Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Elizabeth at Hope End

Today marks 150 years since the death of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a popular poet in her time, who was married to Robert Browning, another significant poet of the era. The only diary material of Barrett’s that has been published relates to a period in her 20s when she was still living with her father on the Hope End estate in Herefordshire. Her diary at the time is full of concerns about having to move from Hope End, which was being sold to pay family debts, and about her friendship with the blind classical scholar Hugh Stuart Boyd.

Elizabeth Barrett was born in 1806 at Coxhoe Hall, Durham, but moved to Hope End, a 500-acre estate near Ledbury in Herefordshire, when only three. The eldest in a large family she was educated at home, learning classics and several modern languages. When 13, her father arranged to have one of her epic poems (The Battle of Marathon) printed. When 15, she suffered a bad fall and injured her spine. Subsequently, poor health meant she devoted most of her time to reading and writing.

In her early 20s, Barrett became friends with a classicist, Hugh Stuart Boyd, who had moved into a house nearby. In 1828, her mother died, and, during the following years, her father’s income (based on Jamaican sugar plantations) declined badly. The family sold Hope End, and moved first to Sidmouth in 1832, then, three years later, to London. In 1838 Barrett published her first major book, The Seraphim and Other Poems, which received critical acclaim. The same year she went to stay in Torquay, Devon, for health reasons, and it was there that her favourite brother, Edward, drowned. The accident caused her much distress. Eventually, she returned to London where her reputation as a poet continued to grow.

In 1844, the poet Robert Browning began a correspondence with her, which led to an engagement in 1845, and, because her father disapproved, a secret marriage in 1846. The couple went to Italy where Elizabeth’s health improved, where she had a son, and where she stayed for the rest of her life. She died in Florence on 29 June 1861. Further biographical information can be found at Wikipedia, The Victorian Web, or The Browning Society.

A first edition of Barrett’s diary did not appear before 1969, when Ohio University Press published Diary by E. B. B.: The Unpublished Diary of Elizabeth Barrett Barrett 1831-1832 edited by Philip Kelley and Ronald Hudson. Five years later, in 1974, John Murray published The Barretts at Hope End - The Early Diary of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, edited by Elizabeth Berridge.

Here are two extracts from The Barretts at Hope End.

11 June 1831
‘Sam told me that Hope End is advertised in the Sun newspaper, to be sold in August - no name, but a full description. He & Bro heard it yesterday from Henry Trant!. I begged him to tell nobody, & to let me tell Bummy [Arabella Graham-Clarke, Elizabeth’s aunt]. Ran down stairs & found Bummy in the drawing room by herself. Told her. She shed tears - we both shed tears! When will tears cease to be shed? She seems to fear the worst: but mentioned that Papa had written to Sam, who, he says, is able to assist him. If he is able, he is willing - if he is still Sam! So there may still be hope in that quarter. There is fear in every other. In every other? Can I not still look unto the hill from whence cometh my hope? That hope is a hope of spiritual blessing; but I have found & known it to be one of temporal comfort also! Walked out with Bummy & Arabel, on the bank on the other side of the water. Strangers may soon walk there, with other feelings than mine. Read as I have often done lately, not for the pleasure of thinking: but for the comfort of not thinking. Papa in better spirits. How often I thought of Mr Boyd today! He is the only person in this neighbourhood, whom it will affect my happiness to leave. . .’

26 August 1831
‘Read some passages from Shelley’s Revolt of Islam before I was up. He is a great poet; but we acknowledge him to be a great poet as we acknowledge Spenser to be so, & do not love him for it. He resembles Spenser in one thing, & one thing only, that his poetry is too immaterial for our sympathies to enclasp it firmly. It reverses the lot of human plants: its roots are in the air, not earth! But as I read him, I may reverse my opinion. . .

Let me consider circumstances, while I am calm, in a degree. I may have to leave this place where I have walked & talked & dreamt in much joy; & where I have heard most beloved voices which I can no more hear, & clasped beloved hands which I can no more clasp: where I have smiled with the living & wept above the dead & where I have immortal books, & written pleasant thoughts, & known at least one very dear friend . . . I will wait for letters, & in the meantime, get on with Isocrates.

Thank God!. Hope End, dear Hope End, is not sold. It was bought in by our antagonists themselves; & may yet go by private contract: but still, thank God for this reprieve. A letter from Papa!

I was in the dining room. Bummy came in to me with overflowing eyes, & an exclamation of “Good news!” The good news were too much for me, prepared as I was for the worst news: and I should have sunk to the floor, if she had not caught me. Thank God for this blessed good news! Many tears were shed, & all for joy, at Hope End today.’

Friday, June 24, 2011

Diary briefs

New Che Guevara diary published in Cuba (see also Che’s last days) - BBC, The Guardian

Arrested Maoist’s diary reveals top secrets - The Times of India

Obscene Diary: The Secret Archive of Samuel Steward - PRWeb, The Museum of Sex

Diaries expose missionaries’ ‘spiritual war’ on uncontacted Indians - Survival International

University of Iowa puts civil war diaries online -, University of Iowa

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A terrible ordeal

One hundred years ago today, the British people were celebrating the coronation of King George V and his wife Queen Mary. Both George and Mary kept diaries, and although these have not been published, a few extracts are in the public domain, including some about their Coronation Day. In one, George calls the day ‘a terrible ordeal’ - though without further explanation.

George V, born in 1865, was the second son of Edward VII. He served in the Royal Navy from the age of 12 until 1892 when he became heir to the throne on the early death of his elder brother Albert (from pneumonia). The following year, he married Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, known as May, who had previously been engaged to Albert. They became Duke and Duchess of York and lived on the Sandringham Estate, in Norfolk. They had six children - Edward, George, Mary, Henry, George and John. The eldest two went on to become King, although Edward held the crown for less than a year before abdicating in favour of George (VI).

George V succeeded to the throne when King Edward VII died in May 1910, though his coronation did not follow until the following summer, on 22 June 1911. A film of the event can be seen at the British Path√© website. According to The Royal Collection website, the crowning of the Sovereign at the start of a new reign is ‘an ancient ceremony, rich in religious significance, pageantry and historic associations’, and has changed little in form since medieval times. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Coronation of Her Majesty The Queen, in 2003, a special exhibition was held at Windsor Castle. Among the items on display were the personal records of several monarchs: Queen Victoria’s sketchbook filled with her drawings of the day’s events, a press release at the time said, and ‘a poignant extract from the diary of King George V’ describing how his coronation ‘brought back many sad memories of 9 years ago when the Beloved Parents were crowned’.

There do not appear to be any published versions of George V’s diary. Robert Lacey, in his biography, Royal: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which contains a generous section of historical background, might provide an explanation: ‘Every day of his adult life, King George V dutifully wrote up his diary - unlike his father, who never kept one. Edward VII had better things to do at bedtime. Bound in successive volumes of green leather, the diary of King George V is the journal of a very ordinary man, containing a great deal more about his hobby of stamp collecting than it does about his personal feelings, with a heavy emphasis on the weather. The simple, round schoolboy hand scarcely changes from the age of fifteen, when he started it, until the last entry, completed three days before his death . . .’

Nevertheless, some excerpts dating from the early days of the Great War were broadcast in 2004 for the first time by BBC Radio Four in its Book of the Week slot. This was by special permission from the Queen to mark the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Nor is there a published version of Queen Mary’s diary - see an earlier Diary Review article about one extract (Princess Mary’s marathon). However, in his widely-respected biography, Queen Mary, James Pope-Hennessy draws extensively on diary material, particular Mary’s own diaries, but also occasionally her husband’s. Here is Pope-Hennessy, in the biography, looking back at that Coronation Day.

‘Although it improved later in the summer, the weather of June 1911 was windy and cool. Frequent rainstorms had been causing the London public, and the vendors of seats on the stands set up along the coronation processional route, some disquiet. In the whole month of June there were only five good days. Coronation Day, the twenty-second, was not amongst them. “Dull but fine - Our Coronation Day”, Queen Mary recorded in her Diary. King George’s comment in his Diary was longer, but it was equally characteristic: “It was overcast and cloudy with slight showers, & a strongish cool breeze, but better for the people than great heat.” The weather of Coronation Day, 1911, thus formed a sharp, symbolic contrast to that of the July morning, eighteen years before, when Princess May had, for the first time in her life, driven in state from Buckingham Palace as the central figure of a carriage procession. She was then driving to be married at the Chapel Royal; we may recall the sparkling sunshine of that July morning, and the cheers of the surging crowds. Her prospects then had seemed gay and exciting; her prospects now were a lifetime of dedication and responsibility. The overcast sky suited her serious mood.’

Pope-Hennessy goes on to describe other differences between the two occasions, before then returning to the diaries, and the entries for 22 June 1911.

Queen Mary: ‘Magnificent reception both going & coming back.’

King George V: ‘There were hundreds of thousands of people who gave us a magnificent reception. . . The service in the Abbey was most beautiful & impressive but it was a terrible ordeal. . . Darling May looked so lovely & it was indeed a comfort to me to have her by my side as she has been ever to me during these last 18 years.’

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reith on Hitler, Churchill

Baron Reith of Stonehaven, the first and very influential manager of the British Broadcasting Company (later Corporation - BBC), died 40 years ago today. His diaries, when they were published posthumously, revealed a man rather admiring of Hitler policies in the pre-war years, and one with a very strong and long-lasting antipathy to Winston Churchill.

John Charles Walsham Reith was born in 1889 into a religious family at Stonehaven in Scotland, the youngest of seven children. He studied at Glasgow Academy and at Gresham’s School in Norfolk. He was commissioned into the 5th Scottish Rifles and served in the First World War until he was invalided out in 1915. He spent two years in the US, supervising armament contracts before returning to work for an engineering firm in Glasgow. In 1921, he married Muriel Katharine and they had two children.

Unsatisfied with his lot, Reith moved to London and became secretary to the London Unionist group of MPs in advance of the 1922 general election. Looking around for more ambitious work, he chanced on an advertisement in The Morning Post for a general manager of the British Broadcasting Company, being set up by a consortium of radio manufacturers to produce programmes to be heard on their wireless sets. In time, Reith oversaw the organisation’s transformation under a Royal Charter to the British Broadcasting Corporation; and he became its first Director-General in 1927. Regular television broadcasts began in 1936 just before Reith left the BBC in 1938. In terms of his legacy, he is given considerable credit for having established the tradition of independent public service broadcasting.

After leaving the BBC, Reith served a term as chairman of Imperial Airways. In 1940, he was created Baron Reith of Stonehaven. The same year he was given a government appointment as Minister of Information; and, subsequently, he was elected MP for Southampton. Under Churchill, Reith also served as Minister of Transport and then as First Commissioner of Works. Later, though, he claimed Churchill had not given him enough to do during the war.

In 1946, he was appointed chair of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board, and other chairmanships followed (Colonial Development Corporation and the National Film Finance Corporation). In later years, Reith held various directorships, was Lord Rector of Glasgow University, and, from 1967, was Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He died on 16 June 1971. Further biographical information is available from the BBC, The Museum of Broadcast Communications, or Wikipedia.

Reith kept a diary for most of his life, amounting to some 4,000 pages, and two million words. Extracts were chosen and edited by Charles Stuart and published in 1975 as The Reith Diaries by Collins.

The book created some media attention at the time because it revealed precisely how Reith, in the 1930s, had been an admirer of the German way of doing things. Stuart says, in his introductory notes, that all Reith’s inclinations were in favour of Germany. On 9 March 1933, for example, Reith wrote: ‘I am pretty certain . . . that the Nazis will clean things up and put Germany on the way to being a real power in Europe again. They are being ruthless and most determined.’ And after the July 1934 Night of The Long Knives, in which the Nazis ruthlessly exterminated their internal dissidents, Reith wrote: ‘I really admire the way Hitler has cleaned up what looked like an incipient revolt.’ After Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Nazis in 1939, he wrote: ‘Hitler continues his magnificent efficiency.’

Stuart, however, suggests that this aspect of Reith’s character was only typical of the times: ‘. . . he combined great self-confidence in the correctness of his opinions with very little sign that he had much knowledge or understanding of the realities of foreign affairs. It was a posture he shared with other leading figures and his attitudes are of more interest as symptoms of the times than illustrative of any great originality on his part.’

The diaries also drew attention to the extraordinary depth of Reith’s hatred for some people, especially Winston Churchill. An article by Ron Robbins, available at The Churchill Centre website, calls the ‘mutual antipathy’ of the two men ‘a strange and somewhat sad chapter in British politics’. He says: ‘Reith’s spleen is written large in his diaries . . . His criticism of Churchill often dribbles on quite absurdly and finally he descends to this: “I absolutely hate him.” But it has to be said that Reith had a remarkably long hate list dating from his early days. Churchill’s genius and magnanimity were beyond Reith’s reach and comprehension. Reith was handicapped by an off-putting, austere nature that contrasted too starkly with Churchill’s warm friendships which had the hallmark of loyalty.’

Here are a few extracts from The Reith Diaries. In the first few, Reith records his involvement in the very earliest days of the BBC; and, in the last two, he reveals how his passion for the very organisation he had nurtured has turned bitter.

13 December 1922
‘This morning I had the interview about the BBC. Sir William Noble [head of the committee selecting a candidate to manage the BBC] came out to get me and he was smiling in a confidential sort of way. Present, McKinistry, Binyon and one other [representatives of the wireless manufacturers]. I put it all before God last night. They didn’t ask me many questions and some they did I didn’t know the meaning of.’ [Note inserted later: ‘The fact is I hadn’t the remotest idea as to what broadcasting was. I hadn’t troubled to find out. If I had tried I should probably have found difficulty in discovering anyone who knew.’] ‘I think they had more or less made up their minds that I was the man before they saw me and that it was chiefly a matter of confirmation. . . They asked what salary I wanted and I said £2,000. Noble came to the door with me and almost winked as if to say it was all right.’

14 December 1922
‘. . . At 3:45 Sir William Noble phoned to ask if I would come along to see him at once, so took a taxi and went. He received me very nicely, . . The Committee had unanimously recommended that I be offered the general managership of the British Broadcasting Co. He said he had tried hard to get the salary of £2,000 but some of the others didn’t want it to start over £1,500, but that if things went OK I should get a rise soon. Later he recommended me to take £1,750 as he thought he could get that approved. After a cup of tea and a general talk, I departed. I am profoundly thankful to God in this matter. It is all His doing. There were six on the short list.’

29 December 1922
‘Newcastle at 12:30. Here I really began my BBC responsibility. Saw transmitting station and studio place and landlords. It was very interesting. Away at 4:28, London at 10:10, bed at 12:00. I am trying to keep in close touch with Christ in all I do and I pray he may keep close to me. I have a great work to do.’

10 September 1923
‘Everything is now in shape for the BBC magazine and from various alternatives I chose Radio Times for the title.’

28 September 1923
‘The first issue of the Radio Times appeared and was sold out.’

19 April 1924
‘Opening of the Wembley Exhibition [British Empire Exhibition]. Everything went most successfully, including the broadcast which went out all over the country, and was the biggest thing we have done yet.’

And 40 years on . . .

30 March 1964
‘I feel immensely sad (and more than that) at the eclipse, or rather complete overthrow and destruction, of all my work in the BBC. It was my being prepared to lead, and to withstand modern laxities and vulgarities and immorality and irreligion and all. No-one was ever in such a position as I; I did what my father and mother would have wished - to universal amazement. All gone. Feeling most melancholy.’

2 April 1964
‘The Dean of Westminster wrote asking me to come to a service on the 19th to signalize the start of the Number Two television BBC. I wouldn’t on any account go to that, nor to anything associated with the BBC.’

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Toynbee and depression

Philip Toynbee, a British literary novelist and critic, died 30 years ago today. Best remembered, perhaps, for his reviews in the Sunday broadsheet, The Observer, he also left behind two published diaries written after a debilitating period of depression and electroconvulsive therapy. The diaries record, more than anything else, Toynbee’s search for some meaning in his life.

Toynbee was born in 1916 in Oxford, the son of the famous historian Arnold Toynbee. He was educated at Rugby (from where he was expelled for rebellious behaviour) and Christ Church, Oxford, where he was the Union’s first communist president. He worked as a journalist and then, during the war, served in the intelligence corps before being seconded to the Ministry of Economic Warfare. He was promoted to captain and joined the staff of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium in 1944-1945.

It was during the war years, that Toynbee published his first novels A School in Private (1941) and The Barricades (1943). After the war Toynbee joined the staff of The Observer as a foreign correspondent, and later became that paper’s literary critic, a job he held for the rest of his life. He also continued writing novels, some of them considered experimental.

Toynbee’s first marriage - to Anne Powell - produced two children (one of whom is the journalist Polly Toynbee) but ended in divorce in 1950. He then married married Frances Genevieve (Sally), a member of the American embassy in Tel Aviv whom he met while reporting from the Levant. They had a son and two daughters, and eventually settled in Gloucestershire, near Tintern Abbey. Toynbee, however, suffered from chronic drinking problems and recurrent depression.

For a few years, in the mid-1970s, Toynbee and Sally tried turning their home, Barn House, into a community, but the life did suit Toynbee, and his depression got worse. In 1977, he underwent electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). He died a few years later, on 15 June 1981. Wikipedia has a biography, but there is not much other freely available information about him on the internet (the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, requiring a subscription or library card access, has a good article).

In 1977 (having just completed his ECT), Toynbee began keeping a diary, recording, to a large extent, his search for some spiritual meaning. This was published in two volumes - Part of a Journey: An Autobiographical Journal, 1977-79 and End of a Journey An Autobiographical Journal 1979-81 - by Collins in 1981 and 1982.

In his introduction to the first volume, Toynbee says: ‘What is presented here [is] a frank and intimate record of my daily life over a period of just over two years; but this does not mean that it is wholly spontaneous; still less that I have ‘told all’. I have been a professional writer for forty years, and as soon as I begin to think of possible publication it was inevitable that I would immediately use all my acquired skills to make it as good a book as I could. . . But in spite of . . . various adjustments and omissions I believe that this is not only as honest a book as I could make it, but also a truthful journal.’

Here are a few extracts, including the very first entry.

1 August 1977
‘More than two months have passed since I finished a course of ECT at Bristol, and for the past six weeks I have been almost entirely free of depression. No exorbitant elation, thank God, but the dazed incredulity of a prisoner suddenly let out into ordinary daylight after three years in a dungeon.

But I must beware of such extravagant images as this; for whatever purpose this diary is meant to serve it certainly won’t serve at all unless I keep it as simple and as truthful as I can. The depression, which began in a desultory way about seven years ago, was acute from 1974 to June of this year. (But the word ‘acute’ is also a dubious one, for although I was sometimes incapacitated for days on end I was often in reasonable working order for a week or more.)

Yes; but even on the best days there was that perpetual fear of a form of possession which sometimes came as suddenly as a blow.’

3 August 1977
‘How absurd it seems to me now, all that ‘humane’ outcry against ECT: as if a few electric shocks administered to an anaesthetized patient were more of an ‘outrage against the person’ than cutting open his stomach and removing his appendix. If the treatment works, as indeed it does in many cases, no experienced depressive is going to worry about the reason why.’

30 June 1978
‘Yesterday my worst depression for more than a year. Stirrings at lunchtime - always the worst of the day - carefully kept in order as we drove to Gloucester. But seeing Emily at Coney Hill, among those wrecks of old men and women, almost made me break down then and there: not at all the place for such a display. ‘Who are these?’ asked the black staff nurse. ‘These are my old master and mistress,’ said Em, proudly. ‘Your friends, Em!’ I said, knowing that this had to be said, but hearing the dreadful hollowness of those words. ‘One of the family,’ we used to say: and so did she. But also our hard-working paid servant: at the going rate.

By the time we got home I was weighed down by that heavy lassitude, that aching exhaustion which I used to know so well. I tried to meditate; but the effort was too great. I tried to pray, but all I could say was ‘Lord, have mercy, lord have mercy, lord have mercy, lord have mercy . . .’

Because I left off my anti-depressant pills? Perhaps it’s a foolish kind of pride to hate that dependance so much. Perhaps God also works through Ludomil. He certainly works through my wife, whose hand in mine is the only effective anti-depressant that I know.’

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Goose Lane Editions

Goose Lane Editions, a Canadian publishing company founded in 1954 and said to be one of the country’s most exciting showcases of home-grown literary talent, has, in the last couple of years, published several intriguing diaries. Those of Tappan Adney record his wonderings in the New Brunswick wilderness, in particular with exquisite details of birds, birchbark canoes and a caribou hunt; while the diary of Robert Wyse describes, in all too gruesome detail, what life was like in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Adney was born in Ohio in 1868, but moved to New York as a teenager where he worked in a law office by day, while attending art classes by night. In 1887, he first went to Canada, with his sister, to stay for a few weeks with friends, the Sharp family, in Upper Woodstock, New Brunswick. However, having taken to the outdoor life there, he stayed on for nearly two years.

In 1897, Adney went back to Canada, this time to the west, lured to the Klondike Gold Rush as a special correspondent for Harper’s Weekly. He married Minnie Bell Sharp in 1899; and, in 1900, Harper published Adney’s photos and text in The Klondike Stampede. That same year, he returned to the north to record the gold rush in Nome, Alaska.

During the war, Adney joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and constructed scale models of fortifications for training purposes. In 1917, he became a Canadian citizen; and, after the war, he became widely known for his knowledge of decorative historical heraldry and the 3D shields he created for the Canadian provinces. He put forward a design for a Canadian national flag which won a competition but was not adopted; and he built more than 150 models of native canoes, now housed in Mariner’s Museum, Newport, Virginia.

As Adney grew older, Yukon News says, his behaviour and demeanour became more eccentric, to the point where he was seen shambling around Woodstock like a hobo. He died in 1950 in his tiny forest bungalow surrounded by notes, drawings and models. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, Michael Gates’s article in Yukon News, and Jim Wheaton’s web page.

As a young man, amazed by all he saw in Canada, Adney began filling notebooks with his diary jottings and other observations. He recorded, for example, the details of snowshoes, and birchbark canoes, and the native names for birds and animals. He also chronicled a caribou hunt on snowshoes in winter conditions, decades before woodland caribou became extinct in eastern Canada. Some of his notes were published, for the first time, last September by Goose Lane Editions, a New Brunswick-based publishing company, under the title The Travel Journals of Tappan Adney: 1887-1890.

Goose Lane Editions, established more than 50 years ago, describes itself as ‘a small, lively company’ and ‘Canada’s oldest independent publisher’ which ‘successfully combines a regional heart with a national profile to introduce readers to work by the best established and emerging authors.’

The Travel Journals of Tappan Adney: 1887-1890 was edited by C Ted Behne, another builder of model birchbark canoes and an Adney enthusiast. According to Goose Lane, the book is the first published version of Adney’s earliest two journals, though he would write three more before his last in 1896. Though beautifully produced and full of reproductions of Adney’s original sketches and early photographs, there are relatively few in-the-moment diary entries - the bulk of the text being more retrospective recordings of his journeys, observations and thoughts. Here, though, are a few dated entries from early on in the book.

4 July 1887
‘An excursion of the Natural History Society [from New York City] to Manawagonish Island in the Bay of Fundy off Saint John. Thirty of us went along in two small yachts. Manawagonish Island [is] a rocky island covered with dense, stunted spruce and a small clearing where some sheep were browsing. Dense fog swept in, enveloping all things with reeking, dripping moisture, shutting out all things but the tinkle of a sheep bell, the murmuring of the waves on the beach, and the voices of a few hardy birds. Strong, clear, like a flute in the hands of a master, the Hermit thrush - a pathos that is known to no other bird. There is no song of more pure beauty, and one must come here or listen in the early morn in some far New Brunswick wilderness, to hear this, the most beautiful of bird music. I found the nest, containing four blue-green eggs, on the ground, among the cool, damp mosses and luxuriant ferns. The fog was so thick we could hardly find our way back to the harbor.

5 July 1887
‘An early walk with Mr. Chamberlain and noted three new species of birds. It was marvelous to me how Chamberlain could identify from a single note that [which] would have escaped me altogether.’

6 July 1887
‘Mr. Chamberlain was to give a lecture before the Society and wanted some fresh birds, so I went out back of the city and found myself in wild woods. I poked about in a dense cedar swamp. The usual fog came in. I lost my bearings and walked in a circle until I remembered that the wind was probably constant. Then I took a course by the wind and got out. Thankfully, I got a crow for the lecture.’

8 July 1887
‘Took passage aboard a small side[-]wheel steamer, the David Weston for Fredericton up the river. Next morning, arrived at the capit[a]l. . . I sketched the curious wood boats, two-masted schooners with tremendous sheer forward, loaded on deck with deals so that the hull[s] of the boats were actually submerged, all but the high nose of the bow. They came down wing-and-wing under a northwest breeze. Going back, it is said they make better time than the steamer. Here at Fredericton were the booms with their enormous quantities of logs from up river.

There was a tall bank of sawdust several miles below the city, and I went there and found hundreds of Bank swallows nesting in the face of the heap, which was as hard and firm as a bank of sand. I got several sets of eggs.’

* * *

Another recent Goose Lane diary volume concerns Robert Wyse. He was born in 1900, in Newcastle, New Brunswick, into a prosperous family, one of six children. The family soon moved to Moncton, 100 miles or so south, but also in New Brunswick. Robert was too young to serve in the early years of First World War, but managed to sign up for the RAF in 1918 - though he did not see any action. Twenty years later, he left New Brunswick, partly to escape an unhappy marriage (from which he had one son, Robert) and travelled to England where he joined the RAF, and trained as a gunner. After a year, he switched to work as a flight controller; and then, with Squadron 232, he found himself in the Far East.

Following a mis-handled Allied campaign on Sumatra, and a retreat to Java, Wyse, along with many tens of thousands of Allied troops, was captured by Japanese forces. He spent over three years a prisoner of war before being liberated in the late summer of 1945. Thereafter, he was hospitalised before returning home in late 1946. He divorced his first wife, and married Laura Teakles with whom he had a daughter, Ruth. However, his health never fully recovered, and he died in 1967.

Although prisoners of war were forbidden to keep diaries, Wyse did write a journal during his incarceration, hiding it in a bamboo pole beside his bed, for over two years. When the practice became too dangerous, he buried his notes (just as others did, including the more famous diarist in the same camp, Laurens van der Post). After the war, he managed to arrange for his notes to be returned to Canada where he and Laura’s sister transcribed them to a typescript. The original notes no longer exist, but Jonathan F Vance, professor of history at the University of Western Ontario, edited the typscript (deleting passages added after the war) for publication by Goose Lane as Bamboo Cage - The P.O.W. Diary of Flight Lieutenant Robert Wyse, 1942‐1943.

This is, in fact, the 13th volume in a series of Goose Lane books for the New Brunswick Military Heritage Series. Initiated in 2000 by the Military and Strategic Studies Program of the University of New Brunswick, its purpose is to inform the public of ‘the remarkable military heritage of the province, and to stimulate further research, education and publication in the field’.

Here are a few extracts from Bamboo Cage.

1 September 1942
‘Hurried in to lorries at 10 a.m. and departed shortly after, no waiting around with the Japanese. Lovely drive through thickly populated country to Soerabaja, the largest sea port in Java. Our prison here is a former race course and fair grounds, thick concrete walls, sentry boxes at the four corners, and guards perpetually patrolling through the atap huts. Every Nippon guard seen even at a great distance must be saluted or bowed to, and one must stand rigidly at attention until they are out of sight. Another search of our meagre possessions on arrival, very thorough and much more of our stuff taken. Saw a small British flag being stamped on. About 1,000 British troops here already, about 3,000 Dutch, some Australian, American, and all other nationalities represented. Managed to get some bed space on some bamboo raised up from the ground, most of the troops on the ground here, but it is the dry season.’

2 September 1942
‘Practically no outside labour here. The camp is horribly dusty and dirty but fortunately there are a few showers. The bog holes are a seething mass of microbe life. Wing Commander Cave’s party went to Batavia in March and they are here now, many officers and men that I knew. P/O Shutes ... offers 5 guilders for my lighter. Woodford advises me to keep it for a better price.’

3 September 1942
‘Getting used to it but this is pretty hard living. Food even worse than at Malang and not so good for a Westerner. Small piece [of] bread in the morning with a cup of tea, bread very heavy and soggy. Lunch, boiled rice. It is generally too well cooked, naturally with no sugar, salt, or milk. Supper, steamed rice, a small ladle of stew (so called), no fat, no sugar. With a cup of tea, no accessories. That’s all there is, there ain’t no more. At the canteen you can buy cigarettes only - understand they used to sell tea and coffee.’

4 September 1942
‘At noon today informed of another move, don’t know where but think old English to be sorted out and confined together. Trying to sell my lighter at any price, sorry I didn’t take the five guilders, am stone broke. The Nippons had allowed us to keep some of our English iron rations. Now the C.O. is giving us each a share. I had a share in a can of apples, a small spoonful, a half a can of bully beef and an eighth of a tin of potatoes - that, with my noontime ration, √† la Dai Nippon, made one good bellyful. . .

There is damn-all charity between the British prisoners of war. Never in all my life have I seen such examples of selfishness. There was a riot over a case of corned beef, several boys injured. [Just] a spirit of ‘the hell with you, jack, I am looking after myself.’ Officers and men alike sit in front of others and fairly gloat over food that they have been able to purchase. When the capitulation came, huge impresses were handed out to officers for disbursement and the common good, [but] large sums of it remain in their own pockets and those of their friends. Tonight I sold a pair of socks, a gift, which I do not need, for 2; also a half cupful of petrol for 1. Our atap huts present a lively spectacle tonight as the Dutch come from all over to buy up the few remaining possessions of the English. I don’t know who wins. Our lads need the money for food, they certainly don’t need many clothes in this climate, but we have been at great pains to issue them with shirts and shorts to cover their nakedness, and the minute they get a new shirt off they go to see how many guilders they can get, guilders of course representing food.’

Many thanks to Goose Lane Editions for permission to quote from both their books, and for use of the two portrait photographs.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mobocracy is rife

Today marks two hundred and ten years since the birth of the famous Mormon, Brigham Young, who founded Salt Lake City, and who was the first governor of Utah Territory. Sometimes called the American Moses, because of the way he led Mormon pioneers to settle in the arid region, he was also a polygamist who married over 50 times. Although several of Brigham’s journals are known to exist, only one - relating to 1857 - has been published.

Young was born on 1 June 1801 into a Vermont farming family; as a young man he worked as a travelling tradesmen. After converting to Mormonism in the early 1830s, he helped establish a community in Ohio. He was ordained into the church hierarchy; and then, in 1838, he organised an exodus of Latter Day Saints from Missouri to Illinois. The following year, he went to England, where a mission he launched was instrumental in bringing European converts to the church.

When the Mormon leader Joseph Smith was murdered in 1844, Young took command of the church; and, in 1846 faced with mob pressure, he led his followers out of Illinois. It took well over a year before they settled on a site that would become Salt Lake City. In 1849, the Mormons established a provisional state called Deseret with Young as governor; the following year this became Utah.

Although Young was appointed to a second term as governor of Utah in 1854, friction between the Mormons and the federal judiciary led President James Buchanan to replace him in 1857, and an army was sent to establish federal rule in Utah. Young never held office again, but as president of the Mormon church, he effectively ruled the people of Utah until his death in 1877. He married once before converting to Mormonism, but his wife died young; and after his conversion he became a polygamist and had well over 50 partners and as many children. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, or Brigham Young University.

It appears Young kept journals for much of his life though only the earliest ones were written in his own hand, the others being dictated or kept by his sons or close associates. Almost all are held in the Mormon Church Archives in Salt Lake City. A full listing can be found in Leonard Arrington’s Brigham Young: American Moses published by University of Illinois Press in 1986 (available to read at Googlebooks).

One of the journals, though, is held by the University of Utah, and this was edited by Everett L Cooley, and published in 1980 as The Diary of Brigham Young, 1857, by the Tanner Trust Fund. It was only printed in a limited edition of 1,250 copies, but the text is available on the website of the university’s J Willard Marriott Library.

Cooley, in his introduction, says the diary is ‘rather brief’ and contains very little new material, and lacks anything personal and intimate. Nevertheless, he adds, it does mark the first printing of a complete diary by Young, and provides ‘a good insight’ into his many interests and activities.

Here is an entry from the 1857 diary considered to be of some importance. Cooley’s notes relating to this entry in the published edition suggest that Brigham Young was already in possession of the information - about approaching troops and the cancellation of the mail contract - and that the arrival of the messengers was staged ‘for dramatic effect - to impress upon the assembled Saints that momentous events were in store for them.’

24 July 1857
‘This day 10 years ago the Pioneers entered Salt Lake valley after a pilgrimage and Search of nearly two years to find a place where the people of God might rest from persecutions for a short time. How cheering were the prospects on that day. They had at last reached a place 800 Miles from where a Settlement could approach them. The country was so barren that none would covet it. 500 of our best men had marched 3000 miles to conquer a title for it. And on every Side were Scores of miles of mountains, which must be past ere our Settlement could be appro[a]ched. Here we have dwelt in peace and prosperity. The Lord has blessed the earth for our sakes. And the ‘Desert’ has ‘truly blossomed as the rose.’

All was hilarity and mirth the morn[in]g guns had been fired 3 rounds in honore of the first presidency - three times three groans were uttered for the Mysouri - the guards & my son John W.[’]s company had been paraded, three ‘rounds’ for the hope of Isreal. The bands were playing and every one at peace, when the news came that A O Smoot, Judson L Stoddard, O P Rockwell William Garr & Judge Elias Smith would be in camp in a few minutes. They came, and were welcomed by the band, & 3 deaf[e]ning cheers.

They were ushered into the Lewt General’s (occupied by my family) Marquee. found that Bros Smoot & Stoddard were from fort Leavenworth 20 days. They informed [me] that a new Governor and entire set of officers had been appointed, 2500 troops with 15 months provision. Sup[p]osed That General [William S.] Harney would commany - to support the officials in their position. I said if General Harney came here, I Should then know the intention of [the] gover[n]ment; And it was carried unanimously that if Harney crossed the South Pass the buz[z]ards Should pick his bones. The feeling of Mobocracy is rife in the ‘States’ the constant cry is kill the Mormons. Let them try it. The Utah mail contract had been taken from us - on the pretext of the unsettled state of things in this territory.

The news helped the people to enjoy themselves. Dancing and mirth continued until a late hour.’