Friday, November 26, 2021

One died of the plague

‘One died of the plague (most probably) in Eman. Lane, where old Mother Pate lived.’ This is one of the many brief entries in the diary of clergyman and academic John Worthington who died 350 years ago today. His diaries (and letters), covering more than 30 years, were first published in the 19th century, and are freely available to read online.

Worthington was born in Manchester in 1618, and educated at Manchester Grammar School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. As a student, he excelled in classic languages. He was made a fellow at Emmanuel in 1642, ordained in 1646, and appointed university preacher in 1647. In 1650, he became master of Jesus College, and was also briefly rector at Horton, and, from late 1654, rector at Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire. In 1657, he married his ex-tutor’s daughter, the 17 year old Mary Whichcote, and they would have four children that survived infancy.

In 1660, at the Restoration, Worthington was replaced as Master of Jesus College (by Richard Sterne, a previous incumbent), and he retired to Fen Ditton. Subsequently, he moved around taking up different church positions, in Suffolk and Norfolk for example, before accepting a living at St Benet Fink in London. He remained there, attending parishioners, even after an outbreak of plague; but, when in September 1666, the great fire destroyed much of his parish, he accepted an invitation by William Brereton (see Drawing up the sluices) to be preacher at Holmes Chapel in Cheshire. This proved unsatisfactory, so he then accepted the living of Ingoldsby, Lincolnshire, which Henry More had procured for him. 

However, Worthington continued to yearn for the access to books and scholars only available in London. In 1667, his wife died, and three years later he finally moved back to the city as an assistant preacher in Hackney. He died on 26 November 1671. Further information is available at Jesus College, Wikipedia, Early Modern Letters Online, and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required).

Worthington left behind a considerable volume of papers, including diary entries written through his life. Each one of these was pithy, rarely more than a phrase or line, but they were published in two volumes (along with a great number of letters) in 1847-1886 by the Chetham Society as part of The Diary and Correspondence of Dr. John Worthington (edited by James Crossley). The volumes are freely available at Internet Archive. Here are several extracts from Worthington’s diaries as found in the published volumes.

‘April 3, 1637. I had a dangerous blow on the eye in the Tennis-Court, but I thank God, it was well again.
April 6. the Master of the College (Dr. Sandcroft) returned from Bury.
April 15. the Mr of the Coll, went to Bury again, where he died not long after & Sr Sterry chosen Fellow.
April 25. On this day was the election of a new Master, viz. Mr. Holdsworth.
April 26. he was admitted.
May 13. This day I heard that Mr. Crosley who was of this College died, at London some day this week, on that very day that he should have been married.
June 25. in the afternoon a Sermon for Confession to the Priest was preached at St. Maries by Mr. Sparrow of Queen’s Coll. & Mr. Adams succeeded him the next in ye same subject. About the end of this month of June very good rye & wheat began to be reaped &c.
July 5. Our Master preached ad Clerum.
Aug. 8. I declaimed in the Hall, being Moderator at the end of Freshman’s Term.
Oct. 1. On this day were the Commencer’s Sermons. Dr. Holdsworth preached in the forenoon. Mr. Duport in the afternoon.
Oct. 2. Dr. Holdsworth kept the Act.
Oct. 3. Mr. Pullen of Magd. Coll, answered.
Oct. 4. From Easter to this day, there have died three in Trinity College, viz. Dr. Whaley, Dr. Stubbins, & Mr. Higson a senior Fellow.
Nov. 4. Dr. Brownrig Mr. of Katherine Hall was chosen Vice Chancellor.’

‘Aug. 1. I preached at Lavenham in Suffolk.
Aug. 15. I preached at Cotenham.
Aug. 16. I payd Mr. Mace 10sh 3d month.
Aug. 20. I commonplaced once.
Aug. 24. I commonplaced once.
Sept. 2. The college gates were shut up.
Sept. 6. One died of the plague (most probably) in Eman. Lane, where old Mother Pate lived.
Sept. 12. One died of the plague at the Bird Bolt.
Sept. 19. I preached in the chappell.
Sept. 20. 1 payd Mr. Mace, &c.
Sept. 26. One died at the Birdbolt.
Sept. 27. Another died there.
Sept. 29. I preached in the chappell.
Oct. 8. I preached at St. Maries in the afternoon, my own course.
Oct. 81. I preached at St. Maries in the afternoon, for Mr. Silleaby.
Nov. 14. I preached at Trinity Lecture.
Nov. 23. I payd Mr. Mace 10sh for the 5th month.
Dec. 2. I preached at St. Andrews, at Mr. Potto’s wife’s funerall.’

‘Nov. 8. I came with my family from Jesus College to Ditton.’

‘Aug. 6. We came to Hackney.’

Friday, November 19, 2021

Feeling greatly dissatisfied

‘I am feeling greatly dissatisfied with my lack of opportunity for study. My day is frittered away by the personal seeking of people, when it ought to be given to the great problems which concern the whole country. Four years of this kind of intellectual dissipation may cripple me for the remainder of my life. What might not a vigorous thinker do, if he could be allowed to use the opportunities of a Presidential term in vital, useful activity?’ This is US president James A. Garfield, born 190 years ago today, writing in his diary just three months after becoming president. Sadly, a few weeks later he was shot by an assassin and died shortly after. His lifelong diaries were first published in four volumes but have since been made freely available online by the Library of Congress.

Garfield, the youngest of five children, was born in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, on 19 November 1831 to an impoverished farmer and his wife. His father died when he was two, but his mother struggled on with the farm. His mother remarried, but soon left her second husband. Poor and fatherless, young Garfield took refuge in books, and left home at 16. However he caught malaria working on the canals, returned home to recuperate, and then was found a place at the local school. Subsequently, he attended Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later Hiram College) and graduated from Williams College. He returned to the Eclectic Institute as a professor of ancient languages, and in 1857, aged 25, he became the school’s president. A year later he married Lucretia Rudolph and the couple would have five children that survived infancy. Garfield also studied law. He was ordained as a minister in the Disciples of Christ church, but by then he was turning to politics.

Garfield became a supporter of the newly organised Republican Party and in 1859 was elected to the Ohio legislature. During the Civil War he helped recruit an Ohio Volunteer Infantry becoming its colonel; and he commanded a brigade at the Battle of Shiloh. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and, while waiting for Congress to begin its session, he served as chief of staff in the Army of the Cumberland, winning promotion to major general. For nine terms, until 1880, Garfield represented Ohio’s 19th congressional district, becoming an expert on fiscal matters and advocating a high protective tariffs. In 1880, the Ohio legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate, and later the same year, he emerged as a ‘dark horse’ Republican nominee for president. He won the election against the Democratic nominee, Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, by a very small margin, thus becoming the 20th president of the US.

Four months into his Presidency, Garfield was shot - on 2 July 1881 - by an assassin, Charles Julius Guiteau, an emotionally disturbed man who had failed to gain an appointment in Garfield’s administration. Garfield was immediately hospitalised, but died from infections on 19 September. Historians speculate, the Miller Centre says, that had Garfield served his term, ‘he would have been determined to move toward civil service reform and carry on in the clean government tradition of President Hayes’. He also supported the Centre adds, education for black southerners and called for African American suffrage. Unfortunately, it concludes, he is best remembered for being assassinated. Further information is also available at Wikipedia, The White House, Encyclopaedia Britannica and

Garfield kept a personal diaries throughout his life, all 21 of which are held by the Library of Congress (LOC). (More about how the diaries came to be gifted to the LOC can be read here.) They were edited and published in four volumes - The Diary of James A. Garfield - by Michigan State University Press between 1967 and 1981. These volumes can be digitally borrowed at Internet Archive (volume 4 for example). However, recently the LOC has not only made images of every page of the original manuscripts freely available online, but it has overseen a crowd-sourced project to transcribe those pages which are now also all available online.

The following extracts - from the very earliest diaries to the very last entry in the last diary - have been taken from volumes 1 and 4 of the published diaries.

1 January 1848
‘Hunting with O. H. Judd in a.m. went to Davis school in the p.m. quite rainy.

11 February 1848
‘at school good sleighing now.’

26 April 1848
‘sawed for Barns work by the day. 50 cents per day.

31 May 1848
‘went to Cleveland came back on a canal boat it was about eleven o’clock at night stopped and helped Wm. Weed bail his boat till about one o’clock then went to bed in the cabin alone. Mr. Weed bailed a short time then came into the cabin and got the lamp. I was asleep and I suppose he took my pocket book from my pocket at any rate it was gone next day’

2 September 1879
‘Slept until nine A.M. a troubled dreamful sleep, and was awakened by Clarence Hale, feeling still miserably bad in the head and throat. Spent the day in reading, writing, visiting and moping - thinking much of Crete and the boys who are on their way to New Hampshire.

Read with the surprise which ought not to be felt at anything said by the unveracious press that “Gen. Garfield made a very able and eloquent speech at Biddeford last evening.” I know better. Made some careful preparations to redeem my reputation here tonight. Received no letters nor dispatches, and felt not a little isolation and homesickness.

I think the Maine Election is to be very close. It seems to me more likely to go against us than for us. At eight P.M. met a very large audience in the city hall, and spoke an hour and a half. Did much better than I expected considering the state of my head and throat. After the meeting went to Clarence Hale’s room, and played whist with him, and Mr. Clark and Mr. Cushing. Worked off the heat and weariness of the meeting and retired at midnight, with some hopes of a better day tomorrow.’

4 March 1881
‘At 8.30 A.M. Allison broke down on my hands and absolutely declined the Treasury, partly for family reasons, but mainly from unwillingness to face the opposition of certain forces. Though this disconcerts me, the break had better come now than later. The day opened with snow and sleet, but towards noon the sky began to clear. At 10.30 President Hayes called at my room, and [at] the Riggs, and we drove to the Executive Mansion, and then with the Committee, Senators Bayard and Anthony, along the Avenue to the Capitol. The crowd of people was very great. Reached President’s chamber in the Senate wing at 11.30; at 11.55 went to the Senate, and witnessed the inauguration of the Vice President. Thence to the east portico of the rotunda, and read my inaugural - slowly and fairly well - though I grew somewhat hoarse towards the close. Returning to the Executive Mansion, lunched with the family and then two and a half hours on the reviewing stand.

Inauguration reception at Museum building in the evening. Home at eleven. Met Windom by appointment, and after a full hour’s talk, offered him the Treasury. Retired at 12.30. Very weary. On the day of his inauguration Polk was 49 y[r]s. and 4 mos., Garfield, 49 yrs., 4 mos. and 15 days. Pierce was 48, 2 mos. and 15 days. Grant was 47,10 mos. and 23 days. The latter 1 year and 22 d. old[er] than Pierce and 1 yr., 4 mos., 22 days older than [?] Grant.’ 

13 June 1881
‘I am feeling greatly dissatisfied with my lack of opportunity for study. My day is frittered away by the personal seeking of people, when it ought to be given to the great problems which concern the whole country. Four years of this kind of intellectual dissipation may cripple me for the remainder of my life. What might not a vigorous thinker do, if he could be allowed to use the opportunities of a Presidential term in vital, useful activity? Some civil service reform will come by necessity, after the wearisome years of wasted Presidents have paved the way for it. In the evening took Crete out on the south porch to see the sun set. Blaine came and read draft of instructions to our Minister to Chili. Retired at 12.’

1 July 1881
‘This opening of the Fiscal Year, and day before my trip to New England, has been very full of work. Appointed very nearly 25 ministers and consuls. Dismissed French, the R. R. Commissioner, in consequence of his sending an official letter to the President of the Pacific R.R. instead of his superior officer. Also called for the resignation of the Register of Wills. Appointed Walker Blaine 3rd Ass’t Sec’y of State. He is a bright and able young man and I wanted to compliment both him and his father. Brown returned today, greatly refreshed by his European trip. Cousin Cordelia died today, of the R.R. injuries rec’d when Uncle Thomas was killed. Retired at 12.’

Thursday, November 18, 2021

A day of adventure

‘A day of adventure – At 10 we set forth in the best auto the city could muster to go to the King’s summer palace 75 miles away in the mountains – The auto was minus most of its innards. It hadnt had a spring in the last 10 years & carried no spare tire – the driver saying that if it was Gods will we would make the journey without needing one.’ This is from the unpublished travel diaries of the famous American journalist Dorothy Dix, born 160 years ago today. Dix’s columns of advice for women were syndicated widely across the US and the world, and, by the 1940s, she was considered to have been the most highly paid and most widely read of female journalists.

Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer was born on a large plantation straddling the Kentucky/Tennessee border on 18 November 1861. She received little formal education, and aged 17 married her stepmother’s brother George Gilmer. However, he soon fell victim to mental illness and was incapacitated - a situation that lasted the rest of his life. Elizabeth suffered a nervous collapse, but during her convalescence began writing stories and sketches of Tennessee life. She moved to Louisiana where she found work on the New Orleans newspaper Daily Picayune, writing obituaries, recipes and theatre reviews. As was customary for female journalists, she took on a pseudonym, Dorothy Dix. She was given a column - Sunday Salad - in which she started offering advice for women. This was renamed Dorothy Dix Talks, and would go on to become, Wikipedia reports, the world’s longest-running newspaper feature.

Dix was appointed editor of the women’s section and assistant to the editor of the Picayune, but in 1901 she accepted a lucrative offer from William Randolph Hearst to continue the column, thrice a week, at the New York Journal. She was also known for her sensational coverage of murder cases. She was an active campaigner for women’s suffrage, penning essays and pamphlets, and editing a suffrage periodical. In 1923, she signed with the Philadelphia-based Public Ledger Syndicate, and at its peak her columns were published in nearly 300 newspapers. Dix was receiving, from within the US and across the world, 100,000 letters a year. In addition to her newspaper work, she also authored books such as How to Win and Hold a Husband and Every-Day Help for Every-Day People. She died in 1951, at which time she was credited with being the highest paid and most widely read female journalist. Further information is available online at Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Austin Peay State University.

Between 1917 and 1933, Dix travelled widely in different parts of the world, often keeping a diary. These travel journals are held in the Felix G. Woodward Library of Austin Peay State University which claims it has ‘the most comprehensive collection available on Dorothy Dix and her writings’. Dix used the diaries for her book, My Joy-Ride Round the World (Mills & Boon, 1922) but otherwise they have never been published in print. However, the eight travel journals have been transcribed - by Elinor Howell Thurman - and are freely available online at the Austin Peay State University website. Here are some extracts.

Travel Journal - Europe, 1922
30 June 1922
‘Left Paris for battlefields, going out by the gate by which the French troops (35000 in number) were rushed to the front when the Germans got within 13 miles of the city. They went in taxicabs 3 abreast - The first place we stopped was Senlis, a quaint little town with narrow streets & creamy white old stone houses. It was an unarmed town & no resistance was made yet nevertheless the Germans blew up almost half of the houses, with dynamite & took the Mayor & 21 of the most prominent citizens & lined them up against a wall & shot them. It happened that the Mayors father was mayor of Senlis during the German occupancy of the town in the Franco Prussian wall [sic: war] & he also was shot in the same way[.] So one woman had the tragic fate of having both husband & son murdered by the Germans. We then went on to Soissons where some of the fiercest fighting of the whole war took place. It changed hands three times. Its beautiful cathedral & public buildings are ruins, & more than half its houses heaps of stones.

All afternoon we drove thro’ the devasted [sic] region that stretches from Soissons to Rheims, stopping at Chemin des Dames where from the rise of a little hill we could see the whole battle field, & at Berry-au-Bac on the Aisne canal where 500 Scotch troops who were standing with fixed bayonets waiting the order to charge were blown up by a mine the Germans had laid. It was 8 miles away & the explosion left a crater 400 feet across – We were on the scene of the greatest struggle in history[,] for here for 4 years the war swayed back & forth – every inch of ground was fought over a hundred times, every clod was dyed in blood. The terrain is still filled with shell holes & trenches until it looks like a rabbit warren. You can not walk across it for the barbed wire. We picked up hands full of shells & cartridge belts, so rotten they fell apart in your hands at a touch. Miss R. to the horror of the guide came calmly marching in with an unexploded hand grenade. There is no sign of the life that once went on here in times of peace for every village every human habitation was swept away by the bloody tide that rolled over it, yet it is not as desolate as you may suppose for over it all is the rank luxurious growth you see in cemeteries, & the whole plain was a mass of bloom – red of poppies, blue of wild larkspur, white of daisies as if nature spread the tricolor of France over her sons who were sleeping beneath the sod they gave their lives to save.

We staid the night at Rheims & saw the sunset gild the ruins of the splendid cathedral that it took the genius & piety of two centuries to create & that devils destroyed in two minutes. You grow impotent with rage when you behold the infamy that swept away from the world a thing of beauty that can never be replaced. Half of the houses in Rheims were destroyed, & in the whole city only 200 buildings escaped some injury. As we walked slowly back to the hotel we passed what had once been a fashionable restaurant but is now a crumbling heap of stones. In the court there was the gleam of [word crossed out: what] a broken & ruined marble fountain, & back of it fluttered a few rags of family wash belonging to some people who had taken refuge in the empty wine cellar, & were making their poor home there.’

Travel Journal - Eastern Europe, 1926
7 August 1926
‘Left in the morning via the Orient Express – which is an express only three times a week, and ambled along so leisurely it took us from Sat morning at 8.30 until [words crossed out: Tuesday Monday] Sunday at 3 to get to Sophia – We passed thro’ the loveliest, fat farming country, and saw many of the country women wearing their quaint native costume[.] But the trip was very tiresome & made the more disagreeable to me from having partaken not wisely but too well of half ripe melons. On the way up we were awakened in the middle of the night by 3 Bulgarian officials who suddenly flashed their lights in our faces – 4 dishevelled women more or less in the costume of Sept Morn blinked back[.] They jabbered – we shrugged our shoulders & said we didn’t comprehend – more jabber – more shrug – then one man threw up his hands & cried out in despair “These Americans! These Americans! These Americans!” & slammed the door – Afterwards we found out our passports werent vised [sic] right & that it was only as a great courtesy extended to our nation that we werent sent back to Constantinople.

We are staying at a very delightful hotel with heavenly cooking right opposite the palace – a big handsome yellow brick mansion set in fine grounds with the loveliest acacia trees, now in full bloom – Sofia is at the foot of the mountains & I never smelt anything so cool & bracing as the air. –’

9 August 1926
‘A day of adventure – At 10 we set forth in the best auto the city could muster to go to the King’s summer palace 75 miles away in the mountains – The auto was minus most of its innards. It hadnt had a spring in the last 10 years & carried no spare tire – the driver saying that if it was Gods will we would make the journey without needing one – No Turkish or Bulgarian cars carry extras on the the [sic] same principle. The roads are the worst in the world but our optimistic driver started out a clip that would have won a race on a fast track – Rocks, ruts, stones meant nothing in his young life & we went lickety split over them, while every bone in our bodies were [sic] jarred from our sockets & we held on to our false teeth with a death grip[.]

Apparently our chauffers [sic] confidence in Providence was misplaced for soon there was the sharp report of a blow out. Fortunately it occurred by a wayside inn – a regular peasant place – by a babbling brook & we descended and had coffee while he patched the ragged old tire – Again we hit the trail & went skedaddle around hair pin turns & again was [the] ominous sound of a blow out – There was nothing to do but walk back to the road house some 5 miles – Mr Gestat said it was 8 – which we did. But we were partially repaid for the days disaster by the delicious lunch of native foods they served us - A mutton stew made with tomatoes, beans, egg plant, peppers & potatoes, & red with paprika, & [word crossed out: a] sweet peppers stuffed with rice, chopped meat etc & cooked in a cream sauce.

In this region at a place called Kazanlik the finest attar of roses is made[.] They have 80000 acres under cultivation in roses. We intended going there – it is 300 kilometers – but after our experience with the demon chauffer[sic] we decided not to risk it.’

Travel Journal - South America, 1933
29 July 1933
‘At 9.30 Mr Noa – the boy friend provided by the American Express arrived with a fine open car with the top down, and we drove along the series of beautiful bays, seven in number that make the water front of Rio. Nothing could be lovelier than the blue bay dotted with little islands, with always the frowning heigths [sic] of Corcovado looking down upon them – We went thro miles of quaint streets with houses whose architecture took on every fantastic shape that it is possible to give bricks & mortor [sic] – Moorish looking houses with tile borders – houses that were job lots of towers & cupolas, houses with all sorts of statues on the roof – Evidently the Brazilian taste is very ornate for every public building is lavishly & sy[m]bolically adorned – But they are grand for all that –

We went out to see the old palace of Dom Pedro, now a museum[.] It is a big brownish yellow structure in the midst of a lovely park. In it is a small aquarium with a curious cannibal fish that eats people. It is a small blue fish with a snub nose, & a dumb face, but let any flesh appear near it, & millions of it fall upon its victim & devour it in a few minutes. They say a man attacked by it will bleed to death before he can reach the bank, even if it is only 10 ft away – It is a fresh water fish & abounds in rivers, & stockmen test every stream before trying to ford it with animals[.] The guide said that not long ago a murderer who was being hunted down tried to escape by jumping into a river, but he was attacked before any one could reach him by these fish & literally devoured alive & his screams of agony were frightful[.]

In the afternoon went with the B’s to the top of Sugar Loaf Mt, which is accomplished by means of an ascent to a low lying hill, then being shunted in a cage – like the cash in a department store – to the top of Sugar Loaf – across a valley a mile wide & goodness knows how high – We staid up on the mountain – or rather the second one – and had dinner on a terrace[,] a most scrumptious meal with a view that has no equal scarcely in the world – the whole city spread out like a scintilating [sic] jewel on the breast of nature, the water front outlined by strings of electric lights, and the wide expanses of blue water growing bluer and bluer as night fell until all was black except where the moon lay a silver band across it – no words can describe the beauty of Rio because it is the favorite child of nature, which has covered up all its man made defects with bougainvillea. No other city has such monstrosities in the way of architecture yet even these become quaint & interesting in their exotic setting, so that you dont wonder that the new rich taste of a generation ago ran to cupolas & towers & statuary[.]

The street scenes are very interesting[.] I am particularly intrigued by the fruit & vegetable vendors who carry hughe [sic] flat baskets on their heads & on their arms a little folding stand – like [word crossed out: the] suit case racks – which they set up & on which they deposit their wares when making a sale. Quaint too are the men who carry their poultry slung in hampers on either side of a mangy pony.

It seems that when the street car system was inaugurated here that the money was obtained by the sale of bonds. The Brazilians had no knowledge of what either a street car or a bond was so they got their terms mixed & called the cars bonds, which nomenclature goes to this day. They say “take the bondie to so- & so” –’

31 August 1933
‘Went by train to Valpariso [Valparaiso,] sea port of Santiago – City built into the side of the mountain, & streets so steep it makes you dizzy as you skid down them in a car – Drove down to Vina del Mar, one of the handsomest sea side places I ever saw - Gorgeous home[s] & a grand casino – Many of the wealthy Santiagans have their summer homes here –’

Friday, November 12, 2021

Astounding indifference

‘All Germany is talking about the attempt on Hitler’s life at the Bürgerbräu. The press is quite unable to cover up the fact that there is absolutely no ‘fanatical indignation’ described by official propaganda. Rather, an astounding indifference and many people express regret quite openly that the explosion was delayed.’ This is the German diplomat Ulrich von Hassell - born 140 years ago today - writing in a secret diary. During the Second World War, he was an important figure in the resistance, and his diary gives ‘a vivid contemporary account of the various plots against Hitler’s wartime Reich’.

Ulrich von Hassell was born into an aristocratic family in Anklam, Pomerania (then a province of Prussia, now Germany) on 12 November 1881. His father was a colonel in the Royal Hanoverian Army. Hassell attended the Prinz-Heinrich-Gymnasium in Berlin, and then, between 1899 and 1903, he studied law and economics at the University of Lausanne, the University of Tübingen and in Berlin. He entered the foreign office in 1908, and three years later he married Ilse, daughter of Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. The couple would have four children. That same year, Hassell was named vice-consul in Genoa.

During the First World War, Hassell was wounded early on at the First Battle of the Marne, and, later in the war, he worked as von Tirpitz’s advisor and private secretary. After the war, he joined the nationalist German National People's Party. After returning to the foreign office he was posted to Rome, Barcelona, Copenhagen and Belgrade. In 1932, he was made Germany’s ambassador to the Kingdom of Italy. Initially, a supporter of Hitler, he became increasingly critical of his aggressive foreign policies and, in 1938, was sacked by Joachim von Ribbentrop. During the Second World War, he tried to persuade others to support a negotiated peace with the Allies; and, subsequently, he campaigned for a military coupe to overthrow Hitler.

In 1942, Hassell was warned that he was under investigation by the Gestapo, but, nevertheless, continued to conspire against Hitler. Eventually, in 1944, following the failed assassination attempt on Hitler (the so-called July Plot), Hassel was arrested. He was soon convicted of high treason, and executed on the same day, 8 September 1944. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Spartacus Educational or the German Resistance Memorial Center website. 

After the war, Hassel’s diaries were found buried in the garden of house. They were published by Doubleday (1947) as The Von Hassell Diaries 1938-1944: The Story of the Forces Against Hitler Inside Germany. The work has been reissued various times since then, not least by Frontline in 2010 with a foreword by Hassell’s grandson, Agostino von Hassel. The book is marketed as providing ‘a vivid contemporary account of the various plots against Hitler’. Some pages can be read at Amazon and Googlebooks

In his foreword, Agostino explains how the diary was written and found: ‘My grandfather wrote his diaries on tiny pieces of paper that he could quickly shove under carpets in case of a Gestapo search. As common with police forces in totalitarian societies, the all-powerful Gestapo was curiously inept and naïve in certain respects. They never found much concrete evidence to accuse him with. Hassell used to stuff his notes into Ridgeway tea cans which, wrapped in oil-cloth, were then buried in the garden of his house in Ebenhausen, a village outside of Munich. After the war these cans were eventually taken to Switzerland to be transcribed.’

Here’s two sample extracts.

1 October 1938
‘One of the few certainties today is the overwhelming and tremendous relief of the whole nation, or rather of all nations, that war has been averted, although Germans, or I suppose the great majority of them, have no idea how close they came to war. In Berlin, London, Paris and Rome the four returning matadors were all received by their peoples as ‘peacemakers’ with the same stormy enthusiasm. Hitler’s brutal policies have brought him a great material success while the French have reason to feel ashamed before the Czechs.

The day before yesterday we went from Wittenmoor with Udo Alvensleben to the residence of the old Princess Bismarck. She and Schoenhausen great but almost tragic impression. She thought her father-in-law no longer counted, that in fact his stature was systematically played down. This latter is true, and in view of the spirit of our rulers and the successful Anschluss policy, very logical. I told the Princess from conviction that Bismarck would withstand this storm victoriously. In the beginning she had been impressed by Hitler, but today thinks of him and his methods just about as Popitz does. R. Kassner the philosopher was also present - a gifted man, filled with the deepest bitterness by the cultural devastation wrought by the Third Reich. Even today I do not feel like an ally of the intelligentsia but see it as a false front that all people who can think for themselves are being pressured into this alliance. I share Princess Bismarck’s belief that a system employing such treacherous and brutal methods cannot achieve good ends, but I cannot follow her when she draws the conclusion (as do General Beck and a thousand others) that therefore the regime will soon collapse. There is not yet sufficient reason to think so.

Yesterday afternoon on my way home I stopped with Alvensleben in wonderful Neugattersleben. Werner Alvensleben came too. He is the famous ‘Herr von A’, of 30 June, who has meanwhile been released from prison and banished to a hunting lodge in Pomerania. He is a somewhat mysterious man, more conspirator and adventurer than politician. It is interesting that he was with Hammerstein (the general), who told him that Minister of Finance Schwerin-Krosigk had looked him up (or happened to meet him?) fresh from an audience with Hitler on Wednesday afternoon, 28 September, and reported as follows: Krosigk, with Neurath and Goring, had gone to Hitler to persuade him of the utter impossibility of fighting the war on which he seemed bent. Krosigk emphasized that financially the game was up, and that in any case we could not hold out during a war. Hitler apparently resisted these arguments until Mussolini’s historic telephone call forced him to give in.’

16 November 1939
‘All Germany is talking about the attempt on Hitler’s life at the Bürgerbräu [8 November]. The press is quite unable to cover up the fact that there is absolutely no ‘fanatical indignation’ described by official propaganda. Rather, an astounding indifference and many people express regret quite openly that the explosion was delayed.

With cold-blooded insolence, immediately after the bomb exploded, the report was put out that suspicion was focussing on Britain. If that was known it is a scandal that it was not prevented. Naturally, it is being whispered that this was another ‘Reichstag fire’ instigated by the Party in order to rouse hatred against Britain. I do not believe this, although the stories circulated by the Gestapo would naturally give rise to this suspicion. Most probably it was a Communist conspiracy or the act of dissatisfied elements within the Party, Otto Strasser supporters. What will be the effect of this attempt on Hitler’s life? I sense that confusion and helplessness are increasing.

I am beginning to believe that the invasion of Belgium and Holland has been given up. For weeks the foreign press has been full of reports on the fears of the Belgians and Dutch and their extensive preparations. The step taken by King Leopold and Queen Wilhelmina was apparently the result of this anxiety and has made matters more difficult for Hitler. If he wanted to do it, he hesitated too long - thank God - and thanks to the opposition of the military. (Misleading rumours amongst the people regarding Italy’s becoming involved in the war, amongst other things.) 

A notable event in foreign affairs was the proclamation by the Comintern on the anniversary of the October Revolution. With remarkable sangfroid they throw us into the same pot with Britain and France as capitalistic slave-traders. The incident demonstrates what they dare say about us, apparently for the purpose of quieting their own party members. Since this proclamation also berates the Italians as future hyenas of the battlefield, who will enter the fray when the victory of one party is assured, the Italian press, on official instructions, has taken the field against Moscow and notes that apparently the accordo between Germany and the Soviets was not quite perfect. The French seized on that as a sign that the Axis is tottering, to which the Italians made a rather tortuous response. New story: ‘The Führer has had his driving licence revoked because he wanders too far into the oncoming lane. His axle [same word in German as Axis] is broken.’

Pietzsch came to see us. Very depressed. Basically he now understands exactly the adventurous and bolshevizing policies with which Hitler is leading us into the abyss. Then in the midst of it all he falls back almost automatically into a state of admiration. He tells awful things about the economic disorganization which makes any rational management impossible.

Without any knowledge of the matter in hand, Hitler interfered for political or military reasons, made altogether impossible demands - for instance on behalf of Italy - and thereby turned the whole apparatus upside down. It appears to me that we ourselves are contributing to the British ‘destruction of the German economy’.

Characteristic of the deceptive methods of the press barons I was told by an editor that the newspapers were permitted recently to mention the anniversary of the death of Johanna von Bismarck [wife of Chancellor Bismarck, died 27 November 1894] but were strictly forbidden to mention her Christian piety. Moreover, all magazines and periodicals must publish something adverse about Britain in each issue. The Comintern proclamation was of course suppressed and so are railway accidents. The French and British replies to King Leopold and Queen Wilhelmina were reviled, but not published.

I met Guttenberg in Munich. His brother-in-law Revertera has been released suddenly without explanation. At heart Guttenberg remains of course a Bavarian monarchist and would like to build bridges for the House of Wittelsbach now it is clear that the era of independent German monarchical states is over. He is right to worry about Habsburg ideas of dividing things up in the case of defeat, and says this must be resisted. It appears that Gessler has the confidence of the Wittelsbachs. Interesting conversation with General Geyr von Schweppenburg who had commanded a panzer division in Poland. He must have seen some terrible things and become so strongly affected by them that he is now to be found in a sanatorium with a heart condition.

Among other things he recounted was the order at the Bug river not to permit thousands of fleeing Poles, who were streaming back to us in terrible fear of the Bolsheviks, to cross the river. Of course wherever possible he allowed it anyhow.

During his time as military attaché in London the Party had attacked him violently for maintaining that Britain was not bluffing, but that once a certain point was reached they would fight. As late as June Reichenau had asked him with a sneer whether he still believed Britain would go to war. Reichenau, of course, thinks differently now. The only ones who believed Geyr were Beck and Fritsch. I remember in Rome, after the reoccupation of the Rhineland, how Goring assailed the service attachés in London for ‘losing their nerve’. Geyr (at the time military attaché in London) said that the three of them jointly had sent a very straight telegram to the effect that the probability of ‘war’ stood fifty-fifty. He said that ever since the re-occupation of the Rhineland [7 March 1936] the British had been distrusting and had begun to prepare for war. The top military officers friendly to Germany had been replaced by Francophiles throughout.’