Monday, October 29, 2018

In search of El Dorado

Walter Raleigh, one of the most colourful characters in British history and a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, died 400 years ago today - executed, reluctantly, for treason under the orders of King James I. He twice led expeditions to South America in search of the legendary El Dorado. Immediately on returning from the first, he published a book about his adventures; but a diary he kept during the second had to wait more than 250 years to be published.

Raleigh was born around the year 1554, the youngest of five sons, near Budleigh Salterton in Devon, to parents who had both been married previously. The family was strongly Protestant, and was sometimes in trouble during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary. Not much is known about his early life, though he left for France in 1569 to serve with the Huguenots in the so-called French Wars of Religion against the Catholics; and subsequently he studied briefly at Oriel College, Oxford, before finishing his education at the Inns of Court. In 1575, he was registered at the Middle Temple, though he later wrote that he had never studied law. By 1578, Raleigh was sailing to America, later sponsoring two expeditions to set up a colony there, though both failed.

Between 1579 and 1583, Raleigh served with the English army in Ireland fighting against Catholic rebels. His outspoken criticism of the way English policy was being implemented in Ireland brought him to the attention of Queen Elizabeth, and by 1582 he had become one her favourites. She rewarded him with vast lands in the province of Munster, including the coastal walled towns of Youghal and Lismore. Over the next two decades or so, he set up home in the area, managing the estates but with limited success in persuading English tenants to settle. Elizabeth also helped him to a tenancy in London, as well as commercial privileges (ranging from licenses for wine and the export of broadcloth to being warden of Cornish tin mines). He was knighted in 1585; and, in 1587, he was appointed captain of the Queen’s Guard.

In 1592, the queen discovered that Raleigh had secretly married one of her maids-of-honour, Elizabeth Throckmorton. Out of spite, she imprisoned the couple in the Tower of London, though they only spent a few months there. They resided mostly on Raleigh’s estate in Sherborne, and in time had two children (an earlier child had died in infancy). It was not long before Elizabeth consented to Raleigh leading an expedition to South America, beyond the mouth of the Orinoco river in Guiana (now Venezuela), in search of a fabled land rich in gold, El Dorado. Until Elizabeth’s death in 1603, Raleigh continued to serve a key role in her forces, battling the Spanish, and as a member of parliament for Dorset, then Cornwall. He was governor of the Channel Island of Jersey for three years. In 1602, he sold his lands in Ireland to Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork (see also Robert Boyle’s workdiaries).

Within months of the Catholic James I taking the throne, Raleigh was charged with treason and sentenced to death, though James commuted the sentence to imprisonment, again, in the Tower. This time he remained there until 1616, writing many treatises as well as the first volume of his Historie of the World. The following year, James granted him permission for a second expedition to Venezuela in search of El Dorado. However, some of the men under his command violated the terms of a peace treaty with Spain, so that, on his return, King James was left with no option but to reinstate Raleigh’s death sentence. He was beheaded on 29 October 1618. Further biographical information is available at Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica or Spartacus.

On his return from the first voyage in search of El Dorado, Raleigh published The Discoverie of the large, rich and bewtiful Empyre of Guiana (1596), which somewhat embellished the extent of his findings, and thus contributed to the growing El Dorado legend. The work has been much reprinted over the years: for example by the Hakluyt Society in 1848 and by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1996 (an edition transcribed and annoyed by Neil L. Whitehead). Clearly, Raleigh was in no position to author another book after his second voyage to Guiana. However, he did keep a journal during the expedition (possibly with the intention of enlarging it for publication later) - just seven sheets of paper, starting on 19 August 1616 and finishing on 13 February 1617. This was archived, along with other papers, and, for a long time, remained only in manuscript form (today it is archived with the Cotton Manuscripts at the British Library).

The diary manuscript was mentioned in the first volume (of eight) of The Works of Sir Walter Raleigh (1829, Oxford, at the University Press). The volume contains two biographies of Raleigh. One of these is by William Oldys, who, in considering Raleigh’s writings on Guiana, advises that the diary is ‘unfinished and full of chasms, seeming to contain only notes and observations for his own memory’. It was eventually published, along with Raleigh’s account of his first voyage, in 1887 by Cassel & Company, as The Discovery of Guiana and The Journal of the Second Voyage thereto. This can be read freely at Internet Archive (the source of the following extracts).

17 December 1616
‘The 17th we came to anchor at Puncto Gallo, where we stayed, taking water, fish, and some Armadillos, refreshing our men with palmetto, Guiavas, piniorellas, and other fruit of the country, till the last of December. In sailing by the south coast of Trinidad I saw in one day, to wit, the 16th of December, 15 rainbows and 2 wind gales, and one of the rainbows brought both ends together at the stern of the ship, making a perfect circle, which I never saw before, nor any man in my ship had seen the like.’

31 December 1616
‘The last of December we weighed anchor and turned up north-east towards Conquerabo, otherwise called the port of Spain, being New Year’s eve, and we came to anchor at Terra de Bri, short of the Spanish port some 10 leagues. This Terra de Bri is a piece of land of some 2 leagues long and a league broad, all of stone pitch or bitumen, which riseth out of the ground in little springs or fountains, and so running a little way, it hardeneth in the air and covereth all the plain; there are also many springs of water, and in and among them fresh-water fish. Here rode at anchor, and trimmed our boats; we had here some fish, and many of the country pheasants somewhat bigger than ours, and many of the hens exceeding fat and delicate meat.’

19 January 1617
‘The 19th of January we sent up Sir J. Feme’s ship to the Spanish port, to try if they would trade for tobacco and other things; but when her boat was near the shore, while they on the land were in parley with Captain Giles, who had charge of the boat, the Spaniards gave them a volley of some 20 muskets at 40 paces distant, and yet hurt never a man. As our boat put off, they called our men thieves and traitors, with all manner of opprobrious speeches.’

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Swedish emigrant

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Andrew Peterson, a Swedish farmer who, as a young man, emigrated to North America, and successfully developed a claim in Minnesota, farming arable and livestock, but especially apple orchards. He is remembered today, among the 15,000 or so Swedes who also emigrated in a first wave to the US, not only because he kept a diary - kept  for 40 years - but because a 20th century Swedish author used the diaries extensively as source material for a series of popular novels, later made into successful films.

Anders Petterson was born in Vastra, southern Sweden, on 20 October 1818, into a family of farmers. He went to work as a farm hand on other farms, but returned to take over the family business when his father died in 1846. However, a few years later, in 1850, he, his sister and others from the locality set off together to emigrate to North America. They embarked from Gothenburg in May, and, after a gruelling voyage, disembarked at Boston in July. Four weeks later, they settled in the Burlington district, Iowa, to where other Swedes had immigrated.

In 1854, Andrew Peterson (as he now called himself) joined a new Baptist congregation, and the following year he moved with a group of the congregation to Carver County, Minnesota - not then part of the United States. He settled on a claim near Clearwater Lake - later known as Lake Waconia. In 1858, Peterson married Elsa Engeman Anderson, and they had nine children. They successfully developed their farm with livestock and crops; over time Peterson became well known for the quality of his apple orchards. He died in 1898. More information is available from the Andrew Peterson website or Mnopedia.

Peterson kept a daily record of his life - barely more than a sentence or two each day - for over 40 years, starting at the time of his journey by sea from Sweden. His children donated the diaries to the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS), where they were discovered in the late 1940s by the renowned Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg. He mined the diaries extensively for The Emigrants - a popular series of four novels published 1949-1959 - about a Swedish family moving to Minnesota in the 1800s. Two acclaimed films were also made from the books, starring the actors Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman.

Earlier this year, it was announaced that all the diaries would be translated, digitised and made available online by this autumn - see The Carver Country Historical Society and the local newspaper Star Tribune. At the time of writing this project had not come to fruition, however, here are a few extracts found online: 1856-1858 extracts from an article by Carlton C. Qualey available on the MNHS website; and the rest from a page on the Andrew Peterson website.

21 May 1850
‘Almost calm wind, but the Brigg was roling much off the waves. Less seasickness after passing Skagerack. We saw a little of Far Sund point Norway - that was the last we got to see of our old Scandinavia.’

2 July 1850
‘Early in the morning we saw Bostons lighthouses with fire, but it was far away out from land on islands. These are to show sailships when it is dark. Later came a steamboat and asked our Captain if we needed pulling assistance to the harbour, but we had a good wind, so he did not need help. Shortly after, came the pilot in his fancy boat, and he was as Captain into the harbour. Shortly after the Pilot arrived came the Quarantine - Doctor on board to see if if all were in good health, which we were. In the afternoon we went in to the dock and went upp to see the big city of Boston.’

18 June 1855
‘Bought the claim from Germans for 25 Dollar. Payed Fisser’s son 5 Dollars for his help. Per Daniel went to St Paul.’

19 June 1855
‘Hoed and planted potatoes on my claim. I had Alexander and Jonas - Peter and John to help me.’

20 June 1855
‘I went for the second time to Alexander and John to help them with the logshanty. [. . .] I was cutting gras (for hay) and did a rake. In the afternoon we had a meeting with holy communion, and decided to make a united Parish.’

February 1855
‘13th slaughtered the Swines among other things 14th morning cut up the Swines, afternoon worked in the shop.’

11 March 1856
‘Gut rails all day. Have now 2,000 rails.’

20 May 1856
‘Last night we fished. Got the boat full. Got home at noon. Then I planted potatoes and grubbed the place for my cornfield.’

23 May 1856
‘We church folks planted corn for Nilsson.’

28 November 1856
‘Borrowed Jonas Broberg’s oxen to haul logs for the fence on the other side of the maples. Alfred was here with his oxen and hauled logs. He owed me 2 1/2 days work. One day I counted off for the oxen and the half-day I counted off for the sinkers he made for the seine and the mending of the net. In the evening Nilsson and I made up our account for the last period of boarding and the 6 1/2 days of work I had done and the boards I had given that should count off when I built his cow shed because of the board I had when I built mine.’

1 April 1857
‘In the morning I went over to Johannes and we made up our accounts both old and new. We are now square except that Johannes still owes me $3.00 for corn.”

15 September 1858
‘In the morning I was over at Johannes and chopped corn-stalks. At noon John went with me home and started plowing for the wheat. In the evening at 5 o’clock Elsa and my expectations became a reality, a marriage.’

August 1862
‘20th we were frightened of the Indians so we moved out to the island in klearwater lake, and so we lay there till the 21st at night when we went home.’

March 1898
‘28th in the morning frank went to waconia with a full cart of wheat, at night the boys transported manure. The snow is now good for sleighing I am not well, I am in Bed.’

29 March 1898
‘The boys transported manure - I was in Bed - we had bright weather but not mild weather.’

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The name of Gagarin

‘So ended this anxious, joyful, victorious day. Humankind will never forget the day of April 12, 1961, and the name of Gagarin will forever fit into history and will be one of the most famous.’ This is from the diary of Nikolai Petrovich Kamanin, a Soviet aviator who rose through the country’s ranks eventually to be chosen to run its nascent space programme, which then successfully put the first human being - Yuri Gagarin - into space. Kamanin - born 110 years ago today - kept diaries throughout his service for the Soviet space programme. These were only published for the first time after his death, but they are now freely available online.

Nikolai Petrovich Kamanin was born on 18 October 1908 (though, possibly, 1909 - see Wikipedia) in Melenki, Vladimir Oblast, some 200km east of Moscow. His father, who had joined the Bolsheviks, died when Nikolai was only 11. He joined the Soviet army in 1927 and then transferred to the air force. After training, in 1929, he joined the Lenin Air Regiment. In 1934, using biplanes, he rescued many survivors after a steamship had been crushed by Arctic ice in the Chuckchi Sea. Along with other rescuers, he was made a Hero of the Soviet Union, a newly created honour. During the Second World War, he served in many roles, in Asia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe, and was regularly promoted, finally commanding the 5th Attack Air Corps, and concluding with the rank of lieutenant general.

Kamanin continued to command the air corps until 1947, based first in Tiraspol and then in Arad (Romania). After a short while as deputy chief of the USSR Civil Air Fleet, he served as chairman of the DOSAB Central Committee, and from 1951 to 1955 as deputy chairman of the DOSAAF Central Committee for Aviation. From 1956 to 1958 he was in charge of the 73rd Air Army of the Turkestan Military District. In 1958, he was promoted again to deputy chief of the Air Force General Staff for combat training. In 1960, he was commissioned to organise the selection and training of astronauts for space flights, and was directly involved in planning and organising the first manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin. In 1966 he was appointed Assistant Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force for Space, and the following year he was made colonel general. He was sidelined from 1969, after several disastrous years for the Soviet space programme (including Gagarin’s death during a routine fight), and he was discharged from the armed services in 1971. He died in 1982.

From the start of his appointment to the nascent Soviet programme, in 1960, right through until his retirement, Kamanin kept detailed diaries. Though under lock and key until the break-up of the Soviet Union, they were published in 1995. According to Wikipedia, they explain the development of the Soviet manned programme and related internal politics, and how there were four sides to Kaminin’s work: Coordination of design bureaus developing the life support systems for manned spaceflight; Tracking, search and recovery of landed craft; Management of cosmonaut training squads; and Other space launches. The published book is freely available online, at a Russian website, Militera, and individual pages can be translated into English via Google translate. Many thanks to Mark Wade, who runs the Astronautix website, for this information. Wade’s own article on Kaminin’s diaries includes very useful English summaries (by date) of much of the diary’s contents (although he says he mostly omitted any personal content, or entries about non-space related activities).

Here is Wade’s assessment of the diaries: ‘Despite some failings, Kamanin’s diaries are the only accounts we have for many key events and the only contemporary account of the inside workings of the Soviet space programme. They convey marvelously the human vitality of the space race on the Soviet side. The periods spent out on the steppes in Kazakhstan for launches have all the atmosphere of a male-bonding camping trip. They work hard, all hours, but also party hard and spend Sundays on hunting or fishing expeditions. The stories are reminiscent of American accounts of the hard work and sheer pleasure of pioneering space from similar hardship posts - from the swamps of Cape Canaveral to the deserts of New Mexico.’

The foreword to the diaries (as translated by Google) includes this: ‘ “The Space Diaries of General Kamanin” is a historical document that most reliably reflects the development of the national cosmonautics and the complex interrelation of events in the first decade of manned space flights. But documents of this kind are not only of historical value, they are very important from a practical point of view, because without a clear idea of ​​the past it is impossible to comprehend the present, and without an understanding of the present one cannot make predictions for the future.’ And here is Google Translate’s version of one entry - the day Yuri Gagarin was the first human to travel in space.

12 April 1961
‘At 4:50 local time, I, Karpov and Nikitin, stood up as if on cue. At 5:30 we will raise the Jura and Herman. The night went very well, fell asleep about 22 hours. A little starts to dawn, the traffic increases on the road. We arrived from the tenth site, Karpov went to raise the youth.

At 6:00 a meeting of the commission. It was surprisingly simple and short. All the reports boiled down to one phrase: “There are no comments, everything is ready, no questions, you can start.” After the meeting, I signed a flight mission, went to the MIC and looked at how a medical examination and putting on spacesuits was going. Everything went right on schedule. At 8 o’clock I, together with the lead engineer of the ship, took the elevator to the top of the rocket and checked the cipher (145) of the logical lock. The logical lock worked fine. At 8:20 Marshal Moskalenko arrived at the start. We agreed with him about the procedure for landing Gagarin in the ship. The bus with the astronauts should arrive at the launch site at 8:50. All cosmonauts and [?] remain at the bus, before the Gagarin elevator, Korolyov, Rudnev, I and Moskalenko must see off.

It was possible to keep the planned order with difficulty. Coming out of the bus, Yura and his comrades were a little impatient and started hugging and kissing. Instead of wishing a happy journey, some would say goodbye and even cry - they had to force the cosmonaut out of the embraces of the [?] almost by force. At the elevator, I firmly shook Yury’s hand and said: “See you in the Kuybyshev area in a few hours.”

After 10 minutes the suit and connection were checked. At KP, I, Popovic and Korolev kept in touch with the board. For all the preparation for the start there was only one small hitch when closing the N1 hatch. The hatch was closed, but due to the lack of contact, it had to be re-opened and fixed a minor malfunction. All the radio was recorded on tape. Audibility was excellent, Gagarin’s answers are short, clear and clear. The cosmonaut’s well-being, judging by his reports, by his voice and telemetry, was good. A few seconds before the start on the message of the Queen - “Start”, Yura replied: “Let’s go!”

The start was great. Overloads on the launch site did not have a noticeable effect on the astronaut’s voice. The radio connection was good. The astronaut felt fine. At the 150th second of the flight, after resetting the fairing, Jura reported: “Light, see the Earth, clouds, visibility is excellent.” After a few seconds, he reported on the separation of the first stage of the carrier. In 13 minutes after the launch, we already knew that the world’s first manned flight in near-earth orbit began. At the moment of the transition from the start to Kolpashevo there were several unpleasant seconds: the astronaut did not hear us, and we did not hear him. I do not know how I looked at that moment, but Korolev, who was standing next to me, was very worried: when he took the microphone, his hands trembled, his voice broke, his face was twisted and changed beyond recognition. All breathed a sigh of relief when Kolpashevo and Moscow reported on the restoration of communication with the astronaut and the launch of the spacecraft into orbit.

20 minutes after the start, I went with a group of comrades to the airfield. The An-12 took off and headed for Stalingrad (the estimated landing point for this orbit was 110 kilometers south of Stalingrad). Already in the air, we heard the TASS report about the safe landing of an astronaut in the Saratov region, and a few minutes later we were informed by the Air Force’s command post: “Everything is in order, Major Gagarin flies to Kuibyshev.” After this joyful message, everyone (there were ten of us in the plane) began to kiss, dance, and Vasily Vasilyevich Parin took out the cherished bottle of brandy. I advised to drink it when meeting with Yura ...

At the factory airfield in Kuibyshev, we were met by Colonel Chechiyants from the Air Force General Staff and reported on the situation: “Gagarin landed safely 23 kilometers from Saratov and a few minutes later he called Moscow. Later, already from Engels, together with Agaltsov they spoke on “HF” with Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Vershinin and other leaders. ” By this time, a significant crowd had already gathered at the airfield. We arrived: the secretary of the Kuibyshev Regional Party Committee, the chairman of the regional executive committee, the district air force commander and other leaders. The arrival of the authorities strengthened the influx of workers at the airport from the factory. I had to order the commander of the IL-14, on which Gagarin and Agaltsov flew, to taxi to the farthest station. We did not have time to drive up to the aircraft in cars, as here a large crowd formed. The plane’s door opened, and Yura was the first to descend - he was wearing a winter flight helmet and a blue spacesuit. I was worried and worried about all the nine hours that had passed since it landed in a spacecraft prior to this meeting at the Kuibyshev airfield, as if it were my own son. We hugged and kissed. Cameras clicked from all sides, the crowd of people was growing. There was a danger of a big crush, and Yura, although he was smiling, looked very overworked. It was necessary to stop hugging and kissing. I asked Agaltsov and Yura to get into the car and immediately go to the regional committee dacha. Three hours later, Rudnev, Korolev, Keldysh, and other members of the commission flew in from Tura-Tama.

The cottage of the regional committee was located on the high bank of the Volga, from the balcony of the third floor there was a beautiful view of the river. At ten o’clock in the evening everyone gathered at the table. Present were six cosmonauts, members of the State Commission, and heads of the region. Rudnev, Gagarin, Korolev, Murysev, Mrykin made toasts, but drank very little - it was felt that everyone was very tired. At eleven o’clock we went to the bedrooms. So ended this anxious, joyful, victorious day. Humankind will never forget the day of April 12, 1961, and the name of Gagarin will forever fit into history and will be one of the most famous.’

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A pope's unworldly diaries

Exactly 40 years ago today, the Polish archbishop Karol Józef Wojtyła became Pope John Paul II, the first non Italian pope in more than four centuries. His was a globetrotting papacy - he preached the Catholic religion in many parts of the world never visited by a pope before, often to huge crowds. After his death, two spiritual diaries came to light, and these have recently been published in English. Although they might offer the initiated insight into his inner religious life, there is nothing in them to shed light on his worldly existence.

Karol Józef Wojtyła was born in the Polish town of Wadowice in 1920, the youngest of three children. His mother died when he was eight. He went to a local school in which there was a significant Jewish presence. Aged 18, he moved with his father to Krakow where he enrolled in the university to study languages, for which he had a natural talent. He volunteered as a librarian, and enjoyed sports and the theatre. He served two months military training but, famously, would not hold or fire a weapon. During the war, he worked for a restaurant, a quarry, and a chemical factory, determined not to be sent to Germany. In early 1944, he was in a traffic accident, and spent two weeks in hospital, during which time he decided to become a priest. He hid in the house of an archbishop for the rest of the war. He was ordained as a priest in November 1946, and then moved to Rome for doctoral studies at the Pontifical University.

Wojtyła returned to Poland in 1948, serving in various parishes, teaching at university level, writing for the Catholic press, and even taking students on leisure expeditions (even though priests were not allowed to accompany groups of students during the Stalinist era). In 1958, he was created a bishop, the youngest in Poland. He took part in the Second Vatican Council, making important contributions, and participated in assemblies of Synod of Bishops. In 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Kraków, and three years later he was further promoted to the Sacred College of Cardinals. When Pope Paul VI died in 1978, the subsequent papal conclave elected Pope John Paul I, however he died a month later; a second conclave met in October. A split vote between two strong candidates led to a compromise in favour of Wojtyła, who won on the eighth ballot on the third day (16 October) - taking the name John Paul II in tribute to his predecessor. Thus he became the first non Italian pope in over 400 years.

John Paul II liked to travel, and to use his many languages. He made over 100 trips to over 100 countries, always attracting large crowds. Early on in his papacy, his visit to Poland, where he  encouraged opposition to Communism - soon after the Solidarity movement was launched. He was the first pope to visit many countries, including the UK and Cuba, and the first to pray in an Islamic mosque. He did much to foster relations with the Jewish world, and he set up the annual World Youth Day
 celebration - during its tenth anniversary he offered mass to a crowd of over four million people in Manila, Philippines. In 1981, he was badly wounded in an assassination attempt. A year later, a second attempt led to him using a bullet-proof trailer known as the ‘popemobile’. He died in April 2005. Subsequently he was made venerable, then beatified and canonised - creating him a saint, with his saint day celebrated on the anniversary of his papal inauguration. Online biographical resources include Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Vatican, the BBC, John Paul II National Shrine,, and Catholic Online.

From his early years as a priest until two years before his death, Wojtyła intermittently kept a spiritual diary. This was first published in Poland in 2014, and was quickly translated into other languages, but only into English in 2017. The English edition - translated by Joanna Rzepa - was published by William Collins as Pope St John Paul II - Karol Wojtyła: In God’s Hands, The spiritual diaries 1962-2003. ‘Not since the publication of Journal of a Soul, the spiritual autobiography of Pope John XXIII, have we had such privileged access into the spirituality of a pope,’ says George Stack, Archbishop of Cardiff, in his introduction. (For more on Pope John XXIII’s diaries see A pope’s view of Mussolini.)

In a preface (first published in the Polish edition), the then Archbishop of Krakow, Stanisław Dziwisz, explains that John Paul II left instructions for his two notebooks to be burned. However, Dziwisz adds, he did not ‘dare’ do so: ‘I did not burn John Paul’s notes because they are a key to understanding his spirituality, that is, what is innermost in a person: his relationship to God, to other men and to himself. They reveal, so to speak, another side of the person whom we knew as the Bishop of Kraków and Rome, the Peter of our times, the Shepherd of the universal Church. [. . .] They allow us to get a glimpse of the intimate, personal relationship of faith with God the Creator, the Giver of life, the Master and Teacher. At the same time, they present the sources of his spirituality - his inner strength and his determined will to serve Christ until the last breath of life.’

Almost all the entries in the two notebooks were written 
by Wojtyła during retreats (as listed in the book). Here are several extracts, which, unfortunately, for the non-spiritual among us, give little insight into the man’s worldly thoughts or existence.

8 July 1962
‘The following key inner topics have been put together and discussed with the father:
1. death
2. power
3. creativity
4. people.’

2 September 1962
‘The recollection of these topics and novum [novelty] (as if a common denominator was found for all the experiences and reflections): I am very much in Gods hands - the content of this ‘Totus Tuus’ [‘Entirely Yours’] opened, so to speak, in a new place. When any concern ‘of mine’ becomes in this way Mary’s, it can be undertaken, even if it involves an element of risk (though one must not overdo it: in human terms, i.e. on the human side, the issue needs to be dealt with thoroughly). At a certain point, however, one needs to abandon human calculations and somehow grasp the Godly dimensions of every difficult issue. A peculiar iunctim [junction] of issue 4 with issue 2 begins to emerge here.

I discussed all this with the father too.’

18 August 1965
‘Morning prayers [illegible]; (Rosary); Lauds; Holy Mass; thanksgiving; Matins; Prime; Act of Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Meditation: Referring back to the retreat of 1963,1 wish to expand on the topic of ‘justification’. I find this topic academically (theologically) appealing and at the same time internally, personally important. The topic develops into a reflection on theological virtues, i.e. divine virtues.

Faith. The catechisms definition: ‘to accept as true all that God has revealed to us and that holy Church proposes for our belief’ can be interpreted and even experienced in different ways. The intellectualist (ideological) interpretation is different from the personalist (charitological) interpretation. It is not only about the sum of truths (propositions) which the mind accepts through the authority of ‘God who reveals them’ - and more directly: Christ, the Church (cf. motiva credibilitatis [compare motives of credibility]). It is about the specific supernatural relationship of man - a person - with the personal God (Trinitas SS [the Holy Trinity]). The nearer foundation of this relationship is the mind (reason). The proper subject matter of this human faculty is truth. Faith is a readiness, indeed, it is an act of reason which is ready to accept God’s truth as its own truth. Communicatio in veritate cum Deo [Communion with God in truth]. It is probably the highest act - one of the highest acts - in a relationship of a person to a person. This readiness to communicate in truth becomes, in a particular way, renewed through revelation, and in general with its help (in its extension lies theology). Faith consists in the acceptance of revelation, but it is possible thanks to the readiness of the mind mentioned above, which revelation takes for granted and simultaneously makes fully possible.

The Way of the Cross: main theme ‘viator - comprehensor’ (‘wayfarer - comprehensor’]; The Little Hours; Reading the schemas; Vespers for Wednesday

Adoration: it somehow provides me with topics for the afternoon meditation

Meditation on practical issues: dialogue, the Church of dialogue, others separately Matins; Spiritual reading; Compline’

24 February 1985
‘6.00 p.m.: Vespers; Veni Creator [Come, Creator (Spirit)]

Talk. Meditation (1): We form a retreat community. In the centre: Christ. The Holy Spirit, who speaks ‘inside us’.

We are at the core of the Church: in Rome - and in the world. The Church prepares for Passover.

Lent - is a calling!

Topic: The symbol of faith.

In unity with the Mother of the Church from Lourdes: St Bernadette’s words: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, a poor sinner.

Eucharistic Adoration; Rosary (III); Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph; Compline; Reading’

25 February 1985

Meditation: ‘I am in the midst of them’.

Holy Mass; Thanksgiving; Daily prayers; Act of Consecration to Virgin Mary; Prayer to the Holy Spirit; Litany of the Polish Nation; Lauds

Talk. Meditation (2):

(Credo [Creed]) Only God can properly speak of God: many times and in various ways. . . God spoke ..., in the last days He has spoken by a Son.’

Symbolus Apostolorum [The Apostles’ Creed]: the Trinitarian structure - symbolus baptismalis [the baptismal creed].

(The ecumenical meeting near Trent:)’

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Galvanised by debate

The life of the Irish writer and activist Rosamond Jacob, born 130 years ago today, ‘was galvanised at all times by political and feminist debate’, according to her biographer Leeann Lane. However, she was never a lead player, as it were, more of a stage extra. Indeed, she may well have vanished in the historical memory but for the fact that she kept a diary, faithfully, throughout her life, filling over 170 notebooks. She recorded not only her own politically-motivated activities but details of most of the main controversies and movements in Irish politics and culture during the first half of the 20th century. So much so, in fact, that the diaries - which remain unpublished - have been called ‘one of the most valuable and intriguing sources for historians of twentieth-century Ireland’.

Jacob was born on 13 October 1888 in Waterford, Ireland. Her parents had been part of the Quaker community but were more interested in nationalist and humanitarian ideas than religious ones. She had an older brother, Tom, and a first born sister, though she died aged 5. Rosamond attended various schools though, because she was a sickly child, she was also home taught at times. She grew up in a domestic atmosphere of constant social and political discussion and argument, to the point where, Lane says, ‘debate became Jacob’s default means of engaging with her peers, a trait that was to remain with her throughout her life and which was to cause her to be considered awkward and querulous even by many of those who knew her well’. She left school at 16, though continued to educate herself on Irish history and Irish language through membership of the Gaelic league.

Jacob was a follower of many of the key political and cultural campaigns of early twentieth-century Ireland including the turn of the century language revival, Sinn Fein, from 1905 and the organisations of the revolutionary period including Cumann na mBan. There seem to be few details about her life readily available online, though it is known that she re-engaged to some extent with the Quaker community in Waterford, and in 1912 was secretary to the Friends Literary Society Committee. Her and her family’s involvement in the nationalist and suffrage movements meant she was acquainted with many leading figures in both movements. In 1919, she moved to Dublin where she managed to get a first novel published - Callaghan (under a pseudonym); two or three other novels would follow much later in her life. She also embarked on a long-term affair with fellow republican Frank Ryan.

Jacob opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and was especially involved in left-wing and republican organisations in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1931 she travelled to Russia as a delegate of the Irish Friends of Soviet Russia; and she was involved in the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom. In the 1930s, she played a leading role in the political campaign to secure Ryan’s freedom from Nationalist Spain, and subsequently worked to defend his reputation after news of his death in Nazi Germany became known. From 1950, she shared a house with her friend Lucy Kingston. She died in 1960. Some further information can be gleaned from Wikipedia or the Waterford County Museum website. Queen’s University, Belfast, has information on Jacob’s relationship with Ryan.

Jacob was a committed diarist, and kept a diary her whole life long from 1897 to 1960. The Rosamond Jacobs collection at the National Library of Ireland holds 170 of her ordinary notebooks (as well as a few others). The University of Limerick’s Inventing and Reinventing the Irish Woman website has a useful introduction to the diaries, written by Dr Clara Cullen of University College Dublin, as well as a few extracts (indeed, the extracts below are taken from this document).

The diaries also feature heavily in a substantial biography of Jacob - Rosamond Jacob: Third Person Singular 
(University College Dublin Press, 2010) - by Dr Leeann Lane, head of Irish Studies at Dublin City University. Some pages from the introduction can be read freely at Amazon. In the introduction, Lane describes Jacob as always a follower never a leader, and goes along with the idea that her diaries are important enough to be preserved but not important enough to be duplicated and publicly disseminated (i. e. published). Nevertheless, Lane explains there is great merit in studying her life, and thus in re-exploring the diaries. She says: 

‘The ease with which the diary has been divorced from its writer and allowed to stand apart as a text providing colour and context for work on the revolutionary period and the years of internecine strife and bitterness after 1922 has much to do with Jacob’s lack of the apparent exceptionality which merits biographical or critical study. Unlike most subjects of Irish biography Jacob was not a prominent figure in Irish history, rather she was a fringe activist. Her fictional writings, although interesting to an historian, have limited aesthetic value. Jacob was in many cases a crowd member rather than a leader in the campaigns in which she participated - the turn of the century language revival, the suffrage campaign, the campaigns of the revolutionary period. She adopted an anti-Treaty stance in the 1920s moving towards a fringe involvement in the activities of socialist republicanism in the early 1930s while continuing to vote Fianna Fail. Her commitment to feminist concerns was life long but at no point did she take or was capable of a leadership role. However, it was Jacob’s failure to carve out a strong place in history as an activist which makes her interesting as a subject for biography. Her ‘ordinariness’ offers an alternative lens on the biographical project. By failing to marry, by her inability to find meaningful paid work, by her countless refusals from publishers, by the limited sales of what work was published, Jacob offers a key into lives more ordinary within the urban middle classes of her time, and suggests a new perspective on female lives. Jacob’s life, galvanised at all times by political and feminist debate, offers a means of exploring how the central issues which shaped Irish politics and society in the first half of the twentieth century were experienced and digested by those outside the leadership cadre. The history of the independence struggle and its aftermath is as much the history of men and women such as Jacob as it is of de Valera and Frank Ryan.’

In a review of Lane’s book, The English Historical Review (Issue 525, 1 April 2012) says Jacob’s diaries ‘constitute one of the most valuable and intriguing sources for historians of twentieth-century Ireland as they offer insights into key political and cultural shifts and movements. They are also a wonderful read.’ In another review, however, The Irish Times, finds the diaries too full of self pity: ‘The woman in the book can seem tiresome, whereas she is fondly remembered by her many friends.’

29 June 1922
‘Plenty of firing, big guns and all. The republicans had the pub at the corner of Aungier St, and there was firing there on and off for the next two days. They used to fire at lorries, and the FS troops took Jacobs. And some other place near, and fired at them until they finally left the place on Sunday evening.

I was busy at the At Home at Mrs Despards.’

30 June 1922
‘I went to Suffolk St to ask if there was anything I could do. D. Macardle was there. She told me there was a Red Cross place over in Gloucester St, so I went there, where the republicans were in the hotels with the windows full of sandbags, and found a Trade Union place called Tara hall, full of girls making bandages. They showed me how, and I worked there till dinner time. Two wounded civilians were brought in to be attended to in the next room; one was a man who seemed to think he was pretty bad and required a lot of shirts. There was a lot of firing in the streets and a tremendous explosion once that broke the glass in one window. Some of the girls were the C. Na mB. type that loved the whole thing in a horrible way.

After dinner I knocked against Mme. McB. [Maud Gonne McBride] in the street and found she was trying to get some women together to go to both sides’ leaders and talk sense to them - so I brought her to the IIL committee at 122A and she raked us all (except Mrs Richardson) over to the Mansion House to see what the Lord Mayor was doing. He said the Four Courts surrender had altered things and there was no knowing more till the next day nor wouldn’t be much fighting till the next day, and we had better come back in the morning. So we went home and Madame started to search the hospitals for Sean. She was only just home from Paris (where she had gone on a mission for the provisional government) that morning.’

1 July 1922
‘We met at the Mansion Hs. in the morning [. . .]. The mayor and the archbishop were going to the republican leaders then, to represent their share in the general damage and cruelty and see what conditions they wd agree to a truce.

Then, the more or less F.S. women, [. . .] went to interview the government, and came back reporting as follows - They spoke of the sufferings of the people and need for peace and got the usual sort of answers from Griffith, Collins and Cosgrave. Cosgrave seemed anxious for the Dail to meet and said it cd be summoned for Tuesday but Griffith nudged him to make him shut up. Miss B. and Mme. McB. asked wd they let the R.s evacuate without giving up arms - Griffith said no, they must give up their arms. Mme McBride said that they certainly would not do, and that it wd be better to let them go with their arms than to shell the city. They were firm on this (tho Collins said he didn’t know why the R.s didn’t go home with their arms now, as there seemed nothing to stop them) and Griffith said the lives of all the ministers were in the greatest danger.
The deputation (W.W. and A.F. anyhow) seemed rather favourably impressed by the 3. The mayor and the archbishop went to the government later, and were told much the same, only they seemed more resolute against calling the Dail then. It didn’t seem much use sending a deputation to the R.s, but Miss Bennett said it wd be very unfair not to - shd at least show them there were some R. women who wanted peace, and not put all the burden of guilt on the government [. . .]. We were taken in a motor ambulance to the back of the Hammam hotel, and let into a kind of back, outhouse place full of men and petrol tins and bicycles and step ladders and boxes and general impedimenta. Doctors and nurses and soldier and messengers went in and out all the time. The men were mostly not in uniform, they all had big revolvers in leather cases and military belts. Some looked dead tired, and all of course were untidy and unshaved, but all seemed in good humour. Most were young, but not all. After waiting a while, Oscar Traynor, then commanding in Dublin, was fetched to us, and Hanna and Miss B. tackled him. He was in a sort of semi-military dark suit, with a revolver in a belt, and the Sacred Heart badge in his button-hole. He is quite young, tall and slim, with the same type of long refined thoughtful refined face as De Valera, though much better looking.

He represented their position as purely defensive, said they were not the aggressors. “we’re digging ourselves in here, and if they attack us we’ll defend ourselves”. He said they wd be willing to evacuate but not to surrender arms of course, and I think he said they had made the offer to the other side (whom he spoke of as “these people”). Asked wd they suspend hostilities if the Dail met early this week, he said that was for O’Connor and Mellowes to say, but probably they wd if the other side wd observe the truce. Informed of what Collins had said (that they were fools not to melt away with their arms now) he said they could put no faith in what anything Collins said. His attitude of utter disbelief in the faith of “these people” was depressing, being so exactly what the other side would say about them. Mrs J. and I took no share in the talk. I went for the interest of the thing and had nothing to say of my own; and he looked so tired and worn that I didn’t want to lengthen the conversation anyhow. His eyes looked dead sleepy, he could hardly keep them open. He was very nice in his manner - quiet and civil and friendly. He spoke as if they meant to do nothing aggressive, and not as if the affair was any sort of fun to him. We were all favourably struck with him, and impressed with his talk just as the other deputation were with Collins, Griffith and Cosgrave.’

12 July 1922
‘Went to peace meeting at the Round Room - great crowds of women, but none of them apparently keen on peace. [. . .] Miss O’Connor and I went out to try and quieten a couple of shouting F.S. women in the hall, who had, God knows how, got the idea that all the platform were republican. Mrs D. was very good, about the folly and uselessness of war . . . Some fool in the hall wanted to put the cause of peace under the protection of the queen of heaven, and made them all start singing a hymn to her, which Miss Bennett received awfully well, but the end was a confused scene of uproar all the same.’

Sunday, October 7, 2018

We had great fun

‘We had great fun. C. gave me a beautiful set of Barrie’s works for a birthday present. It is sweet of him, he was so keen about it, & it gives him such pleasure to give anyone a present. I was very touched. We hated leaving each other. C. said he might have been going to the war, judging from the parting we had.’ This is Frances Stevenson, born 130 years ago today, writing in her diary about the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George, soon to become prime minister. They were already illicit lovers, and would remain so until, eventually, after the death of his wife, they married. However, from very early on, Stevenson played a much larger role than just mistress in Lloyd George’s life.

Stevenson was born on 7 October 1888 in London, and was educated at Clapham High School and Royal Holloway College. After being employed as a teacher at a boarding school in Wimbledon, she went to work, in 1911, for David Lloyd George, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to coach his youngest daughter Megan. By 1913, however, she had become Lloyd George’s personal secretary, and his secret lover (Lloyd George having been married to Margaret Owen since 1888, with five children). In 1915, she fell pregnant by him, though she lost the baby, possibly through an abortion. Over time, she became a considerable power in the Lloyd George household. She was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1918, and the following year she accompanied Lloyd George to the Paris Peace Conference. She was responsible for organising the building of Lloyd George’s country home at Churt in Surrey.

In 1929, Stevenson gave birth to a daughter, Jennifer, though it is unknown whether Llolyd George was the father, or Thomas Frederic Tweed, with whom she was also having an affair. During the 1930s, she organised Lloyd George’s extensive archive which was necessary for the drafting of his war memoirs. After Margaret’s death, Lloyd George married Frances, but he lived only another 18 months. Thereafter, Frances - now titled Dowager Countess Lloyd-George of Dwyfor - continued to live at Churt and became involved in an array of projects aimed at perpetuating her late husband’s name and memory. She died in 1972. Further information is available from Wikipedia, a scandal-rich article in the Daily Mail, or the BBC.  Several biographies can be previewed at Googlebooks, for example If Love Were All by John Campbell and Frances, Countess Lloyd George: More Than a Mistress by her granddaughter Ruth Longford.

In the last years of her life, Lady Lloyd-George published two books: a memoir, Years That Are Past, and extracts from her diary, as edited by the eminent historian A.J.P. Taylor: Lloyd George: A Diary (Hutchinson and Co., 1971). She seems to have kept a diary from 1914 to 1944, though in the latter years the entries are far thinner than during Lloyd George’s politically active years. A few quotations from the diaries can be found at WikiQuotes. According to J. Graham Jones, writing for Cercles in 2011, Stevenson’s diaries were ‘heavily quarried’ for Lloyd George’s war memoirs ‘as a contemporary record of chronology, events and impressions’. (However, as far as I can tell, she and her diaries are barely mentioned in the six volumes - certainly never acknowledged as a source!)

Taylor, in his preface to the edited diaries, describes how he came to find the diary in the Beaverbrook Library, and how/why some parts of it may have been lost. He explains that, although the diary starts off as mainly a personal document, for a year two, ‘it is predominantly a political record in which Lloyd George bulks larger than events’. He calls the diary ‘a unique document - a claim often made but rarely with as much justification as in this case’ for ‘where else have we the detailed picture of a British prime minister by one who was at once his devoted mistress and his confidential secretary?’

See also other diarists who wrote about Lloyd George: Maurice Hankey (Dreadful meetings) and George Riddell (Riddell and Lloyd George). Meanwhile, here are several extracts from Stevenson’s diary taken from A.J.P. Taylor’s book (
both ‘C’ and ‘D’ refer to Lloyd George).

21 September 1914
‘Last Saturday was the Chancellor’s great speech on the War, at the Queen’s Hall. There is no doubt that it was a tremendous success, but C. was very depressed after it. He said the audience made him sick - they were far too stodgy and “comfortable” - “you had to talk your way through layers of fat”. He thought the meeting had not been a success, but the newspapers on Sunday put his mind at rest - most enthusiastic. They were loud in their praises this morning. Tory papers loudest of all. He laughed at the exuberance of The Times. “These people become almost sickly,” he remarked, “when one happens to fall in with their ideas.” Many people say it is the finest effort of his career. Masterman on Sunday [20 September] pronounced it “the finest speech in the history of England”.

C.’s colleagues in the Cabinet help to reassure him as to success of speech. The Prime Minister said with tears in his eyes that it was “a wonderful speech”. Sir Edward Grey said he wept when he read the peroration. C. is satisfied, but very tired.’

9 October 1914
‘Returned to the Office on October 7th, my birthday. On Tuesday C. turned in to see me, and we had a long chat together. He looked tired & worried at first, and I found that passing through Clapham had depressed him, calling up sad memories of Mair. He avoids Clapham as much as possible. He told me that Antwerp was in a bad way. The Govt, had that day decided to send some 20,000 men over to Ostend, in order to march on Antwerp and relieve it. They discovered however that the Admiralty had mined the sea right up to Ostend, making a landing impossible. The difficulty was to be overcome by sending a pilot ship with the troopships, & landing south of Ostend. The pilot ship to be supplied by the Admiralty. Some time after troops had started, it was discovered that the pilot ship had been forgotten, & that our troops were therefore in imminent danger of being blown up by our own mines. A torpedo-boat was therefore dispatched at full speed to recall troopships. This was done, & ships eventually re-started safely with pilot, but only after some hours delay. I fear they will not be able to save Antwerp. I cannot sleep for thinking of the horrible tortures that Belgium is undergoing.

On Wednesday C. went to Committee of Imperial Defence. It seems that Kitchener fears an attempted invasion as soon as the two armies are ‘stalemate’ in France. Both the P.M. and C. are convinced that this could not be successfully attempted.

C. & I had a very primitive dinner together at No. 11 (which is under repair) before C. departed for W.H.

Yesterday (Thursday) we dined again in the same primitive way. He was to have dined with Donald & friends, but decided to go straight to theatre instead. We had great fun. C. gave me a beautiful set of Barrie’s works for a birthday present. It is sweet of him, he was so keen about it, & it gives him such pleasure to give anyone a present. I was very touched. We hated leaving each other. C. said he might have been going to the war, judging from the parting we had.

Have not seen much of him today as he has been very busy in Board Room, with occasional flying visits in here. He has left for weekend at W.H. His last words. “Same address. ‘Virtuous’ - Walton Heath.”

Winston has returned from Antwerp, admitting failure, and blaming Kitchener & War Office for lack of foresight.’

13 April 1915 (Walton Heath)
‘Returned from Brighton this morning, & came on here this evening. Am waiting for C., who will not be here till late, as he has a dinner. He wrote me that his scheme for Drink was progressing, but that it would be a hard fight, & I am anxious to hear all about it from his own lips.

I had Muriel’s company for the weekend, as I got terribly lonely. But it was much brighter after she arrived, & we had a good time together. She was very frightened on Sunday [11 April] by the appearance of an airship, which we both thought was a Zeppelin, but as it went away without doing any damage we concluded we were mistaken.’

3 August 1916
‘Had a most exciting night. D. rang up about one o’clock, saying I had better go down to the cellar, as there was going to be an air raid on London. I asked him if he were going down too: he said yes. I put on some clothes & went out to see if there were anything to be seen, then sat & watched at the window for sometime on the chance of anything happening. About 2 D. rang up again to say it was all right, & I could go back to bed. “Where have you been?” I asked. “On the roof”, he replied, “but there was nothing to be seen!” ’

12 April 1917
‘D. made a magnificent speech at the American Luncheon Club. I heard the speeches tucked away behind a screen on the orchestra platform, with some of the wives of the American members. It was a great meeting, & they were most enthusiastic. I fear however that he will get another little note from the King on the undignified tone in which he spoke of “kings & their tricks!” After the speech D. & I drove down to Windsor as D. had to see H.M. about the Emperor of Austria’s letter. I had tea in the town while D. was at the Castle & then we drove back again together to Walton Heath. We were very happy. D. was in excellent spirits & very pleased with his speech.’

8 March 1919
‘Churchill arrived late last night from London, & breakfasted with the P.M. this morning. Full of his speech in the House on the Military Service Bill. He certainly does not lack self-confidence - in fact if he had a little less he might think a little more before he acts & speaks. One cannot help being fascinated by him, although I cannot bring myself to like him.’

19 April 1919
‘We intended to go for a tour round the devastated areas, starting this afternoon & spending the night at Amiens, & returning to Paris tomorrow night. At lunch time, however, D. returned & said it would be impossible as there would have to be a meeting this afternoon & tomorrow morning. Very disappointed, but still, ‘duty first’. Perhaps we shall be able to go for a short run tomorrow.

D. very tired after a heavy day & we dined very quietly & went to bed early. The Italian claims are giving a certain amount of trouble, the Italians being very obstinate. It is a difficult position, as we must stand by them & the Pact of London, though D. says they are making a mistake in pressing it. They on the other hand say that Germany promised them more than this if they remained neutral, & Orlando naturally feels that he cannot go back to Italy empty handed.’

27 November 1934
‘Had a marvellous morning hunting for holly with D. in the woods behind Old Bam. It was a divinely beautiful day, the little mauve clouds in a sunny blue sky reminding one of early spring rather than late November. But the woods were autumnal, the larches dropping gold from their boughs, the birches looking more ethereal than ever in their slender bareness, the hollies almost vulgar in their wealth of red berries. D. knew exactly where to seek for the holly treasure: he seemed to have marked down at some time or other every holly tree on the estate, & made for them unerringly. It is the same instinct which made him when a boy mark down wild cherry trees in the woods at Llanystumdwy, or a fern in the river bank, & then come back to it again & again & watch & note its progress. I think these rambles through the woods for a definite treasure take him back to his childhood: in fact, he is the boy D. again, with all the eagerness and enjoyment of boyhood.

This afternoon he went through the speech with me that he intends to make in the House of Commons tomorrow, on defence. He is very nervous. He says it is a speech which will please neither one side nor the other, but I think it is a very good one. It all depends on his mood & how he will deliver it. He has not been feeling very well the last day or two.’

24 May 1944
‘D. decided on Wednesday [today] to go to hear Winston’s speech, and we are both glad, for the House gave him (D.) a touching welcome. I wonder if they realise how near it may be to his last appearances. Winston, whom we met in the corridor afterwards, was nice to us both. D. was rather inclined to be critical of the Government’s policy, but I thought Winston very patient & I finally managed to turn the conversation to his pictures: we parted very happily. It was a perfect spring day, but as we drove through the smiling countryside there was a heavy sadness in my heart.’

The Diary Junction

Friday, October 5, 2018

What happened to Mary

‘Today I had to save some one from committing suicide by jumping from the top of the Woolworth Building, forty-third floor (in “Dolly of the Dailies” No. 6). It makes one very squeamish to go up in those flying elevators; my heart turned several flip-flops.’ This is from a diary kept by Mary Fuller, born 130 years ago today, and published at the time by a celebrity film magazine. Although she was a contemporary of Mary Pickford, and as famous for a few years, Mary Fuller is barely remembered today. She disappeared, almost overnight, before she was 30, and almost nothing is known about the rest of her life. Intriguingly, though, the diary entries, from the height of her fame, reveal that she must have visited London at some point, for she fondly remembers the Cheshire Cheese [a London pub on Fleet Street]!

Mary Fuller was born in Washington D.C. on 5 October 1888 to a prosperous lawyer and his wife. She was brought up with two sisters on a farm, but her father died in 1902. As a child she is said to have been interested in music, writing and art, and she liked to act in local amateur productions. In 1905, The Washington Post noted her work with The Thespians, a well-regarded amateur company of players, and by the age of 18 she was working as a stage actress. In 1907, she was performing with a troupe on tour when, during a short stopover in New York City, the company broke up. She was soon taken on by the Vitagraph Studios in Brooklyn, where she acted in one-reel films. In 1910, she was hired by Edison Film Company (controlled by Thomas Edison), and appeared in the first ever film adaptation of Frankenstein, as well as the first ever serial, What Happened to Mary?.

Fuller starred in many melodramas, and by 1914 she was as famous as (the now much better remembered) Mary Pickford. She also wrote screenplays, seeing at least eight of them turned into films. That same year, she moved to work for Carl Laemmle’s Universal Studios which had begun focussing is operation on the west coast, in the Hollywood area. She made more than 50 films for Universal before moving to Famous Players Fiction Studios (established in Hollywood in 1915, later to become Paramount), but only made one film there. In 1918, Mary Fuller simply disappeared, vanished more or less without trace, prompting many a journalist to use the headline: What Happened to Mary?. Some online bios mention her having made a lot of money on stock market investments, others that she suffered a broken heart and mental breakdown. A journalist found her in 1924, living in Washington D.C., with her mother, and reported that she had tired of the hard work involved in making pictures, and was living comfortably off the money she had invested.

Nothing more is known of Fuller’s life thereafter, except that she seems to have suffered chronically from further mental illness, and was confined to a hospital for decades. She died in Washington D.C. in 1973, and was buried in an unmarked grave. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, IMDB, and in several posts on Gene Zonarich’s blog about the early film industry - 11 East 14th Street (Mary Fuller I, Mary Fuller II, The Two Marys).

During the mid-1910s, Mary Fuller was a huge celebrity, and thus regularly featured in the film magazines, such as Photoplay and Motion Picture Magazine, many of which can be readily accessed at Internet Archive. Indeed, Photoplay was so interested in her private life that it managed to get hold of one of her diaries - but refused to acknowledge how - and serialised several pages of extracts over two issues. Here is the magazine introducing the diary extracts: ‘It was a small green volume of limp leather, gilt-edged. On the front was a dancing elf and a spray of jasmine. It looked as if it might contain poems of spring spirit. And it did. How it came into our possession is not for publication. In self-defense, however, let it be stated that it was not stolen, and that the extracts made therefrom can do the great Edison leading woman no harm. In fact, those who read the following excerpts cannot fail to think more highly of the person who thus unconsciously unfolded the inner workings of her mind, because they reveal a mind of unusual intelligence and an insight into things that would do credit to a philosopher of riper years. The following extracts are copied verbatim, all names being omitted.’

And here are several of those extracts, some taken from Motion Picture Magazine (July 1914) and some from Motion Picture Magazine (August 1914).

17 March 1914
‘I have so many photoplays written and lying in my trunk, with no chance of producing them. I wonder if I will ever have an opportunity to put on all the things I visualize in my daydreams. To pioneer with one's original ideas must be very soul-satisfying. I also wish I could fall into the habit of going to bed early.’

18 March 1914
‘Tho spring is here. I decided to hang up some New Year’s resolutions, so I jotted down six. Three of them are here; the others are too personal to set down: 1. Do the best you can, and after that dont worry. 2. Seek and accept only the best, the highest; shun all else. 3. Make keen, select judgments and stick to them.’

19 March 1914
‘Received another letter from the little girl In Boston today. She recalled the Boston trip to my mind. I remember it was on February 16th - we worked all day and all night up to 8 o’clock Tuesday morning on “A Princess of the Desert.” (I dont know what it will look like, having been taken in twenty-four consecutive hours, and how I will look in it after a session like that.) Well, after stopping work at 8 a.m. that Tuesday morning, I went home, bathed, breakfasted, packed my bag, and our party left for Boston on the Knickerbocker Limited to attend the Exhibitors’ Ball that night. We arrived late, dined, dressed and departed in taxis for the ball, which I was to lead with the president of the Exhibitors’ League. Tho I had had no sleep since Sunday night, I was as lively as a cricket, and the applauding crowd intoxicated me. All of the photoplayers were introduced singly on the stage and loudly acclaimed. Supper in an anteroom and flashlight photos for the morning papers, and then I escaped still alive and very much awake. The rest of the week we took scenes in Boston streets for a picture, and I visited all the theaters and supped at the Touraine. Our party left on Saturday, after a very delightful stay.’

20 March 1914
‘___phoned today and thanked me for the gifts. Last week was her birthday. As I wasn’t working in the morning of that particular day, I looked over my mail, and then rushed for the train. Went down to her rooms, took some spring flowers and arranged them in a vase on the table, put a new silk waist on the dresser with a note and prepared a nice birthday surprise. Then I came uptown and left the things to be discovered by her when she came home in the evening. I like doing things that will please other people.’

21 March 1914
‘Rummaging in my trunk this evening, among faded love-letters and erstwhile emblems I found two of my baby photos. What a queer pollywog I was! but as they say homely children make handsome grown-ups, there is hope for me yet.’

22 March 1914
‘I worked this Sunday morning at the studio, and then flew to my beloved Philharmonic concert. I arrived in good time, and, taking my accustomed seat in the back, I opened the lettuce and mayonnaise sandwich and proceeded to lunch. The usher looked at me doubtfully every time he passed thru the radius of mayonnaise smell, but the quick demolition of the sandwich and my cheerful abstraction disarmed him. The concert had started, and I was absorbing the beauties of Grieg, when “Raven Locks” passed down the aisle. Being in working clothes, I hid down under my hat, hoping to pass unnoticed, but how can a personality of eloquent silence hope to get by unobserved? Just as I thought I was safe, he turned directly and bowed. During the intermission he came back, and we had a nice chat. “You dont need to be dressed up to enjoy music,” he said, and I agreed with him. He is the sort of quiet, poetic personality that I like. One does not meet them often. The program was very good, tho I cannot enthuse over the new Dvorak symphony; I have heard it several times, and it hasn’t registered yet.’

23 March 1914
‘I did battle with the dressmaker and tailor today. Dressmakers have whims of their own which cannot be dislodged, just as the genus “chauffeur” always goes down the street you dont wish to go down. Sweet perversities that come from heaven to test our patience and make us stronger! The dressmaker’s art is necessary, and no lovely thing can be born save with much travail.’

24 March 1914
‘Took some “Dolly” stuff on lower Broadway and dont say “Some crowd!” A million can collect in a minute down there when the camera is produced. It takes some manoevering to steal the scenes. We lunched at the Old Chop House, which is reminiscent of the Cheshire Cheese in London. I wonder if my signature and accompanying drawing is still in the visitors’ book at the Cheese. Dear old Cheese, the service is so bad there - and the ventilation.’

25 March 1914
‘Today I had to save some one from committing suicide by jumping from the top of the Woolworth Building, forty-third floor (in “Dolly of the Dailies” No. 6). It makes one very squeamish to go up in those flying elevators; my heart turned several flip-flops. The view of New York and the channel is superb from the balcony, and I hope we filmed some of that lovely “distance” as fast of porridge, two eggs, milk, toast and jelly, I hurried down to work. My studio frowned down on me with a 9.45 a.m. look. Dear studio - a part of my warm life!’

31 March 1914
‘Owing to the wreckage in the studio, we worked at the old Biograph on Fourteenth Street today. It is a small place, but rather homelike, and one’s forces seem more concentrated - the way I prefer to work. The rooms, not having been used for some time, smelled dank and musty, and all the ghosts of former Biograph days came and leaned over my shoulder and told me interesting things as I sat in the dressing-room waiting for my cue. It was like conquering Time to go back and live with the spirits of the past. Lovely ___ was there in the springtime of youth; and ___ in his poetic beauty, as he appeared in “The Oath and the Man”; and tall ___, recalling the first time I saw him on the screen, in satin coat and buckled shoes, blessing a child at a church corner, in the snow; and ___ like a lily fair; and the keen-eyed one whom ___. So many interesting shadows, I was sorry to leave them at 11 p.m., when our work was finished and we started for home.’

4 April 1914
‘I had a delicious time today going to three theaters, dining at my Mexican restaurant on tamales and hot dishes, and driving in the limousine. Going down Fifth Avenue, a newsboy urchin jumped up on the running-board and thrust his head in the window. He treated me to an unconvincing line of begging and ended by saying, “I’ll say a prayer for you. lady, if you help me out.” I helped him out, but I dont think I have need of prayers so much that Fate should send so ill a messenger to offer them. Saw ___ in a feature picture today. He is one of the film actors that I like. It was the first time I had seen him, either on the screen or in person. I suppose I should see more pictures, but there are so many other things that claim my attention first.’

6 April 1914
‘They blew me up with a Black Hand bomb today, doing “Dolly of the Dailies” (No. 7). The charge of dynamite was very heavy. The shack was wrecked, my clothes were torn and blackened, and blood ran from a scalp wound. It was exciting. I hope my “fans” will like it.’

7 April 1914
‘We finished Frederick the Great today. In one of the platform scenes I wore the black velvet Watteau hat trimmed with lilies that I sat up making late last night. It turned out a great success. I hope they dont cut that scene out.’