Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Important not to be duped

‘For my part, I consider it important above all not to be duped. That’s what I peacefully strive for. I know the deep wretchedness of our generation and the ones that follow, and I have tried, with what means I have, to provide a small cure. I recognize that I can do nothing. Lacking either enough intelligence for problems that are too great or enough simplicity for problems that are so hugely simple they defy mathematics, I would nevertheless reserve the right to laugh and comfort myself with scorn, precisely applied. English generosity; American civilization.’ This is the French writer Jean Giorno starting - exactly 80 years ago today - a diary in which he would extemporise on his literary, social and political thoughts providing, once published, ‘a unique window into one of French literature’s most voracious and critical minds’.

Giorno was born in 1895 in Manosque, southeastern France, to humble parents - his father was a cobbler and his mother a laundry woman. He left school at 16 to work in a bank (though he continued to read widely) before being called up for military service on the outbreak of war. The experience - not least at the Battle of Verdun - turned him into an ardent pacifist. In 1919, he returned to the bank, and a year later, married a childhood friend, Élise Giono, with whom he had two children. After publishing poetry, he produced, in 1929, his first novel, Colline, which won the Prix Brentano. He left the bank the following year to devote himself to writing. Two more novels - influenced by Virgil and Homer - followed: Un de Baumugnes (1929) and Regain (1930).  Together with Colline they made up the so-called Pan trilogy.

Throughout the 1930s, Giono wrote novels and pamphlets much influenced by his belief in pacifism. He joined a group of like-minded thinkers - with Lucien Jacques and Henri Fluchère - who gathered in the hamlet of Contadour, and whose pacifist writings were published as the Cahiers du Contadour. In 1939, on the outbreak of the new war, he was briefly imprisoned as a Nazi sympathiser. After the war, in 1945 he was held captive by a communist band of Resistance fighters who again accused him of collaboration with the Nazis. Many French writers blacklisted him, but a vigorous defence by author André Gide helped re-establish his reputation.

In the post war years, Giorno adopted a new style, more concise, concentrating on storytelling, in novels such as Le Hussard sur le toit (1952) and Le Bonheur fou (1957). Outside of France, he is probably best known for his short fable The Man Who Planted Trees first published in 1953. In 1954 he was elected to the Académie Goncourt. He died in 1970. Further information is available at Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica and The New York Times.

During the latter part of the war, Giono kept a detailed diary - starting on 20 September 1943. Subsequently, in 1995, this was published by Gallimard as Journal de l’Occupation; but it was not translated into English, by Jody Gladding, until 2020 when it was published by Archipelago as Occupation Journal. Some pages can be freely read at Googlebooks, and some extracts can be read in The Paris Review.

Here is the publisher’s blurb, followed by the first entry in the diary (taken from the  Penguin Random House website).

‘Written during the years of France’s occupation by the Nazis, Jean Giono’s Occupation Journal reveals the inner workings of one of France’s great literary minds during one of the country’s darkest hours. A renowned writer and committed pacifist throughout the 1930s – a conviction that resulted in his imprisonment before and after the Occupation – Giono spent the war in the village of Contadour in Provence, where he wrote, corresponded with other writers, and cared for his consumptive daughter. This journal records his musings on art and literature, his observations of life, his interactions with the machinery of the collaborationist Vichy regime, as well as his forceful political convictions. Giono recounts the details of his life with fierce independence of thought and novelistic attention to character and dialogue. Occupation Journal is a fascinating historical document as well as a unique window into one of French literature’s most voracious and critical minds.’

20 September 1943
‘There is such confusion in people’s minds that, even among the best of my acquaintances, no one knows how to conduct himself according to the simple rules of nobility and grandeur anymore. In the fellowship of the Contadour, R. B. was a comrade who seemed to me capable of understanding and applying those rules on all occasions. He was clear-sighted and bright, and if it worried me knowing that he regularly spent time with reserve officers, I imagined that his social position demanded it (teaching at the teachers’ college). His convictions, if he was expressing them honestly, were pacifist and humane. He could not retain his integrity in the tangle of propaganda. It’s hard for me to imagine that this is the same man now mixed up in arms drops, who runs off and distributes machine guns to young men hidden in his county. I know - if I take into account the terrible worries eating at his heart - (his love for M., his crazy son) there are certainly excuses for his desire to escape at any cost his life’s inconceivable misery. All the same, I was hoping he would escape in the direction of nobility.

In our modern mechanical world, it’s clearly very tempting to embrace the cause of a religious war. It must give one the impression, despite everything, that he is a thinking being. And, after the fate dealt to man in 1930-1940, it must suddenly be so invigorating that it’s difficult to resist. But the quest for the Grail made the knights-errant gallop in a straight line. Even Don Quixote walks straight. Today it seems as though the Grail has shattered and they are chasing all the scattered bits of it in every direction. They charge blindly, noses in the air, radios behind them in the saddle, newspaper helmets fastened securely on their skulls. Those who have donned secret papers, clandestine publications, think they are wearing the most magical helmets of all. Not a single head remains bare.

For my part, I consider it important above all not to be duped. That’s what I peacefully strive for. I know the deep wretchedness of our generation and the ones that follow, and I have tried, with what means I have, to provide a small cure. I recognize that I can do nothing. Lacking either enough intelligence for problems that are too great or enough simplicity for problems that are so hugely simple they defy mathematics, I would nevertheless reserve the right to laugh and comfort myself with scorn, precisely applied. English generosity; American civilization. 

Last week, there was an assassination attempt here against the head of the militia. He was returning from the cinema with his family when an armed stranger shot at him. Ch. shot back and killed his assailant. At which point a sort of impromptu legend started. The assailant, who had come from Marseille to kill Ch. (it seems he confessed before dying), was a miner from the north of France, his children had been killed in a bombardment, and his wife, I don’t know what, something terrible, I dare say, no doubt raped by the Uhlans. He became the hero. Almost everyone attended his funeral, Dr. G. and his wife prominently at the head of the line. Dr. G. is a perfect and pure careerist, an opportunist, an ambitious man who dreams of a seat on the district council. That’s clear to everyone here. But he was much admired behind the hearse. Of course Dr. G. is not a Communist, he made two or three million in a few years (he arrived here very poor), and is an admirable specimen of the ordinary materialist. He’s only trying to position himself for the next wave of “honors.” That’s nothing. It’s only that no one thought to explain this in a simple way. The man from Marseille was really only a paid assassin. Because why - even as martyr and hero - especially as hero - why come to assassinate Ch.? The back wheel of the wagon. Ch. is not exactly anyone important. At present, it’s simply personal accounts being settled. And personal business being conducted (Dr. G.). All that is fine, I’m not asking Dr. G. or the assassin or Ch. to be Lancelot of the Lake or Percival, I only ask that no one tries to make me believe they are.

Wonderful weather, exhilarating wind coming from the sheep plateaus. Cool and crisp, and those earth tones and bruised sky that announce autumn. The sound of the bell that rings at noon undulates in the wind like a cracked whip. The air is delicious to breathe. I am going to start writing again. These days. I need a serious discipline for mind and body.

Plans for Fragments d’un Paradis. Never forgetting that after Don Quixote (I must begin the discussion with myself on this book. In Doré’s illustrations, Don Quixote resembles my beloved father, but embittered. My father was good and gentle, clearly readable in his entire body), never forgetting that Cervantes finished his life writing the The Trials of Persiles and Sigismunda. I am anxious for Jacinto G. to send me this book in Spanish; I’m going to try to learn enough Spanish to read it. 

Fragments must be an adieu to the poetic (as Don Quixote is an adieu to grandeur - and not a satire on chivalry. What pettiness! Imagine Cervantes wanting to mock chivalry! And he would finish his life writing (with the most careful attention to the form and spirit of it) a novel of Chivalry! No, he wanted to say a melancholy farewell (hence Don Quixote’s madness) to grandeur). Fragments must say farewell to the poetic, to lyricism, to the “lie” without which there is no art, by which I mean the subjective. Goodbye to romanticism, on the threshold of 1616, when truth, exactitude, the slice of life will be extolled (you’ll see) (but Maupassant was lying (was interpreting), but Gide lies (happily), but Eugène Dabit suffered and died for not knowing how to lie, that is, for not having the strength (first of all, the physical strength) to stomach “spectacles” in order to express them in the end as Van Gogh expresses a wheat field and a cypress. Because they know and he knew (E.D.) what it is that interests me, which is not the cypress or the wheat field. It is the cypress + Van Gogh and the wheat field + Van Gogh. The mark. To leave his mark). Because how could he have been in step with Communist times?

Finishing the third act of Voyage without proving anything. Having wanted to demonstrate a slowing of the action in the second part of Act 1, an act I am not at all happy with. Writing the text for Virgil that Corrêa wants and immediately afterwards (before the end of the year if possible), I hope to begin Fragments. Because if I wrote Le Voyage for the theater, it’s so that I might finally have a little peace financially (I must speak a little about my legend one of these days, and in particular about my “wealth” (in 1940, living on 20,000 for the whole year, nine people, and actually giving the figures) because what Vlaminck says about me he says relying on legend alone, journalistic and cinematographic legend). (I am not suspicious enough of visitors. Too nice.) Tino Rossi aside, of course. Because he’s not completely wrong. There is a little of that. But I believe (I may be wrong. I don’t dispute it) I believe that’s all there is. Writing Fragments for my own pleasure, as I like, at my own pace (which is slow), taking the most pleasure possible in the writing.

Yesterday evening, Uncle did not return. Believed it to be the usual fit of drunkenness and expected to hear the doorbell during the night. This morning I realized that he had still not come home. It was Charles I heard having coffee. I wondered if Uncle might be dead in the pavilion, a stroke or from hanging himself. Suicide is a possibility with this hideous, horrible, arrogant, worthless but sensitive man who has turned everyone against him. Has made everyone detest him, even his own daughters, and yet, sometimes, a burst of grandeur, I thought to myself . . .  this morning I went to see, to have a look in the pavilion with its door left open. I looked in the linden tree. Charles had the same thought. My mother, too. Charles went to look out the windows. He was not there, he told me. Then, later, while I was writing, I heard him coughing and clearing his throat below in the garden. He’d only gone on his usual binge. Too often (always) I judge others according to myself. I believe that’s what happened over the twenty years with Lucien Jacques as well.’

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Baudin’s voyage to Australia

The French explorer Nicolas Baudin died on this day 220 years ago. Born in humble circumstances, he rose to captain one of France’s most important scientific and geographical expeditions to Australia - rivalling a similar expedition by the British captain Matthew Flinders. Both Baudin and Flinders -  who met once at Encounter Bay - are much studied by academics in Australia, and thus there is plenty of information about them on university and state library websites. In particular, the Libraries Board of South Australia published - in the 1970s and for the first time - a personal journal kept by Baudin. This latter contradicts some of the official French version of the voyage, dating from the early 19th century, which is highly critical of Baudin.

Baudin was born in 1754 at Île de Ré, a small island off the west coast of France. He joined the merchant navy aged 15, then the French East India Company, and then the French navy, as an ‘officier bleu’ (a commoner not of noble birth). He served a year in the Carribbean, before resigning and returning to merchant service, transporting emmigrants to New Orleans, and timber back to France. After a chance meeting with Franz Boos, the Austrian Emperor’s head gardener and botanist, Baudin took charge, in 1792, of a scientific expedition for Imperial Austria to the Indian Ocean. In 1796, he made a similar scientific voyage to the West Indies, where he collected material for museums in Paris.

In 1800, Baudin was selected to lead, what became known as, the Baudin expedition to map the coast of Australia (then still called New Holland) with two ships, Géographe and Naturaliste, and a company of scientists. He reached Australia in May the following year, and was the first to explore and map the western coast and part of the southern coast. In 1802, he stopped in Sydney, sent home the Naturaliste with all the scientific specimens he had acquired, and bought a new ship - Casuarina. He made for Tasmania, then Timor, before heading back to Europe; but, having stopped at Mauritius, Baudin died there of tuberculosis on 16 September 1803. See Wikipedia, the ABC’s Navigators website, or the Australian Dictionary of National Biography for more information.

The official account of the Baudin expedition - written partly by François Péron and completed by Louis de Freycinet - appeared in two volumes (1807 and 1816) of the series Voyage de découvertes aux Terres Australes exécuté par ordre de Sa Majesté l’Empereur et Roi, sur les corvettes le Géographe, le Naturaliste, et la goélette le Casuarina, pendant les années 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, et 1804. Péron was particularly hostile towards his former commander, Baudin, and this shows through his account of the expedition.

However, a personal journal kept by Baudin during the voyage, from October 1800 to August 1803, gives a very different impression to that of Péron’s account. This was first translated from the French by Christine Cornell and published in 1974 by Libraries Board of South Australia as The Journal of Post Captain Nicolas Baudin, Commander-in-Chief of the Corvettes Géographe and Naturaliste, assigned by order of the government to a voyage of discovery. A lot more about the project to translate the journal can be found in The Baudin Legacy newsletter. A revisionist analysis of Baudin and his expedition to Australia can be found in The Baudin Expedition in Review: Old Quarrels and New Approaches (Australian Journal of French Studies, 2004).

Further information about Baudin’s journal is also available in Ill-Starred Captains: Flinders and Baudin by Anthony J. Brown, partly available to read on Googlebooks, which focuses on Baudin and the captain of a rival British expedition, Matthew Flinders. The two - famously - met at Encounter Bay on 8 April 1802. A website celebrating this encounter and both expeditions was set up by the State Library of South Australia in 2002; and this includes many extracts from Baudin’s journal. Here are three.

9 April 1802
‘There was little wind for the rest of the day. Sometimes we were even becalmed and at the mercy of the current, which carried us towards the coast, then only a league off. After sighting our points of the previous day, we sailed along the high land that we had seen a little before sunset. The coast in this part, if not extremely pleasant. was at least preferable to the region of sand-hills that we had just left.

At midday the latitude observed was 35° 36' but this was very uncertain. At three o’clock we sighted the island and islets spoken of by Mr. Flinders. I proceeded so as to run in for the channel separating them from the mainland, but since the slight wind blowing did not allow me to do this before dark, I went about at five o'clock to stand out to sea.

Coasting the mainland during the day, we sighted three islets or rocks lying such a short way out, that to see them. it was necessary to be as close in as we were. If becalmed, one could anchor there in 24 or 21 fathoms, for the bottom is sandy and good - a rather rare thing between here and the Promontory. At sunset we could still see Mr. Flinders’ ship running on the South-westerly leg.

Until midnight the winds were South to South- South-East and rather fresh, but then they moderated, and shortly after, we went on the landward leg.’

19 April 1802
‘I was expecting the weather to turn fine again and to be able, during the day, to explore the part of the coast that we had seen the previous day. But instead of that, the sky (which had been fairly fine throughout the night) grew damp and misty, with a very threatening appearance for the rest of the day.

At seven o’clock land was sighted from the mast-heads. It stretched from East-North-East to North North-West, proving only too plainly that we were in a gulf, as I had always thought we were, judging from the general shallowness of the water and the progressive decrease in its depth as we headed either West or East towards one coast or the other.

Since the weather promised too badly for us to think of reconnoitring the western part of this gulf, I sought to bear South as much as possible in order to be in a more advantageous position. During the morning the winds varied from North-West to West-South-West and were frequently accompanied by squalls and strong gusts. [. . .]

At one in the afternoon, with the wind still increasing and accompanied by sharp gusts, we wore ship and headed West of North-West to stand off the coast for greater safety during the night, for it looked as if it would be rather exhausting for us. At two o’clock the wind was still rising and the sea was growing steadily rougher, so we had to furl the mizzen-topsail and, shortly after, the fore-topsail. Although we were carrying no more than the foresail, main-topsail, close-reefed, and mizzen-staysail, the ship had on quite as much as she could manage in the squalls. We continued to tack West of North-West until eight in the evening. At that stage, being in 23 fathoms, we took our point of departure for the night’s tacking. The weather throughout it was very bad and the gusts were even stronger than during the day. We were several times obliged to lower our main-topsail, despite its small amount of canvas left. We went about every four hours and managed to maintain ourselves between 20 and 24 fathoms, tacking in a depth that never exceeded 30 and that diminished to East and West once one had reached there.

The night was very tiring for the crew and me in that we spent it constantly on deck. Except for those who changed watch, all the officers passed it just as peacefully in their beds as if the ship had been absolutely secure. As it was not the first time that they had done this, even in more critical situations than we were then in, I was not in the least surprised by it and left them in complete peace. This was what I had decided to do whenever such an occasion should arise. The stay of our fore-topmast staysail and its halyard went twice during the night, but the sail was only slightly damaged. The rain-bearing squalls were very cold and sometimes the water was like half-melted snow. We concluded from this that the winter cannot be very agreeable in this climate. The scientists, however, are of a contrary opinion because they saw parakeets in D’Entrecasteaux Channel.’

7 February 1803
‘As soon as our sails were furled, two boats were immediately dispatched to go sounding all around the ship and in various directions. On their return, I was informed that the depth of this bay was not sufficient for even a small vessel. At about a mile from the ship there were no more than 5 fathoms of water; half a mile further on, 4, and almost straightaway, 3 and 2. Nearer to the shore there was nothing but shallows and a continuous succession of sand-banks partly visible at low tide.

The boat which had had orders to head North-West gave us a moment of joy and satisfaction when it told us that it had discovered a fine port into which four rivers flowed, and that in the one it had entered, there were 4 fathoms of water and 3 inside. As a matter of fact the water in it was salty, but it would probably finish by becoming fresh as one went further up it. This was particularly pleasant, as it compensated for our regret at having found nothing on this coast so far that could repay us for our efforts and be of use to navigators.

The little boat had been sent off likewise to the island opposite which we were at anchor, and Citizen Guichenot, our gardener, had gone in it to reconnoitre the territory and discover what it produced. The boat did not return until during the night, having been stranded at low tide more than 2 miles off shore.

According to the gardener’s report, this island consists merely of sand, in which various low, shrubby trees grow. He only brought back some plants that were gone to seed, having been unable to find any in flower. Amongst them, there is one that has absolutely the bearing of an olive-tree. Its fruit resembles the olive in miniature, although the seed inside is very different. A big fire was lit on this island to serve as a beacon for the Casuarina, should she happen to enter this region.

As there was a very strong breeze all day and we had only 30 fathoms of cable down, we paid out 20 more, and in spite of the heavy South-South-easterly gusts, held firm on our anchor - proof that the bottom was not foul and that the holding was good.’

This article is a slight revised version of one first published on 16 September 2013.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Rid of such monsters

‘I have omitted to mention the execution of the Cato Street conspirators [concerning a plot to murder all the British cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister Lord Liverpool], which took place on the 1st of this month. Thistlewood & 4 other of the leaders were hanged & beheaded, exhibiting to the last the most hardened & brutal want of religion or any proper feeling. One really ought to thank God that the world is rid of such monsters, for their avowals of guilt on the scaffold & when they were brought up for judgement were quite terrific. Six others, who pleaded guilty, were sent off the night before for transportation for life to Botany Bay.’ This is from the diaries of Harriet Arbuthnot who died tragically young 230 years ago today. She married a much older man, a minister in the government, and found politics, especially Tory politics, much to her liking. Because of her very close friendship with the first Duke of Wellington, her very detailed and opinionated diaries are considered an important historical resource. 

Harriet Fane was born on 10 September 1793, the youngest daughter in a well-off family living near Grantham in Lincolnshire. Her father died when she was nine, but the family fortunes improved considerably in her late teens when her mother inherited estates in Hampshire and Dorset. Aged 20, she married Charles Arbuthnot, some 26 years her elder, who had been a member of parliament since 1795. She soon became fascinated by politics, supporting Tory causes, enjoying success as a political hostess. 

Although Harriet’s marriage was considered a happy one, she also formed close relationships with other older, powerful men, such as Lord Castlereagh (who was foreign secretary from 1812 to 1822) and particularly with the Anglo-Irish peer, the Duke of Wellington (who became Prime Minister in the 1820s). In 1823, her husband was given the Department of Woods and Forests, a position which gave him charge of the Royal parks and gardens and thus boosted the couple’s social status. She died suddenly of cholera in 1834, aged just 40. Further information is available at Wikipedia.

Harriet Arbuthnot is best remembered for her diaries, kept from 1820 until 1832, in which she which wrote about the politics and society of the day in extensive detail. Specifically, they contain much of interest to biographers of the Duke of Wellington. The diaries were first published by Macmillan & Co in 1950 in two volumes as The Journal of Mrs. Arbuthnot, 1820-1832 (edited by Francis Bamford and Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington). Volume 1 (1820-1825) can be digitally borrowed from Internet Archive. A discussion of the diaries by Dr Stephen Lee can be found on The History of Government blog - Lee says they are ‘one of the most extraordinary documents we have on the internal dynamics of elite politics in the early 19th century’.

Here are several extracts from the published diaries, including the very first entry. 

‘It has often been a matter of great regret to me that, in all the years that I have been married & from circumstances have been living so much among the leading men of the day, it had never occurred to me to keep a journal. I have constantly heard so many things that it would be interesting to remember, the greater part of which, from their succeeding each other so rapidly, I have already forgotten. I have now determined to conquer my natural laziness & make it a rule from this time forth to write down all that occurs to me, or that I hear of in public affairs that is interesting to me. I begin with the reign of George the 4th, the 1st of February, 1820.’

2 February 1820
‘A council held at Carlton House for the new King’s declaration. Mr. Arbuthnot attended & told me the King appeared extremely ill & was so much agitated he could hardly go thro’ the necessary forms.’

9 February 1820
‘The King recovering from his severe illness, but still very unwell & not able to attend to business. The Duke of W[ellingto]n called on me & told me the King was determined to dismiss the ministers if they did not consent to attempt a divorce for him [King George IV was trying to persuade Parliament to grant him a divorce from his estranged wife Queen Caroline]. They equally determined not to do so. He likewise told me that the Vice-Chancellor misled the King by making him believe the Whigs would try to consent to try the divorce. Saw Fred: Ponsonby & Charles Greville who asserted that the Whigs in a body would vote strongly against a divorce. Dined at the Russian Ambassador’s; Madame de Lieven played & Count Pahlen sung most beautifully.’

12 February 1820
‘Every thing still doubtful about the dismissal of ministers. The King saw Ld Castlereagh & ordered the immediate recall of Count Munster & Ld Stewart. He appeared perfectly resolved upon trying the divorce.’

27 March 1820
‘Walter Scott dined with us & met the Duke of Wellington. We had only Sir Henry Hardinge in addition, & our evening was very agreeable between Scott’s Highland stories & the Duke’s accounts of some of his battles. Mr. Arbuthnot met Scott some days after, who said he had been enchanted at hearing Caesar descant on the art of war.’

28 March 1820
‘Went into the country for the Easter holidays. We went to the Duke of Dorset’s at Drayton in Northamptonshire, which is three miles from our own farm. While we were there a farmer in the neighbourhood offered Mr. A. £1.00 for a calf three months old, which he refused & for which I thought him very foolish. This rather shews that the agricultural interest is not at so low an ebb as is thought by some, when a common farmer could afford to offer such a price on such a mere speculation.’

3 May 1820
‘My sister, Mrs. Chaplin, came to London on her way to the sea & staid two days. She has been confined by illness to a couch for near three years & is now, I hope, quite recovering. She well deserves to be restored to perfect health, for she has borne this long & grievous confinement without ever uttering a murmur or expressing the slightest feeling of impatience.

I have omitted to mention the execution of the Cato Street conspirators [concerning a plot to murder all the British cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister Lord Liverpool], which took place on the 1st of this month. Thistlewood & 4 other of the leaders were hanged & beheaded, exhibiting to the last the most hardened & brutal want of religion or any proper feeling. One really ought to thank God that the world is rid of such monsters, for their avowals of guilt on the scaffold & when they were brought up for judgement were quite terrific. Six others, who pleaded guilty, were sent off the night before for transportation for life to Botany Bay.

My brother Cecil, who had never seen an execution, told me he had a great curiosity on this occasion & went. He wished very much to see how they would behave; but, when they were tied up, he felt so nervous & in fact felt so much more than they themselves did that he retired into a corner of the room & hid himself that he might not see the drop fall, which excited great contempt in the people who were in the room with him; amongst whom was one woman, young & pretty & very decent looking, who kept her eyes fixed on it all the time &, when they had hung a few seconds, exclaimed, “There’s two on them not dead yet”.!!’

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Longing after damsens

Samuel Ward, a sixteenth century religious scholar who spent all his working life at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, died 380 years ago today. As with Margaret Hoby who was born one year before Ward and died 10 years earlier - see After private prayers - much of what we know about Ward today comes from a diary he left behind. This, like Hoby’s, is largely concerned with Ward’s religious life, but whereas Hoby’s simply provides a record of her actions, Ward’s is much richer in terms of psychology since he writes so much about his own sins, many of them trivial, such as ‘longing after damsens’!

Ward was born at Bishop’s Middleham, Durham, in 1572. He studied and then taught at Cambridge University, rising to become Master of Sidney Sussex College. He married a widow with one child in the early 1620s. As a Puritan, he wrote widely on doctrinal issues, such as baptism. He was one of the scholars involved with the translation and preparation of the King James version of the Bible. He served as part of the English Calvinist delegation to the Synod of Dort.

When the First English Civil War broke out he fell out with the Presbyterian majority, and, in 1643, along with others, was imprisoned in St. John’s College. When his health gave way, he was permitted to retire to his own college. He died on 7 September later that same year. Further information is available from Wikipedia, the 1895-1900 edition of Dictionary of National Biography, or the University of Cambridge.

Intermittently, Ward kept a confessional diary, and this has survived down the centuries, and is held by Sidney Sussex College. It was published in 1933 by The American Society of Church History as part of Two Elizabethan Puritan Diaries by Richard Rogers and Samuel Ward, edited by M. M. Knappen. This can be digitally borrowed at Internet Archive
Since then it has been reprinted, and reissued in different guises, serving as an important first hand source of historical information on the King James Bible. Most recently, the University of Cambridge has made every page of the notebook freely available online through its digital libraryThe following transcribed quotes are taken from a 1966 reprint of Two Elizabethan Puritan Diaries. (Any trailing dots within the extracts come from the original source.)

13 May 1595
‘My little pity of the boy who was whipt in the hall. My desire of preferment over much. My adulterous dream. Think thow how that this is not our home in this world, in which we are straungers, one not knowing anotheres speach and language. Think how bad a thing it is to goo to bed without prayer, and remember to call on God at goyng to our prayers in the Chappell.’

8 August 1596
‘. . . Also my longing after damsens when I made my vow not to eat in the orchard. Oh, that I could so long after Godes graces . . .’

25 August 1596
‘. . . My extreme anger the day before att John Mourton for taking the axeltree out of my glob . . .’

27 August 1596
‘. . . Also my pride in thinking of the new colledg, wheras it is not licky I should have any place ther. Also my stomaching of Cuthbert and Holland agayne, and my grudging att ther remembrance my disease. . .’

3 September 1596
‘My complayning to Mr. Pott and Mr. Glover of Mr. Hutchinson, and my proud thoughtes with Mr. Montague when he said we should go se the crocodile. Also my proud and wild thoughtes in that I had so many places offrd, as one by Sir Hornby. Truly when God is favorable and merciful to me I begin to be proud and to attribute to myne oven desert sathanically. My unthankfulness for Godes benefits. My immoderate desire of the meat left for the sizer.’

5 September 1569
‘. . . My goying to the taverne with such lewd fellowes, albeyt I knew them not. How little greived was I att their swearing and othes and wyld talk. O Lord, thou knowest that I wished often to be ridd of their company. My little care of my health notwithstanding my disease grew upon me. . .’

6 August 1597
‘How little I was affected with hearing of the ill success of our Navy . . .’

25 December 1597
‘My lasines in not rising early inough to prepare myself to the worthy receit of the communion.’

5 November 1599
‘The like the Archbishop now hath performed in the choosing of this new - to be vicechancellor against the will of many in the University. Lord, turn all their plots and devices to thine own glory, and the good of thy church etc.’

This article is a slight revised version of one first published on 7 September 2013.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Written in Elvish

Half a century ago today died the English fantasy writer, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, best known for his novel, The Lord of the Rings. An archive of his papers is kept at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and includes diaries. These have not, however, been published. Biographer Humphrey Carpenter has said that Tolkien used the diaries ‘chiefly as a record of sorrow and distress’, but also that they were written in Elvish.

Tolkien was born in 1892 in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State (now Free State Province in South Africa) to an English bank manager and his wife, Mabel. Mabel took Tolkien, then aged three, and his younger brother, back to England; their father died before he could join them. The family then lived in Birmingham, and the boys were educated by Mabel, but she too died young. Thereafter, they were raised as Catholics by Mabel’s friend Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan of the Birmingham Oratory. Tolkien was sent to King Edward’s School, Birmingham, and then he studied at Exeter College, Oxford, switching after a while from classics to English. He married his teenage sweetheart, Edith, in 1916. They would have four children.

During the First World War, Tolkien served as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, fighting in the Somme offensive. He contracted trench fever and was treated at a hospital in Birmingham. After the armistice in 1918, he worked briefly on the New English Dictionary project (later to become the Oxford English Dictionary), before becoming a reader in English Language at the University of Leeds, and then, from 1925, Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College, Oxford University. From 1945 to 1959 he was Professor of English Language and Literature at Merton College, Oxford. It was at Oxford that he became a close friend of C. S. Lewis, author of the Narnia stories, and together they formed part of an informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings.

During his time at Pembroke, Tolkien wrote and published (1937) his first novel, The Hobbit. Unexpectedly popular with adults and children, the publisher (Allen and Unwin) asked for a sequel, which was eventually published in three volumes, in the mid-1950s, as The Lord of the Rings. This latter work became phenomenally successfully, and has remained so ever since. Academically, Tolkien published works on Chaucer and on the old English heroic epic Beowulf; and biographers are at pains to point out the links between the fantasy epic content of his novels and his scholarly work.

After retirement, Tolkien became increasingly discomforted by the attention of fans. He and Edith relocated to Bournemouth, then an upper middle class seaside resort; but, after Edith’s death in 1971, he moved back to rooms at Merton College until his own death on 2 September 1973. The internet is awash with Tolkien information, try, for example, The Tolkien Society, the Tolkien Library, the Leadership University, the BBC or Wikipedia.

Before his death, Tolkien negotiated the sale of some of his papers (those related to the then-published works) to Marquette University’s Raynor Library in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. However, after his death many other papers were donated to Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. Within this latter archive are a number of unpublished diaries kept by Tolkien. Although not publicly available, some researchers/
biographers have been allowed access, and their books on Tolkien contain a few quotes and references to the diaries. Notably, Humphrey Carpenter, who wrote the authorised biography, says Tolkien used the diaries ‘chiefly as a record of sorrow and distress, and when . . . his gloom dissipated he ceased to keep up the diary entries’. Some of the diaries were written in code, Carpenter explains at the end of biography, in the acknowledgements, and he thanks his wife for help in ‘de-coding’ them. Carpenter has also said elsewhere that Tolkien kept his diaries in ‘elvish’.

The few quotations from Tolkien’s diaries that do exist in the public domain, mostly undated, have been collated by the Tolkien Gateway. Here are three.

1 January 2010
‘Depressed and as much in dark as ever, [...] God help me. Feel weak and weary.’

1933 [on visiting Birmingham]
‘I pass over the pangs to me of passing through Hall Green - become a huge tram-ridden meaningless suburb, where I actually lost my way - and eventually down what is left of beloved lanes of childhood, and past the very gate of our cottage, now in the midst of a sea of new red-brick. The old mill still stands, and Mrs Hunt’s still sticks out into the road as it turns uphill; but the crossing beyond the now fenced-in pool, where the bluebell lane ran down into the mill lane, is now a dangerous crossing alive with motors and red lights. The White Ogre’s house (which the children were excited to see) is become a petrol station, and most of Short Avenue and the elms between it and the crossing have gone. How I envy those whose precious early scenery has not been exposed to such violent and peculiarly hideous change.’

August 1955
‘Venice seemed incredibly, elvishly lovely’; ‘contrary to legend and my belief, Italians . . . dislike exaggeration, superlatives, and adjectives of excessive praise. But they seem to answer to colour and poetic expression, if justified.’

This article is a slight revised version of one first published on 2 September 2013.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

A boisterous yeare

Ralph Josselin - an Essex vicar, teacher and farmer - died 340 years ago this month. Though not particularly familiar as a historical name, he is remembered as an important early diarist. Indeed, his diary, with its many details of rural life in the 17th century, inspired a major research project to document the history of the village where he lived, Earls Colne, all the documents for which have been made available online. The originator of this project, Alan Macfarlane, is also the modern editor of Josselin’s diary, and he suggests Josselin might in time be seen to stand beside other great English diarists.

Josselin was born in 1617 at Roxwell in Essex, the first son and third child of a farmer. His early education was at Bishop’s Stortford, and, by his own account, he wanted to be a clergyman from an early age. He studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, receiving his BA in 1636–1637. His father died around the same time, and Josselin spent the next few years supporting himself in teaching teacher and curate posts. In 1641 he became vicar of the parish of Earls Colne, Essex, where he stayed for the rest of his life, embracing many different roles, not least teacher and farmer. Josselin died in August 1683, and was buried at Earls Colne on 30 August. Further information is available from Wikipedia and English Historical Fiction Authors.

Most of what we know today about Josselin comes from his diary, first edited by E. Hockliffe and published in 1908 by the Camden Society for the Royal Historical Society. According to Hockliffe’s preface in that edition, less than half the original diary was included since many entries were of ‘no interest whatever - endless thanks to God for his goodness - ‘to mee and mine,’ prayers, notes about the weather or his sermons, innumerable references to his constant ‘rheums’  and ‘poses,’ trivial details of every day life, records of visits to his friends etc. etc.’ The aim was ‘to extract so much personal detail as is required to give a picture of the actual life of the author, and to include everything that possesses any historical interest.’ The author’s spelling was ‘carefully preserved’. In the earlier years, Josselin made entries frequently, often daily, but from about 1665 onwards there was usually only one entry a week.

Hockliffe concludes his preface: ‘A kindly if somewhat self-seeking figure [Josselin] lives again in the pages of this diary, and when his story ceases abruptiy on July 27, 1683, with a broken entry, we feel with real sorrow that we have parted from a friend.’

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required), the Camden Society’s scholarly edition omitted almost three-quarters of the original; the Josselin that emerged from it was ‘very much the public man, whose comments on the great religious and political issues of his day were what most merited attention’. ‘He was a moderate parliamentarian,’ the ODNB continues, ‘active in electioneering and petitioning and worried by the emergence of more radical groups like the Levellers, and served for a brief spell as a chaplain in the parliamentarian army and assisted locally with the implementation of measures for the reform of the church and augmentation of livings; he suffered plundering by royalist troops for his active organization of the defence of the village in 1648 at the siege of Colchester. Although unhappy at the king’s execution, he retained his support for what he called the ‘honest party’ even after the Restoration. Josselin’s well-informed comments on political events both in England and on the continent (on which he made an annual end-of-year report in his diary) reflect the social depth to political knowledge in mid-seventeenth-century England.’

Renewed examination of the manuscript diary in the 1960s led to a much fuller edition in 1976: The diary of Ralph Josselin, 1616-1683 edited by Alan Macfarlane and published by Oxford University Press. The picture that emerges from this modern edition allows the reader, the ODNB says, ‘to see Josselin properly in context, to sympathize with much that seems familiar in his life, and to puzzle over much that is foreign and strange.’ In particular, it shows him falling in love and marrying a wife, various emotions towards his children, chronic concerns about his finances (though a generous bequest from a wealthy parishioner helped establish him as a farmer in the mid-1640s) and his health, and an interest in public affairs, the weather, etc.

Of Macfarlane’s edition, the ODNB concludes: ‘By the time of [Josselin’s] death he had secured a comfortable material existence. But even to the end, his diary, maintained until the month before his death, reveals a man trying to fulfil his parochial duties, continually concerned with his children’s lives, receptive to political news (particularly of the fate of godly dissenters), and still, amid entries increasingly caught up with documenting his failing health, continuing to note, ‘God good to me’.’

Macfarlane, himself, in his introduction appears a bit mixed up in his opinion of the diary. He waxes lyrical: ‘Among many other topics to which he turns our attention are the following: accidents, food, geographical mobility, gifts, gossip, imagery, insanity, the poor, pregnancy, servants, wages. Anyone interested in the seventeenth-century thought and society is likely to find information of interest. An ordinary subject index cannot do justice to such a rich and complex document.’ And he adds, rather meaninglessly, ‘The Diary is, above all, unique as a total document.’

‘With all its redundancy and repetition,’ Macfarlane comments, the diary can ‘still be read straight through with great enjoyment’. But then he points out that ‘idiosyncrasies of grammar and style may, at first, provide difficulties,’ and that to reap ‘rich rewards’ the reader will have to ‘persevere and enter Josselin’s world, so strange and yet familiar’. Moreover, Macfarlane says that Josselin ‘does not emerge as lovable, or even endearing - his conscientious and suffering figure simply stands before us, to wonder at, pity and for all its frailty, respect.’

Finally, Macfarlane concludes, ‘posterity will judge [Josselin’s] right to stand besides Pepys, Heywood, Woodford, Kilvert - the great English Diarists of all time.’ Though, personally, I don’t think much of Macfarlane’s list of ‘great English Diarists’, Pepys apart of course. Much of Macfarlane’s modern edition is available to read online at Googlebooks. It is also available in a slightly awkward format - one web page for each day - on an extensive website concerning the parish of Earls Colne.

The 1908 edition of Josselin’s diary by Hockliffe is fully and freely available at Internet Archive, and it is from this that the following extracts have been taken. (These are almost all the diary excerpts for 1657 to be found in the 1908 edition, and take up little more than a couple of pages. By contrast, the modern edition requires more than a dozen pages to include all Josselin’s actual entries for that same year.) Josselin’s forecast that 1657 is likely to be a boisterous year, in the first of the extracts below, appears to have been proved true by his round-up of world events in the last of the extracts.

25 March 1657
‘When I come to view my estate this yeare, I find my expenses far deeper then divers yeares formerly, and my receipts more then ever, God bee blessed. Last year my estate was about 670l. I find I have about 590l. and I have pd for land to Mr Butcher 150l. and to Mr Weale 85l. which is in whole 235l. so yt I have had a great increase this yeare of 145l. or yr abouts, with the life & health of my family, no trouble in my estate; the Lords love in Christ is my life and joy. I have received in to my hand Mrs Maries land on which I am out 108l. 9s. This yeare 1657 is like to bee a boisterous yeare in the world.’

28 March 1657
‘Talke now of a king, the Lord bee our king and lawgiver.’

17 April 1657
‘Divers men bustle to make Xt king; truly Cromwell will carry it from him at present, but surely yt is a time when Xt shall reigne more then inwardly.’

19 April 1657
‘Heard this weeke the men that are to make Christ King were plotting agst the Protector, and that he seized on divers of them.’

7 May 1657
‘Heard as if Blake desired landmen to attempt the Canaries.’

15 May 1657
‘At night M. Hubbard of London with mee to teach two boys at 3l. per annum if they come.’

23 May 1657
‘John Eldred a scholler yt brought mee in 40s. yearly went from mee; the Lord will provide.’

17 July 1657
‘Protector proclaimed at Halsted by ye Sheriffs.

30 August 1657
‘This day I publisht the act about the Sabbath, the Lord doe good by it.’ [An act to punish ale-house keepers for profaning the Sabbath by permitting swearing, drunkenness, gaming etc. in their houses.]

9 September 1657
‘After hopes of a dry Sturbridge faire it rained very much, so that the wayes were exceeding heavy and dirtie, Mr H. had some hopes to make 500l. of his hops; the last yeare he made 790l.’

30 September 1657
‘A publiq fast in regard of the general visitacon by sicknes, wch was a feavor & ague very mortal in some places.’

8 October 1657
‘Being up, & riving logs, Mr Elliston came & told mee Dr Wright was most certainly dead, I had no warning of his sicknes, I was troubled that such a providence found mee not better imployed, and disposed, but I blesse God though I am like to loose 60l. per annum, yet yt is not much trouble.’

3-4 November 1657
‘Mr Cressener acquainted mee that my Lord of Oxfords Chaplain was come to town and he thought about the schoole. Mr R. H. made some proffers in it, and I desired to observe God therein, but my owne inclinations rather tend to lay it wholly by, desirous God would open some helpe to mee in carrying on the worke of the ministry.’

9 November 1657
‘Dr Pullein sent mee an offer to procure mee the schoole, if I would helpe him to his living; I had no desire thereto.’

17 November 1657
‘Mrs Marg: Harlakenden having laid out 120l. at London, about wedding clothes, her father being exceeding angry, I appeased him, so that though he chid her by letter for her vanitie, yett he paid the scores.’

25 November 1657
‘Rd my copies of my two fift parts of ye farme on Colne Green from my Cosin Josselin; yt purchase cost mee about 310l; God blesse it to mee & mine.’

27 November 1657
‘Dr Pullein was with mee, shewed mee his grant from my Lord; he lost the living, for which I am sorry, and I the schoole; Gods will be done; I doe not find any trouble on my spirit in it; he desired mee to teach the schoole till spring for halfe the proffits; I consented; Lord I blesse thee for that kindnes and mercy.’

3 December 1657
‘Spent some time in prayer at Mr Cresseners, the Lord good to mee yr in; about yt time at London, Dr Pullein’s busines was put to that issue, that if ye Earl of Oxford would stand by his present- acon of Dr Pullein, he might come into his living; the Lords name bee praised for this kindnes, the issue is in thy hand, oh Father.’

5 December 1657
‘Riding over to the Earl of Oxfords to Bently hall, and speaking with Dr Pullein, a full issue was put to that treaty about the schoole; I not having it, in wch disposall of God I desire to bee satisfied, and sitt down contentedly, knowing that he will order and direct every thing for good to mee; I was very sicke at night and vomited, which I judged a mercy to mee.’

8 December 1657
‘Talke as if some uprore in ye kingdom, the militia horse suddenly called togither and the army foot called of again towards the sea.’

12 December 1657
‘Saw a booke esp: of Welsh prophecies, which asserts that Cromwell is the great Conqueror that shall conquer Turke and Pope. I have many yeares on scripture grounds and revolutions judged him or his govermt and successors, but esp. my heart fixt on him, to bee most great; but sad will bee things to Sts and him; this booke of prophecies giveth mee no satisfaction, but perhaps may sett men a gadding to greaten him.’

15 December 1657
‘Mrs Margaret Harlakenden married to Mr John Eldred; her father kept the wedding three dayes, with much bounty; it was an action mixed with pietie and mirth; die. 18, the company departed the priory. God gave an emint answer of prayer to him & mee in providing her so good an housband beyond expectation; Mr Bridegroom gave mee 1l. & Mr H. 1l. God in mercy requite their love and bounty.’

27 December 1657
‘If it bee worth writing this tels yt raisins of ye sun were sold at 12, 14, 16, 18d. per pound.’

8 January 1657/1658
‘Received an order to bee an Assistant in Ejecting of Ministers & Jan. 8. schoolemrs for insufficiency; had the offer of two schollers, which I undertake to teach; the Lord helpe mee in all my callings.’

25 January 1657/1658
‘This day was the last of my 41 yeare, in which God hath been with mee and blessed mee, and though Dr Wrights death cutt mee short in the schoole, yett I find my heart quiett, rowling it selfe on God, and no way questioning his providence to take care of mee. God hath given mee three children instead of 3 more which I had buried, and thus my dreame of 3 shoots in my parlor cutt down and growing up againe is made good.

Abroad in the world matters are likely to bee sad, yet I find not the apostacy to increase; this yeare the Emp. of Germany died, and no other yet chosen in his stead; his son the K. of Hungary assisted Poland, wherby the Swedes are driven into Prussia. The P. of Transilvania forced to retreate home, and was deposed for his attempt to please ye Turke. Brandenburg made peace with the Pole and left Swede. The Moscovite was in a manner quiet this summer, yet the Swede brusht him a little in Livonia. Denmarke invaded the Swede in Bremeland, to his losse in Juitland; the Hollander proclaimed warre agst Portugal & tooke pt of the Brasile fleete. The English assisted France agst Spaine & gott footing in Flanders, the Venetians beate ye Turke, but in the winter he regained some Iles as Tenedos; the Turke hath issue male. The Q. of Spain delivered of a sonne, ye King 53 yeares old and no son til now; the affaires in Italy & Catalonia not very boisterous. The Spaniards invaded Portugal by land & tooke some places; thus warre breaks out, but no eminent matter was done in the world; the English Protector setled by Parliamt and a house of Lords in title erected January 20th.’

This article is a slight revised version of one first published on 20 August 2013.

Friday, August 11, 2023

An absurd thing to do

‘This evening I observed a procession of several hundred people carrying paper lanterns; and, when I asked the reason, I was told that it was in response to a rumor that the geisha houses which had burned the other day would be rebuilt. These people have been worshipping at the Shrine to the War Dead for the last two or three days to offer prayers that such an order not be issued. What an absurd thing to do!’ This is Kido Takayoshi, a Japanese statesman and samurai considered one of the three great nobles who led the so-called Meiji Restoration.  Born 190 years ago today, he kept detailed diaries during the last decade of his life. These were first published in their original Japanese in the 1930s, and, some 50 years later, in English.

Katsura Kogorō was born into an influential warrior family in Chōshū, Nagato province, Japan, on 11 August 1833. He was educated at Meirinkan, a Han school, though later he defied his father in order to be educated at Shōka Sonjuku, the academy of Yoshida Shōin, an intellectual who believed in the necessity of modernising Japan. There he adopted the philosophy of Imperial loyalism in line with a group of Chōshū leaders. He advanced quickly becoming one of Chōshū’s leading officials. Though ousted by the Tokugawa shogun in 1865, the radical Chōshū leaders seized back command. Now as head of the Chōshū, he began to negotiate with radical samurai from Satsuma. By the late 1860s, he had married Ikumatsu and had had her adopted into the samurai family of Okabe Tomitarō. He changed his name to Kido Takayoshi.

Kido, along with Ōkubo Toshimichi and Saigō Takamori of Satsuma, became known as one of the three giants of the Restoration. Together they headed the coup d’état that eventually toppled the shogun and restored the emperor to power. Kido became one of the most powerful men in the new administration. He was one of those responsible for transferring the imperial capital from Kyōto to Edo (renamed Tokyo) and for persuading the heads of the large han to renounce possession of their domains, which were returned to the emperor. He also helped devise a scheme to redivide the country into prefectures to be governed by officials appointed by the central administration.

In 1871, Kido accompanied other high government figures on a visit to Europe and America, returning just in time to block a plan to invade Korea. However, on failing to stop the administration mounting an expedition against Taiwan in 1874, he resigned. But when Japan’s forces were recalled, he returned to office and began to work for the establishment of a Western-style constitution. However, ill health - said to have been caused by mental disease and physical exhaustion - let him to take a less active role  in government; and, in 1877, he died. Further information is available from Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica

For the last 10 years of his life Kido kept a detailed diary. This was first edited by Tsumaki Chūta and published in three volumes in 1932-1933 by Nihon Shiseki Kyōkai. In the mid-1980s, the diaries were translated into English by Sidney Devere Brown and Akiko Hirota and published by the University of Tokyo Press. These volumes can all be freely read online at Internet Archive. According to the translator’s foreword: ‘The first volume deals with the centralization of political authority and the abolition of feudalism, 1868-1871. The second volume centers on Kido’s travel to the United States and Europe as the second-ranking member of the Iwakura mission and its aftermath, 1871-1874. The third volume describes Kido’s mounting concern over the plight of groups affected adversely by the government’s modernization policies, 1874-1877. He was the rare oligarch who exhibited social concern at the impoverishment of the former samurai and the peasantry.’

According to the same translator’s introduction, two major traditions shaped Kido’s diary:

‘One was Chinese. Inspired by Confucian teachings, which came to Japan as part of the Chinese enlightenment, Fujiwara statesmen of the eighth and ninth centuries kept political diaries to record and criticize their own performance in office. The second tradition was purely Japanese. Court ladies like Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shōnagon who lived at the turn of the eleventh century utilized their literary diaries to set down their personal responses to beauty in nature and much else in an aesthetic vein. Lyrical poetry in the thirty-one-syllable tanka form often graced such art diaries.

Diaries of the nineteenth century, when Kido lived, united the older political and literary traditions. The practice of keeping a diary became widespread at that time, possibly because it fitted the requirements of the well-disciplined society of Tokugawa Japan. A samurai noted in his diary whether or not he had served his lord to the full on a given day. A person who wanted to account for his time set down in his diary what he had done with it. Diary-keeping itself required self-discipline. Filial piety was also served through a diary: one explored in his diary how well he had discharged his obligations to his parents. 

Kido in his diary, which represented a union of the Chinese political and the Japanese literary traditions, projected an image of the loyal official and the filial son, or the son who had belatedly sought to make up for the trouble he caused his parents when they lived. His diary, like those of the Fujiwara ministers a millennium earlier, had a substantial political content. He summarized political discussions in the councils of the Meiji government - what he had said in opposition to the Taiwan expedition of 1874, for example. Likewise, his diary, in the style of the Heian court ladies (or, in his mind, after the manner of Rai Sanyo, the loyalist historian), carried the texts of dozens of his own poems. Some reflected the Taoist ideal of a retreat to nature to escape the cares of office: “Seated on a light saddle, I meet the rain at dawn. . . . What care I for wealth or fame?” Others bespoke his pride in the success of the Meiji government.’

Here are several examples from volume one of the Kido diaries as translated into English.

10 May 1868
‘Today was the death anniversary of my family’s founding ancestor, so I worshipped his spirit. At 8 a.m. I went to Lord Iwakura’s inn, and there met Mitsuoka Hachirō. We inquired into Lord Iwakura’s intentions, then decided on procedures for carrying into effect the administrative reform after the Emperor’s return to Kyoto. We also discussed at length the Imperial ceremony to summon the spirit of Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the shrine in his honor.

At night I went to the Shinkyūrō, and had a few drinks with Ryūtō and Fujii Shichirōemon. There I met the geisha whom old Asada loved. Around 11 p.m. we moved over to the Sakaitatsurō.’

4 July 1868
‘This morning I had an appointment to review drill by the rifle units here; but it was postponed on account of rain. In the afternoon the Englishman Aston came, and we had a long talk. He was aboard an English warship during the Shimonoscki war in 1864, the Year of the Tiger; and he stayed in Shimonoscki throughout the affair. We are, therefore, old acquaintances. One time when our soldiers stationed in Shimonoscki were wounded in the fighting on the Kyushu front, they received medical treatment from an English doctor, all the arrangements made by Aston.

This evening I had an appointment with a man from Ōmura. A certain Ichinose of that domain called for me, and accompanied me to the Geiyōtei. Several men of his domain were already on hand. We had sakè and food served in high style, talked over the present state of things together, and all became intoxicated. After 7 we returned to my inn where we were attended by eight or nine geisha.’

18 July 1868
‘At dawn we reached Kobe, and I landed to pay a visit to Hobai, who outlined news of the Kyoto area for me. The tiling which I regret most is that Himtji and Matsuyama were pardoned for the high crime of treason against the Emperor on payment of an indemnity. This is one thing which will not help to build the foundations of Imperial rule. The reason that the bodies of thousands of soldiers lie bleaching across a thousand ri is that those men devoted themselves to fulfil the moral obligation which a subject bears toward the Emperor. Hundreds of thousands of yen will not buy back the life of a single man; yet the leaders of those domains were pardoned for the highest crime a subject can commit by the payment of a fine. I am at a loss for words. The Imperial benevolence may be used, of course, to commute the most severe form of death penalty, or to keep the family alive for the sake of the ancestors. But now that things have come to such a pass, what will Aizu and Shōnai do? The failure of the Imperial house to enhance its authority derives directly from such acts of leniency. The unbroken line of the Imperial family is coeval with Heaven and Earth; respect for the Imperial household of our Divine Land is without parallel in the world. Yet such a grave crime as treason is punished with a mere fine, after the manner of Western law. How I deplore this incredible decision! Under the circumstances I am in no hurry to enter Kyoto.’

18 August 1868
‘We hoisted anchor after 6. Between 9 and 11 we sailed offUraga to Miyata. It was in this area that more than ten years ago the Chōshū guard encampment was established. I was stationed here for more than a year; and my campmates included Kuribara Seikō and other friends, half of whom are new deceased. In these times I never cease to think back on days gone by, and my tears flow without end. At twilight we reached the port of Shimoda.’

26 September 1868
‘Cloudy. I was at home all day, ill in bed. In the afternoon Shunkō came to talk; and we discussed times past as we have done for several days, especially matters relating to the suspicions about me at home. Since the beginning of the year we have encountered problems over both domestic and foreign affairs; and we have been unable to achieve our purposes. But when I think of the inconstancy of my friends, I am deeply grieved. I sometimes console myself a bit by the thought that bearing this misfortune is part of the hard lot of being a man. Hearing Shunkō’s inmost thoughts dispelled my doubts a bit. Indeed, privately I was delighted for the sake of the country.

A confidential message arrived from Deputy Chancellor Iwakura in regard to the disclosure of the conspiracy of Prince Innomiya. We have been investigating this carefully in recent days; and, discovering the Prince’s secret messenger was being sent to the East, we arranged to arrest him en route. I suppose that the mission has been accomplished.

Unsen arrived in Kyoto today. Baiei and Shōhin came at night; and Seiho, Unsen, and I did a joint project of calligraphy and inkpainting.’

2 August 1870
‘Fair. Today I had an appointment for a meeting at Ōkuma’s villa at Mukō-Ryōgoku; and, as Gotō was scheduled for the same meeting, we took a boat there together after 11. Ōki and Yamaguchi were already on hand; and Tanaka Kuninosuke, Nomura Motosuke, and Tanaka Rcntarō arrived later. We left at lamplighting time, Nomura and I going to the Ikkoku Bridge, and then home by bamboo palanquin from the Okamuraya. The time by then was 9 o’clock.

This evening I observed a procession of several hundred people carrying paper lanterns; and, when I asked the reason, I was told that it was in response to a rumor that the geisha houses which had burned the other day would be rebuilt. These people have been worshipping at the Shrine to the War Dead for the last two or three days to offer prayers that such an order not be issued. What an absurd thing to do!’

Monday, August 7, 2023

A life spent hunting

Today marks the 170th anniversary of the death of Colonel Peter Hawker. A military man by profession, his main love was hunting, and, somewhat remarkably, he left behind a diary in which he recorded - from his teens to his old age - daily kills totalling nearly 18,000 birds. In his own lifetime, he published - anonymously - diary extracts about his military service in Portugal, under Wellington, during the Peninsular War.

Hawker was born in London in 1786, and was educated at Eton. Like his father and other forefathers, he entered military service, through the purchase of a commission in the 1st (Royal) Dragoons, switching after a couple of years to the 14th Light Dragoons, making captain when still only 17. He saw active service in the Peninsular War, but was obliged to retire after being wounded at Talavera, southwest of Madrid, and became a lieutenant-colonel in the North Hampshire militia.

Hawker was married twice, the first time in 1811 to Julia Barttelot by whom he had two sons and two daughters (although the elder son died in infancy). He was married for the second time in 1844 to Helen Susan the widow of Captain John Symonds. His family home was at Longparish, Hampshire, but he also had a cottage at Keyhaven on the Hampshire coast. He was a very keen sportsman, to say the least, and wrote the very popular, and much re-published, Instructions to Young Sportsmen. He also devised technical innovations for certain sporting guns, and, thanks to a great passion for music, invented hand moulds for the piano. He died on 7 August 1853. Further information can be found at Wikipedia and the New Forest Explorer website.

For most of his life, and starting young, Hawker kept a diary. From this, he selected extracts and published them anonymously in 1810 as Journal of a Regimental Officer during the Recent Campaign in Portugal and Spain under Lord Viscount Wellington (i.e. during the Peninsular War). This book is introduced by two short paragraphs called an ‘Advertisement’ which state: ‘The contents of the following pages (never intended for the public eye) were hastily noted down amidst the scenes attempted to be delineated; and the author’s sufferings from a wound have precluded him the possibility of afterwards correcting them. This candid statement will, it is hoped, plead for inaccuracies and frivolous incidents; and those persons who are most able to criticise will no doubt have the liberality to consider the disadvantages under which this narrative makes its appearance.’

After Hawker’s death, his family is said to have destroyed large parts of the diary, nevertheless extracts, particularly focusing on his sporting activities, were published, some forty years later, in two volumes: The Diary of Colonel Peter Hawker (Longmans, Green and Co., 1893). These (volumes one and two), and Journal of a Regimental Officer, are available online at Internet Archive.

The second volume of the diaries published in 1893 concludes with a list of the game Hawker recorded as having shot: from 1802-1853, he claimed 17,753 kills in all; over 7,000 partridges, 575 pheasants, 1329 ox-birds, 2,211 wigeon, 1,327 Brent geese, 2,116 snipes, as well as many other birds. Four types are distinguished by his having shot only one each in his life: stock-dove, Eider duck, avocet, hoopoe.

Here are a number of extracts, the first few (1802-1804) from the beginning of volume one; several in 1829 from the end of volume one; and several more from the end of volume two. They show an extraordinary preoccupation with hunting - from his teens to his deathbed.

27 June 1802
‘Arrived at Longparish House.’

September 1802
‘Altogether killed 200 head of game this month.

Instances of uncertainty in killing jack snipes: The first thirteen shots I had at these birds this year I killed without missing one; have since fired eight shots at one jack and missed them all.’

26 January 1803
‘Sketch of a bad day’s sport: Being in want of a couple of wild fowl, I went out with my man this morning about ten o’clock. The moment we arrived at the river 5 ducks and 1 wigeon flew up; we marked the former down, and just as we arrived near the place it began to snow very hard, which obliged us to secure our gunlocks with the skirts of our coats. No sooner had we done this than a mallard rose within three yards of me. I uncovered my gun and made all possible haste, and contrived to shoot before it had gone twenty yards, but missed it, which I imputed to the sight of my gun being hid by the snow. My man fired and brought it down, but we never could find it; and another mallard coming by me, I fired and struck him, insomuch that before he had flown a gunshot, he dropped apparently dead, but we were again equally unfortunate notwithstanding our dogs were with us. While we were loading, the 3 remaining ducks came by, a fair shot. Having reloaded, we went in search of them, but could not succeed. On our road home, coming through the meadow, the wigeon rose in the same place as before. I shot at it, and wounded it very much; we marked it down and sprung it again; it could hardly fly, from its wounds. Unluckily, my gun missed fire, and my man was unprepared, thinking it had fallen dead. We marked it into a hedge; before we had reached the place we spied a hawk that had followed it; from the same place the hawk was, the wigeon flew out of the hedge close under my feet. I fired at it, but, owing to agitation, had not taken a proper aim; however, a chance shot brought it to the ground; my dogs ran at it; it flew up again, but could not rise to any height, but continued to clear the hedges, and we never could find it again. To add to our misfortunes, we both tumbled into deep water.’

4 June 1803
‘Left Longparish House to join the 14th Light Dragoons on the march at Hythe.’

1 September 1803.
‘Folkestone. 4 partridges and 1 landrail. I went with Major Talbot and his brother: we were out from half-past four in the morning till eight at night, and walked above five hours before we saw the first brace of birds. Major Talbot killed a brace, and his brother 1 bird; a brace of birds and 1 rabbit were shot between us by means of firing at the same instant.’

18 February 1804
‘Left Folkestone to be quartered at Dover, till further orders.’

6 March 1804
‘Left Dover for Romney.’

3 May 1804
‘Romney. Went out in the evening, saw several very large shoals of curlews, but could not get near them; just as it grew dusk I laid myself down flat on the sands: every flock assembled into one prodigious large flight, and pitched within ten yards of me. I put them up with the expectation of killing not less than twenty, and my gun missed fire.’

14 June 1804
‘Romney. Shot an avoset (swimming). This is a bird rarely to be met with but on the Kentish coast. The above is its name in natural history; it is here known by the name of cobbler’s awl, owing to the form of the beak, which turns up at the end like the awl.’

1 September 1804
‘Romney. In a bad country we had never been in before Major Pigot and I bagged nine brace and a half of birds, exclusive of several we lost. We sprung one covey too small to fire at; Major Pigot picked out the old hen and I the cock, and bagged them both. There were sportsmen in almost every field. In the course of the day, my old dog Dick caught 8 hedgehogs.’

23 November 1804
‘Marched from Romney to be quartered at Guildford.’

2 December 1804
‘Left Guildford to stay a week at home at Longparish House.’

21 April 1829
‘After having been more or less unwell ever since I came to town, and several days confined to my bed and the sofa, I this day completed several repairs and improvements to the locks and breechings of my large gun, and got all safe away from the hornet’s nest which Joe Manton’s manufactory was in while he was in gaol, and this billet beset by ‘Philistines.’ His men worked under and for me, and had to keep an incessant eye lest anything should happen on the premises. No other workmen in London could have done such a job well to my fancy.’

28 April 1829
‘Longparish. I caught 24 brace of trout in a few hours, though the cold weather still continued.’

8 June 1829
‘London. The best Philharmonic ever known, and a duet between Sontag and Malibran considered the best piece of singing ever heard in this country.’

7 July 1829
‘Longparish. Took two hours’ fishing this evening, and killed 25 large trout.’

9 July 1829
‘Made a droll trial of a new-stocked duck gun, which was well done by my carpenter Keil. I knocked down, in seven shots, 6 bats and 1 moth. A duck at dusk flight may therefore know what to expect.’

10 July 1829
‘Fished and killed 20 very large trout indeed, and I then left off, not wanting any more fish to-day.’

20 April 1853
‘I may venture to say that I am getting on (though of course very, very slowly) towards the chance of recovery, for which prospect I have to thank Sir B. Brodie and an All-wise Providence.

Another remarkable circumstance - and a lucky one for me, who could eat nothing more nourishing than fish - the trout in our river, which were not even eatable when broiled till near July, have come in many months before their time, and ate better than I have known them to be for these last twenty years. One of my fishery tenants, Mr. Macleod, in the first week of March, had killed, in a severe winter’s day, 15 brace with a fly, and he kindly sent me a few as red and as good as salmon. This phenomenon is accounted for by the continued rains flooding all the low lands, and washing down constant winter food for the fish, which, notwithstanding the severe winter that afterwards cut up everything in March and April, never lost their high condition.’

23 April 1853
‘1 have been taken out for the last few days, for short drives in the carriage; but I am now a figure of skin and bone.’

24 April 1853
‘Another circumstance to record - Captain Duff and his friend came to my river to fish, and, in spite of the adverse weather, had a few days’ good sport; and, that is a miracle, every trout was better in season (though in April) than, for these twenty years, I have seen them - even than in June and July, the only time they have hitherto been fit to eat. They were quite red, firm, and full of curd - in short, delicious. Thus my lamentable illness has ‘cut me out of’ the best angling season on record, as well as the use of my new ignition punt gun at Keyhaven, in the finest hard weather we have had there since 1838.’

4 May 1853
‘Winter again; bitter cold gale of wind east by north. As I made but slow progress in the low and water-meadow situation of Longparish, I had made up my mind to forego all the comforts of the mansion for the more healthy air of my dear little cottage on the coast, and therefore I left Longparish for Keyhaven this day, after having passed twenty-five days and nights at the former place, without strength or appetite. We arrived at Keyhaven Cottage about six in the evening, after my very long absence from the 26th of October, 1852, up to this 4th of May, 1853. My good people were all delighted to see me, which they had made up their minds they should never do any more.’

5 May 1853
‘Keyhaven. Stephen Shuttler has done me justice in every possible way in my long absence, and kept everything in the very best order, in spite of awful floods; and then a north-pole winter in spring. N.B. Found the air here far pleasanter than at the other places. Thanks to God for all blessings up to this Holy Thursday — or Ascension Day — for 1853.’

7 May 1853
‘A total change of weather to south by west, and a pouring fall of rain all day; in the afternoon the cock flew round again to the north-east with the most furious increase of cold rain, and a heavy fall of snow - lamentable weather for my poor eyes and limbs. Instead of having a fair chance to breathe the good air here, I’ve been, ever since I entered the cottage, a close prisoner; could not even step into the garden.’

12 May 1853
‘Anniversary of my Douro affair, forty-four years ago. Cold and piercing north-easter, which is comparative luxury to the deadly poison of a white frost, insomuch that I suffered far less to-day, and my eyes got better.’

13-14 May 1853
‘Bitter white frosts again. But two hours’ fine weather on the 14th, when I got the sea air for the first time by being rowed down to Hurst and back. I came home refreshed, but much exhausted; and, on landing, who should be here but old Buckle, just arrived from Scotland. I was, however, not man enough to enjoy his ‘yarn’ as of old.’

18 May 1853
‘A beautiful day. Crossed to Yarmouth, and got driven to Freshwater for the fine sea air, but too weak to walk along the cliffs. Lots of ‘gents’ popping at rock birds and rifling the cormorants, and rookeries being stormed inland. All to tantalise me, like the gents having good sport angling the other day in view of my windows at Longparish, and I too ill to go out.’

26 May 1853
‘I sailed to Yarmouth, and got Butler’s excellent phaeton to the high lighthouse, and returned by Groves’s Hotel; but was so weak I could not enjoy my old paradise, Alum Bay, as before. The lighthouse is now kept by a Mr. Henderson, vice Coleraine, and the dangerous occupation of taking the eggs of rock birds is performed by a man named Lane, of the village below, called Weston, whose brother was lately killed in this awful pursuit.’

29 May 1853
‘Sunday. Being too weak to walk, I went in a donkey chaise to morning church at Milford (where, as well as at Longparish, Mrs. Hawker had me prayed for when expected not to recover), to return thanks to God for my escape from death in my long and dangerous illness, through which I had not been in church since the early part of last January, and never expected to be in church again, except on my way to the grave.’

July 1853
‘Longparish. From the 1st I have been so dreadfully ill that I could do nothing. My nights have been as awful as before.’

7 July 1853
‘The thunder and lightning all night caused such oppressive heat that no one could rest in bed. My sufferings could scarcely be conceived.’

8-14 July 1853
‘Too ill to get about save by quiet easy drives in the carriage, and to crawl out to look at all the grand repairs outside the house, which are now done. Attended by Dr. Hempsted twice a day, as my sufferings are alarming. We have had incessant wet weather ever since I returned to Longparish, and consequently the heavy water-meadow fogs oppressed me even more than those of London, from which I had retreated on the score of health. To-day, the 14th, Dr. Hempsted went from me to his other patient, the Earl of Portsmouth, for whom he had no hope, and who died this day at one o’clock. Peace to his soul!’

This article is a slight revised version of one first published on 7 August 2013.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

A nice little slot

‘I think some critics are uncomfortable with me because they have never been able to put me into a nice little slot. They haven’t been able to place me. But I’ve long since ceased to lose sleep over that. They’ve got their jobs to do, and I’ve got mine.’ This is from the diaries of the great British film director John Schlesinger who died 20 years ago today. The diaries - taped and written - have never been published but Schlesinger’s biographer, William J. Mann, refers to them repeatedly in his biography Edge of Midnight.

Schlesinger was born in 1926, in Hampstead, London, to wealthy Jewish parents - his father was a distinguished physician. He was educated at St Edmund’s School (Hindhead) and Uppingham School before enlisting in the British Army serving, during WW2, with the Royal Engineers. He became involved in making films on the front line, and he also entertained fellow troops with magic tricks. Subsequently, while at Balliol College, Oxford, he continued to make films and perform, not least with the Oxford University Dramatic Society.

In the early 1950s, Schlesinger appeared in various supporting roles for British films and television productions, but his directorial debut came in 1956 with a short documentary Sunday in the Park about London’s Hyde Park. Another followed, in 1958, about Benjamin Britten and the Aldeburgh Festival. He provided assistant directorial services on dozens of episodes for the TV series The Four Just Men, as well as a few for Danger Man. The early 1960s saw his career take off with several releases - Terminus, A Kind of Loving, Billy Liar, Darling and Far from the Madding Crowd - winning awards. In 1969, his film Midnight Cowboy won Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture. Through the 1970s and 1980s, he continued making successful films (and some not so successful), in Hollywood and Britain, as well as directing drama for television, and also sometimes in the London theatres.

Schlesinger’s final films were the intense drama Eye for an Eye (1996), about a revenge-driven mother, and The Next Best Thing (2000) starring Madonna and Rupert Everett. Schlesinger had come out as gay during the making of Midnight Cowboy, and he had a long term relationship with Michael Childers. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1970 Birthday Honours for services to film. He died on 25 July 2003. Encyclopaedia Britannica has this brief assessment: ‘Although the films of his later career were less uniformly brilliant than those early films with which he made his reputation, Schlesinger left an enviable body of work.’ Further information is also available from Wikipedia and IMDB.

Schlesinger left behind a large volume of diary material, much of it tape-recorded rather than written. William J. Mann uses this material extensively in his biography - Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger (Hutchinson, 2004). ‘I sorted through the tapes,’ he says in the biography, ‘they were intended for his own use, for writing his own memoir; he hadn’t expected anyone other than himself to hear them. Not for every film did John keep a detailed diary. There were gaps, but also some wonderful surprises: a rambling, intimate account of a holiday in South Africa with Michael; an on-the-set recording of rehearsals for The Believers; a tape left running after a radio interview had “officially” concluded. Not all of his diaries were tape-recorded: of his earlier work, he left mostly written records, often squeezed into the columns in his daily planners, a practice repeated again on his last film. Helpful and insightful as such written records were, however, they could not compare to the power of hearing his voice.’

Mann uses the written and taped diaries many times in the biography, but mostly by weaving very extracts phrases into his narrative rather than by providing whole and dated extracts. Nevertheless, here are few passages from Mann’s book (which can be digitally borrowed from Internet Archive) which include such excerpts from Schelsinger’s diaries.


‘He would learn, despite his kneejerk pessimism, to distance himself from criticism and rejection, for they would become the ever-present background chorus to his career. “I’ve often been dismissed,” he told his diary. “I think some critics are uncomfortable with me because they have never been able to put me into a nice little slot. They haven’t been able to place me. But I’ve long since ceased to lose sleep over that. They’ve got their jobs to do, and I’ve got mine.” ’ 


‘Gloria Swanson visited the set, courtesy of the Paramount publicity machine. “I think she didn’t really know what it was all about, what was going on around her, but she was very charming,” John recorded in his diary. “I never realized how small she was, nor that the beauty mark that has been so much her trademark was in fact a rather ugly, raised black mole, quite hideous on close inspection. I’m amazed a film star of such magnitude would have clung to it for so long, that it never registered what it really was.” ’


‘Camaraderie, in fact, extended from the grips and the technicians right up to the top. John liked his second American crew much better than his first: “This is not at all the Hollywood experience that I had somehow expected,” he recorded in his diary. I had expected bullshit. I had expected union problems. I had expected a kind of blaséness and I’ve found none of that. I suppose it’s the executives and the agents that sometimes turn me off the place, but I must say, working with these people has been an eye-opener.” ’


‘Watching Alan Bridges’ film The Hireling, with a script by Wolf Mankowitz, he also felt “homesick.” Musing to his diary, John wrote: “I felt once again a sense of terrible loss about the British cinema because when we do it well, we do it well. Much better, I think, than the average film made here.” ’ 


‘ “I have a very strong feeling that whatever the outcome of this picture [Yanks],” John recorded in his |diary, whether it’s commercially successful or not, I’m making the right move at this moment of my career.” Certainly, he was now enjoying being back in England, defying the odds in mounting a major film there - even if none of the money was British. “There is sheer pleasure in having won all our financial battles in getting the thing off the ground after an extremely depressing summer, when I really felt that it would never see the light of day.” ’


‘ “Vanessa [Redgrave] is without question one of the best actresses I’ve ever worked with,” John told his diary. “She is the consummate actress, able to take direction, really a wonderful musical instrument, so to speak, for a director to play.” ’