Monday, January 20, 2014

Edification and imitation

Isaac Ambrose, a 17th century Presbyterian priest who died 350 years ago today, was a great believer in the value of keeping a diary in order to improve one’s religious life. In one of his most important books, Prima, he argues the case for diary writing, and gives examples from his own diary.

Isaac, the son of Richard Ambrose, vicar of Ormskirk, Lancashire, was born in 1604, and studied for the priesthood at Brasenose College, Oxford. Through the influence of William Russell, Earl of Bedford, he became one of the King’s itinerant preachers in Lancashire, and then, thanks to Lady Margaret Hoghton, became vicar of Preston. Years later, he delivered a celebrated sermon at her funeral. He is said to have played a prominent part in the establishment of presbyterianism in Lancashire during the 1640s. He died on 23 January 1664. A little more biographical information can be found in Gary Brady’s Ambrose blog, A Puritan’s Mind website, and at Wikipedia.

During his life, Ambrose wrote widely on religious matters. In Prima; The First Things, in Reference to the Middle and Last Things he suggested Christians should keep a spiritual diary, and included extracts of his own. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (login required) suggests it is a pity that so little of Ambrose’s diary has survived. Prima is freely available at Internet Archive.

Here is most of the relevant section in Prima.

‘To this purpose we read of many Ancients that were accustomed to keep Diaries or Day-books of their actions, and out of them to take an Account of their Lives: Such a Register (of God’s Dealings towards him, and of his Dealings toward God in main Things) the Lord put into a poor Creature’s Heart to keep in the Year 1641, ever since which Time he hath continued it, and once a Year purposes (by God’s Grace) to examine himself by it; the Use and End of it, is this:

1. Hereby he observes something of God to his Soul, and of his Soul to God. 2. Upon Occasion he pours out his Soul to God in Prayer accordingly, and either is humbled or thankful. 3. He considers how it is with him in respect of Time past, and if he hath profited in Grace, to find out the Means whereby he hath profited, that he may make more constant Use of such Means; or wherein he hath decayed, to observe by what Temptation he was overcome, that his former Errors may make him more wary for the future.

Besides many other Uses, as of his own Experience and Evidences, which he may, by the Lord’s Help, gather out of this Diary. [. . .]

It may be expected, that I give some Example hereof, wherein if I might any way advance Christ or benefit his Church, tho I lay in the Dust, I should willingly publish and subscribe the daily Register of a poor unworthy Servant of Christ, indeed one of the meanest of his Master’s Family, for some Space of Time: As thus,’

13 May 1651
‘I retired my self to a solitary and silent Place to practice, especially the secret Duties of a Christian. My Ground is that Cant. vii. 11. 12. “Come my beloved, let us go forth into the fields. etc. there will I give thee my loves.” The Bridegroom of our Souls, said Bernard, is faithful, and more frequently visites his Bride in solitary places.’

14 May 1651
‘In a pleasant Wood, and sweet Walks in it, the Lord moved and enabled me to begin the Exercise of secret Duties: and after the prolegomena, or Duties in general, I fell on that Duty of watchfulness: The Lord then gave me to observe my former Negligence, and to make some Resolutions. I found the Lord sweet to me in the Conclusion of the Duty. Allelujah.’

15 May 1651
‘I fell on the duty of Self-trial, and in the Morning confessed my Sins before and since Conversion, wherein the Lord sweetly melted my Heart. In the Evening I perused my Diary for the last Year, wherein are many Passages of Mercies from God, and Troubles for sin, etc.’

16 May 1651
‘In the Morning I went thro’ the Duty of experiences, and felt some Stirrings of God’s Spirit in my Soul. In the evening I fell on the Duty of Evidences, when I acted Faith, and found my Evidences clear. Oh how sweet was my God!’

17 May 1651
‘This Day in the morning I meditated on the Love of Christ, wherein Christ appeared, and melted my Heart in many sweet Passages. In the Evening I meditated on Eternity, wherein the Lord both melted, and cheered, and warmed, and refreshed my soul. Surely the Touches of God’s Spirit are as sensible as any outward Touches. Allelujah.’

19 May 1651
‘In the former part of this Day, I exercised the Life of Faith, when the Lord strengthened me to act Faith on several Promises, both temporal, spiritual, and eternal. I had then sweet, refreshing, and encouraging Impressions on my Soul against all the fearful, sinful, and doubtful Dreams I had the Night or two before dreamed. In the Evening I considered the duty of Prayer, observed some Workings of God’s Spirit in my perusing the Rules, and afterwards in the Practice of this Duty. Blessed be God!’

‘I had proceeded in this Diary, but that I doubt whether the Knowledge of many such Particulars may not prove offensive either to the weak or wilful. And I would not willingly occasion any Matter of Offence to those that are within or without the Church. Thus much, only for Edification, and Imitation, I have written. And tho with David I declare what God hath done for my Soul, [. . .] yet with Paul, I ever desire to correct my self; I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’

The Diary Junction

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dacre’s non-fake diaries

Today marks Lord Dacre’s centenary. Better remembered as Hugh Trevor-Roper, he was one of Britain’s leading historians and intellectual celebrities in the second half of the 20th century, though he never produced a major work to define his career. Instead, his professional status was fatally undermined when he wrongly authenticated a set of fake Hitler diaries in 1983. Somewhat ironically, a cache of his own secret diaries, not fake, were discovered after his death, and published in 2011.

Trevor-Roper was born on 15 January 1914 in Glanton, Northumberland, England, the son of a doctor. He was educated at Charterhouse and at Christ Church, Oxford, later moving to Merton College, Oxford, as a research fellow. Though initially intending to make a career in the classics, he switched to history, publishing his first book - a revisionist biography of Archbishop William Laud (see also My picture fallen) - in 1940.

During the Second World War, Trevor-Roper served in the Secret Intelligence Service, helping to decrypt German intelligence material and to establish the need for further such work at Bletchley Park. In late 1945, he was ordered to investigate the circumstances of Adolf Hitler’s death, and to rebut Soviet propaganda that the dictator was alive and living in the West. He used the results of his investigation to write a book - The Last Days of Hitler - which would become and remain the most famous of his publications.

After the war, Trevor-Roper returned to Oxford as a fellow of Christ Church college, choosing to battle established historical norms or ways of viewing history rather than working on and writing any major books for himself. Some called him a controversialist, and his feuds were ‘many and slashing’ (according a New York Times review of Adam Sisman’s biography of Trevor-Roper - An Honourable Englishman). He was a much sought after writer, contributing essays, reviews and travel writing to high quality newspapers and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1953, Trevor-Roper began an affair with Xandra - Lady Alexandra, wife of Rear-Admiral Howard-Johnston - who was 11 years his senior. They married the following year after her acrimonious divorce. Thus, he acquired three step-children (he never had any of his own). Again according to the New York Times review, the marriage ‘did not entirely dispel rumors that he was gay’.  Around this time, Hugh’s brother, Patrick, a leading eye surgeon, was one of the first people in the UK to ‘come out’ openly as gay, and to campaign to decriminalise homosexuality.

Trevor-Roper was appointed regius professor of modern history in 1957, entailing a move to the smaller Oriel college, from where he engineered a campaign to elect Harold Macmillan as university chancellor in 1960, and from where he continued his eclectic approach to historical studies. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher’s government made him a life peer, and he took the title Baron Dacre of Glanton. The following year, he stepped down from the regius chair to become master of Peterhouse, Cambridge.

Then, in the early 1980s, came the Hitler diaries affair. Richard Davenport-Hines, historian and author of Trevor-Roper’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (login required), says this: ‘[Trevor-Roper] had sacrificed some of his best energies to journalism; and the great calamity of his life, in 1983, arose from his involvement with the newspaper world.’ He had been a director of Times Newspapers for some years, and a regular contributor, when, in 1983, he was asked to fly to Switzerland to look at a stash of over 60 diaries, supposedly written by Hitler.

Trevor-Roper quickly authenticated the diaries, and his authentication of them was published in The Times just before The Sunday Times published the actual diaries. Soon after, the full extent of the fraud was uncovered. According to Davenport-Hines, Trevor-Roper developed sharp misgivings about the diaries almost immediately, but these doubts were not conveyed to The Sunday Times, and his reputation was ‘permanently besmirched’. Brian MacArthur, deputy editor of The Sunday Times at the time wrote in the Telegraph a few years ago that The Sunday Times recovered (it had published an apology the following Sunday), ‘but Trevor-Roper’s reputation never did’. (See also Fake diary debacles.)

Thereafter, Trevor-Roper continued to write and publish. He left Peterhouse in 1987, and nursed his wife who died in 1997, by which time he himself was suffering various ailments. He died in 2003. Further information is available from Wikipedia, or numerous obituaries (BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The New York Times).

The (forged) Hitler diaries are not the only diaries Trevor-Roper deserves to be remembered for. When a young man, during the war, he kept diaries himself, though these were more a collection of private thoughts than a daily record. He kept these diaries secret from everyone, even his family and friends, and they were not discovered until after his death, when they were edited by Davenport-Hines and published by I. B Tauris in 2011 as The Wartime Journals. They show Trevor-Roper brimming with intellectual zest and plenty of controversial opinions.

The publisher’s blurb states: ‘As a British Intelligence Officer during World War II, Hugh Trevor-Roper was expressly forbidden from keeping a diary due to the sensitive and confidential nature of his work. However, he confided a record of his thoughts in a series of slender notebooks inscribed OHMS (On His Majesty’s Service). The Wartime Journals reveal the voice and experiences of Trevor-Roper, a war-time ‘backroom boy’ who spent most of the war engaged in highly-confidential intelligence work in England - including breaking the cipher code of the German secret service, the Abwehr. He became an expert in German resistance plots and after the war interrogated many of Hitler’s immediate circle, investigated Hitler’s death in the Berlin bunker and personally retrieved Hitler’s will from its secret hiding place. [. . . The journals] provide an unusual and privileged view of the Allied war effort against Nazi Germany. At the same time they offer an engaging - sometimes mischievous - and reflective study of both the human comedy and personal tragedy of wartime.’

The book was well reviewed - see The Telegraph, The Times - and some of it can be read freely online at Googlebooks or Amazon.

March 1942
‘The Secret Service: How can I describe it? A colony of coots in an unventilated backwater of bureaucracy? A bunch of dependant bumsuckers held together by neglect, like a cluster of bats in an unswept barn? O for a broom, I cry, to drive them twittering hence! But expostulating voices say, No! for it is a consecrated barn protected by ancient taboos. An so another image rises in my mind, of the high-priests of effete religion mumbling their meaningless ritual to avert a famine or stay a cataclysm. And then I remember the hieratic indolence of those self-inflated mandarins, their Chinese ideograms, their green ink, their oriental insincerities, their ceremonious evasions of responsibility, their insulation from the contemporary world, and the right image has come, of Palace eunuchs in the Great Within.’

April 1942
‘In general, women repel me. I discovered this truth sitting on top of a bus that was taking me down the Haymarket the other day. The contemplation of my female fellow-passengers made me shiver. ‘But they aren’t all like this’, I protested to myself, and I looked down into the street to make sure. Alas, they were no better; and in the restaurant, at lunch, I looked around me, and it was just the same. Without features, without grace, soft, shapeless lumps, like brown-paper parcels, or the wingless females of less interesting moths, they repel without fascinating. I put this to Stuart Hampshire. ‘They cumber the earth’, he said, and remarked on their ugly gait and soft complaisant grimaces; to which I added other details, their foolish birdlike minds, their twittering voices. But then I thought of those women whom I so like, who belie their sex by possessing features and understanding the art of growing old; aged dowagers with aquiline faces, who sit erect and stately in their high chairs, giving orders to their servants, and disapproving the low standards of the age in life, taste and manners - the three arts of which women may, without impertinence, be a judge.’

October 1944
‘If I had a religion (and I sometimes feel that I behave as if I were in search of one), I would be a pagan. For it is among meadows and hills, clear streams and woodland rides, that I find serenity of mind; in deep forests and dark caverns, among lonely crags and howling tempests that I feel the inadequacy of man; in the starry night and by the desolate seashore that the triviality of temporal existence oppresses or comforts me. If satyrs were one day to pop up and pipe to me among the Cheviot Hills; if a troop of nymphs were suddenly to rise with seductive gestures from a trout-pool in the Breamish; if dryads and hamadryads were to eye me furtively as I hunted the tangled thickets of Hell Copse or Waterberry Wood; I would not feel in the least surprised - I already half assume their presence their. But if God were to speak to me through the mouth of a clergyman, or to appear to me in any of the approved Christian attitudes, then indeed I would begin to ask questions.’

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pirate hunting expedition

Dr Edward Hodges Cree was born 200 years ago today. He lived a colourful life, travelling across the world as a ship’s surgeon, and is remembered largely thanks to a journal which he kept from his very first day with the Royal Navy. It was published in the early 1980s, along with many of his own delightful illustrations and watercolours, and gives a vivid description of life at sea and navy actions in the Far East, not least against pirates.

Cree was born on 14 January 1814 in Devonport, Devon. His father was a mercer, then he turned to being a minister in the Unitarian church in Preston, then Bridport, before returning to his former profession. Edward studied medicine at Dublin and Edinburgh Universities, graduating from the latter in 1837. That same year he entered the Navy as assistant surgeon, and spent most of his working life at sea, including ten years in the Far East (1840-1850). At the end of that period, he took leave for a year, and travelled in Europe. In 1852, he married Eliza Tanner Hancock, daughter of family friends.

Thereafter he served in various ships, stationed at Lisbon, in the Baltic and in the Crimea, but from 1856 to 1860 he served in home waters. Various land-based positions followed, with occasional maritime appointments. He concluded his naval career as Deputy Inspector-General of Hospitals and Fleets at Portsmouth Dockyard, retiring in 1869, and taking up general practice in London. He and Eliza had seven sons, most of whom followed him into medical careers, and a daughter who became a nurse. Cree lived to see the new century, dying early in 1901, and was buried with his wife, who had died five years earlier, in Highgate Cemetery.  Royal Museum Greenwich (RMG) holds an archive of Cree’s papers and sketches.

The Cree archive at RMG consists largely of 21 journals written between 1837 and 1861, comprising over a million words and 1,700 illustrations. According to RMG, ‘The journals account details of his sea voyages, experience whilst in foreign lands, his impressions of people and places, his recollections amongst family and friends and writings concerning his life at home and with his wife.’ In addition to the illustrated journals are ‘his “rough journals” 1841, 1847, 1849, 1851-1852 and 1854, his medical journal kept 1841-1847, journal notes (1837), sketchbook (1839), newspaper cuttings, service records and certificates and invitations.’

Michael Levien, a writer born in India but educated at Harrow, with a military career behind him, uncovered the journals, and edited them during the 1970s, working in the house of Cree’s descendant, Brigadier Hilary Cree. They were then published by the Exeter-based Webb and Bower in 1981 as The Cree Journals: The Voyages of Edward H Cree, Surgeon R. N., as Related in His Private Journals, 1837-1856. The book is lavishly illustrated with Cree’s illustrations, of life on board, of maritime scenes, of places he visited, of events and occasions. (The portrait above comes from the Cree One-Name Study website; but the painting below is one of the illustrations accompanying the diary, and is entitled Hurrah! for Canton.) Here are a few extracts from Cree’s diary as published in The Cree Journals (which can be freely borrowed from Internet Archive).

24 February 1838
‘Fine morning with breeze from south. Passed Zembra early and afterwards inside the Canes Rocks signalled the Rhadamanthus with mails for Gibraltar. In afternoon we were between Galite and the African coast going 7 knots. The wind hot and sultry and a lurid glare spread under a bank of inky clouds in the west. The barometer was falling rapidly. The clouds gradually formed an arch across the sky and suddenly the squall came on most furiously, taking us aback. Fortunately we had not many sails set and these were soon furled. The wind increased in violence and we made no headway by all our steaming. A heavy swell was getting up from the west. At night the storm raged most furiously and the wind screeched amongst the rigging, the vivid lightning flashed and thunder rolled and heavy driving rain. The sea ran very high and the poor little Firefly rolled as if she would have gone over. The night was very dark and we were not far from the black rocks of Galite. It was a night of trouble and anxiety.’

1 March 1840
‘We have been getting on well till two days ago when we had a dead calm we lost our poor Corporal of Marines, Copperwhite, who died from acute rheumatism, which suddenly left his limbs and attacked his brain - delirium and coma ended in death. He was one of the best men in the ship, sober and obliging and hard-working. His body was committed to the deep this day.’

2 March 1840
‘Today at noon the sun was vertical. The weather pleasantly hot, therm. 86°. A couple of sharks about 9 feet long were caught, to the great delight of the ship’s company, who cut them up and cooked parts. I tasted a bit and thought it remarkably nice. The sailors liked it, but few of the soldiers and none of the women would touch it, as they thought of the poor Corporal of Marines.’

15 February 1845
‘Wilcox and I went on shore [Hong Kong] to call on some of the ladies. Had a long chat with Miss Hickson, who is a pretty, fresh complexioned Devonshire girl, jolly and good. We lunched with Pitcher [a tea-taster from the firm of Thomas Dent] and Dent [from the same firm], and then went to see an amateur Portuguese play, a vagabond place, but we were in mufti. We met there that donkey Paterson, Royal Artillery, with his wife, who is daughter of the sergeant. She is a pretty little girl and well behaved, but ignorant. The rest of the company were mostly Portuguese and policemen, and their “ladies”.’

9 August 1845
‘Weighed and proceeded into the Brunei River with the Admiral and a guard of honour consisting of 170 Marines &c., to return a visit from Badrudeen, a nephew of the Sultan of Brunei. We saw him as he passed yesterday in his boat, a long, low proa with eighteen paddles, a 4-pounder gun in the bow, red silk umbrella with green fringe, a large yellow ensign, with all the ragtag and bobtail of the place. Some of the nobs had on sku-blue jackets and yellow pyjamas, much like the worthies of Siak. The Agincourt saluted him with seven guns and the Admiral sent him back in the Nemesis steamer, which doubtless gratified his vanity much.’

22 September 1846
‘Returned to Honiton, and next day went on to Bridport. Stay at Mr John Hounsell’s, the dear old master [Cree’s tutor during his apprenticeship]. The same changes in the children here: Eliza, the eldest, grown into a pretty, clever girl of nineteen, well read and accomplished; Henry, the eldest boy, commenced medical studies at London University, and so nothing remains stationary. I had hosts of old friends to see at Bridport, which was a great pleasure, but some dear ones had gone to their last rest.’

3 October 1846
‘Left Bridport by the old four-horse coach “Forrester”, but in going down the hill into Winterbourn, one of the front wheels came off and we were overturned into the hedge, but no one was hurt, except a few scratches. We had to take a dogcart to Dorchester, getting to London at 9 p.m.’

6 October 1849
‘Coaling, preparatory to another pirate hunting expedition: this time to the west, where a large fleet of pirate vessels are said to be crusing, plundering junks trading to Hong Kong, and burning villages, &c. They are supposed to be in the neighbourhood of Hai-nan Island.’

8 October 1849
‘This pirate fleet is said to be a formidable one, commanded by an energetic Chinaman called Shap-‘ng-tsai, known to the Hong Kong people as a desperate robber. Embarked fifty Marines and fifty bluejackets, Captain Moore, [. . .]. At 9 a.m. left Hong Kong, taking steamer Phlegethon in tow, to save coals, with H. M. Brig Columbine, Captain J. Dalrymple Hay in command, as he is one day senior to Willcox. Looked into some of the numerous bays on the coast and anchored for the night at the small island Cow-kok.’

18 October 1849
‘5.30 weighed and made sail; rounded Go-to-shan Point. Noon, hove to in a pretty bay with sandy beach and fishing village, backed by wooded hills whose sides were cultivated with the sweet potato, a kind of convolvulus. The day was cloudy and pleasant, with a fresh breeze, and we enjoyed the sail along this beautiful coast lined with picturesque little islands. A high range of mountains of about 8,000 feet are seen far inland, lower ones near the coast, with serrated tops like enormous teeth.

On turning the point of another island the Columbine suddenly came on a fast boat, which Wang pronounced to be one of Shap-‘ng-tsai’s fleet. We immediately gave chase and all had long shots at her. She made all sail and got out her long sweeps and got away into shallow water, where we could not follow. The Phlegethon, which drew less water, followed her into the bay, putting some shots into her. She attempted a narrow passage between the islands, but seeing the steamer gaining fast upon her, ran her aground. All her crew escaped up the hill, which was covered with jungle, where a party of men searched in vain.

On returning to the junk she was found to stowed with smoke-balls, small arms and ammunition, and carried six guns, but no cargo, showing her character, so we set her on fire and she continued to blaze away all night on the beach.

We anchored here in the bay; it came on to blow and rain - a dirty night.’

23 October 1849
‘All the piratical fleet being destroyed except six, two large and two small junks, which escaped through some other branch of the river, we prepared to return to Hoy-how and Hong Kong.
Junks destroyed - 58; 6 escaped
Killed, Chinese pirates - estimated 1,700; escaped to the shore, to be captured, or killed, by the Tonquinese - 1,000
Prisoners - 49; women 8, children 6; most of the latter kidnapped from Hong Kong and the coast. (I fear there were many women destroyed in the junks, unfortunate prisoners of the pirates, who had been plundering and burning the villages along the coast.)
We received 40 prisoners from the mandarin at Chok-am, who had given themselves up to the natives. Forty guns taken are to be given to the Governor of Hoy-how.’