Monday, March 25, 2024

The Divine Angler

‘The Divine Angler. There was presented to me a Person, Angling upon the Brink of a River, to catch Fish; but his Labour was fruitless. So that he gave off, being hopeless. Then came another Person and said, Be not Discouraged, but follow me: Behold, and see, I have got an Angle that hath such a Bait, as all the Fish in the River will fall upon it.’ This is from the spiritual diaries of Jane Lead, born four centuries ago this month, whose vision-inspired writings did much to further the teachings of the German mystic, Jakob Böhme.

Jane Ward was born in March 1624, at Letheringsett Hall, Norfolk, the twelfth and youngest child in a prosperous landed family. She married William Lead (sometimes spelled Leade), a merchant and distant cousin, in 1644. The couple lived in Kings Lynn, where William was a freeman of the borough. They had four daughters. When William died in 1671, Jane was left penniless in the City of London. She began to have visions, declared herself a ‘Bride of Christ, and set about transcribing her visions. In 1674, she joined the household of John Pordage, a Church of England priest she had met in the early 1660s. He formed a Behmenist group (i.e. following the teachings of the German mystic Jakob Böhme), and, after Pordage’s death, she took over as leader. In 1694, the group became known as the Philadelphian Society For The Advancement Of Piety And Divine Philosophy (the Philadelphians) with Lead’s writings and visions underpinning the group’s spiritual goals and ideas. The movement flourished until the early 18th century when, with Leads death in 1704, its membership began to dwindle. See Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Prophetic Telegraph, William Branham Historical Research for further information.

In the years after the death of her husband, Jane Lead published many spiritual works, including four volumes of spiritual journals (1696-1701) under the title A Fountain of Gardens. The original works can be found at Internet Archive, although the printed writing is archaic (using the medial S) and awkward to read. However, there are also transcriptions of these texts freely available online. Pass the Word Services  claims to have made Lead’s writings available online since the late 1990s. According to the website editors, the original printing of the first volume of A Fountain of Gardens was 509 pages long - and so they decided to split the work into four sections. The following two extract are from the first of those sections.

3 November 1674
‘The Divine Angler. There was presented to me a Person, Angling upon the Brink of a River, to catch Fish; but his Labour was fruitless. So that he gave off, being hopeless. Then came another Person and said, Be not Discouraged, but follow me: Behold, and see, I have got an Angle that hath such a Bait, as all the Fish in the River will fall upon it. And accordingly I beheld multitudes in a cluster brought up by it. Then cryed out that first Person, Surely the Lord, who is the great Fish-taker, in verity is come here, and hath wrought this Miracle indeed. Whereupon the Person went into the Deep, and having vanished down into it, drew up the Fish: and cryed, If ye will here follow me, ye shall the Principal Fish take; but under Water ye must learn to Dive, and again know how to Rise. Consider, and find out this Parable: for here is Meat for the Strong.’

28 December 1675
‘An Understanding was now given to me, to know and discern the Root and Seed of that growing Mystical Body, into which the Kingdom of God was to descend, which would finish and put an end to all imperfect things, because it consisted of all Faith, Power, Purity, Wisdom, Strength and All-sufficiency; to make compleat the comers hereunto, that so their might be an absolute Dominion within our selves, and a gathering into one Body all Spiritual Ghostly Operations, which are of impregnable Force and Might; till the Kingdom after this manner shews it self, all lieth under the vail of Obscurity, and is little perceived or owned in one, more than another, be they never so entirely Holy, till the Deity springs and shoots forth it self into a Body, that can naturally act like to its Omnipotent Being without limitation. Oh who are hereunto yet come, and what are all Attainments till hereunto we have reached? our Measuring Line can it dive and search into the deep Abyss of the great Wonders of the Immense Being? the whirling Wheel of my Spirit finding no stay for it self in all it had seen, known, possessed and enjoyed still stretched forth its expatiated Mind after that which was still in reserve, and kept by the strong Rock of the Almightiness, to whom with a fresh on-set I resolve to make my Application, as not to be put off with anything less than the Kingdom and Reigning-Power of the Holy Ghost, for which I had run thus hard, and could not stop the Chariot-Wheel of the high graduated Will, which would all Attempts make to grasp in with Love-violence, this my fair, wise, rich and noble Bride, well knowing her Dowry was so great as it would do more than ransom me from all Sins and Earthly-Tributes, perfectly to set me free, and also Ensue of me into that Estate to which pertaineth such Lordships and Dominions as are not subject to Times Chance, or Fate; all which are Motives sufficient indeed to make us press hard this Prize to take. We need not murmur or complain that this matchless Dove and Oriental Pearl so hardly is obtained, when well considered, no less we can conclude her highly worthy the Lamb’s Bride and Spouse to be only peculiarly reserved for; being the Royal Princess and Queen upon whom the Crown is to be fixed, including all Celestial Dignity and Throne-Powers thereby conferred to make this Bride all desirable, from which lustrous Presentation of her perfect Comeliness and Beauty two into one Spirit was all inflamed, making complaint, bemoaning our selves, how we might possibly compass the obtaining this matchless Virgin-Dove for our Spouse and Bride, who with her piercing fiery Arrow of Love, had us wounded so deep, as no Cure throughout the Circumference of this lower Sphere could be found, though attempts and proffers numerous was not wanting, to beguile and take off our Eye, charging & highly blaming us for aspiring to love so high, far beyond what Reason could judge to be equivalent with our mean Estate. But all this nothing availed, or could Wisdom’s Lovers pacifie, whose Quivers did daily upon us let fly, thereby still to attract us more nigh. Knot upon Knot through familiar communion was here tied as an assured Pledge, that to her kind Intimacies we might arrive, as we hard upon this worthy Princess did ply.’

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The greatest man I have ever met

‘Dined with Henry James alone at the Reform Club. He was perfectly wonderful. By far the greatest man I have ever met - and yet amazingly humble and affectionate - absolutely delightful.’ This is Hugh Walpole, the English novelist, confiding in his diary following a first meeting with the great American author. Walpole - born 140 years ago today - kept a diary for much of his life, though the only publicly available extracts can be found in Rupert Hart-Davis’s 1950 biography.

Walpole was born on 13 March 1884 in Auckland, New Zealand, the eldest of three children in a religious family. In 1889, his father - Rev Somerset Walpole - accepted an academic post in New York, while Hugh was sent to England, to a prep school first followed by Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School in Marlow, and Kings School in Canterbury, After his father’s appointment as principal of Bede College, Durham, Hugh spent the last four years of his secondary education as a day boy at Durham School. From 1903 to 1906, Walpole studied history at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he had a first essay published in the college magazine, and where he fell under the spell of A. C. Benson, a don at Magdalene College - see also A. C. Benson’s inner life.

After unsuccessful attempts at teaching and lay reading in the Anglican church, Walpole devoted himself to writing and to reviewing books. Through Benson, he met Henry James, and the two developed a close friendship. Walpole published his first novel, The Wooden Horse, in 1909, but his first commercial success came two years later with the tragi-comedy Mr Perrin and Mr Traill. In 1914, James wrote an article for The Times Literary Supplement identifying Walpole as one of the finest young British novelists. 

Ineligible for military service in World War I because of poor eyesight, Walpole worked in Russia, first for the Red Cross, winning the Cross of St George for rescuing a wounded soldier under fire, and later as head of the Anglo-Russian Propaganda Bureau during the Russian Revolution. He drew on this experience for The Dark Forest (1916) and The Secret City (1919), the latter being joint winner of the inaugural James Tait Black Memorial Prize. After the war, he continued to publish novels, The Cathedral (1922), and Wintersmoon (1928). In 1930, he began his most popular series of novels starting with Rogue Herries, set in Cumberland in the mid-eighteenth century, and concluding with Vanessa (1933). He also wrote critical works on Anthony Trollope, Sir Walter Scott, and Joseph Conrad.

Walpole’s commercial success enabled him to maintain a flat in Piccadilly, London, and a large house overlooking Derwentwater in the Lake District. A discreet homosexual, he spent much time and energy looking for ‘the ideal friend’ but from 1926 to his death, his chief companion was Harold Cheevers, a married former policeman whose official role was as his chauffeur. Walpole died in 1941, further information is available from Wikipedia, The Walpole Chronicles, or Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Walpole started keeping a diary in 1904, and kept up the habit for the rest of his life. Rupert Hart-Davis, author of Hugh Walpole - A Biography (Macmillan, 1952) - lists the diaries as his top two sources, identifying them as follows: ‘The daily diary which Hugh Walpole kept from 1904 until his death. The entries vary from a whole page to half a dozen lines. They were mostly written down immediately and have proved factually reliable;’ and ‘the fifteen volumes of the journal which he kept intermittently from 1923 to 1941’. Indeed, he interweaves mentions of, and quotes from, the diaries more than 100 times. 

Although there are no published collections of extracts from the diaries and journals, Walpole himself had Robert Maclehose & Co print 100 copies of a 60-page volume he called Extracts from a Diary. It is extremely rare today, and I have not been able to find any online source for or about the book. However, Simon Dunant’s blog on Walpole describes how he obtained a copy in 2020.

The following extracts - with Walpole diary excerpts italicised for clarity - are taken from Hart-Davis’s biography (freely available to borrow online at Internet Archive).

‘In the autumn of [1904] he began what was to be his lifelong habit of keeping a diary. Initially a spasmodic affair, much given to undergraduate introspection and self-exhortation, it soon turned into a regular daily account of his movements and thoughts. One of the first entries reads: “At work, at games, I am mediocre and almost worse, no looking-glass can flatter my self-esteem, and I have a wonderful liking for the wrong thing. But I have been imagining a universal popularity.” There is much discussion of his new literary favourites, Conrad and Meredith, while the latest novel of his old idol Marion Crawford is judicially condemned: “The Juggernaut of Popularity is on him and he has submitted.” Occasionally there is a flash forecasting the novelist to be, as when he writes: “I love a windy night chiefly, I think, because the powers of Good and Evil seem to be abroad,” but mostly the entries might have been written by any first-year undergraduate, until at the end of the year the second main theme of his life is introduced:

Meanwhile I still wait for the ideal friend . . . I’d give a lot for the real right man.” ’

* * *

‘In the first flush of keeping a diary at Cambridge, Hugh wrote: “Of the two years spent at M. I shall say no more. Hell is realised by me for I have shared in it. I do not know that I look back on it with real regret - it has taught me much that is bad, but I have learnt sympathy. Every man, who is a man, must have his Hyde, and M. produced mine. The excessive desire to be loved that has always played so enormous a part in my life was bred largely, I think, from the neglect I suffered there.” And there is no doubt that these two years did crystallise in his imagination the concept of Evil as an actively embodied force which must be combated, and thus supplied him with the theme of almost all his books. That’s the way romantic writers are made, by having your nose rubbed in the mud, by knowing what fear is, by loneliness, a small boy crying in his bed at night.’

* * *

‘Here are some typical extracts from his diary [1906-1907]: 

Oct. 3. Rushed back to give apprentices tea, but they never turned up. “Happy Party” at the Institute. Musical chairs etc.

Oct. 9. Spent the morning hunting for apprentices. Visited six ships but only secured about three boys.’

Oct. 15. Visited one ship, but suddenly the back of my bags split and I had to rush home.

Oct. 25. Tried a new way to the hostel and got lost.

Nov. 4. Tried to nail some chaps coming out of Mason’s for tea, but they fought shy of me. I hate touting.

Feb. 4. Evening at the Institute. Played ludo upstairs to any extent. The room was icy cold.

Feb. 9. Operated raffle and twopenny dip at bazaar, also sold under- clothing and baby garments for two hours.

Feb. 11. Badly beaten at draughts by a cadaverous sailor.

Feb. 17. Down to service at the Institute, where I read the wrong lesson.” ’


’Their first meeting [i.e Walpole and Henry James in 1909] is recorded only by Hugh’s brief diary note: “Dined with Henry James alone at the Reform Club. He was perfectly wonderful. By far the greatest man I have ever met - and yet amazingly humble and affectionate - absolutely delightful. He talked about himself and his books a good deal and said some very interesting things. It was a wonderful evening.” ’

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Felled the hazel & ozier

‘7 degrees below freezing point. Felled the hazel & ozier underwood in the plantation before the house, & got two small waggon loads of faggots from it.’ This is from the 18th century diary - or better described as a daily record - of John Longe, vicar for many years at Coddenham-cum-Crowfield in Suffolk. He is remembered largely for this daily record - not published until 2008 - which is said bring to bring the Georgian era for a gentleman-parson ‘vividly to life’.

Longe was born in 1765 at Spixworth, north of Norwich, where his father was the rector. He was educated at Bungay Grammar School, Norwich Grammar School, Corpus Christi College and Trinity, Cambridge. On graduating he was admitted deacon in Norwich Cathedral and licensed to serve as curate in Spixworth. After being ordained priest in 1789, he became curate at Coddenham-cum-Crowfield on 1 January 1790. That same year he married Charlotte Browne, heiress to an estate, who gave birth to three children who died in infancy as well as a daughter and four sons. 

Besides preaching and leading worship, Longe trained young curates; marshalled his parishioners under threat of Napoleon’s invasion; and fulfilled the onerous responsibilities of a magistrate, including supervision of the local House of Industry and turnpike trusts. In 1812 his wife died, and five years later he married Frances Ward of Salhouse. He, himself, died on 3 March 1834.

There is very little biographical information about Longe available on the internet other than that found in The Diary of John Longe (Boydell Press, 2008) which can sampled at Googlebooks. Boydell says that these documents left by a ‘gentleman-parson’ provide a ‘rich archive for posterity’ and bring the Georgian era ‘vividly to life’.

According to the editor, Michael Stone, Longe’s diary was not a literary or philosophical journal, but ‘a daily record of events written by hand in printed pocket-books’. He continues: ‘Apart from a few reminders of future commitments, he was summarising the past: meetings with people, actions taken and business to be remembered. The core material comprises six annual pocket-books, here described as ‘diaries’ in which Longe jotted down such matters often laconically. Selected entries published some seventy-five years ago survive too from a seventh diary, believed to be since lost, and an exact copy of these entries as published has been added.’

The gaps between years are substantial, Stone says. The first group dates from 1796, 1797 and 1798, when Longe was in his early thirties, whereas the second group (1826, 1827, 1831 and 1833) runs to within a few weeks of his death. This main gap between the groups, he adds, has to some extent been bridged by including in the volume a transcription of Longes ‘Servants Wages Book’ of 1811-23, which casts more light on his domestic life than is suggested by the title. Some other original material has also been transcribed for the book to clarify particular aspects of his life and his home. Here are several extracts from the beginning of the 1826 diary.

1 January 1826
‘I preached here, morning. Sacrament at Crowfield, 24 Communicants. Wet day. Thaw set in. Mrs Longe ill with cold & did not go out. My little spaniel bitch Frisky produced 4 puppies. She shall bring up one, a dog.’

2 January 1826
‘Fine bright day. Our tenants & families dined here; with my own family, 20 at dinner. Frost at night. Settled accounts with Thomas Diggens to Michaelmas, & received of him on account of Michaelmas last: rent - £45. The arrears of balance still due is £108 18s. 4d. which he engages to pay in a month.’

3 January 1826
‘All at home. Fine bright day. North-east wind & very cold. Wrote to my daughter Charlotte Leake now at Woodhurst, Surrey.’

4 January 1826
‘Sittings at Needham. I did not attend. Dry cold day. Mr George Turner came here to dinner on a visit. The children who sing at church had their treat here, & 6d each.

5 January 1826
‘Dry very sharp air. Mr Roberts dined here. Henry dined at Mr James’s. Wrote to Bickners for a suit of cloaths.’

6 January 1826
‘Very cold showery day. Messrs William Leeds, Crowe, & Roberts dined here.’

7 January 1826
‘Mr George Turner left us after breakfast. Received from Marshall, Cambridge, 4 soft Cottenham cheeses.’

8 January 1826
‘I preached here, afternoon. My sermon lately composed on the New Year.’

9 January 1826
‘Very sharp frost. Mr Betham came here to dinner & slept here. John went to visit his friend Mr Jolly. Received from Otto Bickner a black superfine cloth coat, a black kerseymere waistcoat & breeches.’

10 January 1826
‘Mr Betham left us after breakfast. Mrs Selvin called. North-east wind. Thermometer [with] north aspect: 5 degrees below freezing point. Paid Mrs Longe in discharge of balance of house accounts to the end of 1825: £51.198.’

11 January 1826
‘I attended a meeting of the hundred to consider of a plan for a general association for conviction of offenders of the hundred, which was agreed on. I called at Shrubland Sir Philip Broke, &c. there. Sir Charles Vere called when I was out.’

12 January 1826
‘At home. Miss M.A. Davy came here on a visit. Thermometer [with] north aspect at 9 o’clock a.m.: 7 degrees below freezing point. Felled the hazel & ozier underwood in the plantation before the house, & got two small waggon loads of faggots from it. Planted in spring of 1818.’

13 January 1826
‘Mrs Longe, I & Miss Davy went to Ipswich. I attended the Quarter Sessions. Returned to a late dinner. Sir Philip Broke called. To Mrs Longe on her private account £10. I sent a certificate of my life to Messrs Child for the Irish Tontine. Thermometer the 3 last days at 9 o’clock a.m. out of my study window at 25 degrees, i.e. 7 degrees below freezing point. North wind.’

14 January 1826
‘At home. Robert & Henry dined at Mr Martin’s. Mrs Longe & Miss Davy called at Shrubland. Sir Philip & Lady Broke, &c. there. I preached here, morning. At 11 o’clock p.m. thermometer [with] north aspect at 19 degrees fahrenheit, 13 below freezing point.’