Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Bubbling over with fun

‘What a concert that was! [Paderewski] gave eight encores. [. . . He] showed no sign of strain or fatigue. On the contrary, he was bubbling over with fun.’ Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who was as famous for his piano recitals as he was for his staunch advocacy of Polish independence, died 80 years ago today. This commentary, and many others, on the famous Polishman can be found in the diaries of Aniela Strakacz, wife to Paderewski’s personal assistant.

Paderewski was born in 1860 to Polish parents in the village of Kuryłówka in the Podolia Governorate of the Russian Empire (now in Ukraine). His mother died soon after his birth, and he was largely brought up by an aunt (his father was arrested in connection with the so called January Uprising of 1863). He showed a strong interest in music from an early age, and, in 1872, was admitted to the Warsaw Conservatory. Upon graduating in 1878, he worked as a piano tutor. In 1880, he married a fellow student, Antonina Korsakówna. The following year she gave birth to a severely handicapped son. She herself died only weeks later. Paderewski left his son in the care of friends, and in 1881, went to Berlin to study music composition with Friedrich Kiel and Heinrich Urban.

Encouraged and financed by the actress Helena Modrzejewska, Paderewski moved to study in Vienna from 1884 to 1887 under Theodor Leschetizky. During this period he also taught at the Strasbourg Conservatory. From 1887, he made his first public appearances as a pianist, in Vienna, Paris, London, becoming extremely popular with audiences. In 1898 he settled at Riond Bosson near Morges in Switzerland, and the following year he married Helena Górska, Baroness von Rosen. In 1891, he made his first successful tour of the United States, a country he would continue to tour every year or two for the next half century. Despite his busy tour schedule, he also composed much music which he included in his recitals. In 1901, he premiered his opera Manru in Dresden. In 1909, his Symphony in B Minor was premiered in Boston; and that same year he was appointed director of the Warsaw Conservatory.

During the First World War, Paderewski became a member of the Polish National Committee and was appointed its representative to the United States. There, he urged President Woodrow Wilson to support the cause of Polish independence. After the war, the provisional head of state, Józef Piłsudski, asked Paderewski to form in Warsaw a government of experts free from party tendencies. He took the portfolio of foreign affairs for himself but soon realised he wasn’t suited to frontline politics. He returned to Riond Bosson in 1919 - never to return to Poland. In 1921 he resumed concerts in Europe and the US, mainly for war victims. In 1932, he performed at the Madison Square Garden for an audience of about 15,000, raising money for unemployed American musicians.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Paderewski led an anti-Nazi campaign from his home in Switzerland. In 1940, he became the head of the National Council of Poland in exile in London, and again turned to the US for help, speaking to its people directly over the radio. He also restarted his Polish Relief Fund and gave several concerts to raise funds. He died in New York on 29 June 1941. He was much honoured during his lifetime. The Academy of Music in Poznań is named after him, and many major cities in Poland have streets and schools named after him. Further information is available from WikipediaEncyclopaedia Britannica, and Culture Poland

There’s no evidence that Paderewski himself left behind any significant diaries, but Aniela Strakacz did. She was the wife of Sylwin Strakacz, Paderewski’s personal assistant from 1918 for many years, and the executor of his will. Aniela’s diary was published in English by Rutgers University Press in the late 1940s as Paderewski as I knew him - from the diary of Aniela Strakacz (translated from the Polish by Halina Chybowska). This can be read freely online at Internet Archive. Here are several extracts.

4 December 1920
‘This has been a red-letter day at the League because today Paderewski addressed the delegates. All week the League‘s secretariat had been besieged with requests for passes for this occasion.

Long before he was scheduled to speak, every seat on the floor was taken and the spectators gallery was jammed with standees.

At last, Paderewski came up on the platform - a leonine figure radiating moral strength. Accustomed though I am to seeing him, my heart skipped a beat. The audience rose in a spontaneous gesture of welcome and burst into loud and long applause. Paderewski acknowledged the tribute with a dignified low bow and waited for the ovation to subside. From the first minute of his speech, the audience was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. For more than an hour Paderewski addressed this assemblage of the world’s greatest diplomats in French without notes and held them as spellbound as if he were playing Chopin for them. When he finished, he received another ovation lasting several minutes. Then, to everyone’s undisguised astonishment, Paderewski launched into an English version of his own speech. He’s the only delegate who has perfect command of both languages.

The meeting was adjourned following Paderewski’s bilingual performance. To have any other speakers after him would only have been an anticlimax. Delegates and spectators gathered in knots in the corridors to exchange comments about the oration they’d just heard.

What the President’s appreciative audience did not know was how hard he had worked to make this - and, as a matter of fact, every speech of his - the masterpiece of clear thinking and brilliant verbal form that it was. Time ceases to exist for Paderewski when he is in the throes of composing a speech. If he works on it during the day, lunch or dinner are hours late. Nobody dares interrupt the President. So we all wait mournfully, stealing a snack as best we can, for none of us would dream of sitting down to a meal without him. Sometimes we wait so long that lunch practically runs into dinner. Woe to the guest who has been invited for such a day - he must wait with the rest of us.

When the President writes at night, he often works until the small hours of the morning. At such times we, too, go without sleep because nobody retires without bidding Paderewski good night. We all stay up, even Mme. Paderewska and her secretaries. Before the President finally goes to bed, he and Sylwin still have to play a game of cribbage.

Sylwin yawns scandalously but plays; I’m generally so sleepy I’m groggy; only Paderewski shows no sign of fatigue and never yawns.

After he writes out his speech, the President commits it to memory word for word. For the meeting of the League of Nations today he accomplished the prodigious feat of memorizing two speeches, one in French and one in English.’

3 November 1931
‘I can’t seem to stay in Warsaw long. No one knows how happy I am. For the first time in my life I’m going to England and on a concert tour at that. The President will give a number of recitals in England and this will be my first tour with him.

I’ve heard him play so little. Often at Riond Bosson we’d station ourselves outside his study when we heard the sound of piano-playing, but it never worked out very satisfactorily. Even though Paderewski practises eight hours a day, he never plays anything to completion. He starts playing something, pauses over a chord and fusses around with it until he thinks it’s perfect, then plays a few measures more, stops again, and strikes another chord over and over again. Only when he’s absolutely satisfied with the way it sounds does he go on to the next measure. I don’t think I‘ve ever heard him play a single piece all the way through without interruption in all the summers I’ve spent at Riond Bosson.

I’m delighted to be going to England and I’m thrilled about the concerts, but it’s getting more and more difficult to leave home. I‘ve had to board Anetka out in her school because there’s nobody to leave her with at home. Too bad I can’t entrust her to Father. That would be something, if Father gave her the run of the house the way he did me. His theory of rearing children is to put on his eyeglasses, survey Anetka carefully and then remark: ”Come a little closer, my dear. Let me have a look at you. Hm, you don’t seem pretty enough to me. Oh well, don’t worry, you’ll grow up into a pretty young woman.” ’

15 November 1931
’In a few minutes we shall leave for PaderewskI’s concert in Albert Hall which holds six thousand people. I thought this evening would never come. How different everything is on the day Paderewski is scheduled to play. Of course I haven’t even seen him today, nobody has. There is no lunch, everyone eats on his own. We all know that the President suffers dreadfully from stagefright before every concert and never touches food until after the recital.

Today is a particularly important occasion. A London concert and in the largest hall in Europe to boot. I’ve caught the President’s nervousness myself. It’s silly to be scared about the way Paderewski will play, but I can’t help it. I’m worried sick. I even went to church to offer a little prayer for the success of the concert.


Well, it’s all over. I couldn’t even say what Albert Hall looks like. All my amazed eyes could make out was a sea of human heads thousands upon thousands of them. The boxes were bulging with standees. When I looked for the stage, I couldn’t find it; a second look located a small black dot - the piano. But how was the President to get to it? What was supposed to be the stage was so tightly packed with chairs seating part of the overflow audience that those closest to the piano could have reached out and touched it.

The lights dimmed and Paderewski walked in slowly as if trying to fit into the narrow passage that had been left for him. Everybody rose spontaneously and there was prolonged applause. Finally Paderewski sat down at the piano. He began to play only when the silence grew so deep you could have heard the buzzing of a fly.

It was so quiet I didn’t dare look at my program to see what the President was playing for fear the paper would rustle. Gradually I fell under the spell of the music and no longer felt any need to consult the program. The unearthly beauty of that music transported me to another world where neither time nor space existed, and where everything was fine, noble, and sublime.

A lady fainted during the second part of the concert and was carried out without the slightest noise. It couldn’t have taken more than a minute altogether. Still, after the concert the President asked me: “What happened during the concert, did someone faint?” It’s beyond me how the President saw, heard, or sensed the incident because it occurred in an obscure comer of one of the balconies behind him. Sylwin says the President always notices everything that goes on while he is playing.

What a concert that was! The President gave eight encores.

Following the recital there was a tremendous supper for some twenty-odd guests in a private reception room of the Hotel Carlton. The President attacked the food with a healthy appetite. He was in excellent humor and very gallant toward the ladies.

The supper was fit for a king, deliberately so for the benefit of Jancio H., who has the reputation of being the greatest gourmet in Paris. Rumor has it that a chef at the Ritz fainted when he heard that Count H. was in the restaurant.

Paderewski showed no sign of strain or fatigue. On the contrary, he was bubbling over with fun.’

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Erect as a duck

‘It thunders & rains hard & the prospect is shall have to delay my journey another day. I start Tuesday afternoon for Cassopolis & am caught in heavy thunder shower about 4 o’clock, which I keep off with my umbrella and cloak, which wrapt close around me & kept myself erect as a duck. [. . .] it was time for me to return to my tavern, which [I] attempted to do but could only find my way while the flashes of lightning lasted, which were very vivid & answered very well for light. But when I arrived at the tavern I found they were lockt up & gone to bed, & at this moment it commenced raining in torrents & I became pretty well drenched before I could get the landlord to let me in. I had my clothes hung up by the kitchen fire & went to bed, where I slept very well.’ This is from the travel diary of one Nehemiah Curtis Sanford, an industrialist and politician who helped found the US city of Birmingham. Information about Sanford - who died 180 years ago today - is scarce online, but the diary, which has recently published with two other diaries kept by his son, are said to ‘provide a fascinating picture of [a] lost world’.

Nehemiah Sanford, son of Sarah Curtis and her husband Stephen Sandford, was born in 1792. He became an important industrialist, and was one of the founders of Birmingham, Connecticut. In 1833 he was elected to the Connecticut Senate for the 16th District. He married Nancy Bateman Shelton (a direct descendant of Thomas Welles, a Governor of the Connecticut Colony), and they had one son, Henry, who would become an important US diplomat and would found the city of Sanford in Florida. Nehemiah died on 23 June 1841. There is very little further information online other than that in the brief Wikipedia entry. 

However, Sanford left behind an expedition journal. This and others written by his son were published very recently (2019) by Michigan State University Press as The Western Journals of Nehemiah and Henry Sanford, 1839–1846 (edited by Kenneth E. Lewis). Some pages can be previewed at Amazon.

The publisher provides a summary of the contents: ‘The late antebellum period saw the dramatic growth of the United States as Euro-American settlement began to move into new territories west of the Mississippi River. The journals and letters of businessmen Nehemiah and Henry Sanford, written between 1839 and 1846, provide a unique perspective into a time of dramatic expansion in the Great Lakes and beyond. These accounts describe the daily experiences of Nehemiah and his wife Nancy Shelton Sanford as they traveled west from their Connecticut home to examine lands for speculation in regions undergoing colonization, as well as the experiences of their son Henry who later came out to the family’s western property. 

Beyond an interest in business, the Sanfords’ journals provide a detailed picture of the people they encountered and the settlements and country through which they passed and include descriptions of events, activities, methods of travel and travel accommodations, as well as mining in the upper Mississippi Valley and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a buffalo hunt on the Great Plains. Through their travels the Sanfords give us an intimate glimpse of the immigrants, settlers, Native Americans, missionaries, traders, mariners, and soldiers they encountered, and their accounts illuminate the lives and activities of the newcomers and native people who inhabited this fascinating region during a time of dramatic transition.’

The book contains the texts of three separate journals, covering: Nehemiah’s travel from Connecticut to Michigan and Chicago in mid 1839; Henry’s journey from Connecticut to Michigan in 1844; and Henry’s so-called ‘Buffalo Hunt Journal' in 1846.

The editor explains at the beginning of the first of these journals, that, although Nehemiah’s trip was ostensibly conducted for the purpose of overseeing a speculative venture in Michigan lands, it combined business with a sightseeing voyage around the Great Lakes. The editor elaborates: ‘In the late spring of 1839 the Sanfords left their home in Derby, Connecticut, and traveled up the Hudson by steamboat, across New York State by rail and the Erie Canal, and to Detroit by steamboat on Lake Erie. They departed the city by rail, but crossed Michigan’s Lower Peninsula by stagecoach, the era’s ubiquitous form of overland transport. After spending time in the state’s southwestern quarter to investigate its real estate market, our travelers proceeded to Chicago by steamboat. Then, after visiting associates, they returned via lakes Michigan and Huron, stopping briefly to conduct business at Detroit. Their return trip through New York by rail and water brought the Sanfords to the home of relatives in Auburn, New York. Their arrival closed the circle of an adventure that introduced Nehemiah and Nancy to a new, distant world in the midst of rapid and continuous change. The journey exposed them to people, places, and situations that differed markedly from the familiar experiences of their eastern home. Although Nehemiah’s journal carefully recorded his examination of lands and dealings with agents and others in his efforts to exploit economic opportunities presented by the growth of antebellum America, his observations were not limited to business matters alone, and his perceptions of the country through which the couple traveled, the incidents they observed, and the individuals they encountered provide a fascinating picture of this lost world.’

And here is the journal text for the first two weeks of the expedition (without footnotes).

‘Start from home, Birmingham, Ct. on Wednesday, 29 May 1839 & bound for Michigan & Chicago. A cloudy & unpleasant morning, but clear & prospect of a fine day on our arrival at Bridgeport [Connecticut]. A pleasant enough passage to New York, where we arrive at 2 o’clock & stop at Mrs. Shepard’s. Thursday, 30th May. Engaged passage on board the p/b [packet boat] Rochester, secured births 54 & 41. Arrive at Albany Friday morning, take the cars to Amsterdam, where we arrive about 10. Go out myself with brother to his stone quarry. Leave Amsterdam at 10 Saturday night & arrive at Utica at 3 o’clock pm. Leave Utica at 4 in packet boat Rochester, Capt. Сопку. Arrive at Rochester Monday morning, 3 June, go to the Eagle Hotel for breakfast. Leave Rochester at 8 for Buffalo, where we arrive on Sunday the 4th at 6 o’clock am. Stop at U.S. Hotel, where we spend the day. Engage passage on board S/B Buffalo, which leaves at 9 this evening.

Just as we are leaving the hotel to go on board I go to my trunk for some money & find my pocket gone. Can have no doubt in my mind but it was stolen by some of the hands while on board the packet Rochester. Advised with the landlord about what way it was best to proceed. He advised me to write to the Capt. Сопку describing the p[ocket] book & contents, which I did & sent the letter by the return packet to Rochester, informing the capt. of the contents of the letters & requesting his good offices. Those I have informed of the loss seem to believe that any efforts which I may make for the recovery would be hopeless. The only chance will be to watch for any bills which may be paid by any of the hands which are [the] F[armers] & M[echanics Bank of] Hartford & Mechanics] B[ank of] New Haven.

Leave Buffalo at 9 in the evening of the 4th. Should be in very good spirits were it not for the loss of p[ocket] book, which I regard almost as much as the money it contained, it heretofore having stuck by me more than 20 years, being my constant companion at all times & I do not remember that I never before intrusted it to a trunk when traveling. There was from 200 to 240 dollars in it. The loss is something, but no worse than many have met with & is something consoling that I followed the old adage to not carry all my eggs in one basket, but that I have enough in my wallet to yet bear my expenses around should we have the blessing of health during the journey.

We found a Mr. and Mrs. Stevens of Danbury [Connecticut] at U. S. Hotel who were going to visit the falls. A Mr. Wing & wife & a Mr. Noble of Monroe, Michigan, who have been to attend the convention of Presbyterians at Phila[delphia], and a Mr. Stanley of Ind[iana], whose passages with us from Rochester, likewise a Mr. Ord of Washington City, all of whom go on with us to Detroit. Arrive at Erie about daylight on Wednesday the 5th of June, but do not go on shore there not being time. Said to be improving fast, Mr. Cary from Poughkeepsie is a fellow passenger. He went round the lake in the T Jefferson with self & Edward in 1835. 2 gents with him from Poughkeepsie, a Mr. Williams & [blank].

We have stateroom No. 11 & take as much comfort as can be expected in a crowded tho good boat & filled with every kind of men & waggons & 10 horses besides. We arrive at Cleveland at 4 o’clock & are told the boat will stop but 3/4 of an hour. Nancy & myself set on a quick walk to call on Miss. E. Hull, found she had gone into the country, and we hurried back to the boat walking as fast as our feet would carry us. Our haste was needless for the boat did not leave till near an hour after we arrived on board.

My ideas of Cleveland are confused enough for my head was turned while there, north being south & east west, & though I had a recollection of what it was in 1835, I could not make it appear the same place now, though there were some few places I recognized. Mr. Baldwin of Syracuse, & of life preserver memory, came on board, informs me that he has been out of health & has just returned from Texas very much recovered. Says he saw Mr. Blackman at Havana [Cuba] & should think he, Mr. B., had recovered his health entirely. Mr. Baldwin says he speculates some in goods which he carried between Texas & Havana & should come out minus he did not know how much, but that he had bought some Texas land which he was in hopes would make him good.

We arrived at the mouth of Detroit River about sunrise & had a delightful sail up the river to Detroit, where we arrived at 8 o’clock Thursday morning, the 6th of June. Both sides of the river from the lake up to Detroit are cultivated, some handsome dwellings & the farms very beautiful large orchards & fruit & shrubbery & gave every appearance from the boat of being as finely cultivated as the shores of the Delaware between Trenton & Phila[delphia]. We had with [us] a passenger of Phila[delphia], who had with him his wife & heir, who was traveling to see the wonders of the West. He expressed himself much, surprised at seeing grounds so highly cultivated & such an air of comfort about them where he full expected to find a wilderness.

We stop at the National Hotel kept by Mr. Wales, and as most of new acquaintances do who on in the Buffalo. Mr. Wales was himself a passenger with us & of course managed to form acquaintance with those who were visiting Detroit, very disinterested no doubt. His house is large and commodious & is said . . . We were told by a passenger, Mr. Noble, that his sales of champaign alone was over $2,000 the past year. Luxury extravagance of every kind finds its way to the far West almost as soon as New York & the champaign & extravagant luxuries are paid for with creditors’ money as much here as at other places. I learn that Romaine, an extravagant fellow as I thought, who went round the lakes in 1835, being on a wedding excursion at the time, having his wife & his wife’s sister with him & who drank champaign for common drink at dinner, was now living at Detroit. That he had built the finest house in the city, gave the most expensive parties, was implicated in some way respecting the money borrowed by the state from the Michigan Canal Bank, which it was said did not hold out count when it arrived at Detroit, was principal in two wildcat banks which spending is now stopt by the legislature, & I should believe he would after this would find himself willing to be content of good wholesome water.

We left Detroit on Friday morning the 7th of June by r[ail]road. [At] Ypsilanti where we took the stage for Niles at 4 o’clock & arrived [at] Tecumseh where we had our stage at 6 pm, passing through Clinton, the land & scenery fine, the crops of wheat & oats looking very fine & most of the land from Clinton to Tecumseh under cultivation. I was told the school lands not cultivated [were] sold by the state that spring at auction on a credit of 10 years with int[erest] at from 20 to 30 dollars per acre. They are mostly or all oak openings.

From Tecumseh we traveled all night & saw but little of the country, there being no moon, & breakfasted at Coldwater at about 8 o’clock Saturday mor[ning], pretty well fatigued by traveling 24 hours, Nancy somewhat feverish & both almost concluding to rest thru the day & get recovered before another ride of 24 hours on the stage. After resorting to the contents of a champaign basket to increase an appetite & eating our breakfast we concluded to keep on, which we did, passing thru Sturges Prairie to the beautiful White Pigeon Prairie, where we took our supper. White Pigeon Prairie is very handsome & [a] great part of it has crops of wheat upon it, which looks very fine, which it is certain will yield from 35 to 40 bushels the acre. Probably 10,000 or more acres in this vicinity are now covered with wheat. Here again we found the contents of our champaign basket very useful in reviving our spirits & giving us strength to continue the journey thru the night. We set off from White Pigeon about 7 in the evening. Not many hills but some deep hollows to go over which made it slow traveling, it being steep to descend into the hollows & again very hard for the stage to get out of them & up again on to the high ground. The horses all the way thru were fine ones & the drivers seem disposed to keep them so, for they drive very slow, not averaging 4 miles the hour. We passed the night much better in the stage than we did the first night, the stage not being so full & then again by becoming more accustomed to it we were enabled to sleep much more than the first night.

We arrived at Niles at 6 o’clock Sunday morning the 7th, pretty well fatigued & sought again for the contents of our champaign basket, but found we had been anticipated. The driver or someone had broken it open & supposing no doubt it was a subtreasury & had appropriated the contents to their own use. It would have done no good to complain, so we put up with the loss with as much composure as possible & went to bed where we slept till nearly 12 o’clock, when we soon cleaned ourselves & eat our breakfast & dinner at the same time, about 1 o’clock. Thought of attending church in the afternoon, but there was not an Epis[copal] church & upon the whole felt too stupid & languid to attend any. After tea I called upon Mr. P. Lyon with a letter & was received very cordially, & on Monday morning after breakfast walked down with Nancy to Mr. Lyon’s, where she concluded to stay while I travel to Prairie Ronde. Mr. Lyon offers to find & furnish me with a horse & waggon & I propose to sett out on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, 11th June. It thunders & rains hard & the prospect is shall have to delay my journey another day. I start Tuesday afternoon for Cassopolis & am caught in heavy thunder shower about 4 o’clock, which I keep off with my umbrella and cloak, which wrapt close around me & kept myself erect as a duck. I arrived at Cass[opolis] just at sundown & after supper went over to call on Mr. [Elias B.] Sherman, where I stayed till something after 7 when I was reminded by the thunder that it was time for me to return to my tavern, which [I] attempted to do but could only find my way while the flashes of lightning lasted, which were very vivid & answered very well for light. But when I arrived at the tavern I found they were lockt up & gone to bed, & at this moment it commenced raining in torrents & I became pretty well drenched before I could get the landlord to let me in. I had my clothes hung up by the kitchen fire & went to bed, where I slept very well.

In the morning, Wednesday the 12th, I concluded as the roads were very bad, occasioned by the rain, & as I had found by my journey the day before how difficult it was to find the road, I hired a man & 2-horse waggon to go with me & be my driver & pilot. We drove hard thru Wednesday, which [was] an extreme warm day, & arrived at Schoolcraft between 4 & 5 & found our horses very much fatigued as well as ourselves & concluded to spend the night there. In the morning, Thursday, I went down to see our land & was some disappointed to find less wood on it than I expected & less meadow. But it is an excellent lot of land, lying just 4 miles south & one east of Schoolcraft, & the land improved, almost all of it, from Schoolcraft to it, & buildings & families, quite a neighborhood with a distillery within 1/2 a mile. I do believe it worth $10 the acre, tho at this time it would not bring but $5, which [I] am offered for 160 acres. But [I] cannot see why it will not be better to keep it for the present. What a grain farm it would make for some industrious Yankv. He might raise wheat & corn enough upon it to supply a whole town.’

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Reith on Hitler, Churchill

Baron Reith of Stonehaven, the first and very influential manager of the British Broadcasting Company (later Corporation - BBC), died half a century ago today. His diaries, when they were published posthumously, revealed a man rather admiring of Hitler policies in the pre-war years, and one with a very strong and long-lasting antipathy to Winston Churchill.

John Charles Walsham Reith was born in 1889 into a religious family at Stonehaven in Scotland, the youngest of seven children. He studied at Glasgow Academy and at Gresham’s School in Norfolk. He was commissioned into the 5th Scottish Rifles and served in the First World War until he was invalided out in 1915. He spent two years in the US, supervising armament contracts before returning to work for an engineering firm in Glasgow. In 1921, he married Muriel Katharine and they had two children.

Unsatisfied with his lot, Reith moved to London and became secretary to the London Unionist group of MPs in advance of the 1922 general election. Looking around for more ambitious work, he chanced on an advertisement in The Morning Post for a general manager of the British Broadcasting Company, being set up by a consortium of radio manufacturers to produce programmes to be heard on their wireless sets. In time, Reith oversaw the organisation’s transformation under a Royal Charter to the British Broadcasting Corporation; and he became its first Director-General in 1927. Regular television broadcasts began in 1936 just before Reith left the BBC in 1938. In terms of his legacy, he is given considerable credit for having established the tradition of independent public service broadcasting.

After leaving the BBC, Reith served a term as chairman of Imperial Airways. In 1940, he was created Baron Reith of Stonehaven. The same year he was given a government appointment as Minister of Information; and, subsequently, he was elected MP for Southampton. Under Churchill, Reith also served as Minister of Transport and then as First Commissioner of Works. Later, though, he claimed Churchill had not given him enough to do during the war.

In 1946, he was appointed chair of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board, and other chairmanships followed (Colonial Development Corporation and the National Film Finance Corporation). In later years, Reith held various directorships, was Lord Rector of Glasgow University, and, from 1967, was Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He died on 16 June 1971. Further biographical information is available from the BBCWikipedia or Spartacus Educational.

Reith kept a diary for most of his life, amounting to some 4,000 pages, and two million words. Extracts were chosen and edited by Charles Stuart and published in 1975 as The Reith Diaries by Collins.

The book created some media attention at the time because it revealed precisely how Reith, in the 1930s, had been an admirer of the German way of doing things. Stuart says, in his introductory notes, that all Reith’s inclinations were in favour of Germany. On 9 March 1933, for example, Reith wrote: ‘I am pretty certain . . . that the Nazis will clean things up and put Germany on the way to being a real power in Europe again. They are being ruthless and most determined.’ And after the July 1934 Night of The Long Knives, in which the Nazis ruthlessly exterminated their internal dissidents, Reith wrote: ‘I really admire the way Hitler has cleaned up what looked like an incipient revolt.’ After Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Nazis in 1939, he wrote: ‘Hitler continues his magnificent efficiency.’

Stuart, however, suggests that this aspect of Reith’s character was only typical of the times: ‘. . . he combined great self-confidence in the correctness of his opinions with very little sign that he had much knowledge or understanding of the realities of foreign affairs. It was a posture he shared with other leading figures and his attitudes are of more interest as symptoms of the times than illustrative of any great originality on his part.’

The diaries also drew attention to the extraordinary depth of Reith’s hatred for some people, especially Winston Churchill. An article by Ron Robbins, available at The Churchill Centre website, calls the ‘mutual antipathy’ of the two men ‘a strange and somewhat sad chapter in British politics’. He says: ‘Reith’s spleen is written large in his diaries . . . His criticism of Churchill often dribbles on quite absurdly and finally he descends to this: “I absolutely hate him.” But it has to be said that Reith had a remarkably long hate list dating from his early days. Churchill’s genius and magnanimity were beyond Reith’s reach and comprehension. Reith was handicapped by an off-putting, austere nature that contrasted too starkly with Churchill’s warm friendships which had the hallmark of loyalty.’

Here are a few extracts from The Reith Diaries. In the first few, Reith records his involvement in the very earliest days of the BBC; and, in the last two, he reveals how his passion for the very organisation he had nurtured has turned bitter.

13 December 1922
‘This morning I had the interview about the BBC. Sir William Noble [head of the committee selecting a candidate to manage the BBC] came out to get me and he was smiling in a confidential sort of way. Present, McKinistry, Binyon and one other [representatives of the wireless manufacturers]. I put it all before God last night. They didn’t ask me many questions and some they did I didn’t know the meaning of.’ [Note inserted later: ‘The fact is I hadn’t the remotest idea as to what broadcasting was. I hadn’t troubled to find out. If I had tried I should probably have found difficulty in discovering anyone who knew.’] ‘I think they had more or less made up their minds that I was the man before they saw me and that it was chiefly a matter of confirmation. . . They asked what salary I wanted and I said £2,000. Noble came to the door with me and almost winked as if to say it was all right.’

14 December 1922
‘. . . At 3:45 Sir William Noble phoned to ask if I would come along to see him at once, so took a taxi and went. He received me very nicely, . . The Committee had unanimously recommended that I be offered the general managership of the British Broadcasting Co. He said he had tried hard to get the salary of £2,000 but some of the others didn’t want it to start over £1,500, but that if things went OK I should get a rise soon. Later he recommended me to take £1,750 as he thought he could get that approved. After a cup of tea and a general talk, I departed. I am profoundly thankful to God in this matter. It is all His doing. There were six on the short list.’

29 December 1922
‘Newcastle at 12:30. Here I really began my BBC responsibility. Saw transmitting station and studio place and landlords. It was very interesting. Away at 4:28, London at 10:10, bed at 12:00. I am trying to keep in close touch with Christ in all I do and I pray he may keep close to me. I have a great work to do.’

10 September 1923
‘Everything is now in shape for the BBC magazine and from various alternatives I chose Radio Times for the title.’

28 September 1923
‘The first issue of the Radio Times appeared and was sold out.’

19 April 1924
‘Opening of the Wembley Exhibition [British Empire Exhibition]. Everything went most successfully, including the broadcast which went out all over the country, and was the biggest thing we have done yet.’

And 40 years on . . .

30 March 1964
‘I feel immensely sad (and more than that) at the eclipse, or rather complete overthrow and destruction, of all my work in the BBC. It was my being prepared to lead, and to withstand modern laxities and vulgarities and immorality and irreligion and all. No-one was ever in such a position as I; I did what my father and mother would have wished - to universal amazement. All gone. Feeling most melancholy.’

2 April 1964
‘The Dean of Westminster wrote asking me to come to a service on the 19th to signalize the start of the Number Two television BBC. I wouldn’t on any account go to that, nor to anything associated with the BBC.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 16 June 2011.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Toynbee and depression

Philip Toynbee, a British literary novelist and critic, died 40 years ago today. Best remembered, perhaps, for his reviews in the Sunday broadsheet, The Observer, he also left behind two published diaries written after a debilitating period of depression and electroconvulsive therapy. The diaries record, more than anything else, Toynbee’s search for some meaning in his life.

Toynbee was born in 1916 in Oxford, the son of the famous historian Arnold Toynbee. He was educated at Rugby (from where he was expelled for rebellious behaviour) and Christ Church, Oxford, where he was the Union’s first communist president. He worked as a journalist and then, during the war, served in the intelligence corps before being seconded to the Ministry of Economic Warfare. He was promoted to captain and joined the staff of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium in 1944-1945.

It was during the war years, that Toynbee published his first novels A School in Private (1941) and The Barricades (1943). After the war Toynbee joined the staff of The Observer as a foreign correspondent, and later became that paper’s literary critic, a job he held for the rest of his life. He also continued writing novels, some of them considered experimental.

Toynbee’s first marriage - to Anne Powell - produced two children (one of whom is the journalist Polly Toynbee) but ended in divorce in 1950. He then married married Frances Genevieve (Sally), a member of the American embassy in Tel Aviv whom he met while reporting from the Levant. They had a son and two daughters, and eventually settled in Gloucestershire, near Tintern Abbey. Toynbee, however, suffered from chronic drinking problems and recurrent depression.

For a few years, in the mid-1970s, Toynbee and Sally tried turning their home, Barn House, into a community, but the life did not suit Toynbee, and his depression got worse. In 1977, he underwent electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). He died a few years later, on 15 June 1981. Wikipedia has a short biography, as does Encyclopaedia Britannica,

In 1977 (having just completed his ECT), Toynbee began keeping a diary, recording, to a large extent, his search for some spiritual meaning. This was published in two volumes - Part of a Journey: An Autobiographical Journal, 1977-79 and End of a Journey An Autobiographical Journal 1979-81 - by Collins in 1981 and 1982. A digital copy of the first volume can be freely borrowed from Internet Archive

In his introduction to the first volume, Toynbee says: ‘What is presented here [is] a frank and intimate record of my daily life over a period of just over two years; but this does not mean that it is wholly spontaneous; still less that I have ‘told all’. I have been a professional writer for forty years, and as soon as I begin to think of possible publication it was inevitable that I would immediately use all my acquired skills to make it as good a book as I could. . . But in spite of . . . various adjustments and omissions I believe that this is not only as honest a book as I could make it, but also a truthful journal.’

Here are a few extracts, including the very first entry.

1 August 1977
‘More than two months have passed since I finished a course of ECT at Bristol, and for the past six weeks I have been almost entirely free of depression. No exorbitant elation, thank God, but the dazed incredulity of a prisoner suddenly let out into ordinary daylight after three years in a dungeon.

But I must beware of such extravagant images as this; for whatever purpose this diary is meant to serve it certainly won’t serve at all unless I keep it as simple and as truthful as I can. The depression, which began in a desultory way about seven years ago, was acute from 1974 to June of this year. (But the word ‘acute’ is also a dubious one, for although I was sometimes incapacitated for days on end I was often in reasonable working order for a week or more.)

Yes; but even on the best days there was that perpetual fear of a form of possession which sometimes came as suddenly as a blow.’

3 August 1977
‘How absurd it seems to me now, all that ‘humane’ outcry against ECT: as if a few electric shocks administered to an anaesthetized patient were more of an ‘outrage against the person’ than cutting open his stomach and removing his appendix. If the treatment works, as indeed it does in many cases, no experienced depressive is going to worry about the reason why.’

30 June 1978
‘Yesterday my worst depression for more than a year. Stirrings at lunchtime - always the worst of the day - carefully kept in order as we drove to Gloucester. But seeing Emily at Coney Hill, among those wrecks of old men and women, almost made me break down then and there: not at all the place for such a display. ‘Who are these?’ asked the black staff nurse. ‘These are my old master and mistress,’ said Em, proudly. ‘Your friends, Em!’ I said, knowing that this had to be said, but hearing the dreadful hollowness of those words. ‘One of the family,’ we used to say: and so did she. But also our hard-working paid servant: at the going rate.

By the time we got home I was weighed down by that heavy lassitude, that aching exhaustion which I used to know so well. I tried to meditate; but the effort was too great. I tried to pray, but all I could say was ‘Lord, have mercy, lord have mercy, lord have mercy, lord have mercy . . .’

Because I left off my anti-depressant pills? Perhaps it’s a foolish kind of pride to hate that dependance so much. Perhaps God also works through Ludomil. He certainly works through my wife, whose hand in mine is the only effective anti-depressant that I know.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 15 June 2011.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Danish flight pioneer

The Danish watchmaker Christian Hansen Ellehammer - born 150 years ago today - is not a name immediately associated with the history of aviation. However, the successful development of an early motorcycle brought him funds to indulge an interest in powered flight. He built the world’s first air-cooled radial engine, and other innovations - the triplane and helicopter - followed. Thanks to a diary-keeping cousin, we have first hand contemporary reports, albeit brief, of key moments in the testing of Ellehammer’s prototypes.

Ellehammer was born on 14 June 1871 in Bakkebølle, Denmark. He was apprenticed as a watchmaker, and then moved to Copenhagen where he worked as an electronics mechanic. In 1898, he established a company to produce electronic machinery. The first of his own successful design/inventions was a motorcycle called the ‘Elleham’ with the engine situated beneath the seating, similar in fact to the Vespa scooter 40 years later. This was a commercial success, and provided him with sufficient funds to experiment with powered flight. 

Using calculations derived from birds, Ellehammer developed an engine lightweight enough to lift himself in the air - this was the world’s first radial engine (with three cylinders). For the wings, he experimented with kites, finally arriving at a shape similar to hang gliders of the future. On 28 August 1906, Ellehammer’s cousin Lars recorded (in an old form of the Danish language) the first successful flight with a brief entry. Translated - and many thanks to Historic Wings for this information - it reads: ‘Tried with Ellehammer on board but without take off. Changed the engine timing with more preignition. Lifted off the ground then with Ellehammer on board we got momentarily off, making it 12 degrees [around the center pole].’

Two weeks later, on 12 September, they were trying again with an 18 hp engine (as opposed to the 9 hp used earlier). Lars’s diary: ‘Wind at 2-3 meters per second. Wind direction northeast.  Flew the whole way around. Hovered with the front and rear wheels [off the ground] traveling approximately [a distance of] 42 meters, reaching an altitude of 1 ½ feet high, as it came up against the [strong] wind.  Ellehammer was on board the whole time.  I took photos of it in flight . . .’

Ellehammer made over 200 flights from 1906 to 1909 in a tethered plane, all without serious accident. Step by step, he increased the engine power and refined the design, developing a monoplane, a semi-biplane and a helicopter. In 1908, he won a prize for an 11 second flight in front of Prince Henry of Prussia but, by this time, he was hearing news of more successful developments taking place in other countries. Nevertheless, he continued inventing, developing a special carburettor, a stationary air-cooled engine for airplanes, and a pump for fire extinguishers. Around 1920, he built a laboratory designed by a new firm of influential Danish architects. He died in 1946. In 1986, he was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. There is very little biographical information about Ellehammer online in English other than at Wikipedia (see also an English translation of the Danish entry) and Historic Wings.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Am I completely finished

‘Do I, or do I not, have the energy to continue? Am I completely finished, or will I feel renewed after a few weeks of rest? It is really not at all easy to say, but it is just as well that Aina gets used to the idea that I don't have the energy to continue. Then, if things go better, no damage will have been done.’ This is Tage Erlander, Sweden’s long serving Prime Minister, writing in his diaries some 15 years before he finally gave up the top job. His diaries were a key resource for Erlander himself - born 120 years ago today - when writing his memoirs, but also for his biographer Olin Ruin.

Erlander was born on 13 June 1901 in Ransäter, Sweden. He studied political science and economics at Lund University becoming involved in student politics, and graduating in 1928. After completing his compulsory military service in the Signals Corps he joined the editorial staff of the encyclopaedia Svensk Upplagsbok while at the same entering local politics. In 1930, he married Aina Andersson, and they had two children. In 1932, he was elected as a member of parliament, and, when, in 1938, he was made minister for social affairs, he left his editorial job. He was one of most senior officials responsible for the establishment of secret internment camps in Sweden during World War II. He was appointed minister without portfolio in the cabinet in 1944, and minister for education the following year. Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson died suddenly in 1946, and Erlander was unexpectedly chosen as his successor and and as leader of his Social Democratic Party.

Erlander continued his predecessor’s development of the country’s model welfare state - a middle way between capitalism and communism. He introduced a very high rate of progressive taxation which allowed him to raise pensions, put in place a child allowance scheme, introduced statutory holidays and medical insurance, and extend social services. He also expanded education for younger children and adults. Having remained in office as Prime Minister for 25 years - one of the longest terms in any democracy - he resigned in 1969, even then the Social Democrats still retained an absolute parliamentary majority. He died in 1990. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the New York Times obituary.

Erlander was a conscientious diarist, often making entries on a daily basis. These diaries became his most important resource when compiling six volumes of memoirs. More recently, his son, Sven, has edited the diaries, in Swedish, for publication in many volumes. Some information about the published diaries can be found here. The only diary extracts translated into English that I can find are in Olof Ruin’s biography: Tage Erlander: Serving the Welfare State, 1946-1969 (translated into English by Michael F. Metcalf). This can be read online at University of Pittsburgh Digital Collections, or borrowed digitally from Internet Archive. According to the publisher: ‘This definitive political biography is both the study of an individual style of leadership and the role of the prime minister in a parliamentary state. It shows Erlander as a complex and engaging intellectual fiercely loyal to his party, agitative yet dedicated to cooperation between parties. [. . .] Ruin is the first scholar to be given unrestricted access to Erlander's diaries.’

Here are several extracts from Erlander’s diaries as translated and found in Ruin’s biography (though without Ruin’s narrative context).

10 February 1950
‘If only it could be. I return to what I wished for so much a few months ago: to find a way out so I could disappear quietly without hurting the party. It would be nothing other than a flight from reality.”

‘I must try to be more careful, more dignified, and more stiff. . . On the other hand, of course, they chose me because I am what I am. And thus my position should not make me change the very character that elevated me to that position.’

12 October 1952
‘Would I regret such a move [to retire]? Yes, in just the same way as one is sorry about some adversity or about an unfavorable article. . . . But no more than that. I felt in 1946 that my election as party chairman was a mistake, although I was exceedingly proud of what had happened. I have changed my mind to a certain extent. Things have gone better than I feared they would. But I will feel no sorrow if I am liberated.’

1 January 1953
‘Do I, or do I not, have the energy to continue? Am I completely finished, or will I feel renewed after a few weeks of rest? It is really not at all easy to say, but it is just as well that Aina gets used to the idea that I don't have the energy to continue. Then, if things go better, no damage will have been done. It is difficult to say how long it will be before others begin to question my abilities. But when [Minister of Justice] Zetterberg told me yesterday that he had not discussed his argument with Skôld with me because he felt sorry for me in view of how tired I've looked recently, then things have gone too far. People cannot feel sorry for the prime minister; it is better to dislike him!’

10 April 1954
‘He apparently found me to be all too exaggerated and eager. I should calm down. At first I thought he meant that my workload was breaking me down, but when he described how I racked my brain on Sunday by rattling off rapid replies, I understood what he was getting at. He’s probably right.’

30 October 1957
‘And what is it that you lust after so much? To have the pleasure of wrestling with unpleasant and complicated issues every day? To be subjected every day to a shower of insults and more or less hidden criticism from those who should support you? What is it that drives you? Is it a sense of duty, as we like to think it is? Nature must have some other strategem to get people to trick themselves into doing the necessary job.’

12 January 1959
‘The opening of the Riksdag is always tiring, although less so now than before. But all this swinging and swaying and standing at attention is more exhausting than a major political speech. I am interested in the latter and it prods me into formulating what I have to say. But an empty ceremony and the subsequent small talk over lunch at the Palace require continual activity. All to no purpose.’

Thursday, June 10, 2021

To feel like a human being

‘I should have gone “up there,” into the mountains, to be with them [the Yugoslav partisans]. Definitely. Of course, there too, over time, you would have noticed some conflicts, some petty disagreements, some minor inconsistencies in some people, a lack of conviction or principles in others ... and it would have been even more painful, more bitter, perhaps. But at least you would feel like a human being . . .’ This is from the concentration camp diary kept by a young Balkan woman, Hanna Lévy-Hass, who survived the war, relocated to Israel, and died 20 years ago today. Though the diary was first published while she was still alive, a more recent posthumous edition contains a substantial foreword by her daughter.

Hanna Lévy was born in 1913 into a large Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jewish family in Sarajevo. She, her mother and one sister moved to Belgrade in the early 1930s, where, thanks to a scholarship, Hanna completed her studies. Another scholarship enabled her to study at the Sorbonne in Paris for a few months. She left Belgrade for a teaching position in Montenegro, ending up in Danilovgrad a small Jewish community. During the war, the area was taken over first by the Italians, and, when Italy surrendered, by the Germans. She intended to flee to the mountains to join the partisans, but friends - scared of retaliation if she did - appealed for her to stay. 

Hanna was eventually captured in 1944 by German occupation forces and spent a half year in a Gestapo jail before being sent to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in Germany, where mass deaths resulted from starvation and disease. Before the British liberated the camp, Hanna had been put on a train with thousands of other Jews destined for Czechoslovakia. At some point in the journey she escaped, but the war was over and she found herself wandering along roads with many other liberated prisoners of different nationalities. She ended up in Dresden, before finally returning to Belgrade.

Hanna had hoped to go back to teaching, but the new Yugoslav government asked her to supervise the French broadcasts of Radio Belgrade. Later, still working for the government, she acted as a French translator. In 1948, she emigrated to Israel. She immediately joined the Israeli Communist Party, a decision which meant she was continually in opposition to the country’s prevailing Zionist ethos, and that she could not work as a teacher. She married Abraham Hass, a Romanian-born Ashkenazi Jew, and they had one daughter, Amira. From the early 1970s, Hanna gave up communism and channelled her energy into feminism. In late 1982, she revisited Europe. She died in Jerusalem on 10 June in 2001. 

There is very little further information about Hanna online, other than that connected with her diary. This was first published in 1982 by Harvester Press as Inside Belsen (translated from the German by Ronald Taylor); and was republished in 2009 by Haymarket Books as Diary of Bergen-Belsen: 1944–1945 with a long introduction by her daughter, Amira. Haymarket calls the work ‘a unique, deeply political survivor’s diary’. Jacqueline Rose, a feminist writer and academic, said this of the work (see the Roam Agency website): ‘A compelling document of historic importance which shows, with remarkable composure, that ethical thought about what it means to be human can be sustained in the most inhuman conditions. Hanna Lévy-Hass teaches us how a politics of compassion and justice can rise out of the camps as the strongest answer to the horrors of the twentieth century.’ Some pages from the modern edition can be read online at Googlebooks or Amazon.

22 August 1944
‘The very limited space and the even more limited possibilities of keeping it clean - it’s enough to push anyone to the brink. Rainy days transform the entire space into a mud pit, which farther increases the overall level of filth as well as the vermin. And it’s all accompanied by interminable squabbles systematically encouraged by the common enemy, the Nazi. It’s only the first month and already, depressed, we can foresee endless misery.

I should have gone “up there,” into the mountains, to be with them [the Yugoslav partisans]. Definitely. Of course, there too, over time, you would have noticed some conflicts, some petty disagreements, some minor inconsistencies in some people, a lack of conviction or principles in others ... and it would have been even more painful, more bitter, perhaps. But at least you would feel like a human being, free to think, to express yourself, to act. And you would be surrounded by human beings, by real men, who say human things to you, men who, today, are the only ones who deserve respect and whose words and deeds matter. Only “up there” could I know my reason for being, my true worth, and what I am truly capable of contributing, or not contributing.

Only there does suffering have meaning. Only there do faults become more obvious and easier to correct. Only there does man learn to know himself and to devote himself. And to the extent that, there too, the verdict would indicate that I am a failure ... It would only be for the better. Everything would be clearer: the only thing left for you now is to drop, like an overripe fruit that decomposes of its own accord. Why not? Such is the world. But I suspect vaguely, yet deep within me, that once “up there,” I would not necessarily have been destined to total ruin.

Maybe it’s precisely this dilemma that landed me here in this wretched camp; it’s been tormenting me for some time. On the other hand, because of it many things within me and in others have been clarified. And today I can state without fear of inaccuracy that I was made - if not absolutely then decisively - to be there with them, rather than here. In a sense, this evolution hasn’t been totally worthless to me: I came out of it hardened in my convictions, having gotten to know the enemy better and having learned more thoroughly what we must fight in the future. The knowledge acquired was worth it.’

23 August 1944
‘That’s not entirely true. I had this knowledge before, complete and alive in my consciousness. And I didn’t have to wait until my thirties to become “more hardened” at the cost of such infamous ordeals ... since so many others were able to resolve this crucial question so much more quickly and positively. That’s what’s hard. That’s what’s behind this dissatisfaction with myself that often, very logically, throws me into despair.

This struggle between two worlds being waged within me and within many others like me - will it last forever, to mortify us throughout our entire existence? Or is there some hope that it will end favorably? It seems as though it’s inevitable, like a natural phenomenon that occurs in people whose lives have unfolded in circumstances I have known, a phenomenon that most likely will not fail to manifest itself in us again in the future, on the threshold of a new life, like it does in the world described by P. Romanov, Gorki, Gladkov [Soviet novelist]. These external signs of private battles and moral suffering that destroy and consume. And struggle - the only way of life capable of putting an end to these unhealthy thoughts in an evolving man ... struggle, nothing but struggle.’

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Mobocracy is rife

Today marks two hundred and twenty years since the birth of the famous Mormon, Brigham Young, who founded Salt Lake City, and who was the first governor of Utah Territory. Sometimes called the American Moses, because of the way he led Mormon pioneers to settle in the arid region, he was also a polygamist who married over 50 times. Although several of Brigham’s journals are known to exist, only one - relating to 1857 - has been published.

Young was born on 1 June 1801 into a Vermont farming family; as a young man he worked as a travelling tradesmen. After converting to Mormonism in the early 1830s, he helped establish a community in Ohio. He was ordained into the church hierarchy; and then, in 1838, he organised an exodus of Latter Day Saints from Missouri to Illinois. The following year, he went to England, where a mission he launched was instrumental in bringing European converts to the church.

When the Mormon leader Joseph Smith was murdered in 1844, Young took command of the church; and, in 1846 faced with mob pressure, he led his followers out of Illinois. It took well over a year before they settled on a site that would become Salt Lake City. In 1849, the Mormons established a provisional state called Deseret with Young as governor; the following year this became Utah.

Although Young was appointed to a second term as governor of Utah in 1854, friction between the Mormons and the federal judiciary led President James Buchanan to replace him in 1857, and an army was sent to establish federal rule in Utah. Young never held office again, but as president of the Mormon church, he effectively ruled the people of Utah until his death in 1877. He married once before converting to Mormonism, but his wife died young; and after his conversion he became a polygamist and had well over 50 partners and as many children. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, or Encyclopaedia Britannica.

It appears Young kept journals for much of his life though only the earliest ones were written in his own hand, the others being dictated or kept by his sons or close associates. Almost all are held in the Mormon Church Archives in Salt Lake City. A full listing can be found in Leonard Arrington’s Brigham Young: American Moses published by University of Illinois Press in 1986 (available to read at Googlebooks).

One of the journals, though, is held by the University of Utah, and this was edited by Everett L Cooley, and published in 1980 as The Diary of Brigham Young, 1857, by the Tanner Trust Fund. It was only printed in a limited edition of 1,250 copies, but the text is available on the website of the university’s J Willard Marriott Library.

Cooley, in his introduction, says the diary is ‘rather brief’ and contains very little new material, and lacks anything personal and intimate. Nevertheless, he adds, it does mark the first printing of a complete diary by Young, and provides ‘a good insight’ into his many interests and activities.

Here is an entry from the 1857 diary considered to be of some importance. Cooley’s notes relating to this entry in the published edition suggest that Brigham Young was already in possession of the information - about approaching troops and the cancellation of the mail contract - and that the arrival of the messengers was staged ‘for dramatic effect - to impress upon the assembled Saints that momentous events were in store for them.’

24 July 1857
‘This day 10 years ago the Pioneers entered Salt Lake valley after a pilgrimage and Search of nearly two years to find a place where the people of God might rest from persecutions for a short time. How cheering were the prospects on that day. They had at last reached a place 800 Miles from where a Settlement could approach them. The country was so barren that none would covet it. 500 of our best men had marched 3000 miles to conquer a title for it. And on every Side were Scores of miles of mountains, which must be past ere our Settlement could be appro[a]ched. Here we have dwelt in peace and prosperity. The Lord has blessed the earth for our sakes. And the ‘Desert’ has ‘truly blossomed as the rose.’

All was hilarity and mirth the morn[in]g guns had been fired 3 rounds in honore of the first presidency - three times three groans were uttered for the Mysouri - the guards & my son John W.[’]s company had been paraded, three ‘rounds’ for the hope of Isreal. The bands were playing and every one at peace, when the news came that A O Smoot, Judson L Stoddard, O P Rockwell William Garr & Judge Elias Smith would be in camp in a few minutes. They came, and were welcomed by the band, & 3 deaf[e]ning cheers.

They were ushered into the Lewt General’s (occupied by my family) Marquee. found that Bros Smoot & Stoddard were from fort Leavenworth 20 days. They informed [me] that a new Governor and entire set of officers had been appointed, 2500 troops with 15 months provision. Sup[p]osed That General [William S.] Harney would commany - to support the officials in their position. I said if General Harney came here, I Should then know the intention of [the] gover[n]ment; And it was carried unanimously that if Harney crossed the South Pass the buz[z]ards Should pick his bones. The feeling of Mobocracy is rife in the ‘States’ the constant cry is kill the Mormons. Let them try it. The Utah mail contract had been taken from us - on the pretext of the unsettled state of things in this territory.

The news helped the people to enjoy themselves. Dancing and mirth continued until a late hour.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on I June 2011.