist in the US Geological Survey. Thereafter, he was promoted to Geologist in 1883, and Paleontologist in 1892. He was also an Honorary Curator of the Department of Fossil Plants at the US National Museum between 1882 and 1905. After that he took a faculty appointment at Brown University. He died in 1913. For further information see The American Sociological Association, the City of Joliet website, or Wikipedia.

Although Ward was considered one of the foremost paleobotanists of his time, he is probably best remembered for his pioneering work in sociology. His 1883 book Dynamic Sociology was considered revolutionary. It argued that progress depended on a planned society guided by a benevolent government which provided universal education, freedom from poverty and happiness for all. When this book was first published, apparently, no US university was running courses in sociology yet by the time of the second edition, in 1896, they all were. Further important books followed: Outlines of Sociology (1898), Pure Sociology (1903) and Applied Sociology (1906).

As a young man, Ward, writing in French, kept a diary before, during and after his Civil War experience. The manuscript was found among an archive of his documents in Brown University library, translated by Elizabeth N Nichols, and published for the first time by G P Putnam’s Sons, New York, in 1935 as Young Ward’s Diary.

The book’s editor, Bernhard J Stern, says: ‘[The diary] is not merely an interesting psychological record through adolescence and young manhood, of the developing pattern of a unique personality. It is a sociological and historical document. Its chief value lies in the ingenuous manner in which it protrays the customs and mores of rural Pennsylvania prior to the Civil War, the life of a rank and file soldier during the conflict, and the post-war political and cultural scene in the nation’s capital.’

The first section of diary entries (according to Stern’s editing) ends in August 1862 when Ward becomes a soldier in the Union Army. Intriguingly, he seems to have got married and not even confided in his diary (despite the recording of many far more mundane matters). On 13 August he ends that day’s entry with ‘. . . I must go to bed with my wife.’ Until this entry, he has always written about his ‘girl’. And five days later, in his last entry of the section (as defined by Stern) he writes: ‘The day for setting out for the war is here. Five days of our honeymoon I have spent with my wife, but this morning I must leave her, perhaps for ever! - I must leave the sweetness of her company for the difficulties and fatigues of military camp. Terrible change! I am furious this morning because my father-in-law has discovered our marriage. I am afraid that he cannot keep it secret. I worked in his hay almost all the week. Saturday evening I had a letter from Hiram.’

Here are the earliest entries in Ward’s diary: some text from opposite the first entry, the first entry itself - from exactly 150 years ago today - and a few subsequent entries.

‘I have finally decided to write in French to practice it. I am just as struck with an idea which excites me. I am going to write a journal in French beginning with the fourth of July 1860, which was last Friday. I shall write at least as often as every Sunday, and every day as long as it is possible. What a good idea!’

Sunday 8 July 1860
‘In undertaking a journal of events which concern me, I shall record a few of the most interesting things which have transpired since the fourth of this month. Without further ceremony, then, I commence.

The morning of the Fourth, so memorable to this powerful nation, found me in a state of profound lethargy resulting from much fatigue. I had intended to arise at a much earlier hour to shoot a pistol which I had prepared the night before, but it was so late when I got up that I was ashamed to shoot it. My spirit has been for almost two months the lowest it has ever been in my life, on account of the profound disappointment in the love which I had acquired for a girl, so pretty but so false. I sent her a letter that day, telling her that I wish only to see her once more and to receive only one more letter from her. I procured a half dollar from Mr Owen on the Fourth, with which I bought two strings for my violin, which I enjoy very much.’

Monday evening 9 July 1860
‘I cultivated the corn this morning for the first time this year. I was a little annoyed with the horse’s not keeping to the row.

In the afternoon I gathered and bound sheaves.

When night came I had a fine time playing on the violin while Baxter played the tambourine. My heart was very light regarding the girl whom I loved, and whom I no longer esteem.

But everyone has gone to bed, and I must wash my feet before going myself.’

Wednesday noon 11 July 1860
‘I could not write last night because Baxter wished to write a letter. I bound the sheaves all day yesterday, and only got my supper very late, and it made me very tired. That was Tuesday night, and I went to the post office to look for the promised letter from the girl, but did not find it, so I came to the conclusion that I never wished to see her again. My heart is light. I was almost sick cutting the corn all morning.

My girl I am going to abandon you eternally, you whom I have loved so deeply! It will kill me, but let me perish.’

Thursday evening 12 July 1860
‘Since the last time I wrote in my journal much has happened to me. Erastus came here last night and game me a letter from the girl which she had sent me some time previously. It contained answers to several of my letters. She is annoyed with me for calling her nonchalant and cruel. I am going to answer it as soon as possible. [. . .]’

[. . .]

Sunday morning 19 August 1860
‘Hearing mention of an Episcopal meeting at six o’clock in the evening I decided to attend it. After having finished a letter I went to Sunday School and finally to the girl’s, taking her a music book. I talked with her for an hour or two, and she entertained me wonderfully - when I returned and got something to eat, I went to church.

Mr Douglas, the minister, after having gone through all the ceremonies which belong to this church (which were, incidentally, very interesting to me), preached a very practical and profound sermon. The girl was there, and as I passed her on the stairs which lead to the gallery I saw her standing on the steps. It was a very awkward manoeuver to approach her and ask for her company to another service.

But I accomplished it casually, and she could not refuse. We went at once to another church, chatting and enjoying ourselves marvellously. She fascinated me. I remembered my previous love. What a charming girl. If I could once more press my lips on hers and draw from them my soul’s satisfaction! We returned in the evening talking all the time but more gravely than before. We arrived at the door, I entered with her, she lit a lamp and we sat down together talking, but I could not keep myself from feasting my eyes ardently and with intensity on the object of beauty and attraction at my side. Girl, I thought, if you were true to me what a happy man I should be! I took the hand which I loved, and looked at it. We spoke little more from that moment, while I looked steadily at her face and was conquered.

I could no longer keep my place. Leaning forward I received her sweet and tender form in my arms and in an instant her face was covered with kisses. What a sublime scene! Who could have words to express my emotions?

And there we bathed ourselves in the passion of love until the crowing of cocks announced it was day.’

Friday, July 2, 2010

Diary briefs

Li Peng’s Diary on sale in the US! - Wall Street Journal

Diary evidence about homeopathy in cancer death patient - ABC News

Livingstone’s diary to be scientifically examined - New Scientist

Penguin reissues Keith Haring Journals - Amazon, Penguin