Friday, December 27, 2013

Everything is sunshining

‘At about quarter to five, after nothing but music in its dissected form, I did the only right and inevitable thing to do when the sky is singingly blue and the sun is showing up the nakedness of London and everything is sunshining and smelling of new-forgotten damp earth and crocuses - I went out.’ This is the Canadian Elizabeth Smart - born 100 years ago today - not yet 20, writing in her diary with youthful enthusiasm and literary precociousness.

Smart was born on 27 December 1913 into a privileged family in Ottawa, Canada. She was educated at private schools, and became very keen on poetry, before being sent to King’s College, London, where she studied piano. In her mid-20s, she was taken on as secretary by Margaret Watt, head of Associated Country Women of the World, and travelled extensively with her to conferences. It was during this period that she first became interested in the poet George Barker. She wrote for The Ottawa Journal for some months, and she travelled on her own, mostly in the US.

Eventually, Smart managed to arrange a meeting with Barker, with whom she launched a long-lasting affair. She returned to Canada to give birth to a daughter (by Barker), and then went to work for the British embassy in Washington. She fell pregnant again during the war, and travelled to the UK to join Barker. There she worked for the British Ministry of Defence while caring for her two children. Her best known work, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, a semi-autobiographical novel about her relationship with Barker, was published in 1945. Thanks to the negative influence of her parents, the book was banned in Canada.

Thereafter, Barker visited Smart often in London, and they had two more children, although Barker never left his wife. Smart worked as an advertisement copywriter and as a magazine editor, living in Westbourne Terrace, where her flat is said to have been a magnet for the city’s bohemians. Retiring in the mid-1960s to a cottage in Suffolk, she took up writing poetry and fiction again, and also looked after her daughter’s two children (her daughter, having become involved with drugs, died in 1982). The early 1980s saw her publish - more than three decades since her last book - a few poems and The Assumption of the Rogues & Rascals, a kind of sequel to By Grand Central Station. She died soon after, in London in 1986. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, The Canadian EncyclopediaABC Bookworld, or Studies in Canadian Literature.

Two volumes of Smart’s diary were published posthumously, one in 1987 and the other in 1994, Necessary Secrets and On the Side of the Angels. Their editor, Alice Van Wart, believes ‘a remarkable personality’ emerges from the journals, ‘passionate, vibrant, extravagant, sensitive, yet subject to lethargy and self-doubt’. She says the entries were rapidly written, usually at night in bed, and ‘are the private record of the heart of a woman, a woman who never overtly rejects the standards and expectations placed upon her but quietly begins to construct her own personal values’.

The brightest, liveliest of Smart’s diary entries, in which one can sense her nascent literary talent and an interest in describing experiences of the world around her, were all written in her early diaries; later on her diaries become consumed by her difficulties, especially those in her relationship with Barker. (See also - O God George, can’t you see.)

7 March 1933
‘At about quarter to five, after nothing but music in its dissected form, I did the only right and inevitable thing to do when the sky is singingly blue and the sun is showing up the nakedness of London and everything is sunshining and smelling of new-forgotten damp earth and crocuses - I went out. [. . .]

The streets were full of tulips and narcissus and daffodils and it was spring - really. I passed by that little pool in Hyde Park by the Serpentine, cut from the bridge by bushes. A heron was standing dark and blue grey by the edge and there were sky and bushes shining in its bottom. The grass was bright green and fresh looking and on all the little hillocks purple and white and yellow crocuses are coming up.

I walked along the Serpentine - not on the bank because there were too many people there. Why do people when they go for a walk look at each other? - but up on the other side of the road - and there was a breezy wind enough to blow your hair and make you feel a little like mascots on motor cars - so I took my loose, loose hat off before the wind did. Before I came to the end, I took a new path across - on my right were two lovers walking away - he bending over and around her with his arm and head. The sparrows were making so much spring noise that I took off my gloves and scarf in spite of the brick red dress showing, and stuffed them in my purse. And then just as I thought I was alone I saw two more lovers on my left who thought they were alone. They were sitting on a seat under a gigantic trunk of a tree. [. . .]

I came out at a gate and crossed the bridge. There were boats on the water - people lazing - or working hard - and gulls flying and ducks in the water - just like summer. The wind blew my hair the right way. I forgave everybody their trespasses. I got into the gardens again and went down to the river past that mass of bushes that makes you so conscious of them and followed the water - watching the ducks and a child or two - until I came almost to Peter Pan. I had to pass a smug jealous woman sitting on a seat with some male. She tittered. Then I stepped over the low rail and walked on the grass which was quite muddy and hard to walk on in ladies’ heels. [. . .] I looked at the statue which turned out to be one by G. F. Watts called ‘Physical Energy’ - about twice life size of a huge horse. He was a god with naturally curly hair and a seductive Greek mouth. I saw that the path went in the same unbroken way - a sort of huge green path edged by huge trees on either side right up to the palace - in front of which sits the ‘Big Penny’ statue of the Good Smug Queen [Victoria]. By the time I got to the Round Pond it was quite dark and there were foreboding clouds over the palace - a shadowy purpleness more than an actual cloud - behind there was a pink light - and everywhere there was an expectancy as if something was about to be revealed - something too wonderful or too intangible.’

9 March 1933
‘On the bus [. . .] there was only one seat on top which a nondescript man was trying to camouflage. However, I was resolute and made him move over - sitting uncomfortably and precariously on the edge. Soon, the seat in front was completely empty and I moved into it - it was the very front seat. In a couple of moments a lady who had been sitting beside someone else came and sat beside me. She was not startling, but if you looked into her face it was queer and uncanny - you could see she lived in a very different world from most people. [. . .] When the conductor came up to collect the tickets she said to him in a very loud voice, “Why don’t you stop there and get some petrol. We might get on a bit quicker.” I smiled at her when she seemed to be muttering her hates to me - but I didn’t speak for fear of bringing down on my head the accusations of an insane person - though I wished I had later when she left. [. . .]

I went to the Tate Gallery on a 2 bus and was inspired and thrilled and imagitated by William Blake’s illustrations - especially the one of Dante and Virgil approaching the angel who guards the gates of Purgatory - there are mystical yellow and red lights and rays upon the water - and you can look into it and into it - and you feel a sacred feeling like the light of twilights and dreams when you were little. Strange, lost beautiful things and imaginings and forgotten inspirations.’

31 March 1933
‘We took a bus from Sloane St to the Ritz and our white gloves began to look faintly grey at the tips. We walked along to Givans and tried on the blue checked blouse which was wrong and didn’t fit. We made an exit there - and London was making an awful noise. Men drilling and buses roaring and things falling - you couldn’t hear or think. [. . .] The noise and confusion was worse and worse - and then what should have been spring sunny air was filled with gas smells and dust and tired heat and hard dirty pavement - horrible dusty gas coming out of the bowels of dirty motors and buses.

O the clashing and jarring. It never seemed so bad. We went to Lilley and Skinners and sat in a fairly comfortable seat and Mummy tried on shoes that looked awful and cost pounds. [. . .] We took a taxi and came home and then Mummy and I had a sherry in the lounge and I was a little tight but I camouflaged it and she went out to lunch. Then I reeled into the dining room and had lunch. Then I took a bus to the Ritz and walked or rather strutted in a clipped sort of way up Dover St - and my hair was unspeakable and looked untouchable in fact - I wore a hanky under my new silk hat. The girl gave me a wash and wanted to pluck my eyebrows which made me mad - why should they want to standardize even me? I am sick of this Mayfair fashionable smart - socialness - Tatler-Spectator - jealousy - boredom - toeing the mark.’

28 February 1937
‘Hampstead still has that air of concealing just around the corner, the house I read about in some old book when I was a child, a different life. I know someday I shall find that family whose smell is in the very Hampstead mists, behind the clipped hedges, under the arched doorways. Keats walking with Leigh Hunt, or the whole Sanger family sitting in the sunshine in an untidy studio making music in the middle of the afternoon.’

The Diary Junction

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Amazing Mr Smith

Most of The Diary Review articles are pegged to an anniversary or publication of a book. This one, though, very sadly, has come about because I happened to be in West Bay, Dorset, on the morning of Sunday 8 December with my family when a body was being recovered from the beach. Later that week, local newspapers reported that a man named Derek Smith had died after falling from the cliff, whether accidentally or deliberately has not yet been reported. Curiosity led me to find out more about Derek Smith - or, as he was better known publicly, The Amazing Mr Smith - and to a book of his diary extracts.

Derek Smith was born in Croydon, south of London, on 1 April 1948 (I think), and, according to his own testimony, lived within 10 miles of the place for 47 years. In the 1960s, he performed in a band called Wild Oats, whose lead singer, Viva, he married in Torquay in 1982. They had one daughter, Rosie. After Wild Oats disbanded, Derek went on to a carve a career as a solo performer, while Viva moved into acting and then sang with a folk trio, Dangerous Curves. Derek was considered a talented guitar player and played in many comedy and folk clubs. He also toured the US five times, and appeared in shows in Holland, Germany, Norway and Jordan.

Smith’s own website quotes this comment: ‘The cardboard tube double bass, the musical shoelaces, the Nutcracker played on the tu-tu xylophone, the Blue Danube on the condom harp and his 3-minute rendition of Riverdance had to be seen to be believed.’ One reviewer said that his combination of mad inventions and brilliant acoustic guitar playing made him one of the funniest and most original entertainers around. In another, he was dubbed Monty Python’s answer to John Williams. Viva died in 2009, and Derek died on 8 December 2013. A service was held at Weymouth Crematorium on 20 December. There is not much information about Smith online, though some can be found in John Fleming’s blog piece, and in a film at Vimeo
There are many tributes to Smith at The Mudcat Cafe.

In 2005, Derek Smith self-published a book entitled 25 Year Diary of An Eccentric Musician 1980-2005. It is dedicated to ‘Viva, my long-suffering wife’. Among the acknowledgements is this one: ‘Thanks especially to my friend Steve Black for suggesting I should do something like this. The conversation ran roughly as follows: “I’ve got all these diaries of funny things that have happened to me since 1979, a lot of them at gigs.” - “Why don’t you publish some of them?” - “Because they wouldn’t be of general interest unless I was really famous.” - Maybe not, but people at your gigs might like to read about some of the things that happened at others.” - “Yes, maybe, I suppose I’d better give it a go then.’

Many of the stories, Smith says in his ‘Foreword (not funny)’ are much longer that the bits reproduced in the book, and that one day he might ‘release’ the unabridged versions. ‘Perhaps the funniest part of the whole business,’ he adds, ‘is that I bothered to write any of it down in the first place.’ He estimates that there are 300,000 words in his nine diary notebooks, and that 90% of these are ‘funny things that happened to me’, and half of this 90% is gig related. The books were not intended to be a comprehensive day by day journal, he explains, and whole days or even weeks have nothing written about them, ‘presumably because nothing notably funny happened.’ Here are a few short extracts.

12 March 1981, Shoreditch College
‘Noisy, don’t know whether it was good or bad. Several enjoyed it but ‘Keith’ (black eye, allegedly only one ball) was 21 that day and drinking G&Ts out of a pint glass. He was very pissed and rather upstaged me by stripping except for a saucepan which he and a few others were wearing . . .’

15 December 1981, Half Moon, Putney
‘Bob told me about his trumpet in the boot of his Alvis. He was wearing a fur coat and was pissed when he was stopped by the Bill. They looked at his trumpet and started sniffing it (looking for drugs). Going home, I too was stopped by the Bill, this time for jumping the lights. Sarky remark by copper: ’This is why insurance premiums are so high for musicians if they do things like jump red lights.’

7 August 1987, Colchester Folk Club
‘. . . in the interval I accidentally dropped [my plastic] dog-turd out of my tail’s pocket which resounded when it hit the top of a metallic beer barrel. I reflected how nice this was in the church. I went into the gents’ and put on my tutu behind a screen such that I was able to hear the only other occupant, who was pissing and unaware of my presence, sing in falsetto and in its entirety, ‘I wanna be Bobby’s girl’. My ‘That was nice’ made him jump out of his skin.’

23 June 1989, Jongleurs
‘. . . midnight ‘open spot’. Nasty evening before but not as nasty as the gig - drunken bastards but they enjoyed yelling ‘fuck off’ etc. I was called a brave man by Arthur Smith (compere) who bought me a drink.’

13 July 1990, Deal Folk Club
‘. . . A dog barked outside at the end of the 1st verse of ‘The Seeds of Love’, so I stopped, got out one of my toy (bouncing) dogs and tried some black magic on it by stamping on it, but the dog outside carried on barking . . .’

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Consuming concentration

‘I’m wondering if perhaps there isn’t some mean between the consuming concentration I formerly directed to the keeping of the entries and the comparative laxness of attention I have devoted to the diary since the atomic bomb fell upon history.’ This is a 1947 diary entry by Arthur Crew Inman, a rich, eccentric and obsessed diarist who died half a century ago today. His diaries - all 155 of them held by Harvard University - were edited for publication in the 1980s; and, since then, they have proved a compulsive inspiration for Lorenzo DeStefano’s plays and films.

Inman was born into a very wealthy family in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1895. He studied at Haverford College, Pennsylvania, but had some kind of serious breakdown at 21. He published several volumes of poetry without any success. In 1923, he married Evelyn Yates. They moved to Boston, where Inman rented several apartments in a residential hotel. He became increasingly obsessed with his health, and had his rooms darkened and soundproofed - his
 inherited wealth allowed him full rein to indulge the hypochondria. He employed individuals to talk to him (‘talkers’), tell him about their lives, and sometimes he seduced them. He attempted suicide on several occasions, and finally succeeded with a revolver on 5 December 1863. Further biographical information is available from the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Harvard Gazette or Wikipedia.

From his mid-20s, Inman began to keep a diary, somewhat obsessively, thinking it would bring him immortality. By the time of his death, he had written 155 volumes, making it one of the longest diaries on record. According to David Herbert Donald, a Pulitzer-prize-winning historian, it is also ‘the most remarkable diary ever published by an American’. An edited version was painstakingly put together by Professor Daniel Aaron, and published in two volumes by Harvard University Press in 1985 as The Inman Diary - A Public and Private Confession. Some pages from the first of these can be browsed online at Googlebooks; as can some pages from an abridged one volume edition in 1996 called From a Darkened Room.

Most publicity about Inman’s diaries in recent years has been focused on, or through, Lorenzo DeStefano, who states this: ‘I first discovered The Inman Diary through a New York Times book review. What began as a fixation has grown into a deep exploration of the American psyche. Through Inman’s obsessive efforts to capture time I have encountered a literary milieu and aspects of American and world history I had no inkling of before. As a result I now hold exclusive dramatic rights to the Inman Diary from Harvard University Press.’ DeStefano’s projects include Camera Obscura, a play about Inman, which has also been turned into a chamber opera; a documentary, From a Darkened Room; and a film, Hypergraphia

The following extracts are taken from The Inman Diary - A Public and Private Confession.

5 September 1944
‘I am forty-nine. There is no hope in my heart that I shall ever recover from a state of limited semi-invalidism.

My day is divided somewhat as follows: The curtains in my bedroom are dropped some fifty minutes before sunrise to keep the room dark so that I may avoid headaches. Breakfast is at 6:30am, after which I wash and go back to bed unto 8:10am, when I get up. I ride at nine or ten for varying amounts, after having scanned the newspapers, listened to the news and waltzes on the radio, perhaps written in here without using my glasses, though I use them when driving. On returning home, I eat something, work, dictate, write in here. Lunch comes shortly after noon. I nap in my darkened room for a few minutes around one o’clock. Then Janice massages the soft tissue in my neck. With myself still in the dark and Evelyn or Janice on the other side of a curtain where the light is, I correct from three until shortly before six. Then I play the talking-book and the radio until 7:15pm, when Fulton Lewis’ talk ends, when I eat my supper. Thereafter, I listen to the radio, the talking-book or am read to or talked to for the evening, which extends until midnight or twelve-thirty.

My principle pleasure consists of writing in here, correcting, studying. I cannot work a tithe of the time I would wish to. I have no faith in God, the reality of progress, the predominance of good. I feel myself born under an unlucky star. I value my friends. I place more value upon money than formerly. I fear many things up to a certain point - always anticipating trouble and usually getting it. People, by and large, are very good to me, and I strive to return as I am able their affection and their efforts in my behalf. I am bitter and disillusioned with existence and wait for it to end but until it does attempt to achieve some measure of normality, to be cheerful and equable.’

24 September 1947
‘I’m wondering if perhaps there isn’t some mean between the consuming concentration I formerly directed to the keeping of the entries and the comparative laxness of attention I have devoted to the diary since the atomic bomb fell upon history. I have often thought about cooks. They plan; they work. In a trice the result of their efforts vanishes down the red lane, and if a remembrance of their culinary art remains in the mind of the one who has eaten, that is generally the apogee of reward any cook can expect. Cooks come and go, and people eat on, and very seldom in history does a name or reputation survive. Yet often the most inconspicuous and unappreciated cooks take real pleasure in their remunerative labour.

So it should be, perhaps, with the keeping of a diary. If the long record of private thoughts, emotions, experiences, observations ends by being annihilated, the mind should not dwell upon that probability but permit itself, as a traveler journeying to no destination yet enjoying the act of traveling, to enjoy the simple daily exercise.’

25 September 1947
‘Could I quite surrender to the idea that some historical and psychological value attaches itself to my efforts and believe accordingly that they were absolutely vain and trifling, I could at least be more at peace with myself, consider each entry a pleasurable venture in idle scribbling only. But I can’t, and for the simple reason that, when I come across a record such as this, I’m enraptured by it. The New York Times Book Section of week before last carries a front-page review of the journals of André Gide. I must read them. “My mind is becoming voluptuously impious and pagan. I must stress this tendency.” Did famous persons march across my pages, their merit might be differently weighed. Well, they don’t. Only nonillustrious persons of no consequence artistically or historically. Myself, I detest reading about the famous in memoirs and journals. Is that sour grapes?’

The Diary Junction

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Let us go gracefully

‘Today I was filled with terrible despair, and I shall have to come to terms with that as well. [. . .] Even if we are consigned to hell, let us go there as gracefully as we can. I did not really want to put it so blandly.’ This is Etty Hillesum, a young, passionate Dutch woman, writing in her diary about ‘our impending destruction and annihilation’ at the hands of the Nazis. A little more than a year after writing this, she died at Auschwitz, 70 years ago today.

Esther (Etty) Hillesum was born in 1914 in Middelburg to a mother of Russian descent and a Dutch father who taught classical languages. In 1932, she moved to Amsterdam to study law, and then Slavic languages. As a student, she moved in left-wing circles, which included many Jews who had fled Hitler’s Germany. One of these was Julius Spier, a psychoanalyst and, apparently, an expert at reading hands, who became a mentor for Hillesum, and her great love. Their relationship eventually became physical, even though she was living with another man, and even though she knew he had similar influence over other women.

In July 1942, Hillesum took a job at the Jewish Council in Amsterdam, but after two weeks asked for a transfer to Camp Westerbork, a transit camp used by the Nazis to assemble Roma and Dutch Jews. There she became ill in the winter, and, on recovering, refused offers of help to go into hiding, preferring to continue working at Westerbork. In September 1943, she and most of her family were transferred to Poland. Etty Hillesum died on 30 November in Auschwitz. Further biographical information is available at Wikipedia, the Etty Hillesum Research Centre, and Catholic Ireland.

Hillesum began to write a diary in March 1941, probably encouraged by Spiers who she had consulted for the first time a few weeks earlier, and she continued to do so for 18 months until October 1842. Knowing she was unlikely to return from the camps, Hillesum gave her journals (eight closely-written exercise books - see a picture of them here) to the only writer she knew, Klaas Smelik, and his daughter. They tried to have them published, but were unsuccessful at the time.

Only in 1980, when the journals were shown to the journalist and publisher Jan G. Gaarlandt did they make it into print, in two volumes in 1981-1982, since when many editions and translations have followed. The first English versions, translated by Arnold J. Pomerans, were published in the UK by Jonathan Cape in 1983 and 1987. The following extracts are taken from An Interrupted Life: The Diaries and Letters of Etty Hillesum 1941-1943 published by Persephone Books in 1999. Some pages of the diary can be read online in a different edition at Googlebooks.

9 March 1941
‘Here goes, then. This is painful and well-night insuperable step for me: yielding up so much that has been suppressed to a blank sheet of lined paper. The thoughts in my head are sometimes so clear and so sharp and my feelings are so deep, but writing about them comes hard. The main difficulty, I think, is a sense of shame. So many inhibitions, so much fear of letting go, of allowing things to pour out of me, and yet that is what I must do if I am ever to give my life a reasonable and satisfactory purpose. It is like the final, liberating scream that always sticks bashfully in your throat when you make love. I am accomplished in bed, just about seasoned enough I should think to be counted among the better lovers, and love does indeed suit me to perfection, and yet it remains a mere trifle, set apart from what is truly essential, and deep inside me something is still locked away.’

4 July 1941
‘I am full of unease, a strange, infernal agitation, which might be productive if only I knew what to do with it. A ‘creative’ unease. Not of the body - not even a dozen passionate nights of love could assuage it. It is almost a ‘sacred’ unease. ‘Oh God, take me into Your great hands and turn me into Your instrument, let me write.’ This all came about because of the red-haired Leonie and philosophical Joop. S [Julius Spier] reached straight into their hearts with his analysis, but I still think people can’t be reduced to psychological formulas, that only the artist can render human beings down to their last irrational elements.

I don’t know how to settle down to my writing. Everything is still much too chaotic, and I lack self-confidence, or perhaps the urgent need to speak out. I am still waiting for things to come out and find a form of their own accord. But first I myself must find the right pattern, my own pattern.’

24 April 1942
‘[. . .] And this, too: how can I explain that, whenever I have had physical contact with S. in the evening, I spend the night with Han? Feelings of guilt? In the past, perhaps, but no longer. Has S. unleashed things deep down inside of me that can’t yet come out but carry on their subterranean existence with Han? I can hardly believe that. Or is it perversity? A matter of convenience? To pass from the arms of one into those of the other? What sort of life am I leading?

Last night when I cycled home from S., I poured out all my tenderness, all the tenderness one cannot express for a man even when one loves him very, very much, I poured it all out into the great, all-embracing spring night; I melted into the landscape and offered all my tenderness up to the sky and the stars and the water and to the little bridge. And that was the best moment of the day.’

26 April 1942
‘Just a small red, faded anemone. But I like the idea that in years to come, I shall chance upon it again between these pages. By then I shall be a matron, and I shall hold this dried flower in my hands and say with a touch of sadness: ‘Look, this is the anemone I wore in my hair on the fifty-fifth birthday of the man who was the greatest and most unforgettable friend of my youth. It was during the third year of World War II, we ate under-the-counter macaroni and drank real coffee, on which Liesl got “drunk”, we were all in such high spirits, wondering if the war would be over soon, and I wore the red anemone in my hair and somebody said, “You look a mixture of Russian and Spanish”, and somebody else, the blonde Swiss with the heavy eyebrows, said “A Russian Carmen”, and I asked him to recite a poem about William Tell for us in his funny Swiss burr.’

1 July 1942
‘My mind has assimilated everything that has happened in these last few days. So far the rumours have been infinitely worse than the reality, for us in Holland at least, since in Poland the killers seem to be in full cry. But though my mind has come to terms with it all, my body hasn’t. It has disintegrated into a thousand pieces, and each piece has a different pain.’

3 July 1942
‘Yes, I am still at the same desk, but it seems to me that I am going to have to draw a line under everything and continue in a different tone. I must admit a new insight into my life and find a place for it: what is at stake is our impending destruction and annihilation, we can have no more illusions about that. They are out to destroy us completely, we must accept that and go on from there. Today I was filled with terrible despair, and I shall have to come to terms with that as well. [. . .] Even if we are consigned to hell, let us go there as gracefully as we can. I did not really want to put it so blandly.’

The Diary Junction

Friday, November 22, 2013

For Mrs Moore

C. S. Lewis, a British writer of Christian tracts and fantasy novels, died 50 years ago today (the news of his death being somewhat eclipsed by the assassination of J. F. Kennedy on the same day). He is most well remembered for his seven novels in the Chronicles of Narnia series, but less so for a diary he kept during his early years, before he became a Christian, at the behest of his intimate, but much older, friend Mrs Moore.

Lewis was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1898, with the first names Clive and Staples, but he is always known as C. S. Lewis. His mother died when he was only ten. He studied at Cherbourg School, Malvern, and University College, Oxford, but his student life was interrupted by service in the army during the latter stages of the First World War (during which he was wounded in the Battle of Arras). After the war, he returned to Oxford and gained several degrees. From early in the 1920s, he lived with Mrs Janie King Moore, the mother of a friend of his who had been killed in the war, and her daughter. Mrs Moore was more than 20 years Lewis’s senior but, nevertheless, the two had some kind of long-term relationship.

Lewis remained at University College as a tutor, and, in 1925, was elected a Fellow of Magdalen College. In 1930, Lewis, his brother and Moore jointly purchased a house called The Kilns; and, the following year, he became a committed Christian. By 1933, Lewis and a group of literary friends, dubbed the Inklings, were meeting regularly. Lewis’s first major work, An Allegory of Love: Study in Medieval Tradition, was published in 1936 (later, it won a Gollancz Memorial Prize). The Screwtape Letters, in 1942, published as installments in a magazine, was one of many Christian works he penned.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - the first of what became known as the Chronicles of Narnia, for which C. S. Lewis is probably most famous - was published in 1950, and the last - The Last Battle - in 1956. In 1954, Lewis was elected Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at the University of Cambridge. In 1956, he married the American Joy Davidman in order to allow her to stay in the country. Although she was ill with cancer and expected to die quickly, she survived until 1960. Three years later, Lewis himself died, on 22 November 1963, the same day as Aldous Huxley died, and President Kennedy was assassinated (see JFK’s assassin in Moscow for a Diary Review article on Lee Harvey Oswald). For more biographical information on Lewis visit WikipediaJohn Visser’s fan site, or the official C. S. Lewis website.

According to Walter Hooper, editor of All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis 1922-1927 (HarperCollins 1991), Lewis made a number of attempts to keep a diary when he was a boy, but all were short lived: ‘Then, at the age of 23, when an undergraduate at Oxford, he began a new diary which runs to over a quarter of a million words and covers the years 1922-27. This was the pre-Christian Lewis, an atheist whose objections to the Faith were ventilated in this attempt. He persevered because it was meant to be, not just about his life, but that of his friend Mrs Moore. Several times he records how he fell behind and how Mrs Moore insisted that he pick it up again. Much of its documentary content was dictated by her interest in recording the pleasures and disappointments caused by the many visitors to their house. And, as the diary makes clear, Mrs Moore was its primary audience. Lewis often read it aloud to her, and she could have looked at it at any time.’

Some pages from All My Road Before Me can be read online at Amazon and Googlebooks.

21 February 1924
‘Immediately after breakfast I tood Biddy Anne in to Gillard to be vetted. Biddy Anne is a yellow cat that has recently adopted us. I walked in from the Plain, called at College and went to the Union, coming home again by bus.

I then made up my diary since my illness. After lunch the weather changed. A startling mildness came over the air and it was like spring though there were heavy black clouds to the east. After D [Moore] and I had strolled in the garden to enjoy this, I came in and read over my diary for this time last year. It is dully written - I recover the horrors from memory and not from the words.’

22 February 1924
‘I had an unusually nasty dream connected with my father in the night - a dream of the clinging sort.

After breakfast I took down all the gas globes for D to clean. I spent the morning working on Henry More’s Defence of the Cabbala, a fantastic, tedious work. After lunch I crumbled ham and swept the kitchen and scullery and then went out for a walk with Pat.’

27 February 1924
‘A letter from my father this morning, answering my last, in which I had pointed out that my scholarship had now ceased and that I should need a little supplement to carry on. This question had been raised before. He replied with a long and pleasant letter with a sting in its tail: offering what was necessary, but saying that I had £30 extra expenses last year (which I cannot account for at all) and remarking that I can always put money in my pocket by spending more time at home. There comes the rub - this cannot be answered: yet to follow his suggestion would be nerves, loneliness and mental stagnation.

I finished More’s Philosophical Works this morning and made out a table of chronology from Ward’s Life and my old table done for the English school. After lunch I went first to the Union where I extracted several facts from the Dictionary of National Biography subvoce More and then to Wilson to borrow his Theological Works . . . In the evening I began The Mythology of Godliness’.

1 March 1924
‘I spent most of the morning in the kitchen cutting up turnips and peeling onions for D, and then went for an hour’s walk in the fields. After lunch and jobs I took Euripides from his shelf for the first time this many a day, with some idea of reading a Greek play every week end (when I am not writing) so as to keep up my Greek. I began the Heracleidae. Coming back to Greek tragedy after so long an absence I was greatly impressed with its stiffness and rumness and also thought the choruses strangely prosaic. The effort to represent a scuffle between Iolaus and the Herald is intolerably languid. After the first shock, however, I enjoyed it.’

The Diary Junction

Benjamin Britten’s centenary

Today marks the centenary of the UK’s most celebrated composer, Benjamin Britten. Centenary concerts are taking place not only in the UK but across the world, with, for example, War Requiem in Berlin, Turn of the Screw in Bologna, Billy Budd in Rio de Janeiro, and Peter Grimes at the Carnegie Hall, New York.

The Diary Review has already published articles on Britten and on his lifelong partner, Peter Pears - see Britten’s firecracker crits and Peter Pears centenary - but Britten’s centenary is excuse enough to reproduce a few more extracts from his diary. The following - covering some early encounters with Pears - are taken from Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten 1928-1938 published by Faber & Faber in 2009.

The book’s editor, John Evans, says that 1937 began sadly for Britten: ‘In January his sister Beth caught influenza, and infected her mother, who had come to London to nurse her. Weakened by the illness, Mrs Britten died of a heart attack. On 27 April his friend, the writer Peter Burra, was killed in a plane crash. Burra had owned a small cottage at Bucklebury and it fell to Britten and one of Burra’s closest friends, the young singer Peter Pears, to sort out his papers. The two men soon formed a strong friendship and began performing together.’

30 April 1937
‘I have a rehearsal with Boult of H. F. at BBCC at 11:30 - it goes quite well, tho’ he doesn’t really grasp the work - tho’ he is marvellously painstaking. Sophie of course sings well. Lunch after with her & Arnold jun., & John &; Millicent Francis. Then I meet Poppy Vulliamy & have long talks with her. She goes off to Spain very soon to look after the evacuated children from Madrid & Malaga. I have agreed to adopt one & pay for him for a year. Back here in the aft. & then out to dinner with Peter Piers & Basil Douglas - very nice, but sad as we have to discuss what is best about Peter Burra’s things. BBC. Contemporary concert after cond. by Boult - BBC orch They do my Hunting Fathers very creditably - I am awfully pleased with it too, I’m afraid. Some things don’t satisfy me at the moment - but its my op. 1 alright [. . .]’

6 May 1937
‘Sketch another song for Hedli in the morning. Lunch & excessive political arguments with Peter Floud at Baker Street - I am in a damned muddle trying to compromise between Pacifism and Communism. Back here in aft. & then meet & walk Harry Morris - a charming kid - protege of Barbara’s who is very keen on music & very good draughtsboy.

Then after tea Kit takes us round looking for car’s - find a possible Lee Francis in Highgate, Kit stays to dinner - having delivered the child to his home in Hampstead. After dinner general slack & then Kit drops me at Paddington at 10.45 & I meet Peter Pears & travel with him in a packed dirty train to Reading where we arrive about mid-night - & set out for the Behrend’s house (Burclere) on his motor-bike, in the pouring, pouring rain. After wandering helplessly in the maze of roads over the common - very cold & damp, to our skins - & me pretty sore behind, being unused to pillion riding - we knock up people in the only house with a light in we meet at all, & get some rather vague instructions from them. Wander further & quite by accident alight on the house - at about 1.45 or 50. Have hot baths & straight to bed. The Behrends themselves are in town.’

7 May 1937
‘After a 9 o’clock breakfast Peter & I go over to Peter Burra’s house (Foxhold) to spend the day sorting out letters, photos & other personalities preparatory to the big clean up to take place soon. Peter Pears is a dear & a very sympathetic person. - tho’ I’ll admit I am not too keen on travelling on his motor bike! Catch 5.35 up to town, & I have to walk from Kilburn Park Station - but it’s all for the good of the cause & so far there’s no likelihood of an immediate settlement. Spend evening writing letters & sketch another song for Hedli.’

The Diary Junction

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Swede in the Mid-West

Eric Norelius, a Swede who emigrated to America and became a key figure in the Swedish Lutheran church there, was born 180 years ago today. He kept a diary from aged 15 which is considered of minor historical importance. Parts of this have been translated into English, but there are no extracts freely available online, just reviews of the published works.

Norelius was born in Hassela, Helsingia, on 26 October 1833, but migrated to the US in 1850. He was trained as a priest at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and was ordained in 1855. That same year he married Inga Peterson, and they had five children. In 1856, he moved to become pastor of a new Swedish-Lutheran congregation in Vasa, Minnesota, and then Attica, Indiana, for a few years before returning to Vasa.

In 1860, Norelius was one of the founders of the Augustana Lutheran Synod (which only merged into the Lutheran Church in 1962). He was its president from 1874 to 1881 and from 1901 to 1910. He is also regarded as the founder of Gustavus Adolphus College. In 1892, he was awarded a doctorate in theology. Throughout his ministry, he was active in publishing, launching and/or editing a variety of Swedish language publications. From 1899 until 1909, he was editor of Tidskrift för svensk evangelisk luthersk kyrkohistoria i Amerika, later called The Augustana Theological Quarterly.

The last years of Norelius’s life were spent researching and writing the history of the synod and the Swedish migration to, and settlement in, America. He died in 1916. Further information is available online from Wikipedia, the Augustana Heritage Association, or the Minnesota Encyclopaedia.

For much of his life, Norelius kept a diary. He used this extensively for an autobiographical work, published posthumously, in 1934, by the Augustana Book Concern: Early Life of Eric Norelius (1833-1862), Journal of a Swedish Immigrant in the Middle West. This can be borrowed digitally from Internet Archive, and here are two reviews of the book.

The Mississippi Valley Historical Review (Vol. 22 No. 2, September 1935): ‘In this autobiography of the early years of an outstanding leader of the Swedish people in America, the student of western history, as well as of immigrants, will find much of value. The volume describes Eric Norelius’ childhood on a Swedish farm and his migration to America in 1850, where he hoped to acquire the education he despaired of attaining in Sweden. [. . .] The autobiography, written in 1916 when Norelius was eighty-three years old, is based on his diaries, and parts of it consists of excerpts from them.’

In its review, Minnesota History (Vol. 16 No. 2 June 1935) asks how reliable are the memoirs of an old man, and concludes: ‘Norelius himself answers the question: “There are many facts and events that we have seen or experienced in our childhood of youth which are remembered vividly. This has been the writer’s experience. Furthermore, I have kept a diary since the fifteenth year of my life.” ’

Some 30 years later, in 1967, Fortress Press published a more substantial volume - The Journals of Eric Norelius: A Swedish Missionary on the American Frontier - which was translated and edited by G. Everett Arden. Again, I can find no single quotation or extract from the book online, but Minnesota History Magazine (Vol. 40 No. 7) reviewed the book as follows:

‘Of the five sections into which these journals are divided, the first four, extending from Norelius’ birth in 1833 at Hassela, Sweden, to his ordination at Dixon, Illinois, in 1855, consist of Professor Arden’s translations of the “Minnesbok.” Norelius used this diary as the basis of autobiographical articles first published in Korsbaneret (1888-90) and Augustana (1930-31), which were translated by the Reverend Emeroy Johnson and published in book form by the Augustana Book Concern as Early Life of Eric Norelius (1934).

In these posthumously published articles Norelius usually elaborated on the “Minnesbok” versions, but sometimes the original is fuller. At times, as in the episode of the diarist’s meeting with the Baptist Anders Wiberg in 1853, there is immediacy (and in this case acerbity) in the “Minnesbok” which is lacking in the version written for publication. The final section describes a “Missionary Journey to the West Coast, 1885-1886,” which also originally appeared in Augustana.

Mr. Arden, whose work is well known to those interested in the history of Swedish-American Lutheranism, has provided a most useful introduction. In this he shows the place of Norelius in relation to religious developments in Sweden, to the beginnings of the Augustana Lutheran Church, and to the Swedish peopling of the Middle West - in particular Minnesota, which was the missionary’s permanent home from 1860 to his death in 1916. The editor-translator has also provided useful explanatory notes and an index, thus filling to some extent a gap left by Mr. Johnson in his work of 1934.

The most profound impression left on this reviewer by these journals is one of the comparative weakness of Lutheranism in the early years of the second Swedish migration, surrounded as it was by a mass of indifference to religion, and beset by competition from Episcopalians, Eric Jansonists, and (more notably) Baptists and Methodists, all of whom were in the field before the fathers of Augustana began their work.’

The Diary Junction

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My hungry hound

The Scottish poet William Soutar passed away seventy years ago today, his death having come slowly but inevitably after more than a decade of being bedridden and constantly confronted with his own incapacity. His poetry is considered to have made an important contribution to the Scottish Literary Renaissance, but it is because of his diaries, perhaps, that he is mostly remembered, at least outside of Scotland. One of his diaries contains a witty poem about how the diary is ‘a hungry hound’, yet his mind is so bare he has nothing to feed it. He started a new journal in the last months of his life, and this he named The Diary of a Dying Man.

Soutar was born in Perth, an only child in a religious family. His father was a master-joiner, and his mother wrote poetry. William studied at the local academy before joining the Royal Navy during the latter part of the First World War. While serving, he contracted a disease - later diagnosed as ankylosing spondylitis - which blighted the rest of his life. After the war he studied, first medicine, then English, at Edinburgh University. He contributed to the university magazine; and his father financed publication of slim volumes of poetry, the first being Gleanings by an Undergraduate.

Encouraged and inspired by Hugh McDiarmid, who is credited with developing a literary Scots style of writing, Soutar evolved into an important figure in the so-called Scottish Literary Renaissance. After contracting TB and an unsuccessful operation in 1930, Soutar spent the rest of his life confined to a specially-adapted room in his parents house, where he received many literary visitors. In the house, also, was an orphaned cousin who prompted Soutar to write for children (Seeds in the Wind, for example). He died on 15 October 1943. Further information is available from the Scottish Poetry Society, the William Soutar website, the BBC or Wikipedia.

Soutar’s extant diaries date from 1917, when he was still with the Royal Navy, but until his operation in 1930, they contain but brief notes of appointments and information on books read. According to Alexander Scott, another Scottish poet, who edited the diaries for their first publication in 1954, ‘from the date of the operation, [. . .] the entries extend greatly, both in length and in range, until they provide a fascinating and detailed picture of Soutar’s “still life” in the room where he was bedfast - a life unique in achievement as in environment.’

The diaries were published by W. and R. Chambers Ltd under the title Diaries of a Dying Man, and much of this is available to browse at Googlebooks. Joy Hendry, author of Soutar’s entry for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (login required), says it was unfortunate that Scott chose that title because, she felt, Scott had ‘appropriated’ the title that Soutar himself gave to his very last, and very special, diary, started just months before his death. Hendry says it is thanks to American diarist scholar Thomas Mallon, moved by the tragic story of the diaries and amazed at their literary quality and Soutar’s obscurity, that a process began that brought the diaries back into print (i.e. an edition published in 1991 by Chapman Publications).

4 April 1932
‘Writing and reading: continue to wrestle with words in a very sticky fashion. Perhaps my concentration on verse has made it difficult for me when I turn to prose - anyhow, there is often a strained sound about such prose as I write. Of course all men, I expect, come upon these periods of mental stiffness - but they are depressing at the time and bring with them the fear that they may not pass away. At such moments, the mood is disintegrated - a stimulating talk with a kindred spirit may also disperse it - but alas! I rarely enjoy that. Indeed, I sometimes wonder if much of the irritating tattle which is washed my way lies like a weight on the spirit.’

28 June 1932
‘Just realised to-day that it was round about this time, 10 years ago, when I was Mercer’s age (24) [Soutar’s cousin] that the pains and stiffness in my back began. We were on holiday at Montrose. When I look at Mercer I can scarcely accept the fact that my youth was actually dying then. Seeing him walking about in my clothes - I sometimes wonder what strange necessity brought about the humiliation of my body. Man must look for a reason, and when he has lost his old gods must peer into himself. It is not self-compliment to surmise that one had to sacrifice one’s body to make a self.’

29 June 1932
‘. . . Just now as I lifted my eyes to the hillside I saw the trees waving like a wall of fire. If only one could respond to life as the earth to the sun - but the heart is so often a trim little garden with neither luxuriance nor the conflict of the jungle. It is so easy to retreat within the safe walls of mediocrity.’

4 June 1935
‘TO MY DIARY (on a dull day)
Since verse has power to give a grace
Even to the commonplace
I shall, within a rhyme, declare
The cupboard of my mind is bare
Not only of an underdone
Cutlet of thought; the very bone
Of prosy platitude is gone.
And since for you, my hungry hound,
No meaty morsel can be found;
And since I would not have you own
A master who could proffer none,
I bleed myself to be your drink:
Is not the blood of poets - ink?’

3 August 1940
‘Jennie in emancipated mood this morning, dashing about at her window-cleaning with no stockings on: sometimes the glimpse of a free, young body gives me a sudden, hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach.’

6 October 1943
‘How snail-like the temp at which I seem to be living now - and yet my days are hurrying out of the world. I do not think any of my friends suspect as yet that I am under the sentence of death; and it will be fine if they continue for a good while yet to imagine that I have a touch of bronchitis, or something like that: when at last they know, an undefinable restraint will come between the free interchange of friendship.’

13 October 1943
‘Writing in the forenoon: G. G., with the concern of an elder brother, trotted in to find if I was more settled this morning: I could say that I was, but that that was due in the main to the fact I wasn’t attempting to get rid of the phlegm. The stuff was accordingly accumulating - and could not but be a factor in the increase of breathlessness and palpitation: thus one is threatened from all around, by night and by day: whichever way one may turn, the net is closing and cannot be evaded.’

14 October 1943
‘[. . .] Last night I must have been talking quite a lot; as the folks said they heard me making noises around 1:50.’

The Diary Junction

Friday, October 11, 2013

Beauty and the Beast

‘My method is simple; not to aim at poetry. That must come of its own accord. The very word whispered will frighten it away. I shall try to build a table. It will be up to you to eat at it, to criticize it, or to chop it up for firewood.’ This is the great innovative French film maker, Jean Cocteau, who died 50 years ago today, writing in the introduction to his published diary about the making of the famous film Beauty and the Beast.

Cocteau was born at Maisons-Laffitte, near Paris, in 1889, but his father, a lawyer and amateur painter, committed suicide in 1898. He left school young, and became friends with the actor Edouard de Max who encouraged his poetry writing. A first book, La Lampe d’Aladin, was published in 1909. The same year also saw the arrival of Ballets Russes and Sergey Diaghilev to Paris, who involved Cocteau in the theatre world. During World War I, Cocteau served as an ambulance driver; he also encountered many other writers and artists who had gathered in Paris.

In 1917, Cocteau met Picasso and they went to Rome where they joined up with Diaghilev and worked on a ballet called Parade, with music by Erik Satie and choreography by Leonide Massine. After the war Cocteau founded a publishing house which published his own writings and scores by Stravinsky, Satie and a group of composers known as Les Six. By 1923, and possibly because his intimate friend Raymond Radiguet had died from typhoid, Cocteau had become addicted to opium. While trying to recover, he produced various works, such as the play Orpheus, the novel Children of the Game, and a first film, Blood of a Poet.

Les Enfants Terribles, which is considered Cocteau’s finest work, was published in 1929. The same year, he was admitted to hospital with opium poisoning. In the 1930s, Cocteau focused increasingly on films, although in 1936 he undertook a journey round the world, one similar to that described in Jules Verne’s story. In the following year, he met the actor Jean Marais, with whom he had a close and fruitful friendship for the rest of his life.

During World War II, the Vichy government branded Cocteau a decadent; but he also took some unwise actions that led to claims he was a German collaborator. After the war, he made Beauty and the Beast and turned both Orpheus and Les Enfants Terribles into films. He died of a heart attack on 11 October 1963, apparently on hearing of the death of his friend Edith Piaf. Further biographical information is readily available on the web, try WikipediaThe Poetry Foundation, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Cocteau, it seems, often kept diaries, and many of these have found their way into publication, in French, obviously, and sometimes in translation. The two most well-known of his diaries translated into English are Diary of a Film (also Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film), first published in English in 1950 by Dennis Dobson; and Opium: The Diary of a Cure. More recently, in the 1980s, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in New York and Hamish Hamilton in London have published two volumes of Past Tense: Diaries, being Cocteau’s diaries from the last decade or so of his life.

The following extracts come from Diary of a Film, as translated by Ronald Duncan and published by Dennis Dobson Ltd. This can be digitally borrowed at Internet Archive; and a review by Tennessee Williams can be found in a 1950 edition of The New York Times. The first long extract comes from Cocteau’s own introduction

‘I have decided to write a diary of La Belle et la Bête as the work on the film progresses. After a year of preparations and difficulties, the moment has now come to grapple with a dream. Apart from numerous obstacles which exist in getting a dream on to celluloid, the problem is to make a film within the limits imposed by strict economy. But perhaps these limitations may stimulate imagination which is often lethargic when all means are placed at its disposal.

Everyone knows the story of Madame Leprince de Beaumont, a story often attributed to Perrault, because it comes from ‘Peau d’Ane’ between those bewitching covers of the Bibliothèque Rose.

The story requires faith, the faith of childhood. I mean that one must believe implicitly at the very beginning and not question that the mere gathering of a rose might involve a family upheaval, or whether a man can be changed into a beast, and vice versa. Such beliefs will offend the grown-ups who are always ready to condemn with derision those whose humble faith offends them. But I have the impudence to believe that the cinema which can depict the impossible may convince even them and turn such dreams into realities.

It is up to us, (that is, to me and my unit, in fact, one entity) to avoid those particular things which can break the spell of a fairy story, for when it comes to sequence, the world of make-believe is at least as susceptible as the world of reality.

For fantasy has its own laws which are as rigid as those of perspective. One can focus on what is distant, and hide what is near, but the style remains defined and is so delicate that the slightest false note jars. I am not saying that I have achieved this, but that is what I shall attempt within the means at my disposal.

My method is simple; not to aim at poetry. That must come of its own accord. The very word whispered will frighten it away. I shall try to build a table. It will be up to you to eat at it, to criticize it, or to chop it up for firewood.’

30 August 1945, 7am
‘I woke up with a start in the night. It was raining. I suddenly realized a mistake I had made, which I must correct without anybody noticing it. If they did they would lose confidence in me. I am not a real director and probably never shall be. I get too interested in what is happening. I begin to watch it as though it were a play. I become a part of the audience and then I forget all about the continuity. I have forgotten the continuity of movement where Marcel André mounts his horse. So that we can still use that shot, I shall have to cut a bit of Nane Gernon at the window. She will have to say her lines again and then leave the window, so that Marcel in the next cut can make his movement. This means I shall finish up behind the horse when he mounts it and says ‘And you, Beauty, what shall I bring you?’

30 August 1945, 7:30pm
‘First day that I have actually done what I wanted to do. Splendid sunshine and clouds. We took advantage of the clouds after lunch to work behind the house, and produced the effect of evening by using lamps.

But this morning we nearly lost the little time that we’d gained on our schedule owing to the flying school students looping the loop above us. Darbon went to the officers. They are to pay us a visit at ten o’clock. One of them is Mangin’s son. They’ve promised to make the pilots fly further off.

I’ve nearly finished the linen scene. With a bit of luck I should be through with it tomorrow, between nine and one o’clock. (Ludovic and his watering cans, Mila’s shadow; Beauty’s arrival in her Princess’s dress in the lanes of sheets, discovered by Jean Marais who lifts up the first sheet as though it were a stage curtain a l’Italienne to reveal the background behind the bench.)

In order to make sure of Mila and Nane’s laughter in the close-up (on Josette’s line, ‘bring me a rose . . .’) I asked Aldo to dress himself up as a hag. He made up his face under a veil, and wore long blond curls made of woodshavings. He was grotesque and looked like an old witch. I pushed him out in front of them after the clapper-boy. But they told me they laughed only because they didn’t find him funny.

After the linen tomorrow I shall go on to the orchard, and do the scene of Beauty appearing with her father, to link up with the settings of the sheet and the house. Lebreton is recording sounds of chickens and running water for me, so that the background noises have the correct atmosphere.

1 June 1946 (the last entry in this published diary)
‘Am writing these last lines of this diary in a country house, where I am hiding from bells of all kinds. Door bells, phone bells, and the Rouge est mis.

Decided to quit as soon as the film was finished. And it was yesterday that I showed it for the first time to the studio technicians at Joinville. Its announcement, written on a blackboard, caused quite a stir at Saint-Maurice. They had filled up quite a theatre with benches and chairs. Lacombe had even postponed his shooting so that his unit and artists could attend.

At 6:30 Marlene Dietrich was seated beside me. I tried to get up to say a few words, but the accumulation of all those minutes which had led to this one moment quite paralysed me and I was almost incapable of speech. I sat watching the film, holding Marlene’s hand, crushing it without noticing what I was doing. The film unwound and sparkled like a far-off star - something apart and insensible to me. For it had killed me. It now rejected me and lived its own life. And the only thing I could see in it were the memories of the suffering which were attached to every foot. I couldn’t believe that others would even be able to follow its story. I felt they too would become involved in these activities of my imagination.

But the reception of this audience of technicians was quite unforgettable. And that was my reward. Whatever happens, I shall never get such a touching reception as I did from this little village whose industry is the canning of dreams.’

The Diary Junction

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sinking so exceedingly

Jonathan Edwards, considered by some to be the most important of American philosophical theologians, was born 310 years ago today. He was a major figure in the revivalist movement of New England in the 1730s and 1740s - the so-called First Great Awakening - but fell out with his own congregation and went to minister at a Massachusetts mission outpost. Many of his sermons and essays were published, and old editions of his collected works, readily available online, tend to include a diary he kept when still a young man.

Edwards was born on 5 October 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut, into a large family; and, having been tutored by his father and sisters, entered Yale College aged 13. He worked as a pastor in New York, before returning to Yale as a tutor. He took a position, in 1737, as associate pastor to his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, in Northampton, Massachusetts. The same year he married Sarah Pierpont, and they had 11 children.

After Stoddard’s death, Edwards took over in sole ministerial charge of the large Northampton congregation, and began to criticise the moral ills of New England society, not least in published sermons and essays, such as A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God. He went on to produce many more tracts inspiring and supporting the revivalist movement, not least The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival (1742), and A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746).

According to Yale University’s web page on Edwards: ‘Perry Miller, the grand expositor of the New England mind and founder of the Yale edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards, described Edwards as the first and greatest homegrown American philosopher. If the student penetrates behind the technical language of theology, Miller argued, “he discovers an intelligence which, as much as Emerson’s, Melville’s, or Mark Twain’s, is both an index of American society and a comment upon it.” Although nineteenth-century editors of Edwards “improved” his style out of embarrassment for his unadorned, earthy, and earnest language, today Edwards is recognized as a consummate and sophisticated rhetorician and as a master preacher.’

In 1750, after a long-running dispute with his congregation, Edwards was dismissed by the church in Northampton for trying to impose strict qualifications for admission to the sacraments. According to Yale again: ‘His dismissal is often seen as a turning point in colonial American history because it marked the clear and final rejection of the old “New England Way” constructed by the Puritan settlers of New England. [. . .] Ironically, then, the colonial theologian who best anticipated the intellectual shape of modern America also was its first victim.’

in 1751, Edwards went to the mission post of Stockbridge, on the western border of Massachusetts, where he pastored a small English congregation, and wrote many of his major works, including A Careful and Strict Inquiry into the Modern Prevailing Notions of that Freedom of Will. In late 1757, he was lured back to mainstream society with the presidency of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) - because, according to Princeton, he was considered ‘the most eminent American philosopher-theologian of his time’. He died but a few months later. For further biographical information see Wikipedia, the Jonathan Edwards Center website (Yale University), Christian Classics Ethereal Library, or the Desiring God website.

Edwards has no claim to fame as a diarist, but his collected works do include some pages of a diary kept largely in his youth. A first section is made up of fairly regularly entries from December 1722 to September 1723; and a second section has frequent entries between October 1723 and June 1724, then intermittent entries to June 1725, one single entry in 1726, one in 1734, and finally three in 1735. The diary can be found in The Life of President Edwards by S. E. Dwight published by Carvill in 1830 (and in other general compilations of Edwards’ works) at Internet Archive, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, and Googlebooks.

15 January 1723
‘About two or three o’clock. I have been all this time decaying. It seemed yesterday, the day before, and Saturday, that I should always retain the same resolutions to the same height. But alas! how soon do I decay! O how weak, how infirm, how unable to do any thing of myself! What a poor inconsistent being! What a miserable wretch, without the assistance of the Spirit of God! While I stand, I am ready to think that I stand by my own strength, and upon my own legs; and I am ready to triumph over my spiritual enemies, as if it were I myself that caused them to flee: when alas! I am but a poor infant, upheld by Jesus Christ; who holds me up, and gives me liberty to smile to see my enemies flee, when he drives them before me. And so I laugh, as though I myself did it, when it is only Jesus Christ leads me along, and fights himself against my enemies. And now the Lord has a little left me, how weak do I find myself! O let it teach me to depend less on myself, to be more humble, and to give more of the praise of my ability to Jesus Christ! The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? The occasion of my decaying, is a little melancholy. My spirits are depressed, because I fear that I lost some friendship the last night; and, my spirits being depressed, my resolutions have lost their strength. I differ to-day from yesterday in these things: I do not resolve anything to-day half so strongly. I am not so perpetually thinking of renewing my resolutions as I was then. I am not half so vigorous as I was then; nor am I half so careful to do every thing with vigour. Then, I kept continually acting; but now, I do things slowly, and satisfy myself by thinking of religion in the mean time. I am not so careful to go from one business to another. I felt humiliation about sun-set. What shall I do, in order that I may, with a good grace, fall into christian discourse and conversation? At night. The next time I am in such a lifeless frame, I will force myself to go rapidly from one thing to another, and to do those things with vigour, in which vigour would ever be useful. The things which take off my mind, when bent on religion, are commonly some remarkable change or alteration - journeys, change of place, change of business, change of studies, and change of other circumstances; or something that makes me melancholy; or some sin.’

17 January 1723
‘About three o’clock, overwhelmed with melancholy.’

1 January 1724
‘Not to spend too much time in thinking, even of important and necessary worldly business, and to allow every thing its proportion of thought, according to its urgency and importance.’

2 January 1724
‘These things established, That time gained in things of lesser importance, is as much gained in things of greater; that a minute gained in times of confusion, conversation, or in a journey, is as good as minute gained in my study, at my most retired times; and so, in general, that a minute gained at one time is as good as at another.’

3 January 1724
‘The time and pains laid out in seeking the world, is to be proportioned to the necessity, usefulness, and importance of it, with respect to another world, together with the uncertainty of living, and of retaining; provided, that nothing that our duty enjoins, or that is amiable, be omitted, and nothing sinful or unbecoming be done for the sake of it.’

6 January 1724 [At Yale College]
‘This week has been a very remarkable week with me, with respect to despondencies, fears, perplexities, multitudes of cares, and distraction of mind: it being the week I came hither to New-Haven, in order to entrance upon the office of tutor of the college. I have now abundant reason to be convinced of the troublesomeness and vexation of the world, and that it will never be another kind of world.’

7 January 1724
‘When I am giving the relation of a thing, remember to abstain from altering either in the matter or manner of speaking, so much, as that if every one, afterwards, should alter as much, it would at last come to be properly false.’

2 September 1724
‘By a sparingness in diet, and eating as much as may be what is light and easy of digestion, I shall doubtless be able to think more clearly, and shall gain time; 1. By lengthening out my life; 2. Shall need less time for digestion, after meals; 3. Shall be able to study more closely, without injury to my health; 4. Shall need less time for sleep; 5. Shall more seldom be troubled with the head-ache.’

12 September 1724
‘Crosses of the nature of that which I met with this week, thrust me quite below all comforts in religion. They appear no more than vanity and stubble, especially when I meet with them so unprepared for them. I shall not be fit to encounter them, except I have a far stronger and more permanent faith, hope, and love.’

30 September 1724
‘It has been a prevailing thought with me, to which I have given place in practice, that it is best sometimes to eat or drink, when it will do me no good, because the hurt that it will do me, will not be equal to the trouble of denying myself. But I have determined to suffer that thought to prevail no longer. The hurries of commencement and diversion of the vacancy, has been the occasion of my sinking so exceedingly, as in the last three weeks.’

The Diary Junction

Monday, September 23, 2013

Paddy’s broken road

John Murray has just published the final part of a trilogy by Patrick (Paddy) Leigh Fermor concerning his epic journey on foot across Europe in the mid-1930s. The first two parts, thought by some to be classics of travel literature, were written from memory 40-50 years after the journey and not published until the 1970s-1980s. Leigh Fermor died in 2011 and never completed the third part, but the new book - The Broken Road - has been compiled from early pieces of his writing, including a diary he kept during the latter stages of his walk.

Paddy was born in London in 1915, the son of a distinguished geologist then working in India, and spent the first four years of his life with a family in Northamptonshire while his mother and sister stayed with his father in India. Subsequently, he had trouble with schools, being expelled from some, and being sent to one for difficult children for a while. Nevertheless, he managed some learning, including Greek.

By the summer of 1933, still only 18, Paddy had tired of education and decided to live in London and become a writer. A few months later, though, he was off on the first of his many travels: a walk across Europe from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. The journey lasted from December 1933 to January 1935, and thereafter he travelled around Greece, settling with a Romanian noblewoman, Balasha Cantacuzène, first near Athens then in Moldavia.

Paddy served with the Irish Guards during the Second World War, and then joined the Special Operations Executive in 1941, helping to coordinate resistance in German-occupied Crete. He led the party that in 1944 captured and evacuated a German commander. Captain Bill Stanley Moss, his second in command at the time, later wrote about the events in Ill Met by Moonlight: The Abduction of General Kreipe, which was adapted into a film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger with Dirk Bogarde playing Paddy.

In 1950, Paddy published his first book, The Traveller’s Tree, about post-war travels in the Caribbean, and he went on to write several further books, including Mani and Roumeli, of his travels on mule and foot around remote parts of Greece. He was friendly with Lawrence Durrell, another writer on Greece (see The Diary Review - A book out of these scraps) who wrote of him in his Cyprus book, Bitter Lemons: ‘After a splendid dinner by the fire he starts singing, songs of Crete, Athens, Macedonia. When I go out to refill the ouzo bottle. . . I find the street completely filled with people listening in utter silence and darkness. Everyone seems struck dumb. “What is it?” I say, catching sight of Frangos. “Never have I heard of Englishmen singing Greek songs like this!” Their reverent amazement is touching; it is as if they want to embrace Paddy wherever he goes.’

In 1968, after many years together, Paddy married Joan Elizabeth Rayner (née Eyres Monsell), daughter of the 1st Viscount Monsell. She accompanied him on his travels (until her death 2003) and the two were based partly near Kardamyli in the southern Peloponnese and partly in Gloucestershire, England. They had no children. Paddy was knighted in 2004, and he died in 2011. Further information can be found from Wikipedia, The New Yorker, various obituaries (The Guardian, for example, The Independent, the BBC), or from reviews of a ‘magnificent’ biography by Artemis Cooper published last year by John Murray (The Telegraph, The Daily Mail).

In 1977, John Murray published Paddy’s A Time of Gifts, often considered to be a classic of travel literature. This was a memoir of the first part of his journey on foot across Europe in 1933-1934. (Much of it can be read online at Googlebooks.) Nearly a decade later, a second volume appeared, Between the Woods and the Water; and a third, covering the final part of the walk to Constantinople (Istanbul), was promised but never completed: he laboured at this third book for years but never produced a manuscript. Now, in September 2013, John Murray (part of Hodder) has brought out a third volume edited by Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper - The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos - by way of trying to complete the trilogy.

But this is a very different book to the first two since it is made up of two documents written by Paddy much earlier in his life, and not crafted by him to be the third book of the trilogy. The first, called ‘A Youthful Journey’, was inspired by a commission for a magazine on the pleasure of walking; and the second is a diary Paddy lost but, oddly, recovered in 1965.

In the book’s introduction - which can be read on the Hodder website - the editors provide a full explanation of the convoluted story behind The Broken Road, and some background on Paddy’s diaries. They also explain the genesis of the title chosen to indicate Paddy’s unfinished written journey, and the fact that the work is not the polished version he would have desired, ‘only the furthest in the end we [the editors] could go.’

‘One of the astonishing facts about A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water,’ the editors say, ‘is that they were written from memory, with no diaries or notebooks to sustain them. Paddy’s first diary was stolen in a Munich youth hostel in 1934, and those that succeeded it, along with his picaresque letters to his mother, were stored during the war in the Harrods Depository, where years later they were destroyed unclaimed. It was a loss, he used to say, that “still aches, like an old wound in wet weather”.’

However, in 1965, while researching an article on the Danube, he met up again with Balasha Cantacuzène, who he had not seen since the start of the war in 1939. She had saved his fourth and final diary, and returned it to him during this visit.

The editors continue: ‘Written in faded pencil, the Green Diary, as he called it, carries his life forward to 1935 after his walk was over, and is appended with sketches of churches, costumes, friends, vocabularies in Hungarian, Rumanian, Bulgarian and Greek, and the names and addresses of almost everyone he stayed with. But strangely, although the diary covered all his walk from the Iron Gates to Constantinople and more, he never collated it with ‘A Youthful Journey’. Perhaps its callowness jarred with the later, more studied manuscript, or their factual differences disconcerted him. The two narratives often diverge. Whatever the reason, the diary - which retained an almost talismanic significance for him - did nothing to solve his dilemma.’

Here are three partial extracts from the diary section of The Broken Road.

24 January 1935
‘I left Salonika last night; Patullo and Elphinstone came along with me to the boat, and we bought some bread, and salami and cheese by the harbour gates. I was glad they came, as it was already sunset, and it’s very lonely starting off on these journeys alone. The ship was surprisingly small; very dirty and overloaded with every kind of cargo, all of which was hauled on board in a surprisingly unworkmanlike way. The boat was a shambles inside too, with enormous banks of coal in the passages, and peasants lying in their blankets in despondent groups everywhere. We stood in the passages and smoked, and chatted, waiting for the bells to ring to announce departure, so they could get off; but the boat was nearly two hours late, and they nearly came away with me, which would have been rather serious for Patullo has to join a troopship for Hong Kong in a day or two at Port Said. [. . .]’

27 January 1935
‘I left Koutloumousiou early yesterday, and started off downhill, the road winding beside a rushing torrent, breaking over great boulders, and dashing on in a lather of white foam. The peninsula here is entirely forested with evergreens, so that it is difficult to believe it’s only January; among the ilexes and oleanders are many olives, aspens, cypresses and cedar. The higher slopes are almost entirely fir.

Coming round a corner I saw a funny little grey-haired man sitting on the edge of an old stone well, with some big brown paper parcels beside him. He wished me good day in French, and giving me a cigarette, began to tell me all about himself. He was from Kavalla, and had lived on the Holy Mountain for four years, making maps of it, and copying ikons on wood. He showed me a few of these, they were good.

The sea soon came into sight round a bend, and the large monastery of Iviron, the high walls appearing above the trees. These walls are lofty, and have the effect of being much higher than they are long, as they are divided into sort of rectangular bastions, rising sheer to quite a height without a single window, then suddenly branching out into an overhanging balcony, with undulating tiled roofs, and the plaster painted bright colours - red, blue, green, in crude designs.

Several monks were sitting on benches in the big, sunny cobbled courtyard, half asleep, stroking their beards. [. . .]’

28 January 1935
‘I left Iviron after an early lunch yesterday, the track running close along the shore, sometimes over the high rocks, sometimes over the pebbles and sand of the beach, and sometimes winding away inland, a little footpath between the trees. It was really a succession of Devonshire combes, but full of wildly growing evergreens, with now and then a squat stone hermitage standing on a ledge of the mountainside, surrounded by dark cypresses. [. . .]’

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

13 Lincoln’s Inn Field

Sir John Soane, an architect best remembered for his house in Lincoln’s Inn Field, now a famous museum, and for rebuilding the Bank of England, was born 260 years ago today. Though not known as a diarist, he did keep a notebook during the rebuilding of 13 Lincoln’s Inn Field. To celebrate the building’s 200th anniversary last year, the Soane museum scanned and transcribed the notebook so as to make it publicly available on its website.

Soane was born in Goring-on-Thames on 10 September 1753. His father, a bricklayer, died in 1768, after which he went to live with his much older brother. Aged 15, he began training as an architect under George Dance the Younger, and in 1771 he was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools. He did well there, gaining a silver medal the following year, and a gold medal in 1776 for designing a triumphal arch. He spent three years in Italy studying the ancient remains, and making original designs for public buildings. On returning to England in 1780, Soane struggled at first to find commissions to design country houses, but by the mid 1780s his services were in constant demand.

Soane married Elizabeth Smith, niece to the successful builder George Wyatt, in 1784. They had two sons that survived infancy. On the death of Wyatt in 1790, the couple inherited money and property, leading Soane to purchase 12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. He demolished the existing house, and rebuilt it to his own design. In 1788, he won the coveted post of architect to the Bank of England, a lucrative position that kept him busy for many years, and involved rebuilding most of the existing bank and doubling its size. Between 1789 and 1994, he also designed a new prison at Norwich Castle. He was noted, generally, for an original and personal interpretation of the Neoclassical style.

Among other appointments, Soane became professor of architecture at the Royal Academy, and architect for the Office of Works. His success enabled him, over the years, to buy and rebuild 13 and 14 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Number 13 is today the world famous Sir John Soane’s Museum. Soane was knighted in 1832, and the following year obtained an Act of Parliament through which his house became a national architecture museum. He died in 1837. Further information is available at Wikipedia, Royal Berkshire History or HistOracle.

Soane is not known as a diarist - indeed he is not listed in the extensive Annotated Bibliography of Diaries Printed in English, compiled by Christopher Handley. However, during the rebuilding of 13 Lincoln’s Inn Field - between July and October 1812 - he did keep a notebook. This is held by Sir John Soane’s Museum, and, in celebration of the building’s 200 anniversary last year (2012), it published the diary on its website. For each day, there is a scan of the original, a transcript, and a commentary. Here are some sample extracts and commentaries.

13 July 1812
‘Mr Tyndale gave up the possession of No. 13 this evening’

14 July 1812
‘Mr Tyndale compl. the removing his goods, wine etc.’

17 July 1812
‘Began pulling down’

1 August 1812
‘Completed pulling down and removing the old Mat. except a small part of the front wall and the back front wall’

28 August 1812
‘The floor was put on the floor of the Study and the walls of the Court raised several feet above the Ground floor of the House

Between the fascia over the Kitchen window and the paving of the Area are four course of stones in Height, the whole of the third and part of the fourth was completed this 29th Aug.’

Commentary: ‘Work has progressed rapidly at the back of the house. By this date the basement on the west side of the central courtyard was complete enabling the floor to be laid in the ‘Study’ (the Breakfast Room today). [. . .]’

6 October 1812
‘The two statues were brought here this morning punctually to Mr Sealy’s promise between 10 and 11 and in the course of the afternoon they were raised into their proper places and the workmen began to remove the upper part of the Scaffolding’

Commentary: ‘The two statues are the Coade Stone female figures after those on the Erechtheion in Athens, visible on the facade of No. 13. On November 6th Soane paid for them, noting in his accounts ‘Coade & Sealey £40’.’

13 October 1812.
‘The whole of the building covered in completely’

Commentary: ‘The final entry in Soane’s notebook marks the end of the project to build No.13, at least for this phase.  Soane would continue to make additions and alterations for the rest of his life, as his collection grew. [. . .]’