Saturday, December 27, 2014

Preaching with power

George Whitefield, one of the great 18th century evangelical preachers, in both Britain and America, and a founder, with the Wesleys, of Methodism, was born 300 years ago today. While still in his 20s, he commanded a huge following, and many thousands turned up for his outdoor sermons. To help promote and fund his work (especially the establishment of an orphanage in the Colony of Georgia), he kept a journal, sections of which he published, in sequence, for several years, almost as if they were a serial.

Whitefield was born on 27 December 1714 (New Style dating) in Gloucester, the youngest of seven children, to an innkeeper. However, his father died when he was only two, and his mother struggled to make ends meet. Whitefield left school at 15 to earn a living, but studied hard in his spare time and was accepted at Pembroke College, Oxford. There, he joined the Holy Club with John and Charles Wesley, and became known as one of the Oxford Methodists - the three later being seen as the founders of Methodism. In 1736, he was ordained Anglican minister by the Bishop of Gloucester; and he preached his first sermon at the Crypt Church in Gloucester.

Three years after the Wesleys went to Georgia, America, Whitefield followed. He sailed in February 1738, stopping at Gibraltar, where he preached frequently and attended a Roman Catholic service, describing it is as given to idolatry. He arrived in Georgia in May, laid plans for an institution - Bethesda, just outside Savannah - similar to the Halle orphanage in Germany, and returned to England after four months, where he solicited fund and trustees’ approval for his mission. A second trip to the US followed in 1739-1741. And, in 1741, he married Elizabeth James, an older widow.

Whitefield was a powerful speaker, and, partly because of a growing estrangement with the established church, he increasingly chose outdoor venues, often attracting tens of thousands. He is credited with developing a new form of preaching - more dramatic and visual, appealing to the emotions rather than to the mind, frequently taking on the persona of a Bible character, laughing, weeping, transforming his sermon into a dramatic event. Indeed, he spent much of his life on preaching tours, in England, Scotland, and in the US to where he travelled seven times in his life, often staying years at a time. It is said that he gave more than 18,000 sermons. He died in Exeter, Massachusetts, in 1770, aged only 55. See Wikipedia, Church Society, or Enrichment Journal for more biographical information

Early on in his career, before the first trip across the Atlantic, Whitefield recognised that he could promote his work and finance his missions through writing. He first had his sermons printed, but soon  moved on to publishing, through James Hutton, books of a journal he kept for the purpose, each one following on from the last. All or almost all of the original editions published in Whitefield’s lifetime can be read freely online at Internet Archive. Here’s the titles of some of them, and links to the e-texts:
- A Journal of a Voyage from London to Savannah in Georgia, In Two Parts. Part I. From London to Gibraltar. Part II. From Gibraltar to Savanna;
A Continuation of the Reverend Mr. Whitefield’s Journal, During the Time he was detained in England by the Embargo;
A Continuation of the Reverend Mr. Whitefield’s journal, From his Arrival at London, To his Departure from thence on his Way to Georgia
- A Continuation of the Reverend Mr. Whitefield’s Journal, From his Embarking after the Embargo, To his Arrival at Savannah in Georgia;
A Continuation of the Reverend Mr. Whitefield’s Journal, From a few Days after his Return to Georgia To his Arrival at Falmouth, on the 11th of March, 1741. Containing An Account of the Work of God at Georgia, Rhode-Island, New-England, New-York, Pennsylvania and South-Carolina.

All of Whitefield’s journals were edited by William Wales in the early part of the 20th century, and published in 1905. Later, in 1960, they were reprinted by Banner of Truth Trust, as George Whitefield’s Journals. But, since then, Quinta Press (connected to the Quinta Independent Evangelical Church) has worked on tracking down parts of the originals left out by Wale, and republishing the full journals, making them available in pdf format and on a CD. Here are a few extracts (taken from the Quinta Press edition).

9 May 1739, London
‘Waited at Noon upon the honourable Trustees fro Georgia. They received me with the utmost civility, agreed to every Thing I asked, and gave me a Grant of Five hundred Acres of Land to me and Successors for ever, for the Use of the Orphan-house.’

12 May 1739, London
‘Agreed to Day for myself, and eleven more, to go on Board the Elizabeth, Captain Allen, to Pennsylvania; where I design, God willing, to preach the Gospel in my way to Georgia, and buy Provisions for the Orphan-house. Lord, send thy Angel before me to prepare the Way.’

17 May 1739, London
‘Preached, after several Invitations thither, at Hampstead-Heath, about five miles from London. The audience was of the politer Sort, and I preached very near the Horse-course, which gave me Occasion to speak home to their Souls concerning our spiritual Race. Most were attentive, but some mocked. Thus the Word of God is either a Savour for Life unto Life, or of Death unto Death. God’s Spirit bloweth when, and where it listeth.’

11 January 1740, Savannah
‘Went this Morning, with some Friends, to view a Tract of Land, consisting of 500 Acres which Mr H. whom I left School-Master of Savannah, was directed, I hope by Providence, to make Choice of for the Orphan-House. It is situated on the Northern Part of the Colony, about 10 miles off Savannah, and has various Kinds of Soil in it; a Part of it very good. Some Acres, through the Diligence of my Friend, are cleared. Has has also stock’d it with Cattle and Poultry. He has begun the Fence, and built a Hut; all which will greatly forward the Work. I choose to have it so far off the Town, because the Children will then be more free from bad Examples, and can more conveniently go upon their Lands to work. For it is my Design to have each of the Children taught to Labour, so as to be qualified to get their own Living. Lord, do though teach and excite.’

10 May 1740, Pennypack and Philadelphia
‘Tho’ God has shown me great Things already in this Place, yet to To-day I have seen greater. I preached twice with Power, and to large Congregations than ever: And in the Evening went to settle a Society of young Women, who I hope will prove wise Virgins. As soon as I entered the Room, and heard them singing, my Soul was uncommonly delighted. When the hymn was over, I desired to pray before I began to converse: But, contrary to my Expectations, my Soul was so carried out that I had not Time to talk at all. A wonderful Power was in the Room, and with Accord, they began to cry out and weep most bitterly for the Space of half an Hour. They seemed to be under the strongest Convictions, and did indeed seek JESUS sorrowing. Their cries might be heard a great Way off. When I had done, I thought proper to leave them at their Devotions. They continued in Prayer (as I was informed by one of them afterwards) for above an Hour, confessing their most secret Faults: And at length the Agonies of some were so strong, that five of them seemed affected as those that are in Fits. The present Captain of our Sloop going near the Water-side, was called into a Company almost in the same circumstances; and at Midnight I was desired to come to one who was in strong Agonies of Body and Mind, but felt somewhat of Joy and Peace, after I had prayed with her several Times. Her Case put me in Mind of the young man whom the Devil tore, when he was coming to JESUS. Some suchlike bodily Agonies, I believe, are from the Devil; and, now the Work of GOD is going on, he will, no doubt, endeavour by these to bring an evil Report on it.’

11 May 1940, Pennypack and Philadelphia
‘Preached to about 15,000 People in the Morning, and observed a great Melting to follow the Word.’

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Devastation in Darwin

Forty years ago today, Cyclone Tracy devastated the Australian town of Darwin, destroying 80% of houses, making 41,000 out of the 47,000 residents homeless, and killing 66 people. The Age newspaper called it a ‘disaster of the first magnitude . . . without parallel in Australia’s history.’ I was there, having arrived from Bali just a few weeks earlier after spending six months travelling across Asia. I’d got a job working in the power station, and I had a room in a house of travellers owned by Dutch Peter. It was Christmas Eve when the wind started blowing, and most people expected Tracy to veer away from land -  like a cyclone earlier in the year - but in the early hours of the morning of Christmas Day it struck with a vengeance, blowing at over 100 mph. Around 3 in the morning, after the eye had given us all a few minutes peace, Dutch Peter’s house exploded, the wooden walls and all its contents, including us, were catapulted into the night. What follows is my (rather poorly written) diary account of that night and the following few days.

24-30 December 1974
‘And suddenly it is Christmas Eve. Work [I was employed by the local power station] isn’t really work (yesterday it was quite interesting - we had to take the complete two ton end of the cylinder off - I was a little afraid the hoist wasn't going to hold). I finish work at 12:00 and then at 2:00 there’s a nice little work social at the Rugby Union club - beer as free as the air and a constant flow of steaks. I talk to a range of people including the foreman - I am really pissed. He invites me round to lunch tomorrow - I am beginning to get blotto - the beer is running out but he keeps giving me cans - at one point he informs me about the cyclone heading straight for Darwin. I've no idea how I get home. Later, Gus tells me I shouted ‘the cyclone’s really coming’ and passed out, and that all attempts to wake me for dinner were in vain.

I wake early in the evening and go upstairs with a splitting headache. I sleep some more until I wake up absolutely soaking - the rain is howling in through the window and the floor is flooded. I join the others downstairs - it’s pretty bad here too. For some reason we all go to Peter’s room or the room behind it, at least it’s dry there. The wind is getting pretty heavy - Wayne is fairly drunk and jolly - doors are banging - the wind continues to get stronger. We make expeditions outside - first one, just after midnight, is to see why a car has stopped - it is virtually impossible to walk, the wind is so strong. Inside again, I go to fetch my diary and clutch onto it - things are getting a little serious - I suggest going to the hospital or somewhere safe, but there are no takers. I fetched my ‘mustn’t lose’ things such as money, passport etc and put them in a plastic bag with the diary. I sleep a while along with Pete and Go and Gus - Wayne falls asleep in the cupboard - Paul and Susie are asleep in the other dry room. When the eye comes, sometime between 2 and 3, it is a chance to sleep undisturbed

When the eye has passed, the wind comes back with a vengeance in the other direction blowing against the windows of the room I’m in - the gusts reach a tremendous force (from virtually nothing at all in a matter of minutes) - Gus is still half asleep, I wake him and he jumps in the cupboard with Wayne - Go and I have drawers over our heads and we crouch down behind the bed - we can’t get out of the room, the door won’t open - the whole wall is going to go - Jesus - I reach up with my hand up to the bed for my plastic bag and pull it down to me - and the house explodes.

I remember shouting and swearing and somersaulting through the air and landing on a load of rubbish - I may have been unconscious for a while. The next thing I know is that thousands of pieces of glass are hitting in my back - I lie down and grope with my hand for some cover - I feel so lucky because I find a board just big enough to cover me - I hold onto it with my life to stop the wind blowing it away. I am lying on my side on glass and wood - I dare not move my left leg because I think it’s slit open or broken - I can’t see much - I think I’m facing away from the house but I’m afraid to move and look round. Rocks hit my board, and sometimes I nearly lose it (the board) - I think through what I’ll do if the board does fly, and I decide to make a run for it. It is cold too - I find a plastic mac by me and wrap myself in it but the wind keeps blowing it off - I am shivering - I can’t decide if I’m going to live - when I think I see lights I shout several times but my voice can’t rise up above the roar of the storm - I am sure all the others [from the house] are dead - I can’t see how they can be alive - I am feeling so lucky that I’m not in pain and that I found the board to protect me.

I lie in two inches of water thinking, working out plans, looking, but never moving other than my hand, which keeps searching around for more protection. Occasionally a light glimmers from across the way - I can’t work out which direction it is, nor can I work out what a bridge-like structure is (it has cars underneath). Later, as visibility improves, I see lights and a house nearby - I am shouting more often now as the dense mistiness lifts.

More than two hours later, and dawn is approaching and the wind is abating to nothing more than a strong gale. I look around a little more and discover that my board has only remained where it is because it’s wedged down by the bed that I’d been hiding behind. Then I hear voices behind me - there are people alive - I pull myself together to turn over - it is the first time I’ve moved properly in two and a half hours, There is a light and I can see Peter and the van. There is no cut in my leg, or anything seriously wrong with it, but I still have to hobble when I walk. I go to the van where I find Gerry. Willem joins us shortly. Paul and Susie are safe in a cupboard. Only Wayne and Gus are missing - Peter and Joel are searching for them frantically but there is no sign. We are really worried that they are under the pile of debris where Peter’s house once stood.

Long after it is light and the wind has fallen still more, we hear that they are next door. I am crying with joy. Incredible. We all have little wounds but nobody is seriously hurt - Gus, Wayne, Paul, Joel and Peter start a frantic search of neighbouring houses, and then they take a couple of cars and start taking people down to the hospital. I really want to be part of this operation - I even try to join them at one point but my knee is really crook. The whole town is completely devastated - steel telegraph poles are bent to the ground - palm trees completely uprooted - roofs lying around everywhere except on the tops of houses. All that is left of Peter’s house is the bathroom on stilts and one of the long walls at a 45 degree angle, not a thing else upstairs. The dining room and kitchen below are wrecked. Everything, absolutely everything, is 100% wet - there are glass, wood, mosquito netting, nails, doors, clothes, books, everywhere. I take a ride down to the hospital - it is fenced in (the wire around the entrance had been put up before to stop hoards of people). I talk to someone at the hospital within 15 minutes but they aren’t interested in my problems and I’m not surprised - many people are bleeding or crying or nursing wounded children - all around is tragedy, tragedy tragedy.

I hitch back to the others - there’s not a building left in tact - corrugated iron, power lines, cars, caravans, trees are strewn everywhere - some of the road is under 6-8 in of water - destruction is everywhere you look.

When I get back, Peter and Wayne are hanging about the house, while most of the others have gone to the first aid centre. I chuck a few things in the van - Paul and I drive to the centre with some food and wine - we find the others from the house huddled in warm blankets - I join them and we swap stories. Gus has some bad cuts by the ear, Joel cut his foot running around helping people afterwards. Peter and Gerry had sheltered in the van soon after the house exploded; Wayne had lain on the grass in the middle of the road, he’d lost his way following Gus who ran to the other house. Gus, Gerry and I are the worst injured. After a couple of hours, a doctor comes, but again he’s not interested in me - Gus and Gerry get some stitches. Willem is OK even though he had been trapped and needed rescuing by Joel and Peter - Go is OK but for some cut knuckles. It’s Christmas Day.

Paul ferries us all to Darwin High School in little groups with blankets as our only clothes. I have real trouble bending my leg, and it takes time to get in and out of the purloined Volkswagen. We are among the first to arrive at the school. Everywhere is under water, but there’s not too much damage. We annex a dryish room for ourselves, but we can’t get the water out because the corridor is under water too. Peter is alternating between fits of crying and fits of trying to organise everybody, and boss them around. Paul goes back to pick up all the obvious things lying about round the house pile, and then he returns the car, and gets Peter’s wagon going

I have a little cry at the thought of Julian and Melanie waking Mum and Dad, then sitting down excitedly for breakfast and turning on the radio and hearing about Darwin. We all manage to send a telegram off home for free, and, a day later, we get a free telephone call. I am emotionally distraught hearing all their voices after so long.

The Aussie prime minister Whitlam flies back from his European tour and spends an afternoon here; Jim Cairns stays a little longer. The head of a newly formed disaster squad is working 25 hours a day, and, apparently, nearly breaking down sometimes.

People begin to pour into the school, and it becomes a main centre where all goods (food, clothes, cigarettes) are brought before distribution. There is a small team of dedicated cooks - so we have good food. My knee doubles in size. I am so incapacitated that I really can’t walk, it is as much as I can do to go to the toilet. Willem, Gerry and Gus do nothing either.

Around us, the authorities (concerned largely about health and disease because the water supply broke down) have acted efficiently. People were already being evacuated on Boxing Day, and by the third day they had got 6,000 people out by plane. The radio station was working again quite quickly, which helped everyone know what was going on, and what to do.

Some of our group keep going back to the house looking for their stuff, and especially for Peter’s money which was supposed to be in an attache case. Poor Peter, having lost his house, never found his money, and one day he just left, in his combie van, for Sydney. By the end, I had really begun to dislike him - he was so egotistical. Everyone was bringing food and giving to the community but Peter would just stand in the middle of a room, hold a bag of sugar high up, and shout ‘who wants a bag of sugar?’.

Paul, Joel and Wayne work consistently - Susie and I do a little work in the kitchen - I prefer to wash dishes for two hours, and then get my meal immediately than to queue for half an hour. There are almost 800 people here, I think, and the queues are unbelievable. The evacuation programme continues and is going better than expected.

On 29th December the radio informs us that single men can now be evacuated.

Susie is going to Sydney. Willem is unsure how he is going to make it back to the island where he was working. Kiki is living and working at the Travel Lodge, and is happy to stay here.

Originally, I had planned to fly to Townsville and hitch down the coast (wanting to see something of Australia) but the evacuation planes are only flying to state capitals. I feel Brisbane is already too far south so I decide I might as well go with Gerry to Sydney. There is a lot of messing about before we are finally taken to the airport (in a beaut air-conditioned bus). However, the officials aren’t expecting another coach load, and there are queues and queues waiting to get on the one plane standing. We, and a lot of others already there, don’t make it - we sleep in the destroyed airport buildings. We spend the next day in the airport watching coach loads of women and children being evacuated; we are given food and drink all day long by the Salvation Army. There are newspapers lying around with long stories about Darwin. I talk for a while to one of the people from the school - he adores Joni Mitchell, but didn’t enjoy his overland trip.

Early evening the Starlifter we’d been promised arrives. It is going to take us all away from this devastated disaster area - we all fetch our bags and rush to the buses. I am horrified at the way the Americans are squeezing every last person in. We have to sit cross-legged in about 1 sq ft - from front to back nobody is going to be able to move. I still can’t bend my legs properly and so decide to get off - I’m not that desperate. I think the American was going for some sort of people record - he left all the baggage behind. Early this morning, on the first flight, they were trying hard to find people to go to Townsville - I should have gone, as I’d planned, but I was loathe to leave new friends after so long travelling. It was sad any way to leave Paul, Wayne and Gus - I had some good times with them.

The following morning I take the first plane - a Hercules to Brisbane. We sit on seats, and are allowed in the cockpit to have a smoke - it’s a beautiful serene sight, floating above the clouds. The journey takes five hours and we land in late afternoon - we are shuttled across a boring-looking town to an evacuation centre - an empty bus garage with clothes, social services, Sally Army, airline officials. We register, are given $62, and then booked onto a flight to Sydney. We eat, and I put on some new underpants.’

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cloves, cumin, ginger

Vasco da Gama, the famous Portuguese explorer, died all of 490 years ago today. Although he did not leave behind a diary of his own, an unknown author did keep a journal of da Gama’s first expedition to India. This was stored in a Portuguese convent for centuries, before being published in the 1860s, and then translated into English in the 1890s. It provides a rich and colourful account of the very earliest days of European attempts to colonise the sub-continent.

Da Gama was born in Sines, Portugal, around 1460. His father was Estêvão da Gama, commander of the local fort. In 1492, Vasco da Gama was sent by King John II to the south of the country to take revenge against the French, who had been seizing Portuguese ships. Meanwhile, Estêvão da Gama was chosen by the king to lead a Portuguese fleet to India in search of lucrative trade routes. However, both the king and Estêvão da Gama died, and the mission was handed to Vasco de Gama by the new King Manuel.

In 1497, da Gama sailed from Lisbon with four ships; he rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and, with the aid of a pilot found on the east coast of Africa, sailed to the west coast of India, stopping at various ports, before reaching Calicut (now Kozhikode) on the Malabar coast. Unable to establish a colony because of opposition from the local Muslims, da Gama returned to Portugal, with a cargo of very profitable spices and the certain knowledge of a potential trade route. The mission was, thus, celebrated as a great success. Around 1500, he married Catarina de Ataíde who bore him six sons.

Vasco da Gama, by this time ranked as an admiral, undertook a second journey, in 1502, to try and secure the trading colony established in the interim by Pedro Carbal, but which had been wiped out in a massacre. He successfully laid siege to Calicut, and concluded favourable peace treaties with the native rulers. However, on his return, he felt inadequately rewarded, and became embroiled in an ongoing dispute concerning his ownership of the town of Sines (given him by the king in 1499, but still claimed by the Military Order of Santiago).

For some years after, da Gama lived a relatively quiet life. In 1519, he was appointed Count of Vidigueira; and, in 1524, after Manuel’s death, King John III appointed him as Portuguese Viceroy in India. He set sail for a third time, to try and restore administrative order to the Portuguese holdings. However, he fell ill at Cochin and died on 23 December 1524. Further information is available from Wikipedia, or from various out-of-copyright biographies available at Internet Archive, such as Vasco da Gama and his successors 1460-1580 by K. G. Jayne.

A diary account of da Gama’s first voyage - named Roteiro - survived over 300 years, and was first published in 1838. This was edited by Diogo Kopke and Dr. Antonio da Costa Paiva, both teachers at the Academia Polytechnica of Oporto, and funded by subscription. Only 392 copies were printed then, but a second edition appeared in Lisbon in 1861. A few years later, in 1869, the Hakluyt Society published Lord Stanley of Alderley’s translation of the Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama, and intended to bring out an English translation of the Roteiro, but this latter was left in abeyance for another three decades, until the Society published, in 1898, A journal of the first voyage of Vasco da Gama in 1497-99 as translated and edited by E. G. Ravenstein. The book is freely available online at Internet Archive or Googlebooks.

Ravenstein notes, in his introduction, that the extant manuscript is not the original, but only a copy, and that the author of the original remains unknown. He explains: ‘The manuscript originally belonged to the famous Convent of Santa Cruz at Coimbra, whence it was transferred, together with other precious manuscripts, to the public library of Oporto. [. . .] This copy, however, was taken in the beginning of the sixteenth century, as may be seen from the style of the writing. [. . .] It is quite possible, as suggested by Prof. Kopke, that the title by which the Roteiro was known at the convent of Santa Cruz misled certain bibliographers into a belief that Vasco da Gama himself had written this account of his voyage. [. . .] No one has yet succeeded in discovering the author of the Roteiro.’ Ravenstein adds that his translation is ‘literal and complete’. Here are a few extracts.

8 April 1497
‘On Palm Sunday the King of Mombaça sent the captain-major a sheep and large quantities of oranges, lemons and sugar-cane, together with a ring, as a pledge of safety, letting him know that in case of his entering the port he would be supplied with all he stood in need of. This present was conveyed to us by two men, almost white, who said they were Christians, which appeared to be the fact. The captain-major sent the king a string of coral-beads as a return present, and let him know that he purposed entering the port on the following day. On the same day the captain-major’s vessel was visited by four Moors of distinction.

Two men were sent by the captain-major to the king, still further to confirm these peaceful assurances. When these landed they were followed by a crowd as far as the gates of the palace. Before reaching the king they passed through four doors, each guarded by a doorkeeper with a drawn cutlass. The king received them hospitably, and ordered that they should be shown over the city. They stopped on their way at the house of two Christian merchants, who showed them a paper (carta), an object of their adoration, on which was a sketch of the Holy Ghost. When they had seen all, the king sent them back with samples of cloves, pepper and corn, with which articles he would allow us to load our ships.’

10 April 1497
‘On Tuesday, when weighing anchor to enter the port, the captain-major’s vessel would not pay off, and struck the vessel which followed astern. We therefore again cast anchor. When the Moors who were in our ship saw that we did not go on, they scrambled into a zavra attached to our stern; whilst the two pilots whom we had brought from Moçambique jumped into the water, and were picked up by the men in the zavra. At night the captain-major “questioned” two Moors whom we had on board, by dropping boiling oil upon their skin, so that they might confess any treachery intended against us. They said that orders had been given to capture us as soon as we entered the port, and thus to avenge what we had done at Moçambique. And when this torture was being applied a second time, one of the Moors, although his hands were tied, threw himself into the sea, whilst the other did so during the morning watch.

About midnight two almadias, with many men in them, approached. The almadias stood off whilst the men entered the water, some swimming in the direction of the Berrio others in that of the Raphael. Those who swam to the Berrio began to cut the cable. The men on watch thought at first that they were tunny fish, but when they perceived their mistake they shouted to the other vessels. The other swimmers had already got hold of the rigging of the mizzen-mast. Seeing themselves discovered, they silently slipped down and fled. These and other wicked tricks were practised upon us by these dogs, but our Lord did not allow them to succeed, because they were unbelievers.

Mombaça is a large city seated upon an eminence washed by the sea. Its port is entered daily by numerous vessels. At its entrance stands a pillar, and by the sea a low-lying fortress.Those who had gone on shore told us that in the town they had seen many men in irons; and it seemed to us that these must be Christians, as the Christians in that country are at war with the Moors.

The Christian merchants in the town are only temporary residents, and are held in much subjection, they not being allowed to do anything except by the order of the Moorish King.

It pleased God in his mercy that on arriving at this city all our sick recovered their health, for the climate (“air”) of this place is very good.

After the malice and treachery planned by these dogs had been discovered, we still remained on Wednesday and Thursday.’

17 April 1497
‘We approached nearer to the town [Malindi]. The king sent the captain-major six sheep, besides quantities of cloves, cumin, ginger, nutmeg and pepper, as also a message, telling him that if he desired to have an interview with him he (the king) would come out in his zavra when the captain-major could meet him in a boat.’

18 April 1497
‘On Wednesday, after dinner, when the king came up close to the ships in a zavra, the captain-major at once entered one of his boats, which had been well furnished, and many friendly words were exchanged when they lay side by side. The king having invited the captain-major to come to his house to rest, after which he (the king) would visit him on board his ship, the captain-major said that he was not permitted by his master to go on land, and if he were to do so a bad report would be given of him. The king wanted to know what would be said of himself by his people if he were to visit the ships, and what account could he render them? He then asked for the name of our king, which was written down for him, and said that on our return he would send an ambassador with us, or a letter.

When both had said all they desired, the captain-major sent for the Moors whom he had taken prisoner, and surrendered them all. This gave much satisfaction to the king, who said that he valued this act more highly than if he had been presented with a town. And the king, much pleased, made the circuit of our ships, the bombards of which fired a salute. About three hours were spent in this way. When the king went away he left in the ship one of his sons and a sharif, and took two of us away with him, to whom he desired to show his palace. He, moreover, told the captain that as he would not go ashore he would himself return on the following day to the beach, and would order his horsemen to go through some exercises.

The king wore a robe (royal cloak) of damask trimmed with green satin, and a rich touca. He was seated on two cushioned chairs of bronze, beneath a round sunshade of crimson satin attached to a pole. An old man, who attended him as page, carried a short sword in a silver sheath. There were many players on anafils, and two trumpets of ivory, richly carved, and of the size of a man, which were blown from a hole in the side, and made sweet harmony with the anafils.’

19 April 1497
‘On Thursday the captain-major and Nicolau Coelho rowed along the front of the town, bombards having been placed in the poops of their long-boats. Many people were along the shore, and among them two horsemen, who appeared to take much delight in a sham-fight. The king was carried in a palanquin from the stone steps of his palace to the side of the captain-major’s boats. He again begged the captain to come ashore, as he had a helpless father who wanted to see him, and that he and his sons would go on board the ships as hostages. The captain, however, excused himself.’

The Diary Junction

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Churchill grows on me

Robert Menzies, Australia’s longest serving prime minister, was born 120 years ago today. His first term in office coincided with the start of the Second World War, and he chose to spend four months in London, in 1941, discussing strategy with Allied leaders. On returning to Australia his political position was so weakened that he was forced to resign. During his trip, however, he kept a diary which is, today, considered of great historical importance.

Menzies was born in Jeparit, Victoria, in the family grocery store, on 20 December 1894. His father became a member of the Victoria Parliament, and his uncle became a member of the federal House of Representatives. Robert studied at Grenville and Wesley Colleges, then then did law at Melbourne University. He was admitted to the Victorian Bar, and then to the High Court of Australia in 1918. After establishing his own practice, he soon became one of Melbourne’s leading lawyers. In 1920 he married Pattie Leckie, and they had three children.

Menzies was first appointed to Parliament in 1928, but resigned in a protest against rural employment subsidies. In 1932, he joined the United Australia Party (UAP), and two years later won the federal seat of Kooyong, becoming the party’s deputy leader. He served as Attorney General and Minister for Industry under Joseph Lyons, but when Lyons died suddenly, Menzies was elected by the UAP to take over as Prime Minister. When Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, he mobilised Australian troops. He spent the first half of 1941 in Britain discussing war strategy with Churchill and other leaders, but, by the time, he returned to Australia he had lost political support, and was forced to resign.

Subsequently, Menzies formed a new Liberal Party, which went on to win a general election in 1949. He then remained Prime Minister until 1966, winning a record seven consecutive elections. He presided over rapid industrial expansion, improved foreign policy links with the US, Japan and nations in Southeast Asia, a university building programme, and the development of Canberra as the nation’s capital. He was knighted in 1963. In retirement, he became Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, from 1967 to 1972, and published two volumes of memoirs. He died in 1978. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, National Archives of Australia or the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Menzies kept a diary record of his extended trip to London in 1941, the original of which is held by the National Library of Australia. The Library published the diary in 1993 under the title Dark and Hurrying Days. More recently, the Museum of Australian Democracy has set up a website to make the diary - which is divided up into themes such as ‘Travelling by air’, ‘The War Cabinet’, and ‘The Blitz’ - more freely available. According to the website, the diary is ‘a candid record of decision-making in foreign and military policy’, and includes Menzies’  doubts ‘over the leadership style of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’. There is no known equivalent in Australian political history, the website says, and ‘the diary would undoubtedly have been political dynamite if it had fallen into the wrong hands during the war’. Here are several extracts.

21 February 1941
‘Up to London. Snow still lying. First type of balloon barrage - silvery looking “blimps” a few thousand feet up. Not in rows, but singly or in small groups.

So to the Dorchester, where, on the 1st floor, I have the suite which was occupied by Wendell Willkie. As the building is modern and there are seven floors above me, it is considered as good as an air raid shelter. Curtains are closely drawn at sunset: the windows are coated with some anti-shatter mixture. Day raids have for the time [being] been practically discontinued, and the street traffic on the way to the Dept of Information (London University) and Australia House seemed almost normal.

So far I have seen only a few bombed places, including the house in Piccadilly where the Duke of York lived. Sandbags everywhere; barbed wire; the front (to the Mall) of Carlton House Terrace rather battered; King Charles at Charing Cross in a corrugated iron container; police in tin hats; not many people carrying their gas masks; AIR RAID SHELTER, or AIR RAID TRENCHES signs everywhere; windows bricked or boarded up. At Information Dept I have a guard of Honour of the Home Guard (who work in offices and do their stuff as guards so many nights a week!) and some Australians still left here

At Australia House, meet the whole staff and thank them for prompt and devoted work. This timely and much appreciated.’

22 February 1941
‘Winston is completely certain of America’s full help, of her participation in a Japanese war, and of Roosevelt’s passionate determination to stamp out the Nazi menace from the earth. Is he right? I cannot say. If the P.M. were a better listener and less disposed to dispense with all expert or local opinion, I might feel a little easier about it. But there’s no doubt about it; he’s a holy terror - I went to bed tired!’

2 March 1941
‘Churchill grows on me. He has an astonishing grasp of detail and, by daily contact with the service headquarters, knows of disposition and establishment quite accurately. But I still fear that (though experience of Supreme Office has clearly improved and steadied him) his real tyrant is the glittering phrase - so attractive to his mind that awkward facts may have to give way.

But this is the defect of his quality. Reasoning to a predetermined conclusion is mere advocacy; but it becomes something much better when the conclusion is that you are going to win a war, and that you’re damned if anything will stand in your way. Churchill’s course is set. There is no defeat in his heart.’

16 April 1941
‘Tonight the enemy is passing overhead. You can hear him. The search lights are operating – and the crack of the guns in the park opposite is deafening. To look out of window you switch out the lights and peep through the curtain. An eerie experience, the sky occasionally flashing like lightning with the explosion of the A.A. shells. London is so vast that the German bombers pass over it on their way to any of the Midland or Northern cities. But how many A.A. shells are fired per hit God only knows. While the uproar goes on the buses and taxis still rumble along Park Lane!

Later. I was wrong. They were not passing. 460 of them were attacking London, and a dozen large bombs fell within 100 yards of the Dorchester. It was a terrible experience. Invited up to the second floor for a drink with two elderly ladies (one of them John Lowther’s mother), we had scarcely sat down when a great explosion and blast shattered the windows of the room, blew the curtains in, split the door, and filled the room with acrid fumes. Twice the whole building seemed to bounce with the force of the concussion. Twice I visited the ground floor, and found it full of white-faced people. Tritton went out to escort a guest home, got into the blitz, had his taxi driver wounded and the wind-screen broken, and took the wheel himself!

The sky beyond the Palace was red with fire and smoke, the sky was flashing like lightning. It is a horrible sound to hear the whistle of a descending stick of bombs, any one of them capable of destroying a couple of five-storey houses, and to wonder for a split second if it is going to land on your windows!

Just before dawn, at about 5 a.m., Tritton, Landau and I went for a walk to see the damage. There were buildings down and great craters within 100 yards of the hotel on the side away from the park. In Brook Street buildings were blazing. A great plume of red smoke rose from Selfridge’s. Gas mains blazed in Piccadilly. The houses fronting the Green Park were red and roaring. There were craters and fallen masonry in the streets, and the fear of an unexploded bomb lurking around every corner. Wherever we walked, we crunched over acres of broken glass. This is the “new order”. How can it go on for years?’

Friday, December 12, 2014

Diary briefs

Woodland diary of ecological pioneer Charles Elton - British Ecological Society,

Diary of Nixon’s chief of staff - The Washington Post, Carolina Public Press

Hungarian doctor’s diary of life during the holocaust - The Washington Post

Diary reveals WW1 love story -  Wales Online

Metadata from digitised WW1 field diaries - BBC

Great War diary extracts - Winston-Salem Journal

Diary of the War by Guy de Pourtalès - Swiss Info, Amazon

The Diary of Annie’s War Extended Edition - Manchester Evening News, Amazon

New Mahatma Gandhi diary - The Times of India

Berlin Wall diary (see also The fall of the Wall) - Sky News

Decoding Livingstone’s lost diary (see also - Livingstone’s invisible writing) - The Smithsonian

Diary of a persistent schoolboy zoologist - The Guardian

Diary of Indian engineer reveals dubious dealings - Mail Online India

Diary entry triggers girlfriend’s murder - IOL News

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Meeting lionesses

‘Every native in the camp, male or female, who was fortunate enough to get a morsel, dressed it and eat [sic] it. They have a thorough conviction that the eating a piece of lion’s flesh strengthens the constitution incalculably, and is a preservative against many particular distempers.’ This is the Francis Rawdon-Hastings, a major political figure in early 19th century English politics, writing in his diary about the hunting and killing of two lionesses during his tenure as Governor-General of India. The diary is of great interest, as much for Rawdon’s intelligent and humane observations of India, as for his explanations of political and military dealings.

Hastings was born 260 years ago today, on 9 December 1754, at Moira, County Down, the son of John Rawdon, 1st Earl of Moira and Elizabeth Hastings, 13th Baroness Hastings. He grew up there and in Dublin, being educated later at Harrow and Oxford, though he never graduated. He joined the British Army in 1771 as an ensign in the 15th Foot, was promoted lieutenant two years later, and then went to North America, where he was commended for fearlessness in 1775 at Bunker Hill. During the Revolutionary War, he worked as aide-de-camp and adjutant to General Henry Clinton. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in 1778, and appointed adjutant-general to the British forces.

In 1779, Rawdon fell out with Clinton and resigned. Nevertheless, he continued to play a part in the war, raising a corp of Irish volunteers, and serving as a divisional commander. His success at the battle of Hobkirk’s Hill earned him General Cornwallis’s admiration. Severe illness, though, saw him leave America, only for his vessel to be captured by the French. He was released at the end of 1781 thanks to a prisoner exchange. By November of the following year, he had achieved the rank of colonel, and was appointed aide-de-camp to George III. He was also an MP in the Irish Parliament for a couple of years, and was then made Baron Rawdon and took his seat in the House of Lords in 1783. Further positions followed: Fellow of the Royal Society, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, Grand Master of the Free Masons. In 1789, he took the surname Hastings in accordance with his uncle’s will.

In 1793, Rawdon succeeded his father as Earl of Moira. The following year, he was sent with 7,000 men to Ostend to reinforce the Duke of York and allies in Flanders. In 1803, he was appointed commander-in-chief in Scotland, and in 1804 he married Flora Mure Campbell, countess of Loudoun. They had six children, although one died in infancy. When William Grenville formed the national unity government in 1806, Rawdon was appointed master-general of the ordnance, partly thanks to the patronage of the Prince of Wales. In government, he defended military reform, supported the abolition of the slave trade, and lobbied for help to imprisoned debtors, but resigned his office when the government fell over the issue of Catholic emancipation for Ireland.

In 1810, with the king’s health declining, Rawdon was an advocate for the Prince of Wales regency. Subsequently, he tried to reconcile the regent and opposition leaders, but then himself became estranged from the Prince Regent. In 1812, after Prime Minister Perceval’s assassination, Rawdon was much involved in complicated political negotiations which led to Lord Liverpool succeeding Perceval as Prime Minister (although, at one point Rawdon himself was being considered for the position). Thanks again to the Prince Regent, Rawdon was then made Governor-General of India, arriving in Calcutta in Autumn 1813

Rawdon’s tenure as Governor-General is considered to have been a memorable one: he oversaw victory in the Gurkha War; the final conquest of the Marathas; and the purchase of the island of Singapore. His competent administration, however, ended under a cloud because of an indulgence - not judged as corruption - to a banking house. In 1816, he was created Marquess of Hastings. He returned to England in 1823, was then appointed to the much lesser post of Governor of Malta in 1824, and died two years later while at sea. Further information is available from Wikipedia, NNDB, or Paul David Nelson’s biography available online at Googlebooks.

For around five years, while serving in India, Rawdon kept a detailed diary. This was edited by his daughter, Sophia (Marchioness of Bute), and published in two volumes by Saunders and Otley in 1858, as The Private Journal of the Marquess of Hastings K. G. Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief in India. Both volumes are freely available at Internet Archive (volume 1, volume 2).

The first volume starts with an introduction by Sophia, from which the following paragraphs are taken:

‘This Journal was written for the purpose of recording for His children’s information the principles upon which He acted. It is therefore strictly copied from the original MS., even to the very words; though the changes which are constantly obtaining in our language, tend to throw a look of antiquity and obscurity over what was in Lord Hastings’ time polished English. It is only curtailed as to the voyage, then of six months’ duration, and now so well known that the details would be tedious; and some of the accounts of hunting expeditions are left out, as the too frequent recital of such scenes might prove wearisome to strangers.

It will be observed, that Lord Hastings abruptly concluded His Journal in December, 1818, though His government of India continued to January, 1823. He probably found that it was impossible to keep it with the immense labour of the ordinary duties of His double office, which, Lord William Bentinck, who for some months performed the same, expressed his astonishment that Lord Hastings’ health and strength could stand for so many years. [. . .]

It may be matter of surprise to some that, if worth publishing now, this Journal was not given earlier to the public; but there are many who feel as Walpole did respecting his biography, that personal narrations may come too near a public man’s contemporaries; and till latterly India has not been a source of public interest, inquiry being mainly confined to those connected with the country. Lord Hastings’ daughters have, from these motives therefore, withheld the papers bequeathed to them until now: and the survivor of those “Companions of his Expedition” to whom He affectionately dedicates His Diary, which has been found in the arrangement of the mass of His papers, has only lately decided on the publication of her Father’s “Private Journal,” believing there are still many who will gladly recall in these pages the sentiments they have heard Him express when in life.’

And here are several extracts, including the first from the published volumes, and the last.

11 September 1813 [first entry]
‘Made the land near Sadras at daybreak. Ran along the coasts and anchored in Madras roads about twelve o’clock. The admiral, Sir Samuel Hood, and the staff-officers of the Presidency came aboard to visit me. Soon after the admiral had retired, the Governor-General’s flag (the union at the main topmast-head) was hoisted and was saluted by the admiral’s ship and the other king’s ships in the roads as well as by the fort. At five we left the ship, and landed amid a prodigious concourse of people. The first view was very striking. The notion of population conveyed by the immensity of the crowd, together with the novelty of the dresses and the tranquil demeanour of the individuals amid excessive pressure, marked to one’s perception a state of society altogether different from what we had been accustomed to contemplate. The surf appeared insignificant, and the artifice of the native boatmen (who rowed us in a Massoulah boat) to make it be thought of consequence, was easily seen through. Without doubt it is at times dangerous, as is the case in all tropical countries where there is a flat shore. I repaired through a double line of troops, passing across the fort to the Governor’s house. There the judges and principal officers of the Presidency were introduced to me.’

13 September 1813
‘The Governor came to me after breakfast, and we went in minute detail through the state of the Presidency. I found him not at all easy respecting the dispositions of the army, which he regarded as sullen, though not inclined to immediate outrage. I remarked that such a temper was not surprising when nothing had been done to soothe the dissatisfactions remaining after the late convulsion; since which period the army, conscious of its own anxiety to return to its duty, had been left to feel itself as only resting under an ungracious pardon. It was recommended by me that every opportunity should be seized to cheer the officers and reanimate their honest pride.

Lieutenant-General Abercromby observed that my commissions implied a more continued and active intervention of the Governor-General with the other Presidencies than had hitherto existed; that it was what he had expected; and that the utility of such a connexion was in every view of public interest unquestionable. [. . .]

After the Governor was gone, we had a party of jugglers for the amusement of the children. Their deceptions, though well managed, were not so striking as their skill in balancing and their extraordinary precision in throwing up and catching a number of balls in rapid rotation. For both these last achievements it seems necessary that the attention of the performer should be aided by the cadence of a song which his comrades chant to him with great earnestness. One trick merits investigation. The juggler put a small ball into his mouthy whence
smoke immediately issued. Soon after, he blew out flame strong enough to consume flax at a little distance. The ball must have been of the phosphorous which ignites with moisture. But the retaining it in the month after it was inflamed depends on a secret worthy of being ascertained.

I had some of the staff and other officers to dine with me. Our table was as regularly conducted as if household had been established for a year. I notice this to do justice to the attention and activity of the native servants, by whom alone everything was managed. An equal number of English servants, unaccustomed to act together, could not have been tutored to fulfil their business with similar accuracy.’

14 September 1813
‘Rode out immediately after gun-fire. I observed great numbers of the date-palm, And casually asked if the dates were good. It was answered that the trees here never produced any fruit. Can this be owing to the ignorance of the natives that male palms must be planted among the others to make the latter fruitful? I have spoken on the subject with several of the natives in the course of the morning, as well as with some of the oldest white inhabitants, and none of them had a notion that male palms were requisite for the fecundity of the date-tree. As all the plantations on the Choultry plain have been made within these thirty years, and there is no tree of spontaneous growth in that tract, it is possible that it may have been thought unadvisable to plant a tree which had been remarked as never yielding fruit. The rendering the date-trees in the vicinage of Madras prolific would be a great benefit to numbers of the lower classes; therefore I shall solicit Governor Farquhar to forward to Madras some young male palms from the botanic garden at the Isle of France. The dates which are now consumed in considerable quantity at Madras are all imported from Bussorah.’

15 September1813
‘Went, as soon as it was light, to the fort, in order to inspect the works and to enable myself to judge of the system of exterior fortification proposed for the black town. The drawings had been shown to me the day before by Major-General Trapaud, the chief engineer. Fort St. George is a very respectable fortress, such as ought to sustain a long siege could a regular army sit down before it. Everything was in excellent condition. The water in the tanks, of which there is six months’ supply for 10,000 men, is remarkably transparent and sweet, though it is said to have been in the tanks above thirty years. This resource is necessary, lest an enemy should discover and cut off the pipes by which water is brought to the Port from a considerable distance.

At eleven I received the visit of the Nawab, who came in great state, and dressed out with a profusion of jewels. I met him at the door, and, on his stepping from his carriage, embraced him, according to the etiquette, four times, giving three embraces to each of the three sons and the nephew whom he introduced to me. I led him upstairs, our arms being over each other’s shoulders, while I gave my left arm to the eldest son.’

16 September 1813
‘Set out at dawn of day to review on the open ground in front of the fort the troops stationed at Madras. Very heavy rain had fallen in the night, accompanied by much lightning, during which the jackals were loudly clamorous in our garden. As those animals are rather useful in destroying minor vermin and carrion, they meet with little annoyance from either whites or natives. The morning was fine; the ground had been improved by the wet. The line consisted of the King’s 89th regiment, five battalions of sepoys, and a rifle corps, and the Governor’s bodyguard. They were in perfectly good order. Their deploying from column and changes of front were done with great regularity and precision. I seized this opportunity to address to the whole of the Madras army an order calculated to cheer its feelings and awaken its confidence.’

17 January 1815
‘Although we were told that all the country parallel to the march we had to make this day, was so devoid of cover as to afford no prospect of meeting a lion, the knowledge that we were after this day to enter a country so highly cultivated as to preclude the possibility of finding them, made us resolve not to throw away even the poor chance which we still had. At about seven miles wide of our road, two curious hills, apparently composed of loose blocks of stone, arose from the plain. We thought there might be cover about their bases, but there was not any on the side which we approached. [. . .] About six miles ahead of us, there appeared trees which we supposed to be a thicket. We resolved to push for it. In our way we fell in with some large herds of cattle. The men attending them, of the tribe of Jhaats, informed us that the trees to which we were steering only surrounded a village, but that they could show us, at about two miles from where we then were, a place where there was great probability of our finding a lion. They told us that they had of late often seen two, which had carried off many of their cows.

It is extraordinary how little apprehension these people have of the lion. They say it never wantonly attacks a man; so that if it gets enough of other food, and they do not provoke it, they are not terrified at seeing it prowling about. Then they always say to you, if it be my destiny to be eaten by a lion, no care of mine will prevent it; he will come and take me out of my bed. Leaving the cattle under the charge of some boys, three or four men went to show the place where they thought it likely our game should be found.

There never was a more promising spot. It was a dell, which ran from the back of the first hill, and it was full of long grass and thorns. We beat it with the utmost care, refraining from firing at other animals, which continually started up before us, but found no lion. We then returned to the herds. I this day remarked what I had indeed observed on many former occasions, what a fine lace of men, the Sikhs and Jhaats are. They are not bulky, but they are tall and energetic. Their step is firm and elastic; their countenances frank, confident, and manly; and their address has much natural politeness. I had noticed the same appearance in the Rohillas and Patans, but with less of cheerful air than what I observe in the Sikhs. More active, brave, and sturdy follows can nowhere be found than these tribes present. [. . .]

More from the principle of leaving nothing untried than from the supposition that there was any chance of finding a lion there, we directed our course through the thorns. When we had got nearly to the further end, two lionesses started up before us. Some ineffectual shots were fired, and both the animals took to the plain. One, at which both my rifles missed fire, gained a little ravine at some distance, which we took for granted must yield her a secure escape. The other afforded us a curious spectacle.

There was so little expectation of our finding a lion there, that one of Skinner’s Irregular horsemen (a party of whom attended us at a distance) was riding up to the thorns to deliver a letter which had been sent after me. The lioness made a dash at him, though her distance from him was considerable. He made off with all the speed to which his spurs could rouse the horse. The lioness coursed him fairly in the open plain, and gained so much upon him as to give us extreme uneasiness. At length, by the time he had reached a little rising ground, his horse got into his rate, and the lioness found she could not overtake him. She then turned round the point of the hill over which he had gone straight. Just at that moment, all the herdsmen who had followed us called to us, and said that the first lioness had come back into the thorns. We had no difficulty in finding her. The gentleman who first stumbled on her wounded her. Though she was much crippled by the shots, when I met her, on turning round a bush, she made a gallant run at my elephant. I, luckily, hit her in the head, and she fell immediately. At that moment the screams of the herdsmen made us turn round, and we beheld the other lioness galloping through the midst of them to regain the cover. Though she passed close to three or four she did not attempt to strike at any of them, but hastened to take refuge in the longest and best covered bush that the place afforded. [. . .]

Just as I got round, the lioness darted out, and  springing at the elephant on which Mr. Shakespear was riding, fixed her talons in each of its ears while she vigorously assailed its forehead with her teeth. The violent exertions of the elephant to get rid of this troublesome appendage put into confusion all the elephants that were near, and prevented help being given. But it had a still worse effect; for in one of its ungovernable efforts, the elephant threw Mr. Shakespear out of the howdah. Luckily, he fell on a bush, so that he was not hurt, yet he rolled to the ground, and there lay exposed. Two of Skinner’s horsemen seeing his situation most gallantly drew their sabres and galloped forward to protect him. At the same instant the lioness was thrown off, but happily on the side opposite to that where Mr. Shakespear lay. On recovering herself, her attention was attracted by the haunches of an elephant which had wheeled round through fear close to her. She seized it, and tore the inside of both its thighs dreadfully. There was now, however, an opportunity of firing at her, and she received three or four wounds. Checked by these, she retired into the bush. [. . .] My elephant soon reached the place; and I saw her lying exhausted. She roused herself and attempted to come towards me; but I believe the effort would have been vain had I not given her another shot, which was instantly decisive. It was with great difficulty that we brought to our camp, at Great Bhowannee, the elephant whose thighs had been so lacerated.’

18 January 1815
‘Our lionesses were measured last night; one was nine feet four inches from the nose to the tip of the tail; the other two inches less. In such a measurement the tail of the lion furnishes less than that of the tiger to the general amount. Anxious interest, as had been the case on a former occasion, was made with our servants for a bit of the flesh, though it should be of the size of a hazel-nut. Every native in the camp, male or female, who was fortunate enough to get a morsel, dressed it and eat it. They have a thorough conviction that the eating a piece of lion’s flesh strengthens the constitution incalculably, and is a preservative against many particular distempers. This superstition does not apply to tiger’s flesh, though the whiskers and claws of that animal are considered as very potent for bewitching people.’

13 December 1818 [last entry]
‘We have had accounts of the Rajah of Jyepore’s death. Two of his wives and two female slaves burned themselves on the funeral pile with his body. I am conscious that such a circumstance does not occasion here those painful and revolted feelings which would arise in one’s mind were one removed to the distance of England from the scene. It is not that the frequency of the occurrence causes apathy, but here one sees in this disgusting and barbarous custom relations with a variety of particulars in the forms of society, which though almost impossible to be detailed, take off from the strangeness of the procedure. A blind ignorance, which makes the poor victim credit all that is told her by the Brahmin, is the cause more immediately influential. The Brahmin urges this sacrifice from superstition and attachment to habits; but it is to be apprehended that he is often bribed to exert himself in overcoming the fears of the hapless woman; because the family of the deceased husband save by the immolation of the widow the third of the defunct’s property, which would otherwise go to her. The miserable condition to which a woman is reduced when left childless at the death of her husband forcibly aids the inculcations of the Brahmin. She is, as to estimation and treatment, reduced below the rank of the meanest servant. She cannot marry again; she has no chance of enjoying society; she must not even, though she have money, set up an independent establishment for herself; and her own paternal or maternal family have, with the usual absence of all affectionate ties among these people, altogether cast her off from the hour of her first repairing to her husband’s roof. Despair, therefore, conspires with bigotry and enthusiasm to make her take a step reconciled to the contemplation of women in this country from their earliest youth; while the absolute incapacity of such an uninformed mind as hers to have any distinct sense of the pangs she must undergo promotes the obstinacy of her resolution.’

The Diary Junction