Friday, April 27, 2018

Painting with brother

‘This morning I painted the Parsee Widow’s jacket and Sari, while brother retouched the Nizzam’s head for Mr Schleicher.’ This is from the diary of the artist Raja Varma, recently published to provide a portrait of the diarist’s older brother, Ravi Varma, one of the most famous painters working in India in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Although Raja Varma’s diary provides few specific details about his brother (who is only ever referred to as ‘brother’ in the diary), their working lives were so intertwined that almost all of Raja Varma’s diary entries use the plural pronoun ‘we’ and refer to Ravi as well as himself. According to one expert, Ravi Varma (born 170 years ago today) was the most important academic artist produced by colonial India, and without the wealth of detail found in his brother’s diary both artists would have remained ‘shadowy figures’.

Raja Ravi Varma was born on 29 April 1848 in the village of Killimannur, Travancore (now the state of Kerala), in the very south of the Indian subcontinent. At the time, Travancore was one of many Princely States in India, and Ravi Varma’s family had long held connections to the Travancore royal family. His father was a scholar and his mother an artist and poet. He was the oldest of four children, but was particularly close to his brother Raja Raja Varma 12 years his junior. Ravi Varma was married to 12-year-old Bhageerthi Bayi, of royal birth in 1866, and they had five children. Subsequently, thanks to a complex system of succession, two of their grandchildren were adopted into the royal family of Travancore; and one of their great grandchildren was Chithira Thirunal, the last ruling Maharaja of Travancore.

From early on, Ravi Varma showed a keen interest in painting. This was nurtured by an uncle, an artist of the Tanjore style, who helped him meet artists in the court of the Maharajah of Travancore. He received instruction in water colours, but was also much influenced by the European oil painter Theodore Jensen who was in residence at the Maharajah’s palace for a while. Edgar Thurston, the British superintendent at the Madras Government Museum, played a significant role in promoting Ravi Varma’s career. His fame started to grow after winning an award for an exhibition of his paintings in Vienna in 1873. In 1881, the newly crowned Maharaja of Baroda (a princely state in present-day Gujarat) invited Ravi Varma to paint his ceremonial portrait. He was so impressed that many more commissions - mythological paintings and portraits - followed, and soon Ravi Varma’s paintings, a fusion of Indian traditions with European techniques, were much in demand all over the country.

In 1895, Ravi Varma set up a studio, in Bombay, fashioned on the practice of European artists, with his brother a constant companion and collaborator. Together they also set up a lithographic printing press, called the Raja Ravi Varma Press. It became the largest in the country, printing many thousands of oleographs of Hindu gods and goddesses, and thus helping popularise their art. However, when the business ran into too much debt they sold it to their printing technician, Fritz Schleicher (originally from Germany), who then ran it successfully for many years. In 1904, Ravi Varma was awarded (on behalf of King Edward VII) the Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal. Early the following year, his brother Raja Varma died, and then, in 1906, Ravi Varma died. Although considered the foremost Indian artist of the time, he came in for severe criticism from later artists for imitating Western styles, and thus producing art which was only superficially Indian. Further biographical information be found online at Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Cultural India, Gulf News, Spectrum or Ravi Varma Oleographs.

Apart from a lifelong role working in support of his brother’s projects (co-worker, assistant, secretary, business manager), Raja Varma was an important early landscape artist in his own right. But his own significance, in a historical context, is brought into clearer focus because of a diary he kept, chronicling his own life and that of his brother’s. The diary has recently (in 2005) been published in a lavish edition by Oxford University Press (New Delhi) as Raja Ravi Varma - Portrait of an Artist: The Diary of C. Raja Raja Varma. Edited by Erwin Neumayer and Christine Schelberger, it includes a foreword by Partha Mitter, Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of Sussex, a long introduction as well as 50 pages of plates. According to Mitter: ‘The importance of the diary lies in the fact that it allows us to understand the life and working methods of Indian academic artists in the colonial period, and especially the achievements of Ravi Varma, the most important academic artist produced by colonial India. Without the wealth of detail that we encounter in the diary, the artists would have remained shadowy figures.’

Mitter’s foreword is particularly enlightening on the trend, during the British Raj, for Indian artists to maintain diaries. To understand this, he says, it is necessary to consider ‘the transformation wrought by the introduction of colonial institutions such as art schools and art societies’ whereby ‘artistic outlook and practice, genres or art, as well as status of artists underwent profound changes’. Previously Indian artists had low status (other than a few honoured by earlier Mughal emperors). ‘The new Western-literate, self-conscious graduates of impersonal art schools now looked to the public for appreciation. [. . .] They sought inspiration in European romanticism and, above all, in the image of the artist as a lonely outsider relentlessly pursuing a transcendental idea against all the odds.’

According to the editors’ preface, Raja Varma began the diary as a collection of preparatory notes for a travelogue, fashioned on the accounts of European gentlemen travellers on the tiger-shooting and elephant-hunting circuit in India. They continue: ‘It was meant to have been published after the upper India tour undertaken by Prince Martanda Varma, along with Ravi Varma and Raja Varma, and a retinue of fifteen other persons during the cool season of 1894-5. Although the book was never published, the completed manuscript [. . .] was privately circulated one year later. From the following year, no diary entries seem to have been made. The diary appears to have been continued only in May 1898 and entries were made regularly until August the same year. Thereafter, Raja Varma kept up the habit of making daily notes when on a journey. It was only during the years 1902 and 1903 that daily notes were written even in his native place.’

In their introduction, the editors analyse the diary, showing how it sheds light on some aspects of the brothers’ lives, but also how it fails to provide any information on others:
- ‘[The] diary chronicles the long periods away from their native Travancore, attending to their flourishing portraiture business or looking after the affairs of the printing press.’
- ‘The diary enlightens us about many of the rather down-to-earth problems of the painters’ professional life.’
- ‘The diary is a multilayered document on the development of the aesthetics of mass communication in India. It deals with art, but under the surface, the blunt reality and contradictions of the colonial period around 1900, when British Imperialism was at its peak, show clearly.’
- ‘The diary, although giving important hints as to the cause of the financial fiasco of the press, hardly gives a glimpse of the technical processes involved in the production of the prints.’
- ‘The artistic areas on which the diary remains silent are probably the very areas where the confessed artistic ethos clashed with the artistic practice of the Varma brothers.’

Here are several extracts taken from the published version of Raja Varma’s diary (square brackets are as found in the original).

6 March 1902
‘We paid a visit to the Nawab [+++] the premier noble of the state. He sent a carriage and [+++] two of his sowars for us. His palace is a very big and extensive pile of buildings. He is confined with rheumatic complaint. Ms Pestonji, his wife, daughter and son-in-law came this evening to see our pictures.’

13 March 1902
‘Our opinion of Ms Faridinji, the Dewan’s private secretary is that he is a glib talker, but insincere in the extreme. He is ever intent on pleasing Europeans and do[es] not seem to care much for natives.’

14 March 1902
‘We paid a return visit to Ms Ulit who has got fine old copy of Rembrandt. It cannot be the original as I remember having seen printed copies of the same. It is a very beautiful work. Ulit is a man of taste.’

17 March 1902
‘Since coming here we have got other students too. One is Shankar Rao son of Captain Madhava Rao of the Nizam’s Artillery, and the other is Mr Calastry’s son. As we teach gratis there are boys always coming to us for tuition.’

20 March 1902
‘We paid a visit to the Meeralum Tank about 5 or 6 miles from here [ChaddrighautJ. I made a sketch of the lake and hills surrounding it with the sun setting. The drive was hot and dusty.’

21 March I902
‘We are glad to hear that our eldest cousin’s state of health is not now so serious as it was some time before. He is now undergoing treatment at Kilimanur at the hand of Chiruttaman Moos the younger. He wants us to return home soon, but we are in a dilemma.’

2 April 1902
‘Last night the Nizam entertained Lord Curzon at dinner at the Chow Mahal Palace. We had also gone there. The streets from the Residency to the palace were splendidly illuminated. The palace itself presented a scene of unrivalled splendour. When the dinner was over there was a fine display of fire-works, after which the party dispersed, big drops of rain from a passing cloud having commenced to fell to the inconvenience of those present.’

15 September 1903
‘Received a cheque for Rs 300 from Sir Arthur Mundrial Fund being the balance due for a portrait of the Ex-Governor. In the afternoon visited the old pictures in the different parts of the palace. None of the old pictures could[?] be made out. Of course the best pictures are those by the European painters. We were [sic] are pleased to hear that the Ooman Palli Kara [Omanpallikara] appeal was dismissed by the Dewan. The other party intends instituting a civil suit against us.’

18 September 1903
‘We visited Mr Nagamiah settlement, Dewan Peshkar, who, it is rumoured is in the running for the next Dewan Peshkarship. We have just finished his old mother’s portrait and he expressed himself highly pleased with it. I gave him the short account I have written of our family for his state manual. He thought that it was rather too short. He wants us to give him as much information as we can relating to the Maharajas court and manner of today.’

23 September 1903
‘We went this morning to the temple of Lalu Kavu to worship the Goddess, since this is the second day of the Navrathrie-Dusserah. On my return home I remitted two money orders one for Rs 6 to the manager of the Malayale Manorama and the other for Rs 4 to the Manorama at Calicut, the former being the last year’s subscription to it and the latter this year’s subscription.’

28 October 1903
‘In the morning called on Sir Balachandra to get medicine for Brother and to consult him with regard to the complaint. Our cook Chathu is suffering from [+++]. In the afternoon I wrote a letter to Messrs Arbuthnot & Co. enclosing a draft of Hundi for Rs 4000 to be credited to my account and invested on fixed deposit for one year at 5 percent interest payable half yearly in the same way as the Rs 6000 invested with them on the 20th instant. The draft was obtained from the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China. I next visited Messrs Marks & Co., Hussainally Abdulally, Kump and Co. etc. Returning home at about 5.30. Bapuji and Pannuswami Pillai came.’

29 October 1903
‘Last night we witnessed the performance of Sinjit Saubhadra of Kirloskar Dramatic Company at one of the Grant Road Theaters. This is the best Mahratta dramatic troupe. A carriage has been engaged from today at a rate of Rs 3 per day for our use. Its owner is a Parse[e] who had given his carriage on former occasions too. We drove to the Fort, gave Brother’s watch to Charpie & Co. for repairs, ordered Laidlaw & Whiteaway for two long coats for summer weather.’

30 October 1903
‘In the morning we paid a visit to Mr Jagmohan Das Vandravandas Bhaiset our friend who had been suffering lately from [a] paralytic attack. He has fortunately escaped from the first attack and is now alright. In the evening Mr Bapuji and we two went to Mr Soundy and purchased tickets for the London Comedy Company’s play of ‘H.E. The Governor’. Next we attended a discourse on Mahabharat by a clever Banares Pandit as he spoke in Hindusthani we could well understand him.’

1 November 1903
‘This evening we removed to a bungalow on the Gamdevi Road near the fire engine, as Kalbadevi Road was too noisy and crowded to be agreeable for residence. The new residence requires a lot of cleaning.’

4 November 1903
‘Last night we witnessed the Comedy of ‘H.E. the Governor’ at the Novelty.
I did not like it much nor did Brother or Bapuji. There was not much for the display of an actor’s skill. The whole thing was a domestic incident and nothing else. This morning I painted the Parsee Widow’s jacket and Sari, while brother retouched the Nizzam’s head for Mr Schleicher. In the evening we returned the visit of our Hyderabad friend Mr Permanand Das. He lives in the palace of Devaki Namdas Maharaja, one of the high priests of the Vaishnavas of the Vallabhachari persuasion. The building is splendid.’

6 November 1903
‘Early this morning we paid a visit to Mr Puroshotram Vishram Moraji in whose house on the Kalbadevi Road we had put up during the first few days of our arrival here. He is a man of taste and is writing a history of Shivaji the great Mahratta Hero. He has visited all the scenes connected with his exploits. He has got some good pictures and picture books. There are few Bhalias with artistic and literary taste.’

8 November 1903
‘This morning we went to Mr Chaturbhuj Khinji’s to photograph him and his wife who are anxious to have their portraits painted by us. On our return we were pleased to see Mr A. Raffin whom we had known 10 years ago as a boy at Grant Road.’

9 November 1903
‘Today we have severed all connection with our press known as ‘The Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Press’ selling it to Mr Fritz Schleicher for a consideration of Rs 25,000 over and above paying all the debts connected with the establishment amounting to Rs 5 or 6 thousand. Out of this amount Rs 12,000 has been invested on fixed deposit in my name with Messrs Arbuthnoth & Co. bearing interest at 5 percent. The proprietorship of the Press was in my name though it was called after Brother.’

13 November 1903
‘Not having been well for the last three or four days, I opened my bowels this morning with Rubinat Water. In the afternoon I went to Phadkis Studio to make an enlargement of a negative. This done I returned home and went again with Brother to the market to purchase curtains and other things for our studio. On return home we saw Mr Chaturbhuj Khinji waiting for us. His request is that we should make some reduction in our charges.’

18 November 1903
‘This morning I was engaged in painting the body and sari of Dr Dawar’s wife while Brother painted his mothers head. As I did not feel well we drove in the afternoon to Dr Mathai’s dispensary at the Chakle[?] and he was pleased to give me a mixture. My complaint is unequal temperature of the body going up to 99 1/2 towards evening and a trouble headache. We gave Mr Naoroji a loan of Rs 30 when we met him at the Band Stand from where we went to the Apollo Bunder and hence returned home. Bapuji was with us.’

23 November 1903
‘I had to spend this day also at home not feeling quite disposed to go out, did little in the way of work, as too much concentration of mind produces headache. Chathu is making favourable progress. The wound is fast healing. He has slight fever on [?] for which Dr Mathai is treating him. Brother out as usual for his evening drive.’

25th November 1903
‘I went out with Brother for a drive this evening and got back his watch which had been given to Messrs Charpia & Co. for repairs which cost Rs 25. My health is much improved now. I purchased a bottle of Fellow’s Syrup from Madow & Co. for Rs 1-12-0 and commenced taking it this evening. Dr Mathai has recommended [to] me [to] take it regularly for some months as it relieves one of headache, poverty of blood and other complaints.’

27 November 1903
‘This morning Dr Dawar came and had a look at his wife’s portrait and said that he could not recognize her. Though it requires improvements we did not think it was so great a failure. These are the difficulties of portrait painting especially from Photographs. An other Parsee youth came with a profile of his deceased brother and wants a three quarter face made from this profile.’

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Diverse corners of my heart

‘It is an other thing that I desire, to know mine owne hart better, where I know that much is to be gotten in understaunding of it, and to be acquainted with the diverse corners of it and what sin I am most in daunger of and what dilig[ence] and meanes I use against any sin and how I goe under any afflic[tion].’ This is from a religious diary kept by Richard Rogers, an English nonconformist clergyman who died 400 years today. The diary was not published until the 1930s, but is now considered an important source of information on the puritan clergy at the time.

Rogers was born in Chelmsford, Essex, in 1551. He was educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1571, being ordained the same year. He served as curate in Radwinter, Essex, for William Harrison, author of Description of England. In 1577, he was appointed lecturer at Wethersfield, also in Essex. He travelled frequently, and became well connected with other puritan clergy in the area. In 1583, he was suspended, along with other ministers, for petitioning against the so-called Three Articles, introduced by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, to bring nonconformists into line. After eight months, he was re-instated due to the intervention of the politician Sir Robert Wroth.

During the 1580s, Rogers joined an association of clergy, the presbyterian movement under Thomas Cartwright. He continued to run foul of the ecclesiastical authorities, but was again re-instated thanks to influential friends. For a short while when Richard Vaughan was bishop of London, between 1604 and 1607, Rogers enjoyed more tolerance of his non-conformity, and it was during this period that he published the work for which he is most famous: Seven Treatises Containing such Directions as is Gathered out of the Holie Scriptures. Rogers married twice. His first wife, Mary Duckfield, bore him several children, two of whom became well known ministers (one in New England). After Mary’s death, he married Susan Ward. Rogers died on 21 April 1618. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, Bible Study Tools, or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB - log-in required).

Roger kept a religious diary, some pages of which survived to be unearthed in the 20th century, and edited by Marshall Mason Knappen for his book Two Elizabethan Puritan Diaries. This was published in 1933 by The American Society of Church History (Chicago) and Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (London) - see also Looking after damsens for more on the other diarist, Samuel Ward, in the same book. The Rogers diary, according to Knappen’s preface, consists of forty-one leaves of an anonymous unbound book with numbering that indicates several pages are missing. The diarist left his papers to his sons and to a cousin, and by the end of the 17th century these had fallen into the hands of the Puritan historian Roger Morrice. It was not until the mid 19th century that the antiquarian W. H. Black confirmed the diary’s author as the Cambridge minister Richard Rogers. A review of the book can be read online in The Journal of Religion.

According to Francis J. Bremer’s entry on Rogers in the ODNB, the Rogers diary ‘is an important source, revealing both of puritan piety and of the activities of the puritan clergy at the time.’ But, he adds, ‘the diary shows that Rogers was not comfortable with every aspect of his pastoral ministry, revealing his frustration with the lack of Christian piety of members of his congregation and his impatience with catechizing the young people who studied in the town school located in his home.’

More recently, the Rogers diary was re-published in Seeking a Settled Heart - The 16th Century Diary of Puritan Richard Rogers - some pages of which can be read at Googlebooks. Here are several extracts, though, taken from the 1933 edition.

22 July 1587
‘This month, tor all the gracious intraunce into it, which I made mention of before, a sweet seasoninge of my minde with sensible sorow for mine unnwoorthiness and wants, hath been much lik unto the former, for though I began well, yet I by litle and litle fell from the strenghth which I had gotten and became unprofitable in study, and praier and med[itation] were not continued privatly of me with such ioy as the first week, yet not broken of. But I felt not how the frut of them did sweetly accompany me all the day after. And study was better folowed the first and 2 week then since, but setled at it I cannot feele my self, which is my sorow. And among other thinges I cannot feele use of that which I know, nether have any freshe remembr[ance] of it for that I doe not still increase it. What strugglinges and yet apparent hindraunces I feele about it, it is merveilous. In the other 3 thinges about the which and this I am especially occupied, as I cannot say that there hath passed much against me to accuse me, so I count that to have been becaus I have not had such occasions offred me as might have proved me. And for that the lord hath kept these from me in great measure, let me geve glory to the lorde allwayes.

I thanck god at the setting downe hereof I was well affected, and mine hart since yesterday was greeved to see such a decay of grac as partly now I have set downe. And in deed I am glad that I may see with grief when there is any declineing in my lif, seing it cannot be avoided but such shalbe, but yet that thei are so often, and that so few times of grace may be redde in these papers to have been inioyed of me, it is no meane grief unto me.

I escaped a great peril of the disfiguring of my fac, if no greater, under a tree at the commencment. Where, to see how their ordrelynes in other places creepeth in also, it may iustly greev a Christian hart. We mett at B. also this week and conferred. I visited 2 sick persons this time, not without profit. I have also been well affected at the doctrine of exod[us] 16 for the most part this month, weeping once or twice.’

4 August 1587
‘I cannot yet setle my selfe to my study, but through unfitnes of mind, weaknes of body, and partly discontinueing of diligenc thereat am holden back, and in every kinde of it so behinde hande, more then some yeares agone, that I am much discouraged. I doe not see, but that if it pleased the lorde to graunt me that benefite I were many waves to count mine estat good above many men. For some recovery of strength and freedome this way I doe purpose to intreat the lorde more specially this day, hopeing for blessing not onely in that behalf but also against some corruption which I see break foorth by occasions, although it seme not so before trials come, as to be soone stirred when any thing goeth otherwise with me then I woulde: also wandring and fonde desires, though not strongue, and sometime too longe dwellinges in them, which I know to be condemned by the law. Further, though I doe not much feele my self disquieted about the worlde nor hurtful to any, yet I am not so profitable and painfull through love to procure the good of others as I have been, though I study litle. But most occupied about an entring in to it, and heavy for that I attaine not to it. For in deed when I obteine grace that way and gather strenghth of matter by reading I am the fitter after to be ether in company with others with doinge good or to be solitary by my self with comfort. I pray god send me frut of my request herein.’

30 September 1587
‘Declineinges this first week I have sensibly found in my selfe from that staidnes in a godly life in the which I lately determined a new to continue. But I brak of. Ether now or at other times it were hard for me to sett downe the particulars. Sometime by unfitnes and iornying my study is intermitted, and except in place thereof my minde be well taken up some other way even that is cause suffic[ient] of hindring my purpose of proceedinge. For I am exceedingly cast downe when my studye is hindred. Other partic[ulars] I have noted at other times, as that sleape cutteth me of from some peece of study, or the inordinat love of some thinge in this lif maketh me dull and unapt to goe on as I desire.

In this time it cometh to my minde in what reverent account in many places I have been, whereas by the b[ishop’s] discountenaunceing of us who have refused subscription to the book we are more odious to all that company and to such as thei can perswade then the worst men liveinge, and such as the seeliest minister in giftes may not onely be hard against us, but may insult uppon us, and futher then with such as have taken good by our minist[ry] and who, god be thancked, in more soundnes of iudgment doe mak account of us, further, I say, we have no great cause to glory in our favour or credit which we have in the world. But I trust the lord will hereby acquaint us the more with the contempt of it. For mine owne part I freely confesse that it is the happiest time when I can sett least by it. But the cause whi I made mencion of this chaunge was that I may look for more of them, and count them no straunge thinges even till my lif be taken from me also, as well as credit, count[enance], and all hope of maintenaunce, if it were not by those few which have profited by my minist[ry].

This last week I staied with certaine of our friendes till the ende of it allmost, whereas through takeinge good I lost nothinge of any good thing which I caryed thither with me, save at the ende a litle speach of some unkindness betwixt me and him.’

30 October 1587
‘Among other medit[ations] this was one in this month: that I beholding how graciously the lord hath hedged me in on every side, what sweet knowledg of his will, in comparison of that which I was like to have attained to, he hath geven me, and other bless[ings], good will and a good name with the godlier sort, communion with them and such manifold comfort in my life and with his people, with liberty in my ministery, I looked back to the yeare 1570 and thereabout, how lik it was that all this should have been holden from me and I, before I had ether learning or goodnes, to have been drawen to mar[ry] and to have lived in that doungehil of abhominacion where I was borne, whereas by all liklehood I must have been undone both in body and soule.

Then this one thing much occupied me, that, as I and some other of us here have obtained mercy of the lorde to beleve in him, to be comforted exceedingly by him so that we might grow and that our profiting might appear to all men, that we might see in what partic[ulars] we were chaunged as well concerneing knowledge as pract[ise]. Somewhat in the right use of the world I seemed to my self to have gotten of my selfe, to determine in this great abomi[nation] not to be hunting, gapeing for more with discontent[ment], torment, or such affections as might hinder my course in godlines, wherein, since our last fast, I thancke god I may say with some comfort that I have been better in watchfullnes about my hart and lif more continual and stayed, more constant also in keepeing that my covenaunt of wary walkinge with the lord. And surely god hath been veary merciful to me in this time to awak me againe when I have been declineinge or growing weak or wearisome in well doeinge to offer me occasions many wayes of continuaunce by good company, as Cul[verwel]. So that I must needes with admiracion say, Oh lord how wonderfull are thy mercies.

Then also exceedinge free we have been from the biteinges of evil men, etc. Although this I must say with much grief that there breaketh out of me much corruption, though nether so often nor so strongue, yet by occasions, espec[ially] when I am not watchfull, before I perceive, some harde speaches, for I count them so which are not milde, some riseing of hart against m., and glaunceing at myne old sin, but in none of these abideinge. So that I thanck god for his goodnes which I have felt this month.

My studie as time hath suffred hath not been unpleasaunt to me nor much neglected, save that I have been much abroad in good company and visitinge the sick. Once in this while, to see mine untowarde hart to my study, it appeared so grose to me that I twitted myself thus: I who now in a maner doe want nothinge and yet am oft untoward to my book which is my calling would thinck that liberty and estat happy which I inioy if the lord should bringe me low as it might please him to do many wayes, in povertie, in continual trouble, abroad in all weather, whereas it would be dainty to have liberty to study, and, except I labour to maintaine a delight in me that way, I look for no other but that the lord shall cast uppon me some grose blindnes to imbrac the worlde or plundg me into many grevous calamities or notorious offences, as I may see with mine eies many to have been throwen downe because thei kept not in their place with humility. This I desire to feare so as I many never fall into it.

It is an other thing that I desire, to know mine owne hart better, where I know that much is to be gotten in understaunding of it, and to be acquainted with the diverse corners of it and what sin I am most in daunger of and what dilig[ence] and meanes I use against any sin and how I goe under any afflic[tion]. To conclude, I hope it shal somewhat further my desire and purpose to please god which I taught yesterday, Exod[us] 18:21, that it is the worck and occupation of a Christian to learne to understande the lawes of god and to walk in his wayes, and thus that should be the chiefest thinge which should be looked after and from thing to thinge practized.’

Friday, April 13, 2018

They are real diaries

‘Sometimes lacking in charity; often trivial; occasionally lewd; cloyingly sentimental, repetitious, whingeing and imperfectly formed. For some readers the entries may seem to be all of these things. But they are real diaries.’ This is from an introduction by the maverick politician and historian Alan Clark to his own diaries. Born 90 years ago today, he became well known for his love of cars and women, for his right-wing politics, for his friendship with Margaret Thatcher, and for the outrageous part he played in the Matrix-Churchill affair. But, it’s for his diaries that he’s best remembered. They certainly are real diaries, colourful, entertaining, spicy, unguarded, and full of extraordinary arrogance - providing an unrivalled insight into the man himself.

Clark was born in London on 13 April 1928, the eldest son of the art historian Kenneth Clark (from whom he would later inherit Saltwood Castle in Kent). After a series of preparatory schools, he was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied history, partly under Hugh Trevor-Roper, but only just passed his degree, with a third-class honours. He was called to the bar in 1955, but did not practice law. He preferred to research military history with a view to publishing books, while living the life of a rich young man, particularly interested in cars. For a couple of years he belonged to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. In 1958 he married Jane Beuttler, aged 16 at the time. They had two sons; and despite his chronic womanising she remained with him throughout his life.

Although Clark published two novels, it was his first book on history - The Donkeys - that brought him public success. Other histories followed, though in time his ultra right-wing politics showed in his writing, through, for example, his appreciation of Nazi Germany’s efficiency. After failing to win several nominations as a Conservative candidate, he succeeded in 1972, and became the Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton in 1974. He was considered something of a maverick in Parliament, openly plotting against the prime minister, Edward Heath, yet an amusing and witty dining companion. To the surprise of others in the Conservative Party, he was given a junior ministerial position by Margaret Thatcher (who 
seemed to take an indulgent view of his many indiscretions - see also Thatcher gives a cuddle). He went on to serve in various other posts during her governments, ultimately rising to minister of state in the Ministry of Defence. He was heavily implicated in a political/legal controversy concerning the fraudulent sales of arms to Iraq by the engineering firm, Matrix-Churchill.

Following Thatcher’s fall, Clark left politics in 1992. A year later, he published the first volume of his now-famous and infamously indiscrete diaries. In 1997, encouraged by the success of his diaries, he returned to parliament as MP for Kensington and Chelsea, but was soon ill, dying from a brain tumour in 1999. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, and various obituaries online: The Guardian, The Independent, but see also Dominic Lawson’s character assassination in The Independent (‘He was sleazy, vindictive, greedy, callous and cruel’). Some pages of Ion Trewin’s official biography - Alan Clark - can be read online at Amazon or Googlebooks.

From his mid-30s and throughout his life, Clark kept a regular and private diary. A first collection of extracts were published 
simply as Diaries by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1993. Many reprints followed until the edition was reissued in 2001 as Diaries: In Power 1983-1992. This first volume has been recognised as providing the most detailed and colourful account of the downfall of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. But, equally, according to the publisher, it is famed for Clark’s ‘witty and acerbic pen’ and for being ‘the most outspoken and revealing account of British political life ever written’. Two further volumes were published posthumously, also by Weidenfeld & Nicolson - Diaries: Into Politics (2000), and The Last Diaries: In and Out of the Wilderness (2002). Although Clark himself had begun work on the former, his wife Jane took the decision to publish the latter, as edited by Trewin, and it also contains several pages of Jane’s diary from the last week’s of Clark’s life. All three volumes, in more recent editions, can be previewed at Googlebooks (1972-1982, 1983-1992, 1993-1999)

Clark’s own preface to the first volume of diaries is worth quoting:

‘Diaries are so intensely personal - to publish them is a baring, if not a flaunting, of the ego. And for the author also to write a preface could be thought excessive.

Let me explain. These are not ‘Memoirs’. They are not written to throw light on events in the past, or retrospectively to justify the actions of the author. They are exactly as they were recorded on the day; sometimes even the hour, or the minute, of a particular episode or sensation.

I wrote, in longhand, in a variety of locations; principally at Saltwood, or in my room at the House of Commons, or at my desk in the Department(s). Also in trains, embassies, hotels abroad, at the Cabinet table in Number 10 and at international conferences. When I had completed an entry I closed the notebook and seldom turned to that page again.

During the whole of this period, nearly eight years, I was a Minister in three successive Tory administrations. Politics - Party, Governmental and Constituency - dominated my life and energies. But on re-reading the entries I am struck by how small a proportion - less than half - is actually devoted to the various themes that dominated political life over the period. [. . .]

Expurgation, from considerations of taste or cruelty, I have tried to keep to a minimum. My friends know me, and know that I love them, and that my private explosions of irritation or bad temper are of no import. And as for taste, it, too, is subjective. There are passages that will offend some, just as there are excerpts that I myself found embarrassing to read when I returned to them. Much of course has been excised. But of what remains nothing has been altered since the day it was written. Is this conceit - or laziness? A bit of both, I suppose. But I found that when I attempted to alter, or moderate, or explain, the structure and rhythm of the whole entry would be disturbed.

There remain certain passages that vex me considerably. Mainly they refer to friends and colleagues with whom I have worked - or who have worked for me with loyalty and dedication: for example, Dave, my competent driver for many years; Rose, my sweet diary secretary at DTI who coped with ‘harassment’ with dignity and decorum; Bruce Anderson, one of my closest confidants; Tom King, Secretary of State above me in two departments, whom I still regard with affection in spite of the way in which we treated each other in the heat of our political careers. And there are many others to whom references coloured by the irritation of the moment are ill-suited.

There are also passages that, to some readers, will be unintelligible. Family joke-words, Eton slang, arcane references to events in the past, crude expletives, all these are present but I have done my best to illuminate the unfamiliar in a glossary that covers events, locations, individuals and so forth.

Sometimes lacking in charity; often trivial; occasionally lewd; cloyingly sentimental, repetitious, whingeing and imperfectly formed. For some readers the entries may seem to be all of these things.

But they are real diaries.’

Here are several extracts from 
Diaries and The Last Diaries.

23 December 1983
‘Evening of the first day of the Christmas hols.

I don’t seem to have done anything except get rid of a lot of cash filling all the cars with petrol. And cash is so scarce over Christmas. Again and again one goes down to the bank to draw, always the last cheque until the New Year.

At tea time I wanted pliers. I could not find pliers. Nowhere in this whole fucking place, with its seventeen outhouses, garages, sheds, eighteen vehicles. After stealing tool kits from every car I’ve sold on over the last twenty-five years - could I find pliers?

I was screaming frail. I ransacked the china room, where I kept my most precious things. My new red vintage tool locker was empty, except for a lot of useless stuff for an Austin Heavy Twenty. Why? I am surrounded by unreliables.

I’ve done practically no shopping. How could I? When? Yet tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

As for the Dept, I never want to go through its doors again. Total shit-heap, bored blue. Strained and befuddled by all the paper work. Fuck them.

Fortunately, I’m dining with Ian on Wednesday next. I hope he gives me a boost.’

10 April 1984
‘I was in vile mood this morning, even on arrival. I had done a lot of washing-up, drying, wiping, etc., at Albany, and I always find this enervating. I do it so badly and so slowly. For someone as great and gifted as me it is the most uneconomic possible use of time.

Then, triumphantly ‘marked up’, a page of Mediascan was pushed under my nose. Impending sackings (!!). Named were Arthur Cockfield, David Mitchell, Bob Dunn, John Butcher and myself. Flushed and shocked I became.

Either way it’s a bore
(a) that anyone should believe that I am a candidate
(b) it becomes self-feeding (journalists draw from each other)
(c) a plant from Ingham and Downing St

As long ago as 6 February I wrote in my Day Diary, on the space for 23 April (when we come back from the Easter break) ‘Am I free today?’ But now that I am actually faced with the prospect of being dropped as - allegedly - no good, I don’t like it. All the gabblers are of course immune. As always, AS ALWAYS, Heseltine and that podgy life-insurance-risk Kenneth Clarke are approvingly tipped. Apparently (this is what makes me think there is a bit of Ingham in it) the changes will not take place at Easter, but during the Whitsun break. Or (much worse) in September, after a summer of travail and misery.

I am going on Question Time in a couple of days. Might gallop.’

4 November 1990
‘The papers are all very bad. Tory Party falling apart, the death blow, that kind of thing. Something in it, I fear, unless we can get a grip on events. The only person who can restore order in the parliamentary ranks is Tristan. He can do it short-term (like many intelligent people T. can only see things very long or very short) but that’s enough. Get us past November.

After breakfast I telephoned Chequers.
‘The Prime Minister is speechwriting.’
‘Who with?’
‘Charles Powell.’
‘When will she be free?’
‘There might be a minute before lunch.’
‘When’s that?’
‘One o’clock sharp.’
I was being kept at bay. Unusual. The Number 10 switchboard girls are always helpful. With Chequers I’ve had this problem before.
‘Oh well, please pass her my name, in case she wants to take a call then.’

It was a lovely crisp day of late autumn. I had said I’d join Jane in the garden. Now I was going to be stuck indoors waitng for a call. But I had barely got to the doorway to give her a shout when the phone started ringing.
‘Alan . . .’
I tried to cheer her up: ‘There’s an awful lot of wind about’. ‘Hold tight and it’ll all blow away’. ‘Geoffrey was past it by now, anyway.’
I said, with suitable preface, that I would never seek to tell her who she should employ or why; but that if she could find something for ’Tim’ to do . . .
‘Tim who?’ (thinking, I suppose, that I wanted her to bring someone called Tim into the Cabinet. Blast, blast. Too oblique Never works with her.)
‘Renton. You really ought to make Tristan your Chief Whip.’
A very long silence. I almost said ‘hullo’, but didn’t.
‘Oh but he’s enjoying his present job so much . . .’

I don’t think she realises what a jam she’s in. It’s the Bunker syndrome. Everyone round you is clicking their heels. The saluting sentries have highly polished boots and beautifully creased uniforms But out there at the Front it’s all disintegrating. The soldiers are starving in tatters and makeshift bandages. Whole units are mutinous and in flight.’

10 March 1991
[Saltwood] ‘God, is it already 10th March? A quarter of the year gone by, and I have done nothing, not answered a single letter, paid a bill - still less ‘played’ with cars or other hobbies. I must break out of the cycle, but I can only really effectively do so by giving ‘notice’ in the next three weeks. The sheer administrative complication that this entails compounds it. This morning, woken up from a deep muck-sweat slumber by Jane at 2.30 a m. I lay awake for about 1 1/2 hours, thought among other things - I really would just as soon pack it in now, just not go back to London at all. She rightly pointed out I must see through Options, the tank etc - leave my mark. Then again, I suppose, the Cabinet changes at Easter - if there is to be no General Election - but even Secretary of State would almost have to ask - because of how it might have been.

Finances are now in a total mess - Coats at 160+. Vast new outgoings of Mains in prospect, lead roof, moat leaking. I fear it will have to be the Degas because we will save the CGT by doing it through Andrew. Might yet scrape by as stock markets are recovering. But how do I see my future? Get the diary into shape as soon as you can, then really become a recluse, naturalist, pinpoint feats. Loch Shiel to Loch Eriboll. A kind of upmarket Albert (if he was called Albert) Wainwright. With a hint, perhaps, of Poucher (and a touch of class, as Jane said, with Robin Fedden).

But right at the moment, I am in really bad shape - shaking, inability to concentrate. The knowledge of this makes me medically apprehensive.’

26 December 1991
‘I’m very depressed - not from hangover, as had drunk little, though Christmas lunch was always lovely and I consumed (sic) three glasses of Stolichnaya with the caviar, then more Roodeburg than Andrew with the turkey and pudding. (His young lady Sarah, was a success.)

I’m concerned, somewhat profoundly, at the recandescence of my nose place; my sexuality seems to be diminishing again. I’m dust off the dial in terms of political insignificance - Bruce Anderson no longer makes contact, but he wouldn't ‘chuck’ like this if he thought I rated. Also, of course. I’m miserable about dear little ‘x’, away in some French ski resort while I mope around here trying to get old cars to start and splitting firewood. That’s something else that is going to come to a head this year (if it hasn't done so already).

Well it’s no good moping.

I must pull myself together ... I will ‘hold the line’ at the Department - might even get in a couple more jolly trips. Then it’s cutting peat in the Highlands and the fallow period of editing the diaries - and inventorising the contents and dispositions.

I wonder how long I’ve got? I have this nasty feeling that things are going to go so badly this year that I will be ‘on the way out’ next Christmas. My hair is white in certain back lighting. When I’m 65, sadly, I will actually look 65. Shopping for Jane on Christmas Eve I ‘happened on’ a ski shop in Folkestone’s main street, thought to buy her an anorak and also found myself buying a ski suit for myself. It made me feel ten years younger. Oh if only I could really regenerate!’

7 October 1992
[Brighton] ‘On the way over here I parked the car, got out in the moonlight, and walked along the Downs to a 5-bar gate. I spoke to God. I apologised for having avoided Him for so long. The muddle of guilt and lust over ‘x’ had blighted our contact for over a year. Now I had to make penance - first for hurting sweet Jane over ‘x’, and for still harbouring sinful, muddled thoughts there; second for having discarded the special advantages He had given me, to get me into Plymouth Sutton so late and so old, without consulting Him or taking his permission. Now the moment had come, at last, when I could do something. But how could He give me another chance? If He did, of course, our relationship would be impregnable. But could He? Everything is possible of course. But nothing works out so easily.’

30 November 1993
[Saltwood] ‘I went over after tea to shut the drive gates of Garden House, and on the way back I looked at the dark outline of the Mains, the Santé wall. My open prison. I am not ready to stand back yet. But I am nervous of using up time - even when, e.g., ‘polishing’ the Buick - because I dread that suddenly, I may ‘go’.’

18 December 1997
‘Sitting in Albany kitchcn -  still in dressing-gown al 11.05; and the delightful, and unusual pleasure of the two clocks striking simultaneously ‘across’ each other. Very Edwardian, or early twenties. I am hugely calmer and more contented - although of course anxiety in new form will always flow into the vacuum created by the extinction of a real one, and I am apprehensive. The trial has not gone badly and the judge seemed sympathetic, although Prescott was odious at every stage. If I lose, of course, I will be open season. But my real consolation, fresh boost, is Spalton. Stuttery, amiable and bespectacled (naturally)  oculist. He tested me, I told him all my symptoms [here AC draws on the page the edge of a spot]. He was unphased. Said the optic nerve ok etc. And I really haven’t had a headache of any kind since ...! Defocusing, and periodic lights and ‘flooders’ of no consequence. This is such a relief; I clap my hands in prayer of thanks a lot of the time and when I wake up at night.

Just in time. As I need to think long and hard about the next three months. The real damage and threat to Parliament. The cogent conspiracy between Blair and Hague. We are actually going along with what Blair is doing.’

The Diary Junction

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Seven Little Australians

‘Night started a new story that I shall call Seven Little Australians. I don’t think I’ll let it go in the Illustrated, if I can do without it there, I’ll see if I can get it published in book form.’ This is from a diary kept by Ethel Turner, a much-loved Australian writer of children’s books who died 60 years ago today. She did, in fact, publish the Seven Little Australians in book form, and it went on to become so popular it has never been out of print, and to become a classic of Australian literature.

Ethel Mary Burwell was born in Doncaster, northern England, in 1873. Her father, a commercial traveller, died when she was two and her sister Lillian eight, but her mother, Sarah, soon married Henry Turner, a widow with six children. They had one child, Rose, before Henry died. In 1879, Sarah emigrated to Australia with her own three children, and married for a third time, and gave birth to a son Rex. Ethel, who took her first step-father’s name, Turner, went to the newly-opened Sydney High School, being one of its first pupils. While still in her late teens, she launched, with Lillian, a journal for young people called Parthenon; and she wrote children’s columns for various periodicals. Parthenon lasted for several years, earning the Turners some income, until the printers were sued for libel.

In 1891, the family moved to a large house, Inglewood, in the countryside north of Sydney (though it now stands in an affluent suburb). By this time, Turner had become a highly popular author, penning, for example, Seven Little Australians (1894) which was made into a film and a TV drama, and which is now considered a classic of children’s literature. Indeed, Wikipedia notes that in 1994 it was the only book by an Australian author to have been continuously in print for 100 years. In 1896, Ethel married a lawyer, Herbert Curlewis. They built their own house, Avenal, at nearby Middle Harbour, and had two children.

During the First World War, Ethel organised ambulance and first aid courses, campaigned for conscription and worked for various patriotic causes. She wrote more than 40 books, mostly novels, and received various literary awards. She gave time and money to charities, was a generous friend to less affluent writers, and remains, today, a much loved national author. She died on 8 April 1958. Further information is available from Wikipedia and the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Her son, Adrian Curlewis became a barrister, served as a captain in the WW2, and was later a judge, being knighted in the 1960s.

Turner kept a diary for most of her life, certainly from 1889 to 1952 (if there were earlier diaries, they’ve been lost). These were first compiled by Philippa Poole (Turner’s granddaughter) and published by Ure Smith in Sydney in 1979 as The Diaries of Ethel Turner. In a foreword, Adrian Curlewis explains his decision to allow publication of his mother’s diaries.

‘The decision to publish my mother’s diaries was made after great deliberation and discussion with my family, as they were not written with any idea that they might some day be open to general viewing. During the last twenty years since my mother’s death I have received hundreds of letters asking me for information about her early life - some came from aspiring authors and biographers, some from university students, and others interested in her life’s work. In answering these requests I found myself searching through papers, articles, verses, voluminous correspondence and repeatedly turning to her diaries for the information that they needed.

All these things finally decided me. I felt that words from my mother’s own hand, written at the time when she was young, could best describe life prior to and at the turn of the century. My daughter, by infinitely patient and time-consuming research extending over a long period has by explanatory notes to the diaries, answered nearly all the questions that were asked. She has rediscovered many photographs, articles and manuscripts that for years have remained hidden and forgotten. These give an illuminating insight into the character of Ethel Turner. Our family hope that this book may, in some small way, add to our Australian history.’

Poole, in her introduction says: ‘Reading [the diary] we accompany her through many stages - her entry into the Sydney literary and social scene, a long and turbulent engagement period, her marriage and domesticity, motherhood, an overseas trip, war years and through to the loss of her beloved daughter Jean in 1930. With this tragedy her heart was broken. The thread that binds this story together is her true love of writing and the great gift that she had of expressing her thoughts.’

A second edition of the diary was brought out by Collins in 1987 (from which the following extracts have been taken), and there have been several more editions since - pages of a 2011 ebook can be sampled at Googlebooks.

3 April 1889
‘Practised 1 hour, sang 20 minutes. Cleared out boxes and drawers, cartloads of rubbish and old letters, etc. Addressed Parthenon wrappers and then in afternoon went to town - Lil bought a new dress, I am penniless. At night tried to write a poem and failed, so instead read and idled.’

6 April 1889
‘Went to Newington Sports, took cab to the grounds. The Sports were very poor. I walked with Mr Curlew a little and after with Mr Curnow. We left Annie, then Lil and I hurried off and caught the 5 o’clock train to Picton to stay with the Daintreys.’

25 July 1889
‘Made the drawing room pretty, wrote Aunt Elgitha; corrected proofs, etc. In afternoon Nina Church came up to see us - she is growing really lovely but she is frightfully conceited and drawls dreadfully. Went to dancing lessons, had 2nd and 3rd figures of the Minuet and the Quadrille, Polka and Lancers. Did Parthenon work till 12 o’clock. Kate left, I am so sorry. I never liked a servant so well.’

9 August 1889
‘This morning I made myself a black lace hat. Idled in afternoon. At night went to Articled Clerks dance and wore my white liberty again, this time with crimson flowers and snowdrops. M. Backhouse asked me for a dance and then did not account for it. I shall never notice him again. He was a bit intoxicated last night I think, it is a pity, he might be such a very nice boy. I’m awfully sorry for him.’

14 August 1889
‘We all went to Bondi for a picnic. It was a lovely day bin Lil and I had so much writing to do we really ought not to have gone. A second letter came from Mr McKinney requesting us to apologise and pay costs one guinea. Of course we refused to do either so I suppose they will lake proceedings.’

27 September 1889
‘Went with solicitor to the Supreme Court, it was all so strange; we had the paper registered. Then Lil and I went to see Mr William Cope and he said the same as he always does. I don’t like him much
now. Then Lil, Mother and I went shopping to David Jones. Bought Rex two suits, etc. a lovely little drawing-room chair, new door mats, stair cloth, liberty silk, etc. etc. At night I corrected proofs and did Parthenon work. Lottie our new servant came, she is a bright English girl.’

4 October 1889
‘Lil and I did some shopping at Farmers, I bought a brown parasol for myself and a red one for Rosie. Then we went to lavender Bay and I had a bathe and Lil watched me but did not get in. I read this afternoon and sent the rest of the Parthenons. Played a practical joke on Mr Cope by sending him a letter containing a formal proposal for ‘my own hand’.’

29 October 1889
‘Got a letter from Press Association asking me to call. I went and the editor Mr Astley was very nice - he said he liked my style of writing and offered me the position of fashion writer and warehouse noter (about £60 a year). I refused for I should not like to go to the places taking notes. He told me to write him a specimen leader - Women’s College Bill.’

4 December 1889
‘Lil and I went to Bronte for a bathe. I think I shall take some lessons, I can't swim well and can’t dive properly. In afternoon did some cooking. Mother went to a meeting to Naval Home Bazaar and had a long talk with Indy Scott, who she says is very nice and unaffected.’

18 December 1889
‘Went to Cope and King and saw our barrister Mr G. W. Reid -— the brief is an immense one, about twenty huge closely written sheets. He asked us a good many questions. Then shopping, I bought a song, my first, Only a Year Ago by Claribel. Afternoon we went house hunting to Glebe. Mother and Mr Cope are still rowing about moving. He is awfully selfish about it.’

27 January 1893
‘Night started a new story that I shall call Seven Little Australians. I don’t think I’ll let it go in the Illustrated, if I can do without it there, I’ll see if I can get it published in book form.’

17 February 1893
‘Went to town by the 8 am, straight out to Dr Quaife, he examined my ear again and then sent me to his brother who is a specialist. I put in rather a rough time, it is a very unpleasant kind of operation and the worst is I have to go again a few times. Night wrote to H., a very personal letter and told him he was terribly careless about his appearance.’

5 April 1893
‘There is the dearest old lady here, she is 86 and her husband was Colonel Otterly of the Royal Engineers. She has lived the most wonderful life, was brought up in St James Palace where her father was a favourite courtier in George IV’s time, went to India, was attacked by pirates, shot a tiger, and did wonderful things in India. I sat in her room all the evening and she told me hundreds of stories. I am really fond of the girls, they are very nice - I think they reciprocate it too. They quarrel for the last kiss from me at night, who is to sit next to me, etc. etc.’

25 December 1893
‘H. went down by the 10 am. had an unChristmassy Christmas, nothing to mark it but goose, pudding and almonds. In afternoon read Some Emotions and A Moral. Night Lil, Rose, Rex and I went to church.’

1 January 1894
‘A day of one thousand hours. Mother and I lay limp and unlovely in our berths till after 4, we simply hadn’t strength to crawl out. Then I had some ice and a biscuit and went on deck to watch the Tasmanian coast scenery - simply grand, only we were past Nature. Mr Taylor was there to meet us at Hobart - never were two feeble creatures so fervently thankful. He took us to the Coffee Palace for the night and we had coffee bread and butter and enjoyed it mightily. For 58 hours I’ve had nothing but one small biscuit and a drink of beef tea. Mother ate things but I couldn’t.’

7 November 1929
‘To Jean taking her an armful of almond blossom sent by Mrs Phillip, the pretty bed jacket I have been embroidering, and also a letter from Dorothea Mackellar sent from England. She was wheeled out onto the balcony in the sun for a time. Not a good day though as she was in pain from strain of coughing. Then back to her flat and spent a couple of hours fixing things up.’

Friday, April 6, 2018

Carefully in oils

‘I have painted the portrait of a Duke in oils. I have made a very fine and careful portrait in oils of the Treasurer Lorenz Sterk; it was worth 25 fl. I presented it to him and in return he gave me 20 fl. and Susanna 1 fl. trinkgeld. Likewise painted the portrait of Jobst my host very finely and carefully in oils. He has now given me his for his. And his wife have I done again and made her portrait in oils.’ This is from a one-off diary kept by the great German artist Albrecht Dürer - who died all of 460 years ago today - while travelling to the Netherlands to meet Charles V, the new ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. The diary, first published in English in the late 19th century, has been likened to a ledger in which he ‘noted his expenses down to the last farthing’. More interestingly, perhaps, he also noted down income from the sale and barter of his own art works.

Dürer was born in 1471 into large family in Nuremburg. His father was a goldsmith, but his godfather, Anton Koberger, was a printer and publisher, eventually becoming the most successful publisher in Germany, owning 24 printing presses. His most famous publication was the Nuremberg Chronicle, published in 1493 in German and Latin editions, containing 1,800 woodcut illustrations, some of which young Albrecht might have worked on. He learned the basics of goldsmithing and drawing from his father, and showed such a precocious talent in drawing that he was apprenticed to the printmaker Michael Wolgemut from the age of 15.

From 1489, Dürer spent five years travelling around Germany, Switzerland and Italy, a journeyman, working and meeting other artists. In 1494, he married Agnes Frey, the daughter of a wealthy jeweller and musical instrument maker, and, settled in Nuremberg (although he visited Italy again in 1505-1507). He opened his own workshop to produce high quality prints, and was eventually elected a member of the Nuremberg Greater Council. He produced his famous Apocalypse series of woodcuts in 1498. During the next two decades, he produced further series such as Life of the VirginGreat Passion and Little Passion. From around 1512, Emperor Maximilian I, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, became his most important patron, and, later, the source of a pension.

In 1520-21, after Maxmillian’s death, Dürer travelled with his wife to the Netherlands to see Macmillan’s successor, Charles V, petitioning him to continue with the pension. In the latter years of his life, Dürer developed ideas of art theory and mathematics, published several books, Treatise of Measurement for example, and produced some monumental works such as the Four Apostles. He died on 6 April 1528. Further information can be found at the Albrecht Dürer website,
Wikipedia, NNDB, MacTutor, and Encyclopaedia Britannica.

For about one year, while travelling, for the last time in his life, to the Netherlands, Dürer kept a diary. This was first published in an English translation as part of the Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer by William Martin Conway (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1889). The book - which is freely available at Internet Archive - has 30 chapters, 300 pages, with the diary taking up one chapter and around 30 pages.

The diary chapter starts with this introduction: ‘On the 12th of July 1520 a party of travellers, consisting of Albrecht Dürer, his wife, and her maid-servant, started away from Nürnberg along the Erlangen road. The maid’s name was Susanna and it was probably she who three years later married her master’s former apprentice, Georg Penz the socialist. Dürer carried two little books with him, the contents of both of which have descended to us either in whole or in part. In one of these books he jotted down items of expenditure and occasional miscellaneous records and impressions. The original volume has been lost, but an old copy of it remains in the Bamberg Library. The other was a sketch-book, and many of its leaves may still be seen in the public and private art-collections of Europe. The memorandum book, with its curious mixture of diary and accounts, is one of the most interesting volumes of the kind that have been preserved. It has interested many generations of students and is destined to interest many more. The following is a translation of it.’

And the chapter ends with this postscript: ‘It must be admitted that Dürer was not a man of very contented disposition. But for the ill-health it brought him his Netherlands journey had been most successful. It was doubtless enjoyable. He accomplished the main object for which he set out. His Pension was confirmed by the new Emperor. He added greatly to his fame. He saw the world. He was received everywhere with honour. The town-council of Antwerp, like that of Venice years before, tried to retain him permanently with them. They offered him a salary of 300 Philipsgulden a year with a house and freedom from taxation. But the love of home was strong in him and so he returned to spend his last years in the city of his birth. Henceforward he lived out an honoured, if somewhat premature, old age amongst his own people. His earthly journeys were at an end. There remained for him only the short passage to the tomb where his bones still rest, outside the gates of Nürnberg.’

Nearly 100 years later, in 1971, a handsome edition of the diary was published by Lund Humphries in the UK and the New York Graphic Society in the US: Albrecht Dürer: Diary of his Journey to the Netherlands 1520-1521 Accompanied by the silverpoint sketchbook and paintings and drawings made during his journey. In an introduction, J-A Goris and G Marlier provide the following description and commentary:

‘The Diary which Dürer compiled during the twelve months of his absence from Nuremberg is neither a simple narrative of his impressions on the journey nor a detailed description of the sights he witnessed. It is, in effect, a very precise ledger in which the artist noted his expenses down to the last farthing: his travelling expenses, the cost of board and lodging, the various purchases he made, the money he lost at gambling or spent at the cabarets and spas. And with the same care he recorded everything that could properly be considered as gains, that is to say the sums derived from the sale of his own paintings, drawings and engravings, in that order of importance as far as his receipts are concerned. Sometimes the artist would barter his works, exchanging a set of his engravings for some objet d’art or other object. Dürer also kept a detailed account of the various gifts he made or received. [. . .]

Besides the purely financial data, Dürer could not avoid making a number of observations on what he had seen in the Netherlands. Thus, he describes at some length the great procession he witnessed in Antwerp; or again, the treasures brought from Mexico that he saw exhibited at the Palace in Brussels. Further on, he relates in somewhat pompous fashion the serious risks he took in Zeeland; and shortly before his return he suddenly interrupts his book-keeping to improvise a pathetic lament on the tragedy of Luther and Christianity. The Diary of his journey also tells us in a very direct way much about Durer’s character.’

And here are several extracts, as found in the 1889 edition of Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer.

12-15 July 1520
’On Thursday after Kilian’s, I, Albrecht Dürer, at my own charges and costs, took myself and my wife (and maid Susanna) away to the Netherlands. And the same day, after passing through Erlangen, we put up for the night at Baiersdorf and spent there 3 pounds less 6 pfennigs.

Next day, Friday, we came to Forchheim and there I paid 22 pf. for the convoy.

Thence I journeyed to Bamberg where I presented the Bishop (Georg III. Schenk von Limburg) with a Madonna painting, a Life of our Lady, an Apocalypse, and a florin’s worth of engravings. He invited me as his guest, gave me a Toll-pass and three letters of introduction and paid my bill at the Inn, where I had spent about a florin.

I paid 6 florins in gold to the boatman who took me from Bamberg to Frankfurt.

Master Lukas Benedict and Hans the painter sent me wine.

4 pf. for bread and 13 pf. as leaving gifts.

Then I travelled from Bamberg to Eltman and I showed my pass and they let me go toll-free. Thence we passed by Zeil. I spent in the meantime 21 pf. Next I came to Hassfurt and presented my pass and they let me go toll-free.

I paid 1 fl. into the Bishop of Bamberg’s Chancery.

Next I came to Theres to the (Benedictine) monastery, and I showed my pass and they also let me go on. Then we journeyed to Unter-Euerheim where I stayed the night and spent 1 pf.

From thence we travelled to Mainberg and I presented my pass and they let me go toll-free.

We came next to Schweinfurt, where Doctor (Jorg) Rebart invited me, and he gave us wine in the boat. They let me also pass toll-free. A roast fowl 10 pf.; 18 pf. in the kitchen and for the child.

Then we travelled to Volkach and I showed my pass and journeyed on, and we came to Schwarzach and there we stopped the night and I spent 22 pf.’

19 August 1520
‘On the Sunday after our dear Lady’s Assumption I saw the great 19 Aug. Procession from the Church of our Lady at Antwerp, when the whole town of every craft and rank was assembled, each dressed in his best according to his rank. And all ranks and guilds had their signs, by which they might be known. In the intervals great costly pole-candles were borne, and their long old Frankish trumpets of silver. There were also in the German fashion many pipers and drummers. All the instruments were loudly and noisily blown and beaten.

I saw the Procession pass along the street, the people being arranged in rows, each man some distance from his neighbour, but the rows close one behind another. There were the Goldsmiths, the Painters, the Masons, the Broderers, the Sculptors, the Joiners, the Carpenters, the Sailors, the Fishermen, the Butchers, the Leatherers, the Clothmakers, the Bakers, the Tailors, the Cordwainers -indeed workmen of all kinds, and many craftsmen and dealers who work for their livelihood. Likewise the shopkeepers and merchants and their assistants of all kinds were there. After these came the shooters with guns, bows, and crossbows and the horsemen and foot-soldiers also. Then followed the watch of the Lords Magistrates. Then came a fine troop all in red, nobly and splendidly clad. Before them however went all the religious Orders and the members of some Foundations very devoutly, all in their different robes.

A very large company of widows also took part in this procession. They support themselves with their own hands and observe a special rule. They were all dressed from head to foot in white linen garments, made expressly for the occasion, very sorrowful to see. Among them I saw some very stately persons. Last of all came the Chapter of our Lady’s Church with all their clergy, scholars, and treasurers. Twenty persons bore the image of the Virgin Mary with the Lord Jesus, adorned in the costliest manner, to the honour of the Lord God.

In this Procession very many delightful things were shown, most splendidly got up. Waggons were drawn along with masques upon ships and other structures. Behind them came the company of the Prophets in their order and scenes from the New Testament, such as the Annunciation, the Three Holy Kings riding on great camels and on other rare beasts, very well arranged; also how our Lady fled to Egypt - very devout - and many other things, which for shortness I omit. At the end came a great Dragon which St Margaret and her maidens led by a girdle; she was especially beautiful, behind her came St George with his squire, a very goodly knight in armour. In this host also rode boys and maidens most finely and splendidly dressed in the costumes of many lands, representing various Saints. From beginning to end the Procession lasted more than two hours before it was gone past our house. And so many things were there that I could never write them all in a book, so I let it well alone.’

23 October 1520
‘On the 23rd day of October, King Karl was crowned at Aachen. There I saw all manner of lordly splendour, more magnificent than anything that those who live in our parts have seen - all, as it has been described. I gave Mathes 2 fl. worth of art-wares, and I gave Stephan (Etienne Luillier), one of Lady Margaret’s chamberlains, 3 prints. I bought a cedarwood rosary for 1 fl. 10 white pf. I gave 1 st. to little Hans in the stable, and 1 st. to the child in the house. I lost 2½ st. at play; spent 2 st.; paid the barber 2 st. I have again changed 1 fl. I gave away 7 white pf. in the house at leaving and travelled from Aachen to Jfibers and thence to —. I paid 4 st. for two eyeglasses; played away 2 st. in an embossed silver king (ein Silbem gestempften König). I bought 2 ox-horns for 8 white pf.’

12 May 1521
‘On Sunday after our Lord’s Ascension-day Master Dietrich, the Antwerp glasspainter, invited me and asked many others to meet me; and amongst them especially Alexander the goldsmith, a rich, stately man, and we had a costly feast and they did me great honour. I made the portrait in charcoal of Master Marx, the goldsmith who lives at Bruges. I bought a broad cap for 36 st. I paid Paul Geiger 1 fl. to take my little box to Nürnberg and 4 st. for the letter. I took the portrait of Ambrosius Hochstetter in charcoal and dined with him. I have also eaten with Tomasin at least six times. I bought some wooden dishes and platters for 3 st. I paid the apothecary 12 st. I gave away two copies of the Life of our Lady - the one to the foreign surgeon, the other to Marx’s house-servant. I also paid the Doctor 8 st. I paid 4 st. for cleaning an old cap, lost 4 st. at play. I paid 2 fl. for a new cap, and have exchanged the first cap, because it was clumsy, and added 6 st. more for another.

I have painted the portrait of a Duke in oils. I have made a very fine and careful portrait in oils of the Treasurer Lorenz Sterk; it was worth 25 fl. I presented it to him and in return he gave me 20 fl. and Susanna 1 fl. trinkgeld. Likewise painted the portrait of Jobst my host very finely and carefully in oils. He has now given me his for his. And his wife have I done again and made her portrait in oils.’

The Diary Junction

Monday, April 2, 2018

Splinters fell on me

‘Went to Mohill Poor House. Was shot at in the Main Street of Mohill by James Murphy from the door of his house in that town about half past one in the afternoon. The ball struck the house near me, the splinters fell on me. James Murphy was arrested and committed.’ William Sydney Clements, the Third Earl of Leitrim, one of the most hated landlords in Ireland at the time, was assassinated 140 years ago to the day. His diaries, of which only brief extracts have been published in an anthology, testify to both his callous behaviour towards tenants and threats to his life.

Clements was born in Dublin in 1805, and educated at Sandhurst. He was commissioned an ensign in 1824, served in Portugal in 1826-1827; and, in 1831, he was appointed a captain in the 43rd Light Infantry. On the death of his elder brother in 1839, he became Viscount Clements and a Member of Parliament for County Leitrim. Then, on his father’s death in 1854, Clements succeeded to the title Third Earl of Leitrim. He retired from the British Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel, and spent the rest of his life looking after his estates - 90,000 acres in the counties of Donegal, Galway, Leitrim and Kildare - and living at Lough Rynn Castle, Leitrim. However, in time, he became an overbearing landlord evicting tenants at will, and was much hated. He fought strongly against Gladstone’s Irish Land Act of 1870; and, after a row with the Earl of Carlisle, he was deposed from his position as a justice of the peace. After surviving various assassination attempts, he was murdered along with his clerk and driver on 2 April 1878 - his murderers were never caught. A full account of the murder can be read at the Lough Rynn website. Further biographical information is available at the same website or at Wikipedia.

On his death, Clements left all his property, including a set of diaries, to a cousin (not to his siblings, or indeed to his nephew who was the heir to his title). The diaries were handed down through the generations and a few pages of extracts appeared in Diaries of Ireland - An Anthology 1590-1987 by Melosina Lenox-Conyngham (Lilliput Press, Dublin 1998). The author cites the following source: ‘From a transcription by Marcus Clements, owned by Charles Clements.’ Some pages of the anthology can be read at Amazon. Here are several extracts from Clements’ diaries (as found in the anthology).

18 April 1857
‘Went to Dublin and to Killadoon. I was shot at passing through Tooman. Two copper caps snapped. The gun or pistol missed fire. I went into the house of the widow Burbage and her son Mch’l Burbage appeared to be the person who had done the act.’

21 January 1858
‘[Tenant rights meeting in Milford] Engaged all the Public Houses. Police came in - about sixty. People came in two mobs of about two hundred strong each. The meeting held on the hill above the town - not on the estate.’

17 July 1858
‘Evicted Widow McRann of Eskerkilen and obtained possession from the sheriff.’

13 September 1860
‘Received a challenge from James Murphy by post. Sent to Mr Wm Jones [Murphy’s landlord?] who called on me. I gave him the letter I had received from James Murphy and called on him to protect me.’

15 September 1860
‘Went to Mohill Poor House. Was shot at in the Main Street of Mohill by James Murphy from the door of his house in that town about half past one in the afternoon. The ball struck the house near me, the splinters fell on me. James Murphy was arrested and committed.’

8 October 1860
‘Received an address from the town and neighbourhood of Mohill to congratulate me on my escape from assassination.’

4 December 1860
‘Leave Lough Rynn at 7.30 a.m. Arrived Manorhamilton at 1 p.m. Received rents. At night a tar barrel was burned and a band played through the town to greet my arrival.’

6 March 1861
‘Inquired into the cutting off of the tail of Thompson’s cow in Farnaught. Found that there was every reason to believe that the tail was cut by young Malachy Fanning and his brother Charles. Thos Cunnion of Farnaught and Edward Corr of Farnaught were with Malachy Fanning in his father’s house. The father Fanning was absent. Ordered that Fanning pay Thompson £1.’

12 May 1863
‘Went to Doaghbeg with Wilson [his bailiff], gave notice to Michael Martin No 10, Pollet and Pat’k Kelly No 8 that I would evict them; also to Wm McAteer, Doagh Beg, I would evict him and to Dennis Boyce of Ballinacrick that I would remove him for harbouring McGinley who was evicted.’

’17 January 1870
A robbery took place this night - two shirts, two pocket handkerchiefs taken out of the Bleach Green at Killadoon - some lemons taken from the Green House & some of the Gardener’s tools.’

20 January 1870
Went to the garden and examined the footmarks of the man who had been there on Monday night. I took a model of them and compared with Rutherford’s and remarked his mode of walking which left no doubt of his being the man.’

26 March 1871
‘Leave Derry bv the 6.20 train - changed carriage at Omagh and was unable to find a privy fit to be used. At another station, I think Ballybay, they were going to remove me from the carriage but the Station Master civilly allowed the carriage to proceed. Dundalk - the carriage was again changed. The privy at Enniskillen was also unfit for use.’

The Diary Junction