Thursday, September 24, 2015

An old, leaky, faded umbrella!

Yale University Press has just published an abridged version of the diaries of Ivan Maisky (Maiskii), the Soviet Union’s highly educated and very social ambassador in London during the 1930s and the early 1940s. The diaries, never before available in English, are beautifully written (and translated), and provide a very observant and colourful view of London’s political and intellectual life - such as, for example, when Maisky writes of Neville Chamberlain in 1939: ‘This is the leader of a great Empire on a crucial day of its existence! An old, leaky, faded umbrella! Whom can he save?’. The publisher also claims that Maisky’s narrative provides ‘a fascinating revision of the events surrounding the Second World War’.

Ivan Maisky was born in 1884 in Kirillov to a Polish family living in Imperial Russia. Apparently, early revolutionary activities led to him being expelled from St. Petersburg University in 1902. Following a period of exile in Siberia, he travelled to western Europe, where he learned English and French, and took a degree in economics at Munich university. He remained in London between 1912 and 1917, where he became friends with Georgii Chicherin and Maxim Litvinov, as well as with writers, such as G. B. Shaw, H. G. Wells and Beatrice Webb. He returned to Russia in February 1917, shortly after the tsar was overthrown, but it was only in 1919 that he renounced an association with the fading Menshevik party and joined the Bolsheviks. His command of foreign languages and familiarity with the international scene, bolstered by his friendship with Litvinov, secured a rapid rise in the Soviet diplomatic service.

Following various postings, during which time he also edited the new Petrograd literary magazine Zvezda, he was appointed Soviet ambassador to Finland in 1929, and, in 1932, official Soviet envoy to the UK, a position he then held until 1943. This was an important role, since Stalin considered Britain to be the Soviet Union’s main rival in the European power struggle. Maisky’s efforts to unify a security agreement against Nazi Germany through the League of Nations, however, collapsed in the face of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, a non-aggression treaty between Moscow and Berlin. For two years, thereafter, Maisky struggled to cope with tense relations between London and Moscow. Only with Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 did Stalin switch allegiance to the Allies.

During the later years of his London posting, Maisky maintained close contact with Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, personally visiting the Foreign Office every day to get the latest news. In 1943, Maisky (and Litvinov, ambassador to Washington) were recalled to Moscow and entrusted with the preparation of the Soviet agenda for the peace settlement. Maisky advocated the continuation of collaboration with the Western Allies, and, as chief adviser to Stalin at the Yalta and Potsdam summits, he helped formulate Soviet strategy calling for a division of Europe into spheres of interest. With the onset of the cold war, Maisky retired to the Russian Academy of Sciences, where he took up historical research, and wrote his memoirs.

In 1953, shortly before Stalin’s death, Maisky was arrested and charged with espionage, treason, and involvement in a Zionist conspiracy. It would be two years before he was pardoned and released, and re-instated at the Academy of Sciences where he continued with his historical research, and with writing his memoirs. He died in 1975. Further biographical information is available online through Wikipedia or the Yivo Encyclopaedia.

During his term as ambassador to the UK, Maisky kept a detailed and personal diary, typing his entries each evening. This was frowned on by Stalin who discouraged his staff from keeping any written notes. Indeed, later, when he was arrested, his diaries and personal archive were confiscated, and they remained inaccessible to researchers for many years. Only in 1993, did Gabriel Gorodetsky uncover them in the Russian Foreign Ministry. The process, Gorodetsky says, of having the diaries declassified and then published in Russia (a prerequisite for publication in the West) was ‘long and arduous’. Translation of the diary entries has been undertaken by Tatiana Sorokina and Olivery Ready. The final result will be a three volume edition of the full diaries, to be published by Yale University Press, with commentary and annotations.

However, in the meantime, Gorodetsky says, he was encouraged to produce an abridged version to make the diary accessible to a wider audience. Publication of this single volume edition - The Maisky Diaries - Red Ambassador to the Court of St James’s 1932-1943 - took place in the UK on 1 September, but is not scheduled until 27 October in the US. Parts of the book can be read online at Googlebooks or Amazon; and several articles by Gorodetsky himself, with generous extracts from the diaries, can be read at the Yale Books blog (part 1, part 2, part 3). Reviews of the book can be read at The Conversation, The Telegraph, and The Spectator.

In his introduction, Gorodetsky says: ’For non-experts, with limited access to the rich and fascinating documents published by the Russians on the events leading up to the war, the diary provides a rare glimpse into the inner state of the Soviet mind: its entries question many of the prevailing, often tendentious, interpretations of both Russian and Western historiography.’ Apart from their political importance, though, Maisky’s diaries offer an intriguing, intelligent, vibrant and often humourous portrait of London, as well of many of its important characters and famous places. Here are several extracts.

15 November 1934
‘Today I attended the dinner given by the ancient guild, the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers (already 600 years old). I had expected the dinner to be accompanied by some very old customs, but I was disappointed. It was a dinner like all others, right down to the inescapable turtle soup, and only the painted arched windows of the dining hall suggested the past. I tell a lie: there was also ‘The loving cup’, but I had seen that already at the lord mayor’s banquets. The guests, though - they really did bring the odd whiff of medieval times. To my right sat Lord Marshall (a big publisher and former lord mayor of London), who proudly declared that he had been in the guild for 55 years!

‘Is membership hereditary?’ I asked in some perplexity. ‘No,’ answered Lord Marshall, ‘it is not. I joined the guild as soon as I became an apprentice in my profession.’

It turned out that my neighbour was already 70. To my left sat Lord Wakefield, a major oil industrialist, prominent philanthropist and London alderman. He’s also about 70 years old (a schoolmate of Marshall’s!). This venerable notable of the British Empire told me that about 30 years ago (a truly English time span!) he had planned to visit St Petersburg and had even the tickets when suddenly, at the last moment, he received a telegram claiming ‘plague in Russia’. Naturally, he decided not to travel. Perhaps now was the time to go? . . . I seconded his intention.

‘Tell me,’ he continued, wiping his brow and appearing to remember something, ‘You seem to have a man . . . Lenin . . . Is he really terribly clever?’

‘I can assure you he was,’ I answered, smiling, ‘but unfortunately he died back in 1924.’

‘’Died?’ Wakefield sounded disappointed. ‘Really? . . . I wasn’t aware of that.’

See how well the cream of the English bourgeoisie is informed about Soviet affairs! Truly it smacks of the Middle Ages!’

29 November 1934
‘The royal wedding finally took place today. From first light, and even from the previous night, London seemed to be overflowing its banks. Up to half a million people descended on the capital from all over the country. Many foreigners arrived from the Continent. The streets along which the wedding procession would pass were filled to bursting by an immense crowd that had gathered on the previous evening to occupy the best places. Typically the crowd consisted almost entirely of women. I, at least, noticed barely a single man on my way from the embassy to the Westminster Abbey. [. . .]

On this occasion I was obliged to attend the wedding ceremony itself, in Westminster Abbey. That’s what Moscow decided. It was the first time I had attended a church service since leaving school, 33 years ago! That’s quite a stretch.

The diplomatic corps sat to the right of the entrance, and members of the government on the left. Simon was my partner on the opposite side. MacDonald zealously chanted psalms during the service. Baldwin yawned wearily, while [Walter] Elliot [minister for agriculture] simply dozed. Churchill looked deeply moved and at one point even seemed to wipe his eyes with a handkerchief.’

5 August 1939
‘Went to St Pancras railway station to see off the British and French military missions. Lots of people, reporters, photographers, ladies and young girls. I met General Doumenc, head of the French mission, and a few of his companions. The heads of the British mission - Admiral Drax (head), Air Marshal Burnett and Major General Heywood - were my guests for lunch yesterday and we greeted one another like old acquaintances.

On my way home, I couldn’t help smiling at history’s mischievous sense of humour.

In subjective terms, it is difficult to imagine a situation more favourable for an Anglo-German bloc against the USSR and less favourable for an Anglo-Soviet bloc against Germany. Indeed, the spontaneous preferences of the British ‘upper ten thousand’ most definitely lie with Germany. In his sleep, Chamberlain dreams of a deal with Hitler at the expense of third countries, i.e. ultimately at the expense of the USSR. Even now the PM still dreams of ‘appeasement’. On the other side, in Berlin, Hitler has always advocated a bloc with Britain. He wrote about this fervently back in Mein Kampf. Highly influential groups among the German fascists, bankers and industrialists also support closer relations with England. I repeat: the subjective factor is not only 100%, but a full 150% behind an Anglo-German bloc.

And yet, the bloc fails to materialize. Slowly but unstoppably, Anglo-German relations are deteriorating and becoming increasingly strained. Regardless of Chamberlain’s many attempts to ‘forget’, to ‘forgive’, to ‘reconcile’, to ‘come to terms’, something fateful always occurs to widen further the abyss between London and Berlin. Why? Because the vital interests of the two powers - the objective factor - prove diametrically opposed. And this fundamental conflict of interests easily overrides the influence of the subjective factor. Repulsion is stronger than attraction.

The reverse scenario holds for Anglo-Soviet relations. Here the subjective factor is sharply opposed to an Anglo-Soviet bloc. The bourgeoisie and the Court dislike, even loathe, ‘Soviet communism’. Chamberlain has always been eager to cut the USSR’s throat with a feather. And we, on the Soviet side, have no great liking for the ‘upper ten thousand’ of Great Britain. The burden of the past, the recent experience of the Soviet period, and ideological practice have all combined to poison our subjective attitude towards the ruling elite in England, and especially the prime minister, with the venom of fully justified suspicion and mistrust. I repeat: the subjective factor in this case is not only 100%, but a full 150% against an Anglo-Soviet bloc.

And yet the bloc is gradually taking shape. When I look back over the seven years of my time in London, the overall picture is very instructive. Slowly but steadily, via zigzags, setbacks and failures, Anglo-Soviet relations are improving. From the Metro-Vickers case to the military mission’s trip to Moscow! This is the distance we have covered! The abyss between London and Moscow keeps narrowing. Field engineers are successfully fixing beams and rafters to support the bridge over the remaining distance. Why? Because the vital interests of the two powers - the objective factor - coincide. And this fundamental coincidence overrides the influence of the subjective factor. Attraction proves stronger than repulsion.

The military mission’s journey to Moscow is a historical landmark. It testifies to the fact that the process of attraction has reached a very high level of development.

But what an irony that it should fall to Chamberlain to build the Anglo-Soviet bloc against Germany!

Yes, mischievous history really does have a vicious sense of humour.

However, everything flows. The balance of forces described above corresponds to the present historical period. The picture would change dramatically if and when the question of a proletarian revolution outside the USSR becomes the order of the day.’

31 August 1939
‘Another day of tension and suspense. . . . At about five o’clock, Agniya and I got into a small car and drove around town to see what was going on. It was the end of the working day. The usual hustle and bustle in the streets, on the underground, and on the buses and trams. But no more than usual. All the shops are trading. The cafés are open. The newspaper vendors shout out the headlines. In general, the city looks normal. Only the sandbags under the windows and the yellow signs with arrows pointing to the nearest bomb shelters indicate that England is on the verge of war.

In the evening, Agniya and I went to the Globe to see Oscar Wilde’s delicious comedy The Importance of Being Earnest. The actors were superb. An image of the ‘good old times’ - without automobiles, radio, airplanes, air raids, Hitlers and Mussolinis - seemed to come alive. People were funny and naive then, to judge by today’s standards. We laughed for two hours. That’s something to be grateful for.

When we got back from the theatre, the radio brought sensational news: the 16 points which Hitler demands from Poland. The immediate return of Danzig, a plebiscite in the ‘Corridor’, an international committee made up of Italian, British, French and Soviet representatives, a vote in 1940, and so on and so forth.

What’s this? A step back? Slowing down?

I doubt it. It’s too late for Hitler to retreat. It’s almost certainly a manoeuvre. Is it an attempt to hoodwink the world’s public and perhaps the German people as well before a decisive ‘leap’?’

1 September 1939
‘Yesterday’s doubts have been fully justified. Today, early in the morning, Germany attacked Poland without any prior warning and began bombing Polish cities. The Polish army and air force are putting up strong resistance everywhere.

So, war has begun. A great historical knot has been loosened. The first stone has rolled down the slope. Many more will follow. Today, the world has crossed the threshold of a new epoch. It will emerge from it much changed. The time of great transformations in the life of humankind is nigh. I think I’ll live to see them unless, of course, some crazy incident cuts my days short. . .

Parliament met at six in the evening. As I drove up to Westminster, photographers began snapping away. And why not? What a sensation: the Soviet ambassador at a parliamentary session on the matter of war. And this directly after the signing of the Soviet-German pact!

A nervous and panicky mood reigned in the Parliament corridors. A motley crowd of every age and status had gathered. There were many rather young women and girls, gesticulating frantically and speaking in raised voices. I walked down the corridors, saluted in the usual manner by the Parliament policemen, and approached the entrance to the diplomatic gallery. It was quite jammed with ambassadors, envoys, high commissioners and other ‘notables’. As soon as the door attendant caught sight of me, he pushed back a few ‘ministers’ to clear a narrow path for me to the staircase.

. . . I looked down. The small chamber of the Commons was full to bursting with agitated, tense MPs. They were packed in like sardines. The Government bench was just the same. All the stars - if there are any - were present: Chamberlain, Simon, Hore-Belisha, Kingsley Wood, and the rest. The atmosphere was heavy, menacing and oppressive. The galleries of the Lords, the press and guests were jam-packed. Near the ‘clock’, wearing plain grey suits, sat the duke of Gloucester and the duke of Kent. A few MPs were in khaki . . . All eyes were trained on me. The mood was the same: restrained hostility, but with a hint of deference. I calmly endured this bombardment of glances. Then I began to make out individual faces. Lady Astor, as is her custom, seemed to be sitting on needles, and looked at me as if she meant to grab me by the hair. Mander, Nicolson and Ellen Wilkinson looked at me with friendly, sparkling eyes. I had the impression that Eden also cast a quick, and not remotely hostile, glance at me, but I can’t say for sure.

Chamberlain, looking terribly depressed and speaking in a quiet, lifeless voice, confessed that 18 months ago (when Eden retired!) he prayed not to have to take upon himself the responsibility for declaring war, but now he fears that he will not be able to avoid it. But the true responsibility for the unleashing of war lies not with the prime minister, but ‘on the shoulders of one man - the German Chancellor’, who has not hesitated to hurl mankind into the abyss of immense suffering ‘to serve his senseless ambitions’. . . . At times, Chamberlain even tried to bang his fist on the famous ‘box’ on the Speaker’s table. But everything cost him such torment and was expressed with such despair in his eyes, voice and gestures that it was sickening to watch him. And this is the head of the British Empire at the most critical moment in its history! He is not the head of the British Empire, but its grave-digger! . . .

Unless an extraordinary miracle happens at the very last moment, Britain will find itself at war with Germany within the next 48 hours.’

3 September 1939
‘Today, the denouement really did take place . . . the prime minister went on air at 11.15 a.m. and declared that, as of then, Britain was at war with Germany.

Half an hour later the air filled with the bellowing sounds of the siren. People scampered off to their houses, the streets emptied, and cars stopped in the road. What was it? A drill? Or a genuine raid by German bombers?

Fifteen minutes of tension and anxiety - then we heard the prolonged siren wail: ‘all clear’! It had been just a drill. There were no enemy planes.

I got to Parliament by midday. I was a couple of minutes late because of the alarm. I took the first available seat in the second row. Chamberlain was already speaking. A darkened, emaciated face. A tearful, broken voice. Bitter, despairing gestures. A shattered, washed-up man. However, to do him justice, the prime minister did not hide the fact that catastrophe had befallen him.

‘This is a sad day for all of us,’ he said, ‘and to none is it sadder than to me. Everything that I have worked for, everything that I hoped for, everything that I have believed in during my public life - has crashed into ruins.’

I sat, listened and thought: ‘This is the leader of a great Empire on a crucial day of its existence! An old, leaky, faded umbrella! Whom can he save? If Chamberlain remains prime minister for much longer, the Empire is ruined.’ . . .’

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Diary briefs

John Hunton’s diaries of the Old West - Heritage Books, Torrington Telegram

St Kilda diaries - National Trust for Scotland, Island News

Shackelton’s Heroes - The Robson Press, The Sydney Morning Herald

Star Shell Reflections 1916 - Pen & Sword Books, News Letter

Legal dispute over Chiang Kai-shek’s diaries - The China Post

Burma POW’s diary - BBC

Russian kept diary of her serial killings - Daily Mail, The Independent

German suicide pilot kept a diary - The Telegraph

Kelly’s War - Blink Publishing, Stratford-upon-Avon Herald

Padre, Prisoner & Penpusher - Helion Publishing, The Falmouth Packet

Pete Doherty’s prison journal for sale - International Business Times

War diaries of Born Free star - Independent on Sunday

Emilie Davis’s Civil War - Penn State University Press, Main Line Today

The New Zealand soldier in WWI - Exisle PublishingRadio New Zealand

Stephen Warner diaries - Lowewood MuseumHertfordshire Mercury

Hero diaries published by Academia Historica - The China Post

Friday, September 18, 2015

As beautiful as her legend

‘The evening sunlight fading to make the colours hum more and more melodiously was a pleasure to us all. Greta did not seem to notice the magical effects, of which she in pink with pink and white striped trousers became a part and in this light she became as beautiful as her legend.’ This is Cecil Beaton writing in his diary about Greta Garbo, his ex-lover who was about to turn 60. Beaton, once obsessed by Garbo had wanted to marry her. They remained friends for decades, at least until Beaton published his diaries revealing the intimacies of their relationship. Today marks 110 years since Garbo’s birth.

Greta Lovisa Gustafsson was born in Stockholm on 18 September 1905 into a working class family. She left school at 13, and looked after her ill father. He died in 1920. Thereafter, she worked briefly in a barber’s shop, before taking a job in the PUB department store. Before long, she was modelling hats, and had secured more lucrative employment as a fashion model. In late 1920, she appeared in her first film commercial for the store, advertising women’s clothing. She made further advertising films, but, in 1922, the director Erik Arthur Petschler gave her a part in his short comedy, Peter the Tramp. From 1922 to 1924, she studied at the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s acting school in Stockholm; and it was during this period that she changed her name to Garbo.

The prominent Swedish director Mauritz Stiller recruited Garbo in 1924, and nurtured her for his films; but she then caught the eye of MGM’s Louis B. Mayer who asked her - still only 20 and unable to speak English - to come to the US. Once there, she and Stiller heard no word from Mayer, but eventually MGM’s head of production Irving Thalberg gave Garbo a screen test, and she was cast in Torrent. Stiller was hired to direct the next film for Garbo, The Temptress, but was soon fired. Garbo received rave reviews and went on to make eight more silent movies, turning her into a Hollywood star. John Gilbert, with whom she had an affair, was her co-star in several of these films, and is said to have taught her how to behave like a star, how to socialise at parties, and how to deal with studio bosses.

Despite concerns about her Swedish accent, she proved as much of a success when, from the early 1930s, MGM started making sound movies. Her first talkie, Anna Christie, was the highest grossing film of the year, and led to her first Oscar nomination. By 1933, she had negotiated a new contract with MGM, earning her $300,000 per film. Garbo continued to work, starring in films such as The Painted Veil, Anna Karenina, Camille and her first comedy, Ninotchka. With the success of Ninotchka, MGM chose another comedy, Two-Faced Woman, to be directed by George Cukor (who had directed Camille). This was not a critical success, and the negative reviews deeply affected Garbo. Although not intending to retire, in fact, she never made another film. Many a project was offered her in the 1940s, and she accepted some, but every one of them fell through.

Garbo never married or had children, though she had various affairs with men and women. Among these were the conductor Leopold Stokowski, the author Erich Maria Remarque, the photographer Cecil Beaton, and the poet Mercedes de Acosta. Her relationships with the latter two, in particular, have given rise to books: Greta & Cecil by Diana Souhami and Loving Garbo: The Story of Greta Garbo, Cecil Beaton and Mercedes de Acosta by Hugo Vickers (both published by Jonathan Cape, 1994).

From the early days of her career, Garbo avoided society, preferring to spend her time alone or with friends. She never signed autographs or answered fan mail, and rarely gave interviews. In 1951, she became a naturalised US citizen, and in 1953 bought an apartment in Manhattan where she lived for the rest of her life. She became increasingly withdrawn in time - though she would occasionally take holidays with friends - and was known for walking the city, dressed casually and wearing large sunglasses.

According to the 1979 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica ‘Garbo had, in the opinion of her directors and most critics, a perfect instinct for doing the right thing before the camera. Her talent, her great beauty, and her indifference to public opinion made her career unique in the history of the cinema.’ She died in 1990. Further information is available from Wikipedia, the ‘Official website for the legendary screen actress and fashion icon’, the fan site Garbo Forever, or the online Encyclopædia Britannica.

There’s no evidence I can find of Garbo ever having kept a diary. However, she was the subject of other people’s journals, and, in particular, the memoir published by de Acosta (Here Lies the Heart) and the diaries published by Beaton. She considered herself betrayed by both ex-lovers for making public such intimate details. Beaton, himself, appeared fully conscious of the hurt he might cause to Garbo by publishing his diaries - though it wasn’t until he was long dead that some of his diaries were published in an expurgated form - see Nerves before a sitting. She also features in diaries kept by Remarque, but these have yet to be published and only short quotes about Garbo have appeared (in Great Garbo: A life apart, by Karen Swenson, for example).

Beaton’s diaries - especially those from the 1940s published as The Happy Years - are full of Beaton’s obsession with Garbo. A New York Times review says: ‘The core material for Loving Garbo was drawn from Beaton’s diaries and letters, in which he recorded his impressions of Garbo in minute detail, along with every seismic tremor of their relationship. Although Beaton’s encomiums to Garbo’s cheekbones and extra-thick eyelashes betray a rhapsodic giddiness, his writing never loses its undertone of shrewdness and common sense. And much as he may adore Garbo, he repeatedly evokes her as an object to be coveted for its social and economic value.’

Here are a few extracts about Garbo in Beaton’s diaries taken from published sources.

3 November 1947 [source: Loving Garbo: The Story of Greta Garbo, Cecil Beaton and Mercedes de Acosta]
‘I was completely surprised at what was happening & it took me some time to recover my bafflement. Within a few minutes of our reunion, after these long & void periods, of months of depression & doubt, we were suddenly together in unexplained, unexpected and inevitable intimacy. It is only on such occasions that one realises how fantastic life can be. I was hardly able to bridge the gulf so quickly & unexpectedly. I had to throw my mind back to the times at Reddish House when in my wildest dreams I had invented scenes that were now taking place.’

October 1956 [source: Loving Garbo: The Story of Greta Garbo, Cecil Beaton and Mercedes de Acosta]
‘She is like a man in many ways. She telephoned to say, I thought we might try a little experiment this evening at 6.30. But she spoke in French and it was difficult to understand at first what she meant. But soon I discovered, although I pretended not to. She was embarrassed and a certain pudeur on my part made me resent her frankness and straightforwardness - something that I should have respected.’

July 1965 [source: Beaton in the Sixties - The Cecil Beaton Diaries as they were written]
‘I arrived at Vougliameni, the appointed bay where the yachts were harboured. Greta was the first I saw, sitting with her back to the quay, she had tied her haired back into a small pigtail with a rubber band. The effect was pleasing, neat and Chinese but the hair has become grey. The surprised profile turned to reveal a big smile. It was almost the same, and yet no, the two intervening years since we’ve last met have created havoc. I was appalled how destroyed her skin has become, covered with wrinkles, double chin, but worse the upper lip has jagged lower and the skin has perished into little lines, and there is a furriness that is disastrous. But no sign of defeat on Greta’s part. She was up to her old tricks. ‘My, my, my! Why can it be Beattie? Me Beat!’ [. . .]

In the apricot-colored light of the evening she still looks absolutely marvellous and she could be cleverly photographed to appear as beautiful as ever in films. But it is not just her beauty that is dazzling, it is the air of mysteriousness and other intangible qualities that make her so appealing, particularly when talking with sympathy and wonder to children or reacting herself to some situation with all the wonder and surprise of childhood itself.’

August 1965 [source: Beaton in the Sixties - The Cecil Beaton Diaries as they were written]
‘The evening sunlight fading to make the colours hum more and more melodiously was a pleasure to us all. Greta did not seem to notice the magical effects, of which she in pink with pink and white striped trousers became a part and in this light she became as beautiful as her legend. But it is a legend that does no longer exist in reality. If she had been a real character she would have left the legend, developed a new life, new interests and knowledge. As it is, after thirty years she has not changed except outwardly, and even the manner and personality has dated. Poor old Marlene Dietrich, with her dye and facelift and new career as a singer, with all her nonsense, is a live and vital person, cooking for her grandchildren and being on the go. That is much preferable to this other non-giving, non-living phantom of the past.’

(However, it is worth noting that, in his diary in 1967, Beaton writes down almost the exact opposite thought: ‘G. looked quite beautiful because she looked completely natural. Her skin was glowing and her eyes filled with so many expressions. Marlene Dietrich, on the stage, can still look marvellously young in an artificial way, but she is a monster. Greta is a real-live human being.’)

13 April 1973 [source: The Unexpurgated Beaton - The Cecil Beaton Diaries as they were written]
‘The day was not without its setbacks. Whether or not it was out of malice a commentator, after a radio interview, gave me a review of my book by - of all people - Auberon Waugh, the son of my old arch enemy. He seems to have inherited the spleen of his father. A devastating attack aimed to reduce me to a shred. It hurt. Then a horrid little woman journalist, referring to it, said, ‘You’re supposed to be a marvellous person, but they say your book is awful’ and she handed me Waugh’s review. [. . .] I do feel terribly guilty about exposing Garbo to public glare. Even though those things happened thirty years ago, my conscience has been pricking me terribly. Yet I know that if I had the option of not publishing it, I would still go ahead - and suffer. I only trust Greta can rise above it in the way she did about Mercedes’s book.’

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The nonconformist Newcome

‘I heard today yt a new complaint was gotten to Chester agst mee, wch a freinde hath prevented.’ This is the Rev Henry Newcome, who died all of 320 years ago today, writing in his diary. For a while, he was a very popular non-conformist preacher in Manchester, but he ran foul of new laws designed to shore up the episcopal church, and ostracise those clergy unwilling to follow the strict Church of England rituals. In time, he relaxed his views, and also the state took steps to allow more religious freedom.

Newcome was born at Caldecote, Huntingdonshire, in 1627, the fourth son of the local rector. Orphaned in his teens, he was educated by his elder brothers. From 1644, he studied at St. John’s College, Cambridge. In 1647, he became schoolmaster at Congleton, Cheshire, and, the following year, received Presbyterian ordination at Sandbach. The same year he married Elizabeth Mainwaring, and they had five children. The couple’s first home was with a relation of Elizabeth’s, and it was through her family connections that he was appointed, first, curate at Goosetry in Cheshire and, subsequently, in 1650, minister at Gawsworth where he stayed until 1657. During this period, he sought out other like-minded men who shared with him the ideal of a fully reformed national church; and he became part of a circle which met in the home of his friend and mentor John Machin.

In late 1656, Newcome was elected a preacher at the collegiate church of Manchester (later Manchester Cathedral), and after much hesitation he moved with his family to the city. His ministry was exceedingly popular. In 1660, he welcomed the restoration of the monarchy, but preached against the frivolity of celebrations surrounding the event. Unfortunately, when the constitution of Manchester collegiate church was restored (it having been subverted in 1645), Newcome was not among the elected fellows. He continued to serve as a deputy at the church until the Uniformity Act came into force, two years later, which, among many other things, required episcopal ordination for all ministers - some 2,000 clergymen refused to take the oath and were expelled form the Church of England as a result.

Newcome, having rejected suggestions that he should receive episcopal ordination privately, attended people in a more private capacity; he also preached at funerals, and visited the sick, as if a parish priest. However, even this way of work was prohibited him by the Five Mile Act, which came into force in 1666 further restricting the activities of non-conformists, by forbidding them from living within five miles of a parish from which they had been expelled (unless they swore the appropriate oath). He moved to Ellenbrook, in Worsley parish, Lancashire, but travelled about a good deal, to London several times, and to Dublin even. He returned, as well, to preach in Manchester but was fined for doing so.

In time, Newcome’s non-conformist principles appear to have weakened, drawing criticism from separatists and conformists alike. He tended to blame hardline episcopacy for driving Presbyterianism away from the Church of England, but remained on good terms with conformist friends. Cut adrift from the church, he ran short of money, but was helped by donations and bequests from friends and sympathetic laity. Life became easier after James II’s second declaration of indulgence in 1687, and then, two years later, the Act of Toleration, both steps towards bringing some religious freedom. In 1693, he became a moderator of the general meeting of ministers of the United Brethren in Lancashire; and the next year he preached the first sermon at a newly-built non-conformist meeting-house in Manchester. He died on 17 September 1695. At least two of his sons became Church of England clergymen. Further information can be found from Wikipedia, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, or Newcome’s own autobiography (see below).

From 1646 until his death, Newcome is known to have kept a diary. However, only one volume, for the period 1661-1663, has survived in manuscript form. This was edited by Thomas Heywood and printed for the Chetham Society in 1849 as Diary of the Rev. Henry Newcome from September 30, 1661 to September 29, 1663. A copy of the book is freely available online at Internet Archive.

‘The value of the book,’ Heywood writes in his introduction, ‘consists in its having been written as the events it describes occurred, and in its being designed solely for the author’s use. The passages of life are set down to be meditated upon, and as disguise would have been the writer’s own fraud upon himself, it evidently does not exist, eripitur persona, manet res. Whilst we perceive some faults in the full revealment thus afforded, as a want of moral courage and an exaggeration of theological trifles into essentials, yet, tried by this severe test, Newcome deserves the reputation which he has ever enjoyed - of being an earnest Christian.’

Three years later, encouraged by the reception of Newcome’s diary, the Chetham Society published a further work, The Autobiography of Henry Newcome (Volume I and Volume II). This was based on Newcome’s own, and much longer, Abstract - a work he completed in his lifetime for his children, and which he based substantially on his diaries - as edited by Richard Parkinson with modernised spelling. Here, however, are several extracts from the original diary as edited by Heywood (without modernised spelling).

19 March 1663
‘I rose not till after 8, and went to ye library. Studdyed a little on Ps. cxii 7. After dinner I was with Mr Hayhurst at Mr Illingw: a little while, and as wee came back Mr Jackson was preaching. Mr Hayh: came with me & stayed a while. I went after & walk’t with Mr Birch in ye Ch: Yard. & after supp: studdyed ag: My wife is ill in her head. The Lord help mee.’

30 March 1663
‘I rose after 8. Was basely imposed upon by Sathan I beleive in some suggestions to mee in my sleepe ye last night. After secret dutys wee went wth ye children to Nicholas Leigh in Salford. Wn wee returned wee went to dutys and after to ye library I went & read a little about lots. Mr Illingw: was wth mee a little before dinner. After I looked up papers in ye cockloft. My Cozen Davenport & his wife &c were here most of the afternoone. Wee should have met at bowles at 4 but it misst. I dispatched after am: my papers. My wive’s distemper & cozen’s toothach might awaken mee to some seriousnes ye night.’

1 June 1663
‘I rose about 8. Went to looke for a horse, & after some time was glad to accept Mr Page’s, tho a trotter. I went to ye feild for him, & ye warden walked wth mee to ye Broadhulme, wre I took horse & got to Dunham iust at dinner. Mr Weston & his wife dined there, & wee were wth ym in ye bouleinge greene all ye afternoone. I was forced to stay all night, tho’ I obtained freely of my Ld his lre to ye Lady Byron for Mr Taylor of Rochdale.

I was troubled yet I used too free a word to expresse my dislike tow: Dr Br: in wt he delivered, sayinge in iest he was a rascall. Yt word repeated not wth my accent might seeme very strange for mee to utter.

Ye horse I rode of was very fright, yet ye Ld preserved mee from fallinge.’

16 August 1663
‘I rose about 7. Wrot hard all ye forenoone. Wee dined at Mr Buxton’s. I was foolishly vexed wth envey & folly. I heard today yt a new complaint was gotten to Chester agst mee, wch a freinde hath prevented at ye chardge of 12s 6d. Mr Illingworth wth mee a while.’

The Diary Junction

Monday, September 14, 2015

To clarify my thoughts

RIP Oliver Sacks, a British neurologist, whose books about patients with neurological conditions sold widely, largely because of his literary flare and his ability to make medical science accessible. Indeed, his books were so popular that, despite their rather obscure content, some were turned into plays and films. Sacks was an inveterate keeper of journals and notebooks, amassing more than 1,000. However, only one has ever been published in book form, the record of a short trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, with a group of fern lovers!

Sacks was born in London, the youngest of four children, in 1933. His father was a physician, and his mother was one of the country’s first female surgeons. During the war, he was sent with a brother to a boarding school in the Midlands. Thereafter, he attended St Paul’s School in London and Queen’s College, Oxford. He graduated in 1956 with a degree in physiology and biology, and then continued to study medicine, with an internship at Middlesex Hospital, completing this in 1960. Uncertain of his next move, he travelled to Canada, and then the US where he took a residency in neurology at Mt. Zion Hospital, San Francisco, and fellowships in neurology and psychiatry at University of California, Los Angeles.

Sacks then moved to New York, where, in 1966, he became professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine, and consulting neurologist for Beth Abraham Hospital in the Bronx. At the latter, he recognized a group of patients, many of whom had spent decades in a frozen state, as survivors of sleepy sickness pandemic in the 1910s and 1920s. He treated them with a then-experimental drug, L-dopa, enabling them to come back to life. He published their stories in a 1973 book, Awakenings, which later inspired a play by Harold Pinter and a film starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.

From 1966 also, Sacks worked as: an instructor and later clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (until 2007); a neurological consultant to various nursing homes run by the Little Sisters of the Poor; and a consulting neurologist at Bronx Psychiatric Center. From 1992, he held an appointment at the New York University School of Medicine (to 2007). In 2007, he joined the faculty of Columbia University Medical Center as a professor of neurology and psychiatry; and from 2012, he returned to New York University School of Medicine as a professor of neurology and consulting neurologist at the epilepsy center.

After Awakenings, Sacks published more than half a dozen more books based on case histories of his patients - such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and The Mind’s Eye - as well as several autobiographical memoirs, including Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood. In 2015, he published On the Move: A Life, which revealed for the first time personal details about his adult life: a somewhat wild youth, full of drugs, motorbikes and obsessive bodybuilding, followed by several decades of celibacy and living alone. In 2008, he began a relationship with the writer Bill Hayes. Towards the end of his life, he wrote movingly about his own health issues. He died two weeks ago on 30 August. Further biographical information is available from the Oliver Sacks website and Wikipedia, or from obituaries in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Independent, and The Eonomist.

Oliver Sacks was an obsessive diarist and note taker. A dozen years or so before his death, he assessed his collection of journals as totalling over 1,000. Yet they were all written for himself alone without a thought for publication. Here is Sacks himself, writing on the last-but-on page of his autobiography On the Move: ‘
They called me Inky as a boy, and I still seem to get as ink stained as I did seventy years ago. I started keeping journals when I was fourteen and at last count had nearly a thousand. They come in all shapes and sizes, from little pocket ones which I carry around with me to enormous tomes. I always keep a notebook by my bedside, for dreams as well as nighttime thoughts, and I try to have one by the swimming pool or the lakeside or the seashore; swimming too is very productive of thoughts which I must write, especially if they present themselves, as they sometimes do, in the form of whole sentences or paragraphs.

When writing my Leg book, I drew heavily on the detailed journals I had kept as a patient in 1974. Oaxaca Journal, too, relied heavily on my handwritten notebooks. But for the most part, I rarely look at the journals I have kept for the greater part of a lifetime. The act of writing is itself enough; it serves to clarify my thoughts and feelings. The act of writing is an integral part of my mental life; ideas emerge, are shaped, in the act of writing.

My journals are not written for others, nor do I usually look at them myself, but they are a special, indispensable form of talking to myself. The need to think on paper is not confined to notebooks. It spreads onto the backs of envelopes, menus, whatever scraps of paper are at hand. And 1 often transcribe quotations I like, writing or typing them on pieces of brightly colored paper and pinning them to a bulletin board. When I lived in City Island, my office was full of quotations, bound together with binder rings that I would hang to the curtain rods above my desk.’

In fact, Sacks did, during his lifetime, release a very few extracts for publication, including two articles for a magazine, and the diary he kept on a tour to Mexico to study ferns, published as Oaxaca Journal by National Geographic in 2001. Of this latter, Sacks says, on his website: ‘I have been an inveterate keeper of journals since I was fourteen, especially at times of adventure and crisis and travel. Here, for the first time, such a journal made its way to publication, not that much changed from the raw, handwritten journal that I kept during my fascinated nine days in Oaxaca.’

It is also worth reproducing Sack’s own introduction in the book (available to preview at Googlebooks), as it sheds more light on his diary habits.

‘I used to delight in the natural history journals of the nineteenth century, all of them blends of the personal and the scientific - especially Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago, Bate’s Naturalist on the River Amazons, and Spruce’s Notes of a Botanist, and the work which inspired them all (and Darwin too), Alexander von Humbolt’s Personal Narrative. It pleased me to think that Wallace, Bates, and Spruce were all crisscrossing in one another’s paths, leapfrogging, on the same stretch of the Amazon during the selfsame months of 1849, and to think that all of them were good friends. (They continued to correspond throughout their lives, and Wallace was to publish Spruce’s Notes after his death.)

They were all, in a sense, amateurs - self-educated, self-motivated, not part of an institution - and they lived, it sometimes seemed to me, in a halcyon world, a sort of Eden, not yet turbulent and troubled by the almost murderous rivalries which were soon to mark an increasingly professionalized world (the sort of rivalries so vividly portrayed in H. G. Wells’s story “The Moth”.

This sweet, unspoiled, preprofessional atmosphere, ruled by a sense of adventure and wonder rather than by egotism and a lust for priority and fame, still survives here and there, it seems to me, in certain natural history societies, and amateur societies of astronomers and archaeologists, whose quiet yet essential existences are virtually unknown to the public. It was the sense of such an atmosphere that drew me to the American Fern Society in the first place, and that incited me to go with them on their fern-tour to Oaxaca early in 2000. And it was the wish to explore this atmosphere which, in part, incited me to keep a journal there. There was much else, of course: my introduction to a people, a country, a culture, a history, of which I knew almost nothing - this was wonderful, an adventure in itself - and the fact that all journeys incite me to keep journals. Indeed I have been keeping them since the age of fourteen, and in the year and a half since my visit to Oaxaca, I have been in Greenland and Cuba, fossil hunting in Australia, and looking at a strange neurological condition in Guadeloupe - all of these travels have generated journals, too.

None of these journals has any pretension to comprehensiveness or authority; they are light, fragmentary, impressionistic, and, above all, personal.

Why do I keep journals? I do not know. Perhaps primarily to clarify my thoughts, to organise my impressions into a sort of narrative or story, and to do this in “real time,” and not in retrospect, or imaginatively transformed, as in an autobiography or novel. I write these journals with no thought of publication (journals which I kept in Canada and Alabama were only published, and that by chance, as articles in Antaeus, thirty years after they were written).

Should I have prettied up this journal, elaborated it, made it more systematic and coherent - as I was to do with my book-sized Micronesian and “leg” journals - or left it as written, as with my Canadian and Alabaman ones? I have, in fact, taken an intermediate course, adding a little (chocolate, rubber, things Mesoamerican), making little excursions of various sorts, but essentially keeping the journal as written. I have not even attempted to give it a proper title. It was Oaxaca Journal in my notebooks, and Oaxaca Journal it remains. December 2001’

And here is an extract (somewhat reduced) from the first (and undated) diary entry in Oaxaca Journal.

‘I am on my way to Oaxaca to meet up with some botanical friends for a fern foray, looking forward to a week away from New York’s icy winter. The plane itself - an AeroMexico flight - has an atmosphere quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We are scarcely off the ground before everyone gets up - chatting in the aisles, opening bags of food, breast-feeding babies - an instant social scene, like a Mexican cafe or market. One is already in Mexico as soon as one boards. [. . .]

My neighbor asks why I am visiting Mexico, and I tell him I am part of a botanical tour headed for Oaxaca, in the south. There are several of us on this plane from New York, and we will meet up with the others in Mexico City. Learning that this is my first visit to Mexico, he speaks glowingly of the country, and lends me his guidebook. I must be sure to visit the enormous tree in Oaxaca - it is thousands of years old, a famous natural wonder. Indeed, I say, I have known of this tree and seen old photos of it since I was a boy, and this is one of the things that has drawn me to Oaxaca. [. . .]

We have a leisurely three hours in Mexico City airport - lots of time before our connection to Oaxaca. [. . .]

5:25 p.m.: We taxi endlessly about the monstrous tarmac, joltingly, too joltingly for me to write. This giant city, God help it, has a population of 18 million (or 23 million, according to another estimate), one of the largest, dirtiest cities in the world.

5:30 p.m.: We’re off! As we rise above the smear of Mexico City, which seems to stretch from one horizon to the other, my companion suddenly says, “See that . . . that volcano? It is called Ixtaccihuatl. Its summit is always covered in snow. There, next to it, is Popocatépetl, its head in the clouds.” Suddenly, he is a different man, proud of his land, wanting to show it, explain it, to a stranger. It is an incredible view of Popocatépetl, its caldera nakedly visible and next to it a range of high peaks covered with snow. I am puzzled that these should be snow-covered, while the higher, volcanic cone is not - perhaps there is sufficient volcanic heat, even when it is not erupting, to melt the snow. With these amazing, magical peaks all around, one sees why the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán was established here, at 7,500 feet.

My companion (now on his second rum and coke, in which I join him) inquires why I have come to Mexico. Business? Tourism? “Neither, exactly,” I say. “Botany. A fern tour.” He is intrigued, speaks of his own fondness for ferns. “They say,” I add, “that Oaxaca has the richest fern population in Mexico.”

My companion is impressed. “But you will not confine yourself to ferns?” He speaks then, with eloquence and passion, of pre-Columbian times: the astonishing sophistication of the Maya in mathematics, astronomy, architecture; how they discovered zero long before the Greeks; the richness of their art and symbolism; and how the city of Tenochtitlán had more than 200,000 people. “More than London, Paris, more than any other city on Earth at the time, except the capital of the Chinese empire.” [. . .]

As we descend from the plane in Oaxaca city I can see John and Carol Mickel - my friends from the New York Botanical Garden - waiting in the airport. John is an expert on the ferns of the New World, of Mexico in particular. He has discovered more than sixty new species of fern in the province of Oaxaca alone and (with his younger colleague Joseph Beitel) described its seven hundred-odd species of fern in their book Pteridophyte Flora of Oaxaca, Mexico. He knows where each of these ferns is to be found - their sometimes secret, or shifting, locations - better than anyone. John has been to Oaxaca many times since his first trip in 1960, and it is he who has arranged this expedition for us.

While his special expertise lies in systematics, the business of identifying and classifying ferns, tracing their evolutionary relationships and affinities, he is, like all pteridologists, an all-round botanist and ecologist too, for one cannot study ferns in the wild without some understanding of why they grow where they do, and their relationship to other plants and animals, their habitats. Carol, his wife, is not a professional botanist, but her own enthusiasm, and her many years with John, have made her almost as knowledgeable as he is.’

Finally, Lawrence Weschler, author and ex-staff writer at The New Yorker, recently wrote, for Vanity Fair, a moving appreciation of Sacks, and included a number of his own diary entries about his friend.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hitler meets his mentor

‘In the evening from 9.30 to 10.30 visit from Hitler, uplifting!’ This is Houston Stewart Chamberlain, born 160 years ago today, writing in his diary about a first meeting with Hitler, then in his mid-30s. Chamberlain had been born in England, but was mostly educated on the Continent, and, as an adult, chose to live in Germany, where he developed a fascination with Wagner. In time, he published theories advocating the superiority of the so-called Aryan element in European culture, and these writings not only attracted the young Adolf Hitler, but influenced him also.

Chamberlain was born on 9 September 1855 in the Portsmouth area, the last of four children of Rear-Admiral William Charles Chamberlain and his first wife. His mother died soon after, and he spent much of his early childhood with his grandmother in Versailles. From 1867 to 1869, he was schooled at Cheltenham College. Thereafter, during travels and sojourns across Europe, he was privately tutored by Otto Kuntze, a Prussian, who is said to have filled his head with tales of German greatness. A tendency to nervous disorders prevented Chamberlain following a military career like his father, instead he went on to study natural sciences at the University of Geneva. Prior to this though, in 1878, he had married Anna Horst, daughter of a Breslau lawyer.

Chamberlain and his wife moved to live in Dresden from 1885 and, from 1989, in Vienna, where he continued his studies and work in the natural sciences. But, by 1892, he had become fascinated with Wagner and his music. He started publishing essays and books on the subject, notably Das Drama Richard Wagners (1892) and a biography (1896), emphasising the heroic, Teutonic aspects in Wagner’s compositions. During the later part of the 1890s, Chamberlain accepted a commission from Bruckmann, a Munich publisher, to prepare a historical work taking stock of the condition of civilization at the end of the century. Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts was published in 1899 in two volumes, and would make Chamberlain famous. In Germany, it was noticed by Kaiser Wilhelm II who wrote to Chamberlain that ‘it was God who sent your book to the German people’. It took a decade or so to be translated into English, as The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century.

George Bernard Shaw rated it, and wrote in Fabian News: ‘It is a masterpiece of really scientific history. It does not make confusion, it clears it away. He is a great generaliser of thought, as distinguished from the crowd of our mere specialists. It is certain to stir up thought. Whoever has not read it will be rather out of it in political and sociological discussions for some time to come.’

Theodore Roosevelt also wrote about the book (in his History as Literature collection of essays in 1915 - see Googlebooks), demonstrating considerable respect for the author’s abilities, but with a deep concern about his ideas. He wrote: ‘Mr. Chamberlain’s thesis is that the nineteenth century, and therefore the twentieth and all future centuries, depend for everything in them worth mentioning and preserving upon the Teutonic branch of the Aryan race. He holds that there is no such thing as a general progress of mankind, that progress is only for those whom he calls the Teutons, and that when they mix with or are intruded upon by alien and, as he regards them, lower races, the result is fatal. Much that he says regarding the prevalent loose and sloppy talk about the general progress of humanity, the equality and identity of races, and the like, is not only perfectly true, but is emphatically worth considering by a generation accustomed, as its forefathers for the preceding generations were accustomed, to accept as true and useful thoroughly pernicious doctrines taught by well-meaning and feeble-minded sentimentalists; but Mr. Chamberlain himself is quite as fantastic an extremist as any of those whom he derides, and an extremist whose doctrines are based upon foolish hatred is even more unlovely than an extremist whose doctrines are based upon foolish benevolence. Mr. Chamberlain’s hatreds cover a wide gamut. They include Jews, Darwinists, the Roman Catholic Church, the people of southern Europe, Peruvians, Semites, and an odd variety of literary men and historians.’

In 1906, Chamberlain separated from Anna, and, on having the divorce formalised two years later, he married Eva Wagner, daughter of Richard Wagner and his second wife, Cosima. By this time he had moved to live in Bayreuth, the centre for all things Wagnerian since the opening of the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876. Chamberlain continued to write books, including ones about Kant, Goethe, and Germany’s military efforts and aims during the First World War. Indeed, his wartime essays were widely read. As an Englishman who lived in, and supported, the Reich, he became an even more famous celebrity in Germany during the war than he had been before. In 1915, he was awarded the Iron Cross for services to the German empire, and the following year he became a German citizen.

With the fall of the Wilhelm II in 1918, Chamberlain, who was paralysed and largely confined to his bed by this time, continued to correspond with him in exile; but he also forged closer links with the emergent Nazi movement. Hitler and Chamberlain first met in 1923: Chamberlain was enamoured of Hitler, and saw great potential in him as leader; and Hitler, for his part, certainly admired Chamberlain, considered him a mentor. Also, in the early years, Chamberlain’s support helped Hitler attract supporters. In the post-war years, Chamberlain’s ideas became increasingly anti-semitic, and Hitler is known to have been influenced by his mentor’s tracts.

Chamberlain died in 1927. His funeral was attended by Prince August Wilhelm, son of the former Kaiser, and by Hitler. A few months later Alfred Rosenberg, one of the main architects of the National Socialist ideology, named Chamberlain as the ‘pioneer and founder of a German future’. For further information see the rather long entry at Wikipedia, a shorter one at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required), the dedicated Chamberlain website, The Occult History of the Third Reich, or The Foundations of the Twenty-First Century blog. The full text of The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century can be read at Internet Archive.

Chamberlain must have kept a diary, at least some of the time, for a few extracts are quoted by Olivier Hilmes in his biography of Cosima Wagner (Yale University Press, 2010 - partly available to view at Googlebooks). Cosima, herself, was a diarist - see Music was sounding - though only diaries written during her life with Wagner have been published. Hilmes reference for the Chamberlain diary extracts is the National Archive of the Richard Wagner Foundation in Bayreuth, so it seems unlikely that any diary material has been published in its own right. Here are most of those diary entries - about Chamberlain’s first meeting with Hitler - within the context of Hilmes’ text.

- ‘In late September 1923, Bayreuth’s National Socialists organised a ‘German Day’ at which the main speaker was to be an as yet largely unknown Austrian politician by the name of Adolf Hitler. “Preparations for the German Day bring the house to life,” Chamberlain noted in his diary on Saturday 29 September. “Wheelchair ride through the flag-strewn town gave me a good deal of pleasure.” ’

- ‘The next day’s events began with a march past by some 6,000 Brownshirts, a procession that made its way past Wahnfried and the Chamberlains’ villa to an open-air service outside the town. Chamberlain was galvanised: “German Day with Hitler! Much activity from dawn till dusk.” From his open ground-floor window, he waved at the passing troops. And he was not alone, for Cosima was sitting beside him, her presence, hitherto unknown, attested by Chamberlain’s diary: “Processions a.m. and p.m. watched from window and terrace, Mama present!” ’

- ‘That Sunday evening Hitler gave a speech in the town’s packed Reithalle [. . .] Immediately afterwards, Hitler called on the ailing Chamberlain and received the blessing of the idol of his Viennese youth. He is even said to have knelt before Chamberlain and reverently kissed his hand. Whatever the truth of the matter, Chamberlain was delighted by the visit: “In the evening from 9.30 to 10.30 visit from Hitler, uplifting!” The two men met again at Wahnfried the very next day: “10.30 outside, waiting for Hitler in my wheelchair, moving welcome to Wahnfried: ‘May God be with you!’ ” ’

Finally, it is worth noting that Chamberlain is mentioned in the diaries of Josef Goebbels. One particular extract, from a few months before Chamberlain’s death, is quoted online in several places, such as in Johann Chapoutot’s article in Miranda, From Humanism to Nazism: Antiquity in the Work of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. (The extract is sourced originally from The Early Goebbels Diaries - see We can conquer the world.)

May 1926
‘Shattering scene: Chamberlain on a couch. Broken, mumbling, tears in his eyes. He holds my hand and won’t let me go. His big eyes burn like fire. Greetings to you, spiritual father. Trailblazer, pioneer! I am deeply upset. Off we go. He mumbles, wants to speak, he can’t - and then weeps like a child! Long, long handshake! Farewell! You stand by us when we are near despair. Outside the rain patters! I want to cry out, I want to weep.’