Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The earliest literary diary

It is one thousand and seventy years since the death of  Ki no Tsurayuki, a nobleman and poet renowned for his erudition and skills in Chinese and Japanese. He is acknowledged as the author of The Tosa Diary, which is considered the oldest literary diary in existence - predating English diaries by half a millennium!

Tsurayuki was a son of Ki no Mochiyuki, and grew up to become a poet of waka, short poems composed in Japanese. In 905, under the order of Emperor Daigo, he was one of four poets selected to compile an imperial anthology of waka poetry (Kokin Wakashū). His preface to the anthology is credited with being the first formal description of Japanese poetry. After holding a few offices in Kyoto, he became the provincial governor of Tosa province from 930 until 935. Later, he lived in Suo province. He died - according to Wikipedia’s entry - on 30 June 945.

Apart from his contribution to the imperial anthology, Tsurayuki is also considered a literary figure of some historical importance because of the Tosa Nikki - which, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, is the earliest example of a literary diary. (The first English diaries date from the 16th century.) Although, apparently by a woman, and published anonymously, Tsurayuki is acknowledge as being its author. It was first translated into English by William N. Porter in 1912 and published by Henry Frowde as The Tosa Diary. Some pages of a more recent edition, published by Turtle Publishing (Boston) in 1981, is available to preview at Googlebooks.

The narrator of The Tosa Diary states at the outset: ‘It is generally a man who writes what is called a Diary, but now a woman will see what she can do.’ Porter explains in his introduction that this opening sentence means the diary is to be written in ‘the women’s language’. i.e. phonetic characters only, without the use of ideographs; and, in order to be consistent, the author writes as if he was a woman, and mentions himself only in the third person, using different names, such as ‘a certain personage’, ‘the seafarer’ etc. The diary tells of a journey by boat (being rowed) to the then capital Kyoto; although only 200 miles, it took 55 days. (At night, those travelling would camp on shore, and remain there if the weather for the day looked threatening.)

28 January 955 [first entry in published book]
‘One year on the twenty-first day of the twelfth month ‘a certain personage’ left home at the Hour of the Dog, which was the beginning of this modest record. He had just completed the usual period of four or five years as Governor of a Province; everything had been wound up, documents etc. had been handed over, and now he was about to go down to the place of embarkation; for he was about to travel on shipboard. All sorts of people, both friends and strangers, came to see him off, including many who had served him faithfully during the past years, and who sorrowed at the thought of losing him that day. There was endless bustle and confusion; and so with one thing and another the night drew on.’

6 February 955 New Year’s Day
‘Still they remained at the same place. The byakusan had been placed for safe-keeping during the night in the ship’s cabin; but the wind which is usual at this time of year got up and blew it all into the sea. They had nothing left to drink, no potatoes, no seaweed and no rice-cakes; the neighbourhood could supply nothing of this kind, and so their wants could not be satisfied. They could no nothing more than suck the head of a trout. What must the trout have thought of everybody sucking it in turn! That day he could think of nothing but the Capital, and talk of nothing but the straw rope stretched across the Gates of the Imperial Palace, the mullet heads and the holly.’ [These foods etc. are all to do with the then customs of New Year.]

18 February 955
‘The rain was gently falling at daybreak, but it soon stopped, and then the men and women together went down to a suitable place in the vicinity and had a hot bath. Looking out over the sea, he composed this verse:
Overhead the clouds
Look to me like rippling waves;
Were the fishers here,
Which is sea, and which is sky?
I would ask, and they’d reply
Well, as it was after the tenth day, the moon was particularly beautiful. All these days, since first he set foot aboard ship, he had never worn his handsome bright scarlet costume, because he feared to offend the God of the Sea; yet . . .’

25 February 955
‘Just as yesterday the boat could not start. All the people were sighing most dolefully, for their hearts were sad at wasting so many days. How many did they amount to already? Twenty? Thirty? It would make my fingers ache to count them. At night he could not sleep and was in a melancholy mood. The rising moon, twenty days old, came up out of the midst of the sea, for there were no mountain-tops (for it to rise from).’

28 February 955
‘The sun shone forth from the clouds, and, as there was said to be danger of pirates during the voyage, he prayed for protection to the Shinto and Buddhist gods.’

22 March 955
‘This day the carriage arrived. Owing to the dirt on board he removed from the boat to the house of a friend.’

23 March 955
‘That evening as he went up to the Capital, he saw in the shops at Yamasaki the little boxes painted with pictures and the rice-cakes twisted into the shape of conch shells, just the same as ever; and he wondered if the hearts of shopkeepers also were the same. [. . .] Planning to arrive at the Capital by night, he did not hasten. The moon had risen, and he crossed the Katsura River in bright moonlight. [. . .] He recited this also:
Once Katsura’s Stream
Seemed to me as far away
As the clouds of heaven
Now, while crossing, I perceive
It has wet my dipping sleeve.

And again he composed this:

Well I know my heart
And the River Katsura
Never were alike:
Yet in depth my heart would seem
Not unlike the flowing stream.

These too many verses are due to his excessive pleasure at reaching the Capital.’

The Diary Junction

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ran about all day

The Australian cricketer Victor Trumper, once called the best batsman in the world, died a century ago today - and he was only in his late 30s. He is particularly remembered for the astonishing feat of scoring 100 runs before lunch on the first day of a Test Match in England. While researching a biography of Trumper in the 1980s, the author Ashley Mallett found a small diary Trumper had kept during that match and others of the 1902 tour to England. While history has made much of that tour and Trumper’s role in it, the man himself - rather amusingly in retrospect - seems to have hardly noticed the excitement, and more often than not simply recorded in his diary ‘as usual ran about all day’.

Victor Thomas Trumper was born in 1877 in Sydney, and was, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, probably a great-grandson of Charles Trumper, hatter, and his wife Jane, née Samson, who were married in London in 1834 and migrated to Sydney in 1837. Victor’s father was probably a footwear manufacturer, and well off enough to keep him at Crown Street Superior Public School. On leaving school, Victor became a junior clerk in the Treasury.

However, cricket was taking up much of Trumper’s time. When still only 17, he had played at Sydney Cricket Ground, scoring well in a game against a touring English team; soon after he played for New South Wales against South Australia. In 1899, he was selected for Australia’s tour of England, where he is known to have impressed the famous W. G. Grace. And, in 1902, Trumper had a remarkable season in England scoring an average of 48.49 runs. During that tour, he also became the first player to score a century on the first morning of a Test Match. That year he was described by the cricketer’s bible Wisden as ‘the best batsman in the world’. He was also a clean living young man - a teetotaller, non-smoking, Anglican.

In 1904, Trumper married Sarah Ann Briggs, a sister-in-law of J. J. Kelly, Australia’s wicket-keeper. The same year Trumper, with Hanson Carter, opened a sports store in Sydney. As well as cricket, Trumper was involved with rugby, and this involvement increased during 1907 when meetings for players discontent with the current administration met in his store. Discussions continued and led to the formation of the New South Wales Rugby Football League, with Trumper as treasurer. He continued playing cricket through to 1914, valued as much for his ability to play on bad wickets as for his scoring ability per se, but his health failed rapidly thereafter, and he died on 28 June 1915. Further information is available at Wikipedia, the Australian Dictionary of Biography, or ESPN Cricinfo.

During that famous 1902 tour in England, Trumper kept a simple, brief diary. Here is Ashley Mallett - author of Trumper - The Illustrated Biography: The greatest batsman of cricket’s Golden Age (Macmillan 1985) - explaining how he found the diary:

‘During my research into the Trumper story, I came across a tiny Collins diary. The diary, with its gold edged pages, was Victor Trumper’s diary - the one he carried with him on the 1902 tour. As a cricket writer the Trumper diary meant as much to me as stumbling across the Lost City of Atlantis would to an archaeologist. It provides us with a fascinating link with the 1902 tour. The diary is not one in the mould of a ship captain’s log, but the sort of small notebook a young cricketer might keep to note coming events, travel arrangements, shows, test and county game dates and the like. Perhaps Trumper wanted to record events chronologically for later reference, perhaps with the idea of writing a book. Yet Trumper was very much a self-effacing man. He hated publicity for publicity’s sake and if he disliked anyone, it was the man who boasted about his achievements. The contents of this diary have not seen the public light of day for some 83 years. Perhaps it was high time we delved deeper into the mystery of Victor Trumper.’

Mallett’s chapter on the 1902 tour - called Diary of a Champion - at 50 pages is easily the longest chapter in the biography. Every day of the tour is described in great detail - in contrast to the laconic entries of Trumper’s diary! Here are several entries, as found in Mallet’s book, many of them about the days of the Test Matches (which were played over three days at the time).

26 May 1902
‘Played MCC [Marylebone Cricket Club, based at Lords]. . . ran about all day. Hard ground . . . 41 not out. MCC dinner at night.’

27 May 1902
‘Continued innings made 105. Side made 270. Poor score. They did not do so well. Very tired. Stayed in and packed up.’

28 May 1902
‘Last men ran us about. Mitchell made 44, 3 hrs and gave 4 chances. I made 86 . . . wanted double century [i.e. two centuries for match]. Left for Birmingham.’

29 May 1902
‘England won toss. As usual ran about all day . . . very tired. Wrote letters home.’

30 May 1902
‘Finished innings. Raining . . . wet wickets. A made 36 . . . batted badly. 2nd innings made 8 n.o. Total score for no wickets. Theatre flag half mast.’

31 May 1902
‘Still raining leave for ground at 1 o’clock. Started match 5.15pm simply to get the crowd in a good humour. Match a draw. Saved us from a good hiding.’

12 June 1902
‘Test match . . . raining hard . . . Mac[Laren] won toss, batted. Two for none . . . had four chances off me . . . wrote letters.’

13 June 1902
‘Rain, no play. Saw Gay Lord Queux [Gay Lord Quex - a play by Arthur Wing Pinero] . . . passable.’

14 June 1902
‘No play. Rain. Saw Opera, Covent Garden. L’elisir d’amor, The Elixir of Love . . . good. HC with me.’

3 July 1902
‘Match started. Made 1. Our chaps made 190 odd. Abel and Archie batted well.’

4 July 1902
‘England 49 behind. Wickets rolled on the quiet. Made 62 in 47 minutes. Clem [Hill] 100. England, Jessop 50 not out, bowled fast.’

5 July 1902
‘Hurras. Won match. Glorious. All drunk . . . Left for Birmingham. Arrived 12pm.’

24 July 1902
‘Wet wicket. Fourth Test. Won toss, made 299. Self 104, RAD 50. 1st W 135. England 5 for 70. Tate 1st test. Fire G Peak and Coy.’ [This was the day Trumper made his record-breaking 100 before lunch!]

25 July 1902
‘England 262. Jackson 122. Bowlers done badly. Australia 8 for 85. Things gloomy. Darling 37. Refused admission theatre.’

26 July 1902
‘Won by three runs. Australia 86, England 120. MacL 35, Theatre Knowles . . . glorious time.’

27 July 1902
‘Left for London. Done out of compartment by women. All have sore heads.’

11 August 1902
‘Test match. Good crowd. Made 42, batted fairly well. Side shaped well.’

12 August 1902
‘Wicket worse. Lead of over 100 for 2nd inngs. Run out 2 . . . easy run. Clem 30. WA not out. HT and JK to go in.’

13 August 1902
‘Test over. England a glorious game. Deserved to win. Wicket bad. Catches missed. Great excitement. Glad Tests all over . . .’

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Make the draperies move

‘Work quickly. Don’t stop for anything but the essential. [. . .] Make the draperies move, don’t let them stop. Keep the flow going.’ This is Robert Earl Henri - born 150 years ago today - writing in his diary near the end of his life. Although a first rate artist, and the leader of the Ashcan School of realist painting in the US, his chief claim to fame is as one of the most influential art teachers of the period.

Robert Henry Cozad was born on 24 June 1865 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father, a real estate developer, is credited with founding the towns of Cozaddale, Ohio, and Cozad in Nebraska, but in 1882 he killed a rancher in a land dispute. Although Cozad was cleared of wrongdoing, the family fled to Denver, where they changed their names, the father becoming known as Richard Henry Lee, and his sons posing as adopted children - Robert under the surname Henri (pronounced ‘hen rye’). The family continued to move around, but, by 1886, Henri had enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Two years later, he travelled to Europe, studying at the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, and embracing Impressionism. He returned to the Pennsylvania Academy, and, in 1892, began teaching at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.

While still in Philadelphia, Henri’s vigorous ideas - moving away from Impressionism and towards a realistic portrayal of American cities - began to attract a group of followers, including illustrators for the Philadelphia Press (known as the Philadelphia Four, including John Sloan). Having married Linda Craige, one of his students, she and Henri lived in Paris in 1898-1900, Henri exhibiting at the Salon (Woman in Manteau and La Neige). On returning to the US, Henri moved to teach at the New York School of Art, where he counted Joseph Stella, Edward Hopper and George Bellows among his students. Linda died in 1905, and Henri married Marjorie Organ, a young cartoonist for the New York Journal, three years later.

In 1906, Henri was elected to the National Academy of Design, but when painters in his circle were rejected for the 1907 exhibition, he left to organise a rebel show, entitled ‘The Eight’ (involving himself, the Philadelphia Four, and three other artists) at the Macbeth Galleries. With Sloan’s help, the exhibition went on to travel to several more cities, attracting significant attention. By this time, Henri and his followers - the loose-knit Ashcan School - were depicting urban life at its toughest and most exuberant, and offending conservative mores. In 1910, with Sloan and Walt Kuhn, Henri organised the Exhibition of Independent Artists, modelled after the Salon des Indépendants in France; and in 1913, Henri exhibited at the famous Armory Show, the US’s first large-scale introduction to European Modernism. However, already by this time, Henri had come to focus his own painting more and more on portraits (such as The Beach Hat) - as acknowledged, for example, by this article in The American Magazine of Art.

From 1915 to 1928, Henri taught at the Art Students League in New York City. During these years, he also went abroad often - to Ireland and Mexico - finding both places inspirational for his painting. Although considered an important portraitist and figure painter, he is best remembered as a progressive and influential teacher. Encyclopaedia Britannica states: ‘He affected American art more through his teaching than his painting. He was instrumental in turning the young American painters of his time away from academic eclecticism toward an acceptance of the rich, real life of the modern city as the proper subject of art.’

Henri’s ideas on art were collected by Margery Ryerson, a former pupil, and published as The Art Spirit (Lippincott, Philadelphia) in 1923 - a modern edition can be previewed at Googlebooks. In 1929, Henri was named as one of the top three living US artists by the Arts Council of New York. He died just a few months later, and was honoured with a memorial exhibition of 78 paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For more information consult Wikipedia, the National Gallery of Art, Sullivan Goss, or Traditional Fine Arts Organization. For a list of pictures available to view online see Artcyclopaedia.

Henri kept extensive diaries during long periods of his life, and these were made available to William Innes Homer (with the assistance of Violet Organ) for his 1969 book Robert Henri and his Circle (Cornell University Press). Homer enriches his text with frequent quotes from Henri’s diaries (which otherwise have not been published). Apart from keeping a diary himself, Henri figures extensively in the published diaries of John Sloan: John Sloan’s New York Scene, edited by Bruce St. John and published by Harper & Row in 1965. See Googlebooks to preview a modern edition of Sloan’s diaries. Here, though, are several extracts from Henri’s diary, as taken from Homer’s biography.

16 November 1886
‘I claim the honour of being the revolutioniser of some parts of the Academy. It was me that persuaded W[hipple] to open the Library - was one of the agitators of the sketch class - of the opening to the Antique [class] of the modeling room, and now of the getting of a cast for the modeling room.’

17 December 1886
‘My drawing of one day was as good (better than one) as many of the drawings of five days, not that it had finish - mine was rough but looked like the man.’

28 December 1886
‘I do not think time spent at a good theatre is wasted. Good actors can present to the artist’s eye scenes that in life are only once in a lifetime.’

22 March 1887
‘I don’t like perspective. I hate it. I understand it but can’t take interest. It’s like chopping wood.’

9 April 1887
‘Good theory with earnest practice is what I want.’

19 April 1887
‘All the students were called around to see my improvement and the good things I had done. Wasn’t I as happy as a clam at high tide when I opened the door and saw Hovey lecturing over my study to all the other students! . . . To me this boom was stimulating.’

15 September 1888
‘There are none or few of the works of the [old masters] that are equal to the moderns according to my way of seeing. Now all the world says there is nothing like the old masters and that none of the moderns can compete with them. What I have seen makes me think the opposite and I place the painters of today ahead of all others. I think that the old masters were very great for their time - probably many of them were very much greater for their time than any of the moderns are for theirs. In this I am going against the “good” old laid down beliefs.’

20 September 1888 [in London]
‘[. . .] gazing at these wonderful landmarks of history - at the very things themselves! [. . .] One can get himself mixed up in old rookeries, tangled and narrow, antiquity and picturesqueness at every step - forget that he is in the 19th Century - wander about the haunts of Dickens and all that great list of English men of letters, perfectly out of the world of today, lost in delightful reveries of the past.’

1 April 1891 [in Paris]
‘I think I am nearer right than ever before . . . It is a matter of color. Bouguereau is not a colorist either in combining color or reproducing it. His color is harmonious and in some cases very fine but he is never a colorist and as for reproduction of color, he never does that. It is always the same waxy, angel like color - just a little insipid - so from this I am not inclined to put the same confidence in his criticisms on color as in other branches.’

27 April 1910
‘The exhibition was a great success as far as general notice and attendance - the crush at the opening and continued full attendance to the last day. Financially nothing happened.’

25 August 1926
‘The big movement of the whole canvas should so possess one that the change from part to part, from flesh to collar to coat to shirt or trousers should be such that, however brilliant or sharp the change of color or texture might be in these, there would be no arrest in the observer’s mind. He should be conscious of these changes, conscious of beauty in them, conscious that they are right, but his sense should be of the life that flows beneath these superficial things.’

‘Work quickly. Don’t stop for anything but the essential. (A dilatory worker has too much time to see things of little importance.) Make the draperies move, don’t let them stop. Keep the flow going. Don’t have islands of “things.” The “things,” however wonderfully done, are just what bring a picture down to the commonplace. I never really had any ambition to paint “things.’ It’s the spirit of the thing that counts.’

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The towne took on fire

William Whiteway died all of 380 years ago today. He played a significant role in the historic English market town of Dorchester during a period when it was undergoing remarkable civic improvement. He is particularly remembered, however, because of his diary, which records much of that development as well as giving, according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), ‘a valuable impression of the mental world of a well-educated, moderately puritan, seventeenth-century provincial townsman’.

Whiteway was born in 1599, the son of a wealthy Dorchester merchant. He was educated at the Dorchester Free School, but did not go to university. He married Elinor in 1620, and although they had several children only two survived childhood. According to the ODNB (log-in required) Whiteway held most of the civic offices in Dorchester, capital burgess in 1624, governor of the Freemen’s Company, and an MP from 1626 parliament (after the death of Dorchester’s previous MP, Michael Humphreys). He was steward of the hospital in 1626, overseer of the Poor for Holy Trinity parish from 1628, and bailiff in 1629 and 1633. He died on 21 June 1635, having suffered some kind of trauma earlier in year when running up a steep hill.

Whiteway kept a meticulous diary, from 1618 until his death, in a leather-bound volume containing 121 parchment folios (with 222 pages of diary entries). Selections from this were first published by the Revd W. Miles Barnes in 1892 in Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club (available at Internet Archive). It was not until 1991, however, that a fuller text was published - William Whiteway of Dorchester: his diary 1618 to 1635 - by Dorset Records Society. The book’s introduction states: ‘His diary provides a window into the mental world of a prosperous and well educated provincial townsman. Far from being merely localist, it illustrates the interaction between the various circles of its author’s existence: circles of family and kin; of town and region; of country and kingdom; and of the wider world beyond its shores.’

According to the ODNB biography, Whiteway grew up in Dorchester during a period of remarkable civic improvement, and his diary records the various projects which transformed Dorchester into one of the most puritan towns in England. (See this Ancestry.com page for many citations from the diary detailing Members of the Dorchester Company 1624-1626.) Entries about his own life are brief, usually matter-of-fact, and otherwise buried among his reporting of the news, whether local or national. Here are several extracts, taken from the 1991 edition of the diary (which reproduces the original spelling, unlike the 1892 edition for which the spelling was modernised!).

14 June 1620
‘I William Whiteway was married to Elinor Parkins by mr John White in the Church of the holy Trinity in Dorchester, in the presence of the greatest part of the Towne.’

30 January 1623
‘This day about one a clocke in the afternoone this towne tooke on fire in the house of mr John Adin in the higher parish, burnt 27 houses in that parish thereabouts, to the value of £3500 sterling. One man was burnt in William Shepherds house, to wit Edmond Benvenue, who running home, all blacke and deformed by the fire, and being followed by some friends, they Laboured to stay him to have him drest, was met by mr Cokers man Jaspar Arnold. He thinking him to be some felon, had a pole in his hand, and beate him with it greivously, and stroke him downe. He died within two daies. The Kings Majestie granted for it a Collection over all England.’

15 November 1623
‘This day about 10 a clocke at night Squire Williams stabd the Tapster of the George to the heart and killd him. Whereupon he fled into Holland, and from thence to France, where he lived at Caen. Some 8 moneths after he returned, have a pardon for £1500.’

4 October 1624
‘This night there was an extraordinary storme of wynd and rayne, which blew downe many houses, overthrew many great trees, cast away many ships in all ports, amongst the rest 4 at Melcombe in the hole, of which one was mr Pits, one mr Royes and 2 french men. There were 11 french men drowned in the same.’

5 June 1625
‘This day at 11 a clocke at night, god took unto his mercy, my eldest daughter Mary, being fower yeares old within 6 or 7 diaes.’

26 October 1625
‘The weekely fast on Wednesdays begun on the 20th July, ended in Dorchester this day with a contribution to the releife of Excester, which was in great distress, many dying for want and many weeke 100 and 150 of the sickenes. The collection that day was £23 16s to which was added £16 4s to mak up to £40 and sent to Mr Ignatius Jordan who was left alone in Exon, of all the Magistrats, all the rest having forsaken them.’

2 February 1626
‘This day king Charles was crowned at Westminster, with great solemnity. The Queen refused to be Crowned by any Protestant Bishop, without dispensation from the Pope. There were now Created 8 Earles and 80 knights of the Bath. The solemnity of the kings riding through London in State is put of to the 1st May next coming.’

15 August 1626
‘The sickenes began to breake out in Blandford, very dangerously, and within 10 daies after at Bridport, and spread into many parishes thereabouts. At Blandford there died in all some 20 person. In Bridport 70. It was suspected also againe to be in Weymouth.’

12 March 1627
‘This day my Unkle John Pit of Bridport died, being 80 yeares old. He died of age, and of the Stone. This day my Cousin James Gould and I did ride to London, to Joine with the merchants of Exeter, in petitioning the king and the Counsell, that we might have as much french goods delivered us as we had arrested in france.’

17 August 1634
‘Two men being at bowles near to Bridport on a Sunday, one beat out his fellowes braines with a bowle.’

13 October 1634
‘This day I rode towards London with Mr Onecipherous Bond, Roger Cole, and my brother Sam Whiteway. We took in Oxford in our way, and viewed all the Colleges, as also Windsore Castle and Eaton Colledge, and from thence went to Hampton Court, where wee saw the King and Queene dine. At lambeth wee saw the rarityes of Tredescant. And in Morefields I saw a woman delivered of a child. I returned home 31 October.’

The Diary Junction

Friday, June 19, 2015

Charlie instead of Concord

‘[Suu Kyi] came back after a hot trek in the sun to some village or other smelling strongly of cheap scent. It’s usual for enthusiastic ladies to spray Ma Ma with perfume [. . .] She said you know Ma Thanegi I’ve gone up in the world, they sprayed me with Charlie instead of Concord.’ This is part of a diary kept by Ma Thanegi, the personal assistant of Aung San Suu Kyi, during the early years campaigning for democracy in Burma. Later this year Suu Kyi, with her National League for Democracy party, will contest a general election, but, unless constitutional changes are enacted, she will not be eligible for the Presidency. Once considered an international icon for freedom, human rights and democracy, her image has become somewhat tarnished in recent years, at least according to widespread media articles celebrating her 70th birthday today.

Suu Kyi was born on 19 June 1945 in Rangoon (now Yangon). Her father, Aung San, was a revolutionary, nationalist, and founder of the modern Burmese army. In 1947, he negotiated Burma’s independence from the British Empire but was assassinated soon after. Suu Kyi grew up with her mother and two brothers (though one brother died aged eight, and the other, in time, became a US citizen). She was educated at the Methodist English High School, but when her mother was appointed Burmese ambassador to India and Nepal in 1960, she continued her studies at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School and Lady Shri Ram College, both in New Delhi, graduating with a degree in politics in 1964. She went on to St Hugh’s College, Oxford, gaining a B.A. degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1969.

After graduating, Suu Kyi lived in New York City, where she worked at the United Nations, primarily on budget matters. In 1972, she married Michael Aris, a Cuban-born Englishman and a scholar of Tibetan culture, then living in Bhutan. They had one son the following year, and another in 1977. The family relocated regularly, living in Bhutan, Japan and India, but settling mostly in England. Between 1985 and 1987, Suu Kyi was working toward an M. Phil degree in Burmese literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (and was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1990).

In 1988, Suu Kyi returned to Burma to see her ailing mother but soon became caught up in the country’s disaffection with its government: following the so-called 8888 Uprising in August, she emerged as a national icon and a leader for the National League for Democracy (NLD). Ma Thanegi, now a well-known writer, but then a painter collaborating with a politically-oriented painters’ organisation, soon joined Suu Kyi and worked as her personal assistant during the forthcoming campaign tours. Thousands of demonstrators were killed over the coming months, and General Saw Maung staged a coup to form a State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Martial law followed, as did a change of name for the country - to Myanmar.

Nevertheless, the military government organised to hold free elections in 1990 - the first for 30 years. The NLD won 392 out of a total 489 seats, but the military refused to cede power, and Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest at her home in Rangoon. That year she was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and the Nobel Peace Prize followed a year later. The military junta continued to rule until 1997, and then, as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), until its dissolution in 2011. Suu Kyi has said that while under house arrest she spent her time reading philosophy, politics and biographies sent her by Aris, played the piano, and, occasionally, when allowed, saw foreign diplomats.

Although Suu Kyi could have left the country, she would not have been allowed back; and, she has made clear, she preferred to stay with her people, despite the sacrifice of not being with her family. International condemnation of the Myanmar regime and Suu Kyi’s detention have been an ongoing news story for more than two decades. Finally, in 2010 she was released from house arrest. In 2012, she was elected an MP, and entered parliament. The same year she announced her attention to run for president in the 2015 elections, but the current constitution bars her from being eligible. Further information is available from Wikipedia, and from any number of articles celebrating her 70th birthday, many of which, though, draw attention to the fact that her image and reputation internationally is less than it once was, see, for example, Channel 4 (A painful metamorphosis), Deutsche Welle (An icon with a dented image), New Delhi Television (Accelerates political battle as she turns 70), The Telegraph (Is human rights heroine tarnished by her silence on persecution?), Huffington Post (Happy Birthday, Aung San Suu Kyi?).

As far as I know, Suu Kyi has not kept, or at least published, any diary. However, her personal assistant Ma Thanegi did keep a daily diary during their tours around Burma in 1989 and 1990; and extracts from these have been published in a biography of Suu Kyi by Peter Popham, The Lady and the Peacock, (Rider, part of Random House, 2011). Here is how Popham introduces, in his ‘Afterword’, this diary material: ‘There are many things about Suu’s life that are fascinating and instructive. It is extraordinary to observe a woman emerge from the comforts and duties of a suburban life in her early forties and take on a stature and role unimaginable even a year before. [. . .] Within months of accepting the leadership of the democratic movement she was already a legend throughout her country. But it never went to her head. I obtained proof of that when an acquaintance in London, who unfortunately I cannot name, gave me the diaries kept during Suu’s campaigning trips in 1989 by Ma Thanegi, her close companion. Suu’s radiant humanity shines out of those pages, along with her good humour, her stoicism, her appreciation of modern lavatories, and her frequent explosions of temper.’

Popham goes on to say that he met Ma Thanegi three times, and that when he told her he’d been given a copy of her diaries and planned to use them in his book, ’she did not demur’. He then explains how he believes he was betrayed by Ma Thanegi during an undercover trip to Burma in 2010, and how this led to his expulsion (before being able to conclude an interview with Suu Kyi). Ma Thanegi had spent three years in prison, and when released in the mid-1990s, had shown herself to be far more of a critic of Suu Kyi than a friend. Popham suggests she had been ‘won round’ by the country’s military intelligence.

Suu Kyi herself did not cooperate with Popham in writing the biography, and it is hard, therefore, to imagine the book would have had any publishing legs, as it were, without Ma Thanegi’s diaries, since they do provide a unique and substantial primary resource. But I, personally, wonder how come they really came into Popham’s possession, and under what authority/copyright arrangement he felt able to use them - at least until she herself ‘did not demur’.

The book itself can be previewed at Googlebooks, and online reviews can be found at Burma Campaign UK, The Globe and the Mail, London Evening Standard, Journal of Democracy, and New Republic.

The idea that Ma Thanegi should keep a diary during Suu Kyi’s campaigning trips, Popham says, came from Aris as a means for him to be kept in the loop given that he would have to stay home in England with the two boys. Later on, Popham notes that Ma Thanegi ‘seems more interested in recording the practical minutiae of the trip than the political discussions along the way.’ Indeed, many of the diary extracts quoted by Popham start with a detailed description of Suu Kyi’s dress! Unfortunately, unlike more academic biographers, Popham does not give full references for the diary extracts he uses, and so the vast majority of them are undated. Here, though, are several extracts from Ma Thanegi’s diaries as quoted in Popham’s book.

‘Gandhi is Suu Kyi’s role model and hero. Everyone knew it was going to be dangerous: some of the students had the Tharana Gon sutra chanted over them to prepare themselves for sudden death, a mantra recited in Buddhist ritual over the body of the deceased. Some became monks or nuns for a few days in preparation.’

‘Great harassment in Bassein, [. . .] armed soldiers barred the way out of the house we were staying in, only allowing us out in twos and threes to visit friends etc.’
‘An Australian senator came to see Ma Ma at 8am, [General Saw Maung had] told him elections would be held soon, after discussions with parties . . . Spent the whole night at Ma Ma’s place. Ma Ma up and down stairs whole evening, signing letters, seeing to papers, books. Dr Michael phoned after Ma Ma finished writing a letter to him.’

‘Left Rangoon at 4.45 am, fifteen minutes late. Ma Ma a bit annoyed. She was sleepy in the early part of the morning. I held her down by the shoulders on bumpy roads: fragile and light as a papier-mâché doll. Forced to stop unplanned at Pyawbwe . . . Ma Ma VERY annoyed. Stopped for sugarcane juice at Tat-kone: delicious! Ma Ma loved it. Lunch at Ye Tar Shay. People in the villages amazed and overjoyed to see Ma Ma. Ate lunch, fried rice ordered from Chinese restaurant next door.’
‘Ma Ma looked so wistful when I swiped chilli suace and onions from under her very nose. Later I relented and picked out onions sans sauce for her. Chilli sauce v. unhealthy stuff in Burma.’
11 February 1989
‘She wore green plaid longyi, white jacket, green cardigan with matching scarf and gloves. Got up (had to) at 4.30. Left for Loilam at 5.30, after I insisted she eat soft-boiled eggs.

At her request I borrowed a tape of Fifties and Sixties songs to listen to on the way, coincidentally the same we were listening to in Rangoon. I remember her singing along loudly ‘Love you more than I can say’ as she scooted upstairs. We sang along with the tape on the way: ‘Seven lonely days.’ etc.

Ma Ma v. annoyed at easy going plans. There was supposed to be a convoy on the road ‘for our protection’ but there was no one in sight. We reached Loilam without seeing any. Ma Ma hit the roof.’
‘Wonderful sight at Dukgo: as we entered the town the local NLD had issued red NLD caps and we marched in singing a democratic song which was also blared out from one car. We pushed in front of the MI’s videos and still cameras. Ma Ma had been saying for days how she was on the brink of losing her voice but it came on full, clear and strong as she started to talk at the NLD office, amplified out into the road, and she sounded darn mad.

While Ma Ma was talking, people crept up to listen at the side of the road. Police and soldiers told them to get back but we told them to come up and listen. Planned for Ma Ma to walk to jail to visit prisoners but when she came out of the NLD office such a large crowd followed her that we were afraid the police - who hurried to the police station and closed the gates - would say we were invading it and shoot us down. So many kids and women in the crowd that we decided just to pass the police station and jail by.

We walked out of town, crowds following, and I was afraid we would be walking all the way home. But at last, with the last goodbye, Ma Ma got into the car.

Had engine trouble all the way: water pipe broke late afternoon. Stopped for a while at Jundasar at a rice mill. Also we had to stop near a stream just before Dai-oo. Large pack of stray dogs - one of the boys shouted at them about 2/88. SLORC’s rule banning groups of more than five gathering together . . . [. . .]

Ma Ma sat in car and asked if I didn’t feel a sense of unreality about all we are doing. I said, dealing with stupid people can get us caught up in weeks of stupidity, no wonder it makes us all feel so weird.’
24 March 1989
‘Left Rangoon 6 am by boat [. . .] Reached Kim Yang Gaung in evening but no one came out of their houses. The whole place deserted, people peeping from deep inside darkened huts, only a few dogs going about their business. Learned that a local man who was democratic-minded was shot dead through forehead by army sergeant or corporal one week ago.

From there a long cart ride to Let Khote Kon. Easier to have gone on by boat but one of the NLD organisers felt we should visit that place and he was right. Ma Ma made speech in compound of a dainty little old lady named Ma Yin Nu. A very big crowd. I gave Ma Yin Nu a photo of Ma Ma . . .

Equally long cart ride back to boat, though it felt longer. Soon it became very dark. We never saw such large stars. As usual I pestered Ma Ma, telling her the names of my favourites. Halfway along our cart met a bunch of armed soldiers, five or six, who rudely called out to us, asking who we were, where we were going etc. There were about six carts in our caravan, our boys were travelling behind us but immediately they brought their cart up and parked between us and the soldiers. . .

Back on the boat at 8.30 pm and found out that we couldn’t leave because it was overloaded with people - NLD people from the villages we had visited had come along for the ride. Damn. And the tide was going out. We slept on moored boat, one corner partitioned off with two mosquito nets where Ma Ma and I curled up unwashed.’
‘Ma Ma getting to know well the Burmese character, the bad side. Said she is fed up to the teeth with pushy egoistic stupid people. She is getting to know the true Burmese character and is getting depressed by it. I have a feeling she is too idealistic and emotionally vulnerable. Easy-going as we Burmese are, we are totally selfish, ostrich-like in dealing with unpleasantness and very short-sighted.

When she is in a pensive mood I would search her face and feel a deep sorrow that so many burdens are on this frail-looking and gentle person. I think she needs to be more cynical to deal with the Burmese and of course hard-hearted to some extent. She feels hurt when people complain about the rudeness of our boys, I tell her politeness would not penetrate the thick skulls and dim minds of these people.

She came back after a hot trek in the sun to some village or other smelling strongly of cheap scent. It’s usual for enthusiastic ladies to spray Ma Ma with perfume that they all think is great, and the perfumes are either something called Concord or Charlie. Charlie is slightly more expensive, or Tea Rose, the scent of rose, and we are beginning to recognise these three. Ma Ma is more often sprayed with Concord and we hate this spray business. These ladies are not too careful where they aim the nozzle. Sometimes it gets into her face or her mouth, she has to be careful about moving her face or it would go into her eyes. She said you know Ma Thanegi I’ve gone up in the world, they sprayed me with Charlie instead of Concord.’

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Roar of 400 cannon

It is the bicentenary today of the famous Battle of Waterloo, Napoléon Bonaparte’s final defeat, which brought to an end over 20 years of warring between France and other countries. It was fought a few miles south of Brussels between, on the one side, Napoleon’s army, consisting of around 72,000 troops, and, on the other, an Anglo-allied grouping of 68,000 British, Dutch, Belgian and German forces, led by the Duke of Wellington, alongside a Prussian army, 45,000 strong, under the command of Gebhard von Blücher.

Many original sources survive to tell the story of the Napoleonic Wars in general and of the Battle of Waterloo in particular - official reports, letters, memoirs. Many of these are listed on the excellent Napoleon Series website. However, it seems, where so-called diaries or journals have been published they have, sometimes, been embellished at a later date. Two of the (four) sample diarists below, for example, include a large number of statistics in their account for 18 June even though these cannot have been known until some time later.

William Gavin (71st Highland Regiment)
18 June 1815
‘The sun rose beautifully. The artillery of both armies had commenced the work of death. The men were ordered to dry their clothes and accoutrements and put their firelocks in order, and the writer was sent with a party to a farm house, to seize on all the cattle that could be found about it. This was soon performed. Cows, bullocks, pigs, sheep and fowls were put into requisition and brought to camp. Butchers set to work, fires made by pulling down houses for the wood, camp kettles hung on, and everything in a fair way for cooking, when the word ‘fall in’ put everything to the route. Men accoutring, cannon roaring, bugles sounding and drums beating, which put a stop, to our cooking for that day. Our Brigade were ordered to advance to the brow of a hill and lie down in column. A brigade of the enemy’s artillery got our range and annoyed us very much. One shot made an avenue from the first company to the tenth, which killed and wounded sixty men. During this period, not being attached to any company, I rode down the line to the left, to where Sir Thomas Picton was stationed, and came up just as he received his mortal wound. About two o’clock a squadron of the enemy’s cavalry charged down on us, when the General ordered us to form square, which was instantly performed, and soon repulsed them. We were several times attacked in our advance by the enemy’s cavalry. At one time we had only the front of the square formed when a squadron charged us, but we soon had it complete, with Lord Wellington in the centre. In the confusion my hat fell off, and on recovering it put it on front part to the back, and wore it like this for the remainder of the day, not knowing it was so. In this charge Ensign Todd was killed, also Lieutenant Elwes mortally wounded. Lieutenant Lawe, who acted as adjutant to the left wing, and was mounted, was hit by a cannon ball, which passed through the calf of his right leg, through the horse’s body, and wounded his left leg.

The enemy began to retreat about seven in the evening. We followed them to Nivelles and took a great number of cannon. The road was actually blocked up with cannon and wagons deserted by the French.

We bivouacked this night outside the village, up to our knees in mud.

Our loss during the day was: 3 officers killed, 7 wounded; 24 rank and file killed, 160 wounded; 3 missing - loss of 71st at Waterloo.’

Source: The Campaign Diary of William Gavin of the 71st Highland Regiment - 1806-1815
(originally published in 1921, and more recently by Ken Trotman in 2013)


Captain James Naylor (1st King’s Dragoon Guards)
18 June 1815
‘We continued our retreat until we took position in front of Waterloo for the night, where we bivouacked during an incessant rain and without any refreshment or forage. Before daybreak we were on the alert but remained inactive till 11 o’clock when we formed in column of Squadrons. At 12 a general cannonade commenced by which we experienced some loss. We deployed and (I think) about 2 o’clock a charge was made by the Heavy Brigades through a line of the enemy supported by a line of Cuirassiers and a reserve of Lancers. Our attack was most completely successful, but our men were too sanguine in the pursuit of the fugitive Cuirassiers and at the moment our horses were blown we were attacked by a multitude of Lancers who did us considerable injury. Our attack was made under a very [heavy] fire of Artillery and Musketry. It was some time before we could collect our men. Turner with about thirty men joined the Brigade, he was wounded soon after by a cannon shot in the arm and I took the command of the King’s Dragoon Guards. A short time after Colonel Lygon’s horse being wounded he left the field and I remained (under Lord Edward Somerset) in command of the Brigade which at this time did not consist of more than a hundred men. About 7 o’clock I received a wound which compelled me to retire to Brussels where I met Macauly. I slept at the Hotel Grand Mirror.’

Source: 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards


Daniel John Edgecombe (Commissariat Department of the Army)
18 June 1815
‘[. . .] By this time the field of battle at all points had assumed a horrid aspect, the hills and ravines in every direction (but particularly the slopes of the hills along the front of our position) were so covered with the mangled corpses of friends and foes, that neither man nor horse could in some places pass without treading upon them. Those of the wounded who could not crawl from the groaning field, were in perpetual danger of being struck by the showers of shot firing over them, or trodden to death by the charging squadrons. The cries of these poor fellows were lost amid the clashing of arms, and roar of 400 pieces of cannon which spread death in every direction, and absolutely shook the ground: in some quarters the shots flew so thick that many of them must have struck each other before they reached the ground. The defeat which Buonaparte had just sustained had so deranged his plans as to cause a temporary suspension from these murderous attacks, during which however preparations were obviously making for a renewal of them, and the cannonade was continued without intermission. Not more than half an hour had elapsed before another terrible struggle commenced; the enemy’s infantry advancing in solid columns with their flanks protected by a large force of cuirassiers and lancers and an immense artillery, once more attacked the whole extent of our line, but after some terrific charges both of cavalry and infantry they were again sent reeling back upon their reserves. This dreadful work of destruction had now continued for the space of six hours, and on a space of ground not exceeding two miles in length, were heaped the bodies of more than twenty thousand victims: the loss of human life was, as usual, no consideration with Buonaparte, who knowing that his all was at stake had sent upwards of seventy thousand men into action at once, a force calculated to overwhelm all resistance: but every acre of ground was to be covered with slain before it was yielded, and then disputed for again. [. . .]’

Source: Journal of An Officer in the Commissariat Department of the Army comprising a Narrative of the Campaigns Under His Grace the Duke of Wellington (over 30 pages written on/about 18 June 1815)


William Tomkinson (16th Light Dragoons)
18 June 1815
‘[. . .] At about half-past eleven they began an attack on Hougoumont with the advance of their corps under Jerome Buonaparte, whilst their light troops attacked and carried Papellotte on our left, which was not intended to be held. The attack on Hougoumont was very sharp. The wood in front of the chateau was carried by the enemy after considerable loss, and more than a common resistance on our part, from light troops holding a wood in front of a position. The enemy proceeded to attack the chateau and garden, in which they failed, and retired unsuccessful. The defence, as well as the attack, was gallant.

We (11th, 12th, and 16th Light Dragoons) moved from our bivouac about eleven, and were stationed on the left of the line, below the hill occupied by the infantry; the 6th brigade of cavalry was stationed further on our left, the 2nd brigade on our right, near the Charleroi road, possibly half-way to that point from the situation we occupied. The 1st brigade was immediately on the other side that road, with its left on it, the 3rd brigade a little further to the right, and the 5th brigade on the right again of the 3rd. We moved to the ground assigned for our brigade, and all being quiet on our front, dismounted.

We had not been long on our ground before the cannonade opened and became general along the whole line. Colonel Ponsonby, myself, and some others (my brother Henry was of this party) rode out in front to see what was going on, and standing together near a hedge, attracted a few of the enemy’s round shot. The enemy’s fire was directed against our whole line, and we lost a few horses in the brigade whilst dismounted. Having for some time remained in this position during the attack on Hougoumont on the right, we were ordered to mount, and moved in front of the position to check the enemy’s cavalry in pursuit of the 2nd brigade of cavalry, which had charged in advance of the position, and was on its return to our line. It appeared that the enemy, with the 2nd and 3rd Divisions of their 1st corps, under Count d’Erlon, had moved to the attack of the left centre of our position. They advanced in good order, coming close up to our line; at this moment they were attacked by the 5th Division with the bayonet, under Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton, and driven back on their support in confusion. To repulse this attack, the 2nd brigade of cavalry moved to the charge; they went out of the position, charged, and completely upset everything opposed to them. It consisted of 1st (Royals) Dragoons, 2nd Dragoons (Scottish Greys), 6th Dragoons (Inniskillings). It was one of the finest charges ever seen. [. . .]’

Source: The Diary of a Cavalry Officer in the Peninsular and Waterloo Campaigns 1809-1815 (over 30 pages written on/about 18 June 1815, inc. maps and tables of figures)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

State-created crime

One Rev. John William Horsley was born 170 years ago today. Although not much remembered, he was a social reformer of great character - as much at home helping inmates in Clerkenwell prison as making room for children to play in his church or guiding groups of parishioners on nature walks in Switzerland. Distinguished by a very large beard, he became a significant figure in Southwark, where he served as mayor for a year. In the late 1880s, he published a remarkable book - Jottings from Jail - to help ‘remove that ignorance of what our prisons and prisoners are’ and to suggest ways in which all ‘should feel their responsibility for the existence of crime and sin and misery’. One chapter in the book is based on a diary he kept towards the end of his term as prison chaplain. In one entry - many others of which are enlivened by a near-bitter sarcasm - he argues: ‘There is such a thing as State-created crime.’

Horsley was born on 14 June 1845 in Dunkirk, near Canterbury, Kent, the eldest son of a churchman. He was educated at King’s School, Canterbury, and at Pembroke College, Oxford. After teaching for a few years, he was made assistant curate in Witney, and then, in 1875, moved to be curate of St Michael’s, Shoreditch. A growing interest in social issues led him first to an appointment as chaplain at Clerkenwell prison, where he served from 1876 to its closure in 1886. In 1877, he married Mary Sophia Codd, the eldest daughter of Captain Codd, governor of the prison. They had two sons and five daughters, though Mary died young, in 1890.

Subsequently, Horsley worked for the Waifs and Strays Society (later, The Children’s Society). After becoming vicar of Holy Trinity, Woolwich, he began campaigning for improved housing and sanitation in the area. By 1894, he had become rector of St Peter’s, Walworth. Here, he is well remembered for clearing the church’s great crypt so as to transform it into a playground for poor children in the neighbourhood. He believed that working for the welfare of children, defending their rights and recognising their importance, was a key to reducing crime. To set an example, he became a total abstainer, and campaigned actively for the Church of England Temperance Society, as he did for the Anti-Gambling League.

Horsley went on to serve as chairman for Southwark’s public health committee and for its largest workhouse. In 1905, when the new diocese of Southwark was created he became honorary canon of the cathedral; and, in 1909, he was mayor of Southwark. Two years later, he retired to the vicarage of Detling, near Maidstone, only resigning in mid-1921, just months before his death. He had been an enthusiastic alpinist and naturalist during his life, and had regularly taken groups of his parishioners for walking tours in Switzerland. There is very limited further information about Horsley readily available online - much of this bio has come from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (which requires log-in). Jack McInroy also has some information on his Walworth Saint Peter Blog. That said, Horsley’s autobiography (up to 1910 or so) can be read freely at Internet Archive.

In 1887, shortly after his role at Clerkenwell prison had come to an end, Horsley put together a collection of his thoughts and writings on the prison system. It was published by T Fisher Unwin and called Jottings from Jail - notes and papers on prison matters (freely available at Internet Archive).

In the preface, Horsley states: ‘These jottings from jail are just what their name implies. Time certainly, ability probably, was and is wanting, if I contemplated something more ambitious, a more detailed record of the experiences and observation of a decade spent as a chaplain of a metropolitan prison into which there came about an hundred thousand men, women, and children of all sorts and conditions, from the wholesale murderer to the child remanded only to be helped out of misery into the possibility and prospect of happiness and usefulness. These are but notes that I made from time to time, or articles or papers that were produced on sundry occasions and for divers audiences whom I wished to interest in the phenomena of crime in order that they might work for its prevention or cure. [. . .] My aim is to remove that ignorance of what our prisons and prisoners are, which in our grandsires’ days was the hardly excusable excuse for the existence of iniquities now inconceivable; to create or sustain more interest in, and sympathy for, a large but often forgotten or despised class of our brethren, and to suggest ways in which all in their several stations should feel their responsibility for the existence of crime and sin and misery, and so labour for the removal or prevention of all that makes these evils common and almost inevitable.’

Also in the preface Horsley thanks Miss Manville Fenn for the design of the cover: ‘It represents a selection from my private collection of burglarious implements; some jemmies or  sticks (Anglice, crowbars), one of which was presented me by him whose autobiography opens this book because he thought “it would be safer with me than with him;” some twirls or skels (skeleton keys and picklocks); a wedge for securing doors from the inside, a steel one for safe work; some neddies or life-preservers; and the firearms that it has become fashionable to carry, more out of bravado and because the mock-hero Peace (a canting old liar when under my care) used one than from any determination or desire to use them.’

Inside the book there is one chapter called A Month’s Prison Notes which is, in fact, a diary kept by Horsley for a month. He explains: ‘When the approaching abolition of the prison made it probable that I should speedily be regretting my discharge almost as much as the prisoners hope for theirs, one of the many things in my mind was the wish that I had had time to keep a private as well as an official diary, and to have noted down from day to day such incidents or observations as might have been useful in many ways hereafter. [. . .] True, I had kept for nine years notes of all cases of attempted suicide, which were between three and four hundred a year, and of all other cases specially commended to my notice by the magistrates; true, also, that I have a large notebook full of statistics and all sorts of curious subjects coming to my notice in prison; true, also, that my memory is retentive; but yet a daily record of things of interest would have been useful. During my last August I therefore endeavoured to make such a daily record as might show the varied nature of the work, and teach those who are not connected officially with prison work in what direction their intercessions and kindly thoughts and actions might tend.’

The diary is notable not only for the facts and figures Horsley brings to light about the prison and its prisoners, but for his lively use of sarcasm to stress social/political points.

3 August 1885
‘Of nine fresh cases on the female side I find one is 18, one 19, two 20, one 21, and the average age of all nine is only 25.

A lad, aged 19, spends four shillings in fourpenny ale, and then after midnight runs out with his baby, aged 13 months, and tries to drown himself and it. His wife was a rope-ground girl, and aged 15 at her marriage. A stalwart, intellectual, and good living race is likely to arise from such parentage!

The next case to which I come is that of a lad of 17 who has attempted suicide. How? I got into a pond. Why? Because I wanted to go to sea. This sounds humorous, but it turns out that he was trying to frighten his parents into acquiescence with his wishes. [. . .]

A rescue-worker complains to me of how Bank Holiday upsets girls who have hitherto been quiet and contented in Homes. It is commonly observed. The memories of drinks and “larks” attached to that day will come crowding in.’

5 August 1885
‘A woman, aged 36, has been eight years free, but has suffered five and seven years’ penal servitude. She must have begun young! She was turned out of doors “for cheek” by her stepfather when she was 15, then fell in with thieves and got five years when 15 for robbing a man of £63 in the street. She is not old, but she has outlived the possibility of a schoolgirl being sent to penal servitude for her first theft. There is such a thing as State-created crime.

A woman, aged 27, remanded for drunkenness and trying to rescue her husband, who was apprehended for being drunk and assaulting the police when they both had been “chucked out” of a public curse. They had regular work and are in comfortable circumstances; but then one must enjoy Bank Holiday. They have had seven children; one is living: of course this has nothing to do with their intemperance.

Justice Manisty sentences a man to two years for outraging a child aged 10, and regrets the law does not allow him to give more. The same copy of the paper records an exactly similar case in America - only there the man got twenty years. Oh our beautiful and righteous laws! “Who steals my purse, steals trash” - but can get penal servitude for so doing. Who steals the virtue of a child - cannot be punished half so severely. Oh these laws! “Proputty, proputty, proputty, that’s what I hear ‘un say.” [A quote from Tennyson.] Protect our spoons of course as long as they exist, but a national tumult is necessary to get protection for our girls.’

6 August 1885
‘Girl, aged 17, remanded for a petty theft from her place, and that I may find a Home for her if she promises well. Her mother says she is beyond her control, runs away from her places and gets into bad company, and that she has never been right since she was 10, when a “man” got six months for violating her. Two other girls, aged 13 and 9, were similarly treated by him, being waylaid on their way home from school. He was an accountant.

Another girl of the same age and charged with a similar offence I send to another Home. Her mother is dead, her father in the workhouse, and she has been brought up in a workhouse school, which quite accounts for her dulness and obliquity of moral vision. The huge barrack schools are utter ruin for pauper girls in comparison with any other system. Why is the British rate- payer so slow to note that children in Sutton District School cost £30 a head, while in Cottage Homes, such as those at Marston Green, the cost is but £20 10s., and children boarded out (e.g., by the King’s Norton Union) cost but £10 9s. 10d. a head per annum? I suppose they like to go on paying highest for the worst system and results, rather than lowest for the best.

A third girl this morning will go hopefully into a Home. She is only 18, but has led an immoral life for six months, yet is modest and quiet in manner; an orphan likewise.

An ex-prisoner is sent to me by a lady that I may help him. I find in conversation that a man for whom he worked twenty months is kindly disposed towards him and is now manager to a large firm. Yet it had never occurred to him to call on him! Verily, some men’s idea of seeking employment is to lie on their back with their mouth open, expecting it to be filled.

“Do you remember me, sir?” Yes, I did. This prisoner, a young clerk who had embezzelled in consequence of his drinking habits, and in spite of a wife and two young children, was a boy under me in a good school, of good birth, and his uncle an Archdeacon.

Sent to a refuge M.C., who was discharged this morning from Millbank and came to see me. For nine years have I striven to keep her straight, and to sixteen Homes have I sent her. A perfectly hopeless case of dipsomania I fear, but one must work against hope if one cannot work with it.’

7 August 1885
‘A young man, crippled and with only one hand, a friendless clerk, is helped and taken in by Mr. Wheatley, of the St Giles’s Christian Mission. Trusted on an errand with a cheque he absconds. Eventually he gets work at Westminster, and plays his employer the same trick. When no spark of honesty or of gratitude is discoverable, what can be done?’

8 August 1885
‘A country girl, aged 19, immoral and shameless, though only a month in London. Admits that sheer laziness and dislike to work have brought her on the streets.’

9 August 1885
‘Five males and one female brought in yesterday for attempting suicide. But “trade was bad” with us yesterday, for only forty men and six women were admitted.’

11 August 1885
‘A young lady with eight aliases, and all addresses given found to be false, is resigned and martyroid because every word of hers is not believed against those of others.’

12 August 1885
‘I wonder if this flower-girl, aged 18, used to sing the popular song, “We are a happy family.” She is in for assaulting her mother with a poker, and has twice previously been in for drunkenness: the mother is living apart from her husband, and has spent ten months out of twelve in Millbank doing short terms for drunkenness: a younger brother and sister have been sent to Industrial Schools. Yet the wonder is that any members of some families do right, and not that many do wrong. On what a pinnacle of virtue, inaccessible to a countess, is the daughter of a convict father and gindrinking mother who keeps straight!

Twice this week have I written to the Reformatory and Refuge Union to set their special officer on children that I find to be living in houses of ill-fame, of which the denizens or keepers come here. In one case, at any rate, there seemed a dereliction of duty on the part of the police, who, when they apprehended the mother, should have rescued the children.

Fate is the convenient scapegoat of those whose “can’t” is a shuffling substitute for “won’t” or “don’t like.” This man is in for theft from a public-curse; he is badly consumptive through drinking long and heavily; his father died of alcoholic phthisis; he has often tried to abstain, but never for more than six weeks; he has been warned by a physician at a hospital of how he is committing suicide; but he “supposes it is Fate.” ’

14 August 1885
‘One does not lose the sound of Bank Holiday (nor of Derby Day) rapidly in prison. A woman in yesterday for being drunk and violent had been a teetotaller for nine months up to Bank Holiday. A man who cut his throat after Bank Holiday spent in a public-curse was only yesterday well enough to be brought up and remanded.

Went last night to get the police in a certain district to take up a scandalous case of a girl, about 13, living with and being taken out nightly by her mistress, a notorious prostitute. Suggested that the case might have been dealt with any time this last four years under the Industrial Schools Act Amendment Act (which will go down to posterity as Miss Ellice Hopkins’ Act, as the Criminal Law Amendment Act will be called Mr. Stead’s). But the inspector had never heard of the Act. Quite courteous and willing to take up the case, of which he knew a great deal, but was ignorant of the Act under which scores of children in London alone have been rescued from immoral surroundings. The fact is, if the police know that those at head-quarters desire that an Act should be enforced, they can and will enforce it; if they do not know, or know the contrary, they don’t.’

The Diary Junction

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The poet’s labour

‘Am I going against nature in my constant attempt to fill my life with work? Is my mind as rich as in idle days? Is not perhaps the poet’s labour a mere rejection? If he seeks purity - the ridding of his life of all but poetry - will not inspiration come? Can one reach God by toil?’ This is none other than William Butler Yeats, a literary giant of the 20th century, born 150 years ago today. The quote is taken from one of only two short diaries the poet is known to have kept, both of which were published in very limited editions.

Yeats was born on 13 June 1865 in Sandymount, County Dublin, Ireland. His father was a barrister though he had ambitions to be a painter, and the family moved to England in 1867 for him to further those ambitions. At first William was schooled at home, but in 1877 he entered Godolphins school, Hammersmith. In 1880, the family returned to Dublin for financial reasons, where William went to Erasmus Smith High School, spending spare time at his father’s studio, meeting artists and writers. He was writing poetry by this time, and some of his poems were published in the Dublin University Review. Between 1884 and 1886, Yeats attended the Metropolitan School of Art (now the National College of Art and Design). Although his early poems were much influenced by Shelley, he soon became inspired by John O’Leary, an Irish revolutionary patriot who was encouraging young writers to work with Irish themes.

In 1887, Yeats returned to London with his family, and began to publish poems in British and US magazines; and he co-founded the Rhymers’ Club. His first significant works - such as The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems (1889) - date from this period. His circle of friends, by this time, included William Morris, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. In 1889, he met and fell in love with the Irish nationalist, Maud Gonne. Although she turned down his offers of marriage, their relationship remained an important part of his life. A growing interest in matters spiritual and even occult led him to the Theosophical Society and to join the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Yeats continued to publish his own works such as John Sherman and Dhoya (1892), The Countess Kathleen (1892), The Celtic Twilight (1893) and The Land of Heart’s Desire, but he also edited an anthology of Irish verse in 1895. In 1896, Yeats was introduced to Lady Gregory, a Irish playwright, ten years his senior, and together with another poet/playwright, John Millington Synge, they helped establish, what became known as, the Irish Literary Revival movement, as well as the Irish National Theatre Society. With Synge (most famous for his play The Playboy of the Western World) and others, Yeats acquired a property in Dublin which opened as the Abbey Theatre on 27 December 1904: on the bill were three plays, On Baile’s Strand and Cathleen Ní Houlihan (by Yeats) and Spreading the News (by Lade Gregory). Yeats was also involved in setting up Dun Emer Press (Cuala Press from 1904) to publish work by writers associated with the Revival. The press, run by Yeats’s sisters, produced over 70 titles until its demise in 1946, most of them by Yeats himself.

In 1909, the US poet Ezra Pound came to London to meet Yeats, and over the next few years the two of them spent much time together. In 1916, Yeats renewed his courtship of Maud, whose husband had been executed by the British. Biographers say, however, his proposal was half-hearted, and on being rejected he proposed to Maud’s daughter Iseult. She, too, turned him down in 1917. Only weeks later, though, he married Georgie Hyde-Lees, half his own age; and they would have two children. That same year, The Wild Swans at Coole, a collection of poems, helped to establish Yeats as a major poet. A year earlier he had written, what would become, one of his most famous poems, Easter, 1916, though it was not published until 1921: Yeats was committed politically to the Irish nationalist movement, but the bloody Easter Rising and the British executions that followed left him with unsettled views on violence.

Nevertheless, in later years, Yeats continued to be politically active. He was appointed to the first Irish Senate in 1922, and re-appointed for a second term in 1925. In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, ‘for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation’. The publicity helped increase sales of his works, and gave him more financial independence. Further books of poetry followed, including The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair (1929). In 1934, he underwent a Steinach operation (a now-discredited procedure that was supposed to increase overall vigour and sexual potency); coincidentally or not he also had several romantic affairs. Despite illness, he took on the editorship of the Oxford Book of Modern Verses in 1936. He died in 1939 in Menton, France. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, The Poetry Foundation, The Noble Prize, The New York Times, Ricorso, or Spartacus.

There is no evidence that Yeats was a diarist, but he did leave behind two short diary texts, both published by the Cuala Press (one posthumously) with very limited print runs (a few hundred): The Death of Synge, and Other Passages from an Old Diary (1928); and Pages from a Diary Written in Nineteen Hundred and Thirty (1944).

The Death of Synge contains a sequence of 41 sections, mostly a paragraph each (some long, some short) numbered in Roman numerals. Most of these are not dated, but some, towards the end are dated like a diary. Here are several extracts.

‘Why does the struggle to come at truth take away our pity, and the struggle to overcome our passions restore it again?’

‘March 23d. McDonagh called to-day. Very sad about Ireland. Says that he finds a barrier between himself and the Irish-speaking peasantry, who are “cold, dark and reticent” and “too polite”. He watches the Irish-speaking boys at his school, and when nobody is looking, or when they are alone with the Irish-speaking gardener, they are merry, clever and talkative. When they meet an English speaker or one who has learned Gaelic, they are stupid. They are a different world. Presently, he spoke of his nine years in a monastery and I asked what it was like, “Oh” he said, “everybody is very simple and happy enough. There is a little jealousy sometimes. If one brother goes into town with a Superior, another brother is jealous.” ’

‘Molly Allgood came to-day to ask where I would be to-morrow, as Synge wishes to send for me if strong enough. He wants “to make arrangements.” He is dying, They have ceased to give him food. Should we choose the Abbey or keep it open while he still lives? Poor Molly is going through her work as always. Perhaps that is best for her. I feel Synge’s coming death less now than when he first became ill. I am used to the thought of it and I do not find that I pity him. I pity her. He is fading out of life. I felt the same when I saw M_ in the mad house. I pitied his wife. He seemed already dead. One does not feel that death is evil when one meets it, - evil, I mean, for the one who dies.’

‘March 24th. Synge is dead. In the early morning he said to the nurse “It is no use fighting death any longer” and he turned over and died.’

‘Am I going against nature in my constant attempt to fill my life with work? Is my mind as rich as in idle days? Is not perhaps the poet’s labour a mere rejection? If he seeks purity - the ridding of his life of all but poetry - will not inspiration come? Can one reach God by toil? He gives himself to the pure in heart. He asks nothing but attention.’

‘May 25th. At Stratford-on-Avon “The Playboy” shocked a good many people, because it was a self-improving, self-educating audience, and that means a perverted and common-place audience. If you set out to educate yourself you are compelled to have an ideal, a model of what you would be; and if you are not a man of genius, your model will be common-place and prevent the natural impulses of the mind, its natural reverence, desire, hope, admiration, always half unconscious, almost bodily. That is why a simple round of religious duties, things that escape the intellect, is often so much better than its substitute, self-improvement.’

‘October. A good writer should be so simple that he has no faults, only sins.’

And here are extracts from the first and last paragraphs in Pages from a Diary Written in Nineteen Hundred and Thirty (which has the same structure as The Death of Synge).

‘Portofino Vetta April 7th. I have been ill for five months since I bled from the lung in London, four out of the five of Malta fever, and a couple of weeks ago the doctor told me it would be three months before I had received strength. But eight days ago we came from Rapallo to this hotel at Portofino Vetta some fifteen feet above the sea and I am almost well again. I work at the new version of The Vision every morning, then read Swift’s Letters and only take to detective stories in the evening, and would be wholly well if my legs were stronger. Here I can slip in and out as I please, free from the stage fright I had at Rapallo whenever George brought me to the little Café by the sea. After all there may be something in climate which I have always denied. Here no mountains shut us in; I think three weeks should make well as ever.’

‘[. . .] November 18th. Science, separated from philosophy, is the opium of the suburbs.’

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Remarks and collections

Thomas Hearne, Oxford scholar and librarian, died all of 280 years ago today. He is highly regarded for his editions of historical works which he managed to continue publishing throughout his life - this despite falling out of favour with the university authorities for refusing to take oaths of allegiance to the crown. Apart from his valuable chronicles, Hearne’s diaries are also highly rated, not only for providing much information on books/manuscripts and intellectual history, but for portraits of eminent scholars and academic figures of the day. They are also a good read: Hearne is quite unguarded in his opinions, and he recounts interesting news items of the day, as well as amusing anecdotes.

Hearne was born at Littlefield Green in Berkshire, in 1678, the son of a parish clerk. He received an early education thanks to a wealthy neighbour. Later he was educated at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he studied classical history, philology, and geography, graduating in 1699. He came to the attention of the principal, Dr John Mill, for whom he did transcription work. In 1701, he was taken on as an assistant by John Hudson, the newly appointed librarian of the Bodleian Library, and set to work on a planned edition of Thomas Hyde’s Bodleian catalogue of printed books. (Hudson, however, gave up this project, and when the catalogue was finally published in 1738 by a successor to Hudson, Hearne’s work was uncredited.)

Soon after joining the library, Hearne published his first book, Reliquiae Bodleianae (1703), a collection of correspondence between the library’s founder, Sir Thomas Bodley, and his first librarian, Thomas James. Hearne also published, with Hudson’s help, editions of Latin classics; undertook bibliographical research for many visiting scholars, such as Jeremy Collier and Bishop Francis Atterbury; and contributed to various important historical chronicles and literary works. By 1712, he had risen to second librarian; but, thereafter, he failed to advance further in the university because he proclaimed himself nonjuror, i.e. he refused to take oaths of allegiance to King George I (a requirement of higher offices). Indeed, his written reflections on nonjurism and nonjurors became increasingly problematic for the university, and caused mounting tension with Hudson. Eventually, in 1716, having failed to take a legally-required oath, he was dismissed from his position in the Bodleian; the door locks were even changed to bar him entry.

Subsequently, Hearne was denied use of the university imprint, and measures were put in place to forbid him printing from Bodleian manuscripts. He was also persecuted for a short while by the university authorities. Nevertheless, he managed to pursue a living for himself as a private publisher, using historical manuscripts from other libraries, such as the Ashmolean, and Trinity College in Cambridge. Also, he had a considerable following among collectors and scholars who assisted in bringing many of his works to publication.

Hearne fell ill in 1735 and died, unmarried, in his lodgings at St Edmund Hall on 10 June. His library was sold soon after, and (ironically) his diaries, correspondence, and manuscript collection ended up at the Bodleian Library. The fullest biography of Hearne online can be found at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (though log-in is required); otherwise Wikipedia, Berkshire History have briefer bios.

According to the ODNB, Hearne’s reputation today rests especially on his diaries, a series of 145 octavo diary volumes, written between 1705 and 1735, which he entitled ‘Remarks and collections’. The ODNB says: ’[These] are filled with detailed information about books and manuscripts, contemporary scholarship, and intellectual history. They also contain lively if politically prejudiced portraits of the lives of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century scholars and antiquaries and autobiographical pieces. Though less accessible today (as workbooks, the diaries are also filled with scholarly and bibliographical detail) than the more urbane diaries of Evelyn and Pepys, Hearne’s volumes are still rewarding when read entire.’

Hearne’s ‘Remarks and collections’ was first edited by Philip Bliss and published, in 1857, as Reliquiæ Hearnianæ: The Remains of Thomas Hearne being extracts from his MS. Diaries (two volumes). This was republished in 1869 in three volumes. Then C. E. Doble and others edited the diaries for the Oxford Historical Society’s edition in 11 volumes (1885-1921). The original Bliss edition can be read online at Googlebooks or Internet Archive, and the Doble editions can also be found at Internet Archive. Images from Hearne’s manuscript diaries can be viewed at the Bodleian Library’s Luna image website. Here, though, are several extracts taken from the 1857 edition.

14 September 1705
‘I was told last night that in the great fire at London was burnt a MS. Bible curiously illuminated, like the historical part of the Bible in Bodley’s archives, and that ’twas valued at 1500 libs.’

21 September 1705
‘Last night I was with Mr. Wotton (who writ the Essay on Ancient and Modern Learning) at the tavern, together with Mr. Thwaites, and Mr. Willis. Mr. Wotton is a person of general learning, a great talker and braggadocio, but of little judgement in any one particular science. He told me, he had begun sometime since to translate Graeve’s Rom. Demarius, but had not finished, and could not tell whether he should ever perfect it.

Mr. Wotton told me, Mr. Baker of St. John’s col. Cambridge had writ the history and antiquities of that college; and that he is every ways qualified (being a very industrious and judicious man) to write that hist. and antiq. of that university. He told me also, that he really believed Cambridge to me much later than Oxon.’

27 November 1713
‘Mr. Tompion of London, one of the most eminent persons for making clocks and watches, that have been produced in the last age, dyed last week. Indeed he was the most famous, and the most skillfull person at this art in the whole world, and first of all brought watches to any thing of perfection. He was originally a blacksmith, but a gentleman imploying him to mend his clock, he did it extraordinary well, and told the gentleman that he believed he could make such another himself. Accordingly he did so, and this was his first beginning, he living then in Buckinghamshire. He afterwards got a great name, lived in London, was acquainted with the famous Dr. Hooke, grew rich, and lived to a great age. He had a strange working head, and was well seen in mathematicks.’

22 April 1715
‘This morning was a total ecclipse of the sun. It began after eight o’clock. But the sky being not clear, the observations that were designed were in a very great measure hindered. There were many papers printed, before it happened, about it. This inserted [described in a footnote], is done by D. Halley. It was very dark when it happened. The birds flocked to the trees as they do at night. Many people used candles in their houses as in the night.’

19 February 1716
‘This has been such a severe winter, that the like hath not been known since the year 1683/4. In some respects it exceeded that. For tho’ the frost did not last so long as it did at that time, yet there was a much greater and deeper snow. Indeed it was the biggest snow that ever I knew: as it was also the severest frost that ever I have been sensible of. It began on Monday Dec. 5th, and continued till Friday, Feb 10th following, which is almost ten weeks, before there was an entire thaw. Indeed it began to thaw two or three times, but then the frost soon began again with more violence, and there was withall a very sharp and cold and high wind for some days. When it first began to thaw, and afterwards to freeze again, it made the ways extreme slippery and dangerous, and divers accidents happened.’

23 August 1716
‘Sir Christopher Wren says the ways of making mortar with hair came into fashion in queen Elizabeth’s time. Sir Christ. says there were no masons in London when he was a young man. Sir Christ. is about 85 years of age.’

13 December 1716
‘I had this day a hint given me as if the present vice-chancellor and some others (to be sure some of our heads of houses) have a mind to force open my chamber, and to sieze upon my papers.’

18 April 1719
‘A present has been made me of a book called The Antiquities of Barkshire, by Elias Ashmole, esq. London, printed for E. Curll, in Fleet-street, 1719. 8vo in three volumes. It was given me by my good friend Thomas Rawlinson, esq. As soon as I opened it, and looked into it, I was amazed at the abominable impudence, ignorance, and carelessness of the publisher, and I can hardly ascribe all this to any one else than to that villain Curll. Mr. Ashmole is made to have written abundance of things since his death. All is ascribed to him, and yet a very great part of what is mentioned happened since he died. For, as many of the persons died after him, so the inscriptions mentioned in this book were made and fixed since his death also. Besides, what is taken from Mr. Ashmole is most fraudulently done. The epitaphs are falsely printed, and his words and sense most horribly perverted. What Mr. Ashmole did was done very carefully, as appears from the original in the museum, where also are his exact draughts of the most considerable monuments, of which there is no notice in this strange rhapsody. I call it a rhapsody, because there is no method nor judgement observed in it, nor one dram of true learning. Some things are taken from my edition of Leland, but falsely printed, and I cannot but complain of the injury done me.’

6 June 1719
‘Last Sunday died Edmund Dunch, of Little Wittenham, in Berks, esq. parliament for Wallingford, being about 40 years of age. He was a very great gamester, and had a little before lost about 30 libs. in one night gaming. He had otherwise good qualities. By gaming most of the estate is gone. He was drawn into gaming purely to please his lady. King James I. said to one of the Dunches (for ’tis an old family) when his majesty asked his name, and he answered Dunch, “Ay, (saith the king), Dunch by name, and Dunce by nature.” ’

The Diary Junction