Monday, March 1, 2021

Settling in California

Today marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Juan Crespí, a Spanish missionary and explorer. He is remembered today not only for taking part in the expedition that led to the first settlements ever made in the present-day state of California, but for keeping a journal - now historically important - of the journey.

Crespí was born in Majorca, Spain, on 1 March 1721. He entered the Franciscan order at the age of 17. Junipero Serra was his teacher of philosophy at the Convent of San Francisco. When Serra decided to become a missionary in New Spain, Crespí and another missionary Francisco Palóu agreed to join him - they arrived in Vera Cruz in 1749. In 1767, Crespí went to the Baja California Peninsula where he was put in charge of the Misión La Purísima Concepción de Cadegomó. Two years later, he joined an expedition led by Gaspar de Portolá to occupy San Diego and Monterey. The expedition continued up the coast, and the following year the Mission San Carlos Borromeo was founded (in present-day Carmel-by-the-Sea), Crespí served as chaplain of the expedition to the North Pacific conducted by Juan Pérez in 1774. He died in 1882. A little further information is available at Wikipedia and Spartacus Educational.

While there is sparse biographical information available online about Crespí, he left behind a detailed and informative diary kept during his 1769-1779 expedition. This was used by H. E. Bolton for his 1927 biography of Crespí, and has been mined by other historians as a valuable first hand source of information about his expeditions. However, the diary was only published for the first time in an unexpurgated edition, edited by Alan K. Brown, in 2001: A Description of Distant Roads Original Journals of the First Expedition Into California, 1769-1770 (San Diego State University Press). Crespí’s journals have a chequered past, according to Brown, which he unravels in his introduction, alongside plenty of historical context. Here is part of his preface.

‘Overdue for publication by two hundred years and more, these are the genuine journals kept by the missionary explorer Juan Crespí in 1769 and 1770 during the Spanish-American expedition that searched overland for the long-lost harbor of Monterey, and, after many hardships permanently established the first settlements ever made in the present-day state of California. The author, through the ongoing entries in his journals, carefully documented this whole progress and his own participation in it. Equally important, or perhaps even more at the present day, is the description of the native landscape and its inhabitants that he produced through his eye for detail and his extraordinary diligence in keeping the record.

This edition and translation, taken from manuscripts in the original author’s own handwriting, represents a first publication of much of the texts. The versions previously available to historians, scientists, and the reading public were deeply curtailed and adulterated by others than the original author, so much so that it is fair to say that his name has been falsely attached to the traditional editions and translations. Those very well known pseudo-Crespí texts are still often consulted and cited as though they were genuine, a circumstance that unfortunately has been allowed to feed upon itself for more than half a century.’

And here are a few extracts of Crespí’s diary from Brown’s edition.

18 March 1769
‘I set out from this spot early in the morning, but at about two or three leagues past Yuvai. one of the mules which was carrying my effects gave out and lay collapsed upon the trail, unable to go on. It was necessary for the soldier who had been accompanying me to stav behind with some Indians, in order to see whether the might bring it on after resting it, and for me to leave in order to reach the old mission of Santa Maria called Calamofué. I went onward with my own two Indian boys whom I have with me, in company with some other Indians belonging to the missions who are following me; I went the whole day at a good pace, stopping for a while only to eat a bite at midday, and I came about ten o’clock at night to the aforesaid mission of Calamofué, where I met a courier from Santa Maria mission, sent by Reverend Father Preacher Fray Fermin Lasuen, with the vestment and everything else needed in order to be able to say Mass her on the following day, Palm Sunday, as I had requested of him from back at his own mission of San Borja. As it was so late at night upon my reaching here, I told them to make me some chocolate and retired to rest, for I was truly worn out.’

3 May 1769
‘Invention of the Most Holy Cross. I said Mass here at this spot, and it was heard by all of this Expedition, and we lay resting in order for our beasts to approve the occasion of the fine grass here, and for the country to be scouted in the meanwhile to see whether they might find a watering place, in order for us to continue. On reaching this spot, close to one of the aforesaid pools we came across a village, who as soon as they saw us ran off to the hill and commenced shouting at us a great deal, seeming by their gesturing to be telling us to turn back; they were all naked and heavily beweaponed. Several times our commander called to them to come down to the camp without fear, but they never showed themselves nearby. I took the north altitude and made it 32 degrees 14 minutes.’

12 May 1769
‘We set out early in the morning from the small Saint Pius valley here, following a northward course veering a bit north-northwestward, along the shore and guided by some heathens belonging to this spot who had offered themselves as guides. They accompanied us a part of the way and left us. It was a march of a bit over three hours, over country that was all very easy going, crossing some gorges though not such difficult ones as those before were. We must have made three leagues, and came to a heathen village upon a tableland that looks to be an island, as it is surrounded by a gorge wherever not laved by the sea. As soon as they saw us, the heathens tried to have us stop close to their village, upon the aforesaid tableland. We thought it better, however, to cross to another one upon the other side of the gorge, where there was grass at the edge of the sea. The village here has, in the gorge, a middling-sized pool of good water that they supply themselves from. Though they might have done so, they refused to water our beasts there, in order not to do anything to spoil these poor souls’ watering place, inasmuch as our beasts had drunk their fill before setting out. The whole village, men, women, and children, came over to the camp at once, without a single weapon, nowise unruly, not wearing paint and not in any way like the last people all of them very friendly and cheerful. As though they had always dealt with us, they spent the entire day sitting down along with us, telling us with great pleasure of the ships, which they said were close by now. The four islands called Los Cuatro Coronados lie about opposite this spot. I named this place The little pool of the village of    Santos Martires Nereo y Sus Companeros, The Holy Martyrs Nereus and Companions. The same spot was ailed La Carcel de San Pedro, Saint Peter’s Prison, by the Reverend Father President.’

Monday, February 22, 2021

First school for freed slaves

‘We heard him with amazement and disgust that grew more and more apparent, and when he said he had had a negro whipped, Ellen and I rose and left the table.’ This is Laura Matilda Towne, daughter of a well-to-do Pittsburgh family, who spent most of her adult life on the Sea Island of St Helena administering - by setting up a school and nursing - to the needs of slaves freed in the Civil War. She died 120 years today, but soon after her diaries and letters were published and these provide a first hand account of her passionate abolitionist views and actions.

Towne was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1825. She was the fourth child of John and Sarah Robinson Towne. Her father came from Topsfield, Massachusetts, her mother from Coventry, England. Her mother died when she was quite young, and John Towne went back to Boston, where his children were educated. Later the family moved to Philadelphia, where the oldest son had settled. There they developed a growing commitment to the idea of abolishing negro slavery, partly as a consequence of the fiery sermons by William Henry Furness, minister of the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. She studied homeopathic medicine and probably attended the short-lived Penn Medical University. She taught in charity schools in various northern towns and cities in the 1850s and 1860s.

Early in 1862, Towne responded to a call for volunteers to help a large population of former slaves who had been liberated in the Union capture of Port Royal and others of the Sea Islands of South Carolina. Soon after arriving on St Helena Island she was teaching, nursing, and helping to direct the distribution of clothing and other goods. By September, she and her friend Ellen Murray had established the Penn School (which proved to be the first school founded in the Southern United States specifically for the education of African-Americans). Subsequently, it also offered training for future teachers. Apart from her voluntary work running the school, Towne also served as a public health office, legal adviser and a children’s advocate. She lived on the island, with Murray, for 40 years, though her final years were marred by recurring bouts of malaria. She died of influenza on 22 February 1901. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the South Carolina Encylopedia.

Once relocated to St Helena, Towne was an avid writer, of letters and a diary. Extracts from the diary along with her letters were edited together, by Rupert Sargent Holland, into chronological order and published by Cambridge in 1912 as Letters and Diary of Laura M. Towne written from the Sea Islands of South Carolina 1862-1884. The work is freely available online at Internet Archive. Here are several extracts.

23 May 1862
‘Ellen is coming at last. I felt sure no one could stop her. Mr. McKim is also to come as Philadelphia agent, and I am free.

We have been for three days going to various plantations, once to Mr. Zacha’s at Paris Island, once to Mrs. Mary Jenkins’, Mr. Wells’ and to Edgar Fripp’s, or to Frogmore, Mr. Saulis’; also to Edding’s Point and one other place. At the three places of Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Fripp, and Edding, the wretched hovels with their wooden chimneys and the general squalor showed the former misery. One woman said the differences in the times were as great as if God had sent another Moses and a great deliverance - that it was heaven upon earth and earth in heaven now. They all seemed to love Mr. Wells. We saw there one woman whose two children had been whipped to death, and Mr. Wells said there was not one who was not marked up with welts. He had the old whip which had a ball at the end, and he had seen the healed marks of this ball on their flesh - the square welts showed where it had taken the flesh clean out. Loretta of this place showed me her back and arms to-day. In many places there were ridges as high and long as my little finger, and she said she had had four babies killed within her by whipping, one of which had its eye cut out, another its arm broken, and the others with marks of the lash. She says it was because even while “heaviest” she was required to do as much as usual for a field hand, and not being able, and being also rather apt to resist, and rather smart in speaking her mind, poor thing, she has suffered; and no wonder Grace, her child, is of the lowest type; no wonder she is more indifferent about her clothes and house than any one here. She says this was the crudest place she was ever in.

The happiest family I know here is old Aunt Bess’s Minda and Jerry and herself. They are always joking and jolly but very gentle. When I go there at night to dress Bess’s foot I find her lying upon her heap of rags with the roaches running all over her and little Leah or some small child asleep beside her. Jerry got me some of the pine sticks they use for candles. They hold one for me while I dress the foot.

It is very interesting to observe how the negroes watch us for fear we shall go away. They are in constant dread of it and we cannot be absent a single day without anxiety on their part. It is very touching to hear their entreaties to us to stay, and their anxious questions. They have a horrible dread of their masters’ re-turn, especially here where Massa Dan’l’s name is a terror.

They appreciate the cheapness of our goods and especially of the sugar at the Overseer house, and are beginning to distrust the cotton agents who have charged them so wickedly.

The scenes in the cotton-house used to be very funny. Miss W. would say to some discontented purchaser who was demurring at the price of some article, “Well, now, I don’t want to sell this. I believe I won’t sell it to-day. But if you want to take it very much at a dollar and a half, you may have it. Oh, you don’t? Well, then, I can’t sell you anything. No, you can’t have anything. We are doing the best we can for you and you are not satisfied; you won’t be contented. Just go - go now, please. We want all the room and air we can get. You don’t want to buy and why do you stay? No, I shall not let you have anything but that. I don't want to sell it, but you may have it for a dollar and a half,” etc., etc.

This is one of many real scenes. The people are eager, crazy to buy, for they are afraid of their money, it being paper, and besides, they need clothes and see finer things than ever in their lives before. Except when they are excited they are very polite, always saying “Missus” to us, and “Sir” to one another. The children say, “ Good-mornin’, ma’am,” whenever they see us first in the day, and once I overheard two girls talking just after they had greeted me. One said, “I say good-mornin’ to my young missus [Miss Pope] and she say, I slap your mouth for your impudence, you nigger.’ ” I have heard other stories that tell tales.

The white folks used to have no cooking-utensils of their own here. They came and required certain things. The cooks hunted among the huts and borrowed what they needed till the family went away, of course straining every nerve to get such cooking as should please. “I would do anything for my massa,” Susannah says, “if he would n’t whip me.”

On May 7, as Mr. Pierce stepped off the boat at Hilton Head and walked up the pier, a Mr. Nobles, chief of the cotton agents here, came forward saying that he had a letter for him. Then he struck him upon the head, felled him, and beat him, saying that Mr. P. had reported him to the Secretary of the Treasury and had got a saddle and bridle of his. Mr. Pierce got up with difficulty and took only a defensive part. Some soldiers took Mr. Nobles off. Mr. Pierce had really mentioned this man and his agents, which was his duty as guardian of these people, for they were imposing upon the negroes shamefully. They, of course, hate this whole Society of Superintendents, etc., who will not see the negroes wronged. So Mr. P. has had his touch of martyrdom.

The Philadelphia consignment of goods - in all $2000 worth - would have done immense good if it had come in season. The people of these islands, whom Government does not ration (because there is corn here) had nothing but hominy to eat, were naked, were put to work at cotton, which they hated, as being nothing in their own pockets and all profit to the superintendent, who they could not be sure were not only another set of cotton agents or cotton planters; and so discontent and trouble arose. Mr. Pierce said to them that they should be fed, clothed, and paid, but they waited and waited in vain, trusting at first to promises and then beginning to distrust such men as were least friendly to them.

The first rations of pork - “splendid bacon,” everybody says - was dealt out the other day and there has been great joy ever since, or great content. If this had only come when first ordered there would have been this goodwill and trust from the first. They even allow the removal of the corn from one plantation to another now without murmuring, and that they were very much opposed to before.’

18 June 1862
‘Ellen had her first adult school to-day, in the back room - nine scholars. I assisted.

The girls were much interested in seeing the people come, with their flat baskets on their heads, to the corn-house, to “take allowance,” and then sit down in the sand, and old and young fall to shelling the corn from the cob with a speed that was marvellous, the little babies toddling about or slung on the backs of their mammies, or lugged about by the older sisters, not able to stand straight under their weight. It was very picturesque.’

22 July 1862
‘Our guns have come! Captain Thorndyke brought over twenty and gave Nelly instructions. Commodore Du Pont was here this afternoon. The people came running to the school-room - “Oh, Miss Ellen, de gunboat come!” I believe they thought we were to be shelled out. Ellen, Nelly, and I went down to the bluff and there lay a steamboat in front of Rina’s house, and a gig was putting off with flag flying and oars in time. Presently a very imposing uniformed party landed, and, coming up the bluff, Commodore Du Pont introduced himself and staff. We invited him in. He said he had come to explore the creek and to see a plantation. They stayed only about ten minutes, were very agreeable and took leave. Commodore Du Pont is a very large and fine- looking man. He invited us all to visit the Wabash and seemed really to wish it.’

31 August 1862
‘Aunt Phyllis wanted to go to church and is too feeble to walk, so Captain Hooper, aide-de-camp to General Saxton, gave her his seat in the carriage and jumped on behind himself. Harry stopped the horses. “Massa, my massa, don’t do dat!” he pleaded. Then he scolded and begged, and begged and scolded, while Aunt Phyllis sat still, saying she never rode in a “cheer” before. Captain Hooper was obdurate, and Harry had to drive on in deep dejection of mind and mortification of spirit.

To-night a Mr. Simmons, I think, who had been fighting in the Southern army upon compulsion, and who now belongs to the Maine regiment here, talked of his experiences when fighting his country. We heard him with amazement and disgust that grew more and more apparent, and when he said he had had a negro whipped, Ellen and I rose and left the table.’

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The travelling Mr Bargrave

‘A stately artificiall River runns through the Toune: but at all these places were we forcd to pay Toll, for our Selves & horses: rating our horses heads at a greater price then our own:’ This is from the 17th century diary of Robert Bargrave, an English merchant who travelled and traded throughout the Levant and Mediterranean. He died in Smyrna en route to Constantinople, and his death was reported some 360 years ago today.

Bargrave was born in Kent, possibly at the family home, Eastry Court, Eastry, near Sandwich, in 1628, second son of the dean of Canterbury. He studied at Clare College, Cambridge, and Corpus Christi, Oxford. He seems to have been admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1640, at the unusually young age of twelve, along with his elder brother, but this may have been to take part in the inn’s dramatic entertainments, says the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB). From 1647 until 1656, he worked as a merchant trading in the Levant and other Mediterranean locations. Much is known about this period in his life since he kept a detailed diary of four journeys: from England to Turkey 1647-1652; from Turkey to England 1652-1653; from England to Spain and Venice 1654-1656; from Venice to England 1656. Around 1653, he married Elizabeth Turner of Canterbury, and they had four children.

From early 1656 Bargrave was employed as personal secretary to Heneage Finch, earl of Winchilsea. When the earl was made ambassador to Constantinople, Bargrave went too, as the Levant Company’s secretary requiring him to serve as chancellor of the company’s factory and also to deputise for Winchilsea in his absence. On route to Turkey, in the Plymouth, Winchilsea’s party stopped at Lisbon, Algiers, and arrived at Smyrna in mid-December 1660. Bargrave fell ill, and was left behind when the Plymouth sailed for Constantinople on 7 January. According to the ODNB, his death was reported to Winchilsea on 9 February 1661 by the English consul at Smyrna, Richard Baker: ‘Your servant mr Bargrave is dead & buried at Santa Venáranda whither wee all accompanied him; his wife most disconsolate & to be admired for her love & care of him’.

Although brief extracts from Bargrave’s diary had been published in a variety of earlier scholarly works, the first fully annotated edition (with un-modernised language and spelling) was only published as recently as 1999, by the Hakluyt Society, edited by Michael G. Brennan: The Travel Diary of Robert Bargrave, Levant Merchant 1647-1656. The Society had, in fact, been preparing the work for publication in the 1940s, but the project lapsed. 

Again according to the ODNB: ‘Bargrave’s diary records his extensive experiences of commercial and diplomatic affairs, as well as his encounters with émigré royalists, and his relatives John Bargrave and John Raymond, who together compiled the invaluable guidebook published under the latter’s name as An Itinerary . . . Made through Italy (1648). Interspersed with these travel records are examples of Bargrave’s own poetry, including a masque with musical settings and dance steps, and his general observations as a tourist.’ Here are several extracts from Bargrave’s diary.

20 September 1652
‘Sept, the :20: we reachd (though with much difficulty) Yenèe Cue, a pretty small village seated beside a pleasant brooke: wherein we bathd our selves, and learnd our pediculous Companions to swimm: The Land hereabout is indeed very pleasing, resembling Parke - or Forrest - Grounds: at night by a Courteous Turkes Invitation, we repaird to his house; where he enterteind us with a Supper, & our horses with Hay, Gratis:’

21 September 1652
‘Sept, the :21 : we spent the first of the Day, in mending our Carts: the Vexation whereof is such, as I shall for ever putt them in my Letany, & give in Caution against them to all, whose Necessity may not force theyr using them; yet in the Afternoon (with Trouble enough) we travelld about fower howers, & pitchd at a most delicious Fountain on the way side.’

22 September 1652
‘September the :22: We sett out at break of Dawne; but having soon lost our way (& the Caravan too) in a Mist, we rid at range, till our hunger drove us in for a Bait at a Bulgares Cottage: hence we took our way to Carnabàtt; a handsom Toune, seated by a delicat Plaine, & washd with a pleasant River: neer which is as shady a large Grove of low Trees, as I have seen; so lovely, as if Nature had sett them for a Patterne of Plantation, to pose Art with: & here we found our Carravan; with whom we quartred, on the way side about an hower distant from Carnabatt –’

17 September 1652
‘Sep : 17: Leaving Thrace, we enterd into Bulgaria & rid to a village calld Dervènt=Cue: where we find the Inhabitants to be of the Grecian Relligion, & theyr Speech a confusd mixture of Turkish, Sclavonian & Greek:’ 

29 September 1652
‘September the :29:th we left Bulgaria, & entred a Country calld Dobrugia, which has lost its Christian name (unless it bee Silistria (as its chief City is still Called) And gotten this Turkish one; signyfying = Wellfare = from the great fruitfullness thereof: we rod about :12: howres to a Toune calld Bazargèe upon a délicat plaine & fertile Soile, scarse the :10:th part whereof is manur’d, through the paucity of Inhabitants; whose paines (though themselves are Turkes) are devourd by the Tiranny of theyr Governours. this Roud is very subject to Robberies; insomuch that in many places are to be seen Memoriall Pillars or heaps of Stones, over the bodies of Men there murdred & buryed.

30 September 1652
‘September the :30.th we went onn to a village calld Cavlaklèr;5 along the continued plaine, affording scarse a Tree & Stone within View: the Land clad with Grass wonderfully thick, having neither Men to manure it nor Cattle to eat a considerable part of it, although they have indeed great nombers of Bullocks & horses, scarse distinguishable from wild. The Inhabitants are so slothfull, that if they have sufficient for to Day & themselfs, they let Tomorrow & others take theyr Fortune: Water is bad & Searcy, & wine not to be had; because none but Turkes dwell in the Country: Wood they have none nor other burning then beasts Dung mixt with Straw, & dried; which would make bad Coals to broile Rashers on, if theyr Relligion would permitt them Bacon By the way we see a sort of Birds calld Тói (which I have neither mett nor heard of in Other parts) somewhat of the Shape & Colour of Turkies, but verie much greater: of which opportunity not letting us tast, we took it on Credit, that they be admirable meat: but could we have persuaded them to stand our Gunns, they had done a more opportune Favour; while even in a land of Plenty, we suffered very great want.’

17 February 1653
‘February the :17th: we came to Linghen; which with three other Tounes belong to the Prince of Orange; the Land extending about ten Legues in length, & two in breadth. Linghen was formerly a fortified Toune, but being taken by the Spanyards & retaken by the Hollanders, they demolishd the workes: & here termes Westfalia: -‘

21 February 1653
‘February the :21. we reachd to Emms Foort, a City well fortified, large handsom and cleane, having streight long Streets, delicatly pavd: but that which most contributed to our Prospect, was the stately even Rhoads to and from the City, curiously planted on each side with Abele=Trees, as also diverse other planted Walkes, leading out of the Rhode to Pleasant Villa’s, which are seated round about in land richly manurd, and chiefly with Tobacco, hence we advanc’d yet farther to Nearden, a Toune much larger then Emms Foort; the Streets broader, the buildings fairer, very uniforme, exceeding cleane: A stately artificiall River runns through the Toune: but at all these places were we forcd to pay Toll, for our Selves & horses: rating our horses heads at a greater price then our own:’

22 February 1653
February the :22d: - We went by water to Amsterdam, on an artificiall River, broad and deep, and cutt by a line about fower miles length from Nearden; the Rhoad goes along by the river, so that our boat was drawen by a Horse, as is the Custome through=out the low Countryes: The Land round=about us is every where bespotted with pretty Villaes and Guardens, so neatly contriv’d, & handsomely adornd, that together with the view of the City, of the Seae, & the litle Woods of Shipps neer it, they make up a most noble Prospect.’

Saturday, February 6, 2021

A burst of gun fire

‘Left the hotel at the usual side entrance and headed for the car - suddenly there was a burst of gun fire from the left. S.S. Agent pushed me onto the floor of the car & jumped on top. I felt a blow in my upper back that was unbelievably painful. I was sure he’d broken my rib. The car took off. I sat up on the edge of the seat almost paralyzed by pain.’ This is Ronald Reagan - born 110 years ago today - recording in his diary the attempt made on his life just a couple of months after he’d been elected president for the first time. His diary, though not rich in philosophical or psychological depth, is remarkable for having been written every day he was in office, and for the wide range of subjects, political and personal, that he records. 

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on 6 February 1911 in Tampico, Illinois, to a salesman of Irish Catholic descent. He attended high school in Dixon and then Eureka College where he studied economics and sociology, played American football, and acted in school plays. On graduating, he became a radio sports announcer. However, a screen test in 1937 won him a contract in Hollywood, and a successful acting career followed. In 1940, he married fellow actor Jane Wyman (twice previously married) with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1948 (Jane would go on to marry twice more to the same man!), and Reagan married Nancy, also an actor, in 1952. They, too, had two children.

From 1947 to 1952, and from 1959 to 1960, Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, during which time he testified in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. From 1954 to 1962, he hosted the weekly television drama series The General Electric Theater, and he toured the US as a public relations representative for General Electric, giving pro-business talks speaking out against too much government control and wasteful spending. By this time, a youthful enthusiasm for Democratic politics had turned into support for Republican policies. In 1964, he gave a well-received televised speech for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and two years later, in his first race for public office, Reagan won the governorship of California; he was reelected to a second term in 1970. 

On his third attempt, in 1980, Reagan won the Republican presidential nomination. He went on to defeat President Jimmy Carter by a large margin, and a clear majority of the popular vote. Two months after his inauguration as president, he survived an assassination attempt. At home, he undertook policies to reduce the federal government’s reach into the daily lives of citizens and to cut taxes to spur growth (dubbed ‘Reaganomics’). Increased military spending and deregulation of business were other priorities. With regard to foreign policy, he called the Soviet Union ‘the evil empire’, and fuelled the Cold War with aid to anticommunist movements in many parts of the world. In 1983, he launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a plan to develop space-based weapons. That same year, he authorised an invasion of Grenada after a coup by Marxist rebels. During Reagan’s second term (1985-1989) when he was reelected by a landslide, he forged a diplomatic relationship with the reform-minded Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, and challenged him to dismantle the Berlin Wall.

In 1994, Reagan revealed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He died in 2004, was given a state funeral in Washington, D.C., and  buried on the grounds of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum (which had been opened in 1991). Further information on Reagan is readily available at Wikipedia, The White House, History.com, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or The Miller Center.

Reagan has the distinction of being one of a handful of American presidents who kept a detailed diary in office ( even when in  hospital recovering from an assassination attempt).  In 2005, Nancy Reagan gave permission for the five volumes of her husband’s thick, maroon, leather-bound diary books to be transcribed. The Reagan Library Foundation partnered with HarperCollins (which is said to have paid over a million pounds for the rights) to have them published in 2007 as The Reagan Diaries (edited by Douglas Brinkley). According to Wikipedia an edited version of the diaries reached No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. A review can be read at The Nw York Times website. The actual diaries are on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The full text (coupled with the so-called White House Diary - a daily schedule of meetings and events attended) is available on the library’s website and is the source of the following extracts.

11 February 1981
‘High spot a Nat. Security Council meeting. We have absolute proof of Soviet & Cuban activity in delivering arms to rebels in El Salvador - Also their worldwide propaganda campaign which has succeeded in raising riots & demonstrations in Europe & the U.S. Intelligence reports say he [Castro] is very worried about me. I’m very worried that we cant come up with something to justify his worrying.’

8 April 1981
‘My day to address the Bldg. & Const. Trades Nat. Conf. A.F.L.-C.I.O. at the Hilton Ballroom - 2 P.M. Was all dressed to go & for some reason at the last min. took off my really good wrist watch & wore an older one.

Speech not riotously received - still it was successful.

Left the hotel at the usual side entrance and headed for the car - suddenly there was a burst of gun fire from the left. S.S. Agent pushed me onto the floor of the car & jumped on top. I felt a blow in my upper back that was unbelievably painful. I was sure he’d broken my rib. The car took off. I sat up on the edge of the seat almost paralyzed by pain. Then I began coughing up blood which made both of us think - yes I had a broken rib & it had punctured a lung. He switched orders from W.H. to Geo. Wash. U. Hosp.

By the time we arrived I was having great trouble getting enough air. We did not know that Tim McCarthy (S.S.) had been shot in the chest, Jim Brady in the head & a policemen Tom Delahanty in the neck.

I walked into the emergency room and was hoisted onto a cart where I was stripped of my clothes. It was then we learned I’d been shot & had a bullet in my lung.

Getting shot hurts. Still my fear was growing because no matter how hard I tried to breathe it seemed I was getting less & less air. I focused on that tiled ceiling and prayed. But I realized I couldn’t ask for Gods help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me. Isn’t that the meaning of the lost sheep? We are all Gods children & therefore equally beloved by him. I began to pray for his soul and that he would find his way back to the fold.

I opened my eyes once to find Nancy there. I pray I’ll never face a day when she isn’t there. Of all the ways God has blessed me giving her to me is the greatest and beyond anything I can ever hope to deserve.

All the kids arrived and the hours ran together in a blur during which I was operated on. I know it’s going to be a long recovery but there has been such an outpouring of love from all over.

The days of therapy, transfusion, intravenous etc. have gone by - now it is Sat. April 11 and this morning I left the hospital and am here at the W.H. with Nancy & Patti. The treatment, the warmth, the skill of those at G.W. has been magnificent but it’s great to be here at home.

Whatever happens now I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can.’

18 April 1981
‘A nice quiet day - no emergencies, slept in late but still managed an afternoon nap. Wrote a draft of a letter to Brezhnev. Dont know whether I’ll send it but enjoyed putting some thoughts down on paper. 9 P.M. and we’re off to bed.’

19 April 1981
‘A beautiful Easter morning. In the afternoon Rev. Louis Evans & his wife called and brought us communion. They made it a most meaningful day.

Watched some T.V. in bed and saw Gloria Steinem take me over the coals for being a bigot and against women. Either she is totally ignorant of my positions which I doubt or she is a deliberate liar.’

12 February 1983
‘Found out some of our people stayed in West Wing all night rather than try to go home. Near 5 P.M. temperatures in the 40’s. Snow has been melting but still too deep to see any lawn. George B. & Bud McFarlane came by to tell me Neimeri of Sudan cites a reliable source that Khadafy is planning air action against Sudan to coincide with insurgent attacks from the South. We have A.W.A.C.S. planes available over Egypt to vector Egyptian planes if this proves reliable. George and Obie Shultz coming to dinner & we’ve run a movie.’

15 February 1983
‘Meeting with Repub. Cong. leadership. Our 2 Georges reported on their trips to Europe & Asia. They were roundly praised by all present. Then we got into a budget discussion & how the ec. was doing. It was a really upbeat meeting. Had an intelligence briefing on the Palestinian situation. It was pretty sobering. There are hundreds of thousands - indeed mils. scattered throughout the Middle East. All look upon Israel & the West bank as their natural homeland. There are already 1,700,000 of them in that area. Did a Q&A in the family theatre preparing for press conf. tomorrow night. Home to wood shed for that exam. Almost forgot - Geo. Shultz sneaked Ambassador Dobrynin (Soviet) into the W.H. We talked for 2 hours. Sometimes we got pretty nose to nose. I told him I wanted George to be a channel for direct contact with Andropov - no bureaucracy involved. Geo. tells me that after they left, the ambas. said “this could be an historic moment.” ’

30 March 1986
‘The weather was in & out but I managed to ride every day although one day was in fog, one in light rain & one in a strong wind but with sunshine. All in all it was a good trip and Barney, Dennis & I got in some trail clearing etc.

During our stay got a night time call re the bombing of the Disco in W. Berlin where 50 or so of our servicemen were wounded & killed. Evidence is adding up that the villain was Kadaffy although that hypocrite went on T.V. to say “it was a terrorist act against innocent civilians & he wouldn’t do such things.”

Roy Miller came up one day with our income tax forms. We really need tax reform!! Final day, Ron & Doria came up - that was our rainy day ride.

Sun was coming out today - Sunday of course because we had to leave. Ride home uneventful & here we are in the W.H.’

4 April 1986
‘No ranch chores today. Dressed up in our town clothes & helicoptered (1 hr. & 20 min’s.) down the Coast to a place between Newport & Laguna to the beautiful home of retired Gen. & Mrs. William Lyon. A reception & lunch for about 50 people - prospective donors & donors to the Presidential Library. A meeting 1st with architect of Library - it’s going to be magnificent. Then a receiving line & photos - some mix & mingle & lunch. I spoke briefly then back in the chopper & back to the ranch about 4 P.M.’

See also Poindexter, Reagan and Bush

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Buggering around aimlessly

‘This being the New Year’s Day of practice, as distinct from theory, I paid tribute to it by buggering around aimlessly all morning, and then went down to the office in the afternoon. It was a foggy day - one of the heaviest fogs I’ve ever seen here, and I should think that those who obediently get gloomy in gloomy weather would go into reverse & feel exhilarated with the mystery & glamour that a fog spreads over things.’ This is from the diaries of Northrop Frye, a celebrated Canadian literary academic who died 30 years ago today. On publication of Frye’s diaries, the publisher claimed they provided ‘an unprecedented view of the life and times of this now-legendary scholar’.

Frye was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in 1912 but was raised in Moncton, New Brunswick. His much older brother, Howard, died in World War I. He studied philosophy at Victoria College in the University of Toronto, where he edited the college literary journal. He then studied theology at Emmanuel College. After a brief period as a student minister in Saskatchewan, he was ordained to the ministry of the United Church of Canada. He studied further at Merton College, Oxford, where he was a member and Secretary of the Bodley Club, before returning to Victoria College. In 1937, he married Helen Kemp, an art student. In 1947, Frye’s first book, Fearful Symmetry, a study of William Blake, brought him international attention. 

Frye was made chairman of the English department at Victoria College from 1952, he then served as principal (1959-67) and chancellor (1978-91). As well as teaching at the Toronto college, he travelled widely to give lectures in the US and overseas (he was also, in 1974-1975, the Norton professor at Harvard University). According to his bio in Encyclopaedia Britannica: ‘In Anatomy of Criticism [1957] he challenged the hegemony of the New Criticism by emphasizing the modes and genres of literary texts. Rather than analyze the language of individual works of literature, as the New Critics did, Frye stressed the larger or deeper imaginative patterns from which all literary works are constructed and the recurring importance of literature’s underlying archetypes.’ Many further works of literary criticism followed, consolidating his position as one of Canada’s most important literary critics. After the death of his wife in 1986, he married the widow Elizabeth Brown in 1988; but he, himself, died on 23 January 1991. Further information can  be found online at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Online Encyclopaedia of Canada Christian Leaders, and Wikipedia.

From the mid-1990s until 2012, The University of Toronto Press published the Collected Works of Northrop Frye in 30 volumes. Transcriptions of all his diaries were published in Volume 8 - The Diaries of Northrop Frye, 1942–1955 - as edited by Robert D. Denham (who also edited half a dozen or more other volumes in the series). The publisher says, for Frye, diary writing was a tool for recording ‘everything of importance and this ruled out very little’. His entries contain a large measure of self-analysis and self-revelation, and in this respect are ‘confessional’. They cover his classes, planning his career, recording his dreams, registering frank reactions to the hundreds of people who cross his path, eyeing attractive women, reflecting on books, music and movies, pondering religious and political issues, as well as considering his various physical and psychological ailments. The volume (which can be previewed at Googlebooks) is fully annotated, contains a directory that identifies more than 1,200 people mentioned in the text, and has a detailed, lengthy and informative introduction. Here are several extracts.

10 August 1942
‘Bitched the day, celebrating because Ned [Pratt] liked the Blake. Show at night. Thurber’s “Male Animal.” Not bad: but Henry James was a bad dramatist and a master of Thurber’s. The main theme, a hot-headed undergraduate editor turning a piece of ordinary teaching routine into a crusade, is sound. The episodic clowning with his wife was a bit weak. But the Chairman of Trustees was too crude: one never gets them like that. They always turn up quoting Holy Scripture and John Stuart Mill on Liberty. A novel about a similar situation with the weakling’s endlessly rationalizing would be all right. The other show was a bad English thriller based on fake ‘psychology’: Flora Robson writing poison-pen letters because she was a spinster & her maternal impulse was frustrated. [. . .]

Mary [Winspear] said the last person to have real intellectual guts was Bernard Shaw. I said writers were becoming a stereotype, a Brahmin caste, and I trotted out my anatomy theory. If I ever get around to writing a novel called Liberal, the motto for which will be Isaiah 32:8, I want a sentimental weather-cocky Craggish hero with an anatomic  Jack counterpoint and a fantastic  Regillus one. When my ideas are major, why is my execution so miserably stupid: is it just lack of practice? My opening scene with Kennedy is all right if he reinforces the liberalism. But it’s so bloody Quixotic to think in terms of Dostoievsky and produce something on the level of Cosmopolitan or Maclean’s. I‘m getting fed up with it and all my wool-gathering dreary accidia.’

19 August 1942
‘Today the news was all about the Dieppe raid, & the Russian front also got a front-page splash. The fact that the Chinese stormed & captured Wenchow, a city of 100,000 on the coast, was recorded in a tiny box in the second section. I simply cannot understand this assumption that the Chinese front is of no importance or interest. It’s all the sillier when one realizes that the current of world history is now going through Asia & that Europe has ceased to be of any organic historical significance. China will probably have the next century pretty well to itself as far as culture, & perhaps even civilization, are concerned.’

24 September 1942
‘Morley [Callaghan] & Eleanor [Godfrey] dislike the English but don’t fully understand why: it’s because they’re Catholics, of course. The confusions of interests today are curious. Heywood Broun turned R.C. after he’d become convinced, wrongly of course, that it wasn’t inherently Fascist. He judged the church by a political standard assumed superior to it. Yet if he had realized this he‘d have sold out to the reactionaries. Funny deadlock.

The theory of democracy about the will of the people being the source of government is, in that form, just will-worship like Calvin’s.’

28 September 1942
‘Three lectures and busting with shit: went home early this afternoon. Then to Havelock’s for a debating society executive meeting. Eric has taken quite a shine to me evidently & he certainly does work hard at debates. They varied between political and local-scandal subjects, suggesting “should formal parties be suspended?” I said it would be more interesting to say “should formal dresses be suspended?” They came to no conclusions but are planning a group of inter-year debates.’ 

6 January 1949
‘Lectures all morning. In Milton I dealt with the paradox of evil as a metaphysical negation & a moral fact, comparing it with the conception of cold in physics. Somebody asked me why chaos existed. I said all conceptions of the universe, not just the Einsteinian, are limited, & chaos marks the limit of that which is created by God yet is not God. There can be nothing beyond chaos, because there can be nothing beyond God; but God‘s power radiates to the limit of matter, or creation, hence there has to be chaos, or as near to pure matter as is conceivable, at that limit. I said that God’s power is a vision to angels, a mystery to men, an automatic instinct in animals, plants &, according to the 17th c., minerals, and operates as luck or chance in chaos, hence Satan’s footslip. That the 19th c, influenced by the prestige of biological & other sciences, had looked downward from the human mystery & seen the world as a mechanism, and that the 20th c., peering through that, had struck probability & the “principle of indeterminacy” at the bottom of it. A touch of glibness there, as there is in a lot of what I say. [. . .]

Marjorie King has just phoned to say that Harold [KingJ] is dead. Heart attack striking without warning last night. Harold was as lovable a person as I knew, & I shall miss him intensely: it’s one of the few deaths I have experienced that hurt. She wants me to do the funeral: I always refuse marriages, but I don’t see how I can refuse this - actually my attitude to marriages may be ungracious. I suppose when people ask me they want either a personal touch or less religion than they get from professionals. Personal touches are out of place at funerals there one wants only to see the great wheels of the Church rolling by. It is much more of an imposition than Marjorie realizes, as the death is a considerable shock to me, even if it cannot be compared with the shock to her. As for the religion, all one can do at a funeral is proclaim the fact of resurrection: any funeral that doesn’t do that is just variations on “Behold, he stinketh” [John 11:39].’

23 January 1949
‘Overtired after a strenuous week: will I never learn not to accept invitations outside Toronto? A very dull day: out to hear Sclater at Old St. Andrews talk about the gap (curtain he called it) between youth & age. He’s a frivolous person & seemed to assume that after 1913 the world lost a point of stability it had up to that time. Life goes in a parabola, thus: [. . .] & on the descending curve you’re apt to be fascinated by the point opposite you on the up curve. I think there may be even a physiological basis to this, indicated by the way young childhood crowds into the minds of the very aged. I didn‘t actually hear much of the sermon. The Wilsons came in for supper & Margaret [Newton] returned from Washington. Says the Truman inaugural wasn’t, like most American parades, exuberant & good-humored, but a grim military march-past for the benefit of the Soviet Ambassador. If I were a leading Russian Communist I’d say: we now have Russia, one-sixth of the world. We have East Europe & the West is in our pocket we could occupy it in two weeks anyway. The revolt of Asia is the great political fact in the contemporary world, & we’re in a position to exploit that: the Americans can only prop up beaten & discredited governments. The revolt of Africa hasn’t yet come, but is certainly coming. The only power able to oppose our conquest of the world is the U.S.A. There’s no use fighting her: she’s too strong: she has the atom bomb & an economic system that works best under wartime conditions. With the three continents in our grip, we can sit tight & let her blow up & burst with her economy which demands continuous centrifugal expansion & which we I think. Why should they start a war? Margaret’s on the Reserve Army list & has been told to report to H.Q. It doesn’t look like war yet, to me, but that may be just a “wistful vista.” The Americans could start a war to forestall their blowup; but the Russians could start one too to forestall the blowing up of the contradictions in the argument I’ve just outlined.’

2 January 1950
‘This being the New Year’s Day of practice, as distinct from theory, I paid tribute to it by buggering around aimlessly all morning, and then went down to the office in the afternoon. It was a foggy day - one of the heaviest fogs I’ve ever seen here, and I should think that those who obediently get gloomy in gloomy weather would go into reverse & feel exhilarated with the mystery & glamour that a fog spreads over things. My Hudson Review was in the mail, and I spent some time gloating over it: I’m getting to be a terrible intellectual narcist. Saw Ned [Pratt], who has been converted to John Sutherland by a friendly letter, & who tells me Mrs. Ford is dead. Came home and voted. I plumped for May Birchard for alderman again, but she still didn’t make it, though she was close. The Sunday sport issue went pro, greatly to my surprise. Both Protestants & the Cardinal had gone against it, two of the three papers who had been for it had ratted midway (the third, the Star, was against it anyway) and not a candidate except Lamport had dared to open his mouth in favor if it. It indicates that “public opinion” that everyone is afraid of is largely a matter of lobbying and organized minorities.’

Friday, January 15, 2021

Antiquities and highywaymen

It is 350 years since the birth of Abraham de la Pryme, a priest and antiquarian who lived but 34 years and is only remembered today because he kept a diary during his short life. Often written in retrospect the diary sometimes reads more like an autobiography, yet it is full of amusing anecdotes - such as how one would-be highwayman got the better of an experienced one - and interesting notes on the antiquities of his area.

Abraham de la Pryme was born to Huguenot parents on 15 January 1671 in Hatfield, Yorkshire. He studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, at the same time as Isaac Newton. After working as a curate in Hull, where he diligently researched the records and antiquities of the town, he was granted a living at Thorne, also in Yorkshire. He compiled histories of Hatfield and of Kingston upon Hull, but died young at the age of 34.

There is very little information on the internet about Abraham de la Pryme other than short biographies at Wikipedia and Stainforthonline. He is mostly remembered today because he left behind a diary, part of which is more like an autobiography. It was published by the Surtees Society in 1870 as The Diary of Abraham de la Pryme, the Yorkshire Antiquary, and is now freely available at Internet Archive or Googlebooks.

Here are a few extracts taken from 1695, some about highwaymen, one about a tree-planting scheme, and another about a plot to poison to the king!

20 October 1695
‘This [day] examining and talking with several of my oldest parishoners of this town about what was memorable relating thereto, they tell me that this Roman way, of which I have already made mention, is commonly call’d amongst them the High Street way.

This country has been exceeding woody to what it is now, above half of the woods being cut down and sold about forty years ago. Here was formerly very great roberys committed in them, this being the most dangerous place in the whole country, so that people durst scarce travel in companys. In this wood towards Thorholm more, is a low sunken place call’d Gipwell*, which was formerly a mighty deep hole, so thick beset with trees, that it was impossible to see the sun. Here it was that the rogues kept their rendisvouz and carryd all those thither that they rob’d, oftentimes murdering them and casting them therein. Within these twenty years stood a mighty great hollow tree, in which, when it was cut close up by the roots, was found a pair of pot-hooks.

There stood a mighty great famous tree likewise by this way side, which was cut down about thirteen years ago. It was nine yards about, had twenty load of wood in it besides it’s body, and spread at least twenty-five yards each way when it was standing.

There is a good law at Worlebee, a town some few miles off, which every tennant, according to the quantity of land that he takes, is bound to plant yearly so many trees thereon; but, tho’ this law is yet in force amongst them, yet it is a great pitty that it is not so much regarded as formerly.

*There is no such place as Gipwell now. There is a deep black bog on two sides of Thornhohne, and it must, I think, have been some part of this that was formerly a pond or pool; and if they put their victims in, I have no doubt they would soon sink into the bog, and never be heard of again.’

25 October 1695
‘The other day I was at the visitation at Ganesburrough. I met with nothing observable by the way but some places that looked like old fortifications; only at the very entrance of the town is a large green burrow, hollow at the top, under which, as I concieve, many Dains have been buried, because that they mightily infested this town in King William the Conqueror’s days. The church is no splendid piece of workmanship, but low, narrow, and dark. I had not time to observe what inscriptions there were in it.’

23 December 1695
‘I heard this of my patron, that is just come from London, that the king, as he was going to Oxford, was told by one of his nobles (but upon what grounds it is uncertain) that his Majesty should be poison’d at Oxford, and desired him not to tast of any of their entertainment. Upon which, when he came to Oxford, he was exceedingly welcom’d, and carryed to the theater, which was full of gentry in all the gallerys, and there was a most splendid repast provided. But the king came in with his lords and nobles, and took a view of all, and having walked about for a while went out. As he was going out several of the mobb throng’d in, upon which the gentlemen in the gallerys hist at them; and the king, not understanding the meaning thereoff, thought they hiss’d at him, and took it very ill, until that the Chancellor and several of the heads of the university hearing thereoff went and told the king the true reason of their hissing.

A great many more things I could relate about the king’s being in the country, but I am very suspitious of them, therefore shall not set any of them down.’

29 December 1695
‘Yesterday, James Middleton came over from Hatfield. He tells me a very merry thing that happen’d at Wroot, in the Isle, lately. Mr Parrel there had a great lusty man-servant, but, as appears by the sequell of the discourse, not of very much witt. About two months ago, there comes a maggot into his head to turn padder upon the highway; so he acquaints his master with his resolution. “Master,” says he, “I have been two years in your service, and what I get is inconsiderable, and will scarce suffice my expenses; and I work very hard. I fancy,” says he, “that I could find out a better way to live, and by which I should have more ease and more money.” “Ey,” says his master, “pray what is that?” “It is,” says he, “by turning padder.” “Alass! John,” says he, “that will not do; take my word,” says he, “you’ll find that a harder service than mine.” “Well, but I’ll try,” says the man.

And so, next morning, away he went, with a good clubb in his hand; and, being got in the London road, somewhere about Newark or Grantham, there overtook him on the road a genteel man on horseback. John letts him come up to him, and taking his advantage, he catches hold of his bridle, and bidds him stand and deliver. Upon which he of horseback, being a highwayman himself, he began to laugh that a thief should pretend to rob a thief. “But,” says he, “barken, thou padder, I’m one of thy trade; but surely, thou’rt either a fool or one that was never at the trade before.” “No sir,” says John, “I never was at this trade in my life before.” “I thought so,” says the highway-man; “therefore, take my advice, and mind what I say to you. When you have a mind to robb a man, never take hold of his bridle and bid him stand, but, the first thing you do, knock him down, and, if he talk to you, hit him another stroke, and say, ‘Sirrah! you rogue, do you prate?’ And then,” says the highwayman, “you have him at your will,” etc.

Thus they walk’d on for about a mile, the highwayman teaching the other his art; and as they were going a by way to a certain town, they comes to a badd lane. Says the padder to the other on horsback “Sir, I am better acquainted with this country than perhaps you are, this lane is very badd, and you’ll indanger [of] lying fast, therefore you may go through this yate, and along the field side, and so miss all the ill way.”

So he took his advice, and going that way the padder went the other way, and coming to the place where the highwayman should ride through a gapp into the lane again, this rogue, this padder, stands under the hedge, and as soon as ever he sees the highwayman near him, he lends him such a knock over the head that he brought him down immediately. Upon which he began to say, “Sarrah, you rogue, is this your gratitude for the good advice that I gave you?” “Ah! you villain, do you prate?” And with that gave him another knock.

And so, having him wholy at his mercy, he takes almost fifty pound from him and gets upon his horse, and away he rides home to his master at Wroot, by another way, as fast as he could go, and being got home he goes to his master and tell’s him, saying “Tash! master, I find this a very hard trade that I have been about, as you sayd it would prove, and I am resolved to go no more, but be contented with what I have gott. I have got a good horse here, and fifty pound in my pocket, from a highwayman, and I have consider’d that I cannot be prosecuted for it, therefore I’ll live at ease,” etc.’

Happy birthday Wikipedia

Happy 20th birthday Wikipedia. The Diary Review could not exist without it!

Wikipedia provides many of the leads for The Diary Review thanks to its events listings for every date throughout the year. Also, Wikipedia has become the very best encyclopaedic source of biographical and historical information, and because of this almost every story on The Diary Review carries a link to it.

When I first started compiling data for The Diary Junction, in 2005, I still relied a lot on printed sources. Today, in researching biographies for The Diary Review, I use Wikipedia all the time and printed sources rarely. There are three reasons for this: the vast amount of information available through Wikipedia; the ease of access (directly on the computer); and the level of accuracy (which wasn’t always the case in the early years).

However, I have had my issues with the Wikipedia folk, mostly because I am not allowed to add links from Wikipedia articles to The Diary Review (or The Diary Junction). When I’ve tried this once or twice, Wikipedia guard dogs have jumped on me, and threatened to blacklist me. They have a problem with any individual creating links to their own website and pages, even if those links might be useful and bona fide. Since I use Wikipedia’s external links often I can testify with confidence that many of them are far less useful, and far more cluttered with adverts, than any link to The Diary Junction or The Diary Review would be.

Nevertheless, a big thank you to Wikipedia, and all the best for the next 20 years.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

My courage failed

‘Attended the House of Lords on the Unitarian Marriage Bill. I had a great mind to say something but my courage failed me . . . I should be sorry to appear ridiculous - my great evil, is my almost total want of memory . . . all is chaos, blank and confusion.’ This is from the interesting and informative diaries of the 4th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne. He began keeping a diary after the death of his wife, and continued assiduously until his own death exactly 170 years ago today.

Henry Pelham-Clinton was born in 1785, the eldest son of the 3rd Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne and his wife Lady Anna Maria (née Stanhope). He succeeded to the dukedom aged only 10 when his father died. He was educated at Eton. In 1803, his mother and stepfather took him on a European Tour, but when war broke out in 1803 he was detained at Tours until 1806. On his return to England, he married an heiress, Georgiana Elizabeth. They had twelve children, but Georgiana died aged only 33 while giving birth to twins. He served as Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire from 1809, and in 1812 was made a Knight of the Garter, and Steward of Sherwood Forest and of Folewood Park. He was very active in local and regional politics.

From about 1826 Pelham-Clinton became one of the leaders of the so-called Tory Ultras, staunchly supporting the church and state establishment. He was a vehement opponent of policies such as Catholic Emancipation, and also of electoral reform. His positions on the latter led to violent attacks on his property. He published his views on the Reform Bill in An Address to All Classes and Conditions of Englishmen, and was one of 22 peers to vote against it in 1832. As a result of the bill he lost the patronage and interest of six boroughs. 

In 1839, Pelham-Clinton objected, on political and religious grounds, to two government appointments to the magistracy. He wrote an offensive letter to the Lord Chancellor, and on refusing to withdraw it, he was sacked as Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. He died on 12 January 1851, and was succeeded by his eldest son Henry, the 5th Duke of Newcastle, a prominent politician. Further information is available from Wikipedia, University of Nottingham (which holds an archive of the 4th Duke’s papers), the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required), The Peerage, Bromley House or The Nottinghamshire Heritage Gateway.

The latter of these sources has this assessment: ‘The fourth duke of Newcastle is principally remembered as an anti-hero; an obscurantist ultra-Tory who stood in the way of change. Yet at his death [. . .] most of those who opposed Newcastle’s political principles were nevertheless willing to acknowledge his strong dedication to his family, the honest conviction with which he held his political views and the genuine degree of interest shown in his tenants and estate workers. The duke interested himself in the history of his family, in church building, school and hospital provision and in bequeathing a rich material legacy of property, books, art and documents to his successors. It was this mixture of political excess and personal conviction that made him one of the more colourful characters in the history of Nottinghamshire during this period.’

After the death of his wife (and a daughter), Pelham-Clinton began to keep a diary. He kept the habit up for the rest of his life, amassing some 10,000 entries. The diaries are held in the archive at the University of Nottingham which says of them: ‘The entries are detailed, and concern all aspects of his domestic and public life, including comments on news and reports of contemporary events. Family members are referred to frequently, providing information about his daughters, Charlotte, Georgiana, Caroline (later Ricketts) and Henrietta (later D'Eyncourt), and his sons. He was estranged from his eldest son, Henry, Lord Lincoln, and there are references to both Lord Lincoln and his wife Susan, Lady Lincoln, from whom he was subsequently divorced.’

Selections from Pelham-Clinton’s diaries have been published several times. Firstly came John Fletcher’s Where Truth Abides - Extracts from the Diaries of Henry Pelham Fiennes-Clinton 4th Duke Newcastle-Under-Lyne (Country Books, 2001). Dr Richard Gaunt then authored two others: Unhappy Reactionary: The Diaries of the Fourth Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne, 1822-50 (Thoroton Society Record Series Volume XLIII, 2004), and Unrepentant Tory: Political Selections from the Diaries of the Fourth Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne, 1827-38 (Boydell Press, 2006).

The following selection of Pelham-Clinton’s diary entries are taken from Fletcher’s Where Truth Abides and Gaunt’s Unrepentant Tory.

24 July 1823
‘Went to London - sat to Sir T. Lawrence for my portrait which he is about to compleat, having had it in hand now about 15 years. Called on Mr Reynolds who is engraving a print of my beloved Georgiana from a picture by Sir Thom. Lawrence.’ 

24 April 1824
‘I today weaned Edward from the nursery and had his bed put with his brothers where he is now fast asleep . . . I left Miss Spencer in London - and Mr Thompson went there as soon as I arrived here, so that I have the children with me entirely.’

28 April 1824
‘Mr Thompson went to Eton to arrange and prepare every thing for Lincoln’s arrival . . . it seems that nothing is found there in private houses, beds, linen and all furniture and utensils to be found by the occupiers.’

4 May 1824
‘Attended the House of Lords on the Unitarian Marriage Bill. I had a great mind to say something but my courage failed me . . . I should be sorry to appear ridiculous - my great evil, is my almost total want of memory . . . all is chaos, blank and confusion.’ 

29 May 1830
‘So great is the hurry to pass what may be called “the Bastard Regency bill’ that the H. of Lords is to sit today (K. Charles’s day a holiday) for the purpose of giving the Royal assent to it -

The King is in a wretched state: his legs are as big as his body, he cannot lie down & he suffers greatly - & yet he does not suspect his near dissolution: he has Even ordered a carriage for Ascot races - it is truly lamentable to conceive Such blindness & want of preparation for what must shortly come - This World & not the next has been the ruling passion.’

30 May 1830
‘The papers including Prince Leopold’s correspondence relative to taking Upon him the Sovereignty of Greece are very curious - He has extricated himself from bad hands & innumerable difficulties with great dexterity & address - He has proved himself more than a match for the D. of Wellington & his Satellites - & unquestionably merits the thanks of the whole Nation for having disengaged himself from this noxious affair.’

20 February 1831
‘. . . I myself have been visited by a troublesome attack, a sort of inflammation of the bladder and urinary passage . . . much pain . . . Dover’s powder, a preparation of opium, has done wonders for me. [The Doctor] tells me that the ailments of this season affect the brain . . . a curious proof is that 3 poor women tenants of mine at West Markham, Elkesley and Drayton have destroyed themselves.’

21 February 1831
‘The waters being very low to lay the ways for the launch of the ‘Lincoln’, I took the opportunity of fishing the end of the lake head. We found nothing but pike and not a great many of them, the mud and weeds were so thick that the net rolled and not a single carp or tench was in the net. There were 232 pike and a few large perch in the net. I put all the former into the [sleu?] below the cascade.’

28 November 1831
‘It is asserted with confidence that Lord Grey is out of favour with the King, that at last H.M. Sees through his Schemes & that the proclamation against the Unions was by the King’s Special desire - The King is Said to be inclined to adopt a different course & positively to refuse to make more Peers - if so Lord Grey & Co. must go - Negociations are on foot with Lords Harrowby & Wharncliffe & the report is that they approve of the new reform Bill.’

1 December 1833
‘I Know of no news - Mischief is working actively & sedulously, but secretly & surely - The report is that Mr Stanley is to be Minister with ultra Whigs.’ 

5 December 1833
‘The Dissenters have now fairly thrown off the mask, thro’ their organ “the Christian advocate”, they declare the Church of England a nuisance & their determination to obtain what they call their rights - that is a total exemption from all disabilities, & to be free & full participators in every benefit Enjoyed by the present Established Church - There is alas too much to be feared that these miscreants will carry their point & with it falls Religion & Order.’

20 December 1833
‘My preparations for the sale of Aldbro’ & Boro’bridge are now completed - They are valued at nearly [£] 146,000, but I think this much too low & I Shall not allow it to be Sold at that price -I should consider it to be very well sold at [£] 170,000.’

16 October 1834
‘. . . a letter arrived announcing that my Mother had taken very ill with inflamation on the chest . . . I shall leave this place for Ranby early tomorrow. My dear Mother has no one with her and must be in a most forlorn situation, on a sick bed with no one whom she loves near to her.’

20 December 1835
‘Mr Maunsel the Conservative Candidate for Northamptonshire has terminated the first day’s poll, most triumphantly with a majority of above 600 - the 2nd day will most probably produce a Still larger majority in his favor - all this shews the altered feeling in the Country.’

5 April 1840
‘The Queen believes herself to be pregnant . . . rather soon to suspect such an event . . . she is a strange self willed, unreasonable little personage. We went to the Levee today . . . I made my bow and passed on, making my bow also to Prince Albert who stood [at] Her left hand. He is a well looking young man, good countenance, with dark hair and complexion. Hitherto all agree in speaking well of him.’

5 August 1847
‘Gladstone is returned for Oxford - I grieve at it most sincerely, no return has given me more pain . . . Although I consider the man himself to be of no weight and not likely to be an authority in any thing, yet he is a man of indefatigable application . . . altho’ pretty nearly unintelligible, so involved and mystified is the style of his speaking and writing.’

11 August 1847
‘Prize fighting - principally on Lindrick Common, has increased so very much of late years, and has become so notorious and such a scandal to the neighbourhood, that a meeting was holden this day at Worksop to consider [action?] to put down the nuisance - and it was wished that I should take the Chair - it was found to be a difficult thing to devise means to meet all the points of difficulty - as the meeting place is on the borders of three counties - It was finally resolved that we should form ourselves into an Association to indict, and to appoint a Committee to watch the movements of the Fancy, and a professional man to conduct the proceedings - Mr Appleton [Vicar of Worksop] to be the Chairman of the Committee and Mr [John] Whall - the Attorney.’

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Purifying penicillin

‘Down to the lab where I saw the Professor [Florey]. He asked me if I would like to help him design apparatus. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity, and he said that he could probably get me a Nuffield grant at £300 p.a. for six months.’ This is from the diary of the British biochemist Norman Heatley on the very day he joined the Oxford University team of scientists who would soon develop a technique for purifying penicillin in large volumes. Heatley, born 110 years ago today, was not among the Nobel prize winners in 1945 for the discovery and development of penicillin, but his diaries testify to the crucial part he played.

Heatley was born in Woodbridge, Suffolk, where, as a boy, he developed a passion for sailing on the local river. At Tonbridge School, he was inspired towards an interest in chemistry, and then biochemistry. After graduating in natural sciences at St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1933 he went on to attain his PhD in 1936. That same year he moved to the University of Oxford, where he became a fellow of Lincoln College and joined a team of scientists tackling the problem of how to manufacture penicillin in usable quantities. The team was led by the Australian pathologist Howard Florey and included Ernst Chain. Heatley, although the junior member, had a gift for ingenuity and invention, and it was he that suggested transferring the active ingredient of penicillin back into water by changing its acidity, thus purifying the penicillin.

In early 1941, the team treated their first patient, a policeman at the Radcliffe Infirmary. His condition improved, but, for lack of enough penicillin, he eventually died. The new drug was then successfully given to children as they required smaller amounts. After failing to get backing from any British pharmaceutical companies, Florey and Heatley flew to the US where a laboratory in Peoria, Illinois, had agreed to work on production of much large volumes of penicillin. Florey soon returned to Oxford but Heatley stayed on as an advisor for another year. Before the end of the war, soldiers were being treated by the new antibiotic, reducing significantly the number of deaths and amputations resulting from infected wounds. 

Heatley returned to Oxford where, in 1944, he married Mercy Bing. They had three sons and two daughters (though one son died in a road crash). He was elected to a newly endowed research fellowship at Lincoln College where he remained for many years. In 1945, Alexander Fleming, Chain and Florey were all awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine ’for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases.’ Heatley’s contribution was not fully recognised for another 45 years, until 1990 when Oxford University awarded him the rare distinction of an honorary Doctorate of Medicine. He died in 2004. Further information is available from Wikipedia, the BBC or obituaries in The Guardian, or The Lancet

Heatley’s role in the penicillin story has been described in some detail in two modern books partly thanks to a diary he kept at the time. In 2004, Henry Holt published The Mold in Dr. Florey’s Coat: the story of the penicillin miracle by Eric Lax. Lax says, for example, that ‘Heatley’s diary for October 1939 details his many ideas for and success in assaying penicillin, which was not yet a catchword and whose spelling varied. “Quite encouraging results from the penecillin [sic] testing technique”.’ See also a review of the book in Nature. And in 2012 Viviane Quirke’s Collaboration in the Pharmaceutical Industry - Changing Relationships in Britain and France, 1935–1965 was published by Routledge. A few extracts from Heatley’s diary can be found in both books. 

30 September 1939
‘Down to the lab where I saw the Professor. He asked me if I would like to help him design apparatus. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity, and he said that he could probably get me a Nuffield grant at £300 p.a. for six months.’

31 December 1939
‘What a year! .  . . The latter part of the year I have left research entirely, and have been concentrating on the production of P on a large scale. Now, with the help of George Glister, Ruth Callow, and Claire Inayat we are beginning to grow P nearly one thousand times the scale on which I was growing it a year ago.’

15 June 1940
‘I went to register for National Service after lunch, then worked in the lab until 7 o’clock. Collected a pass from the military authorities in the Old Clarendon, for our lab is to be guarded by the Army after 7.0 pm.’

27 June 1940
‘George and I collected about 40 litres of P solution, and filtered it. In the afternoon tried the dustbin still I had designed, and it worked perfectly, although the cooling condenser was not quite efficient enough.’

7 July 1940
‘Spent the evening making masks of silk, for handling cultures in a sterile way.’

8 July 1940
‘Tried out the first complete apparatus for extraction of P, but it did not seem to work well at all. Began to scheme out of a new idea for suspending wicks or thread in ether, and running aqueous solution down them.’

9 July 1940
‘Spent all day making a new P extractor, on the wick principle. Seemed to work fairly well, but the wicks soon became clogged with mess from the P.’

17 July 1940
‘The whole of one batch of 30 tins was infected, so we discarded it. Set up a new batch of tins. Began to make a new P extracting device. The Professor showed me how to inject mice - he will be away tomorrow and wants me to do it for him then.’

25 July 1940
‘Spent all day playing with the P-extracting apparatus. Gained several useful experiences, and I think it will work quite well eventually.’

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Stars Look Down

It is 40 years today since the death of the Scottish writer A. J. Cronin. One of his best books - The Stars Look Down - was turned into a great British movie, produced by Igee Goldsmith and directed by Carol Reed. As far as I know Cronin never kept a diary, but since Igee was my own grandfather and I am a great fan of the film and the book, I’d like to mark the anniversary with the only diary link to Cronin I can find - a couple of entries from my own diaries!

Cronin was born in 1896 in Cardross, the Scottish lowlands, but, after his father died, he grew up in Dumbarton. A first class sportsmen, he also excelled academically and - having served in the navy for a couple of years - graduated in medicine from Glasgow University in 1919. He married Agnes Mary Gibson in 1921, and they had three children.

Cronin’s first medical practice was in a Welsh mining town; and then, in 1924, he was appointed Medical Inspector of Mines for Great Britain. This work led him to publish reports on the links between coal dust inhalation and lung disease. He moved to a practice in Harley Street, London, before starting his own in Notting Hill. However, in 1930, illness forced him to take a break from work, and this allowed him time to write his first novel, Hatter’s Castle. It was such a publishing success that he never returned to medicine.

Subsequently, Cronin wrote about one novel each year in the 1930s; he then moved to the US, where he lived until the mid-1950s, with frequent visits to Europe, especially to Cap-d’Ail in southeast France. For the last 25 years of his life, though, he lived in Switzerland. He died in Montreux on 6 January 1981. More biographical details are available at Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and The Huffington Post has an article about Cronin’s move to Hollywood.

Cronin is probably best remembered today for creating Dr Finlay, the title character in a long-running TV series; and for his book The Citadel, also made into a film, which is said to have contributed to the establishment of the National Health Service in Great Britain by exposing the injustice and incompetence of medical practice at the time.

The Stars Look Down, published in 1935, is set in a fictional town in the northeast of England, and weaves a story around a coal mine and three men: a miner’s son who is studying to become a doctor; a miner who becomes a businessman; and the son of the mine owner. The film version was produced in 1940 by my grandfather Igee Goldsmith, who a few years earlier had fled from Germany having been placed on Hitler’s black list for importing socialist movies like All Quiet on the Western Front. Carol Reed, who went on to make The Third Man which is considered one of greatest British movies, directed The Stars Look Down; and the cast included several young actors who would go on to become famous: Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood and Emlyn Williams.

Apart from being thoughtful and telling a great story, the film has thrilling scenes in which shaft constructions give way and the mine floods trapping a group of miners deep below the surface. There is a clear socialist message in the book and the film suggesting that such accidents were inevitable so long as the coal industry was run by a large number of small owners, rather than operated by the government within a nationalised industry. The famous American film critic Pauline Kael said of the film: ‘[It] has an understanding, an achieved beauty, that Carol Reed was never again able to sustain.’

Much as I would like to ramble on about Igee (and his second wife, Vera Caspary, who wrote the famous American novel Laura, also made into a film) I realise I have already strayed far enough from the main subject. Here, then, are the two entries in my own diary which refer to Cronin.

8 July 1987
‘. . . I should mention The Stars Look Down. I’m currently reading the novel and find a family called Todd (who do not appear in the film) which is of course my mother’s maiden name . . . And in this [fictional] family I find a Laura Todd and an Adam Todd - Laura and Adam being the very two names we are currently considering for our baby [to be born in the next couple of months]. A. J. Cronin’s book is divided into three books. Yesterday, as I approached the end of Book 1, an enormous thrill filled me for I realised the film was essentially only made from a fraction of the novel. The great disaster scene, which forms the film’s climax, so brilliantly done too, comes at the end of Book 1. A few sub-plots further on have been incorporated - David Fenwick’s discovery of his wife’s adultery, Joe Gowlan’s further rise in society, Fenwick’s dismissal from school. But with two-thirds of the book to go, I can look forward to considerable development and perhaps, just perhaps, a happy rather than a sad ending.’

19 December 1987
‘Cronin’s The Stars Look Down in many ways is a profoundly pessimistic novel. Satisfying in that it weaves the stories of many well drawn characters in and out of each other and in so doing creates a tapestry of the times, rich in colour and detail and action. But Cronin must have been deeply upset at the way British politics and society was moving. All the decent and upright characters find their life’s efforts rewarded by failure, while those who are greedy and even nasty do well. The heroes find some success in the world but Cronin tends to smash it down. The baddies are never more than incidental, but they succeed in the world. Cronin does not even make a very good job out of showing their nastiness and the consequences on the people around them. He has taken on a bitterness about the day’s politics and unleashes it through the novel. I remember discovering that the novel I’d had for years but never looked at contained two more parts than were filmed for the movie by my grandfather. How excited I felt to be able to learn more about the film’s characters, see them develop on and find some justice in the world. Clearly Goldsmith and director Carol Reed captured the mood of the entire book in the film even if they only used one-third of it.’

Friday, January 1, 2021

They be permitted to dance

‘They made us a present of great quantities of fish, and the first thing they entreat, all along this channel, is that they be permitted to dance; this we conceded so as not to displease them.’ This is from the diary kept by Gaspar de Portolá, a Spanish army soldier born 305 years ago today, during an expedition he led from Lower to Upper California.

Portolá was born on 1 January 1716 in Os de Balaguer, Spain, of Catalan nobility. He served as a soldier in the Spanish army in Italy and Portugal, being commissioned ensign in 1734, lieutenant in 1743, and captain in the mid-1760s. In 1767, the Spanish monarchy sent him to Lower (Baja) California to serve as governor with orders to expel the Jesuits from the territory. When the Jesuits opposed this persecution, he dealt severely with the rebels, hanging the leaders. He was commander-in-chief of an expedition to Upper (Alta) California, 1769-1770, for the acquisition of the ports of San Diego and Monterey. In 1776, he was appointed governor of Puebla (now part of Mexico), serving until 1784. He retired from active service and returned to Spain where he served as commander of the Numancia cavalry dragoon regiment. In 1786 he was appointed King’s Lieutenant for the strongholds and castles of Lleida, but died later that same year. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or Spartacus Educational.

Portolá kept a diary during the 1769 expedition and this he published while still in California. Nearly 150 years later, it was translated into English (by Donald E. Smith and Frederick J. Teggart) and published as Diary of Gaspar de Portolá during the California Expedition of 1769-1770 (University of California, 1909, for the Academy of Pacific Coast History). The book is freely available online at Internet Archive.

21 June 1769
‘The 21st, we proceeded for four hours on a good road in sight of the ocean. We halted in a gully where there was much water and pasture. Here the expedition rested for one day. During this interim, some natives came [to the camp] and one of them made signs that he had come across other people ahead [of us], indicating that in twelve days we would reach the place where they had halted and were living in houses, and that there were [still] other people in that place. This served to cheer us as we thus understood from the chief that the ships were there. In this place we noticed that there were two islands; it is a large bay with the landmarks that Cabrera Bueno gives for the bay of Todos Santos.’

23 August 1769
‘The 23rd of August, we proceeded for four hours and a half, part of the way along the beach. We halted in a town of eighty houses and the number of natives that we saw was about four hundred. Much running water and pasture. They made us a present of great quantities of fish, and the first thing they entreat, all along this channel, is that they be permitted to dance; this we conceded so as not to displease them.’

4 September 1769
‘The 4th, we proceeded for four hours, the greater part of the road was good; the remainder, close to the seashore, was over great sand dunes. It was necessary to go around the many marshes and lagoons, which gave us much labor. [We halted at a place having] much water and pasture, where there came [to our camp the inhabitants of] a village of about forty natives without [counting] others who were in the neighborhood. Here we found ourselves at the foot of the Sierra de Santa Lucia. We observed that the villages have a small number of inhabitants, and that these do not live in regular houses as [do the Indians] on the channel, but they are more docile.’

20 September 1769
The 20th, we marched for four hours over mountains which, as I say, are very high. All the way, a path had to he opened; the most laborious part being to clear the many rough places full of brambles. The account of Cabrera Bueno has good reason for describing the Sierra de Santa Lucia as being so high, rugged, and massive. We inferred that we could not possibly find any greater range as this was twenty leagues long and sixteen wide. We halted in a gorge where there was little water and pasture; here about four hundred natives came [to our camp].’

29 December 1769
‘The 29th, we travelled for three hours by a route different from that we had taken on the outward journey. We halted in the plain which is named the Plan de los Berros. Here a most obsequious native came up and, being apprehensive among [us] all . . . a present of a fabric interwoven with beautiful feathers which in its arrangement looked like plush [covered with] countless little seeds.’

24 January 1770
‘The 24th, we proceeded for five hours, [and made the same distance as in] two marches on the previous journey. On this day we arrived at San Diego, giving thanks to God that, notwithstanding the great labors and privations we had undergone, not a single man had perished. Indeed we had accomplished our return march, through the great providence of God, without other human aid except that, when we were in dire need, we killed some mules for our necessary sustenance.

We found at San Diego that the three fathers were there with the entire guard of eight soldiers in leather jackets which had been left; but of the fourteen volunteers, who had remained, eight were dead. The San Carlos was anchored in the same place where we had left her; but, during all this time, neither the San Joseph nor El Principe, had arrived, although it was eight months since the former was to leave Guaymas and seven months since the latter had left this port. For this reason, and because of the lack of provisions, a council was held, and it was resolved that, in order to make it possible to hold this port longer, Don Fernando de Rivera, captain of the presidio [of Loreto], should set out with a strong force so that he might go to [Lower] California and also bring back the herd of cattle which was intended for this mission. The remainder of the expedition was to hold this important port, hoping that God might grant us the comfort of sighting some ship.’