Friday, October 6, 2023

Killed ♀ Ivory Gull

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are several extracts from the edited diaries.

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

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

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

23 August 1376
‘The wind blew so strong directly in our teeth this morning that with 98 revolutions we could hardly hold our own. We took shelter in a small bay which I take to be Hayes’ Gould Bay. If I am right then our next Cape South is Leidy and then Cape Louis Napoleon. A tremendous big floe is jammed against the shore and extends out into the channel, at 9 a.m. we moored to this floe waiting for something to turn up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 5, 2023

I’d have liked that too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 2, 2023

Power of a lion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Important not to be duped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Baudin’s voyage to Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Rid of such monsters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Longing after damsens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Written in Elvish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 20, 2023

A boisterous yeare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 11, 2023

An absurd thing to do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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