Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thailand’s great ruler

King Chulalongkorn also known as Rama V, one of Thailand’s greatest rulers and reformers, died 100 years ago today. For much of his reign, and especially when travelling, he kept diaries. Recently, Ohio State University acquired rare copies of many of these diaries and launched a project to digitalise them. This has just been completed and they are now all available on the internet - but in the original Thai language.

Chulalongkorn was born in 1853, in Bangkok, the eldest son of King Mongkut. Because Chulalongkorn was still a minor when his father died in 1868, Si Suriyawongse, one of Mongkut’s closest advisers, was appointed regent until his coming of age in 1873. The young Chulalongkorn took the unprecedented step of travelling abroad - to Singapore, Java and British India - to observe European methods of administration, some of which he would later use to modernise his country.

King Chulalongkorn’s early reforms included the abolition of slavery, the closure of gambling houses, the establishing of an auditory office (to replace the corrupt tax system in place) and a privy council based on the British example. He also chartered a Council of State to act as a legislative body, though this proved ineffective and was later disbanded. His early years of rule were characterised by internal power battles, and having to deal with insurgencies on the borders with China. However, in time he set about wholesale administrative reforms, overturning the traditional methods that had been in place for centuries. He established a royal military academy to train troops in the Western fashion; he founded a Department of Education; and he implemented a title deed act confirming peasants’ claim to their land.

Thailand’s first railroad - from Bangkok to Ayutthaya - was opened in 1896. And it was also during Chulalongkorn’s reign that the traditional lunar system was replaced by the Western calendar, and that a modern system of coins and banknotes was introduced. He also declared religious freedom, allowing Christianity and Islam to be practiced in the Buddhist country. During his reign, Siam lost territory, now in Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia, but, by playing off Britain against France, he managed to preserve the country’s independence - confirmed by a convention, signed in 1896, guaranteeing Siam as a buffer state between British and French possessions.

According to Wikipedia’s biography, Chulalongkorn took four of his half-sisters (Mongkut’s daughters) as wives, and had 149 other consorts and concubines. Between them they bore him 33 sons and 44 daughters. He died a century ago today, on 23 October 1910 (a day commemorated with a national holiday). A few years later the country’s first university was founded and named in his honour - Chulalongkorn University. For more biographical information see Wikipedia or The Royal Thai Embassy (Singapore).

Earlier this month, Ohio University Libraries announced, via its Southeast Asia Collection Blog, that it had completed a project to digitalise 24 volumes of Chulalongkorn’s diary, spanning the years 1876 to 1887, as well as many more volumes of travel writings. These are all now available at Internet Archive - but only in the original Thai language. The project was funded or supported by the US Department of Education, the David K Wyatt Thai Collection, Digital Initiatives, Lyrasis, and Internet Archive itself.

King Chulalongkorn ruled the Kingdom of Siam with ‘a remarkable astuteness and foresight at a time of extraordinary danger and change in Southeast Asia’, the Blog explains, and his diary and travel writings ‘constitute one of the single-most important collections of primary sources on the period’. Even in Thailand these works are quite rare, it says, and accessible only to a handful of scholars.

Notwithstanding the Ohio Libraries information, there are some published editions of Chulalongkorn’s diaries which are still in print in Thailand and read today, such as the diary of his trip to Europe, Klai Ban (Far from Home), according to a feature on the King in the Pattaya Mail.

There appears to be no translations into English of Chulalongkorn’s diary or travel writing, but a review in English of a French translation of his diary or travel writing to Java in 1896 can be found on the Persee website. The review says of the translated text, ‘this is no dry-as-dust official memoir. Instead Chulalongkorn springs to life vividly from these pages as a perceptive and shrewd observer of the colonial scene as much at home amongst the frock-coated and bejewelled denizens of the ubiquitous Dutch clubs, as in the Kongsi of the Kapitan Cina [captains of Chinese enclaves] and the kratons [palaces] of the Central Javanese rulers.’

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I complained to Chev

Julia Ward Howe died a century ago today. Little remembered, she was well known in her lifetime as a writer and social campaigner, particularly against slavery, and for the early women’s movement. Two biographies, ninety years apart in their writing, quote extensively from her diaries. Only the newer of the biographies, however, uncovers the extent of her domestic unhappiness.

Julia Ward was born in New York City in 1819, into an established New England family. Her father was a banker, and her oldest brother, Samuel, would marry into the wealthy Astor family. In 1843, the by now accomplished socialite married the serious Samuel Gridley Howe nearly 20 years her senior. He was a hero of the Greek war for independence (which had led to his being known as The Chevalier or simply Chev), and had become a pioneer educator of blind and handicapped children. They had five children that survived into adulthood, but the marriage was always strained.

In 1848, some of Julia’s poems appeared in anthologies, and in 1854 she published, anonymously, her own collection under the title Passion Flowers. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that the book seemed ‘to let out a whole history of domestic unhappiness. . . . What does her husband think of it?’ Indeed later, in her journal, she wrote: ‘I have been married twenty years today. In the course of that time I have never known my husband to approve of any act of mine which I myself valued. Books - poems - essays - everything has been contemptible in his eyes because not his way of doing things. . . I am much grieved and disconcerted.’

Julia continued to publish poems, as well as travel and biographical writing, and a play of hers was performed in 1857. During the 1850s, also, she was drawn into the anti-slavery movement, being a member of the short-lived Free-Soil Party. And when the civil war broke out, she joined the Sanitary Commission which had been formed to coordinate the volunteer efforts of women for the Union states. In 1862 The Atlantic Monthly published Battle Hymn of the Republic, an abolitionist hymn, for which she wrote the words, though not the music (composed by William Steffe in 1856). It was much sung during the war, and has remained a very popular American patriotic song - indeed, Wikipedia’s entry on the hymn is four or five times longer than the one on Julia herself.

In 1868 Howe founded the New England Women’s Suffrage Association, and the following year was involved in forming the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). And the year after that she was the first to proclaim a Mother’s Day. For the next 20 years, she co-edited AWSA’s magazine, Woman’s Journal. In 1898, she became the first woman to be elected to the American Academy of Arts. She died 100 years ago today on 17 October 1910. Further biographical information is available from the websites of The Celebration of Women Writers or The Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography.

A recent biography published by Continuum in 2006 - Diva Julia: The Public Romance and Private Agony of Julia Ward Howe by Valarie H Ziegler - quotes often from diaries kept by Julia intermittently. Ziegler says: ‘Diary entries in the 1860s and 1870s continued to disclose scenes of fierce family warfare - of children loyal to their father and furious with their mother, of a wife so distraught with her husband that every moment in his home was filled with agony.’ And here is one example:

‘Diary entries in November and December 1865,’ Ziegler says, ‘give further insight into the squabbles that marked the Howes’ domestic lives. Their lease on their Chestnut Street house - where Sammy [a sixth child] had been born and died - had expired, and Julia noted with sadness her last day in the house on November 3. By November 4, she was already unhappy with Chev’s behaviour in their new residence at 19 Boylston. Her diary noted that she “was very angry with Chev, who is carrying out his plan of putting a hearth & grate in the parlour, entirely against my wishes.” This was a prelude to the battle of the furnace that would transpire in December.

On December 18, Julia observed in her diary, “I complained to Chev this morning of the severe cold of the parlour, last evening, with no unkind intention.” Chev was not sympathetic. “He retorted furiously, saying that it was all my fault, the result of my want of system. I told him these repeated chills wd shorten my life.” Chev answered that dirt in the house would shorten his life. Julia had had enough. “I said, ‘it does not seem to.’ He left, and Maud cried, and Flossy attacked me most severely.” . . .

Julia’s diary December 19 recorded that she was “very melancholy on account of yesterday’s disagreement.” ’

Further on in Ziegler’s book (available for view on Googlebooks) there is an entertaining description of how three of Julia’s children squabbled over the writing of their mother’s biography. This was published in two volumes some 90 years earlier, in 1916, by Houghton Mifflin with the title - Julia Ward Howe 1819-1910. Laura E Richards and Maud Howe Elliott are credited with being the authors ‘assisted by’ Florence Howe Hall. The books are freely available online at Internet Archive (as well as on The Celebration of Women Writers website), and also include extensive quotes from Julia’s diaries. (According to Ziegler, though, Laura’s early drafts of the book contained even more diary extracts but they were edited out for being less entertaining than Julia’s letters.)

Here are several diary entries (as they appear in the 1916 biography) from the last days of 1866.

27 December 1866
‘Let me live until to-morrow, and not be ridiculous! I have a dinner party and an evening party to-day and night, and knowing myself to be a fool for my pains, am fain to desire that others may not find it out and reproach me as they discover it.

Got hold of Fichte [German philosopher] a little which rested my weary brain.

My party proved very pleasant and friendly.’

29 December 1866
‘I read last night at the Club a poem, ‘The Rich Man’s Library,’ which contrasts material and mental wealth, much to the disparagement of the former. I felt as if I ought to read it, having inwardly resolved never again to disregard that inner prompting which leaves us no doubt as to the authority of certain acts which present themselves to us for accomplishment. Having read the poem, however, I felt doubtful whether after all I had done well to read it in that company. I will hope, however, that it may prove not to have been utterly useless. The imperfection of that which we try to do well sometimes reacts severely upon us and discourages us from further effort. It should not.’

31 December 1866
‘Ran about all day, but studied and wrote also. “Farewell, old Diary, farewell, old Year! Good, happy and auspicious to me and mine, and to mankind, I prayed that you might be, and such I think you have been. To you have brought valued experience and renewed study. You have introduced me to Fichte, you have given me the honor of a new responsibility, you have made me acquainted with some excellent personages, among them Baron McKaye, a youth of high and noble nature; Perabo, an artist of real genius. . . You have taught me new lessons of the true meaning and discipline of life, the which should make me more patient in all endurance, more strenuous in all endeavor. You have shown me more clearly the line of demarcation between different talents, pursuits, and characters. So I thank and bless your good days, looking to the Supreme from whom we receive all things.

The most noticeable events of the year just passed, so far as I am concerned, are the following: the invitation received by me to read at the Century Club in New York. This reading was hindered by the death of my brother-in-law, J. N. Howe. The death of dear Uncle John. My journey to Washington to get Chev the Greek appointment. Gurowski’s death. Attendance at the American Academy of Science at Northampton in August. The editorship of the new weekly. My study of Fichte’s ‘Sittenlehre’ and the appearance of my essay on the ‘Ideal State’ in the ‘Christian Examiner.’ My reading at Lexington for the Monument Association. My being appointed a delegate from the Indiana Place Church to the Boston Conference of Unitarian and other Christian Churches. My readings at Northampton, Washington, and elsewhere are all set down in their place.

The bitter opposition of my family renders this service a very difficult and painful one for me. I do not, therefore, seek occasions of performing it, not being quite clear as to the extent to which they ought to limit my efficiency; but when the word and the time come together I always try to give the one to the other and always shall. God instruct whichever of us is in the wrong about this. And may God keep mean and personal passions far removed from me in the coming years. The teaching of life has of late done much to wean me from them, but the true human requires culture and the false human suppression every day of our lives and as long as we live.’

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Great Earl of Cork

It is 444 years to the day since the birth of Richard Boyle, the First and ‘Great’ Earl of Cork, a British entrepreneur and politician who made his name and his fortune in the British colony of Ireland. He had many children, several of whom became famous. He was also a diary writer, and left behind an extensive archive of papers, now held by the National Library of Ireland.

Boyle was born on 13 October 1566 in Canterbury, and studied at Cambridge and the Middle Temple. While still in his young 20s, he decided to seek his fortune in Ireland. There he obtained a legal, and financially lucrative, appointment; and, in 1595, he married Joan Apsley, from a wealthy Limerick family, though she died during childbirth a few years later. Having accrued land and wealth, he lost it during the Munster rebellion in 1598.

Boyle was oliged to return to London, where, after a while, he was imprisoned on charges of embezzlement concerning his past activities in Ireland. He was acquitted, and then returned to Ireland on being appointed by Queen Elizabeth I as clerk of the council of Munster.

In 1602, he bought Sir Walter Raleigh’s large holdings in Cork, Waterford and Tipperary (including Lismore Castle), and then set about improving the lands and businesses, creating trade and founding towns. He also married again, to Catherine Fenton, who bore him many children, including Robert Boyle, today called the father of modern chemistry, and Roger Boyle, a soldier and dramatist, who also kept a diary - see Height and raptures.

In 1620, Richard Boyle was created Earl of Cork, and in 1629, he was appointed one of the lord justices of Ireland. Two years later he became lord high treasurer. But then, in 1933, began a long conflict with Thomas Wentworth, the new lord deputy of Ireland, which led to a decline in Boyle’s privileges and in his income. Boyle patiently opposed Wentworth and his harsh rule, and later testified against him when brought to trial by Parliament.

Boyle died in 1643, having been chased off his lands during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. His sons, however, recovered the family estates after the suppression of the rebellion. Further biographical information is available at Wikipedia and The Peerage.

The National Library of Ireland holds a large Boyle family archive, called the Lismore Castle Papers - its catalogue runs to nearly 900 pages! Included are the diaries, letters and other papers of Richard Boyle. Many of these were first transcribed by Alexander Balloch Grosart, a Scottish clergyman and literary editor, over a century ago, and printed in 10 volumes for private circulation in the 1880s. They were titled The Lismore Papers, viz Autobiographical, Notes, Remembrances and Diaries of Sir Richard Boyle, First and ‘Great’ Earl of Cork.

All of the Grosart volumes are freely available at Internet Archive. Here is a sample of Boyle’s diary from early on in the first volume

1 March 1612
‘I agreed with mason John Hamon to fynish my outward gate of my house in yoghall & the chymney in my perler there; the stones being all hewed and made fytt before by my Irish mason; for which I paid him [. . .]’

3 March 1612
‘Captn Robert Tynt was married in my studdy in yoghall by my cozen Richard Boyle dean of Waterforde to my Kinswoman Mrs Elizabeth Boyle als. Seckerston widdow; and I gaue her unto him in marriadge, and I beseech god to bless them wth good agreement and many vertuous children.’

10 March 1612
‘I rodd to the assizes at waterforde.’

16 March 1612
‘The assizes began at yoghall.’

25 March 1612
‘I am to receave of Katulen ffitz gerrald of my tyeth money in Kerry [. . .] she hath not paid me.’

29 March 1612
‘I had a mortgage from Edward Walches great orchard over against my garden, and paid him other [. . .] for the release of his Interest in that garden, and in the North Abbey of yoghall; whereof I was in possession, at the perfecting his said assurance to me.’

A longer, and more accessible, entry from Boyle’s diary is available on the Library Ireland website in an article on Lismore Castle taken from the Dublin Penny Journal in 1833. This entry is dated just two months before Boyle’s death.

10 July 1643
‘This day the rebel Lieutenant, General Purcell, commanding again in chief, in revenge of his former defeat received at Cappoquin, reinforced his army to 7,000 foot, and 900 horse, with three pieces of ordnance, and drew again near to Cappoquin, and there continued four days, wasting and spoiling the country round about, but attempted nothing of any consequence. And when the 22d at night, that the Lord Viscount Muskrie came to the Irish army with some addition of new forces, they removed from Cappoquin in the night before my castle of Lismore, and on Saturday morning the 23d July, 1643, they began their battery from the church to the east of Lismore-house, and made a breach into my own house, which Captain Broadripp and my warders, being about 150, repaired stronger with earth than it was before, and shot there till the Thursday the 27th, and never durst attempt to enter the breach, my ordnance and musket shot from my castle did so apply them. Then they removed their battery to the south-west of my castle, and continued beating against my orchard wall, but never adventured into my orchard, my shot from my turrets did so continually beat and clear the curteyn of the wall. The 28th of July God sent my two sons, Dungarvan and Broghill, to land at Youghal, out of England, and the 29th they rode to the Lord of Inchiquins, who with the army were drawn to Tallagh, and staid there in expectation of Colonel Peyn, with his regiment from Tymolay, who failed to join, but Inchiquin, Dungarvan and Broghill, and Sir John Powlett, the Saturday in the evening (upon some other directions brought over by Dungarvan from his Majesty,) he made a treaty that evening with Muskrie and others, and the Saturday the 30th, they agreed upon a cessation for six days. Monday night, when they could not enter my house, they removed their siege and withdrew the ordnance and army - two or three barrels of powder - two or three pieces of ordnance of twenty-three pounds, and killed but one of my side, God be praised.’

Friday, October 8, 2010

When the battle rages

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Ash Windham, a British soldier who distinguished himself in Crimea, served in India, and became commander of the British Forces in Canada. While in Crimea, he kept a diary which was published over a century ago and is now freely available online. This is the third diarist - after Edward Cooper Hodge and Florence Nightingale - connected to the Crimean War to be featured by The Diary Junction Blog.

Windham, the fourth son of Admiral William Windham, of Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk, was born on 8 October 1810. Educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he entered the Coldstream Guards at the age of 16. He served in Canada during Papineau’s rebellion against British treatment of French-Canadians, and rose through the army ranks to Captain and Lieut.-Colonel in 1846. In 1849 he retired on half pay and, in the same year, married Marianne Catherine Emily, daughter of Admiral Sir John Beresford.

On the outbreak of the Crimean War, Windham was appointed Assistant Quartermaster-General to the 4th Division, commanded by Sir George Cathcart and then Lord Raglan. He is best remembered for his part in the assault on Redan, one of the Russian fortifications at Sebastopol. Subsequently, he was appointed Governor of a part of Sebastopol. On returning to England, he was knighted, and served briefly as an MP, before being sent to Calcutta during the Indian Mutiny, where he defended the town of Cawnpore, and was in command of Lahore until his return to England in 1861. 

Windham was knighted in 1865, and married for a second time in 1866. The following year he sailed again to Canada to serve as commander of the British Forces there. He died at Jacksonville, Florida, in 1870. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has the only detailed biography of Windham online (though a subscription or library card is required for access). A little further information is available from the auctioneer Christies (which sold a vase given to Windham by his ‘friends in Warwickshire for his services during the Crimean War’)

In 1897, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner published The Crimean Diary and Letters of Lieut.-General Sir Charles Ash Windham, K.C.B with an introduction by Sir William Howard Russell. This is freely available online at Internet Archive, and is the source of the following extracts: the first three entries in the diary, and then two from a few weeks later (chosen because the dates match those of extracts used for the earlier blog article on Edward Cooper Hodge about the charges of the light and heavy brigades.

1 September 1854
‘Arrived at Constantinople this morning, and heard that the Army was embarking for Sebastopol, and would probably sail on the 3rd. The French and English have suffered severely from sickness in Bulgaria. For my part I never felt better, and I sincerely hope I may be preserved to return home; but, above all things, I do earnestly pray that God will grant me strength and courage to behave as becomes a man and a soldier, come what may. It will be my first battle, and no man can say what effect that may have on him, so I repeat that, above all things, I pray for a stout heart and a clear head when the battle rages fiercest, particularly should we be unsuccessful.’

2 September 1854
‘Anniversary of the death of a great English soldier, Oliver Cromwell. I wonder what he would do if at Varna? I had a long and interesting talk, last evening, after dinner with the General [Sir George Cathcart]. He told me all he intended doing, and I am convinced that he is perfectly right in his views.’

3 September 1854
‘Went on shore and saw Lord Raglan, Sir George Brown, General Airey, Admirals Dundas and Lyons. Drew some necessaries for servants and the detachment of the 46th Regiment, now on board here. I did what I could to find out what I had to do, but, as to this, got but little information. I was glad to see Lord Raglan looking so well, and as to General Brown, he looks the freshest man here; and I do not doubt he will lead the Light Division “like a good ‘un.” For my part, what I fear is the condition of the men. They are so dispirited and downcast by sickness that I very much question their fighting in the resolute way I am sure they would have fought had this expedition been undertaken months ago. I think that, from a strategical point of view, Odessa is the place to attack. Why we should choose to fight the Russians with a strong fortification to assist them, instead of fighting them with an open town near us that would probably offer no resistance, is more than I can understand. From what I can learn the French seem to be opposed to the attack (on Sebastopol); the English think it too late in the year, and a great many of our superior officers look upon it as hazardous and doubtful. And no one seems in the right spirit to do it. The French have lost a frightful number of men by sickness, and will only be able to embark twenty thousand ; we shall send twenty-two or twenty-three thousand, and I understand the Turks will send ten thousand. One thing is certain, we must all do our best.

25 October 1854
‘Horsford had just pointed out to me the confused masses of French upon the hill to our right, and I had just gone to point out the same to the General, when up galloped Captain Ewart, of the 93rd, and ordered us (the 4th Division) off to Balaclava. We got under arms immediately, and, on arriving at the scene of action, were informed that the Turks had run off to a man without firing a shot [a footnote by the Russell states: ‘This information was quite erroneous. The Turks defended No. 1 Redoubt very gallantly, and lost heavily’] running straight through our Cavalry Camp. The Russians instantly took possession of the position, but abandoned the greater portion of it on our approach. The cavalry instantly went into action, and the Heavy Brigade did very well. Unfortunately the Light Brigade was ordered to charge, and they did so gallantly; but, being received by three times their numbers and three batteries of artillery, besides riflemen, they got cut up and driven back, losing about half their number. The 4th Division got there just as this charge was being made, and the Russians abandoned two of the redoubts, retaining only the one furthest to the eastward. Captain Nolan, who took the orders to Lord Cardigan, was killed, charging at the head of the Light Cavalry. Although a good fellow, from all I can learn, his conduct was inexcusable. His whole object appears to have been to have a charge at the Russians at any cost ; but he could not have chosen a worse time. After the fight was over, and we had been pounded for the better portion of the day, we returned at night to camp, abandoning our original line as too extensive. My leg wonderfully painful all day, but I held on.’

26 October 1854
‘The Russians, rendered daring by their success against the Turks yesterday, made to-day a sortie against the 2nd Division. We (4th Division) turned out, but were not wanted, as the Russians soon beat a retreat, getting a handsome mauling, and losing 500 men in killed and wounded. They could not stand the fire, and, though they got up their guns, did not fire a shot with them. General Bosquet came down, but too late for the fun. I rode forward and joined the skirmishers of the 2nd Division for a few minutes. Leg still very bad.’

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Diary briefs

Jimmy Carter’s White House Diary - Macmillan, The New York Times,

Marilyn Monroe’s Fragments - Macmillan, The Guardian

Lieutenant Wootton’s First World War diary - BBC

Tommy’s Peace: A Family Diary 1919-33 - Random House Group

Crew diaries reunited with vessel after 150 years - BBC