Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Fellini’s dreaming

The great Italian film director, Federico Fellini, died 30 years ago today. He won four Oscars for best foreign language film, more than any other director, and is considered to be one of the most important and influential European directors of the 20th century. Although not a diarist, he did, for many years, keep a record of his dreams, with descriptions and richly-coloured illustrations. These were given a lavish publication a few years after his death. 

Fellini was born in 1920 to middle-class parents in Rimini, on the Adriatic Sea. He was educated locally in Catholic schools, though ran away once to join a circus. He and his younger brother, as teenagers, joined the Avanguardista, the compulsory Fascist youth group for males. Lacking any interest in his education, Fellini began drawing comic portraits, and writing humorous articles. He enrolled in law school at the University of Rome in 1939, but barely attended, and continued trying to earn money by selling portraits.

Fellini worked for a short while as a local news reporter, but gravitated quickly to Marc’Aurelio, the highly influential biweekly humour magazine, for which he wrote a regular column for several years, and through which he met many other writers and artists. He composed monologues for the comedian Aldo Fabrizi and collaborated with variety radio shows, on one of which he met a young actress, Giulietta Masina, who he married in 1943. Their only child died soon after birth.

Through the 1940s, Fellini developed a name for himself, as a scriptwriter on some of Fabrizi’s films, with Roberto Rossellini on films such as Roma città aperta and Paisà, and in partnership with the playwright Tullio Pinelli. One of the directors he and Pinelli worked for, Alberto Lattuada, wanted Fellini to co-direct a film, Luci del varietà - it was self-produced and left them both in debt.

Fellini’s first sole directorial debut, Lo sceicco bianco, was also a failure. Thereafter, though, his films earned huge international praise. He won four Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film (La Strada in 1954, Le notti di Cabiria in 1957, 8 1/2 in 1963, and Amarcord in 1974), and was much honoured for others, such as La dolce vita and Satyricon. In 1993, just months before his death on 31 October, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Oscar. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, the Fondazione Federico Fellini, The New Yorker, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or IMDB.

Although not a conventional diarist, Fellini did, at the suggestion of the Jungian analyst Ernst Bernhard, keep a diary record of his dreams, and these records, along with his illustrations of them, were first published in 2007 by Rizzoli International Publications as Il libro dei sogni di Federico Fellini, and then in English as The Book of Dreams.

The publisher says: ‘A unique combination of memory, fantasy, and desire, this illustrated volume is a personal diary of Fellini’s private visions and nighttime fantasies. Fellini [. . .] kept notebooks filled with unique sketches and notes from his dreams from the 1960s onward. This collection delves into his cinematic genius as it is captured in widely detailed caricatures and personal writings. This dream diary exhibits Fellini’s deeply personal taste for the bizarre and the irrational. His sketches focus on the profound struggle of the soul and are tinged with humor, empathy, and insight. Fellini’s Book of Dreams is an intriguing source of never-before-published writings and drawings, which reveal the master filmmaker’s personal vision and his infinite imagination.’

A review can be read at Frieze, and there are a few extracts from the contents available at Penguin Random House which brought out a new edition in 2020. 

23 June 1974
‘It’s nighttime. What an awful night. I am driving a black car that’s racing dizzyingly down a path that spirals down around a mountain. I can’t seem to stop despite the fact that I’m pushing the brake pedal. On my right there’s a precipice. Other cars are coming up, flashing their lights with fear.’

27 June 1974
‘A wooden root falls from the sky. “It’s the wooden harp!” someone tells me with a tone of devotion and exultation as if a miracle had taken place. “Play it!” Dressed like a monk/mendicant, I (but was it me?) draw incredibly sweet sounds from the rough piece of wood. They make people cry. Even I am moved to tears. This last part of the dream was followed by me commenting on the dream itself, as if it were a film created for television by a young director. My comments were very positive.’

14 September 1974
‘I am on the dock in Rimini on an extremely stormy night, a violent gusty wind is blowing in off the sea toward the land, raising the waves. I’m drawing. Behind me, Peppino Rotunno is sitting in an attitude of indifferent and peaceful detachment. Norman lifts my drawing, which shows a black ship daring set sail up into the water-filled air on a night similar to the one we’re experiencing. Then he puts the drawing into a hiding place.’

15 September 1974
‘Where am I going? Confused, I know that I have to leave. Are we looking for track 26 for Paris? I follow my porter, who has my bags on a car, in a disordered procession of baggage carriers. Now we’ve gotten down and lost among the others, it seems that we have to struggle to get back on.’

20 September 1974
‘In Piazza Barberini in the middle of the day, in the midst of all the traffic, I’m completely naked in bed with Sandrocchia, who is also nude. Maybe we’re making love, but nobody pays any attention, nobody notices us, as if doing so were the most normal thing in the world. Later Sandrocchia (in P.P. she vaguely resembles A, as well) says to me “When I think about you I cry right away. I always cry when I think of you.” This was her way of telling me that she loves me very much.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 31 October 2013.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Self-exposing massacre

‘For a fortnight JH and I have been trimming the fat from this volume, fat being the truth that endangers. The book still seems bloated, for I’m as fond of my fat as an analysand is of his fears: with each slice I scream. Yet here’s a hundred deleted wounds to others and to myself, lascivious narratives, family daguerreotypes, puerile anecdotes and dirty linen.’ This is the penultimate entry in Ned Rorem’s third volume of published diaries. Although a Pulitzer-prize winning American composer particularly feted for his art songs, Rorem is more widely known, perhaps, for his uncompromising and witty diaries. He died last November, and today he would have been 100!

Rorem was born on 23 October 1923 in Richmond, Indiana, but moved to Chicago when still a child. He studied music at Northwestern University, Curtis Institute, Juilliard School and Berkshire Music Center. In 1948 his song, The Lordly Hudson, was voted the best published song of that year by the Music Library Association. The following year, he moved to France, and lived and worked there until the late 1950s, including a two year sojourn in Morocco. Back in the US, from 1957, he was much in demand for various music commissions.

Rorem has composed three symphonies, four piano concertos, hundreds of songs, and many other types of music. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for Air Music. According to Boosey & Hawkes, his music publisher, ‘Rorem is justly renowned for his art songs; his catalog includes more than 500 works in the medium. Evidence of Things Not Seen, his evening-length song cycle for four singers and piano, represents his magnum opus in the genre.’ Rorem's most recent opera, Our Town, completed with librettist J. D. McClatchy, is a setting of the acclaimed Thornton Wilder play of the same name, and was premiered in 2006. Rorem has an impoverished biography, which is little more than a long list of his compositions. More biographical information is available from Wikipedia, and at Boosey & Hawkes and Rorem’s own website.

Alongside his composing, Rorem has written extensively about music and about his own life, in autobiographies and diaries. Although he has been quoted as saying he is a composer who also writes, not a writer who composes, it can be argued that his diaries - in which he is frank about his own (homo)sexuality and his relationships with, among others, Leonard Bernstein, Noël Coward, Samuel Barber - have earned him more celebrity status than his music. There is an excellent article, available online in the spring 1999 edition of The Paris Review, by McClatchy in which he interviews Rorem about his diaries.

Here is Rorem responding to McClatchy’s question about when he first kept a diary: ‘I did keep a diary in 1936, age twelve, for three months when our family went to Europe. Except for frequent references to Debussy and Griffes, it focuses breathlessly on American movies seen in Oslo or tourists we met on boats. No shred of lust, much less of intellect or guile. Admittedly, words are never put on paper, be it War and Peace or a laundry list, without thought of other eyes reading them, even though those eyes might just be one’s own at another time. But I didn’t think of myself as an author. Ten years later I began a literary diary and kept it up until I went to France in 1949. It’s filled with drunkenness, sex, and the talk of my betters, all to the tune of André Gide.’

The first of Rorem’s diaries was published in 1966 - The Paris Diary - covering his years abroad from 1951 to 1955. ‘Its pithy, elegant entries’ McClatchy says, ‘were filled with tricks turned and names dropped (Cocteau, Poulenc, Balthus, Dali, Paul Bowles, John Cage, Man Ray, and James Baldwin, along with the rich and titled, the louche and witty).’

The following year, Rorem published The New York Diary, which took the story up to 1961 and ‘deepened his self-portrait as an untortured artist and dashing narcissist’. There have been several more volumes - The Final Diary in 1974, The Nantucket Diary in 1987, and Lies in 2002, for example - up to the most recent, published in 2006, Facing the Night in which he finds himself alone after the death of Jim Holmes, his companion of 32 years. Many or all of these books can be sampled or previewed at Googlebooks and Amazon.

Here, though, are some extracts from The Final Diary 1961-1972 published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston in 1974.

16 April 1961
‘Sitting in one denuded room whose center contains a mountain of packing cases to be removed tomorrow by Robert Phelps. Without paying last month’s rent I fly Friday for London, meanwhile have already left, can only sit, wondering, for five days more.

Wondering about those three things (and there are only three) we all desire: success in love, success in society, success in work. Any two of these may be achieved and possessed simultaneously, but not all three - there isn’t time. If you think you have the three, beware! You’re teetering on the abyss. You can’t have a lover and friends and career. And even just career and love are, in the long run, mutually exclusive.’

9 June 1961
‘Three days ago at dawn I smashed my right thumb flat as a bedbug in Virgil’s bathroom door, was sped to a fourth-rate doctor in Les Halles who administered five stitches as I (blushing delirium) whispered “tu me plais”, and he replied with an antitetanus shot which, for the next twelve hours, left me hanging by a thread. (Like other chosen fools, my allergy to anything concerning horses is prodigious: to ride a horse, to smell horsemeat cooking, even to read about Swift’s Houyhnhnms, I swell like a bomb.) A week in bed, shivering, finger paralyzed. Then with a few sips of Chablis and a taste of saucisson (which, they say, is ground donkey fat) the tetanus symptoms recur worse than before. Bulges everywhere. The antiserum contagion twists even the forehead into knots of wet iron. Return to bed, every joint aching for days, pills, pills, body a gray grub, spirit a clod, thumb sticking out like a sore thumb as I ruminate on how I bring on these dramas because “life isn’t enough.” ’

7 August 1961
‘So here I am in Africa again, after ten years. And like two Augusts ago on finally returning to Chicago (where I found the initials NR childishly imbedded in the hard cement of adulthood before our former house) I am disturbed. For the past thirteen weeks I’ve sought love on three continents, and found love elusive, because you can’t go back, although nothing has changed but you, etc.

Nothing affects me. Yesterday, Guy’s friend, young Docteur Michel Blanquit, for my general education took me to the Salé morgue and there displayed the svelte naked body of a dead Berber girl who had hanged herself in the woods. Nothing. Yet this was only my second corpse, the first being that “man who jumped off the Seranac” whom all we fourth-graders ran to see and were traumatized for weeks.

Yesterday in Fez I sniffed once more the cedar, mint and heavy olives, hear and taste the terrible exoticism, feel nostalgia less strong than it should be, because I’m not involved (or don’t let myself be), and grow jealous and lonely.

Who knows if America might not after all be the country where my realest problems, for better or worse, will eventually be solved? You can go home again.’

29 September 1961
‘If I weren’t a musician I’d have more time for music. Far more informed than I is the Music Lover, the amateur; nor is his information necessarily more superficial. At a time when it counted - before the age of twenty - I did learn the piano catalogue of Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, and a bit less of Liszt and Schumann. But most of these weren’t mastered. To hear them no longer tempts me. Seldom at a concert don’t I feel I should be home writing my own music.’

7 February 1962
‘For seventeen years I’ve been intermittently keeping these diaries. What will I ultimately do with them. The earliest ones are doubtless more - well - engrossing for their reportage, but the rest are mere self-exposing massacre when au fond I am (as Maggy says) a hardworking mensch. (Hardworking? At least this journal is not concerned with my work. And today I say that work means balance without pleasure; my collaboration with Kessler and our opera for next season I anticipate with only boredom - yet what masterpieces have not sprung from even less!). The other night at one of the biweekly domestic evenings chez moi I read the “Cocteau Visit” extract to Morris and Virgil, and everyone was impressed and said: print it! But where? Oh, the energy I had for the observative journalizing in those early fifties!. But as I wrote then, we spend most of our lives repeating ourselves so now I save time by notating telegram-style. Well, if tomorrow I died, I suppose there’d remain a sizable and varied catalogue. (Am I advancing? Yes, but the scenery’s stationary.) And die perhaps I will, though, astrologically it should have happened to our whole world three days ago, February 4.’

23 December 1972 [Last but one entry]
The Final Diary is merely a title, like Journal of the Plague Year or The Great American Novel. Which does not mean it’s fiction. (Fiction freezes my pen. The discipline of invention - that which is not fact, as I comprehend fact - eludes me.) For a fortnight JH [Jim Holmes] and I have been trimming the fat from this volume, fat being the truth that endangers. The book still seems bloated, for I’m as fond of my fat as an analysand is of his fears: with each slice I scream. Yet here’s a hundred deleted wounds to others and to myself, lascivious narratives, family daguerreotypes, puerile anecdotes and dirty linen. Precisely because they are “interesting” they will remain posthumous. Well, one must, at least in appearance, grow up sometime. For only children are punished. Thus only children are frightened. Alas, only children are worthwhile.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 23 October 2013.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

We came home we had Words

‘I walkd by my self after tea finished the French Novel _ then Mr Inchbald and I walkd, he was dull and after we came home we had Words.’ These are the words of Elizabeth Inchbald, an 18th century actress and writer, born 270 years ago today. She kept diaries all her life, but only a dozen or so have survived -  these have recently been edited and published in three volumes for the first time.

Elizabeth Simpson was born on 15 October 1753 at Stanningfield, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, the eighth of nine children born to a Catholic farming family. She was educated at home, and despite a speech impediment and her parents’ advice, she wanted to become an actress. Aged 18, she left home for London. Within two months she had married a fellow actor, Joseph Inchbald, twice her age and father to two illegitimate sons. In September 1772, they appeared on stage together for the first time in King Lear, and soon after undertook a four year tour in Scotland with West Digges’s theatre company. After a brief and unsuccessful sojourn in France, they moved to Liverpool where she joined the Joseph Younger company and befriended Sarah Siddons and her brother John Philip Kemble, both of whom would become famous actors.

The Inchbalds moved again, to Canterbury and Yorkshire, and in 1777 were hired by Tate Wilkinson’s company. Just two years later, Joseph died suddenly. Inchbald, by this time was already beginning to write. She stayed on with Wilkinson until, in 1780, she joined the Covent Garden company. She made her debut on the London stage as Bellario in Philaster, a male role. A young widow, still only 27, she attracted attention from suitors but, instead of re-marrying, she sought to educate herself through reading novels, literary letters and essays, poetry and philosophy. 

By the mid-1780s, Inchbald was writing successful farces: A Mogul Tale and I'll Tell You What both at the Haymarket, and Appearance is Against Them and Such Things Are at Covent Garden. By the late 1780s, she was earning a good living from writing, and was thus able to give up acting. She continued to write new plays, amend her earlier works, and adapt translated plays. However, it is for two novels that she is best remembered - A Simple Story (1791) and Nature and Art (1796) - both of which have been reprinted frequently and garnered interest among modern scholars of 18th century women’s writing.

In 1806, the publishers Longman asked Inchbald to write the critical and biographical introductions to a series of 125 plays from the sixteenth to late eighteenth centuries, an unusual request to a woman. By this time she was in semi-retirement and financially comfortable, gaining much comfort from her faith. In her last years, she wrote several volumes of memoirs though, on the advice of her confessor, she destroyed them before her death. In 1819, she moved into a Catholic residence where she died in August 1821. Further information is available online at Wikipedia and the Chawton House website.

Inchbald appears to have kept annual diaries from the age of 16 for most of her life, although only 11 exist today. These are held by the Folger Shakespeare Library (which acquired them over the years in four separate transactions). Brief excerpts of the diaries appeared in Memoirs of Mrs. Inchbald (1833) by James Boaden (who had access to at least some of the now-missing diaries) and in a recent biography by Annibel Jenkins, I’ll Tell You What: The Life of Elizabeth Inchbald (2003). The Folger Library, itself, has included a few sample transcriptions from the diaries in exhibitions over the last 20 years. Also, at some point, Adam Matthew Publications made available some of the contents of Inchbald’s literary remains in digital form - though, this material does not seem to be available any longer. 

Most recently, however, in 2019, The Diaries of Elizabeth Inchbald were edited by Ben P. Robertson and published by Pickering & Chatto in three volumes, as follows: Volume 1: The Early Years on the Stage, 1776-1781 - Scotland, France, Ireland, the Provinces, and London; Volume 2: The Height of Fame, 1782-1793 - Acting, Playwriting, and Novel Writing; Volume 3: The Introspective Years, 1807-1820 - Drama Criticism, Napoleonic Wars, and the Queen's Trial.

A good deal of the first volume can be sampled online at Googlebooks, the source of the following extracts (as found).

8 January 1776
‘a very Cold snowy Day _ I was at the Reading of Philastcr _ while my Hair was dressing Mr Inchbald heard me my part _ I playd [Rossaland] Mr Inchbald Clown in As you like it _ then he in the Pantomine _ {Corcreen Faris} Benifit _ I went to Bed Crying &c& for Playing very ill.’

31 January 1776
‘Mr Inchbald went to the Flag _ then I called at my Sisters and my Bro: walked with me to Mr Inchbald then he and I called at the [Fary’s] _ George Inchbald drank tea here _ then Mr Inchbald went to the Flag and I saw a piece of the B Opera in Mr Diggcs Box _ my Bro:received a Letter from my Mother much about me _ my French Master called then I saw some of the Deserter Mrs [Baris] first appearance.’

17 February 1776
‘A very fine Day _ we were at Rehearsal some Gentlemen there _ between my scenes I called at Miss Blackadders_ Then walked with Mr Inchbald and was at the French _ after dinner Dr Macclogan called _ I played Lady Anne Mr Inchbald Henry in Richard  _ farce Sham Doctor.’

7 May 1776
‘Mr Inchbald began Garricks Picture and was at it all Day _ in the Morning Bob and Mr Johns called and I walkd by my self after tea finished the French Novel _ then Mr Inchbald and I walkd, he was dull and after we came home we had Words.’

14 July 1776
‘Rose at six to see Yarmouth then went to Bed again _ at nine oclock (the Wind against us) we anchored seven Miles from Yarmouth _ Mr Inchbald went a on shore with the Captain and brought fruit c& I cryd &c& while he was a  shore _ after tea we all went on shore and was at a Little Cottage I was very dull there and more so after in the ship c&c. we had no supper _ talked of Ghosts c&c _ a very hot night.’

21 July 1776
‘did not go to Bed till Day Light for the Violent tossing of the ship _ the Dark Lights were put in _ I was very sick _ after sleeping found the sea smooth but a bad Wind _ eat nothing and did not rise till after dinner _ then was a little on Deck _ after tea I was purely and the Wind was better and I was on Deck again _ we sat up with the Captain till after his Watch was called.’

15 September 1776
‘a Wet Day _ the Young Man at the Doctors called and he and the Landlady went to Church with me _ her Sister dind with us _ in the afternoon I finished Horace and Read L epreuve reciproque _ Mr Inchbald was at a Minature and walked to Sea for the Packet Boat _ saw very grand Processions _ in the Evening went out Old Walk when we came back the Landlady was crying _ we sat with them _ at supper a Gentleman called _’

Sunday school demonstration

‘Great demonstration of the Church of England Sunday Schools. About 15,000 walked in procession. Hugh Birley, Esq., addressed them in the Park.’ This is from the diary of a well-respected 19th century businessman, Charles Tiplady who died a century and a half ago today. His diary was thought lost for a century or more before turning up in a house clearance. It was then sold at auction to Blackburn Museum and friends. Since then, substantial extracts - though not those of a ‘too private a nature’ - have been transcribed and made freely available online.

Tiplady was born in Blackburn in 1808, the fourth of five children, though little is known about his childhood. He was educated at the National School in Thunder Alley (now Town Hall Street), and in 1830 went into partnership with one of his brothers, William, working as printers. In 1834, he married Mary Heaton. They had two children, though one of them died very young; Mary herself died aged only 28. Also in 1834 the two brothers began publishing a local almanac, containing events that had occurred in the previous year and descriptions of improvements to the town and new buildings that had been constructed. The business produced many books of an official nature (such as the Register of Electors), and in time Charles came to be known as an authority on local and national matters. In 1839, he married a second time, to Mary Callis. They also had several children, though two of them died in infancy. 

William died in 1844, but Charles carried on the printing business, eventually with one of his sons. He invested in local schemes and companies, such as railways, gasworks and waterworks, and was active at shareholder meetings. He was very involved with the Blackburn Subscription Library; and he was both a Mason and a member of the Oddfellows Friendly Society. He became increasingly focused on public affairs, being appointed one of Blackburn’s Improvement Commissioners, and sitting on the 1851 Charter of Incorporation committee. He was an active member of the Blackburn Operative Conservative Association (becoming its president at one point). He was elected in 1860, after previous defeats, to the safe seat of St. John’s Ward, which he represented until becoming an Alderman in 1865. He retired from political life in 1871, and he died on 15 October 1873. Further information is available from Cotton Town, a Blackburn Library initiative.

Tiplady is only remembered today because of the diary he left behind covering over three decades (1839-1873). Extracts were published in the 19th century in the Blackburn Times (log-in required) which was, at the time, being edited by a well known local historian, William Alexander Abram. However, thereafter the diary disappeared, and was only re-discovered more than a century later in 1999 during a house clearance in Derbyshire - 500 pages of hand-written memoirs bound into one volume. The auctioneer contacted Blackburn Museum which confirmed it was the long lost Tiplady diary - see this Lancashire Telegraph article. Local resources were then pooled to purchase the diary for the museum, where a successful exhibition was then organised. More recently, members of the local history society have transcribed the diary (from microfilms of the original) for publication online.

The website’s introduction concludes with the following rider: ‘Of course there is much in the Diary which is of too private a nature for publication. All such parts [have been] scrupulously omitted; but there is no harm in including, as as been done, entries which relate to the external activities of the Diarist himself, such as his journeys on business or pleasure, and his notes on the death of kinsfolk as of other friends and neighbours.’

Here’s a selection of those edited diary extracts.

21 August 1841
‘At half-past 2 o'clock this morning, a terrific thunderstorm broke over the town; the rain literally descended in torrents, and quickly laid under water the various shops and cellars in low situations. Salford, Penny Street, and other places suffered severely.’

 22 August 1841
‘Went to Great Harwood charity sermons with James Livesey. The Rev. Gilmore Robinson (incumbent of Tockholes), preached an excellent discourse. A wet afternoon, but the church was filled to overflowing.’

7 February 1843
‘My third son was born. His name will be Richard.’

7 July 1843
‘Attended Mr. Spencer T. Hall's Lecture on Phreno-Magnetism in the Theatre. The House was thronged, and a very lively sensation had been excited in the expectation of a spirited discussion. I was called to the chair. So far as I could discover from vigilant observation, no deception was practised.’

20 April 1850
‘The 96th anniversary of the Subscription Bowling Green. A large attendance of members. Amongst the guests were W. H. Hornby, Esq., Thomas Dutton, Esq., and other gentlemen. I was appointed chairman. Mr. Thomas Bennett was elected steward. The entrance fee was increased to two guineas, and the Rules were ordered to be revised by a committee of seven members then nominated.’

15 September 1860
‘Died, James Gregson, aged 97, years; the oldest man in Blackburn.’

7 February 1865
‘This day died in his chair, Mr. Councillor Edward Holroyd, aged 56 years; a man highly respected’

17 February 1865
‘Friday. Sad accounts from Scotland of the great severity of the winter, great fall of snow and storms. To-day it snows very much in Blackburn, and we have not had so much snow for many years.’

27 February 1865
‘St. Mary's Ward Election - Mr. Stafford elected in the room of Mr. Holroyd. - The grand new Organ of St. Peter's Church opened by Mr. Best, of Liverpool; splendid performance.’

16 May 1868
‘To Accrington. Grand Procession, laying of corner-stone of new Market House.’

15 March 1869
‘At 5 15 p.m., a shock of earth-quake was distinctly felt in this town by great numbers of persons.’

11 April 1869
‘This day two very old friends departed this life, viz., James Shorrock, Esq., aged 63, the excellent chairman of the Over Darwen Gas Company; and the Rev. Dr. Robinson, of Holy Trinity Church, in this town, aged only 51 years. Mr. Shorrock had attended divine service with his wife at Belgrave Chapel in the morning, and about dinner time had a fit of apoplexy which proved quickly fatal. Darwen has lost one of its brightest ornaments. Dr. Robinson's health and faculties had given way for a long period prior to his death, and he was but a wreck of his former self. He was much beloved by the congregation of Holy Trinity Church, a powerful writer, and an energetic opponent of the errors of the Papacy.’

22 June 1872
‘Great demonstration of the Church of England Sunday Schools. About 15,000 walked in procession. Hugh Birley, Esq., addressed them in the Park.’

Saturday, October 7, 2023

My picture fallen

Today marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury and an adviser to Charles I. However, he became so unpopular for his persecution of Puritans that he was eventually beheaded. His diary - several decades before Pepys - is surprisingly interesting and personal. In one entry he fears that a picture of himself fallen from the wall might be an omen since Parliament is ‘almost every day’ threatening his ruin.  

Laud was born on 7 October 1573 in Reading, Berkshire, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. He was educated at Reading School and St. John’s College, Oxford. Thereafter he entered the church and became involved in a small group whose members opposed Puritanism. After holding a series of appointments, he became a royal chaplain in 1611. Supported by Charles I, he exercised an important influence over church policy. This only increased when he was appointed to the Privy Council in 1627 and made Bishop of London in 1628.

In 1633, Laud was made Archbishop of Canterbury, a position which allowed him to pursue his persecution of Puritans even more rigorously than hitherto. When he tried to impose the Anglican liturgy in the Presbyterian churches of Scotland, armed revolt broke out - the Bishops’ War ensued. Subsequently, Laud’s influence waned rapidly. In 1640, the so-called Long Parliament accused him of treason, and he was imprisoned in the Tower. He was tried in 1644-1645, but Parliament needed to pass a special bill before he was finally found guilty and beheaded. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Berkshire History, or the online edition of the out-of-copyright Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

A substantial diary kept by Laud was first made public by William Pryme in 1644, before Laud’s execution, in A Breviate of the Life of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury: extracted (for the most part) verbatim out of his owne Diary, and other writings, under his owne hand. The diary, which is more interesting than many of the confessional diaries of the period (see Longing after damsens for example), has since been published more fully in collections such as The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God William Laud, D.D., sometime Lord Archbishop of Canterbury (Parker, 1853), which is freely available at Internet Archive.

5 February 1622
‘Wednesday, I came to London. I went that night to his Majesty, hearing he had sent for me. He delivered me a book to read and observe. It was a tract of a Capuchin, that had once been a Protestant. He was now with the French ambassador. The tract was to prove that Christ’s body was in two places at once, in the apparition to St. Paul.’

9 February 1622
‘I gave the King an account of this book.’

6 July 1622
‘I preached at Westminster.’

15 July 1622
‘St Swithin. A very fair day till towards five at night. Then great extremity of thunder and lightning. Much hurt done. The lantern at St. James’s house blasted. The Prince then in Spain.’

14 December 1622
‘Sunday night, I did dream that the Lord Keeper was dead: that I passed by one of his men, that was about a monument for him; that I heard him say, his lower lip was infinitely swelled and fallen, and he rotten already. This dream did trouble me.’

23 March 1623
‘Tuesday, The censure of Morley, Waterhouse and the printer, about the petition against my Lord Keep. That afternoon the K. declared to the committee, that he would send a messenger presently into Spain, to signify to that king that his Parliament advised him to break off the treaties of the match and the Palatinate, and to give his reasons of it; and so proceed to recover the Palatinate as he might. Bonfires made in the city by the forwardness of the people, for joy that we should break with Spain.’ (See Wikipedia for more on the English involvement in the Palatinate campaign.)

26 August 1624
‘Thursday, My horse trod on my foot, and lamed me: which stayed me in the country a week longer than I intended.’

20 October 1628
‘Monday, I was forced to put on a truss for a rupture. I know not how occasioned, unless it were with swinging of a book for my exercise in private.’

29 March 1629
‘Sunday, Two papers were found in the Dean of Paul’s yard before his house. The one was to this effect concerning myself: Laud, look to thyself; be assured thy life is sought. As thou art the fountain of all wickedness, repent thee of thy monstrous sins, before thou be taken out of the world &c. And assure thyself, neither God nor the world can endure such a vile counsellor to live, or such a whisperer; or to this effect. The other was as bad as this, against the Lord Treasurer. Mr. Dean delivered both papers to the King that night. Lord, I am a grievous sinner; but I beseech Thee, deliver my soul from them that hate me without a cause.’

27 October 1640
‘Tuesday, Simon and Jude’s eve, I went into my upper study, to see some manuscripts, which I was sending to Oxford. In that study hung my picture, taken by the life. And coming in, I found it fallen down upon the face, and lying on the floor. The string being broken, by which it was hanged against the wall. I am almost every day threatened with my ruin in Parliament. God grant this be no omen.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 7 October 2013.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Killed ♀ Ivory Gull

’The ice we are amongst is chiefly this years, but fragments of older floes are intermixed and some heavy pieces of berg. A large one is lying at the head of the bay inside of Prince Imperial Island. I suppose there must be a discharging glacier somewhere at the head of the bay. Depth 47 fathoms mud. Killed ♀ Ivory Gull.’ This is from the diary of Henry Wemyss Feilden - born 190 years ago today - who served as naturalist on Sir George Nare’s Polar Expedition in 1875.

Feilden was born at Newbridge Barracks in Kildare on 6 October 1838 the second son of Sir William Henry Feilden, 2nd Baronet of Feniscowles. He was educated at Cheltenham College before joining, aged 19, the 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland (The Black Watch). He fought in the suppression of the Indian Mutiny 1857-1858 and at the Taku Forts in China in 1860. In 1862, he volunteered for the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, serving as assistant adjutant-general with the remnant of the Army of Tennessee under General Joseph E. Johnston. In 1864, he married Julia, daughter of a South Carolina judge. He returned to the British Army, where he made captain in the Royal Artillery, in 1874. 

The following year, Feilden was selected to serve as naturalist to Sir George Nare’s Polar Expedition in H.M.S. Alert. After the expedition, he returned to active service, participating in the South African campaign between 1880 and 1881. He visited Spitsbergen and Novaya Zemlya as a naturalist on private expeditions between 1894 and 1897, publishing short notes on his findings. During the Boer War, he returned to South Africa as Paymaster of the Imperial Yeomanry, retiring from the army as a colonel. He was decorated for his service in India, China and South Africa, and was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1900. 

From 1880, Feilden had lived in Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, becoming, for a while, president of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists’ Society, but he moved to a property he inherited in Burwash, Sussex, in 1902. He died in 1921, a year after his wife had passed away. A little further information is available from Wikipedia, British Birds and Archives Hub.

Although not known as a diarist, Feilden did keep a detailed log during his polar expedition. This was only edited and annotated recently, by Trevor Levere, and published as The Arctic Journal of Captain Henry Wemyss Feilden, R. A., The Naturalist in H. M. S. Alert, 1875-1876 (Hakluyt Society, 2019). Many pages from the book can be sampled at Googlebooks. In his introduction, Levere explains the background to the expedition and the journal:

‘The disappearance of Sir John Franklin’s Arctic expedition of 1846-1847 and the failure of numerous attempts to find the ships and men made the British Admiralty reluctant to expend any more resources on Arctic exploration, despite appeals from the Royal Geographical Society and other scientific organizations. However, in 1874 the leader of the Conservative Party, Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81), became Prime Minister and he decided, partly for political reasons, that a new expedition should be sent to explore towards the North Pole, carrying out scientific work en route. A British Arctic Expedition, commanded by George Strong Nares (1831-1915), was swiftly called into being, with detailed scientific as well as naval instructions. Henry Wemyss Feilden (1838-1921) was the naturalist in Nares’s ship, H.M.S. Alert, which wintered at the north-east corner of Ellesmere Island. This volume is an annotated version of the journal which Feilden kept during that expedition, including the preparations and the immediate aftermath, from 1 February 1875 until 7 January 1877. The original manuscript is in the archives of the Royal Geographical Society in London and it has never been published before, although Nares as leader produced a two-volume account of the expedition, to which Feilden contributed appendices on ethnology, mammalia, and ornithology. Feilden’s journal has the immediacy of an account written day by day, illustrated by sketches, all of which have been reproduced.’

Here are several extracts from the edited diaries.

10 August I876
‘Dobbin Bay. The young ice is forming rapidly and consolidating the loose floe-pieces. Captain Nares after ascending a hill and looking round thought that we could reach some loose looking stuff outside of Cape Hawks. Under steam by 2 p.m. both boilers, Discovery and ourselves boring through the pack. We could make but little way. It is extraordinary the rapidity with which the young ice even when only an inch or two thick joins the floes together. We moored again between 4 and 5 p.m. after getting about three-quarters of the way across Dobbin Bay.

Thermo sunk to +18° it feels quite cold again. Markham landed on Prince Imperial Island, and brought from it a skull of the walrus, it had been broken by human agency.

Ginger the cat invaded my sanctum this evening tore off the head of a Ptarmigan I killed yesterday and which I took great pains to carry clean onboard and also destroyed two snow-buntings.’

23 August 1876
‘The wind blew so strong directly in our teeth this morning that with 98 revolutions we could hardly hold our own. We took shelter in a small bay which I take to be Hayes’ Gould Bay. If I am right then our next Cape South is Leidy and then Cape Louis Napoleon. A tremendous big floe is jammed against the shore and extends out into the channel, at 9 a.m. we moored to this floe waiting for something to turn up.

A fine falcon Falco graenlandicus flew round the ship, but did not come within range. Parr shot a floe-rat P. hispida a female weight 65 lbs. Tip of hind flipper to snout 4’. 3 1/2”. Girth behind axillae 2’.4”. Front of fore-flipper to nose 1’.0” girth round umbilicus 2’’.4 1/2” occiput to nose 7 ins. Length between fore and hind flipper 2’. 2 1/4” Length of fore-flipper 5 1/2” Length hind flipper 8 in. Dovekies are numerous in the pools around us, counted 27 in one party. The big floe to which we were moored drifted N. so we ran for shelter into the little bay we left this morning.

Landed with Nares & Hart, found many fossils - saw a Walrus. Parr saw a little auk.’

25 August 1876
‘At 3 a.m. the Captain called me and asked me to accompany him on shore and look at two old Eskimo camps that he had seen on the beach, from the crowsnest.

He and I and Malley landed. The Eskimo traces consisted of two rings of stones for summer tents, placed on a shingle beach raised 15 feet above high-water mark. The sea must have encroached at this particular point for half of one of the circles had been undermined and washed away.

Saw a magnificent Falco candicans sitting on the slope of Cape Leidy. Crawled up to him and let rip two barrels at him 70 yards off. No result. Walking towards the south, Malley picked up a broken Eskimo harpoon. Found a foxes skull, and a few fossils. (Trilobite.).

Back to the ship by 6 a.m. got under weigh and worked through the pack some five miles, moored to floe two miles north of Cape Napoleon. Several broods of Eiders were passed, the old birds became much excited. Landed in the evening with Nares, and walked along the beach round Cape Napoleon, until we saw well into Raised Beach Bay, this was rimmed with heavy ice, and so was Dobbin Bay beyond. It appears to me as if a deal of heavy ice from the N. had drifted down here and stuck

The ice-foot along this coast is beautifully wide and smooth. At this late period of the summer it is much cut up by water channels but in the spring in must be fine travelling.

Saw a circle of stones marking Eskimo encampment a mile and a half N. of Cape Napoleon.’

28 August 1876
‘Dobbin Bay. A cheerless looking day. The snow has covered the hills with their winter garb. Several Ivory Gulls are cruising round the ship just out of shot, and picking up their livelyhood [sic] from the small pools still left open. The ice we are amongst is chiefly this years, but fragments of older floes are intermixed and some heavy pieces of berg. A large one is lying at the head of the bay inside of Prince Imperial Island. I suppose there must be a discharging glacier somewhere at the head of the bay. Depth 47 fathoms mud. Killed ♀ Ivory Gull.’

7 September 1876
‘Franklin Pierce Bay. Up steam at 9.30 a.m. and the ice slackening we moved into a large pool of water extending some distance to the eastern side of Walrus Island. Moored to a berg and landed on the island. Snow about 3 inches in depth, effectually concealed the Eskimo traces which we know to be so numerous on the Island.

Here and there a cache or the walls of an unroofed igloo were to be seen. I took a pick with me but the soil was too hard frozen to make any impression. Numerous skulls of Walrus showed above the snow, these crania are interesting because they have all been broken in the same manner, the skull broken through across the eye-holes and the front part split in order to extract the tusks. I also found the skull of a large seal P. barbata.

Several broods of eider ducks in a pool were still unable to fly. Giffard bagged 8, Malley was carrying them when the ice breaking, Malley let go the ducks, Giffard only managed to save one. I saw a pair of Ravens, and 2 Ptarmigan. A Phoca hispida was shot in the afternoon.

It was a strange sensation standing alone on the point of Cape Isabella, to the north lay the channel to the unreached Pole, a route ever to be impressed on our minds by the recollection of our dangers and escapes. The ships were drifting with the tide along with heavy masses of ice to the northward, and to the south an open sea with dark lowering clouds hanging over it. the boom of the waves breaking against the granite shore, brought back a flood of recollections from the outer world that have not crossed my mind for 18 months. So interested have I been in my work that up till now, I have never let the thought of home enter my mind, but the southern wind and open sea brought back a strange longing for home, which our letters did not dispel.’

Thursday, October 5, 2023

I’d have liked that too

‘Remembered to-day something I’d said to F. last summer as we lay on the bed together: I said “You know, you’re one of the few men I’d like to have had a child by.” After all, it was nearly twenty years since F. and I first went to bed together, so my remark shouldn’t have startled him. But no, perhaps it didn’t startle him - I’m wrong. Only his arm round me tightened a little, “Yes,” he said slowly, “I’d have liked that too.” ’ This is from the recently-published diaries of a largely forgotten New Zealand gay writer, James Courage, who died 60 years ago today

Courage was born in Christchurch in 1903, the eldest of five children. His grandfather had emigrated to New Zealand in the 1860s, and purchased a sheep station, and a grandmother had written several books about early colonial life. Taught at home during his early years, he was enrolled at Dunelm Preparatory School between 1912 and 1915, entering the rather exclusive Christ’s College in 1916. Though he excelled for a while at English, he seems to have had some kind of breakdown while still at school. Encouraged by his family, he travelled to England in 1923, gaining entrance to study at Oxford University, St John’s College. While there, he published poems, music reviews, and several plays in local/university publications. He graduated with a modest English degree in 1927.

Thereafter, Courage lived in London, studying the piano, and working occasionally as a journalist. He travelled in Europe and South America for a while, and lived in a fisherman’s cottage in St Ives. In 1931, he contracted tuberculosis, and was confined to a Norfolk sanatorium until 1933. During this time, though, his first novel One House was published by Victor Gollancz, though with a limited print run. On leaving the sanatorium, Courage returned to New Zealand for an extended period of convalescence, during which he made several contacts, On returning to the UK in 1936, he rented a flat in London and became involved with the Kiwi literary scene, meeting among others, Charles Brasch with whom Courage would maintain a life-long correspondence. Brasch published several of Courage’s poems in Landfall, a New Zealand literary journal he founded, and he edited a posthumous collection of Courage’s short stories.

Classified as medically unfit, Courage became a fire warden during the Second World War, and from 1940 he worked at a bookshop in Hampstead. Although regarded as excellent company, he nonetheless suffered from depression and from 1951 was nearly always under psychiatric treatment. Between 1948 and 1961, he published half a dozen novels, mostly set in New Zealand. One novel - A Way of Love - set in England focuses on a young homosexual’s relationship with an older man. Courage died in Hampstead on 5 October 1963 - see the websites of The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand and Victoria University of Wellington for further biographical information.

The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand has this assessment of Courage: ‘Discreet to a fault, and even self-apologetic by modern standards, the novel [A Way of Love] was banned under the censorship provisions in place prior to the setting up of the Indecent Publications Tribunal in 1964, and was only available to few New Zealanders. In recent times some commentators have viewed it as a milestone in New Zealand writing by gay writers. Published at a time when no other New Zealand writer addressed the themes of sexual orientation and same-sex relationships, except in very indirect ways, Courage’s novel stands out as a brave exception.’

Most recently, Courage has garnered some critical attention for his diaries edited by Chris Brickell and  published in 2021 by the Otago University Press. A review can be read at the New Zealand Newsroom. Here, though, is the opening paragraph of the introduction to James Courage Diaries, followed by several extracts from the diaries themselves. 

‘Courage was a prolific and idiosyncratic diarist. He began making notes about his life in 1920, at the age of 16, and carried on until 1963, the year of his death. His 14 private journals have attracted less attention than his novels, short stories and plays, but they have an immediacy that is not often found in his formal writings. Courage’s ‘spasmodic’ diary entries captured the smallest details of lives and places: the fine grained aspects of his daily routine in Christchurch, and later in England after he moved there in 1922, as well as the impact of global events. He wrote about his travels by ocean liner during the 1930s, the effects of World War II on the inhabitants of inner-city London where he was a fire warden for an apartment building, and his treatment for tuberculosis. The diaries also reveal what it was like to be homosexual in a world that was not always accepting, how Freudian psychotherapy changed Courage’s view of himself and how publishers’ decisions affected his often-tenuous self-esteem.

3 February 1930
‘This man has changed my life. For the first time I am willing to surrender my reserve to another. Even my sense of humour ‘goes under’: and my ‘second man’ (a sneaking hyper-critical fellow) disappears - which is extremely remarkable. Long may it last!’

9 February 1930
‘My twenty-seventh birthday. I turn back a year in the journal to find that last February I wrote as an aspiration: “To be famous and to be loved.” Well, I am loved. Now what about the fame?’

11 March 1930
‘I love this man unreservedly. I cannot imagine life without him.’

20 October 1931
‘Afternoon sadness. A roaring north-easterly wind tears the leaves from the trees. Bitterly cold. I sit with blue hands. Towers and scuds of white and grey cloud, with beams between. Rooks singing wildly.’

9 February 1932
‘My twenty-ninth birthday. Sobering reflection that I have spent so much of the last nine years in the company of fools, vagabonds, sex-maniacs and literary people generally. Well, if I have caught T. B. I’ve at least escaped syphilis. My great regret is that I have not written, as yet, the really good book I want to, though ‘The PY’ has excellent moments. To-day I wrote the passage about my grandmother and Mr Sherwood.’

10 July 1932
‘Pain and depression. My chest hurts: I feel stifled when I cough. A good deal of sputum. Heaven help me.’

13 July 1932
‘Appalling depression - really rock-bottom - everything in the world went black. This culminated in the evening when I burst into tears when Mrs M. came to see me, and wept for an hour and a half. I really think she saved me from suicide. I haven’t been so upset since Dec 27th, 1930, on the way to S. America. Completely and absolutely de profundis.’

16 July 1932
‘Feeling much stronger: despondency vanished. Mrs M. read One House in proof, and liked it - or rather, admired it. She envies me my “easy, flexible English”. I told her it was the result of damned hard work: and so it was.’

 13 May 1937
‘I have bought this journal and make my first entry in it in Brighton (Sussex). Am staying at the Old Ship Hotel, having temporarily - and for a very good reason - shut up the flat in Hampstead. I have been here a fortnight tomorrow, staying alone. Solitude by no means as depressing as I had feared, though I miss having somebody to talk to in the evenings. That, 1 suppose, is the penalty of living out of London - at least for a soi-disant intellectual. However, for the moment it can’t be helped; and at least I’ve taken to writing letters again, a habit of which the telephone in London had almost robbed me. If I had enough gumption I’d go out and live for a bit somewhere completely away from towns - somewhere in the Weald of Sussex, for instance. But I haven’t the gumption, so that’s that. I even say to myself, cynically, that there’s nothing to do in the country except farm and/ or fornicate. However that may be, I don’t feel at the moment that I want to do either. So, at Brighton I stay (where, if the opportunity arises, I can at least fornicate urbanly and in good company - to judge by the mien of most of the couples who populate the hotels). My waiter at the hotel here said yesterday (Coronation Day): “It ought to have been Teddy (Windsor) they crowned. Then he could have had Mrs Simpson to-night and told England to go to hell!” Evidently Brighton’s philosophy is on the pagan side. It must be something to do with that amazing Royal Pavilion of George IV’s and Mrs Fitzherbert’s.’

13 February 1943
‘I shall remember this day all my life for the sad news it brought me. When I reached home at 5.30 in the evening I found an envelope from the Returned Letter Office containing two of my letters (written in Dec. last) to my much- and long-loved Christopher. On each of my envelopes was pasted a typed notice telling me that the addressee had died on active service. For about an hour I hardly felt the shock. I even played the piano and read. Then when Mrs Timmons (who remembered Chris) arrived to cook my dinner I told her the news. Directly she said “Oh, how terrible”, the tears rushed into my eyes and I wept. Later in the evening I rang up Joan V. who knew Chris well. She told me that he died of wounds “due to shell or bomb blast” on Dec. 11th last (two months ago) somewhere in the Mediterranean. The announcement had been in the papers but I had not seen it. Chris was 27. Before going to bed I wrote to his mother, though I found this difficult.’

25 July 1953
‘One should be able to write of one’s sexual predilections as naturally as one’s taste in food.

Remembered to-day something I’d said to F. last summer as we lay on the bed together: I said “You know, you’re one of the few men I’d like to have had a child by.” After all, it was nearly twenty years since F. and I first went to bed together, so my remark shouldn’t have startled him. But no, perhaps it didn’t startle him - I’m wrong. Only his arm round me tightened a little, “Yes,” he said slowly, “I’d have liked that too.” ’

Monday, October 2, 2023

Power of a lion

‘I feel the power of a lion in me, since I have broken the heavy ban which encircled me for years. I know now only one goal: extreme particular education in natural sciences, a body like steel and iron and then to the farthest south.’ This is from the diaries of Karl von Terzaghi, an Austrian civil engineer and geologist, sometimes called ‘the father of soil mechanics’, who was born 140 years ago today. His colourful life, some of which was spent in the US, included a long-running scientific duel which had a tragic end, employing Sylvia Plath’s mother as his secretary, and engaging with Hitler on the best way to lay building foundations.

Terzaghi was born on 2 October 1883, the first child of a soldier and his wife in Prague. On his father’s retirement, the family moved to Graz, but Karl was sent to military boarding schools where he developed an interest in astronomy and geography, and excelled at mathematics. In 1900, he started studying mechanical engineering at the Technical University in Graz, graduating in 1904. A year of military service followed, during which time he translated a popular English geology field manual into German, and undertook further studies in geology.

Terzaghi went to work for a firm involved in hydroelectric power generation, and, by 1908, was managing construction sites; he successfully completed complex projects in Croatia and Russia. In 1912, he went on an extended tour in the US, visiting major dam construction sites. On returning to Austria he was drafted into the army to lead an engineering battalion. Before the war’s end, he took up a professorship at the Royal Ottoman College of Engineering in Istanbul where he began his groundbreaking research into the behaviour of soils.

By 1924, working at Robert College, also in Istanbul, his work was receiving much attention, and he accepted a job at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here he set up his own laboratory, and published widely, not least in popular magazines such as Engineering News Record. During this period, he employed Aurelia Schober Plath (later to become the mother of the poet Sylvia Plath) as his secretary. It appears, Terzaghi was a much sought-after dinner companion, apparently because of his charisma and scintillating conversation. In 1928 he met a young geology student, Ruth Dogget, and soon married her.

By 1929, Terzaghi was back in Vienna, having accepted a newly created chair of soil mechanics at Vienna Technical University. He travelled a lot through Europe, lecturing and consulting. During a sabbatical (1936-1937) he became involved in a conflict over the best way to lay the foundation for a Nazi building project in Nuremberg, which in turn led him into a discussion with Hitler. On returning to Vienna after a tour in the US and just after the birth of his first son Eric, a long-running dispute (originating in different views over the so-called uplift problem) with another Austrian scientist, Paul Fillunger, came to the boil and ended with Fillunger’s suicide.

Terzaghi moved to the US in 1938, serving as professor of civil engineering at Harvard University from 1946 until his retirement. His consulting business continued to expand, and included the chairmanship of the Board of Consultants of Egypt’s Aswan High Dam project until 1959. He died in 1963. Wikipedia has a little more information; otherwise try Googlebooks for Richard Goodman’s biography: Karl Terzaghi: The Engineer as Artist.

Terzaghi left behind an extensive set of diaries, though, as far as I know, these have not been published. However, Reint de Boer used them extensively in writing his book, The Engineer and the Scandal: A Piece of Science History, published by Springer, 2005. This might provide good science history but it is not great science writing. The prologue begins as follows: ‘This book gives one an indepth study into an important part of the development of the Theory of Porous Media’ - hmmm, sounds a bit dull so far - ‘as well as the amazing story of the glittering life of Professor Karl von Terzaghi.’ The scandal in the title refers to the dispute with Fillunger.

Further along in the prologue, de Boer explains: ‘[Terzaghi] left behind an extensive record of his life in diaries, manuscripts, books, pamphlets, statements, notes etc. In particular, his diaries contain a lot of facts about his life, individuals, who accompanied him, and his surroundings. However, von Terzaghi was a vain person and belonged to that group of people who work their whole lifetime on their own memorial. In his diaries he sometimes described important events in his life not on the day on which they occurred, but a long time later, and he glossed over many facts. Thus, one has to be careful in adopting his view on facts and his description of certain occurrences uncritically. [. . .]. von Terzaghi kept not only the extended diaries, discovered at his home in 1995/97, which are the basis for this treatise, but also an incomplete set of diaries with short entries which have already been known for a longer time [. . .]’

Much of The Engineer and the Scandal can be previewed at Googlebooks. Here are a few short extracts as quoted within the narrative of the book.

6 September 1902
‘I have happily finished my treatise “On the Intellect”. It is the first time that I have taken up the pen. That should be the beginning and the introduction to a series of larger and smaller papers which I will attack soon.’

September 1902
‘I feel the power of a lion in me, since I have broken the heavy ban which encircled me for years. I know now only one goal: extreme particular education in natural sciences, a body like steel and iron and then to the farthest south.’

September 1902
‘I have heavily sinned by my failed efforts, by nearly outrageous meditations, although not responsible, and I am punished severely by disorder and unsteadiness. I will regain all this by the greatest strictness against myself and systematic working.’

October 1902
‘I must learn to give talks, the skill to have an effect on other persons by means of language in order to convince them with that, which I have recognized as the truth. Truth? No, I have to convince them from that, which I have inspected as right and desirable. I stand here, isolated, and will represent my opinion as the present right one, will myself as the center and not as a follower. My work will be to a great extent independent. . .’

31 December 1902
‘Too many intentions, too little energy. Great phrases, small thoughts. Innumerable books, lack of concentration. The year which I end today, is as each of the proceeding [sic] years, distracted. I spent a part of my time with wandering about in the dark instead of with systematic work . . . However, I must admit that I made quite an imposing piece of progress this year. I have founded my philosophy of life recently through the realization of the moral law in us. I have won by this a measure of regulation and opinion in my way of acting.’

23 October 1903
‘Now I have determined plans for the future. I will abandon all dreams of my youth and choose a profession in which I can work most fruitfully. I would like to graduate from the Technische Hochschule as well as possible in order to enlarge as ever possible, the chance to get a professorship for mechancs.’

October 1912
‘It is just the calling of my life to develop all the skills which I possess as completely as possible. I have a certain hesitation going back to Europe, even for a short time. Europe is the land of the sins of my youth. There I developed, alongside many good things, all the bad seeds in my nature.’

2 October 1922
‘I must thank the Creator that I pass the threshold of the 40th year of my life as a mature man who has made his talents unfold and has already realized to a large extent the goals, of which he dreamed in his youth. In this summer I had the feeling of being on top of life. My achievements are beginning to receive the recognition and attention which they deserve. The publications of the total results of my previous research and thinking ensured. And the unnatural relationship with my wife cleared up. On September 14, I arrived in Constantinople. There following two weeks appeared to me like one year as a result of the variety of events. The old love to Olga struggled with the indignation at her behaviour and the indignation succeeded.’

22 October 1922
‘I have thought of you [Olga] daily, this year, of the women I have loved so much, and of our small child, Verele.’ Here de Boer explains: ‘He lamented his previous and then-current situation in over eight pages of his diary and expressed several muddled thoughts and strange statements indicating that he was completely out of balance.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 2 October 2013.