Saturday, December 31, 2011

Diary briefs

Jim Reeves: His Untold Story (Kindle edition) - Amazon, Panola Watchman

Civil War 150 Legacy Project - Fox News,

Prisoner of war Albert Ions’ diaries - Chronicle Live

Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler - The New York Times, Amazon,

More on Kate McCann’s diaries - The Guardian

Robert Boyle’s workdiaries

Robert Boyle, the great English scientist, died 320 years ago today. Famed for his role as the father of chemistry and modern experimental methods, he is also known for discovering Boyle’s Law, various inventions, and for leaving behind a large number of writings, not least his workdiaries. These latter have been made freely available online thanks to the Robert Boyle Project at Birkbeck College, London.

Boyle was born in 1627, son of Richard Boyle, an Elizabethan adventurer-colonist who made his fortune in Ireland and became ennobled as the 1st Earl of Cork. (Richard Boyle, in fact, was a noted diarist - see The Diary Junction and The Great Earl of Cork.) He studied for a short while at Eton before travelling on the Continent with a French tutor. After returning to England in 1644, he went to live at a manor in Stalbridge, Dorset, inherited from his father. He also tried moving to Ireland, where he owned other estates, but by the 1650s was living mostly in Oxford where he associated with a group of natural philosophers.

Boyle’s travels abroad had given him a taste for scientific research, and, although his first writings had largely been concerned with moral and literary aspects of life, once in Oxford he began to focus more on science. A first achievement - improvements to the air-pump invented in Germany - came with the help of Robert Hooke; and in 1660 Boyle published New Experiments: Physico-Mechanical, Touching the Spring of the Air, and its Effects: Made, for the most part, in a New Pneumatical Engine.

In the early 1660s, Boyle described in print what has since become known as Boyle’s Law, i.e. that there is an inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system. Around the same time he also became a founding member of the Royal Society, as incorporated by Charles II (though later when elected President he declined the honour). In 1668 he moved to London, where he lived at the house of his sister, and where he continued to experiment and write until his death on 31 December 1691. Among his more significant publications during this period were: Experiments, Notes, &, about the Mechanical Origin or Production of Divers Particular Qualities; sequels to his New Experiments; Memoirs for the Natural History of Human Blood; and Medicina Hydrostatica.

See the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy or Wikipedia for further biographical information. However, there is also a large amount of information about Boyle on the Robert Boyle Project website hosted by Birkbeck College, part of the University of London. In 2001, the Project published an online edition of Boyle’s so-called workdiaries, written between 1647 and 1691. More recently, the workdiaries have been given their own website hosted by Cell (Centre for Editing Lives and Letters).

The Project website says: ‘These modest-looking bundles of papers and stitched books, some stained with chemicals and covered with notes and comments, reveal the methods and procedures of Boyle’s scientific enquiries.’ They also include ‘records of recipes, measurements, apparatus and data collection, as well as notes from Boyle’s reading and conversations with travellers and artisans.’ Here’s two tasters of the workdiaries taken from the start of workdiary 16

1 January 1657
‘Take Linseed Oyle {pound}1 frankinsence {pound}; comon Amber {ounce} 2 Gummi Lacca {ounce} 1; Aloes {ounce} 2 Beat the Amber by it selfe & melt it by it selfe Beat the Gumme into fine powder Boyle all these with a gentle fire 2 houres (keeping the Liquor constantly stirring with a Stick least it Burne) till the Materialls be perfectly dissolv’d in the Oyle And then have you made your vernish to guild Leather with’.

2 January 1657
‘Take Aquila Cælestis & dissolve it in as much water as will barely suffice for the solution of it, In this Liquor dissolve as much Sal Infernalis as you can in a gentle heat Then let it stand in the open aire, (stirring it often) till the humidity be evaporated & the bodies united this masse you may if need be once more moisten/original pagination, with the Solution of the Infernall Salt & to make it dry the sooner you may Incorporate it with sifted bone=ashes & when it is perfectly dry draw it over with a strong fire & if need be severall Cohobations, In like maner you may imbibe the fixt Salt of the Homogeneous Menstruum with as much of the dissolvd volatile Salt or Sp: of the same as the fixt salt will retaine & Conjunction being made in the open aire the united Salts may be drawne over with Due Cohobation as formerly’.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Race to the South Pole

One hundred years ago today, the Norwegian Roald Amundsen and four others in his team were the first explorers to reach the South Pole. A British party led by Robert Falcon Scott, who had made a previous, but unsuccessful, attempt to reach the Pole, was not far behind, and arrived a month later. However, whereas the Norwegian party returned home, Scott’s party all died from cold and hunger. Scott’s diary of his last expedition was first published in 1913, but Amundsen’s diary has only just recently been published in English for the first time.

Amundsen was born in 1872 to a family of Norwegian shipowners and captains in Borge, 80km or so south of Oslo. Initially, he chose to study medicine at the urging of his mother, though gave up at the age of 21 when she died. Having long been inspired by the great Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen (see Siberian driftwood cannot lie), he sold his medical books and took work as ordinary seaman. By 1895, he had obtained his papers as mate, and by 1900 his master’s license. His first experience of the polar regions came in the late 1890s on a Belgian expedition with Adrien de Gerlache.

In 1903, Amundsen led the first expedition to successfully traverse Canada’s Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, though the team had to over-winter three times before returning home in 1906. Significantly, during this time, Amundsen learned various skills from the native Eskimos, such as the use of sledge dogs and the wearing of animal skins.

Amundsen planned next to go to the North Pole, but on hearing in 1909 that others had already claimed that prize, he secretly decided to reorganise his forthcoming expedition - to Antartica. Employing the Fram, the same vessel used by Fridtjof Nansen, Amundsen and his team arrived at the Bay of Whales in January 1911, and made a base camp. Five of them set off on 20 October using skis, four sledges, 52 dogs, and employing animal skins, rather than heavy wool, for clothing. Less than two months later, they were the first to reach the Geographic South Pole. Scott, meanwhile, with four colleagues reached the Pole five weeks later, and were bitterly disappointed to have lost the race. All five of them died on the return journey. So tragic was their fate, indeed, that their story has become far more famous that Amundsen’s

After his venture in Antartica, Amundsen developed a successful shipping business, and set out on more ventures using a new vessel, Maud. An expedition, starting in 1918, during which he planed to freeze the Maud in the polar ice cap and drift towards the North Pole (as Nansen had done with the Fram) proved troublesome, costly and ultimately unsuccessful.

Subsequently, Amundsen focused on air travel to reach the Pole. After a promising effort using flying boats, he, and 15 others (including the Italian aeronautical engineer Umberto Nobile), succeeded in flying an airship from Spitsbergen to Alaska in two days, crossing the Pole, in May 1926. However, the last years of Amundsen’s life were embittered by disputes over credit for the flight. He died in 1928 while on a mission to rescue Nobile who had crashed an airship returning from the North Pole.

Wikipedia and the Fram Museum website have more biographical information. And The International Journal of Scientific History has a briefing on the claim that Amundsen and his colleague Oscar Wisting were not only first to the South Pole, but also to the North Pole.

Scott’s diary of his ill-fated expedition was published (by Smith, Elder & Co) as early as 1913, in the first volume of Scott’s Last Expedition. This is freely available at Internet Archive. However, it was not until last year (2010) that Amundsen’s diary of his South Pole expedition was published in English, thanks to Roland Huntford. According to the publisher Continuum, Huntford is ‘the world’s foremost authority on the polar expeditions and their protagonists’. His book - Race for the South Pole: The Expedition Diaries of Scott and Amundsen - contains Amundsen’s diary entries alongside those of Scott, and also Olav Bjaaland, one of Amundsen’s colleagues.

‘Cutting through the welter of controversy to the events at the heart of the story,’ Continuum says, ‘Huntford weaves the narrative from the protagonists’ accounts of their own fate. What emerges is a whole new understanding of what really happened on the ice and the definitive account of the Race for the South Pole.’

Here are entries from both Amundsen’s and Scott’s diaries concerning their arrivals at the South Pole. The one by Amundsen is taken from Huntford’s book, while the Scott entries are taken from the 1913 publication. It is worth noting, though, that the British Library website has made available, since last year, photographs of Scott’s original 1911 Antarctic diary.

By mistake, Amundsen’s calender was not put back when the Fram crossed the International Date Line, and when the mistake was discovered Amundsen decided it would be too difficult to revise all the diary and log entries, and so he kept the wrong calendar dates going - hence he actually arrived at the Pole on the 14th, even though his diary dates it the 15th. Håkon VII was King of Norway at the time.

14 December 1911, Roald Amundsen
‘Thursday 15 Decbr.
So we arrived, and were able to raise our flag at the geographical South Pole - King Håkon VII’s Vidda. Thanks be to God! The time was 3pm when this happened. The weather was of the best kind when we set off this morning, but at 10am, it clouded over and hid the sun. Fresh breeze from the SE. The skiing has been partly good, partly bad. The plain - King H VII’s Vidda - has had the same appearance - quite falt and without what one might call sastrugi. The sun reappeared in the afternoon, and now we much go out and take a midnight observation. Naturally we are not exactly at the point called 90°, but after all our excellent observations and dead reckoning we must be very close. We arrived here with three sledges and 17 dogs. HH put one down just after arrival. ‘Hlege’ was worn out. Tomorrow we will go out in three directions to circle the area round the Pole. We have had our celebratory meal - a little piece of seal meat each. We leave here the day after tomorrow with two sledges. The third sledge will be left here. Likewise we will leave a little three man tent (Rønne) with the Norwegian flag and a pennant marked Fram.’

16 January 1912, Scott
‘[. . .] Half an hour later he detected a black speck ahead. Soon we knew that this could not be a natural snow feature. We marched on, found that it was a black flag tied to a sledge bearer; near by the remains of a camp; sledge tracks and ski tracks going and coming and the clear trace of dogs’ paws - many dogs. This told us the whole story. The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment, and I am very sorry for my loyal com- panions. Many thoughts come and much discussion have we had. To-morrow we must march on to the Pole and then hasten home with all the speed we can compass. All the day dreams must go; it will be a wearisome return. [. . .]’

17 January 1912, Scott
‘Camp 69. T. -22° at start. Night - 21°. The POLE. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected. We have had a horrible day - add to our disappointment a head wind 4 to 5, with a temperature -22°, and companions labouring on with cold feet and hands.

We started at 7.30, none of us having slept much after the shock of our discovery. We followed the Norwegian sledge tracks for some way; as far as we make out there are only two men. In about three miles we passed two small cairns. Then the weather overcast, and the tracks being increasingly drifted up and obviously going too far to the west, we decided to make straight for the Pole according to our calculations. At 12.30 Evans had such cold hands we camped for lunch - an excellent ‘week-end one.’ We had marched 7.4 miles. Lat. sight gave 89° S3’ 37”. We started out and did 6 1/2 miles due south. To-night little Bowers is laying himself out to get sights in terrible difficult circumstances; the wind is blowing hard, T. -21°, and there is that curious damp, cold feeling in the air which chills one to the bone in no time. We have been descending again, I think, but there looks to be a rise ahead; otherwise there is very little that is different from the awful monotony of past days. Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. Well, it is something to have got here, and the wind may be our friend to-morrow. We have had a fat Polar hoosh in spite of our chagrin, and feel comfortable inside - added a small stick of chocolate and the queer taste of a cigarette brought by Wilson. Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it.’

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Diary briefs

19th century cricketer’s diaries up for auction - Chilcotts, Yeovil People

Elgar’s diaries to attend concert in Norwich! - Norfolk Eastern Daily Press

Chaplain At Gallipoli - Kenneth Best’s war diaries - Henley Standard

Leveson inquiry and Kate McCann’s diary - The Guardian, Mail Online

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbour diaries

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbour that brought the United States into the Second World War. A few diary extracts recording the event are available online. East Carolina University has one of the best collection of digital resources on Pearl Harbour; the editor of Skagit River Journal has made available the diary entry of his father; and Brandon University has web pages honouring one of its professors, who was a student in Hawaii on the fateful day. At the political level, the US Secretary of War at the time kept a diary, and entries from this have been used to support the idea that the US and British governments knew of the attack in advance but let it happen so as to draw the US into the war.

The American military base at Pearl Harbour on Hawaii was attacked by Japan during the morning of 7 December 1941. Japan’s aim was to keep the US Pacific Fleet from interfering with its own actions against the overseas territories of several European nations in Southeast Asia. Some 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes, launched from six aircraft carriers, caused huge damage: 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded; four US battleships were sunk, and four others damaged (six of these eight, however, were raised and/or repaired for further service); other vessels, including cruisers and destroyers, were also damaged; and 188 aircraft were destroyed. By contrast, Japanese losses, in personnel and hardware, were very light.

The Japanese aggression shocked the American people, which hitherto had been pro isolation and against American involvement in the European war, and it led directly - on the following day - to a US declaration of war on Japan. Clandestine support of the UK turned into active alliance, and within three further days, Germany and Italy had declared war on the US and vice versa. For more information see Wikipedia or the BBC.

East Carolina University’s Joyner Library has an online exhibition commemorating the 60th anniversary of the attack. It provides access to a large number of digital resources, including official and personal texts, biographies, and pictures. However, there are very few actual diary texts. One was written by Robert Hailey on USS Indianapolis; and another by Louis P. Davis, Jr. on USS Reid. There is no biographical information about either sailor. Although Davis’s diary extract sometimes reads as though it was written while the action was happening, the photographs of the diary pages, on the exhibition website, suggest the entry was written all at one time.

Robert Hailey’s diary
7 December 1941
‘G.Q. [General Quarters] at 0538 - routine drill! Shortly before 0800 no. 1 Higgins boat was placed over the side after we had anchored just off Johnson Is. Before other boats could be placed over the side or any trys made dispatches were received that P.H. [Pearl Harbor] Had been bombed by Japanese planes. All plans for landing on Johnson Is. were abandoned. Boats and planes hoisted aboard - no fuel to the 5 DMS with us - course set for interception of enemy forces south of Hawaii - these forces proceeding from the south, last reported near Palmyra - 8 large ships and one Jap sub sunk by planes off PH. - two carriers engaged just outside P.H. several miles - Hickam - Ford Island - residential Honolulu near the Pali bombed. - G.Q. about noon because of what appeared to be a sub - false alarm but not a drill. War has been declared - now there is to be much required from us all.

Afternoon - dispatches, newscasts and “scuttlebutt dope” has kept the day a busy one. Division put on a full wartime basis - all excess gear stowed below. We have changed rendezvous several times - mostly in an effort to intercept the fleeing carriers. P.H. seems to have suffered severely, Hickam damaged badly - 350 men killed in a bombed barracks, oil tanks at P.H. afire Oklahoma hit by bomb, is afire - no word on other damage-rumors Honolulu also damaged.

Manilla definately bombed - Wake & Guam uncertain. Condition II throughout day & tonight - Everyone excited but with only one thought - glad to get things underway and have uncertainty over. No one can understand how this attack was executed and the Japs gotten so close - why carriers not sunk is also not understandable.

Anticipate with what the chance that we may encounter then and get a whack at them- it would be an enjoyable sensation after today’s activity.’

Louis P. Davis, Jr.’s diary
7 December 1941
‘Was peacefully reminicing in my bunk about last night. Had been to a party with the Wilhmots at the Hickam Field Officer’s club. Several alarm sounded the clock said 0800 so I surmised that they must be testing it. Heard a yell from passageway “Mr Davis, we are being attackd” I jumped up ran to the door of the Wardroom. As I went up a Japanese plane bellied up over Ford Island clearly showing the rising sun on it’s wings. Made the director in nothing flat to get battery firing. I am senior gunnery officer aboard and only one who knows how to work the director. I got the machine guns going about 0803. God damn locks on magazine.

Had a hell of a time getting 5” firing. About 0820 I got them ready with ammunition. During time I was getting ammunition for 5” battery I saw Utah capsize astern of us. We are second DD in Harbor to open up with machine guns, first with 5” Arizona is burning fiercely. Her back is broken. Raleigh is torpedoed astern of us Quickly gets bad list to port. All DDs are firing now. This is hottest part of harbor. Plane is attacking our west. “All guns fw’d train 45” “Fire when hearing” Fw’d machine guns are firing steadily. Several Machine seen bullets ricochet off sides of director and mast. One 6” from my head a bunch about a foot away. Glad this is my lucky day.

Gun #2 is firing. Machines guns hit planes burst into flame and crashes on hill dead ahead of ship. No one hurt yet. Port fw’d machine gun burning up “Fire until it blows up” Johny is getting ready to get underway. Plane just connected with 5” shell over Curtiss. Nothing left of him. 2nd attacks starting must be only about 0845. God it’s cold only have on skinny troa [trousers] Plane coming over “Give to him All guns fw’d” Tally two for us today; hope he fries in hell Quickest hangover I ever got rid of in my life. Jesus we need water and everything is shut off. Comparitive lull now. About ten planes shot down during their last visit near the DDs. These ships can sure shoot.

High altitude bomber. No power for director! Engines have been secured Whitney cannot supply enough for 5 ships. Cannot get near them with local control “Cease firing” Wonder whats happening over on battleship row? All DDs out here are safer. Cassen and Downes, other half of hour division burning furiously. Monaghan just sunk sub in harbor. My clothes got here. Must be 0945 California and West Virginia are sinking. Sub just torpedoed Nevada. She is burning fw’d. Wonder how Joe Taussig is? Am so mad am crying. First time in years. Damn dumb admirals and generals. Locking up all the ammunition Good thing we belted machine guns ammo yesterday 200 rds 5” expended no casualties 10,000 rds 50 Cal. expended one gun burned up. “Cut off all magazine locks.” God damn good thing no carriers and crusiers are in.

Only Helena is slighlty damaged and Raleigh Curtiss hit by bomb aft. Oklahoma just capsized. Poor S.O.B.’s

Captain and rest of officers returned.

“Mr. Davis single up.” 1005 under way “Mr Davis report to executive officer” Exec bawled me out for cutting locks off magazines. Says I act too quickly should wait and reflect first Goddamn fool sits home on his fat ass then comes out and tells we are all wet and gives us hell for the way we fought the battle. Ted says he was too scared move coming out. Hope he gets one in the gut So the big thing will spill all over the deck.

“Mr. Davis Captain says clear ship for action” Am hungry as hell. No breakfast. Thrown over all wood and canvas, all excess gear topside and below. “Mr Davis report to Executive officer” “What the hell are you doin you fool”

“Captain’s orders clear ship for action sir.”

Hope he fries in hell. They are bombing Honolulu. Can see them from ship. We are forming up to attack 77 destroyers and Detroit all that’s left of battle force. Passed Nevada in channel burning furiously “secure from GQ set condition three watch one” Rest at last its 1500. Of all the stupid cowards are exec is the worst. Ford at last. Have mid better get some sleep. What a day 5 battleships sunk 2 cruisers hit Agala sunk Half of our division sunk. All because people try to kid themselves.’


Victor Andrew Bourasaw was another sailor at Pearl Harbour on the eventful day. He was born in Festus, Missouri, in 1901, but left home in his early teens to mine boron by hand on the Mississippi river. In 1922, he joined the US Navy, and, in 1941, was a chief petty officer on the destroyer, USS Ramsay. The following diary entry can be found on the Skagit River Journal website edited by Victor’s son, Noel V Bourasaw.

7 December 1941
‘This morning at a few minutes before eight the Japanese began an air raid on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field. The Utah and the Raleigh was hit by torpedoes launched by torpedo planes and dive bombers. Bombs of all kind - incendiary, shrapnel and high explosives - were dropped. The hangars on Ford Island and Hickam Field were set afire and all the grounded planes staffed. Also numerous oil tanks were set afire, burning for two days and nights.

About 0815 a submarine was discovered inside of the harbor astern of the Medusa and the Curtis (two destroyer tenders). A nest of destroyers were alongside of the Medusa, and all were taking pot shots at [the sub’s] conning tower. One 3-inch shell hit her bow and tore it off. She then submerged and reappeared again. The Monaghan, DD-354, had got under way and made for her, ramming her and letting go two depth charges. A mighty cheer went up from the crews of the ships around. Of course she has never reappeared since. Unfortunately the Monaghan ran her bow onto the beach on Ford Island and she had to back her engines full speed and, at that, had difficulty backing off.

The Ramsay crew acted like veterans under fire. Each man to the lowest rating did his duty and did it well. Am proud to be a member of a crew like this.

The enemy aircraft, having dropped their bombs, now turn to strafing. They sure are bum shots. We were strafed five times and have only one bullet hole to show on the ship, through the rail on the flying deck.

It was terrible to have to go through that oil-covered water on the way out, seeing our shipmates struggling in it and not being able to help them. We threw life buoys to the ones we saw that needed one.

We found submarines in wait outside. We dropped depth charges as did the other destroyers. The navy authorities are sure that we got four subs. The subs evidently were waiting for the battleships to come out but of course they never did. It would have been suicide. We have heard that the West Virginia and the Oklahoma were damaged. We could see the West Virginia listing considerably as we were leaving port. All this morning the destroyers were busy tracking down subs, pounding them with depth charges. All this morning destroyers are busy tracking down subs, pounding them with depth charges.

Afternoon 7 Dec: Two o’clock, dropping depth charges. We must be getting some for there are usually bubbles and oil. 1430, no word yet from Task Force One, who went to engage the enemy. Still dropping ash cans [depth charges]. Are now in Condition Three at 1500. Two light air attacks on Pearl harbor between 2000 and 2100. Very little sleep for the crew tonight.’


At the time of the Pearl Harbour raid, Robert W Brockway was 18 years old and a freshman at the University of Hawaii. His father was in the Army Air Corps, serving on a ground crew, and the family lived in quarters at Hickam Field, where Robert identified with the soldiers from an early age. After being evacuated, he went to Washington, D.C. to continue his studies. He served as a church minister until 1959, and as a teacher thereafter, first at Coventry Technical College in England, then at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. From 1965, he taught at Brandon University in Canada, as a professor of religion. He died in 2001. Brandon University has an extensive website in memory of Brockway, including extracts from his Pearl Harbour diary (photographs and transcriptions).

7 December 1941
‘As I write today from the home of Mr. O’ Sullivan who very kindly took us in, we have experienced a Japanese raid. This morning at 8:00 a.m. I was awakened by loud booming. Believing them to be maneuvers I paid little heed. On going outside, I saw stukas diving and circling, but still paid no heed, until I saw the Rising Sun on wing tips. By then the depot hangars were in flame and gasoline blazed. We went to Burkes [?] and then returned home - everyone telling me that war was on. We then got the Haltermanns in our car and Mr. Willy and I hurried up Aiea heights. We saw a carrier burned to the water edge. Fren [friends?] at Hickam [Hickam Field]. We waited there and then returned. Most of our planes had been destroyed. Our fleet force crippled. The radio had just pronounced martial law. Our forces are supposed to be dealing with the sit[uation].’

8 December 1941
‘As the dawn came after a long weary nite spent anxiously waiting for Japanese bombers which never came, we got the paper stating that some 340 fellows from Hickam were killed. One of them was probably Tony Mariaschella since he was in the 42d. After a morning spent uneventfully Mother, I, Mrs Haltermann and Mr. Wiley went to the field [Hickam] and got the remainder of our stuff. The British are in it too. A parachutist is up back here somewhere and they couldn’t find him. Hickam Field looked hit but not shattered. Purdin’s house is gutted out. So are several friends’. Auers’ all messed up inside. Probably we will never go there again. Pop is in the hospital [he was there with an unspecified complaint at the time of the raid]. Pres. Roosevelt declared war against Japan today. Under martial law Habeus Corpus is suspended.’


Finally, it’s worth noting that the US Secretary for War at the time, Henry L Stimson, kept a diary, and that certain extracts from this diary (see paragraph below) have been employed repeatedly over the years by those who believe there was a conspiracy - the Pearl Harbour advance-knowledge conspiracy theory - involving high officials in the US and UK who knew of the attack in advance and may have let it happen so as to force America into the war.

25 November 1941
‘Then at 12 o’clock we went to the White House, where we were until nearly half past one. At the meeting were Hull, Knox, Marshall, Stark and myself. There the President . . . brought up entirely the relations with the Japanese. He brought up the event that we were likely to be attacked perhaps next Monday, for the Japanese are notorious for making an attack without warning, and the question was what should we do. The question was how much we should maneuver them into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.’

After the attack, Stimson wrote in his diary: ‘When the news first came that Japan had attacked us my first feeling was of relief that . . . a crisis had come in a way which would unite all our people. This continued to be my dominant feeling in spite of the news of catastrophes which quickly developed.’ (This is widely quoted as being dated 7 December 1941, but the sense of the quote seems much later, and without access to the diary itself, I cannot check the date.)

For more on this topic see Institute for Historical Review articles by Charles Lutton and David Irving; and Srdja Trifkovic on the American Patriot Friends Network. Irving, in particular, has a lot to say about Stimson’s diary, claiming there is evidence for post-Pearl Harbour deletions and revisions. Wikipedia, however, has a detailed and well-referenced look at the facts.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Saw television!

‘Met John Logie Baird; a charming man - a shy, quietly-spoken Scot. He could serve as a model for the schoolboy’s picture of a shock-haired, modest, dreamy, absent-minded inventor. Nevertheless shrewd.’ This is from the diary of Sydney Moseley, a journalist and writer, who died sixty years ago today; but, he is not well-remembered other than for his association with Baird, and writing a biography of the inventor.

There is very little information about Moseley readily available on the internet. He was born in 1888, and became a journalist, working initially for the Daily Express. For some years he lived in Cairo, editing English-language newspapers and acting as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and others. Back in Britain, he founded the Southend Times and also stood for election to Parliament as a member for Southend-on-Sea.

Moseley worked to promote the invention - a television broadcast system - of his friend John Logie Baird, and was instrumental in persuading the BBC to try it out. There is a little more about this on the Sydenham Town website.

Moseley authored many books during his life. Truth about the Dardanelles and With Kitchener in Cairo were published during the First World War. Books on London, about the criminal system, and making investments followed. Most well known, though, are his books on television, including Who’s Who in Broadcasting; Simple Guide to Television; and Television for the Intelligent Amateur. His best remembered work is probably the 1952 biography of his friend, John Baird, The Romance and Tragedy of the Pioneer of Television.

A little while before Moseley’s death - on 5 December 1961 - Max Parrish published The Private Diaries of Sydney Moseley in association with Moseley’s own publisher in Bournemouth, The Outspoken Press. Used copies are available at Abebooks. The diaries are said to be a ‘startlingly frank record of a poor, ambitious boy’s struggle to make good’. Here are a few extracts.

31 March 1911
‘(Fleet Street) And now, after a week of continuous work, I can rest awhile and write my thoughts. Ten minutes ago I hadn’t a penny in my pocket; now I have over £4! Watney offered me the ‘night news-editor’ job and I accepted - again on space! This means that anything I write through the night which is printed will be paid for. I can ‘order’ any stories from our correspondents in the provinces, too. I think he has a good opinion of me, and this has been strengthened by the report of Sir William Bull, who was ‘very pleased’ with what I did. As regards the work I am about to do, he added: ‘there are great possibilities’ in it, and I am of course going to make use of most of them. According to Watney’s description, it is a post I should love; but I must take care of my health. It is now 6:30pm and I have had nothing to eat since 8 this morning!’

12 April 1911
‘(The Old Victoria Park) I should really be in bed but here I am! Been too busy to write these notes; it seems as if I have made a really good start on the Evening Times. Given a chance at last I am seizing it with both hands. Despite my column stories I am none too confident. I’ve already has some experience of the vagaries of journalism, thank you! It is very easy to slip. Have ordered suit, overcoat and writing desk. The Census job fairly unnerved me. Had to go into terribly poor quarters of the East End slums. St Peter’s Road in Mile End, where I lived, was a paradise in comparison - with trees and a church at one end, and the Charrington brewery at the other! What terrible lives some people endure! I thought I had seen enough! Dead people . . . dying people . . . starving people. There was a beautiful slut sitting beside a coffin. Beneath her rags and dirt was a queen. . . Wrote an article on my experiences which will be published - I hope!
Today I put 10s down as ‘extra’ expenses, and it’s going to Watney for his OK. Careful my lad, careful!’

1 August 1928
‘Met John Logie Baird; a charming man - a shy, quietly-spoken Scot. He could serve as a model for the schoolboy’s picture of a shock-haired, modest, dreamy, absent-minded inventor. Nevertheless shrewd. We sat and chatted. He told me he is having a bad time with the scoffers and sceptics - including the BBC and part of the technical press - who are trying to ridicule and kill his invention of television at its inception. I told him that if he would let me see what he has actually achieved - well, he would have to risk me damning it - or praising it! If I were convinced - I would battle for him. We got on well together and I have arranged to test his remarkable claim.

(Later) Saw television! Baird’s partner, a tall good-looking but highly temperamental Irishman, Captain Oliver George Hutchinson, was nice but very nervous of chancing it with me. He was terribly anxious I should be impressed. Liked the pair of them, especially Baird, and decided to give my support. . . I think we really have what is called television. And so, once more into the fray!’

9 March 1956
‘(Bournemouth) Today is my 68th birthday - and it is time I finally closed my diaries! Would that it were possible to close my mind with equal emphasis. Thoughts, ideas, views continue to chase each other. . . How will it really end?

What comparisons can one make with the past? Were my times the ‘good old days’? Or were they, as our modern progressives call them, the ‘bad old days’? Well - where are we today? We have: penicillin; hydrogen bombs; radio; plastics; Teddy-boys; modern plumbing; Bikini suits; pheno-barbitone; television; cafetarias; automobiles for all; telephones for all; a broken sound-barrier; long-playing records; inflation; diesel engines; higher wages; guided missiles, and aspirin tablets which dissolve much more quickly than ever before. Are we any happier? - more secure? - really better off? One could write much on the subject, and the ensuing discussion would go on ‘far, far into the night’.’

Brighton in diaries

The History Press has just published Brighton in Diaries, a collection of diary extracts about the city, one of Britain’s most vibrant seaside resorts. This is my first published book about diaries. Essentially, it consists of cameos of people, famous and ordinary, young and old, serious and cynical, but with Brighton always setting the scene: like a play, perhaps, in which, despite a medley of brilliant actors and a plot full of intriguing story-lines, it is the set, the backdrop that really steals the show. The idea for the book came out of writing these articles for The Diary Review.

Many legendary writers - including Walter Scott, Arnold Bennett and Virginia Woolf - inhabit these pages, often appearing in their most unguarded guises. Here also are less well-known characters, such as William Tayler (a footman), Gideon Mantell (a surgeon and dinosaur bone collector), and Xue Fucheng (an early Chinese diplomat). There are also several diarists whose writing has never appeared in print before: Olive Stammer, for example, who kept a diary during the Second World War; and Ross Reeves, a young gay musician whose diary extracts are very recent.

Brighton in Diaries also includes a chapter (one of 26) with some diary entries of my own relating to Brighton, starting in 1977 when I first went there and slept in a cemetery. The photo above is of my parents on the Palace Pier in 1951. Having just met, they’d gone there for, what is now referred to as, a dirty weekend! For a little more on the book see the feature published in The Argus.

Brighton in Diaries can be purchased directly from The History Press, from book stores in and around Brighton (such as City Books), and from online retailers such as Amazon. Here are a few extracts:

3 September 1778, Peregrine Phillips
‘A monstrous fish, called a Tunie, but not much unlike a shark, lays on the shore, wearing two double rows of large masticators: it has broke the net, and, towards mending same, the fishermen collect money of the curious.’

13 September 1778, Peregrine Phillips
‘Took the liberty of surveying all the bathing-machines. Fine ladies going - fine ladies coming away. Observe them at the instant of bathing. How humiliating! They appear more deplorable than so many corpses in shrouds.’

14 December 1818, John Croker
‘After breakfast Blomfield called to scold us for not going to the Pavilion at once, and to command us on the part of his Royal Highness to come there. We went there and walked through the rooms again and visited the offices. The kitchen and larders are admirable - such contrivances for roasting, boiling, baking, stewing, frying, steaming, and heating; hot plates, hot closets, hot air, and hot hearths, with all manner of cocks for hot water and cold water, and warm water and steam, and twenty saucepans all ticketed and labelled, placed up to their necks in a vapour bath.’

19 July 1837, William Tayler
‘There are numbers of old wimen have little wooden houses on wheels, and into these houses people goe that want to bathe.’

11 January 1910, Arnold Bennett
‘Grand rolling weather. Foamy sea, boisterous wind, sun, pageant of clouds, and Brighton full of wealthy imperative persons dashing about in furs and cars. I walked with joy to and fro on this unequalled promenade. And yet, at this election time, when all wealth and all snobbery is leagued together against the poor, I could spit in the face of arrogant and unmerciful Brighton, sporting its damned Tory colours.’

30 August 1940, Olive Stammer
‘Fights between planes over Bton, Hove & Patcham. Spitfire down in Portland Road. House tops damaged. Pilot killed. They could only find his hand.’

26 February 1941, Virginia Woolf
‘The fat woman had a louche large white muffin face. T’other was slightly grilled. [. . .] Brighton a love-corner for slugs. The powdered the pampered the mildly improper.’

21 April 1995, Des Marshall
‘I believe Brighton has more disturbed people in relation to the size of the population, than any other town in the country. There’s a sort of unreality about the town. It’s too frivolous. People don’t really listen to each other. They seem very excited and distracted. [. . .] People wear such odd clothes that don’t really match. Could be, sort of punk, with a bit of hippy thrown in, or mohair with greatcoat, or a collar and tie man, with shorts of different colours, possibly even with a bowler hat.’

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Huns flew over Hythe

Viking, part of the Penguin group, has just published the diaries of Rodney Foster, who served in the Home Guard during the Second World War. He rose to become a major within the organisation but resigned a few months later. Such journals are very rare since Home Guard personnel were forbidden from keeping diaries. However, contrary to Penguin’s publicity that this is the first Home Guard diary ever discovered, I believe there is at least one other.

Rodney Foster was born in India in 1882 into a British army family. He was educated in England, and then entered the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in 1900. The following year he was commissioned in the British Army and was sent to India, where he served for a time on the North-west Frontier. In 1906, he joined the Survey of India and worked as a surveyor and cartographer.

Foster returned briefly to England in 1910 to marry Phyllis Blaxland, a friend of one of his sisters, and they had one daughter, Daphne. Although he rejoined the Indian Army during the First World War, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, he stayed with the Survey of India until retiring in 1932, back in England, to Saltwood, near Hythe on the Kent coastline. In 1940 he enrolled in the Home Guard, becoming a major in 1942 with 560 men under his command, though he resigned a few months later, frustrated with the organisation around him. He died in 1962.

These few biographical details can be found in Ronnie Scott’s introduction to a new book from Viking - The Real ‘Dad’s Army’ - The War Diaries of Lt.Col. Rodney Foster. The diaries were discovered, Viking says, in an auction, and were then edited by Ronnie Scott. Also in the introduction, Scott says: ‘Rodney’s diaries offer an invaluable insight into the Home Front during the Second World War. Not only do they detail life on Hellfire Corner [a stretch of the English Channel in the Dover area heavily bombed by the Germans], they clearly depict the inception and development of the Home Guard from the point of view of a serving officer - something that, until now, had never come to light. Home Guard personnel, especially those serving in the areas most vulnerable to invasion, were forbidden from keeping diaries, in case the information in them could be of use or value to the invader. So it is all the more remarkable that such an establishment figure as Rodney should break the regulations in this way.’

Viking makes great play of the link with Dad’s Army, an ever popular BBC TV comedy series first broadcast in 1968. The Dad’s Army of the title was a bumbling Home Guard platoon, located in a fictional town on the south coast of England (i.e. somewhere in the vicinity of Foster’s Home Guard). According to Viking: ‘Writing from the village hall, abandoned barns, churches and makeshift officers’ messes, [Foster] records with a unique wit and wisdom the everyday details of family life during the war: the domestic routine dogged by air raid warnings, the antics of soldiers stationed nearby taking every chance to improve their lot, the quiet strength of a small community faced with great adversity.’ His ‘humanity and care shine through’, Viking adds, ‘proud testament to the spirit that defied the Nazis and won the war.’

Foster’s diary is indeed a substantial document and record, and the Viking book is beautifully produced with lots of illustrations by Foster himself, as well as some relevant photographs. However, Penguin is promoting the book as ‘the first Home Guard diary ever discovered’. It even goes so far as to say that this ‘fact’ has been verified by the Imperial War Museum. But is it a ‘fact’? A diary kept by Charles Graves, a journalist and Home Guard officer, during the war was published as Off the Record by Hutchinson in 1942. There is not much information about this on the internet, but see Abebooks and Googlebooks.

Here are several extracts from The War Diaries of Lt.Col. Rodney Foster.

5 November 1940
‘Frost in the morning and a fine sunny day. Huns came, passing over Folkestone, returning later with our fighters on them. At 10:30 am after a burst of firing I saw one of ours drop from the sky like a falling leaf then recover itself and stagger off to Lympne. At 11:30 am three Huns dived on the two from over Pedlinge and dropped bombs. Two fell on the Ranges, and one hit the quarters of the Quartermaster of the Small Arms School. The next hit and demolished the barricaded side of Nelson’s Bridge over the canal, spattering the small houses nearby with black canal mud, and the last fell on Hospital Hill, Sandgate, killing a Sapper from the section in Hillcrest Road. Shortly after, the rain came down. On my way up to mount the guard I saw the strafing of the French coast in retaliation for the shelling of Dover. It came down in buckets as I left the post and I was wet through. Hillcrest Road was full of lorries, some backing into the Choppings’, and there was great activity all night preparing to move the big gun. If the gun goes we ought to be able to return home. It is not pleasant having to go so far at night and sleep in a cold house.’

9 November 1940
‘A strong south-westerly gale. In morning Captain Fuller drove me up to Saltwood and I walked all over the village distributing greatcoats. About 1 o’clock, two Huns flew over Hythe and dropped (some say ten) bombs on Cheriton. The London Division leaves today and a new Division comes in. The roads everywhere were full of troops and lorries and buses and there were pom-poms [AA guns] out on the ranges, in our allotments and in Sandling guarding against dive-bombers. Alarm 6 pm to 10:30 pm. I again got soaked mounting the guard. Neville Chamberlain died today.’

7 May 1942
‘I was out of bed just after 6 am when a plane roared over our roof and there were two explosions to the west. I saw a black snub-nosed Hun fly over my head. Another flew part to the north. Then I saw a third over Seabrook Road and saw a bomb leave its rack. This fell on the Hythe cricket pitch. The first bomb cut Sandling Park House in half, the other two fell in trees. The siren sounded after it was all over! The Huns did no machine gunning. I was so interested I forgot to tell my family to go to safety.’

Postscript (30 November): Penguin has responded to my point about Foster’s diary not being the first such Home Guard diary by passing on information from Shaun Sewell, who is credited with finding the diary. Sewell says: ‘[The Graves diary] was published in 1942 and can hardly be a diary covering the entire war! I'm guessing [it] is not a day to day account of Home Guard life, perhaps a collection of entries for wartime propaganda. I think that paper was rationed in the war so publications might have been censored and very limited.’

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Xu diary melodrama

Xu Zhimo, a much celebrated Chinese poet, might have been celebrating his 80th birthday today had he not died young in a plane crash. Collections of his romantic poems and essays continue to be published, as do biographies celebrating the romance of his life. By incorporating their lives into their literature, one writer says, he and his friends elevated personal details to the level of artistic and historical importance. Even the fate of Xu’s diaries has been likened to a melodrama.

Xu was born in Haining, Zhejiang, in the far east of China, some 125 km from Shanghai. In 1915, he married Zhang Youyi, and the following year took up law studies. For a few years, he also studied economics and politics in the United States, and in Cambridge, Britain, where, it is said, he fell in love with English romantic poetry. Also in England, he fell in love with the beautiful and talented Lin Huiyin who would soon return to China and become a well-known architect and writer.

By 1922, Xu was also back in China, and had divorced from his first wife (the divorce is considered the first to take place in China). He focused his literary efforts on writing poetry and translating Western romantic forms. He also set up poetry societies, and worked as an editor and professor at several schools. In 1926, he married the third love of his life, Lu Xiaoman. Among his friends was Ling Shuhua, a writer who would have an affair with Virginia Woolf’s nephew, Julian Bell, when he was in China, and enjoy a correspondence with Woolf herself.

On his way to a lecture by Lin Huiyin, Xu died in a plane crash on 19 November 1931, aged but 34. He left behind poems, essays, novels as well as translations, and diaries. Wikipedia has a short biography, and there’s a little more info at Thinkquest. Several collections of Xu Zhimo’s work have been published in Chinese, the most recent and most comprehensive came out in 2005 - see China Radio International’s website. It was announced that ‘the most precious inclusion in the collection are two of the poet’s diaries, which had been looted by a Japanese soldier during the Japanese invasion of China in the 30s but later returned’.

A story about Xu’s diaries is included in A Thousand Miles of Dreams - the journeys of two Chinese sisters by Sasha Su-Ling Welland published by Rowman and Littlefield. The two sisters of the title are Welland’s grandmother who emigrated to the US and changed her name to Amy, and Ling Shuhua. Here is the paragraph from Welland’s book - partly available at Googlebooks - which explains the story.

‘When Ling Shuhua returned to Beijing for Xu Zhimo’s memorial, she provoked a battle over his ‘Eight Treasures Box’, which contained the diaries, letters and manuscripts he had left with her before departing for Europe in 1925. Although it had changed hands in the intervening years, Shuhua had possession of it when Zhimo died. Hu Shi planned to coordinate the publication of the poet’s selected letters, so Shuhua gave the ‘Eight Treasures Box’ to him, not knowing that he would pass it on to Xu Xhimo’s former lover Lin Huiyin to itemize the contents. On learning this, Shuhua wrote a frantic letter to Hu Shi. She feared that Lin Huiyin might destroy the diaries of Xu Zhimo’s widow Lu Xiaoman, now also in the box and full of curses for Lin. Shuhua defended her qualifications to serve as editor of Xu Zhimo’s writing. Once Lin Huiyin began her job of catologing, she discovered that Shuhua had removed two of Xu Zihmo’s diaries from the time at Cambridge when he met and fell in love with Lin. Hu Shi wrote to Shuhua, guessing that she wanted to write a biography based on the diaries, and criticized her for splitting up the poet’s effects and creating bad feeling among friends. Eventually Shuhua returned the diaries, but several pages remained missing.

The melodrama of this scramble after a box of letters and diaries shows the extent to which this generation of authors saw themselves as actors in an era of momentous change. By incorporating their lives into their literature, they elevated personal details to the level of artistic and historical importance.’

Lomonosov’s legacy

Today marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov, a remarkable Russian remembered for advances in science and achievements in poetry. He must have kept a diary because one extract is quoted widely across the internet, but I can find no source for this extract, nor any further information about his diaries.

Lomonosov was born on 19 November 1711 in the village of Denisovka (now called Lomonosovo) in the far north of Russia. Aged around 10, his father, a fisherman and shipowner, started taking him on trading missions. However, he was far more interested in books than in the sea, and, in his late teens, eventually found his way to Moscow (Encyclopædia Britannica says he went by foot, Boris Menshutkin, author of Lomonosov, Chemist Courtier, Physicist Poet, says he joined a caravan).

Once in Moscow, Lomonosov inveigled his way into the Slavonic-Greek-Latin Academy where he excelled as a student. By 1936, he had been awarded a scholarship to Saint Petersburg state university, and then he won a grant for study at the University of Marburg, in Germany.

Having married in Marburg, but unable to make a good living, Lomonosov returned to Russia in 1741. He was appointed to the physics department at the Russian Academy of Science; however, after insulting colleagues, he was held under house arrest for many months. With apologies behind him, the Academy named him professor of chemistry in 1745, and thereafter he soon established its first chemistry laboratory. A decade later he was instrumental in founding the Moscow State University.

Famously, in 1756, he tried to replicate an experiment undertaken by the English scientist Robert Boyle which had helped support the popular phlogiston theory (which postulated the existence of a fire-like element released during combustion), but concluded that the theory was false. Thus he anticipated the discoveries, 20 years later, of Antoine Lavoisier, one of the discoverers of oxygen and hydrogen, and the first to give a true explanation of combustion.

In support of Lomonosov’s claim to have anticipated Lavoisier, an extract from his diary is widely quoted, on Wikipedia and many other websites: ‘Today I made an experiment in hermetic glass vessels in order to determine whether the mass of metals increases from the action of pure heat. The experiments - of which I append the record in 13 pages - demonstrated that the famous Robert Boyle was deluded, for without access of air from outside the mass of the burnt metal remains the same.’ But nowhere on the internet can I find the source of this extract, nor any other information about Lomonosov’s diaries.

Among Lomonosov’s other scientific achievements are counted an improved design for a reflecting telescope, the first hypothesis on the existence of an atmosphere on Venus, the first recorded freezing of mercury, an explanation on the formation of icebergs, and an early understanding of, what would later turn out to be, the theory of continental drift. On the artistic side, he set up a glass factory to produce the first Russian mosaics, created a grammar that reformed the Russian literary language, and wrote poetry. He died in 1765, still only in his mid-40s. Further biographical information can be found at Russian Poetry Net, Russipedia, The Voice of Russia, and

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Livingstone’s invisible writing

A remarkable diary left behind by the famous British explorer and missionary David Livingstone has just been revealed, literally, for the first time - and published on the internet - thanks to a trans-Antlantic team of scholars and scientists. The so-called 1871 Field Diary was written in the run-up to Livingstone’s meeting with the journalist Henry Morton Stanley, and covers a horrific massacre by Arab slave traders.

David Livingstone was born in Blantyre, Scotland, in 1813. He went to work at the local mill aged only 10, which also provided some schooling. In 1836, he began studying medicine and theology in Glasgow, and then decided to become a missionary doctor. In 1840-1841, he was posted to the edge of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. In 1844, he married Mary Moffat, daughter of another missionary; they had six children, one dying in infancy.

During this first 16 year unbroken period in Africa, Livingstone undertook several expeditions north and into the continent’s interior in search of converts. In so doing, he added hugely to Western knowledge of central and southern Africa. On one of his expeditions, starting in 1853 and lasting three years, he discovered some spectacular waterfalls, which he named Victoria Falls. On arriving at the mouth of the Zambezi in 1856, he became the first European to cross the southern width of Africa.

Livingstone returned to Britain that same year, something of a national hero; and subsequently went on speaking tours. He also published his best-selling Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, before heading out to Africa again (arriving in 1858). This time he stayed for five years working on official explorations of eastern and central Africa for the British government. In 1864, though, he was ordered home by the government, dissatisfied with his work. His wife had died some two years earlier.

Back in Britain, Livingstone spoke out against the slave trade, and secured private support for another expedition to central Africa, this time searching for the Nile’s source. The expedition began in 1866 and went on for years; indeed, when nothing was heard of Livingstone for many months, the journalist and explorer, Stanley, set out to find him. And find him, he did, in November 1871, greeting him with the now-famous phrase: ‘Dr Livingstone I presume?’

Livingstone continued on his exploration but increasingly suffered ill health; and he died in May 1873. His body was shipped to England and buried in Westminster Abbey. There is plenty of information about Livingstone on the internet, at Wikipedia, Livingstone Online, Believer’s Web, and Wholesome Words which has a long list of biographies.

Livingstone was a meticulous diarist, recording his journeys in pocket books, and then writing up the journals in larger volumes. All of these survived (brought back with his body in fact) and were edited by Horace Waller and published in two volumes by John Murray in 1874 as The Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa from 1865 to his Death. These books are freely available at Internet Archive.

However, for some months in 1871, Livingstone ran so short of writing supplies that he resorted to using improvised composition materials to keep up his diary habit. This so-named 1871 Field Diary was thus composed on a series of odd scraps of paper, some of which already contained pre-printed text, such as an old copy of The Standard newspaper, and was penned using an ink made from the seed of a local berry. This manuscript, though carefully preserved by the National Trust for Scotland at its David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, was unreadable: the paper had deteriorated badly and the ink had faded.

In 2009, a research team led by Dr Adrian S Wisnicki, assistant professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and honorary research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London, began a spectral imaging project to recover the lost text. And, on 1 November 2011, announced it had succeeded. The team says the story they found, in the hitherto illegible diary, ‘offers a unique insight into Livingstone’s mind during the greatest crisis of his last expedition.’ Of particular importance, it adds, in relation to what was already known of Livingstone’s diary in 1871, is the original description of a massacre in which slave traders slaughtered hundreds of local people. Stanley’s report of this massacre to the world press, sourced at the time on what Livingstone told him, prompted the British government to close the East African slave trade.

The David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project has now made the complete original text freely available on the internet, complete with everything you would want to know about the project, the manuscript, and more! The website is hosted by the University of California, and the project was funded by the British Academy and the US National Endowment for the Humanities.

The 1 November press release from the project team highlights one of the key aspects of its findings: ‘The massacre is one of the most important events in The Last Journals of David Livingstone (1874), edited after Livingstone’s death in 1873 by his friend Horace Waller. Until now this book was the main source for historians and biographers. However, critical and forensic analysis of the original 1871 text reveals a very different story from Waller’s heavily edited version. In particular it sheds light on a heart-stopping moment when Livingstone gazes with ‘wonder’ as three Arab slavers with guns enter the market in Nyangwe, where 1,500 people are gathered, most of them women: ‘50 yards off two guns were fired and a general flight took place - shot after shot followed on the terrified fugitives - great numbers died - It is awful - terrible, a dreadful world this,’ writes Livingstone in despair as he witnesses the massacre. ‘As I write, shot after shot falls on the fugitives on the other side [of the river] who are wailing loudly over those they know are already slain - Oh let thy kingdom come.’ ’

Diary briefs

We were afraid to publish coup diaries - Today Zaman

Honour killing victim’s diary - The Vancouver Sun

Diaries of illustrator M Louise Baker - The New York Times

Saddam Hussein’s handwritten diaries - Al Arabiya News

Einstein on the Road - Leo Baeck Institute, Amazon Look Inside

Monday, October 31, 2011

Columbus in the Bahamas

Some five hundred and sixty years ago today, or thereabouts, was born Christopher Columbus, probably the most famous explorer of all time. His voyages across the Atlantic brought much knowledge to Europe of the American continents, and also set in motion Spanish colonisation - a process which would have the most profound impact on the future of the world. Fortunately, Columbus kept detailed logs or diaries, and these are among the earliest of any surviving European diaries.

The eldest of five children, Columbus was born on (or around) 31 October 1451 in Genoa (there is some dispute about the place as well as the date) into a wool weaving family, possibly of Spanish Jewish descent. How he became a sailor is unclear, although it seems he may have worked first as a commercial agent in his home city, a busy port. He may also have been in the service of a pirate for a while. He made his first trading voyage to Khios in the Aegean Sea. On one early voyage, his vessel sank during a battle off the Portuguese coast, and it is thought he swam ashore. He then settled in Portugal, and married, in 1479, the daughter of the governor of the island of Porto Santo, who bore him one son.

In the belief that the world was smaller than thought, and round, and that Asia could be reached quickly by sailing west, Columbus petitioned the Portuguese court for funds, only to be rejected. He moved to Spain where his plans were more favourably received. Here, Beatriz Enriquez became his mistress and bore him a second son, Ferdinand Columbus. In 1492, Columbus set off on the first of four famous voyages. On the first one, he explored the Caribbean islands. On the second, he founded the first European town in the New World - on Hispaniola (the island now shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti).

During his third voyage, Columbus discovered the mainland of South America before returning to Hispaniola, where considerable discontent had arisen among the settlers; lobbying against him then led to his arrest. On returning to Spain, he regained his freedom, but at the cost of much prestige and the governorship of the Indies, a title and role he’d acquired after his first voyage. On his fourth and somewhat ill-fated journey, Columbus explored the coast of Central America, but was later stranded on Jamaica for a year. He returned to Spain in 1504, and, in 1506, died a wealthy man, though still in dispute with the Spanish crown over his share of the income from the new lands.

There is much information about Columbus available online, at Wikipedia, Royal Museums Greenwich, The Smithsonian, and in his famous journals which are all freely available at Internet Archive. Here is an extract describing the first sighting of land in the West Indies. It is taken from The Journal of Christopher Columbus (during his First Voyage, 1492-93), and Documents relating to the voyages of John Cabot and Gaspar Real, published by The Hakluyt Society in 1892 (on the 400th anniversary of the voyage).

11 October 1492 ‘The course was WSW, and there was more sea than there had been during the whole of the voyage. They saw sandpipers, and a green reed near the ship. Those of the caravel Pinta saw a cane and a pole, and they took up another small pole which appeared to have been worked with iron; also another bit of cane, a land-plant, and a small board. The crew of the caravel Niña also saw signs of land, and a small branch covered with berries. Everyone breathed afresh and rejoiced at these signs. The run until sunset was 26 leagues.

After sunset the Admiral returned to his original west course, and they went along at the rate of 12 miles an hour. Up to two hours after midnight they had gone 90 miles, equal to 22 1/2 leagues. As the caravel Pinta was a better sailer, and went ahead of the Admiral, she found the land, and made the signals ordered by the Admiral. The land was first seen by a sailor named Rodrigo de Triana. But the Admiral, at ten in the previous night, being on the castle of the poop, saw a light, though it was so uncertain that he could not affirm it was land. He called Pero Gutierrez, a gentleman of the Kings bed-chamber, and said that there seemed to be a light, and that he should look at it. He did so, and saw it. The Admiral said the same to Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, whom the King and Queen had sent with the fleet as inspector, but he could see nothing, because he was not in a place whence anything could be seen. After the Admiral had spoken he saw the light once or twice, and it was like a wax candle rising and falling. It seemed to few to be an indication of land; but the Admiral made certain that land was close.

When they said the Salve, which all the sailors were accustomed to sing in their way, the Admiral asked and admonished the men to keep a good look-out on the forecastle, and to watch well for land; and to him who should first cry out that he saw land, he would give a silk doublet, besides the other rewards promised by the Sovereigns, which were 10,000 maravedis to him who should first see it.

At two hours after midnight the land was sighted at a distance of two leagues. They shortened sail, and lay by under the mainsail without the bonnets. The vessels were hove to, waiting for daylight; and on Friday they arrived at a small island of the Lucayos, called, in the language of the Indians, Guanahani [Watling Island, named San Salvador by Columbus]. Presently they saw naked people. The Admiral went on shore in the armed boat, and Martin Alonso Pinzon, and Vicente Yañez, his brother, who was captain of the Niña. The Admiral took the royal standard, and the captains went with two banners of the green cross, which the Admiral took in all the ships as a sign, with an F and a Y and a crown over each letter, one on one side of the cross and the other on the other.

Having landed, they saw trees very green, and much water, and fruits of diverse kinds. The Admiral called to the two captains, and to the others who leaped on shore, and to Rodrigo Escovedo, secretary of the whole fleet, and to Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, and said that they should bear faithful testimony that he, in presence of all, had taken, as he now took, possession of the said island for the King and for the Queen, his Lords making the declarations that are required, as is more largely set forth in the testimonies which were then made in writing.

Presently many inhabitants of the island assembled. What follows is in the actual words of the Admiral in his book of the first navigation and discovery of the Indies. “I,” he says, “that we might form great friendship, for I knew that they were a people who could be more easily freed and converted to our holy faith by love than by force, gave to some of them red caps, and glass beads to put round their necks, and many other things of little value, which gave them great pleasure, and made them so much our friends that it was a marvel to see. They afterwards came to the ship’s boats where we were, swimming and bringing us parrots, cotton threads in skeins, darts, and many other things; and we exchanged them for other things that we gave them, such as glass beads and small bells. In fine, they took all, and gave what they had with good will. It appeared to me to be a race of people very poor in everything. They go as naked as when their mothers bore them, and so do the women, although I did not see more than one young girl. All I saw were youths, none more than thirty years of age. They are very well made, with very handsome bodies, and very good countenances. Their hair is short and coarse, almost like the hairs of a horse’s tail. They wear the hairs brought down to the eyebrows, except a few locks behind, which they wear long and never cut. They paint themselves black, and they are the colour of the Canarians, neither black nor white. Some paint themselves white, others red, and others of what colour they find. Some paint their faces, others the whole body, some only round the eyes, others only on the nose. They neither carry nor know anything of arms, for I showed them swords, and they took them by the blade and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their darts being wands without iron, some of them having a fish’s tooth at the end, and others being pointed in various ways. They are all of fair stature and size, with good faces, and well made. I saw some with marks of wounds on their bodies, and I made signs to ask what it was, and they gave me to understand that people from other adjacent islands came with the intention of seizing them, and that they defended themselves. I believed, and still believe, that they come here from the mainland to take them prisoners. They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them, and I believe that they would easily be made Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no religion. I, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for your Highnesses, that they may learn to speak. I saw no beast of any kind except parrots, on this island.” The above is in the words of the Admiral.’

Friday, October 21, 2011

Arthur Schnitzler whistling

Arthur Schnitzler, the Austrian author who wrote sexy plays and stream-of-consciousness short stories long before they were fashionable, died 80 years ago today. He was also a committed diarist, documenting some parts of his life - not least his sexual activity - in meticulous detail. The diaries have only been published in German, in ten volumes; and even English-language biographies, which rely on the diary material, provide few verbatim quotes.

Schnitzler was born in Vienna in 1862, the son of a prominent Hungarian-Jewish doctor. He studied medicine at the city’s university until 1885, thereafter working at the city’s general hospital. He had a strong interest in psychiatry and was a friend of Sigmund Freud; but it was writing that attracted him most.

Schnitzler’s early literary reputation was largely gained through his plays, starting with Anatol in 1893, and then, in 1900, the now-popular Der Reigen (Hands Around, also known as La Ronde). This play - in which ten pairs of characters are shown before and after sex - was not actually performed until 1920, but led to the author being branded as a pornographer.

Encyclopedia Britannica summarises Schnitzler’s literary style: ‘Most at home in creating a single, precisely shaded mood for a one-act play or short story, [he] often evoked the atmosphere of the corrupt self-deception he saw in the last years of the Habsburg empire. He explored human psychology, portraying egotism in love, fear of death, the complexities of the erotic life, and the morbidity of spirit induced by a weary introspection.’ He also criticised the military code of conduct in various works, not least in his most well-known novel, Lieutenant Gustl, published at the turn of the century. This latter is considered one of the first German-language works of fiction to rely on stream-of-consciousness writing.

In 1903, Schnitzler married the actress Olga Gussman, with whom he had two children. His later years were largely spent in a villa overlooking Vienna where he devoted most of his time to writing fiction. His 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story) was turned into a major film by Stanley Kubrick in 1999 (Eyes Wide Shut). Schnitzler’s married daughter committed suicide in 1930, and he himself died on 21 October 1931. His works were banned by the Nazi party in Germany, and then also in Austria - indeed, they were among those thrown into the flames when Joseph Goebbels organized book burnings. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia or Encyclopaedia Britannica.

In addition to his other writing, Schnitzler meticulously kept a diary from the age of 17 until two days before his death. The manuscript, which runs to almost 8,000 pages, is considered among the most significant of German and European diary literature. Long before his death, Schnitzler stipulated that the volumes of the diaries to the year 1899 should not be published for twenty years after his death, and the remainder not for forty years. In fact, it was not until around 1980 that the Austrian Academy of Sciences began a long-term project to publish the diary, in ten volumes (the last appeared in 2000), with the title, Arthur Schnitzler - Tagebuch.

I can find no extracts or verbatim examples from Schnitzler’s diaries in English on the internet. However, an academic article about them, written by Andrew C Wisely (a Schnitzler specialist and associate professor of German at Baylor University) is freely available online at Googlebooks. The article - The Task of Memory: The Diary Project - takes up one chapter in Wisely’s Arthur Schnitzler and Twentieth-Century Criticism, published by Camden House in 2004. Wisely says the diaries are ‘most notable for Schnitzler’s casual descriptions of sexual conquests - he was often in relationships with several women at once, and for a period of some years he kept a record of every orgasm.’

Schnitzler’s Century, by Peter Gay and published by W W Norton & Co in 2001, relies extensively on extracts from Schnitzler’s diaries, however it only quotes verbatim extracts rarely. Here is one, dated 4 July 1887: ‘In the early morning, I passed her room, whistling. The second time she appeared, I, quickly into the room, lock the door and take her.’ Some pages can be viewed on the Amazon website. See also The Guardian for a review by Nicholas Lezard.

Lezard draws attention to an early moment in Schnitzler’s life: ‘The incident with which [Gay] kicks off his history, and which he makes a kind of focal epiphany, is the moment when Schnitzler’s doctor father finds his 16-year-old son’s diary. Arthur, his father discovered, had been indulging in some precocious sexual exploits. Schnitzler senior marches the young man off to his study and forces him to read ‘Moritz Kaposi’s three-volume standard treatise on syphilis and skin diseases complete with explicit and repellent illustrations’. ’

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thomas Edison’s diary

Thomas Edison, one of the most famous and prolific inventors of all time, died 80 years ago today. The distribution of electricity and the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera are all counted among his contributions to, what is often called, ‘modern life’. Although not known as a diarist, he did - for a few days in the summer of 1885 - keep a journal; and this document is considered to be the only document he left behind with thoughts and feelings of a personal nature.

Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, in 1847, but the family moved to Port Huron, Michigan, when he was seven, where he spent the rest of his childhood. At some point, he suffered from a disease which left him hard of hearing for the rest of his life. While still a young teenager, he sold sweets and newspapers on trains, and then became a roving telegraph operator. In 1868, he was employed as a night operator for Western Union; and, by the following year, he had moved to New York City, where, in his spare time, he worked on inventions. After repairing the telegraphic gold price indicator for Western Union, it then commissioned him to improve the stock ticker, which led to the Edison Universal Stock Printer.

In 1871, Edison married Mary Stilwell, only 16 at the time, and they had three children, before she died in 1884. With the proceeds from the sale of his patents to Western Union, he set up his own company, manufacturing stock tickers and printing telegraphs. By 1876, though, he had sold the company so as to have funds to build an industrial research laboratory, the first of its kind, at Menlo Park, New Jersey.

The following year Edison invented the phonograph, the first machine that could record the sound of someone’s voice and play it back. And the year after that, he began work on the idea of a light bulb, and he launched the Edison Electric Light Company. He demonstrated his carbon filament lamp in 1879. By the mid-1880s, Menlo Park had expanded to occupy two city blocks, and Edison and his team had invented, among other things, a system for electricity distribution and a carbon microphone. After the death of Mary, Edison met and married Mina Miller (with whom he would have three more children) and moved to Llewellyn Park in West Orange. Here he built a new laboratory, far larger than the facility at Menlo Park.

Edison was always much engaged with commercialising his products. Chief among these was electricity and its delivery - by 1887, there were well over 100 Edison power stations delivering direct current (DC) electricity. But he also became increasingly engaged in a very public battle with George Westinghouse who was promoting the distribution of alternating current (AC), which was more efficient to distribute. Edison continued working until his death on 18 October 1931. Among many other achievements, his organisation made major developments with the phonograph, x-rays, storage batteries, and motion pictures. Further information is available from The Library of Congress,, and The Thomas Edison Papers.

Edison is not known to have kept a diary through his life, but for one short period, in July 1885, he did write one - indeed, this manuscript is the only known volume kept by him specifically to record thoughts and feelings of a personal nature. It includes observations on art, literature, and religion, along with comments about his dreams, his health, and his feelings toward his future wife, Mina Miller. It was first edited by Dagobert Runes and published by the Philosophical Library, New York, in 1948, as The Diary and Sundry observations of T A Edison. In 1971, The Chatham Press published The Diary of Thomas A Edison with an introduction By Kathleen L McGuirk.

Photographs of the diary’s pages (46 images) can be viewed online at The Thomas Edison Papers website (which currently has 175,000 of Edison’s papers digitalised), hosted by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; and the transcribed text can be read at the Ayn Rand Institute website. Here is one full day’s entry.

19 July 1885
‘Slept as sound as a bug in a barrel of morphine. Donned a boiled and starched emblem of respectability. Eat food for breakfast. Weather delightful. Canary seed orchestra started up with same old tune, ancestor of this bird sang the self same tune 6,000 years ago to Adam down on the Euphrates, way back when Abel got a situation as the first angel. Read Sunday Herald, learned of John Roach’s failure - am sorry - he has been pursued with great malignity by newspapers and others, from ignorance I think. Americans ought to be proud of Roach, who started in life as a day laborer and became giant of industry and the greatest shipbuilder in the United States, employing thousands of men and feeding innumerable families. What has he now for this 40 years of incessant work and worry. People who hound such men as these I would invent a special Hades, I would stricken them with the chronic sciatic neuralgia and cause them to wander forever stark naked within the arctic circle.

Saw in same paper account of base ball match. This struck me as something unusual. Read more about that immeasurable immensity of tact and beauty Madame Recamier. I would like to see such a woman. Nature seems to be running her factory on another style of goods nowdays and won’t switch back until long after I’m baldheaded. Damon went out to assist the tide in. Daisy told me something about a man who kept livery stable in Venice. In afternoon went out in yacht. On first trip all our folks, and lot of smaller people, sailed around for an hour. Returned and landed the abbreviated people. Started for Cottage Park where we took on board the charming Mrs Roberts brevet Recamier, and a large lady friend whose name has twice got up and jumped out of my mind. Then sailed away for Rock buoy, and for some occult reason Damon didn’t stop and change his mind but headed for Liverpool. Went out two miles in ocean, undulations threatened to disturb the stability of the dinner of divers persons, returned at 7 p.m. Then Damon took out a boat load of slaves of the kitchen.

Damon and I after his return study plans for our Floridian bower in the lowlands of the peninsular Eden, within that charmed zone of beauty, where wafted from the table lands of the Oronoco and the dark Carib sea, perfumed zephyrs forever kiss the gorgeous flora. Rats! Damon took the plans to Boston to place them into the hands of an archetectualist to be reduced to a paper reality. Damon promised to ascertain probable cost chartering schooner to plough the Spanish main loaded with our hen coops. Dot came in and gave us a lot of girlish philosophy which amused us greatly. Oh dear, this celestial mud ball has made another revolution and no photograph yet received from the Chataquain Paragon of Perfection. How much longer will Hope dance on my intellect? Miss Igoe told me of a picture she had taken on a rock at Panama NY. There were several others in the group, interpolated so as to dilute the effect of Mina’s beauty. As she stated the picture was taken on a rock I immediately brought my scientific imagination to work to ascertain how the artist could have flowed collodion over a rock and put so many people inside his camera. Miss Igoe kindly corrected her explanation by stating that a picture was taken by a camera of a group on a rock. Thus my mind was brought back from a suspicion of her verbal integrity to a belief in the honesty of her narrative.

After supper Mrs G, Daisy and Louise with myself as an incidental appendage walked over to the town of Ocean Spray, went into a drug store and bought some alleged candy, asked the gilded youth with the usual vacuous expression, if he had any nitric peroxide, he gave a wild stare of incomhensability. Then I simplified the name to nitric acid, which I hoped was within the scope of his understanding. A faint gleam of intelligence crept over his face whereupon he went into another room from which he returned with the remark that he didn’t keep nitric acid. Fancy a drug store without nitric acid. A drug store nowdays seems to consist of a frontage of red, blue and green demijohns, a soda fountain, case with candy and toothbrushes, a lot of almost empty bottles with death and stomachatic destruction written in Latin on them, all in charge of a young man with a hatchet shaped head, hair laid out by a civil engineer, and a blank stare of mediocrity on his face that by comparison would cause a gum indian in the Eden Musée [to] look intellectual. On our return I carried the terrealbian gum drops.

Moon was shining brightly. Girls called my attention several times to beauty of the light from said moon shining upon the waters, couldn’t appreciate it, was so busy taking a mental triangleation of the moon, the two sides of said triangle meeting the base line of the earth at Woodside and Akron Ohio. Miss Igoe told us about her love of ancient literature, how she loved to read Latin, but couldn’t. I told her I was so fond of Greek that I always rushed for the comedies of Aristophanes to read whenever I had the jumping toothache. Bed - Mina, morning.’