Tuesday, April 30, 2019

So sinful as a man

‘A fierce struggle in my breast between love and my artistic dreams is about to be proclaimed. Should I stay permanently in New York with Edyth and become an American? If so, when will I able to visit Paris, for which I have longed all these months and years? Recalling the sadness of Tannhäuser who, sated with the love of a voluptuous goddess, attempted to escape from her grotto, I despondently looked at her as she slept. Ah, nothing is so sinful as a man!’ This is from a youthful diary kept by Nagai Kafū, one of Japan’s great early 20th century writers. He was living in the United States at the time, where he fell in love with Edyth, a prostitute. Later on, back in Tokyo, he would marry a geisha, albeit for a brief period. He died 60 years ago today, and is largely remembered for novels which, while often telling of the painful transition from traditional to modern cultures, often feature characters from the city’s entertainment districts.

Nagai Sokichi, who later took on the pen name of Kafū, was born into a wealthy family in Tokyo in 1879. His father was a scholar, poet and businessman, and his mother was a musician. As a child, Kafū was sent to live with his mother’s family for several years, but he returned home in 1886 when starting elementary school. From 1891, he attended an English-language school. In 1897 he failed to pass the university entrance exams, and went with his mother and brothers to join his father in Shanghai. On returning to Tokyo, he began writing short stories, studied with a Kabuki playwright, and worked briefly as a newspaper reporter. In 1902-1903, he published three novels which brought him some success.

However, in 1903 Kafū’s father insisted he travel to the United States to study banking. He started in Tacoma, Washington, enrolled for a while in Michigan’s Kalamazoo College and then worked for a Japanese bank in New York City and in Lyon, France. He visited Paris and London before returning to Tokyo in 1908. Once there, he soon began publishing prolifically, plays and stories, some about his travels (such as in Amerika Monogatari) and some about traditional Japanese culture. During the 1910s, he served as professor of French literature at Keio University; he also launched various literary journals.

During this period, Kafū’s was briefly married twice - to Yone, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and to Yaeji, a geisha - though each marriage faltered quickly because of Kafū’s infidelity. He resigned his academic position in 1916 to focus exclusively on his literary work. Udekurabe, published in 1918 and translated as Geisha in Rivalry, was notable for its unromantic descriptions of a geisha’s life. Thereafter, he published little. Bokuto kidan, from 1937 (translated as A Strange Tale from East of the River), is considered his late masterpiece and tells of a writer who has an affair with a prostitute. Having refused to help the war effort, he was prohibited from publishing during the years of the Second World War, but continued once it was over. He died on 30 April 1959.

Encyclopedia.com has this assessment: ‘Kafū’s writing brings an unusual blend of Western and traditional concerns to the Japanese literary tradition; the individualistic spirit of America, for example, informs his books even as traditional Japanese culture acts as their protagonist. His work thus tells the story of the painful transition from traditional cultures, when the beautiful old arts are lost and no invigorating spirit is won.’ Further information is also available at Wikipedia and The Japan Times (which said in 2009, ‘among the major Japanese writers of the early 20th century, [
Kafū] scarcely ranks as a survivor.’

Kafū kept diaries throughout his life, starting when he was abroad in the United States - indeed he is often referred to as a ‘diarist’. Several tomes of these diaries have been published, but they haven’t, as far as I know, been translated into English. However, Donald Keene’s 1999 work, Modern Japanese Diaries (Columbia University Press) contains a chapter on Kafū including translated extracts. According to Keene, there are three published works of 
Kafū’s diaries: Seiyū Nisshi Shō  (Selections from the Diary of a Journey to the West); Kafū’s Shinkichōsha Nikki (Diary of One Recently Returned to His Country), published in 1909; and Danchōtei Nichijō (selections from his diaries between 1917 and 1959). 

Keene explains that the second of these ‘is unquestionably a work of fiction cast in the diary form’ even if ‘the opinions expressed by the diarist so closely reflect Kafū’s at this time that the work can be read as a diary, at least in the sense that we read the diaries of the Heian court ladies or Bashō’s Narrow Road of Oku.’ Of the third diary, Keene says it is extremely detailed: Kafū ‘traces, day-by-day, the changes in the world around him’ - but often giving the impression of bitterness.

The following extracts (all undated) are from Kafū’s first published diary (written while in the US) as found in Keene’s book.

‘Perhaps it is because I am now living abroad that of late I have somehow found it hard to stop thinking about the special flavor of the old writings, so rich in artistic effect. I take from my suitcase such works as The Tale of the Heike and A Tale of Flowering Fortunes and read them at night by the fire.’

‘The newspapers and magazines I have been sent from Japan all report the death of Saitō Ryokuu. As I read the accounts I felt a sadness that was definitely not that of a total stranger - sadness that Ryokuu’s life had been a tragedy created by his own character. Ah, I thought, the last man to delight in the Edo pleasure quarters as a connoisseur of their charms had in the end been unable to survive the struggle for existence of twentieth-century society.’

‘I have always loved southern ways, and that is why I wanted to go south, following the flow of the Mississippi River. I planned to enter Louisiana University. When I heard that even now there are many French people living there, and that they use the French language in their daily conversations, I was extremely eager to go, but people warned me not to. saying the climate was unhealthy. I had no choice but to head north instead.’

‘The dream of a beautiful, fragrant, fan-shaped city [Kalamazoo, Michigan], has at last faded from my heart, and I have come to enjoy instead a snowbound life of absolute tranquillity.’

‘Ah, nothing can be agreed on between my father and myself. Why should I, who have grown accustomed to failure and disappointment, be surprised or lament at this late date? Sooner or later I shall leave Washington and hide myself in some alley in New York, never to return to Japan again.’

‘I suggested we [he and Edyth] go into the park. As we walked along a deserted path, the moonlight filtering through treetops that had begun to lose their leaves was misted over. There was no wind that night, and the strong fragrance of the cosmetics she wore made me think I was in a garden where roses bloomed on a spring night. When presently I informed her that I would be leaving the city and going to New York, she said nothing tor a while, but merely kicked angrily and noisily with the point of her narrow shoes at the leaves that had fallen and accumulated. Suddenly she threw her arms around me and, embracing me tightly, said in a voice clouded with tears, “Then you must come to my place every night from tonight on. I probably won’t be able to follow you, much as I’d like to, but please come to see me every day without fail until the day we must part.” So saying, she pressed her face closely against my chest.’

‘I feel as if I have become exactly like a character in a French novel. I all but weep out of happiness and gratitude, but at the same time, when I think of how much sadder the second parting will be when, inevitably, it presently comes, it seems that the best thing would be to make a clean break now. Mulling over such thoughts keeps me from sleeping. A fierce struggle in my breast between love and my artistic dreams is about to be proclaimed. Should I stay permanently in New York with Edyth and become an American? If so, when will I able to visit Paris, for which I have longed all these months and years? Recalling the sadness of Tannhäuser who, sated with the love of a voluptuous goddess, attempted to escape from her grotto, I despondently looked at her as she slept. Ah, nothing is so sinful as a man!’

‘On the way she kissed me again and again, inside the carriage, then on the ferryboat. As the time for the train to depart approached, she threw from the train window the rose she wore at her throat, as a keepsake until we should meet again. I suddenly felt that I could not abandon her, no matter what sacrifices this might involve.’

Monday, April 22, 2019

In church, at the alehouse

‘Jane Wright, Mr. Sorrowcold’s maid, came to towne and we ware very merry togather. I accomodated her with Ale, and so we parted. I was att this time in a very fair way for pleaseing my carnell selfe, for I knew my selfe exceptable with Emm Potter, notwithstanding my love was entire to Mary Naylor in respect of my vow to her, and I was in hopes that her father countenanced me in the thinge.’ This is from the diary of Roger Lowe, a shopkeeper in the Midlands, who died all of 340 years ago this month. Experts say the diary is a ‘rare survival’ from the 17th century and records a great variety of social interaction, ‘centred on the alehouse as much as upon the religious meeting.’

Roger Lowe was born in 1642 in Leigh, Lancashire. He attended the local grammar school, and worked for the vicar of Great Budworth, Cheshire in 1657 and 1658. Subsequently, though, he was apprenticed to Hammond, a Leigh mercer, for whom he kept a general shop at Ashton-in-Makerfield, near Wigan. He became a busy member of Ashton society, dealing in a wide variety of commodities, with only occasional visits from his master for whom he made regular profits. He also acted as a scribe and notary, being paid in ale as often as in cash. From late 1665, Lowe took over charge of the shop, but found trading on his own account difficult. Before too long, he had moved to Warrington, Lancashire, where he worked for Thomas Peake for three years. In 1668, after a succession of sweethearts, he married Emma Potter, and returned to live in Ashton. There is no recorded death date for him, but it must have been in April 1679 as a post-mortem inventory of his goods was taken on 22 April that year. A brief bio can be found at the National Archives, and a slightly less brief one at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required).

Lowe is only remembered today because of a diary he kept for some years, and which survived though the centuries to be first published in the latter half of the 1800s. It is considered ‘a rare survival’, the testament of a common man in the mid 17th century, providing a primary source for information on the history of social attitudes and popular presbyterianism. ‘Its wealth of incidental detail,’ the ONDB says, ‘records a great variety of social interaction, centred on the alehouse as much as upon the religious meeting’.

The diary, which is held by Wigan Archives and Local Studies, first appeared in the Local Gleanings columns of The Manchester Courier, in 1876, and then in the antiquarian columns of The Leigh Chronicle. The following year, it was printed as a stand-alone volume, with a brief introduction and notes. More than half a century later, in 1938, it was edited by William L. Sachse and published by Longmans & Co as The Diary of Roger Lowe of Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancashire 1663-1674. This is freely available online, at the HathiTrust digital library, and which is the source of the following extracts.

10 September 1663
‘I was sent for to Banferlonge to Anne Greinsworth to write, and it was a very Rany day. This day Hamblett Ashton was att Warrington buryd, being Munday before hangd att Chester for murder. The Lord preserve us from such practices and such end. Amen.’

13 September 1663
‘Lord’s day. I went to Leigh and att noone John Bradshaw and I went into Vicars Feild and talked of former things. I was att this time very sad in spirit by reason of my selfe and seeing my father’s and mother’s grave and pondering of other deaths, for I went round about church to looke att graves of such as I knew.’

17 September 1663
‘I went to bowleing Alley and lost 12d., att which I was sore greeved, came home, and this evening I went with James Naylor to Neawton awooing Ann Barrowe. She had sent for me to come speake with her. I went to Mr. Collier’s to fetch her to us into widow Heapy’s, for there we resided. I put of my one hatt and put on another, and made also my[selfe] as if I ware John Naylor’s man and was sent to towne upon an occasion, and so had something to speake to Anne from her sister. Get her out, and she, with much requesting, promisd to come to us after supper, which shee did; desird me to meete her att Winwick, Lord’s day after.’

16 October 1663
‘I was sent for to Thomas Heyes’. I went. When I came thither it was but upon shop effaires. I sett forward to Banfer longe; there I stayd and dranke Botle Ale and Common Ale and was very merry. Set forward for home; when I was about Roger Naylor’s I went in, and Mary was angry with me [that] I had beene out of shop, for folkes had beene there enquireing for me, which angred her very sore, soe shee was troubled att me.’

13 November 1663
‘Jane Wright, Mr. Sorrowcold’s maid, came to towne and we ware very merry togather. I accomodated her with Ale, and so we parted. I was att this time in a very fair way for pleaseing my carnell selfe, for I knew my selfe exceptable with Emm Potter, notwithstanding my love was entire to Mary Naylor in respect of my vow to her, and I was in hopes that her father countenanced me in the thinge.’

15 November 1663
‘Lord’s day. It was a very rainy day day [sic] and Mr. Blakebume came not to chappell, but sent Mr. Barker to read, and I was som what troubled. Old Roger Naylor came and sate with me all aftemoone. This day was not well spent, I must confesse. The Lord humble me for it.’

23 Jun 1664
‘I went to Leigh and gave my Dame 9 li. in monys. She would have the Taylor take measure on me for a paire of Breeches, dublett, and coate, and she and I went into shop to looke out cloth, and she made me take my choice, soe we tooke two Remlents into house and she kept them in her custodie. This newes sent me joyfullie towards Ashton. It was the Lord that movd her; nay, she was so forward as she would have had the tailor left others’ worke for to have done my clothes against Sabbath day.’

12 March 1674
‘I went to Coz Robert Rosbothome to Rixham faire to seeke his mare that was stolne over night, and we mett with Mathew Cooke, who we conjecturd to be the theefe, and upon our wordes he fled and left a stolne mare, which we securd in town and was after ownd ownd [sic].’

The Diary Junction

Saturday, April 20, 2019

All change in the Balkans

‘Today Montenegro ceased to exist, [. . .] It is however a sad thing that a country should lose its independence of 300 years by the cancelling of an exsequatur to 4 or 5 consuls scattered over the world.’ This is from the diary of the eminent historian Harold William Vazeille Temperley, born 130 years ago today. As a specialist in the Balkans, he served as an adviser to the government during the First World War and its aftermath. His detailed and historically important diary of the period lay ‘slumbering’ in his family’s possession until recently when it was finally edited and published as An Historian in Peace and War.

Temperley was born on 20 April 1879 in Cambridge, the son of Ernest Temperley, a Fellow and Bursar of Queens’ College. He was educated at Sherborne School, and then at King’s College, Cambridge, where he graduated in history. In 1903, he was appointed lecturer at the University of Leeds, and two years later took up a fellowship at Peterhouse, Cambridge. The same year he published his first book, Life of Canning, which had emerged out of his early interest in 18th and 19th century British constitutional history. He married Gladys Bradford, also a historian, in 1913 (though she died tragically young in 1923) and they had one son.

By the start of the Great War, Temperley’s interests had switched to Europe and Britain’s foreign policy, and by then he had travelled extensively in Austria-Hungary and the Balkans. He volunteered for the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, but missed the Gallipoli landings because of typhoid fever. Thereafter, he served in the War Office, researching policy in the Balkans. In 1917, he published History of Serbia; and in 1919 he acted as an adviser for the British delegation to the Paris peace conference. He was also the British representative on the Albanian boundary commission, and an advisor in 1921 to Arthur Balfour at the League of Nations.

During the first half of the 1920s, Temperley edited six volumes of A History of the Peace Conference of Paris; and, in 1923, he founded The Cambridge Historical Journal. For a decade or so and with George Peabody Gooch, he worked on the long-term project to publish British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914. In 1927, he published the best-selling textbook, co-authored with A. J. Grant, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, 1789-1914. In 1929, he married his cousin Dorothy Vazeille Temperley; and in 1930 the University of Cambridge appointed him professor of modern history.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required) has this assessment of the man: ‘Temperley was a gregarious - often anarchic - figure who delighted in a keen sense of paradox in history. He was capable of great personal generosity, as well as sentimental outbursts. He was also unpredictable and prone to long abstruse feuds with libraries, archives, ministries, pupils, and colleagues. It may well be that the tense exchanges with the Foreign Office over the edition of documents deprived him of a knighthood.’ He died in 1939. Further information is also available at Wikipedia, Cambridge University, and from John D. Fair’s biography, Harold Temperley: A Scholar and Romantic in the Public Realm (available for preview at Googlebooks).

Temperley began keeping a near-daily diary in the autumn of 1916 and continued for the rest of his life. Although the manuscript documents remain in the possession of the family, Thomas Otte, professor of diplomatic history at the University of East Anglia, edited them for publication by Ashgate (now Routledge)
 in 2014 as An Historian in Peace and War: The Diaries of Harold Temperley. The publisher says: ‘As a professional historian he appreciated the significance of eyewitness accounts, and if Temperley was not at the very heart of Allied decision-making during those years, he certainly had a ringside seat. Trained to observe accurately, he recorded the concerns and confusions of wartime, conscious always of the historical significance of what he observed. As a result there are few sources that match Temperley’s diary, which presents a fascinating and unique perspective upon the politics and diplomacy of the First World War and its aftermath.’ A review of the work can be found in the Journal of Military History.

According to Otte, Temperley was in the habit of writing up impressions in diary form as early as 1900, usually in the form of travel journals while on summer visits to continental destinations, but it was only in 1916, once firmly established in the War Office that he began to keep a ‘more or less daily’ record of his activities and observations. ‘As a professional historian,’ Otte says, ‘he naturally appreciated the significance of eyewitness accounts, and it seems clear from the nature of the source that he meant eventually to publish at least parts of his diary.’ However, his early death prevented this, and later attempts by his widow, apparently, led nowhere. The diaries, in fact, lay ‘slumbering’ in a tin trunk in Temperley’s Somerset home. As a historical source, Otte concludes, the value of the diaries is ‘immense’, and ‘now take their place alongside those of J. W. Headlam-Morley and Harold Nicolson as essential sources for anyone wishing to understand the development of British foreign policy and diplomacy’ in the period.

Otte’s edition of Temperley’s diaries can be previewed at Googlebooks - the source of the following extracts. (I have reproduced the extracts more or less as published, including the editor’s many square brackets - with one exception: I have removed several instances of ‘[Lloyd George]’ leaving Temperley’s ‘LG’ as sufficient identification.)

25 January 1918
‘I heard today from Sir George Arthur, the last story of LG and Asquith. Recently, feeling his insecurity, as witness his lunch to D[avid] D[avies], [Lloyd George] asked Squith to come to 10 Downing St. ‘I’ll be damned if I do’, said Squith to the intermediary. So LG Cavendish Square. There he posed as humble almost servile. ‘I should be ready to serve under you’, said LG. ‘Neither under you, nor over, nor with you,’ said Squith. (Later this story appeared in the Bystander on the 26th.)

The conversation drifted on to Northcliffe and his hatred of the King, due largely to the fact that the King disliked and hardly ever received him. It is well-known at Court that Northcliffe is anti-King, and it is believed that LG is a Republican in principle.

The Queen told a friend of mine that she had left her emeralds not to the P[rince] of W[ales] as future King but personally. She thought thus that he might inherit them.’

22 February 1921
‘Today Montenegro ceased to exist, on receiving a report communicated by me that Gjonovic[,] the Montenegrin Republican Delegate on the Con[stitutiona]l Committee had proclaimed his adhesion to the Yugoslav union idea, despite his Republicanism, and it was also reported that all the Montenegrin (deputies), including the Communists, had taken the oath on the Constitution. France had already discontinued (30 Dec[ember]) diplomatic representation. Our rep[resentati]ve had left on 24th August.

It is however a sad thing that a country should lose its independence of 300 years by the cancelling of an exsequatur to 4 or 5 consuls scattered over the world.

This night there was a debate on the policy of the Internat[iona]l Inst[itute]. It was of no importance, but in ref[eren]ce to ‘policy’ we had some revelations of the past. Sir M[aurice] de Bunsen, who rep[resent]ed us at Vienna till the war - he contributed some senile reflections: ‘we are always told we sh[oul]d have a policy, but I am not certain that it was an advantage and that our advantage has not lain in not having one. When I went to Vienna in [1913] I don’t remember that I heard that a great war was likely. I heard a great deal about the disputes of the C[anadian] P[acific] Railway] with Austria, but nothing about the imminence of a European crisis. This was the old order, each dipl[omatlc] representative left free to his own devices - and to find out things for himself. I am not certain it was a bad one’. I am.’

15 August 1928
‘[Oslo] At the reception, King Haakon VII spoke to me - he has a gentle laugh, displaying his teeth, amiable and mild.

He talked of our publication and said that there were indiscretions in Sidney Lee’s life of Edward. I did not remind him [Haakon VII] that I had seen his indiscretion. He had tried to make his Cabinet join the with England at the beginning of the war, and this fact we omitted in vol. XI. It was not vital to the understanding of the outbreak of the war.

He said on Edward’s death he had asked that the private letters should be destroyed. He did not know whether this was done. I said I thought so, as much had certainly been destroyed.

Koht said he was going leave. I said ‘Can you, before the King?’ He said ‘Yes, if he does not see me’. Just at this point the King came up as he was leaving. He saw us and took Koht by the hand & walked out with him.

The King is said not to speak Norwegian. He has at any rate a Danish accent. He is very democratic and goes up to Holmkoben [sic] to ski in a tram.’

12 December 1916
‘Peace - in the words of the German Emperor - scraps of paper to be binding and swords to beaten into spades. A peace-offer by wireless by 4 despotic monarchs in the world, while we still fumble on the backstairs of secret diplomacy. Now I understand why several days ago LG’s private secretary [Philip Kerr] wanted me to write an article on ‘What Peace Means’. That, according to LG, is the greatest danger.’

10 September 1917
‘Returned after my second visit to Porlock and Exmoor. Applied my military knowledge to the problem of the Doones. The existence of these freebooters cannot be denied today because parish-registers (which some of the critics do not know) mention persons as having been killed by the Doones. Critics of another sort point out that the Doone valley is not a natural fortress, but is actually defenceless, because it is relatively low, and there is no true Doone gate or waterslide as in Blackmoore’s story. But this is a shallow view - a far better defence than choosing a natural fortress was to choose a secluded valley remote from roads. Now, if examined carefully the position of the Doone valley on Exmoor is unique. The modern roads may not have existed but their prototypes in track and by path did. Now Doone valley is the centre of an area of which the four corners are Brendon, Simon’s bath [sic], Exford and Porlock common, roughly about 5 miles square. In this area there is neither road nor track at all making a through-traverse from side to side of the square. There is no other such trackless waste in all Exmoor - no other place 2 miles square in which tracks do not meet. This therefore was a perfectly ideal centre for a robber band to live. Their valley could not be seen or approached from any important road or track. It was, therefore, ideal for their purposes, because they could sally out straight across country, in any direction, and the distance of 5 miles each way gave them opportunity for detecting any advance.’

13 November 1917
‘Jews. The upshot of an inquiry into Bolshevik activities seems to show that many of them are Jewish, that some of them are paid by Germany, that Lenin, though not a Jew, is so paid. But there the matter would seem to stop. The clearest case of anti-Entente Jewish interference is the Rumcherod, and Jewish agents in Roumania, who sought to corrupt Roumanian Jews, soldiers and peasants and outrageously interfered with the rights of Jews.

It is probable that the majority of Jews are anti-Entente mainly on Socialistic grounds perhaps, but certainly also because of previous maltreatment. The Jews is Entente countries, other than Russia & Roumania, have decidedly come out in favour of the Entente. Even in Poland the Jews are now anti-German instead of anti-Russian. Zionism will probably put the finishing touch to the process of winning the Jewish majority.

Italy. We certainly took away our guns from Cadorna with a curtness that was discouraging, when he declined to renew the offensive on the Isonzo. His calculations were wrong but so also were ours.’

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Diary briefs

Diary evidence in Israeli corruption claim - The Times of Israel

Jan Morris’s ‘charming’ diary - Faber & FaberVox

Kiwi potter’s diaries  - Stuff

Great Escape hero diary sold - Hansons, BBC

Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life - Penguin Random House, Amazon

Nazi diary reveals treasure hauls - Daily Mail, Curiosmos

Diary of Hae Min Lee - Heavy

A.K. Ramanujan’s diaries - Penguin India, The Hans India

Ettie’s Diary: 1910 - 1912 - Amazon

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A run-of-the-mill book

Today is the 80th anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Although it went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, and to be cited by the Swedish Academy when awarding Steinbeck the Nobel Prize, Steinbeck himself confided in his diary that he thought it ‘just a run-of-the-mill book’.

Born in 1902, the third of four children, Steinbeck grew up in Salinas, California, and studied at the local school and Stanford University. He took various jobs to support himself, but dropped out of university, and then worked on a freighter heading for the east coast. Less than a year later, he returned to California on another steamer. His first novel, Cup of Gold, was published in 1929. He moved to San Francisco, and married Carol Henning in 1930, but then he and Carol moved to his family’s cottage in Pacific Grove, about 100 miles further south.

During the Depression the couple lived largely on what they could grow or catch in the sea. Steinbeck, though, travelled around the area and wrote about what he saw. His most famous novels were written in the 1930s, novels such as Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men and, in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath - which won the Pulitzer Prize the following year.

In the early 1940s, Steinbeck divorced Henning, moved to New York, and married Gwyndolyn Conger. For a short while, he worked as a war correspondent in Europe for The Herald Tribune. Gwyndolyn and Steinbeck had two sons, Thomas and John, but were divorced in 1948. The same year he moved back to Pacific Grove, where he wrote East of Eden. In 1950, Steinbeck married his third wife, Elaine Scott, and lived in various places. In 1962, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In awarding the Nobel Prize, the Swedish Academy’s Anders Österling picked out The Grapes of Wrath for special mention: ‘. . . The way had now been paved for the great work that is principally associated with Steinbeck’s name, the epic chronicle The Grapes of Wrath. This is the story of the emigration to California which was forced upon a group of people from Oklahoma through unemployment and abuse of power. This tragic episode in the social history of the United States inspired in Steinbeck a poignant description of the experiences of one particular farmer and his family during their endless, heartbreaking journey to a new home.’

It is 80 years ago today that the book was first published by Viking Press in New York - the title page only says April 1939 (see the Pulitzer Prize First Edition Collecting Guide), but several websites refer to the specific date as 14 April 1939. The BBC, for example, published a story in 2009 which states that the book was released on that day because it was the fourth anniversary of Black Sunday, ‘when the worst dust storm in recent American history had rolled across the Great Plains blotting out the sun and later depositing airborne topsoil 1,000 miles east in Washington DC’. (First editions of the book are available, but at a price up to and over $30,000 - see Abebooks)

Thirty years ago today - i.e. on the half century anniversary of the book, Viking Press published a new edition of the ‘great work’, but also a diary that Steinbeck had kept while writing it: Working Days - The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath 1938-1941, edited by Robert DeMott. The introduction, by DeMott, can be read online at Googlebooks. And here is DeMott’s explanation for how and why the journal came to light:

‘‘The mystery of creativity was on his mind during Christmas Week 1950, when Steinbeck was sifting through the memorabilia of his past. His impending marriage to Elaine Scott was about to signal another major turn in his life. He had been married twice before - to Carol Henning (1930-1943), and to Gwyn Conger (1943-1948). The first marriage resulted in some of his most famous books; the second marriage produced two sons and much of the material for East of Eden, which he would begin writing a month after his wedding to Elaine. The third, and last, marriage promoted emotional stability, and coincided with the international spread of his fame.

One of the items Steinbeck came across in his nostalgic mood was the handwritten journal he had kept when he worked on The Grapes of Wrath. He sent it to Pat Covici at The Viking Press, with a letter that read in part: “Very many times I have been tempted to destroy this book. It is an account very personal and in many instances purposely obscure. But recently I reread it and only after all this time did the unconscious pattern emerge. It is true that this book is full of my own weaknesses, of complaints and violence. These are just as apparent as they ever were. What a complainer I am But in rereading, those became less important and the times and the little histories seemed to be more apparent. . . I had not realized that so much happened during the short period of the actual writing of The Grapes of Wrath - things that happened to me and to you and to the world. But a browsing through will refresh your memory,” Steinbeck had two requests: that the journal not be printed in his lifetime, and that it should be made available to his children, Thom (aged 6) and John (aged 4), if they should ever want to “look behind the myth and hearsay and flattery and slander a disappeared man becomes and to know to some extent what manner of man their father was.” ’

The New York Times was much impressed, although it thought Working Days was ‘less interesting as an explanation of The Grapes of Wrath’ than ‘as a portrait of a writer possessed’. Steinbeck, it noted, had ‘rather little to say about the content of his book’, rather that he felt it necessary to prove himself worthy, ‘that to do so he must not only write well but also discipline himself to work on schedule, and that somehow he was failing in both respects.’ The review concluded: ‘. . . the sense one gets from reading Working Days is of a writer in a heightened state of consciousness taking possession of a gift. . . To read the novel now along with the journal he kept with it is to be lifted ever so briefly into the presence of something inexplicable and magic.’

Here is one diary quote (thanks to The New York Times article) as he was nearing the end of writing the novel: ‘I have very grave doubts sometimes. I don’t want this to seem hurried. It must be just as slow and measured as the rest but I am sure of one thing - it isn’t the great book I had hoped it would be. It’s just a run-of-the-mill book. And the awful thing is that it is absolutely the best I can do. Now to work on it.’

Other ‘journals’ of Steinbeck have also been published - see The Diary Junction. Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters was published in 1969, a year after Steinbeck’s death. The title tries to have it both ways but, in fact, this is a series of letters, rather than a diary, addressed to Pascal Covici. Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research documents a six-week marine specimen-collecting expedition Steinbeck made in 1940 in the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez), with his friend, the marine biologist Ed Ricketts. And then there’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America which records a road trip Steinbeck took with his dog (a poodle) around the United States in 1960.

This article is a revised version of one first published 10 years ago on 14 April 2009.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Pilgrimage to Stratford

‘We went to Stratford-on-Avon. The little house where the great William was born has been so often described that I already knew every corner in it. A strong emotion, however, thrilled me, when I entered that dwelling. When I looked around, this first impression was somehow dispelled by amazement at the human egotism and stupidity which prompt the people to put their own ‘I’ everywhere. Not only the walls, the window-panes, and the ceiling are covered with the names of visitors, but even the bust of the poet is defaced with them.’ This is from some diary notes kept by Helena Modjeska, the great Polish actress who died 110 years ago today. She was known in particular for her interpretations of Shakespearan roles, in Poland, but also - and despite a Polish accent - in Britain and the US where she lived for the latter half of her life.

Jadwiga Benda was born in Kraków, Poland, in 1840 but she was later baptised as Helena Opid, being given her godfather’s surname. The details of her early life are not accurately recorded in her own biography, and remain a little shrouded in mystery. Her mother was the widow of a prosperous merchant, and her father may have been a Polish nobleman. Although she married her former guardian, Gustaw Zimajer, and they had two children together (one of whom died in infancy), she later discovered he had been married at the time of their wedding. Zimajer was an actor and provincial director who used the stage name Modrzejewski, while Helena later adopted a simpler form of the name for English-speaking audiences - Modjeska. She made her stage debut in 1861, and toured through Poland acting in provincial productions.

In 1865, Modjeska left Zimajer and, taking her son, returned to Kraków, accepting a four year contract. From 1868 she began appearing in Warsaw, where she soon became a theatre star. Also in 1868, she married a Polish nobleman Karol Bożenta Chłapowski (later known as Count Bozenta). In 1876, she and her husband (as well as a number of friends) decided to emigrate to the United States, where they bought a ranch near Anaheim in California. It was a utopian dream which soon fell apart, as they knew nothing about farming or ranching, and Modjeska returned to the theatre reprising many of the Shakespeare rolls she had performed in Poland. A theatrical agent signed her for a tour on the east coast where she made her New York debut, and she then spent three years performing abroad (and learning to speak English better), mainly in London and through Great Britain.

In 1883, Modjeska was granted American citizenship, and in the same year she produced Henrik Ibsen’s A Dolls House, the first Ibsen play to be staged in the US in the US. In the 1880s and 1890s, and despite a persistent Polish accent, she had a reputation as the leading female interpreter of Shakespeare on the American stage, and was a much-loved performer. Mostly, she directed her own troupe of actors, touring widely through the States performing not only at major city theatres but in small makeshift halls - accompanied by her personal manager, Count Bozenta. From 1888, for nearly 20 years, they lived at Arden a ranch, not far from their original home, in what is now known as Modjeska Canyon. When in 1893, Modjeska spoke out about the poor conditions of Polish women in Russian controlled parts of Poland, she was banned from travelling in Russian territory. After a stroke in 1897, she managed to return to the stage, and even to travel to Poland in 1903-1903 where she performed in her native Kraków. Back in the US, she continued touring until 1907, and died two years later on 8 April 1909. Further information is available online at Wikipedia, the Online Archive of California, the Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club, the Helena Modjeska Society.

Much of the available biographical information about Modjeska’s early life comes from her autobiography, published posthumously by Macmillan in 1910: Memories and Impressions of Helena Modjeska (freely available online at Internet Archive). In this memoir, Modjeska occasionally refers to the fact that she kept notes about her life - and these are very diary-like. For example on board the German steamer Donau heading for New York in 1870 she writes: ‘O
ur journey across the Atlantic was also a novelty to me. I was fascinated by the spell of the sea. It evidently had a soothing effect on me, judging by some notes which I then scribbled down in my nautical enthusiasm.’ And here is her seventh note to herself.

Summer 1876
‘Note 7th
The day after tomorrow we shall be in New York! The ocean is blue again. Every one is on deck. The first- class passengers are looking down at those of the third class. There is a regular beehive there, but the people seem miserable. A band of barefooted, dirty children, young women with tangled hair, unwashed and untidy. Boys with starved or brazen faces, mothers knitting and fathers smoking. Some sleep on the bare deck, with faces to the floor. Our fellow-passengers of the first class amuse themselves by throwing amidst that pitiful crowd small coins and oranges, which produce a great commotion among the young ones. They fight, push, and nearly strangle each other, in their endeavors to catch a coin. Oranges passing from hand to hand, mashed, torn, and squeezed nearly dry, are grabbed by the victors, while the poor children retreat, crying, and extending in vain their tiny, dirty hands, in hope of getting their share of the booty.

This exhibition was painful to me, for there was no charity in it, but a mere heartless sport. So I crossed to the other side of the boat, where I could see the aristocracy of the steerage amusing themselves with dancing. Several sailors also danced with them. Some men moved with most ridiculous motions of feet and body, but with the solemnity of undertakers. One girl was so pretty, and danced with such grace, that everybody admired her. She had blond hair and sad, sky-blue eyes. What will become of that child, I wonder; has she anybody to protect her? I feel so sorry for her, not knowing why. The musician who played on a harmonica had the face of a Richard Wagner, and must have been a German. He looked to the upper deck, tracing on our faces the effect of his music. We applauded, of course.

Encouraged by the example of the steerage, the first-class people began to plan a dancing party for tomorrow, a full-dress affair.

Late in the afternoon we had a beautiful sight. The sun was setting simultaneously with the rising of the moon. On the right the bright red light, dancing on the water like a laugh, on the left the solemn and soft face of the moon floating among the rainbow shades of the skies, throwing in its wake a long stream of silver light. It was curious to watch these two astral potentates looking at each other freely, with nothing between them but the gigantic pane of the ocean, and almost touching each other by the long rays of light which the water carried there and back.’

Later in the autobiography she writes about starting a short provincial tour, that it was her second visit to different English towns, and that she has a few notes from that time. Here are several those.

2 October 1881
‘Sheffield. In the afternoon we walked a long time in the country. Coming back, we met the procession of the Salvation Army. Their ministers call themselves Generals, and, as I hear, are doing a great deal of good, converting drunkards to soberness and commending pure life among the poor classes.

Singing hymns, beating a drum, and playing tambourines, they march among hostile elements, for they are not liked here. We even witnessed a row; an old woman struck with her soiled broom the officer’s face, and a skirmish ensued. The drum was broken, the banner tom to pieces; even some women who wanted to join the procession received quite serious blows.

The English are demonstrative when they do not belong to the better classes.’

3 October 1881
‘At ten o’clock in the morning we left for Birmingham, and opened with ‘Heartsease.’ The house was not very full because people were afraid the play was too risqué. They asked if it was the same play where the heroine dresses on the stage, getting up from her bed. We played it, however, three times, every time to better houses.’

5 October 1881
‘Two days ago we rehearsed ‘Marie Stuart.’ It was a sad rehearsal. W. flirted with the dark-eyed Vivian, and paid no attention to his lines; the prompter snored in his chair, and Elizabeth could not read her part fluently, and said by way of excuse that she did not think it worth while to pay much attention to such an insignificant part.

I am still reading the life of Ste. Jeanne Franchise de Chantal. Yesterday I had to put the book aside because I cried so much over the death of young Baron de Torrens and his wife, and over the silent resignation of Madame Chantal. Charles laughed, and said I would never grow old. I feel, indeed, as young at times as I was at twelve, and only when I look in the mirror the sad truth is revealed. But no matter, the older I grow the better I shall be, Anna says, ‘like the old wine.’

When shall I see the Carpathian Mountains again? When?

Yesterday we were invited to supper by Mr. Rogers, the manager of the Prince of Wales Theatre. Mr. and Mrs. Kendal were there and also Mr. Hare. Mr. Rogers spoke a great deal of the brotherhood of actors. How optimistic! After the supper, Mrs. Kendal sang ballads, and was very eloquent and entertaining. Miss Rogers, who was in Poland, and knows a few Polish words, talked to me about cur mutual friends and acquaintances.’

12 October 1881
‘Frou-frou. The house was not well filled. The play was too Frenchy, some one said. We were all in bad humor, which did not help the performance.

It is my birthday. I received many presents and cards from friends and even strangers, but not one word from Poland. I must return, or else they will forget me entirely. This evening I formed a strong resolution to leave the stage in two or three years.

I may succeed, because I have good work in view: to found schools for the mountaineers’ children, and begin by Zakopane. I have no distinct plans, only a desire to do something good.’

14 October 1881
‘We went to Stratford-on-Avon. The little house where the great William was born has been so often described that I already knew every corner in it. A strong emotion, however, thrilled me, when I entered that dwelling. When I looked around, this first impression was somehow dispelled by amazement at the human egotism and stupidity which prompt the people to put their own ‘I’ everywhere. Not only the walls, the window-panes, and the ceiling are covered with the names of visitors, but even the bust of the poet is defaced with them. What is the object of desecrating thus the sanctuary? Another proof of idiocy.

In the first room there is a chair by the fireside where Shakespeare used to sit, as tradition tell us. Every person who comes to that room sits down in the chair. Is there any sense in that action?

At the ‘New Place’ we saw an American couple, both young and handsome, kneel down and kiss the ground on which the great man walked. I wanted to do the same, but I had lived in England long enough to learn restraint, and limited my demonstrations to picking up some ivy leaves growing around the well. In church we saw the painted bust. I did not like it: The ruddy-cheeked and stout Shakespeare did not appeal to me.

Finally, later in the autobiography, Modjeska write about her current co-star, Edwin Booth. ‘Every one loved him,’ she says, ‘and all the remarks he made to the actors of his company were received as favors rather than reproofs.’She then writes: ‘I made a few notes on our life in the private car, which may throw more light upon the intimate character of that wonderful man and artist.’ Here’s one of those.

22 April 1890
‘Milwaukee. We played “Hamlet” last night.

Ralph and Félicie have gone - at 1.40 p.m. We did not cry at parting - we hope to meet again in Poland. Only when the train disappeared from the station the tears came to my eyes. I slept the whole afternoon in order to calm myself.

The audiences were cold and unsympathetic.

After the performance we went to the car and had supper. Edwin Booth was delightful. He told us some of his early experiences: how in Honolulu he was compelled to paste his own bills on the corners of the streets, and was surprised at that work by a fellow from New York who happened to be there just at the time. This happened, of course, some years ago, about thirty-five, I think. I went to bed directly after supper, but I heard him talking to the ladies of the company for more than an hour. They all shrieked with laughter.’

14 terrorists for interrogation

‘The operation was a success which exceeded our expectations, with everybody safely back - the most serious casualties were two cuts and a bruise. The snatch from ZIPRA base in Botswana brought back 14 terrorists for interrogation . . .’. This is Ian Douglas Smith, the white Rhodesian politician born a century ago today, who led his country into independence from Britain and through many years of international sanctions and mounting opposition and attacks by black Rhodesians. The quote, along with just a few others, comes from a diary kept by Smith. They are quoted in his sole autobiographical work, but there is almost no other readily available information about his diaries.

Smith was born on 8 April 1919 in Selukwe, Rhodesia (now Shurugwi, Zimbabwe), then a British colony. He was educated locally, and at Rhodes University, Grahamstown (South Africa) until 1939, when he joined the Royal Air Force. He was shot down twice during World War Two (after one crash, part of his face was reconstructed surgically), but survived to complete his university studies in commerce. Back in Selukwe he married Janet Watt, with whom he had one child (though he also took on Janet’s two young children). Having decided on a career in politics he served, from 1948, in the Legislative Assembly as a Rhodesian party member. And when the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was formed in 1953, Smith was elected to the federal parliament as a member of the ruling United Federal party. He was appointed chief government whip in 1958.

In 1961, though, when the federalists supported a new constitution allowing for greater black representation in Parliament, Smith resigned from the party, and became a founding member of the new right-wing Rhodesian Front party This won a surprise victory in the 1962 general election. Under Prime Minister Winston Field, Smith served as deputy prime minister and minister of the Treasury. The Federation was dissolved in 1963, and in 1964 Field was ousted, and Smith became prime minister of Southern Rhodesia. He soon ran into a serious stand-off with Britain, and in 1965 unilaterally declared Rhodesia independent. Britain refused to accept this move. It sought and won approval from the UN for economic sanctions - nevertheless, Rhodesia continued to receive oil and other goods from South Africa and Portuguese Mozambique. In 1969, Smith won a referendum establishing Rhodesia as a republic and enshrining a constitution favourable to the white minority.

In the early 1970s, Smith’s government was preoccupied with developing military capability to counter increasing black Rhodesian guerrilla activity. In 1977, finally, he negotiated with the moderate black leader Bishop Muzorewa for a transfer of power from the whites to the black majority. Smith remained as prime minister and a member of the Transitional Executive Council that oversaw the process until mid-1979. In 1980, Robert Mugabe easily won an election and established the first free African government in Zimbabwe. Smith remained a member of parliament until 1987, when he was suspended. Although his influence was waning, he continued to criticise the government, and tried, unsuccessfully, to rally opposition parties in the 1995 elections. He moved to Cape Town in 2005, and died there two years later. Further biographical information can be found at Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Encyclopedia.com.

In 1997, after Smith had effectively retired from politics, John Blake published The Great Betrayal: The Memoirs of Ian Douglas Smith. This was subsequently republished under slightly different titles: Bitter Harvest: The Great Betrayal, and Bitter Harvest: Zimbabwe and the Aftermath of its Independence. Some pages of this latter can be previewed at Googlebooks. In the memoir, Smith refers to - and quotes from - his diary on a few occasions. However, I have not been able to find any further information about this diary. In a Washington Post article from 1983, Smith is quoted as saying that, after his house had been searched, some of his diaries had not been returned. And Dr Richard Wood (I presume, though his name is absent) in an obituary on the website for 1st Battalion Rhodesian Light Infantry Regimental Association says he helped Smith on his memoir but was not, however, ‘offered access to his private papers or his diaries’. 

Here are most of the quotes from Smith’s diary that he includes in his memoir.

6 February 1976
‘A message from Harold Hawkins [the Rhodesian diplomat] to say that Vorster had called him in for a briefing on how the talks were going, and then thinking aloud wondered whether it might not be a good idea for South Africa to have an observer present. If we agreed he hoped an invitation would come from us, as they did not want to be seen to be pushing in! We discussed the idea and concluded that it would be preferable if they stayed at home.’

7 February 1976
‘Spent a few hours this morning watching our Currie Cup cricket game against Western Province, and Rhodesia put up a very good performance. Eric Rowan, one of South Africa’s great batsmen, was there, and he came and had a good talk with me - cricket and politics! That evening a message came in reporting a successful encounter, where we had bagged 18 terrorists with no casualties on our side. An enjoyable and successful day.’

13 May 1978
‘A pleasant break away from it all, with a happy trip to Kariba to unveil a
memorial to Operation Noah. This had been a fantastically successful exercise, rescuing thousands of wild animals [when Lake Kariba started to fill for the first time], something quite unique and which had never previously been done in the world. My heart was in tune with that small, simple, dignified ceremony, in keeping with the concept and execution of the operation, which extended over a period of a few years in order to ensure maximum rescue.’

12 April 1979
‘For the past week I’ve been talking with Nat JOC about a few trans-border operations. From captured terrorists we have information that it is their intention to step up operations during our election in order to harass and embarrass us. ZIPRA has a base in Botswana, and they travel to and from Zambia using the Kazangula ferry. The ZIPRA HQ is in Lusaka, the nerve centre from which all their operations are planned. And they have a large base west of Lusaka from which operations in that area are conducted. One captive from that base tells us that they are planning a big operation to take over a landing strip in north-western Matabeleland, to which they will fly in aircraft from Angola. Our chaps on the ground are hoping that they will try, because they will all be eliminated and we would welcome a few extra aircraft to add to our fleet! But of course, they have neither the ability nor the nerve for such an operation.

So we are going in tonight with a four-pronged attack, just to give them a reminder. The preparations have been meticulous, because at this kind of game the element of surprise is crucial and for that reason one seldom has a second chance. As always, there are great risks, especially with daring operations, and one of these involves driving over the Kafue Bridge on the main trunk road, which is heavily guarded. But our SAS have a plan, and they are confident. These fantastic chaps have proved so many times in the past that they can do the almost impossible. I wished them well, and that night offered up a prayer for their safe return. Many a time I have heard visiting military specialists comment that our Army and Air Force must be, for its size, one of the finest in the world.’

13 April 1979
‘The operation was a success which exceeded our expectations, with everybody safely back - the most serious casualties were two cuts and a bruise. The snatch from ZIPRA base in Botswana brought back 14 terrorists for interrogation, the Kazangula ferry was at the bottom of the Zambezi River, Nkomo’s house, which is a stone’s throw from State House in Lusaka, was demolished, and ZIPRA HQ and an arms cache nearby blown up. The base west of Lusaka was sent flying in all directions.’

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Victorian eclipse diary

Sir William Crookes, a British scientist and inventor, died a century ago today. He is noted for his discovery of the element thallium, for being a pioneer of vacuum tubes and inventing the Crookes tube, and for being an early exponent of scientific investigation into psychic phenomena. There’s no evidence he was a diarist like many other eminent Victorians, but he did keep a detailed journal during one expedition, in 1870, to North Africa to study a total solar eclipse. This was published, soon after his death, as part of a biography put together by his scientist colleague Edmund Fournier d’Albe.

Crookes was born in London in 1832, the eldest child of a prosperous tailor, originally from the north, and his second wife (who would have 15 more children). He was educated at Prospect House School, Weybridge, and, aged 16, began a scientific career at the Royal College of Chemistry, London. From 1849 to 1854, he was a personal assistant to the College’s director, August Wilhelm von Hofmann, an organic chemist. Influenced by Michael Faraday and others he met at the Royal Institution, he became more interested in optical physics and photography, researching new compounds of the element selenium. He left the Royal College in 1854, taking up a position as superintendent of the meteorological department of the Radcliffe (Astronomical) Observatory in Oxford; and, the following year, he was appointed lecturer in chemistry at the Chester Anglican teachers’ training college. In 1856, he married Ellen Humphrey with whom he had ten children, although only four survived into adulthood.

With an inheritance from his father, Crookes set up his own laboratory in London. Over the years, he became well-known for his pioneering research: among other things, he discovered the element thallium, invented the radiometer and developed cathode ray tubes (such as the Crookes tube). He accumulated 17 patents for inventions (the radiometer, improvements in a spectrum camera, incandescent lamps, and the treatment of water gas); and he was successfully involved in the business exploitation of many of them. Throughout his life, also, he wrote many scientific papers (though he never actually achieved an academic position) and edited scientific journals. Indeed, he was the founder in 1859 of Chemical News and in 1864 of the Quarterly Journal of Science. He was named a fellow of the Royal Society in 1863, was knighted in 1897, and in 1910 received the Order of Merit, among other awards and honours.

Crookes is also well remembered for his forays into the spiritual world. Following the early death of a much-loved brother, Crookes began to attend seances, and to investigate psychic phenomena. He, himself, became convinced that some psychics were genuine, but he failed to persuade scientific colleagues to publish his research (and so published it in his own journals). He joined the Society for Psychical Research, becoming its president in the 1890s; he also joined the Theosophical Society and The Ghost Club, of which he was president from 1907 to 1912. In 1890 he was initiated into the newly-formed Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He died on 4 April 1919. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required), PSI Encyclopedia, and Encyclopedia.com.

Some of Crookes’ lab notebooks are held by the Science Museum and some by the Royal Institution. However, the National Archives lists no diaries among his literary remains. Nevertheless, Crookes did keep a diary on at least one journey abroad, in 1870-1871, when he travelled with the Government Eclipse Expedition. A notable team of scientists was dispatched aboard HMS Urgent: it landed one team on Sicily, and Crookes’ group at Oran, Algeria. Their main objective was to use the coming eclipse (on 22 December) to study the sun’s corona. Part of the impetus for the expedition came from the fact that it was known there would be no further total eclipse within easy reach of England for the next 17 years. Poor weather meant that Crookes was unable to carry out his experiments; nevertheless, extensive extracts (some 30 pages) from the diary he kept during the expedition was published in The Life of Sir William Crookes by Fournier D’Albe (T. Fisher Unwin, 1923). This is freely available to read at Internet Archive.

Here are several extracts from Crookes’ diary as found in the biography.

6 December 1870
‘After breakfast walked on deck. A host of young Oxford men, some nearly boys, pressed into service as observers with polariscope. “What is a polariscope?” Favouritism and jobbery.

Urgent a mere shell a week ago. Sudden orders to fit her out. Everything done since Tuesday last. Interior fittings, curtains, beds, sheets, china, glass, stores, etc., all got in red-hot haste. All spoons and forks newly plated. Not cost Government less than £10,000, half of which might have been saved if more time had been given. Most of men and officers come from Duke of Wellington. Everyone strange to ship except Captain Hamilton. This expense, however, will not appear in Estimates. Red tapeism - parsimony in treatment of observers and lavish expenditure of money in other ways.

Professor Newcomb and Mrs. Newcomb (the only lady on board). Conversation as to American eclipse. Two parties in U.S., the Naval Board and the Observatory. The Naval Board report not printed yet. The Observatory report out first. Dr. Coffin the head of the observers. His name not mentioned in my article in Quarterly Journal of Science by accidental omission.

Swinging ship for compass deviation. A long job, some hours. Queen’s ships do not adjust by permanent magnets as in the Mercantile Marine, but by table of errors and deviations.

Telegrams sent to Echo and Nelly. Also long letter to Nelly, posted and sent by officer who superintended swinging of ship.

Carpenter and Noble sent to other papers.

At last moment last night a telegram arrived from Admiralty (in answer to urgent appeal from Huggins) ordering the ship to take the Oran party on to Oran from Gibraltar. This is good news, for I shall be with the Urgent all the time, and shall not have to leave the ship for a smaller one.

Bread and cheese lunch at 12.30. Too early for appetite. [. . .]’

12 December 1870
‘At 2 this morning we passed Cape St. Vincent, and then bowled along well, the wind for almost the first time being of some use. We made this morning 11 knots an hour. In the afternoon we began to look out for Cadiz. Soon white houses and a tali white lighthouse commenced to appear above the waves. “There’s Cadiz,” everyone said, and the ship’s course was altered direct to the lighthouse. As we neared it the houses got higher until we could see a small town, on a low sandy shore appearing. Then a pilot boat put off to us, and a man was seen in it waving his hat violently to attract our attention. “There’s Lord Lindsay,” cried Huggins, who was looking through his aluminium telescope. The word went round, and the ship was stopped. The man came alongside, when, instead of Lord Lindsay, he turned out to be a seedy-looking pilot who could not speak English. We mustered sufficient Spanish, however, to find out that the place was not Cadiz, but that he would take us there. This was a thorough sell, so we gave him a sovereign and bundled him back, and steamed away a little further south. The lighthouse (a new one not on our chart) had misled the master, and the village it seems was Chipiona. As it got dark the lighthouse of Cadiz appeared, but the navigation being difficult, it was thought better to lay to all night at sea. So here we are, some miles from shore, very little wind, and no steam up, rolling about in a helpless manner. We expect to be in Cadiz to-morrow morning by breakfast-time.’

15 December 1870
‘I am greatly disappointed to find that there were no letters for me, and that we shall leave Gibraltar this morning before the P. & O. steamer, which is expected to-day with mails from London of last Saturday, comes in. At about 9 a.m. the gunboat which is to take the Estepona party started, and in about an hour we followed on our way to Oran.

The Mediterranean was as calm and smooth as a pond, scarcely a ripple to be seen, and there was no wind. The appearance of the rock of Gib. is singularly grand viewed from the Mediterranean side, resembling a lion couchant, the head towards Spain and the tail towards Africa. Soon the African coast disappeared, and we skirted the Spanish shore nearly all day. The little wind which now blew was rather chilly, coming as it did from the Sierra Nevada range of mountains, which could be seen in the distance, their tops covered with snow. The day passed without any event at all. My head ached rather badly all day (the result of the dinner last night - or perhaps the penny cigars!), but towards night, after a nap, it got better. The phosphorescence of the sea was very beautiful, the track of the vessel was left in a sheet of silvery flame, and looking down the screw well the whole body of water seemed a mass of light, which illuminated the surrounding objects. I tried to get a spectrum of this light, but could only see that there was little or no red in it.’

16 December 1870
‘We passed close along the African coast all the morning. It is extremely bold and picturesque, high mountains alternating with beautiful green valleys. Not a tree, however, was to be seen anywhere, and the heights were perfectly bare of vegetation. After some delay we at last anchored in Oran bay, and had the usual officials in gold lace on a visit of inspection. Huggins and Admiral Ommaney went ashore, and as the captain thought it better for no one else to leave till they had come back to say it was all right, we were kept prisoners for nearly 4 hours - much to our disgust. At about 4 p.m. we left the ship, and for the first time put our foot on African ground. I was disappointed at the appearance of Oran. It is an inferior edition of a dirty French town, and has all the vices and inconveniences of a low garrison town without much redeeming points of Oriental life. Moors and Arabs and darker gentry there are in abundance, and the quaintness of their costumes, in spite of the dirt and filth about them, is very picturesque. Still there was quite as much to be seen at Gibraltar. The streets of Oran are wide, and there are many good shops. It is quite as large a place as Boulogne, but of course vastly inferior as far as the French life is concerned. From a comparison of the photographs I should say it greatly resembled Scarborough in outward aspect and scenery. On the high ground around are perched forts, and one tremendous hill close at the side of Oran has a large fort on it. Every other man one meets is a Zouave, or Chasseur d’Afrique, and the place is entirely under military rule.

We returned to the ship to dinner, and afterwards went out in a party to see “life” in Oran, which consisted in going into a café chantant of the lowest description, sitting beside the biggest blackguards I ever saw (together with some decentish people), drinking a villainous mixture of coffee and curaçoa, and seeing some highly disgusting dancing, terminating with the can-can. On returning to the ship we had a committee meeting. Little Huggins’s bumptiousness is most amusing. He appears to be so puffed up with his own importance as to be blind to the very offensive manner in which he dictates to the gentlemen who are co-operating with him, whilst the fulsome manner in which he toadies to Tyndall must be as offensive to him (Tyndall) as it is disgusting to all who witness it. I half fancy there will be a mutiny against his officiousness. Wrote to Nelly.’

18 December 1870
‘Cloudy and rainy. We had service on the main deck. Mr. Howlett preached, the text being from Amos viii. v. 9: “And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.” The sermon was a very excellent one. In the afternoon walked up to the observatory, and saw how the sappers were getting on with the foundations and instruments. Several of the principal men of the town came to dinner this evening, so we put on full dress and furbished up our French. The speeches were very amusing, and the way in which the Frenchmen mixed their liquors, taking sherry, hock, champagne, moselle, bitter ale, curaçoa, coffee, brandy, and then bitter ale again, was a wonderful sight. The dinner party did not break up till very late.’

19 December 1870
‘Raining, blowing, thundering, and lightning almost all day. Prospects very unfavourable for eclipse. Went up to the observatory tents and worked at the telescope and spectroscope I am to have, it having been decided in committee this morning that Huggins was to have the large telescope and equatorial. On the road home made some purchases at the shop of Moïse Ben Ichou, 22 Rue Philippe. Towards evening the rain, wind, and lightning got much more violent.’

22 December 1870 [part of a very long entry this day]
‘[. . .] At about 11 a.m. I was watching the sun through my opera glass protected by dark glasses, when I detected a distinct indentation a little above the centre, on the right. The eclipse for which we had travelled so many hundreds of miles, and spent so much time, trouble, and money had commenced. Ten seconds afterwards a cloud came over and nothing more could be seen till 11.8, when the advance was clearly visible. At 11.10 thick clouds covered the sun for several minutes. 11.25 sky quite overcast. 11.30 clouds breaking. 11.40 sun visible, and occasionally so till 12.10, when it disappeared behind light fleecy clouds. At 12.15 the sun totally disappeared, and was no more visible till about half an hour after totality. At 12.20 the whole sky was overcast. Here and there a few patches of blue sky could be seen in various parts to windward, and over the landscape patches of sunshine were seen sweeping along as the clouds moved. At 12.28 approximately, at which time totality was to commence, the sky was anxiously scanned for blue patches. One approached, but passed too much to the north, and on going out of the tent at 12.25 I saw that there was not the least chance of the next blue patch coming across our meridian for at least a quarter of an hour, whilst it seemed certain then to pass to the north of the sun. The light was now declining rapidly, and although there was no sign of break in the density of the obscuring clouds, I went to the eye-piece of the instrument and looked in on the chance of seeing something. Not a trace of a spectrum could be seen, and I had to decide rapidly whether to stay there in the absolute certainty of seeing nothing, or to go outside and at all events see something of the general effect of the approaching darkness on the landscape. Had there been the faintest chance of seeing anything with the spectroscope I should have stayed at it, but as it was I decided to go outside, where most of the observers were already. 

On the distant horizon and here and there in the far east gleams of bright light and patches which looked like sunshine were tantalisingly visible. The western horizon was of a dark blue-black, the sky overhead was like indigo. Suddenly a dark purple pall seemed to rise up behind Santa Cruz, the high ground on our west, and rapidly cover us in deep gloom spreading to the east almost as far as the eye could see. The sky overhead looked as if it were crushed down on to our heads, and the sight was impressively awful. The darkness was not so great as I had expected, for at no time was I unable to read small newspaper type, or see the seconds hand of my watch, but the colour of the darkness was quite different from that of the ordinary darkness of night, being of a purple colour. The high range of mountains in the extreme south (about _ miles off), which were out of the line of total phase, were visible the whole of the time, whilst some light fleecy clouds in the north, where the sky was not so thoroughly overcast, showed reflected sunlight all the time. This, however, made our darkness more impressive.

The reappearance of the light was much more sudden and striking than its disappearance. A luminous veil with a comparatively sharp upper boundary shot up from behind the western hills. It passed over us and spread its illumination towards the east before we could fairly realise the fact that the long-expected total phase of the eclipse of 1870 was over without any of our observers seeing anything of it.

Ten minutes after totality Captain Noble and I went to the telegraph office and sent messages announcing the failure of our expedition to the London daily papers. He sent a short message to the Daily News. I sent a message of 19 words to The Times (cost 20 frs. 80 c.), and one of 40 words to the Daily Telegraph (cost, 41 frs. 60 c.). Owing to the rupture of the cable between Gibraltar and Lisbon, the messages had to go through Algiers, Malta, Gibraltar, Madrid, Lisbon, and Falmouth. [. . .]’

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Happy birthday, Gambaccini

Happy birthday, Paul Gambaccini, 70 years old today, and possibly a little bit greyer than he might have been had he not been arrested in 2013 and had his life overturned by a police investigation into sexual offences under Operation Yewtree. It took nearly a year for the police to decide that no charges would be brought, and, ultimately, Gambaccini won an undisclosed damages from the Metropolitan Police. He also published a book of his daily diary entries during the period of the investigation, though, as far as I can tell, he has never published any other extracts from his 40 odd years of diary keeping.

Gambaccini was born on 2 April 1949 in the Bronx, New York City. He studied history at Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire), where he also acted as music director for a student radio station. In the early 1970s, he studied politics, philosophy and economics at University College, Oxford. Subsequently, he became British correspondent for Rolling Stone magazine, and managed to secure an interview with Elton John. This was noticed by a  BBC radio producer and led to Gambaccini presenting on Radio 1, first as a music reporter for John Peel’s Saturday show, and then as presenter of his own programme featuring the US pop charts. In 1986, he moved to independent radio for a few years, before returning briefly to Radio 1. But, in 1992, he became a founding presenter on the UK’s new station, Classic FM. He switched back to the BBC, and then back to Classic FM, before joining BBC Radio 2 in 1998. He also presented on Jazz FM for several years. He has appeared regularly on different television channels, in either a music or film connection. In 2008, he took over as chairman of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint; and he is also currently the presenter of Pick of the Pops on Radio 2.

Gambaccini has presented many award shows over the years, not least the annual Ivor Novello Awards since 1990, and the Parliamentary Jazz Awards since 2005. He is known as an enthusiast of comic books, appearing at many comic conventions; and, for a while, he co-owned a comic shop in London with Jonathan Ross. He has written more than a dozen popular books, mostly connected in one way or another with music. In 2005, he was inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame. He is married to Christopher Sherwood. For further information see Gambaccini’s own website, Wikipedia or Radio Rewind.

Gambaccini has kept a diary for forty odd years, though he has not published any parts of it - with the exception of a series of diary entries about his experience of being investigated and arrested under Operation Yewtree. These was published as Love, Paul Gambaccini: My Year Under The Yewtree by Biteback Publishing in 2015. Some of the book can be previewed at Googlebooks. The marketing blurb for the book states that after the surprise of being arrested ‘in the dead of night’, he ‘vowed to keep a journal during his ordeal, writing every day until his case was dismissed’ However, it’s clear from one of his diary entries that he was already in the habit of keeping a diary, since he explains how the police, at some point, took away 38 years worth of his diaries. 

Here are several extracts from the published diary, but they are culled, in fact, from a 2105 article on the book that appeared in the Daily Mail.

1 November 2013
‘The press cordon is still in full effect. We cheer whenever it rains. A tabloid website names me in the afternoon. The BBC goes with the story of my identification on its 6pm newscasts.

I am off air indefinitely.’

12 November 2013
‘I experience my first shun: being asked by a nearly hysterical host not to attend the launch of a book concerning Top Of The Pops. I didn’t mind – I was on the show only a handful of times.

At a 25th anniversary gathering of Capital Gold DJs, I am welcomed with open arms. Paul Burnett is as witty as ever. Tony Blackburn and Andy Peebles are supportive.

In the evening, Christopher and I go to the Wolseley for dinner with magician Derren Brown, who tells me: ‘There was a woman who thought we were married, to the point where she maintained a marital home. One day she suddenly realised I wasn’t her husband and she was really married to [the actor] Antony Sher.’

14 November 2013
‘Out of the blue, I receive a phone call from Conservative MP Nigel Evans, who had been arrested and forced to relinquish his position as Deputy Speaker of the Commons.

He wants me to know what, based on his experience, lies in store for me. ‘They will listen to every phone call you make,’ he warns me. ‘They will read every email. They will try to turn your Facebook friends against you.’

This sounds pretty extreme. He must be having a rough time. At least I got off Facebook months ago.’

24 November 2013
‘The Beeb wants to drop me from its forthcoming series The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern, even though I have already filmed my contribution and been paid.

I have given the BBC 40 years of service. I may or may not return to radio, but I will never again feel as close to the BBC as I did for decades.

Although I am annoyed, I am furious at my excision from the ITV show The Nation’s Favourite Elvis Song. I phone Jimmy Tarbuck, who actually met Elvis. ‘Jimmy, you won’t believe it,’ I say, telling him what happened.

‘I do believe it,’ he replies. ‘They’ve cut me out of the same programme.’ Neither of us has been charged with anything. I make a mental memo to award ITV the Tiny Testicles of 2013 prize when this is all over.’

11 December 2013
‘I have been shunned by the Labour Party, which is holding its Thousand Club Christmas drinks tonight. The invitation is on my desk, but since my arrest, it had been decided it would be best if I did not appear.

Only a year ago I hosted a fundraiser for Ed Miliband in my flat. Leading dignitaries of the party from Iain McNicol to Chuka Umunna were there alongside celebrities including Joan Armatrading, Ben Elton, Brian May and David Tennant. One year later, I am persona non grata.

Neither Ed nor anyone else from Labour have had the basic human decency to call to see how I am coping or even what this is about.

It has obviously not occurred to anyone in the Labour Party that something more than manners is at stake here. An injustice is occurring in its own house, yet it turns away from the victim for fear of taint.

So much for the party that fought heroically for the rights of the poor, the black and the gay.

It is now more afraid of a photo opportunity gone wrong than it is committed to social justice. Heroism has given way to cowardice.’

15 December 2013
‘Being shunned by the BBC, the Labour Party and Amnesty International was bad enough.

Today I learn I’ve been shunned by someone really important. Chris and I go bowling this morning in our usual Sunday morning match at All Star Lanes in Holborn.

When it is all over, I return my personal bowling ball to storage and we change back into our civilian shoes.

I note the glass cabinet that displays signed pins from celebrity bowlers. My pin has been removed. Stephen Fry, Johnny Vegas and Emma Watson are still represented. I am gone.

This hurts. I’ve been bowling for over half a century. To be a non-person in my local alley is the ultimate insult.’