Monday, May 23, 2022

A tale of defeat and bitterness

‘For a brief interval he had no questions to answer, no justifications to proffer, no explanations to make. The contrast with the general tenor of his life is striking. Later years would also bring occasional intervals of deep joy, of triumph, even perhaps of tranquillity, but his life as a whole was to be an almost unbroken tale of defeat and bitterness.’ This is about Charles Fothergill, born 240 years ago today, an ardent naturalist and failed entrepreneur many times over. The comment comes from the introduction to a book of diary notes kept by a still very young Fothergill on returning to his home county to research its natural history.

Fothergill was born into a Quaker family in York, England, on 23 May 1782. He was trained in his father’s business - ivory craft - but developed an early interest in natural history, even publishing a short folio he called Ornithologia Britannica at the age of 17. He travelled to London to become an actor, then tried to secure a commission in the Royal Navy. However, in 1805, he returned to Yorkshire to research a natural and civil history of Yorkshire, and the following year saw him in the Orkney and Shetland islands undertaking another similar idea. He commissioned celebrated engravers to illustrate the works, but only ever managed to published his Essay on the philosophy, study, and use of natural history. In his later 20s, he seems to have squandered an inheritance on racehorse breeding. In 1811, he married Charlotte Nevins and they had two sons. 

Further career attempts followed - studying medicine in Edinburgh, farming on the Isle of Man - before he and his family emigrated to Upper Canada (partly to escape debts). He settled Smith’s Creek (Port Hope) where he opened a general store. He was the first postmaster at Port Hope in 1817; and in 1818, he was appointed justice of the peace in the Newcastle District. He built a distillery at Port Hope and a sawmill and gristmill at Peterborough. However, debts again overwhelmed him, and his properties were seized. In 1821, he was appointed the King’s Printer and moved to York (Toronto). The years that followed were dogged with ill-health, the death of his wife, and schemes that came to naught.

In 1824, he won a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. In parliament, he was critical of the administration and was dismissed as King’s Printer in 1826. He failed to get re-elected in 1830. During the 1830s, he also published An essay descriptive of the quadrupeds of British North America and another paper on the situation of the salmon in Lake Ontario. However, several new business ventures failed, and he died, penniless, in 1840. Wikipedia says he is considered to be Ontario’s first resident ornithologist. Further information is also available from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography and a biography by James I. Baillie Jr. in the Canadian Historical Review.

The University of Toronto Library holds the bulk of Fothergill’s extant papers, including some diaries. Shetland Museum and Archives holds Fothergill’s diary of his 1806 travels there. The Yorkshire Archaeological Society may hold the Yorkshire diary since, in 1984, it published The Diary of Charles Fothergill, 1805: An Itinerary to York, Flamborough and the North-Western Dales of Yorkshire by Paul Romney. The introduction in this latter is available to view online at Academia.

Here are three extracts from that introduction.

‘The document published here is Fothergill’s diary of his adventures as he perambulated the county of Yorkshire between May 1805 and January 1806. It is the record of a young Yorkshire Quaker, of yeoman roots and bourgeois estate, in search of the history, antiquities, folklore, customs and other phenomena, both ‘natural’ and ‘civil’, of his native county. Much of the diary is therefore taken up with jottings relevant to those subjects: accounts of archaeological relics; scraps of local history; notes on economic life, and on local dialect and nomenclature; and, of course, descriptions of flora and fauna - for Fothergill was always a naturalist first and foremost, and above all an ornithologist.’

‘None of the data the diary offers is as interesting as the interplay between the writer’s sensibility and his subject: the past and present of Yorkshire. This interplay creates a whole that exceeds the sum of the parts, conveying to the reader a sense of the time and place which is almost novelistic in its immediacy. Indeed, the diary is almost novelistic in structure; for, as the scene shifts to and fro between York and the Ridings, and scenes of solitude and tranquillity alternate with those of society and bustle, our sense of both narrator and milieu expands, while the plot takes some surprising twists before accelerating gently but perceptibly to its bittersweet climax.’

‘The diary records what was, despite its unsatisfactory epilogue, an idyllic interlude in Fothergill’s life. In the dales he wandered amidst scenery sometimes picturesque, sometimes sublime, in a region to which the name of Fothergill was native. Here was none of the clamour, filth and expense of London, none of the claustrophobia and family strife of York. For a brief interval he had no questions to answer, no justifications to proffer, no explanations to make. The contrast with the general tenor of his life is striking. Later years would also bring occasional intervals of deep joy, of triumph, even perhaps of tranquillity, but his life as a whole was to be an almost unbroken tale of defeat and bitterness.’

Monday, May 16, 2022

Dreaming of New Guinea

‘I walked down to the sea; the stars were shining and there was a crescent moon in the west. I sat withdrawn, not thinking much, but without homesickness; felt a dull pleasure in soullessly letting myself dissolve in the landscape. I fell asleep with difficulty, dreaming about the possibilities of research in New Guinea.’ This is from the diary of Bronisław Malinowski, a Polish-born British anthropologist who died 80 years ago today. As a young man, he was inspired by The Golden Bough, switch from the physical sciences to anthropology, and went to live among the indigenous peoples in Papua New Guinea for several years. 

Malinowski  was born in 1884 in Kraków then part of the Austro-Hungarian province known as the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. His father was a professor of at the Jagiellonian University, and his mother came from a family of landed gentry. Educated at home, he was afflicted by ill health which is said to have dogged him throughout life. Nevertheless, he traveled extensively in his teens not least in the Mediterranean region with his mother (by then a widow). He attended Jagiellonian University, completing his doctorate in 1908, in philosophy with physics and maths. He spent three semesters at the University of Leipzig studying economics and psychology, before relocating to London where, inspired by James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, he studied anthropology at the London School of Economics. where his mentors included C. G. Seligman and Edvard Westermarck.

In 1911. Malinowski published a first academic paper in Polish (Totemism and Exogamy); the following year he published his first paper in English; and the year after that he brought out his first book - The Family among the Australian Aborigines - based on a reinterpretations of Australian Aboriginal data from existing literature. These gained him a reputation and promoted his plans for field research; and in 1914 he was able to go to New Guinea. Six months’ work among the Mailu on the south coast produced a monograph that helped to earn his doctorate in 1916. Much of the next few years he lived in a tent on the Trobriand Islands. He learned the vernacular, and collected a wide range data which would later feed into many of his papers. In 1919 he married Elsie Rosaline Masson, an Australian photographer and writer; they had three daughters. In 1922, he published Argonauts of the Western Pacific, which brought him international fame.

After living in the Canary Islands and southern France, Malinowski returned in 1924 to the University of London as reader in anthropology, soon to be promoted to professor. His seminars became famous, attracting prominent scientists from other disciplines, and he taught many future prominent social scientists. In particular, he followed a functionalist approach, one favouring a focus on individuals, rather than society as a whole. In the 1930s, he became interested in Africa, visiting students working among Bemba, Swazi, and other tribes in eastern and southern Africa. He wrote the introduction to Jomo Kenyatta’s book Facing Mount Kenya (prepared as a diploma thesis under his supervision). In 1938, he went on sabbatical leave to the United States, and with the outbreak of war in Europe he decided to stay, becoming Bishop Museum Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Yale University. In 1940, he married again, to Anna Valetta Hayman-Joyce, an artist. He died on 16 May 1942. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, LSE, and Culture Poland.

For two relatively short periods during his early career (September 1914 to August 1915 and October 1917 to July 1918), Malinowski kept a diary in small black notebooks. This was first edited by Valetta Malinowski (as translated by Robert Guterman) and published by Routledge and Kegan Paul as Bronislaw Malinowski: My Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term. It was reissued by Stanford University Press in 1989. This latter edition is freely available to borrow digitally from Internet Archive. The first edition carries an introduction by Raymond Firth (a New Zealand ethnologist), who added a further introduction to the second edition.

From Firth’s first introduction: ‘What then is its significance? Malinowski was a great social scientist, one of the founders of modern social anthropology, and a thinker who tried to relate his generalizations about human nature and human society to the issues of the world around him. The diary refers to that very critical period of his career when, having equipped himself theoretically for empirical studies, he began to carry out field research in New Guinea. The first section covers his apprenticeship period among the Mailu; the second, after an unfortunate gap of two years, covers most of his last year in the Trobriands. Nowadays it is recognized that while the personality of a scientist may not necessarily have a direct bearing upon his selection and treatment of problems, it must influence his work in other more subtle ways. Although chronologically very brief, and although giving no great amount of detail on professional matters, the diary does indicate vividly how Malinowski thought about issues and about people - or at least how he expressed himself when he was writing only for himself as audience.

By these criteria, while this diary of Malinowski’s in its purely ethnographic sense cannot be ranked as more than a footnote to anthropological history, it is certainly a revelation of a fascinating and complex personality who had a formative influence on social science. In reading it, one must bear in mind its purpose. I think it is clear that its object was not so much to keep a record of Malinowski’s scientific progress and intentions, or to set down the daily events of his studies in the field, as to chart the course of his personal life, emotional as well as intellectual. In the earlier section it would seem that he regarded the periodic chronicle of his thoughts and feelings as a wav of helping to organize his life, and to realize its deeper meaning. But in the later section he meant it as an instrument as well as a reference work; he saw it as a means of guiding and indeed rectifying his personality.’

From Firth’s second introduction: ‘So in this second Introduction to the Diary I would modify one judgement in the first Introduction. Though the book is undoubtedly lacking “in its purely ethnographic sense” I would no longer rank it as “no more than a footnote to anthropological history”. The concept of ethnography has altered and widened, and the book has accordingly moved over to a more central place in the literature of anthropological reflection. It is not merely a record of the thinking and feeling of a brilliant, turbulent personality who helped to form social anthropology; it is also a highly significant contribution to the understanding of the position and role of a fieldworker as a conscious participator in a dynamic social situation.’

20 September 1914
‘Today, Monday, 9.20.1-1, I had a strange dream; homosex., with my own double as partner. Strangely autoerotic feelings; the impression that I’d like to have a mouth just like mine to kiss, a neck that curves just like mine, a forehead just like mine (seen from the side). I got up tired and collected myself slowly. Went to see Bell with whom I talked about native labor. Then Ahuia at Central Court. After lunch again with Ahuia. Then I reported to O’Malley, with him to McCrann. Back home I wrote to Mother and Halinka. Went up the hill. . .’

17 October 1914
‘Saturday, 10.17. In the morning S. took me on a tour of the island - to the flagpole, to the village, then to the gardens, then across the hills to the other side where we were given coconuts, and I watched the making of toea (armshells). Then we rounded the promontory and went along the mission shore. After dinner I read a little - I had done no work as yet, waiting for the help S. promised me.’

29 October 1914
‘Yesterday morning got up fairly late; I had engaged Omaga [a Mailu informant and village constable] who waited for me below the veranda. After breakfast I went to the village where Omaga met me near a group of women making pottery. My talk with him was rather unsatisfactory. . . [In] the middle of the street a woman was making drawings. Papari joined us; we talked again about the names of the months, which Papari did not know. I was discouraged. After dinner I read the Golden Legend, then took a nap. I got up at 4, took a dip in the sea (I tried to swim), had tea; at about 5 I went to the village. Talk with Kavaka about funeral rites; we sat under palm trees at the end of the village. In the evening talked with Saville about the southern coast of England from Ramsgate to Brighton. This got me. Cornwall. Devonshire. Digression on the nationalities and character of the population (natives of Cornwall, Devonshire, the Scots). I was depressed. Read a few pages of Cherbuliez’s Vlad. Boltkif - a sketch of a spiritually unusual woman; she reminded me of Zenia. Elated, humming a tune, I walked to the village. Fairly fruitful talk with Kavaka. Watched lovely poetic dances and listened to Suau [an island to the east] music. A small ring of dancers; two dancers facing each other with raised drums. The melody reminded me of Kubain laments. Went back home where I wasted time leafing through Punch. Vision of T. Occasionally I think of Staé with real friendliness; principally the melody he composed on the way to Ceylon.’

2 November 1914
‘Got up with a bad headache. Lay in euthanasian concentration on the ship. Loss of subjectivism and deprivation of the will (blood flowing away from the brain?), living only by the five senses and the body (through impressions) causes direct merging with surroundings. Had the feeling that the rattling of the ship’s engine was myself; felt the motions of the ship as my own - it was I who was bumping against the waves and cutting through them. Was not seasick. Landed feeling broken; did not lie down at once; had breakfast and looked through the newspapers with illustrations about the war. Looked for something about Poland - there was nothing. Very tired. Right after dinner, went to bed. Slept from 2 to 5. I did not feel too well afterward. I sat by the sea - no fit of dejection. The Stas problem torments me. In fact his conduct toward me was impossible. There was nothing wrong about what I said in Lodge’s presence; he was wrong to correct me. His complaints are unjustified, and the way he expresses himself precludes any possibility of reconciliation. Finis amicitiae. Zakopane without Stas! Nietzsche breaking with Wagner. I respect his art and admire his intelligence and worship his individuality, but I cannot stand his character.’

23 January 1915
‘I am “covering the ground” of my territory more and more concretely. Without doubt, if I could stay here for several more months - or years - I would get to know these people far better. But for a superficial short stay I have done as much as can be done. I am quite satisfied with what I have done under the poor circumstances. The arsenic works perfectly. Tonight I made an experiment. I took 10 grains of quinine and toward morning I felt quite terrible. Apparently quinine is not good and doesn’t help me at all - could it have a bad effect on the red blood corpuscles? I wonder whether arsenic is a specific against malaria? If so, what is its value in Alpine countries?    

Yesterday I walked to the village at 7. Photos of the lugumi - from behind the boathouse. I discovered this was the proper place for taking photos of Mailu (village). Then I went back, took Omaga and went to Keneni’s - Pikana joined us. I ignored him, turned my back to him. He began to talk of his own accord - and he was exceptionally good. We talked about gardens, about “Bittarbeit” [voluntary exchange of garden work] etc. . . After breakfast I took a pile of tobacco and went to the village and photographed the lugumi, then . . . went to buy stuff. Usually I overpay tremendously, I think, but I bargain till I am ready to drop. After lunch lay down and read Mexico. Two fellows brought me oba’ua - little axes made of shells. I went to the village around 4, bought two bamboo sticks with feathers; then I sat by the sea with Keneni and his family. Dini, Kavaki’s brother, came. Keneni [their uncle] and Dini went home with me and gave me descriptions of the specimens. After supper, terrible thirst - drank some soda water - then, very tired - changed plates; I walked down to the sea; the stars were shining and there was a crescent moon in the west. I sat withdrawn, not thinking much, but without homesickness; felt a dull pleasure in soullessly letting myself dissolve in the landscape. I fell asleep with difficulty, dreaming about the possibilities of research in New Guinea.’

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Infested with pirates

‘Just as unfrequented dark streets in large towns favour bandits, so too the numerous straits of these seas are infested with pirates, who usually join forces to attack merchant ships. They put out to sea in long and narrow boats similar to canoes with outriggers. [. . .] The other day, about 15 of those boats, called corocores, appeared at nightfall heading towards us.’ This is from the private journal of Rose de Freycinet, the first woman in history to keep a journal during an expedition round the world. She died 190 years ago today, though her journal was only published a century or so later, and is now considered an important anthropological resource. 

De Freycinet was born Rose Pinon in Saint-Julien-du-Sault, 100km southeast of Paris, the eldest child in a middle-class family. Her father and brother died while she was relatively young, leaving Rose with the responsibility of looking after her sisters. She was educated at a school run by her mother. Aged 19, Rose married the 35-year old Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet, a member of the French aristocracy. He had already made a name for himself as a sub-lieutenant to French naturalist Nicolas Baudin by mapping Australia’s coastline. In 1817, thus, he was given command of the corvette Uranie, under the auspices of the French Navy and the Ministry of the Interior, for a circumnavigational scientific expedition. 

Before departing France, de Freycinet had a secret cabin constructed on the Uranie in order to accommodate his wife (women were forbidden from sailing on navy vessels) who boarded while disguised as an officer. For three years, they cruised about the Pacific, visiting, among other places, Australia, the Mariana Islands, Hawaiian Islands, and South America. Rose kept mostly to her cabin, teaching herself to play guitar, learning English, doing needlework, and being a companion to her husband. Her presence was largely unacknowledged by those onboard, and, ultimately, official documents concerning the expedition made no mention of her.

The Uranie was shipwrecked in a storm in early 1820. She managed to limp into the Falkland Islands but no further. Eventually, the crew boarded an American vessel, bought by Freycinet and renamed the Physicienne, and set sail for Rio de Janeiro. There they remained until September before returning across the Atlantic and arriving at Havre in November, complete with the many scientific specimens - minerals, plants, insects, animals - that had been collected during Uranie’s voyages. In Paris, Louis de Freycinet fell ill with cholera. Rose nursed him back to health, but succumbed to the illness herself and died on 7 May 1832. Further information is available from Wikipedia,, and the Western Australian Museum website.

There are several written accounts of the expedition. Freycinet’s official report (in several parts) was published in 1827 (only in French). Jacques Arago, one of the expedition’s artists, published his journal of the voyage in 1822. This was translated into English and published the following year as Narrative of a Voyage Round the World in the Uranie and Physicienne Corvettes. However, most extraordinarily, Rose de Freycinet also kept a private journal, one never intended for publication. It was written more as a series of letters than a journal in fact, some to her friend and some to her mother. These were first edited and published in French in 1927 by Charles Duplomb. In 1962, Oxford University Press published Marnie Bassett’s Realms and Islands: The World Voyage of Rose de Freycinet with extracts from the journal/letters. 

A full English edition of the journal/letters did not appear until 1996 when the National Library of Australia published A Woman of Courage: The Journal of Rose de Freycinet on Her Voyage Around the World, 1817-1820 (as edited by Marc Serge Rivière). From the publisher’s blurb: ‘Shipwrecks, disease, pirates, storms, near-starvation and picnics of penguin meat, strange customs, encounters with island royalty and travels to remote locations, all were the ingredients of a great adventure, and all were endured for love. A memorable story of an adventurous and spirited woman, this book includes beautiful colour plates reproduced from the original limited edition French publication.’ It can be previewed at Googlebooks, and a review (pdf) can be read here

‘Being not intended for publication and being both frank and [with]personal musings about people, places and events,’ Wikipedia says, ‘[Rose de Freycinet’s] writings represent an important anthropological resource.’ Here is one dated extract from A Woman of Courage (although most of Rose’s narrative as edited is not dated).

9 December 1818, Pisang Island, north-west of New Guinea
‘On account of his poor state of health, the kind Abbé de Quélen was unable to go ashore at Dili. Accordingly, only a few days after our departure he baptised the young Timorese lad whom we had taken aboard. My husband and I are his godparents and, in accordance with the wishes of the Portuguese Governor, we gave him the name of Joseph, to which I have added that of Antonio. Don Jose wanted the boy to have his name, so that, he said, we would remember him. But we shall not forget his kindness towards us any more than the happy events during this stopover.

Although our voyage was easier once we lost sight of Timor Island because of a favourable fresh breeze, it was only after we emerged from the strait that the heat, which had affected us badly ever since our arrival at Kupang, became a little more bearable for those aboard who were in good health. Our sick crewmen are suffering greatly; we fear that the Abbé may have contracted scurvy; he has lost a lot of weight on account of the heat. The Second Lieutenant, M. Labiche, suffers from dysentery; several crewmen have already died from that disease. Such unfortunate circumstances make our journey distressing. Otherwise, it would be so enjoyable as we make our way through the Moluccan Archipelago, where one comes across enchanting islands around every corner. The richness of the soil is demonstrated by the luxurious natural forests which cover these uncultivated lands. And what trees do we find in those forests? They are the very ones which produce precious spices; their scent hangs heavy in the air all around us. Thus, we have sailed past Amboina and closer still to Ceram, two Dutch settlements which are famous for having contributed so much to the wealth of that nation.

I sometimes recall that my mother wrote to me, when I was still in Toulon, that a map of Paris and its surrounding districts was sufficient at first for her to find each of the places where we lived, that thereafter she needed a map of France and, finally, that she would only be able to follow our progress on a world map. Now, a very detailed map of Oceania would be required - if one existed - to know where we were. Even then, every day I am told that Louis corrects geographical positions, erroneously recorded until now, a fact which would not surprise anyone in this part of the world where the Creator has sown islands ‘as he sows dust in our fields’. Since New Holland, we have not come across any land other than islands, and it will be some time yet before we espy another continent.

Just as unfrequented dark streets in large towns favour bandits, so too the numerous straits of these seas are infested with pirates, who usually join forces to attack merchant ships. They put out to sea in long and narrow boats similar to canoes with outriggers, and use small paddles which require a different kind of handling to our oars, in that the paddles do not rest on the side of the canoe. The other day, about 15 of those boats, called corocores, appeared at nightfall heading towards us. Louis thought it wise to go on the defensive in case of an attack, but the pirates no doubt were deterred by the strength of the corvette and went on their way.

A few days after that insignificant event, we again encountered several armed corocores, but these belonged to the Kimalaha [chief] of the island of Gebe. I am not implying that they are not pirates. Louis believes they are when it suits their purpose, and that they were lying in wait for some ships when we saw them. But the chief, old sea wolf that he was, observing that we had the weapons to defend ourselves fiercely, came on board to start negotiations. Not only was he well received, but Louis invited him to lunch, which he accepted without waiting to be asked twice. He became very attached to one of our chairs, which was presented to him at once. In return for this present which pleased him greatly, he thought of nothing better than to remove his own hat and place it on Louis’ head, who appeared to me quite comical wearing that type of straw parasol which is skilfully woven but with the same pointed shape as the lids of our saucepans.

The name of that strange character was Abdalaga-Fourou; he was fluent in Malay, so Louis was able to obtain a lot of information from him. The chiefs of the other corocores came to join him and, like him, stayed for dinner. The Kimalaha, better dressed than the others, was wearing trousers and some kind of open dressing-gown made of white calico, printed with stripes and red flowers. Under his hat, he wore a small red turban with a crown made of fine straw. He was bronzed and his face was lively and cheerful. These men endlessly chew betel and chalk, packed into pretty little boxes made of fine straw in various colours. They exchanged a lot of arrows, paddles and so on . . . for mirrors, knives, clothes and so on . . . When night fell, Abdalaga-Fourou went back to his boat, promising to return the next day. That prince had pressed Louis to go to Gebe and, while he was aboard our ship, in order to communicate more easily with his corocores, he had asked us to take them in tow. But as soon as the wind became fresh, they loosened the moorings and left us in order to return to Gebe. Consequently, Louis does not believe the Kimalaha’s promise that he will meet us at Waigeo, where we have to stop to take observations. To derive some advantage from several days’ inactivity forced upon us by the calm weather, the Commander has sent naturalists to Pisang Island. As soon as they are back and the wind is fresh again, we will set sail.’

Monday, May 2, 2022

Read the Word of God

‘Luigi Assemani desired to argue with me again about faith in the Pope, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. But as he is very young, I thought it not fair to argue with him; I told him, therefore, that I advised him to read the Word of God diligently . . .’ This is from the journals of Joseph Wolff - Christian Missionary to the Jews of the world - who died 160 years ago today.

Wolff was born at Weilersbach, near Bamberg, Germany, in 1796 into a Jewish family. His father was a rabbi but he sent his son to the Protestant Lyceum at Stuttgart to learn German. Later he studied Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Interested in Christianity, he left home very young. After some years of travelling, he was baptised in 1812 by Leopold Zolda, abbot of the Benedictine monastery of Emmaus, near Prague. Four years later, he arrived in Rome, where he began training as a missionary at the seminary of the Collegio Romano. However, he was a subversive student, criticising his tutors, and was expelled in 1818. He moved on to England to stay with Henry Drummond, founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church, where he became friendly with Lewis Way. Wolff became a member of the Church of England, and was persuaded to train as a missionary at Cambridge University, with his expenses paid by The London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews.

Between 1821 and 1826, Wolff traveled as a missionary in Egypt and the Levant, and was the first modern missionary to preach to the Jews near Jerusalem. He sent Christian boys from Cyprus to England for education, and then continued his travels through Persia, Mesopotamia, Tiflis, and the Crimea. He married Lady Georgiana Mary Walpole in 1827. And, in 1828 set off east again, this time in search of the fabled Lost Ten Tribes (said to have been exiled from the Kingdom of Israel after its conquest in the 8th century). This journey lasted five years, taking Wolf to Armenia, Bokhara, India and Egypt among other countries.

Wolff travelled to the United States where he preached before Congress. He was ordained deacon by the Bishop of New Jersey, and in 1838 priest by the Bishop of Dromore. In 1843 he made another journey to Bokhara, to rescue two captured British officers. There he found they had been executed by the Emir, Nasrullah Khan; he only narrowly escaped the same fate. In 1845, he was presented with the vicarage of Isle Brewers, Somerset, where he raised funds to rebuild All Saints Church. When his wife died, he married Louisa Decima in 1861 but he himself died the following year, on 2 May 1862. Further information is available from Wikipedia, the Jewish Encyclopaedia, or

Wolff kept journals of his travels, and published them in various forms during his life - the earliest being articles in the Jewish Expositor. These were collected together and interspersed with letters, memoir material, and verbatim dialogues to form his first book, Missionary Journal and Memoir of the Rev. Joseph Wolf (published by E. Bliss and E. White in 1824; editor John Bayford) This is freely available at Googlebooks and Internet Archive. (Other volumes of his can also be found at Internet Archive, such as the two-volume Travels and Adventures.) Here are few extracts from the Missionary Journal.

21 December 1821
‘Pitched my tent in Abajilbana, where we saw the sea, called Bahar Almahl.’

22 December 1821
‘We pitched our tent in the plain of the village Arish, where there are an old castle, and some cannon. They asked me there whether the English Sultan is allied with that of Islam, I said. Yes; Hamd Lelah was the answer.’

26 December 1821
‘Arrived at Gaza. There came Samson, and it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither, and they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night, saying: In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him: and Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of a hill that is before Hebron. 

It is now a little town inhabited by Mussulmen, and 100 Greek Christians, who have a very old church, which, by the account of the Greek priest on whom I called, was built in the time of Constantine the Great They are in possession of an old Arabic manuscript of the Gospel, which is kept sacred in the church. I asked them whether they would sell it to me, the priest replied, it would be an Haram Allah to sell any thing belonging to the church. All the Greeks throughout the East, are now in anxious expectation of the success of their brethren, fighting against their oppressors. Those at Gaza wept, and expected to hear from me good tidings, news of victory, on which I pointed them to the Lord, from whence their help will come. The chamack of the Grand Pasha of Acre, at the custom-house of Gaza, was very kind to me; he invited me to drink coffee with him, and procured me a room in the Han, which was not very handsome: he sent me some of his dates, and candles, and all this he did without reward, but I gave him before my departure, a present of three dollars. He was once in the service of the famous Djezzar, Pasha at Acre, and he knew Dr Clarke the traveller, and Mr. Smith, and he is the friend of Lady Esther Stanhope.’

3 January 1822
‘Peter Abbott, Esq., had the kindness to introduce me to an English Jew, with whom I had a short conversation about the Gospel. That Jew is to introduce me to their synagogue. My mind is quite relieved since I am again with English gentlemen; Peter Abbott, Esq. and Mr. M’Michael, Mr. Abbott promised me that he will kindly take an interest as well in the cause of the Bible as Missionary Society. Sent letters to Dr. Naudi, Mr. Lee, and Henry Drummond, by my friend Jacob Berggren.’

4 January 1822
‘Moreover, he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim; but chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion which he loved. Psalm lxxviii. 67, 68. This very exclamation of the royal prophet may have been the reason, that the prophetical song of his harp did not sound well in the ears of the Samaritans, and that his oracles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have not been accepted, but rather rejected by them.

I took in view this morning the seraglio of the Pasha Abdallah, at Acre, it is a little, nice building. Mr. M’Michael accompanied me. The building is not to be compared with any house of a rich private gentlemen in England. We requested, by means iff Mr. Abbott’s dragoman, a bugrat for our journey to the Mount Lebanon. The clerks of the government office are almost all Christians of this country. We met there with one of the innumerable children of Djezzar; that is to say, with one of those whose nose has beep cut off by Djezzar’s order! We afterwards took in view the spot where Bonaparte encamped with his army: it is near the sea, opposite the Mount Carmel. “There was Nabal, who was churlish and evil in his doings, he would not know who David, and who the son of Jesse was.” 1 Samuel xxv.’

3 February 1822
‘Luigi Assemani desired to argue with me again about faith in the Pope, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. But as he is very young, I thought it not fair to argue with him; I told him, therefore, that I advised him to read the Word of God diligently, which tells us, that God shall add the plagues written in that book unto the man who should add to it; and that he should read that word of God with prayer, and then he would perceive the reason of my disbelief in the Pope.’

4 May 1822
‘Several Jews called on me, and asked for New Testaments, tracts, and Bibles. I gave them the books gratis. They read them in the streets, but the Jews from Barbary took them out of their hands, and burnt a great many. Armenian and Greek priests called on me to-day, and desired to purchase Greek, Arabic, and Armenian Bibles and Testaments, but I was not able to comply with their wish; I therefore wrote again to John Barker, Esq. in Aleppo, and to Peter Lee, Esq. in Alexandria, to send me Bibles, Testaments, and tracts.’

Friday, April 22, 2022

Napoleon plays whist

‘Since General Buonaparte’s arrival at St Helena I have been so occupied that I have seen but little of him. . . but in the evenings I understand he has regularly invited himself to join the family party in the house, where he plays at whist with the ladies.’ This is from a diary kept by Sir George Cockburn while he was in charge of Napoleon, in transit to, and residing on, the island of St Helena. Apart from such daily details, the diary is also full of Napoleon’s recollections of various military campaigns. Cockburn, born 250 years ago today, was a highly successul British sailor who rose through the ranks to become Admiral of the Fleet and First Naval Lord.

Cockburn was born on 22 April 1772 in London, the second son of Sir James Cockburn and his second wife Augusta Anne Ayscough. Educated at schools in Marylebone and Margate, he also attended the Royal Navigational School in London. Aged 14, he went to sea, and rose rapidly in the Royal Navy, being promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 1793. He was appointed to the Victory, Lord Hood’s flagship off Toulon, and then to the sloop Speedy, the frigate Meleager under the orders of Captain Nelson, and to the Minerve, a large frigate captured from the French, which was later present at the battle of Cape St Vincent.

In 1803, Cockburn was appointed to the Phaeton, which he commanded for two years in the East Indies, and to the Captain, then to the Pompée, which took him to the West Indies. After taking part in the capture of Flushing in 1809 (part of the otherwise disastrous landing of British forces in the Low Countries), he returned to Britain, and married his cousin Mary Cockburn with whom he had one daughter.

Further promotion to rear-admiral followed Cockburn’s service on the Indefatigable around Spain. In 1814, on the Marlborough he battled against the American militia, cruising along the Chesapeake Bay to seize shipping and raid ports. In 1815, he was summoned back to Europe and given the task of escorting Napoleon, who had been defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, to St Helena. Cockburn remained there for some months as island governor before being relieved. Napoleon, though, would remain confined there until his death in 1821.

Cockburn was first elected as a Tory MP in 1818, and remained an MP for different constituencies until 1847 with one long gap in the 1830s. He was knighted in 1815, and elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1820. He served two terms as First Naval Lord (1833-1836 and 1841-1846) and as Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies Station between 1832 and 1836. He was appointed a full admiral in 1837. In 1852, he inherited the family baronetcy from his elder brother, before dying a year later. Further biographical information is available from Wikipedia, The History of Parliament, or the book, Cockburn and the British Navy in Transition by Roger Morriss, which can be partially read at Googlebooks.

There is no evidence that Cockburn regularly kept a diary, but he did keep one for a short period while charged with transporting and looking after the prisoner, Napoléon Bonaparte. A first edition appeared in the US in 1833 (published by Lilly, Wait, Colman and Holden) compiled from the original manuscript in the handwriting of Cockburn’s private secretary. This was titled Buonaparte’s Voyage to St Helena; comprising the diary of Rear Admiral Sir G Cockburn, during his passage from England to St Helena, in 1815.

In the book’s preface, the publishers explain: ‘There is another copy of this manuscript in existence, which was, at one period, in the course of publication in England, but considerations, which may be obviously inferred from the character of the production itself, then led to its suppression, and must continue to prevent its appearance from that quarter.’

Indeed, it was not until 50 years later, in 1888, that Cockburn’s journal was published in the UK (by Simpkin, Marshall & Co.) as Extract from a Diary of Rear-Admiral Sir George Cockburn with particular reference to Gen. Napoleon Buonaparte on Passage from England to St Helena, in 1815 on board HMS “Northumberland”.

This version’s preface says: ‘The manuscript, from which this “Extract” has been printed, was found, in his own hand-writing, among the papers of my late father; attached to it being a note, also in his own handwriting, to the effect that it is a reproduction of a copy found at St Helena, in 1824 or 25, among the effects of one who had held an official position as Admiral’s Secretary or Captain’s Clerk on board the “Northumberland” on her voyage to St Helena, where he died, and who had no doubt made it as a matter of pardonable curiosity and satisfaction for himself; and it is now published in the belief that it’s intrinsic interest, as closing a gap in the later career of the great soldier, will be deemed sufficient excuse for it’s seeing the light.’

Both the earlier US edition and the later UK edition are freely available at Internet Archive. Here are two extracts from the start and end of the diary.

7 August 1815
‘On reaching the deck [Buonaparte] said to me, “Here I am, Admiral, at your orders!” He then asked to be introduced to the Captain, then asked the names of the different officers and gentlemen upon deck, asked them in what countries they were born and other questions of such trifling import, and he then went into the cabin with Lord Keith and myself, followed by some of his own people. After I had shown him the cabin I had appropriated for his exclusive use and requested him to sit down in the great cabin, he begged me to cause the Lieutenant of the ship to be introduced to him; as, however, at this time his own followers came to take leave of him, I thought it best to leave him for a little while to himself, and I found soon afterwards advantage was taken of this for him to assume exclusive right to the after, or great cabin. When I therefore had finished my letters I went into it again with some of my officers and desired M. de Bertrand to explain to him that the after cabin must be considered as common to us all, and that the sleeping cabin I had appropriated to him could alone be considered as exclusively his. He received this intimation with submission and good humour and soon afterwards went on deck, where he chatted loosely and good-naturedly with everybody.

At dinner he ate heartily of almost every dish, praised everything and seemed most perfectly contented and reconciled to his fate. He talked with me during dinner much on his Russian Campaign, said he meant only to have refreshed his troops at Moscow for four or five days and then to have marched for Petersburg, but the destruction of Moscow subverted all his projects, and he said nothing could have been more horrible than was that campaign; that for several days together it appeared to him as if he were marching through a sea of fire owing to the constant succession of villages in flames which arose in every direction as far as his eye could reach; that this had been by some attributed to his troops but that it was always done by the natives. Many of his soldiers however, he said, lost their lives by endeavouring to pillage in the midst of the flames. He spoke much of the cold during their disastrous retreat, and stated that one night, after he had quitted the army to return to Paris, an entire half of his Guard were frozen to death.

He also told me in the course of this evening that previous to his going to Elba he had made preparations for having a Navy of 100 sail of the line; that he had established a conscription for the Navy, and that the Toulon Fleet was entirely manned and brought forward by people of this description; that he ordered them positively to get under weigh and manoeuvre every day the weather would permit of it, and to stand out occasionally and to exchange long shots with our ships; that this had been much remonstrated against by those about him and had cost him at first a good deal of money to repair the accidents that occurred from the want of maritime knowledge, such as from the ships getting aboard of each other, splitting their sails, springing their masts, &c., but he found that even these accidents tended to improve the crews and therefore he continued to pay his money and oblige them to continue to exercise. He said he had built his ships at Antwerp in rather too great a hurry, but he spoke highly in praise of the port and said he had already given orders for a similar establishment to have been formed on the Elbe; and had fortune not turned against him he hoped to have sooner or later given us some trouble, even on the seas. He stated that the reason he had over-hurried the ships at Antwerp, before mentioned, was because he was anxious to press forward an expedition from thence against Ireland.

After taking his wine and coffee he took a short walk on deck and afteryards proposed a round game at cards; in compliance with which we played at vingt-un until about half-past ten, won from him about seven or eight napoleons, and he then retired to his bedroom, apparently as much at his ease as if he had belonged to the ship all his life. I afterwards disposed of his whole party for the night, though not without some difficulty; the ladies with their families making it necessary I should provide them with adequate room and accommodation, and yet each other person of the suite asking for and expecting a separate cabin to sleep in and in which to put their things.’

22 October 1815
‘Since General Buonaparte’s arrival at St Helena I have been so occupied that I have seen but little of him. I went with him, however, one day to Longwood, and he seemed tolerably satisfied with it, though with his attendants he has since been complaining a good deal; and having stated to me that he could not bear the crowds which gathered to see him in the town, he has, at his own request been permitted to take up his residence (until Longwood should be completed) at a small house called the Briars, where there is a pretty good garden, and a tolerably large room, detached from the house, of which he has taken possession, and in which and the garden he remains almost all day; but in the evenings I understand he has regularly invited himself to join the family party in the house, where he plays at whist with the ladies of the family for sugar-plums until his usual hour of retiring for the night.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 22 April 2012.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Our spirits were overflowing

‘Yesterday was one of the happiest I have ever passed. It was a yachting party. I love the water, the day was perfect, the people were nice, the race was sufficiently interesting, the lunch was delicious, our spirits were overflowing.’ This is from the vivacious diaries of a teenage Gertrude Vanderbilt. She was an American heiress who would go on to become an important sculptor and art patron. She died  80 years ago today, but a decade or so earlier had founded the now-famous Whitney Museum of American Art.

Vanderbilt was born in 1875 in New York City, into a rich familywith a large house on Fifth Avenue. Her great-grandfather was Cornelius Vanderbilt, a very wealthy railroad and shipping magnate. She was educated by private tutors and at the exclusive Brearley School, spending summers in Newport, Rhode Island, at the family summer home. From an early age she drew and painted, but after her marriage in 1896 to Harry Payne Whitney (with whom she had  three children), she began to pursue sculpture seriously. She studied in New York and in Paris, and began to focus on large-scale public works. 

Whitney’s first public commission was Aspiration, a life-size male nude in plaster, which appeared outside the New York State Building in 1901. Although initially she produced work under an assumed name, by 1907 she had opened a studio in Greenwich Village, and the following year she won her first prize, for a sculpture entitled Pan. Paganisme Immortel was shown at the 1910 National Academy of Design, Spanish Peasant was accepted at the Paris Salon in 1911, and Aztec Fountain was awarded a bronze medal in 1915 at the San Francisco Exhibition. She opened her first solo show in New York City in 1916. In parallel with her artistic career, she also became a major patron of the arts, promoting the advancement of women in the arts, and organising exhibitions for promising artists. As early as 1914, she had organised her first charity exhibition, the 50-50 Art Sale.

During the First World War, Whitney dedicated a great deal of her time and money to various relief efforts, establishing and maintaining a fully operational hospital for wounded soldiers in Juilly, outside Paris. While there, she made drawings of the soldiers and these evolved into plans for her post-war memorials in New York City. She also completed a series of smaller pieces realistically depicting soldiers in wartime. These smaller works were not seen as particularly significant during her lifetime, only  recently have critics rated them more highly. During the 1920s her works received  critical acclaim both in Europe and the US, particularly her monumental works. Her major and lasting accomplishment, though, was the founding, with her husband, of the Whitney Museum for American Art in 1930. She died on 18 April 1942.  See Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica or the New Netherland Institute for further information.

Whitney kept diaries and journals of varying kinds throughout her life. These and most of her other papers have been full digitised in the Archives of American Art. The website provides this summary of the diaries : ‘[Whitney’s] personal journals range from ones she kept as a child and adolescent to ones she kept during her engagement and honeymoon to ones she kept as an adult, and include travel journals, impression books, diaries, confessions album, writing journals, and “A Line A Day” books. Personal journals record Whitney's trips abroad and time spent in Newport as a young girl, her impressions of people, her experiences with friends, her honeymoon trip to Japan, certain early writing efforts, her “thoughts relating to art, subjects for statues, composition symbols, all manner of substances which affects [her] artistic life” (from Art Journal, 1906-1907), her work with the Juilly Hospital in France during the First World War, trips to Spain in 1920 and 1928-1929, and daily events and impressions for certain periods of time.’

Here are a few extracts from her 1894-1895 diary as transcribed by volunteers.

3 August 1894.
‘Last night I dined out. After dinner Mr. Porchon talked to me. It was not quite as nice as on the piazza the surroundings were not as “agreeable, but we got on very well, laughed a lot and enjoyed ourselves generally, that is I enjoyed myself. I don’t know if he enjoyed it. I think we are getting to be very good friends. He is always impressing it on my mind that he is so old and so experienced that I have a wild desire to ask his advice in some imaginary conditions. For instance when I am alone with him the next time I will very seriously tell him that at last his plan has succeeded. He has impressed upon my mind that his grey hairs make him a fit confident for so young and inexperienced a child as myself. Will he listen to what I have to say? Yes, well then he realized that there are things one does not even like to ask ones parents, an old family friends, grey haired and care worn is just the person to apply to’

11 August 1894.
‘Yesterday was one of the happiest I have ever passed. It was a yachting party. I love the water, the day was perfect, the people were nice, the race was sufficiently interesting, the lunch was delicious, our spirits were overflowing.

We met down at the landing at 9.45. There were lots of parties given so of course a great crowd was there. Different people came up and talked and suddenly looking up who should I see in front of me but Regi Renalds. We shook hands said “howd’y do” and that was all. He did not go on the Nournahae, that was the only cloud in my sky all day. It began by being a pretty big one but dwindled down surprisingly as the day went on. To-night I dine at the Cushings Oh Joy! joy! A thousand times joy. Prepare.’

25 August 1894
‘The last week has been such a busy one that I have had to neglect you shamefully. Adele & Emily Sloane who came on the 15th left yesterday. While they were here there was always something to do and the time went by before I knew it. One amusement followed another, but what has given me most pleasure is that I feel I have gotten to know a good many people better than ever before. In the first place I know the Sloane’s themselves better, and it has done me an enormous amount of good. Then I feel now as if I were really getting on with Bobbie Sands. We have had one walk together when we talked of something besides balls etc. and if we are alone again together I am sure we will go still farther. To-night we may have a chance. I do hope so. I am dining on the Electra and so is he. I wish we would “sit” outside it would be what I most want. I would talk of himself, or rather make him talk of himself.

9 September 1894
‘Such rubbish as I have been writing! Such sentimental bosh. To-night for a little I want to think serious by about the future. If I live the chances are there will be some one who will love me only for myself. Of course I will have a good many opportunities of marrying in the next few years. A big heiress! And all that sort of think. I hope it will not effect me. I hope it will not change me for the worse but rather improve me. If I should marry people will say: “Oh for her money”. I don’t care what people say, if it is not true, but suppose it is true? What then? This will be terribly unhappy. The chances are ten to one, I would be married for my money, therefore why marry? How can you discuss it so in cold blood. Suppose you fall in love. What then? I will not fall in love except with the right man. But the right man, who is he? A rich man, a very rich man. But the rich man will he love me? Ten to one - no. What then? Why even if he were rich he would marry you to be richer. No, no, there are true, honest, good men who would not care about the money. But they would not care about me either. You will come to nothing this way, you will not get deeper and deeper. Leave it all to God, he knows what is right & best and good for you. Trust in him and all will be well. Amen.’

17 November 1894
‘When I last wrote I was not feeling at all well. On Saturday I was quite sure I was going to have typhoid fever. I had a miserable pain which had gone on getting worse for several days and was feeling altogether horribly. Sunday I still kept up but as I had not eaten a single thing (without exaggeration) and had consumed glasses of water since Thursday, Mama noticed it and asked me if I was not well. The end of it was the next morning the doctor came and said he thought I had jaundice. And as it proved to be, I was yellow and the pain kept on, and there were the other symptoms. Saturday for the first time I was allowed to get up for a little. That is today, but I have not yet been out of my room. We are going away on Tuesday if I am able, to see Alfred first and then to go to New York. It will be nice getting back for some reasons, but I am very sorry the autumn is over. If I had only not been sick this week Mo & I might have had some of the most delightful rides and walks. I am terribly disappointed about it as I was looking forward to the last week here. Mo has been so nice lately. That is he was especially nice the last time I saw him, the 8th. He was going away till Tuesday & he would have given anything to get out of it. He said how hard it was to go, not as Mo usually says things. Anyway he never says things unless he means them. And he acted as if it were really hard. Of course I said I was awfully sorry and wish he could stay etc, but at last he did say “good bye” after a very nice long talk and off he went. Saturday I received from New York a beautiful box of flowers from him, an enormous bunch of violets just like some I had seen when he was there and that Mr Stewart had sent me a few days before. He wrote in a card he wished he were in Newport & hoped I would wear the flowers, which of course I did. We had planned to ride on Tuesday but of course I could not, so I wrote & thanked him for the flowers and on Wednesday, no Thursday he sent me some more flowers and a letter. Friday he came to see me but I was still in bed. I hope today, oh I do hope I can see him.’

Friday, April 15, 2022

A man with qualities

The Austrian author, Robert Musil, died 80 years ago today. His most famous work and one of the masterpieces of 20th century European literature - The Man Without Qualities - preoccupied him for much of the latter part of his life, but even so was never completed. He was an inveterate keeper of notebooks, only a few of which, though, read like conventional diaries.

Musil was born in Klagenfurt, Austria, in 1880, the only son of an engineering professor. He studied at a military academy and then moved to Vienna university where his father taught. Later in his 20s, though, he went to study philosophy and psychology in Berlin. His first novel, published in 1906 (later translated as Confusions of Young Torless), was a great success.

In 1911, Musil married Martha Marcovaldi, an older Jewish woman who had already been married and had children. From that same year until 1914 he worked as a librarian in Vienna. During the war he served in the Austrian army. After being hospitalised in 1916, he edited an army newspaper, and, subsequently, worked in the defence ministry until he was made redundant in the 1920s. Thereafter, he became a full-time writer, achieving some success with plays.

While trying to write what he hoped would become his masterpiece, The Man Without Qualities, Musil fell into financial difficulties; and, in 1929, he suffered a mental breakdown. The first parts of Qualities were published in the early 1930s (but not in English until the late 1950s and early 1960s). He moved again to Berlin in the early 1930s, and then back to Vienna. In 1938, he and his wife fled to Switzerland, where they settled in Geneva. He died on 15 April 1942. For further biographical information see Wikipedia, New World Encyclopedia, or Jerry van Beers’ website on Musil.

Musil kept notebooks for much of his life, but most of these are not recognisably diaries. They were first edited by Adolf Frisé and published in their original German in the early 1980s by Rowohlt (Hamburg). An English translation by Philip Payne followed in 1998 (Basic Books, New York) entitled simply Diaries, 1899-1941.

The chapters in the published book relate to individual notebooks kept by Musil, the highest numbered one being 35 - but there are not 35 notebooks included in Diaries, nor are they all in numerical order. Furthermore, the notebooks rarely reveal material that looks or reads like a conventional diary. There are some dated entries in some of the notebooks, but, for the most part, the contents resemble a writer’s notes not a diary. According to Mark Mirsky, who wrote an introduction for the English edition, the diaries are ‘angry, at times pathetic, but always thinking, aware, vulnerable’ and, through them, thus, ‘Musil lets us approach him’.

November 1913.
‘Waiting: I look at my work. It is motionless; as if of stone. Not without meaning, but the sentences do not move. I have two hours, in round terms, before I can leave. Every fifth minute I look at the clock; it is always less, not than I had estimated but than I hope - as if by some miracle - it will be. I see for the first time the furniture in my room standing quietly there. This way is different from the way one sees five points as a five in a game of cards. The table, the two chairs, the sofa, the cupboard. This is what it must be like for people without ideas when their day’s work is done. An excess of joyful expectation rises in me. An excess of joy like the end of the day on 24 December before everything gets under way.

Someone is whistling on the street, someone says something, goes on by. Many sounds come at the same moment; someone is speaking, in the upper storey someone is playing the piano; the telephone is ringing. (While I write this down, time tears past.)’

2 April 1905
‘Today I’m beginning a diary; I do not usually keep one but I feel a distinct need to do so now. After four years of diffusion it will give me the opportunity to find that line of spiritual development again that I consider to be properly mine. . . I shall try to carry forward into it “banners from a battle that has never been fought.” Thoughts from that time of great upheaval are to be re-examined, sorted through and developed. One or other of my scattered notes is to be taken up in this process but only when it captures my attention again.’

6 January 1930
‘Since the start of the year I’ve been wanting to write things down. Aim: to record how my 50th year of life turns out! But also, in a quite aimless fashion, to record facts. I have become too abstract and would like to use this method to help me retrain as a narrator by paying attention to the circumstances of everyday life.’

8 February 1930
‘Art has to have an immediate effect! This is one of the most dangerous prejudices. Yet it remains a goal that one constantly tries to achieve. After all, it wouldn’t be difficult to analyze what is required of something to have an immediate effect. The most difficult thing about this is somewhat like a meeting. The immediate impression that some people give is that of peace, sublimity, etc., and this is what is demanded of art. People want to be won over from the very first word, etc. This is not completely unjustified but leads to neglect of books that are demonic, Titanic, (unpleasant) and so forth.’

9 March 1930
‘Yesterday evening I had the following train of thought: I’m correcting a passage in the proofs, get stuck, and note down around 5 variants, none of which pleases me. After a walk, the whole thing - which has already upset me - seems a matter of no consequence, and I feel I’ll probably find the right course without difficulty. The same experience, writ large, when one sets aside a completed piece of work for a few weeks. It is evident that one then looks down upon the work, as it were, from on high. What is the psychological significance of this?

In emotional terms, it means freedom from ambivalence. One had started to be uncertain, beset with a host of little vacillations that eventually made a disproportionate impression - very similar to hesitating for too long before going along a dangerous path. One has, so to speak, subjected the situation to emotional overload. One frees oneself by renouncing the situation?

But it appears that an intellectual process takes effect in the same sort of way. An insight that eluded one in the course of the day may come during the night; or, generally, the way a reflection “sits itself down and sorts itself out.” This even seems to be something physiological, for the same thing happens when one learns new movements. In other words switch the brain to a state of rest; introduce spells of relaxation according to the Kogerer method; take one’s mind off things? But at which point? Make oneself indifferent. Clearly this only works when one has come halfway to achieving something.’

26 August 1930
‘This evening I finished [proofreading] the manuscript of Vol. I [of The Man Without Qualities]’.

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 15 April 2012.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Kaiser behind the haystack

Alfred Ludwig Heinrich Karl Graf von Waldersee, a German soldier who rose to become (briefly) Chief of the Imperial German General Staff, was born 190 years ago today. He left behind plenty of written material, including diaries, much of which was published in a three-volume biographical life. In one diary entry (see below), Waldersee recalls the Kaiser (Wilhelm I) confessing to him that he’d eaten some chocolate ‘in secret behind the haystack’.

Waldersee was born on 8 April 1832 in Potsdam into a military and aristocratic family, his father being a cavalry general. He graduated from artillery and engineering school at the age of 20, and joined the Prussian General Staff as an adjutant during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. He later served in Paris as military attaché and spy, and was selected in 1869 as Aide-de-Camp to Kaiser Wilhelm I. He acted as chief of staff to the military governor of Paris in 1871, and in 1873 he became the commanding general of X. Army Corps in Hannover. The following year, he married Mary Esther Lee, daughter of wealthy New York City merchant David Lee and widow of Prince Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein.

In 1882, Waldersee was chosen by Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder as his principal assistant on the General Staff at Berlin with the rank of Generalquartiermeister, a position that gave him military and political influence. Developing strategies for a preventative war against Russia and France brought Waldersee into confrontation with the Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, but also paved the way to a friendship with Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, the future Kaiser Wilhelm II who ascended the throne in June 1888. In August, Waldersee was appointed to succeed Moltke as Chief of General Staff. Rather quickly, however, the new young sovereign lost confidence in a scheming Waldersee and demoted him to command IX Army Corps at Hamburg-Altona.

In 1900, Waldersee was promoted field marshal and given command of an international expeditionary force sent to China aimed at quelling the Boxer Rebellion. Back in Germany in 1901 he was named an honorary citizen of Hamburg, one of many honours he received during his lifetime.  He died in 1904. See Wikipedia or the Prussian Machine for more information.

A ‘life-and-letters’ biography of Waldersee was first published in German in three volumes in 1922-1923. The entire work was edited by Heinrich Otto Meisner, with the approval and assistance of the Waldersee’s  nephew, Lieut.-General George Count von Waldersee. A single-volume English translation by Frederic Whyte appeared in 1924 as A Field Marshal’s Memoirs From the Diary, Correspondence and Reminiscences of Alfred, Count Von Waldersee (Hutchinson). Modern reproductions of the original can be previewed at Googlebooks and Amazon. Here are few extracts from Waldersee’s diaries as found in the translated work.

4 August 1870, Commercy
‘Bismarck, who had a suite of his own, has three four-horsed carriages. He himself travels in a heavy conveyance with four horses which cannot keep up with the King’s stallions. For this reason - so it is said - there is intriguing in progress on his part against long marches. He maintains, moreover, that the King ought not to travel through the land alone in this way, but should keep with the army on the march. I don’t think that is necessary, though some more thought might perhaps be given to his safety.’

16 September 1870, Meaux
‘Yesterday evening Councillor of Embassy von Kendell came to me on behalf of Bismarck and asked me whether I would be Prefect of Paris, supposing we got in. The question came to me rather as a surprise. I said that there were two Prefects there, a so-called Prefect of the Seine and a Prefect of Police - which did he mean? He said that no notice was being taken of this, that I could amalgamate both offices, and that I should be pleasing the Chancellor very much if I decided to do so. No other suitable person was available. I had the great advantage of knowing the conditions of Paris. The President of Police in Berlin, Von Wurmb, would, indeed, be the right man for the post, but the Chancellor regarded him as too untrustworthy. After thinking it over for a while, I said yes, but raised the question whether the King would like one of his aides-de-camp to have a police post. Kendell said we should soon find out that and thanked me for my readiness to accept.’

20 September 1870, Ferrières
‘Yesterday I saw Paris stretched out before my eyes, exactly two months after I left it. The King rode through Aulnay up to the height of Le Blanc Mesnil. From this point a good view of Paris was to be had, so we came to a halt. The King showed how pleased he was to have got so far, and could not tear himself away from the place. He lingered for a good two hours. Once he went behind a haystack for a few minutes. Today he said to me: “Didn’t you give me some bits of chocolate at Rezonville?” I said yes, and he went on: “I had one piece left, and yesterday I ate it in secret behind the haystack!” ’

28 December 1870, Versailles
‘An excellent measure has been taken in hand during these last two days. The management of the attack on Paris, which is now to be undertaken in real earnest, has been entrusted to Lieut.-General von Kameke in his capacity as an Engineer, and to Major-General Kraft zu Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen as an Artillerist. Now at last some life will be introduced into things. . .’

Sunday, April 3, 2022

I whipped the first boy

‘In the afternoon I whipped the first boy I have had occasion to. It was a bad business, perfectly disgusting to me, but I found it was absolutely necessary.’ This is from the youthful diary of Edward Everett Hale, a celebrated American writer and minister, born two centuries ago today. Although Hale’s diaries have not been published, his son published a ‘life and letters’ biography which includes some extracts from them. 

Hale was born on 3 April 1822 in Boston, Massachusetts, son of the proprietor and editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser. He was also a nephew of Edward Everett, the orator and statesman, and grand-nephew of Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War hero. Hale was considered a child prodigy, studying at Boston Latin School, and entering Harvard College aged 13, where he excelled, before moving on to Harvard Divinity School. 

Having become licensed as a Unitarian minister, Hale became, in 1846, pastor of the Church of the Unity in Worcester. The following year, he was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society, and he would remain involved with the society for the rest of his life. In 1852 he married Emily Baldwin Perkins, the niece of Connecticut Governor and U.S. Senator Roger Sherman Baldwin. They had nine children. From 1856 until 1899, he was pastor of Boston’s South Congregational Church.

Having long written for his father’s publication, it was not until 1859 that his literary work attracted wider attention, this was thanks to a short story - My Double and How He Undid Me - in the Atlantic Monthly. Many other stories followed - often marked by a style dubbed realistic fantasy - for a variety of other publications. His best known work, however, was The Man Without a Country, published in the Atlantic in 1863, which rallied support for the Union cause in the North. Another of his stories - Hands Off in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (1881) - is considered to have been influential in the emerging genre of science fiction.

Hale was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1865 and of the American Philosophical Society in 1870. He helped found two social reform magazines - the Christian Examiner, Old and New (1870-1875) and Lend a Hand (1886-1897), and he was generally regarded an important leader of the Social Gospel movement being a forceful advocate of emigrant aid, African American education, worker's housing, and world peace. In 1903 he became chaplain of the U.S. Senate in Washington and did not return to Boston until shortly before his death there in 1909. Further information is readily available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography, and Harvard Square Library.

Hale kept diaries through much of his life, and wrote many letters. When he was still alive, he had it mind to publish some of the letters with the help of a friend, but this project felt through. However, one of Hale’s sons, Edward E. Hale, Jr., decided to edit and publish his fathers letters and diaries. The amount of material placed in his hand, he says in a preface to the published work, ‘was very great’. ‘There were thousands of letters, many diaries and day-books covering almost the whole of my father’s life.’ Two volumes of The Life and Letters of Edward Everett Hale - including a significant number of diary extracts - were published by Little, Brown, and Company in 1917 - they are both freely available online through Internet Archive. Here are several sample extracts from his diaries - though it’s hard to tell he was only 15-17 years old! 

9 January 1837
‘Met Meyer at Farwell’s, and he agreed to join the German section, which Sam. Guild and I were attempting to raise. Spoke to Longfellow at dinner about the German, and he said that he thought perhaps his brother, who had just returned from Europe, would take it, so he agreed to say nothing to Bokum till that was settled. After French wrote Latin exercise. In the evening went into Williams’ rooms and got the Oedipus. This lesson finished Oedipus Tyrannus. Came home, finished exercise, got Horace and went to bed.’

10 January 1837
‘Longfellow told me this morning that he had not seen his brother, but the President had told him that his election for the Prof’ship must be confirmed by the Senate as a part of the board of overseers. They will meet on Thursday and I suppose will settle it then. If Longfellow will take the section, we had rather recite to him than to Bokum.’

16 January 1837
‘After reciting to Channing today walked down to the bridge with Donaldson, talking about the I. O. H., the interests of which he has a good deal at heart. Came home and read some in Rev. Mr. Emerson’s ‘Nature.’ It is an odd sort of book, but I like it better than most everyone else seems to, though to be sure there is a good deal in it that I can’t understand. In the evening Nathan undertook to Animal Magnetize me. I got horribly sleepy but I believe it was the natural effect of sitting still five minutes without speaking, and feeling his hands stroking me down so.’

23 February 1837
‘All day Nathan was making experiments in sound, which I inspected and assisted in. In the afternoon finished woodcut, upon which I put so much time that I did not get the lesson in Mechanics in time to recite, and so had to say ‘not prepared’ which vexed me horribly, particularly as it was my own fault. In the evening went to Dawes’ room to meet the rest of the Library committee [of the I. O. H.]. We decided on buying Pope’s Homer, Ion, Clarence, Cooper’s Sketches of Switzerland 2 Part, Abercrombie’s Intellectual faculties, &c. &c.’

3 March 1837
‘Slept over prayers this morning and did not get up till nearly breakfast time. First time I have missed for a long time. Found at breakfast that we had a miss in Greek, so that my absence did not hurt me or anybody else, in respect to that. The cause of the miss seems to be that Felton went in to the theatre last night with Profs. Pierce and Longfellow, so that he could not get up in time to give the 1st section an exercise, and we had none in consequence.’

20 November 1838
‘After (evening) prayers I went to Morison’s room where the astronomical forces were to collect, previously to an attack on Mr. Lovering. We did not get ready for a start till 5 o’clock. Mr. Lovering explained to us his fancy, as he modestly called it very intelligibly. In the evening went to a lecture at the Warren St. Chapel by Uncle Edward on the Northmen. It was a short abstract of the history of their discovery of this country with a good deal about Dighton rock which Uncle supposed to have been sculptured by the natives, for various reasons, the principal of which was the fact, which Mr. Catlin told him, that he had seen thousands of such inscriptions in the Indian countries, in tribes which had not, as well as those which had, the use of instruments of steel.’

25 November 1838
‘The President requested “the members of the seminary” to remain after prayers and he then announced that two of the commons waiters had been found insensible, having imprudently slept last night with charcoal in the room. At breakfast some one came from the kitchen to get some of the Davy Club to go down stairs and see the doctors about making oxygen for these men. I went down and they said they wished to try the effect of oxygen. With two or three others I came into the Davy Club room and went to work. I was there most all day, we made as much oxygen as we could, getting the furnace going and using an iron retort. The men were insensible all day.’

20 October 1839
‘I staid to the Sunday School and took a class; not that I have any more faith than ever as to my qualifications as a teacher, or in the beneficial effects of a Sunday School in such a parish as ours, but because in the introduction of the new system there is a dearth of men teachers and as I think it ought to be tried I was willing to give my hand.’

24 October 1839
‘In the afternoon I whipped the first boy I have had occasion to. It was a bad business, perfectly disgusting to me, but I found it was absolutely necessary. The boy was decidedly the worst boy in the room, and utterly regardless of the ordinary machinery of marks, etc. and having run up to ten marks in the first three days in the week, I told him that for the next offence he should be ‘punished’ as the phrase is. And so he was.’

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Negotiations can now begin

‘Ambassador Tim Barrow, Permanent Representative of the UK to the European Union, hand-delivers the long-awaited letter to Donald Tusk. Nine months after the referendum, Theresa May has today given notice of her country’s wish to leave the European Union, triggering the two-year period under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union during which we must find an agreement for the UK’s orderly withdrawal and set out the framework for our future relationship. Negotiations can now begin.’ This is Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, writing in his diary exactly five years ago today. Once the negotiations were completed, Barnier published what he called My Secret Brexit Diary - A Glorious Illusion.

Barnier was born at La Tronche in the French Alps in 1951. Wikipedia notes that he was a scout and choirboy. He graduated from the ESCP business school in Paris in 1972. The following year he became a regional councillor for Savoie in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, also in the Alps. He served on the staff of various Gaullist ministers in the 1970s, before being elected in 1978, aged 27, to the French National Assembly as deputy for the Department of Savoie representing the neo-Gaullists, serving until 1993. In 1982, he had married Isabelle Altmayer ​and they had three children. He co-organised the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville.

Under Prime Minister Édouard Balladur, Barnier was first appointed to cabinet, as minister of the environment in 1993; and, in 1995, Jacques Chirac appointed him secretary of state for European affairs. Barnier then served as a European Commissioner for Regional Policy in the European Commission from 1999 until 2004. Back in national politics, he was made foreign minister in Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s government until  June 2005. Under Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, he re-joined the cabinet as minister of agriculture. Briefly (2009-2010), he was a Member of the European Parliament and President of the French delegation of the EPP.

But, in 2010, Barnier was back in Brussels as European Commissioner in charge of Internal Market and Services, a position he held until 2014. From 2015, he acted as a special adviser on European defence policy to the European Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker. Then, in July 2016, Juncker made him the Commission’s chief negotiator with the UK over its arrangements for leaving the European Union, under Article 50, and over the EU-UK’s future trade deal - a couple of jobs which kept him busy until the end of 2020! Most recently, he made a failed bid to become the Republican’s candidate for the 2022 French presidential elections.

Barnier kept a detailed diary throughout the Brexit negations. This was published in French by Gallimard as La grande illusion: Journal secret du Brexit (2016-2020). The text was translated into English by Robin Mackay and published in the UK by Polity as My Secret Brexit Diary - A Glorious Illusion. Polity says: ‘From Brussels to London, from Dublin to Nicosia, Michel Barnier’s secret diary lifts the lid on what really happened behind the scenes of one of the most high-stakes negotiations in modern history. The result is a unique testimony from the ultimate insider on the hidden world of Brexit and those who made it happen.’ A preview is freely available at Googlebooks.

Reviewing it for the The Guardian, Jonathan Powell said: ‘Michel Barnier's new book helps explain why Britain ended up being comprehensively out-negotiated over Brexit and saddled with a flawed withdrawal agreement and a deeply disadvantageous future relationship, both of which will cause us major problems for decades to come. This is therefore an important account.’ And Adam Fleming of the BBC said: ‘If the treaties are the legal texts of the Brexit talks then this is the human version, revealing a Michel Barnier who is much warmer and far less diplomatic than his public persona. It’s a masterclass in how the EU operates, and a rare glimpse into the tensions on their side.’

Here are several extracts from the published diary.

‘Wednesday, 29 March 2017: Notification
Ambassador Tim Barrow, Permanent Representative of the UK to the European Union, hand-delivers the long-awaited letter to Donald Tusk. Nine months after the referendum, Theresa May has today given notice of her country’s wish to leave the European Union, triggering the two-year period under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union during which we must find an agreement for the UK’s orderly withdrawal and set out the framework for our future relationship. Negotiations can now begin.’

‘Friday, 31 March 2017: Sadness and regret
As I do every week, I go over the weekly report sent to me by the Directorate-General for Communication, which surveys the reaction to Brexit among the twenty-seven member states.

Unsurprisingly, today they arc all focused on Mrs May’s letter of formal notice. Most heads of state or government have issued official responses. Their statements and communiqués are full of sadness and regret, as exemplified by those of the French, Belgian and Polish governments, which, while respecting the choice made by the British people, express their deep regret at the decision.

In parallel, there is an increasing number of calls for unity among the twenty-seven, whether from Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar or Mariano Rajoy in Spain. Other governments, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, explicitly refer to the defence of their national interests.

In general, I am struck by a convergence of the prevailing tone. From Finland to Portugal, the priorities arc the same. Everywhere there is talk of securing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of maintaining good relations with the UK in the future.

Behind the remarks of the various parties, I detect echoes of the discussions we have had thus far in each capital. The insistence of all upon the need to do things in the right order - ensuring an orderly withdrawal before discussing the future relationship - is symptomatic in this respect.’

‘Sunday, 11 June 2017: A wager lost...
Theresa May’s strategy has backfired. She called a general election to strengthen her majority and her position in the Brexit negotiations. What happened was the exact opposite. Instead of gaining fifty or even a hundred more seats as it had hoped, the Conservative Party lost thirteen. The Labour Party gained thirty, achieving its best result since 2001. The Liberal Democrats also made gains, UKIP was eliminated, and there is no longer a clear majority in the House of Commons. This is a real political shock for London. Some commentators, including the Financial Times, explain it partly as ‘the revenge of the young and Remainers’.

Forty-eight hours later, Theresa May announced a deal with a dozen MPs from the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that will enable her to achieve an absolute majority in the House. The DUP, founded in 1971, was headed for nearly forty years by Ian Paisley, a well-known Unionist leader. Arlene Foster, who was briefly First Minister of Northern Ireland, is now at the helm. The Unionist position is clear to all: they oppose anything that would remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom. What price will Theresa May have to pay for this alliance? And what are the consequences for negotiations on the sensitive issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland?

On Twitter, I read that in Brussels there is rejoicing at Theresa May’s defeat, that I’m about to take a four-week holiday, and that I’m handing out champagne to my team. Frankly, I think I’ll keep the champagne on ice for now. In order to lead these negotiations and make them successful, we need a stable partner who knows what they want.’