Saturday, April 26, 2014

Of murder and raptus

Today marks the 160th anniversary of the death of Lord Cockburn, a popular and much admired Edinburgh judge who, as Scotland’s Solicitor-General at the time, was partly responsible for the First Scottish Reform Bill. He left behind him a valuable set of diaries, not only providing a fascinating commentary on the political and religious life of Scotland in the first half of the 19th century, but documenting his work as a judge on various legal circuits across the country. Almost incidentally, though, he also writes beautifully about the places he passes through on his travels.

Henry Cockburn (image thanks to National Portrait Gallery) was born in Edinburgh in 1779 into a well-connected Tory family, and educated at Royal High School and Edinburgh University. He joined the Speculative Society, which counted Walter Scott among its members, as well as Francis Jeffrey, who would become a lifelong friend. 

Cockburn trained as a lawyer, qualifying in 1800; and, mostly in response to effects of the French Revolution, went against his family and social connections to become a Whig. In 1811, he married Elizabeth MacDowall (they would have at least 10 children), and set up a rural household at Bonaly, southwest of Edinburgh, as well as a house in Charlotte Square.

Cockburn became a successful advocate, and gained the trust of juries. Two of his greatest occasions, says Karl Miller (author of Cockburn’s entry in the ODNB - login required), were his appearances for James Stuart of Dunearn, in 1822, and, seven years later, for Helen MacDougal, the companion of body-snatching Burke, the ‘resurrectionist’ serial killer: ‘Stuart had shot dead Boswell’s son Alexander in a party-political duel, and Cockburn’s defence was reckoned a masterpiece of forensic praise and pathos; at the time of the Burke and Hare trial, Stuart, once “thought so pure and firm”, as Cockburn observed, was revealed as a speculator who had run off to America in debt.’

When Earl Grey became Prime Minister in 1830, Cockburn was appointed Solicitor-General for Scotland. As such, he was responsible, with his friend, another judge, Lord Jeffrey, for preparing the Scottish Reform Act. In 1834 he became a judge in the Court of Session and adopted the title of Lord Cockburn. Late in his life, he published a biography of Lord Jeffrey. Cockburn died on 26 April 1854, at Bonaly. Further information is available from Wikipedia or A Web of English History.

Cockburn was already into his 40s when he decided to start writing about his own life and work. However, his first autobiographical book - Memorials of His Time - was not published by A & C Black until two years after his death in 1856. In this (available at Internet Archive), the publisher included a short introduction written by Cockburn himself in 1840: ‘It occurred to me, several years ago, as a pity, that no private account should be preserved of the distinguished men or important events that had marked the progress of Scotland, or at least of Edinburgh, during my day. I had never made a single note with a view to such a record. But about 1821 I began to recollect and to inquire.’

The autobiography closes with the following paragraph: ‘I close this page by saying that Jeffrey has been made Lord Advocate, and I Solicitor-General, under the ministry of Earl Grey. We have come upon the public stage in a splendid, but perilous scene. I trust that we shall do our duty. If we do, we cannot fail to do some good to Scotland. In the abuses of our representative and municipal systems alone, our predecessors have left us fields in which patriotism may exhaust itself.’

Twenty years later, in 1874, Edmonston and Douglas published a second autobiographical work: Journal of Henry Cockburn being a continuation of his Memorials of His Time. This consisted of two volumes of Cockburn’s diaries, covering the period after he was made Solicitor-General, and both can be read at, or downloaded from, Internet Archive. The simple introduction to the journal states: ‘The first portion of Lord Cockburn’s Memorials of His Time consisted of an unbroken narrative ending at the close of the year 1830. It was published in 1856. “Since 1830,” Lord Cockburn writes, “I have gone on recording occurrences as they have arisen, though often with large intervals. This habit of making a note of things worth observing at the time coincided with the change of life implied in my becoming Solicitor-General, in separating the first part from the subsequent pages.” ’

All Cockburn’s published diaries are exceptionally well written, interesting from many points of view and rarely dull to read. His main focus is society (rather than himself or his family), its political, legal and religious life; and his diaries contain much analysis of the issues of the day, as well of the people involved in those issues. In particular, his diaries are considered an important historical source for information on the schism in the Church of Scotland, with Cockburn himself being sympathetic towards the so-called disruption and the formation of a Free Church.

Personally, though, I find his Circuit Journeys the more interesting and entertaining of reads. Not only does he give details on the intriguing criminal cases he presides over across the country, but he writes about his travels, the places he visits, the people he meets, the landscapes he admires with such literary skill one could imagine him to be a modern day travel writer. Circuit Journeys was published in 1888, by Douglas (no longer Edmonston and Douglas), and, like Cockburn’s other books, is also freely available at Internet Archive. Cockburn himself provides a useful introduction (posthumously, as it were) with his first dated entry, for 28 March 1838:

‘I have got this volume (prepared under the personal directions of Thomas Maitland, the first of gentlemen binders) in order to record anything remarkable that may occur in my Circuits. It will be my fate to perform these journeys, being a Criminal Judge, as long as I am fit for anything, and it gives scenes, which repetition generally makes dull, an interest to have one’s attention called, by the excitement of a diary, to occurrences which, however insignificant to strangers, are important to the individual engaged, and who always regrets to find that the impression of them is gone.

I wish that the Court of Justiciary had always had a Judge who left such a journal. The very uniformity of its subjects, implying a description from age to age of the same sort of occurrences and of the same parts of the country, and, of course, of their gradual changes, would have given it a value which detached records, though individually more curious, could not have possessed. If even Fountainhall, though not nearly far enough back, had imparted his observing and recording spirit to one of each series of his successors, what a curious picture would their continued memoranda have by this time given us of singular local men, of the changes of districts, of the progress of the law, of important trials, of strange manners, and of striking provincial events.’

Here are several extracts from Circuit Journeys.

17 April 1838

‘On Saturday the 14th, I was in Court till midnight.

The only curious case was that of Malcolm M’Lean, a fisherman from Lewis, who is doomed to die upon the 11th of May, for the murder of his wife. He admitted that he killed her, and intentionally, but the defence by his counsel was that he was mad at the time. There was not the slightest foundation for this, for though he was often under the influence of an odd mixture of wild religious speculation, and of terrified superstition, he had no illusion, and in all the affairs of life, including all his own feelings and concerns, was always dealt with as a sound practical man. One part of his pretended craziness was said to consist in his making machinery to attain the perpetual motion, and his believing that he had succeeded. This shows that this famous problem is not in such vogue as it once was. But the thing that seemed to me to be the oddest in the matter, was the perfect familiarity with which the common Celts of Lewis talked and thought of the thing called the perpetual motion, whatever they fancied it. Their word for it, according to the common process of borrowing terms with ideas, was, “Perpetual Motion” pronounced and treated by them as a Gaelic expression. The words “Perpetual motion,” were used in the middle of Gaelic sentences without stop or surprise, exactly as we use any Anglified French term.

This man’s declaration, which told the whole truth with anxious candour, contained a curious and fearful description of the feelings of a man about to commit a deliberate murder. He had taken it into his head that his wife was unkind, and perhaps faithless to him, and even meant to kill him, and therefore he thought it better, upon the whole, to prevent this by killing her, which accordingly, on a particular day, he was determined to do. He went to work on a piece of ground in the morning, thinking, all the time he was working, of going into the house and doing the deed, but was unwilling and infirm. However, he at last resolved, went in, sat down, she at the opposite side of the fire, the children in and out, but still he could not, and went to work again. After reasoning and dreaming of the great deed of the day, he went to the house again, but still could not, and came out; and this alternate resolving and wavering, this impulse of passion, and this recoiling of nature recurred most part of the day, till at last, sitting opposite to her again, he made a sudden plunge at her throat, and scientifically Burked her by compressing the mouth and nose, after which a sore fit of sated fury succeeded, which gave way, when people began to come in, to an access of terror and cunning, which made him do everything possible for his own safety, till tired of wandering about, and haunted by some of his religious notions, he went towards Stornoway to redeliver himself (for he had been previously taken, but escaped), when he was discovered. He is now low and resigned, and says he has not been so comfortable for years, because he has got the better of the Devil at last, and is sure of defying him on the 11th of May.’

23 April 1838
‘We reached Aberdeen on the 18th, through clouds of snow and bitter blasts. There were three wreaths between Huntly and Pitmachie, which really alarmed me.

I know no part of Scotland so much, and so visibly, improved within thirty years as Aberdeenshire. At the beginning of that time, the country between Keith and Stonehaven was little else than a hopeless region of stones and moss. There were places of many miles where literally there was nothing but large white stones of from half a ton to ten tons weight, to be seen. A stranger to the character of the people would have supposed that despair would have held back their hands from even at- tempting to remove them. However, they began, and year after year have been going on making dikes and drains, and filling up holes with these materials, till at last they have created a country which, when the rain happens to cease, and the sun to shine, is really very endurable.

Moncreiff joined me at Aberdeen, and we were three days in Court there, from morning till past midnight. There was nothing curious in any of the cases. The weather was so bad that we had no public procession, but went to Court privately and respectably. The dignity of justice would be increased if it always rained. Yet there are some of us who like the procession, though it can never be anything but mean and ludicrous, and who fancy that a line of soldiers, or the more civic array of paltry police-officers, or of doited special constables, protecting a couple of judges who flounder in awkward gowns and wigs, through the ill-paved streets, followed by a few sneering advocates, and preceded by two or three sheriffs, or their substitutes, with white swords, which trip them, and a provost and some bailie-bodies trying to look grand, the whole defended by a poor iron mace, and advancing each with a different step, to the sound of two cracked trumpets, ill-blown by a couple of drunken royal trumpeters, the spectators all laughing, who fancy that all this ludicrous pretence of greatness and reality of littleness, contributes to the dignity of justice. Judges should never expose themselves unnecessarily - their dignity is on the bench.

We have had some good specimens of the condition of jails. One man was tried at Inverness for jail-breaking, and his defence was that he was ill-fed, and that the prison was so weak that he had sent a message to the jailor that if he did not get more meat he would not stay in another hour, and he was as good as his word. The Sheriff of Elgin was proceeding to hold a court to try some people, when he was saved the trouble by being told that they had all walked out. Some of them being caught, a second court was held, since I was at Inverness, to dispose of them; when the proceedings were again stopped from the very opposite cause. The jailor had gone to the country taking the key of the prison with him, and the prisoners not being willing to come forth voluntarily, could not be got out. Lord Moncreiff (who joined me at Aberdeen) tells me that when he was Sheriff of Kinross-shire, there was an Alloa culprit who was thought to be too powerful for the jail of that place. So they hired a chaise and sent officers with him to the jail of Kinross, where he was lodged. But before the horses were fed for their return, he broke out, and wishing to be with his friends a little before finally decamping, he waited till the officers set off, and then returned to Alloa, without their knowing it, on the back of the chaise that had brought him to Kinross, with them in it.

Aberdeen is improving in its buildings and harbour. The old town is striking and interesting, with its venerable college, its detached position, its extensive links, and glorious beach. But the new and larger city is cold, hard, and treeless. The grey granite does well for public works where durability is obviously the principal object, but for common dwelling-houses it is not, to my taste, nearly so attractive as the purity of the white freestone, or the richness of the cream-coloured. Polishing and fine jointing improve it much, but this is dear, and hence the ugly lines of mortar between the seams of the stones.’

3 August 1840
‘We left Dalmally this morning before eleven. The day still incapable of improvement. The superiority of the Cairngorms is in their ridginess. The Dalmally mountains are more earthly and lumpish. But what lumps! And how well placed! Oh for old oaks, a huge old castle, and a feudal history, about the centre of that amphitheatre!

The country from Dalmally to this was new to me, and it is now gratifying to an aged gentleman to have the omissions of his youth rewarded by being able to say that so is the journey from this to Lochgilphead, and from Lochgilphead to Inveraray.

The upper, that is the Dalmally, end of Loch Awe, dignified by the ruins of Kilchurn Castle, and bounded by the steep and stony Ben Cruachan, with its wooded base and the magnificent corries that flank its northern bank, is all very fine; the southern hills, near the lake, are low, but this implies shallowness of water, which gives islands, with which accordingly this part of the loch is more richly supplied than most of our Highland waters.

No river has a more striking outlet than the Awe, with its sides roaring with cataracts, and so steep that, though sheep were browsing on their oases of verdure, it defied us to find out how they had got there, or were ever to get away. The river makes a short but violent rush to Loch Etive, amidst a profusion of mountain, wood, and many well-placed cliffs, till Muckairn Kirk, from which the surface recedes on both sides, tells us we have gained the summit, and must now descend to the sea.

Lest Ben Cruachan, whose summit was glittering to-day as well as all the other sublimities of the district, should not be sufficient for the honour of Muckairn, the heritors or somebody have erected a thing in the churchyard, about the size of a large broomstick, and not more attractive in its form. I asked the driver what it was. “ It’s a moniment to a gentleman.” “What gentleman?” “Ou, a dinna mind his name. He dee’d a while ago. Ou’ ay. A mind noo. It’s to Lord Ne-e-elson.”

The descent from this summit to Loch Etive is all very fine. The very rapid ebbing of the water towards low tide as we saw it, suggests the notion of an American river; the dun hills remind one who has never been among them, and knows them only from opinion, of something more poetical; and the appearance of little, comfortable Oban, with the feudal fragment of Dunolly, makes the traveller, even of two days, feel as if he had reached a haven of repose after a long and perilous voyage.

This is the gem of sea villages. A small bay locked in by hills; five little vessels sleeping on the quiet water; a crescent of white houses almost touching the sea, backed by a corresponding curve of cliff; the old tower of Dunolly at the end of the one horn, and high knolls at the end of the other; no manufactures, no trade, and scarcely any bustle, several strangers attracted by mere beauty and tranquillity; all this completes one’s idea, or rather one’s feeling, of a peaceful summer sea retreat. How gloriously the sun set behind the hills of Mull! and with what deep and ineffable peacefulness has the night gradually, and as if reluctantly, closed over the silver waters.

I half tremble to think that to-morrow is destined for the Sound of Mull in a steamer, in order to see lona and Staffa, by me for the first time. Hitherto my stomach has only been for the solid earth, and I am shabby enough to half wish for the apology of a storm.’

11 January 1841
‘I returned yesterday from holding the Glasgow Winter Circuit.

On Monday the 4th, my daughter Elizabeth, Miss Rosa Macbean, and I, went, amidst heavy snow and bitter cold, to my daughter Mrs. Stewart’s at the Manse of Erskine. I stayed there all night, and went next morning to breakfast at Moore Park, near Govan, where my colleague Lord Medwyn was, at his nephew’s, Charles Forbes, banker. We went from that, in procession, to Court.

There were 68 cases, of which 65 were tried, the other three being put off from absence of witnesses or of culprits. There were two cases which occupied a whole day from nine one morning till four next morning, yet, except one immaterial case which Medwyn remained to try to-day (Monday), the whole business was leisurely and patiently gone through on Saturday night, and I came home (still through snow and frost) yesterday.

Medwyn, though more of a monk in matters of religion or politics than any man I know, is an excellent, judicious, humane, practical judge, with great industry, and a deep sense of official duty. Though pious, and acquainted, by long administration of the affairs both of the innocent and the guilty poor, with the feelings of the lower orders when in distress, he agrees with me in the uselessness, if not the hurtfulness, of the judge preaching to every prisoner who is undergoing sentence.

We had three capital cases, a murder, a rape, and a robbery. But though each was as clearly proved as if the commission of the fact had been actually seen, and each was a very aggravated case of its kind, such is the prevailing aversion to capital punishment, that no verdict inferring such a punishment could be obtained, and these horrid culprits were only transported. It can’t be helped as yet, perhaps, but this want of sympathy between law and the public is very unseemly. The public is wrong.

We had also a bad case of bigamy, for which, according to our usage, we could only send the heartless, perfidious villain for one year to jail. This, till lately, was the English punishment also, but within these two years they have got a statute extending it to seven years transportation. I have already renewed my recommendation to the Lord Advocate (A. Rutherfurd) to try to pass such an Act for Scotland.’

15 September 1849

‘The Inverness criminal business was finished on Thursday night.

But I must not forget the mail-coach. It was the one from Edinburgh to Inverness, by the Highland road. It was due at Inverness about nine or ten on Wednesday night, but was upset on the north side of Moy into a swollen stream, and the whole insides were very nearly drowned. They had, after being saved, to shiver, in their drenched garments, and without fire, though in a sort of mud toll-house, for six or seven hours, after which they were got on. Mr. Aitken, the Clerk of Court, and two counsel, were three of the drooked. The clerk’s papers all went down the stream, but were recovered, though well steeped.

The only thing memorable in our business was a case of rioting, deforcement, etc., charged against four poor respect- able men, who had been active in resisting a Highland clearing in North Uist. The popular feeling is so strong against these (as I think necessary, but) odious operations, that I was afraid of an acquittal, which would have been unjust and mischievous. On the other hand even the law has no sympathy with the exercise of legal rights in a cruel way. The jury solved the difficulty by first convicting, by a majority, and then giving this written, and therefore well-considered, recommendation,

“The jury unanimously recommend the pannels to the utmost leniency and mercy of the Court, in consideration of the cruel, though it may be legal, proceedings adopted in ejecting the whole people of Solas from their houses and crops, without the prospect of shelter or a footing in their fatherland, or even the means of expatriating them to a foreign one,” a statement that will ring all over the country.

We shall not soon cease to hear of this calm and judicial censure of incredible but proved facts. For it was established (1) that warrants of ejectment, that is, of dismantling hovels, had been issued against about sixty tenants, being nearly the whole tenantry in the district of Solas, comprehending probably three hundred persons, warrants which the agents of Lord Macdonald had certainly a right to demand, and the Sheriff was bound to grant; (2) that the people had sown, and were entitled to reap their crops; (3) that there were no houses provided for them to take shelter in, no poor house, no ship. They had nothing but the bare ground, or rather the hard, wet beach, to lie down upon. It was said, or rather insinuated, that “arrangements” had been made for them, and in particular that a ship was to have been soon on the coast. But, in the meantime, the peoples’ hereditary roofs were to be pulled down, and the mother and her children had only the shore to sleep on, fireless, foodless, hopeless. Resistance was surely not unnatural, and it was very slight. No life was taken, or blood lost. It was a mere noisy and threatening deforcement.

I am sorry for Lord Macdonald, whose name, he being the landlord, was used, but who personally was quite innocent. He was in the hands of his creditors, and they of their doer, a Mr. Cooper, their factor. But his lordship will get all the abuse.

The slightness of the punishment, four months’ imprisonment, will probably abate the public fury.’

22 September 1849
‘The Aberdeen criminal business exhausted four days, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and yesterday. There were not more cases than usual; but they happened to be of a worse description. In particular, there were four capital cases, viz. two murders, one murder combined with raptus, and one raptus alone. One of the murders ended in an acquittal, and very properly, because though the guilt was certain and savage, the evidence was not satisfactory. In another murder, a plea of culpable homicide produced twenty years’ transportation. The simple raptus ended in a conviction, and in transportation for life. The murder and raptus combined caused a sentence of death. This last was a horrid case.

The prisoner was James Robb, a country labourer of about twenty-five, a known reprobate, and stout. His victim was Mary Smith, a quiet woman of sixty-two, never married, or a mother, who lived by herself in a lonely house by the wayside. There was a fair held at a village in Aberdeenshire called Badenscoth, which sometimes, though in no eminent degree, produced some of the disorderly scenes natural to fairs.

Mary Smith, though not the least alarmed, happened to observe casually that “she was not afraid of anybody, except that lad Jamie Robb.” That very night Robb left the fair (9th April 1849) about ten, avowing that he was determined to gratify his passion on somebody before he slept. He had then no thought of this old woman; but, unfortunately, her house lay in his way. He asked admittance, upon pretence of lighting his pipe. She refused. On this he got upon the roof and went down the chimney, which consisted of a square wooden box about 5 feet long by 2 and a half wide, placed about 8 feet above the fire. Its soot was streaked by his corduroy dress, which helped to identify him. Having got in, the beast fell upon its prey. She was thought in good health, but after death was discovered to have an incipient disease in the heart, which agitation made dangerous, but which might have lain long dormant. The violence of the brute, and the alarm, proved fatal. She was found dead in the morning, and the bed broken, and in the utmost confusion. A remarkable composite metal button, broken from its eye, was found twisted in what the witness called “a lurk,” or fold, of the sheet. Buttons of exactly the same kind, and with the same words and figures engraved on them, were found on his jacket, all complete except that one was awanting. But its eye remained; and this eye, with its bright recent fracture, exactly fitted the part of the button that had been found. These circumstances would have been sufficient to have established his having been in the house. But his declaration admitted the fact. Consent was excluded by its being obvious that it was the energy of her resistance that had killed her.

It is difficult to drive the horrors of that scene out of one’s imagination. The solitary old woman in the solitary house, the descent through the chimney, the beastly attack, the death struggle, all that was ‘going on within this lonely room, amidst silent fields, and under a still, dark sky. It is a fragment of hell, which it is both difficult to endure and to quit.

Yet a jury, though clear of both crimes, recommended the brute to mercy! because he did not intend to commit the murder! Neither does the highwayman, who only means to wound, in order to get the purse, but kills.

Within a few hours after he was convicted he confessed, and explained that the poor woman had died in his very grip. (He was executed, solemnly denying his guilt, quoad raptus!) [. . .]

The Queen is living at Balmoral, and therefore I expected to be obstructed by some of the usual bustle of royalty. But it is reputable for the royalty of this nation that, except by a paltry flag set up before his door by the inn-keeper of Ballater, there was not a vestige of Majesty in any part of the strath. We did not encounter a single carriage, nor a single rider, nor one soldier, nor a police officer, nor anything to mark a distinguished presence. The inns were rather less crowded than usual, the post-horses as fresh, the strath as natural. The sheep, the stots, and even the barelegged children, all went off exactly as before. Balmoral itself was silent; flagless; apparently un-guarded; calm; beautiful. I think this very respectable in her Majesty and family. It seems to show sense and taste. And the fact that such enjoyment of such virtuous pleasures is not merely possible, but easy and habitual, demonstrates how deep the monarchical principle is in the mind of the country, and how much better it is promoted by rational conduct, than by the common follies of royalty.’

The Diary Junction

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Newes from Cambridge

John Rous, an unremarkable parson from Suffolk, was baptised all of 430 years ago today, and is only remembered because of a diary he kept and which was published in the mid-19th century. This diary, though telling us very little about the man himself, is full of news about the world beyond, and of a variety of skits and satirical verses.

John was baptised on 20 April 1584 at Hessett, Suffolk, son of Anthony Rous, rector of Hessett, and his first wife, Margery. John Rous was admitted a pensioner of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1598, and studied through to an MA in 1607. That same year he was ordained at Norwich. From 1600, Anthony Rous was rector of Weeting, and John served as his assistant from then until his father’s death in 1631.

John Rous married Susanna around 1615, and they had three daughters. When she died, he married Hannah, and had at least two more daughters. From 1623, he had his own living in the small village of Santon Downham, close by Weeting, but after the death of his father went to live in the nearby town of Brandon. John travelled to London occasionally, and possibly - though this is disputed - as far as Geneva once. He probably served as a justice of the peace for a period. He died in 1644.

John Rous is only known of today because of a diary he wrote. It survived through to the middle of the 19th century when it was edited by Mary Anne Everett Green and published (in 1856) by the Camden Society as Diary of John Rous, incumbent of Santon Downham, Suffolk, from 1625 to 1642. It is freely available at Internet Archive.

Much of Rous’s diary concerns public events, both national and local - proclamations, petitions, trials and military and foreign events. There is almost nothing by way of information about his own personal life (except in the book’s introduction), but, unusually, there are large number of verses, skits and satirical rhymes, which he seems to have written into his diary as a kind of record of the times he was living in.

13 June 1631
‘Anthony Rous, my father, of All Saints in Weeting, parson, from June 1600, died.

That day at night, Sir Martin Stutvill, of Dalham, comming from the Sessions at Bury, with Sir George le Hunt, went into the Angell. and there being mery in a chayer, either readie to take tobacco, or having newly done it, (ut fertur) leaned backward with his head, and died immediatlie.’

18 July 1631
‘Were executed at Bury 13; whereof iij., a boy of 16 and ij. women, were executed for burning of Walderswicke, in Suffolk. The boy, upon his death, affirmed that his sister councelled, and the other woman (who was begotten with child by Nathan Browning of Dennington, before marriage,) gave him fire. They both affirmed themselves cleere. The sister confessed there, before Mr. Ward, her falte in standing excommunicate. The boy, they say, was borne at Wimondham, in the yeere of the fire there. Forty houses were burned, June 10, or thereabout, and 8 at a second time, July 3, being Sunday. After this it was discovered.

About this time were gone and going diverse voluntaries, gathered Marques up by the drumme, to goe with marques Hamilton to the helpe of the king of Swedeland, in the German warres.

Together with reporte of the king of Sweden’s besieging of Magdenburg, which Tilly [Count of Tilly who commanded the Catholic League’s forces in the Thirty Years’ War] had taken this summer and burnt, killing all without mercy, it was said, upon Sir Thomas Jermin’s worde that our agent in Poland had written thus to our King. The queen of Poland and her Jesuites and Priests made a greate triumph for Tillie’s taking of Magdenburg, erecting Calvin’s and Luther’s statues in ij. postes, which they burned with an hellish greate fire; but in returning, most of the Priests and Jesuites were killed by fier from heaven, and the queene stroken madde, and as is thought thereupon soone deade.’

14 October 1631
‘Newes from Cambridge that there was a greate fight betweene the king of Sweden with the duke of Saxony, and Tilly on the other side. Tilly was taken, and is deade [this is incorrect, he died the following year]; his whole army dispersed, &c. The king carried the duke among the slaine, and asked him how he liked of it. The duke said it was a sad spectacle. “Well,” said the king, “all this you are the cause of; for, if you had not stood neuter at the first, this had beene prevented.” Tilly bewailed his unfortunatenes, since, he cruelly massacred them of Magdenburgh, which he did at the emperor’s especiall command. [. . .]

Cambridge is wonderously reformed since the plague there; schollers frequent not the streetes and tavernes as before; but doe worse.’

12 December 1631
‘At night as is thought, some West-country packman that had sold all in Norfolk, returned by Thetford, and went towards Barton milles late; but the next morning three horses with pack saddles and two packes were found short of Elden a mile. These horses and packes are seised by the lord of Elden. Some thinke a man is murthered and robbed: some thinke that it a servant that is ridden away on the fourth horse with the mony. The packes were fish, either bought or trucked at Norwich or Yermouth.’

1 April 1633
‘Being Easter day. Doctor Buttes, vice-chancellor of Cambridge, and maister of Bennet Colledge, did hang himselfe. The King and Queene were at Cambridge but a while before; something gave occasion.’

The Diary Junction

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The pleasures of this life

’If this had been begun ten years ago, and faithfully kept!!! - heigho! there are too many things I wish never to have remembered, as it is.’ This is George Gordon Byron, who died, aged only 36, 190 years ago today, writing about his decision to start keeping a diary. Popularly known as Lord Byron, he was the most flamboyant and colourful of romantic figures, and is considered one of Britain’s greatest poets. Unfortunately, he only kept up the diary habit for a few months, and though he wrote a journal at three more periods in his life, each one lasted but a short while.

Byron was born in London in 1788, physically disabled by a clubfoot, but was taken to live in Scotland when young by his mother, Catherine Gordon. At the age of 10, he inherited the title, house and grounds of Newstead Abbey from his great-uncle, who had been granted them by Henry VIII. Thereafter, he was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he formed a close friendship with John Cam Hobhouse. In January 1809, he took his seat in the House of Lords, but then embarked on a tour of Europe, often accompanied by Hobhouse, which included a sojourn in Greece.

Byron returned to England in 1811, and to Newstead where his ailing mother had just died. In 1812, his book Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage made him a society celebrity and brought him into contact with Lady Caroline Lamb, who became one of his many mistresses (and who wrote of him, he was ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’). It is widely accepted, also, that Byron had an affair with his married half-sister Augusta Leigh, and that he fathered her daughter Elizabeth. Though Byron married Anne Isabella Milbanke in early 1815, partly to try and shake off scandal, his relationship with Leigh continued. (Milbanke’s daughter, Augusta Ada, and Byron’s only legitimate child, became a mathematician but died young, at the same age as her father, 36).

Much encumbered by debts and with his wife accusing him of incest, Byron left England in 1816 never to return. He journeyed to Switzerland first, and then Italy where he lived for six years - in Venice, Ravenna, Pisa, Genoa - selling Newstead Abbey to pay off his debts. He continued writing his long satiric poem, Don Juan, which was first published in 1819. Famously, he was friends in Italy with Percy Bysshe Shelley (and his sister, Mary), and together they started a newspaper The Liberal. Shelley drowned in 1922, and the following year, Byron, bored with his life, bought a boat and sailed to Greece to help with the nationalist fight against the Ottoman empire. He spent thousands of pounds of his own money for the cause, and began to lead a rebel army, only to fall sick and die of a fever, on 19 April 1824.

There is no shortage of information about Byron available on the internet, at Wikipedia, for example, the English History website, The Literature Network, and the BBC. Thomas Moore’s early biography (Byron had named the Irish poet as his literary executor in 1822), Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, published in 1830, is also widely available, at Internet Archive, or more accessibly at Virginia Tech’s Lord Byron website. Confusingly, at Internet Archive, one can also find 17 volumes of Moore’s The Works of Lord Byron: with his letters and journals, and his life, all published in the 1930s too.

For years, Byron had been writing an autobiographical memoir, but on his death, this was deemed too scandalous for publication, and his publisher, John Murray along with several of Byron’s friends burned the manuscript. However, four of Byron’s journal/diary jottings were edited by Moore and published in his voluminous works (and can be found through the links above). Though fragmentary, the diaries sparkle with Byron’s literary skill. The diaries of others, of course, also contain much about Byron, not least those written by Hobhouse, Mary Shelley and Thomas Moore (see also Doomed to sing).

There are four separate, but rather short, periods for which Byron’s journals survive (Peter Cochran’s website provides accessible pdfs for each diary): between November 1813 and April 1814 (the London Journal); in September 1816 (the Alpine Journal); in January and February 1821 (the Ravenna Journal); and between June and December 1823 (the Cephalonia Journal). Here are a few extracts, all taken from Moore’s Letters and Journals.

14 November 1813
’If this had been begun ten years ago, and faithfully kept!!! - heigho! there are too many things I wish never to have remembered, as it is. Well, - I have had my share of what are called the pleasures of this life, and have seen more of the European and Asiatic world than I have made a good use of. They say ‘virtue is its own reward,’ - it certainly should be paid well for its trouble. At five-and-twenty, when the better part of life is over, one should be something; - and what am I? nothing but five-and-twenty - and the odd months. What have I seen? the same man all over the world, - ay, and woman too. Give me a Mussulman who never asks questions, and a she of the same race who saves one the trouble of putting them. But for this same plague - yellow-fever - and Newstead delay, I should have been by this time a second time close to the Euxine. If I can overcome the last, I don’t so much mind your pestilence; and, at any rate, the spring shall see me there, - provided I neither marry myself nor unmarry any one else in the interval. I wish one was - I don’t know what I wish. It is odd I never set myself seriously to wishing without attaining it - and repenting. I begin to believe with the good old Magi, that one should only pray for the nation, and not for the individual; - but, on my principle, this would not be very patriotic.

No more reflections. - Let me see - last night I finished ‘Zuleika,’ my second Turkish Tale. I believe the composition of it kept me alive - for it was written to drive my thoughts from the recollection of -

“Dear, sacred name, rest ever unreveal’d.”

At least, even here, my hand would tremble to write it. This afternoon I have burned the scenes of my commenced comedy. I have some idea of expectorating a romance, or rather a tale, in prose; - but what romance could equal the events - [. . .]

To-day Henry Byron called on me with my little cousin Eliza. She will grow up a beauty and a plague; but, in the mean time, it is the prettiest child! dark eyes and eyelashes, black and long as the wing of a raven. I think she is prettier even than my niece, Georgina, - yet I don’t like to think so neither; and, though older, she is not so clever. [. . .]

I have declined presenting the Debtor’s Petition, being sick of parliamentary mummeries. I have spoken thrice ; but I doubt my ever becoming an orator. My first was liked; the second and third - I don’t know whether they succeeded or not. I have never yet set to it con amore; one must have some excuse to oneself for laziness, or inability, or both, and this is mine. ‘Company, villanous company, hath been the spoil of me;’ - and then, I have ‘drunk medicines,’ not to make me love others, but certainly enough to hate myself.

Two nights ago, I saw the tigers sup at Exeter ‘Change, Except Veli Pacha’s lion in the Morea, - who followed the Arab keeper like a dog, - the fondness of the hyaena for her keeper amused me most. Such a conversazione! There was a ‘hippopotamus,’ like Lord ____ in the face; and the ‘Ursine Sloth’ hath the very voice and manner of my valet - but the tiger talked too much. The elephant took and gave me my money again - took off my hat - opened a door - trunked a whip - and behaved so well, that I wish he was my butler. The handsomest animal on earth is one of the panthers; but the poor antelopes were dead. I should hate to see one here: - the sight of the camel made me pine again for Asia Minor. “Oh quando te aspiciam?” ’

19 April 1814
There is ice at both poles, north and south - all extremes are the same - misery belongs to the highest and the lowest only, - to the emperor and the beggar, when unsixpenced and unthroned. There is, to be sure, a damned insipid medium - an equinoctial line - no one knows where, except upon maps and measurement.

“And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death.”

I will keep no further journal of that same hesternal torch-light; and, to prevent me from returning, like a dog, to the vomit of memory, I tear out the remaining leaves of this volume, and write, in ipecacuanha, - “that the Bourbons are restored!!!” “Hang up philosophy.” To be sure, I have long despised myself and man, but I never spat in the face of my species before - “O fool! I shall go mad.” ’

17 September 1816
‘Rose at five; left Diodati about seven, in one of the country carriages (a char-a-banc), our servants on horseback. Weather very fine; the lake calm and clear; Mont Blanc and the Aiguille of Argentines both very distinct; the borders of the lake beautiful. Reached Lausanne before sunset; stopped and slept at __. Went to bed at nine; slept till five o’clock.’

18 September 1816
‘Called by my courier; got up. Hobhouse walked on before. A mile from Lausanne, the road overflowed by the lake; got on horseback, and rode till within a mile of Vevay. The colt young, but went very well. Overtook Hobhouse, and resumed the carriage, which is an open one. Stopped at Vevay two hours (the second time I had visited it); walked to the church; view from the churchyard superb; within it General Ludlow (the regicide’s) monument - black marble - long inscription - Latin, but simple; he was an exile two-and-thirty years - one of king Charles’s judges. Near him Broughton (who read King Charles’s sentence to Charles Stuart) is buried, with a queer and rather canting, but still a republican, inscription. Ludlow’s house shown; it retains still its inscription - ‘Omne solum forti patria.’ Walked down to the lake side; servants, carriage, saddle -horses - all set off and left us plantes la, by some mistake, and we walked on after them towards Clarens; Hobhouse ran on before, and overtook them at last. Arrived the second time (first time was by water) at Clarens. Went to Chillon through scenery worthy of I know not whom; went over the Castle of Chillon again. On our return met an English party in a carriage; a lady in it fast asleep - fast asleep in the most anti-narcotic spot in the world - excellent! I remember at Chamouni, in the very eves of Mom Blanc, hearing another woman, English also, exclaim to her party, ‘Did you ever see anything more rural?’ - as if it was Highgate, or Hampstead, or Brompton, or Hayes - ‘Rural!’ quotha? - Rocks, pines, torrents, glaciers, clouds, and summits of eternal snow far above them - and ‘rural!’

After a slight and short dinner we visited the Chateau de Clarens; an English woman has rented it recently (it was not let when I saw it first); the roses are gone with their summer; the family out, but the servants desired us to walk over the interior of the mansion. Saw on the table of the saloon Blair’s Sermons, and somebody else (I forget who’s) sermons, and a set of noisy children. Saw all worth seeing, and then descended to the ‘Bosquet de Julie,’ &c. &c.; our guide full of Rousseau, whom he is eternally confounding with St. Preux, and mixing the man and the book. Went again as far as Chillon to revisit the little torrent from the hill behind it. Sunset reflected in the lake. Have to get up at five to-morrow to cross the mountains on horseback; carriage to be sent round; lodged at my old cottage - hospitable and comfortable; tired with a longish ride on the colt, and the subsequent jolting of the char-a-banc, and my scramble in the hot sun.

Mem. The corporal who showed the wonders of Chillon was as drunk as Blucher; he was deaf also, and thinking every one else so, roared out the legends of the caste so fearfully. However, we saw things from the gallows to the dungeons (the potence and the cachots), and returned to Clarens with more freedom than belonged to the fifteenth century.’

19 September 1816
‘Rose at five. Crossed the mountains to Montbovon on horseback, and on mules, and, by dint of scrambling, on foot also; the whole route beautiful as a dream, and now to me almost as indistinct. I am so tired; for though healthy, I have not the strength I possessed but a few years ago. At Montbovon we breakfasted; afterward, on a steep ascent, dismounted; tumbled down; cut a finger open; the baggage got loose and fell down a ravine, till stopped by a large tree; recovered baggage; horse tired and drooping; mounted mule. At the approach of the summit of Dent Jument dismounted again with Hobhouse and all the party. Arrived at a lake in the very bosom of the mountains; left our quadrupeds with a shepherd, and ascended farther; came to some snow in patches, upon which my forehead’s perspiration fell like rain, making the same dints as in a sieve; the chill of the wind and the snow turned me giddy, but I scrambled on and upwards. Hobhouse went to the highest pinnacle; I did not, but paused within a few yards (at an opening of the cliff). In coming down, the guide tumbled three times; I fell a laughing, and tumbled too - the descent luckily soft, though steep and slippery: Hobhouse also fell, but nobody hurt. The whole of the mountains superb. A shepherd on a very steep and high cliff playing upon his pipe; very different from Arcadia, where I saw the pastors with a long musket instead of a crook, and pistols in their girdles. Our Swiss shepherd’s pipe was sweet, and his tune agreeable. I saw a cow strayed; am told that they often break their necks on and over the crags. Descended to Montbovon; pretty scraggy village, with a wild river and a wooden bridge. Hobhouse went to fish - caught one. Our carriage not come; our horses, mules, &c. knocked up; ourselves fatigued.

The view from the highest points of to-day’s journey comprised on one side the greatest part of Lake Leman; on the other, the valleys and mountain of the canton of Fribourg, and an immense plain, with the lakes of Neufchatel and Morat, and all which the borders of the Lake of Geneva inherit; we had both sides of the Jura before us in one point of view, with Alps in plenty. In passing a ravine, the guide recommended strenuously a quickening of pace, as the stones fall with great rapidity and occasional damage; the advice is excellent, but, like most good advice, impracticable, the road being so rough that neither mules, nor mankind, nor horses, can make any violent progress. Passed without fractures or menace thereof.

The music of the cow’s bells (for their wealth, like the patriarch’s, is cattle) in the pastures, which reach to a height far above any mountains in Britain, and the shepherds shouting to us from crag to crag, and playing on their reeds where the steeps appeared almost inaccessible, with the surrounding scenery, realized all that I have ever heard or imagined of a pastoral existence: much more so than Greece or Asia Minor; for there we are a little too much of the sabre and musket order, and if there is a crook in one hand, you are sure to see a gun in the other: but this was pure and unmixed - solitary, savage, and patriarchal. As we went, they played the ‘Rans des Vaches’ and other airs, by way of farewell. I have lately repeopled my mind with nature.’

4 January 1821
‘ “A sudden thought strikes me.” Let me begin a Journal once more. The last I kept was in Switzerland, in record of a tour made in the Bernese Alps, which I made to send to my sister in 1816, and I suppose that she has it still, for she wrote to me that she was pleased with It. Another, and longer, I kept in 1813-1814, which I gave to Thomas Moore in the same year.’

The Diary Junction

Monday, April 14, 2014

The most barbarous murder

Sir John Reresby was born 380 years ago this very day. He inherited a baronetcy, and remained loyal to the Crown during the so-called Interregnum, staying mostly abroad, and, then, with the Restoration found favour with Charles II. As a Justice of the Peace, he oversaw criminal investigations, often reporting to the king. Indeed, Reresby’s interesting and historically-valuable diary, provides some thrilling accounts of these investigations, not least into the murder of Sir Thomas Thynne.

Reresby was born on 14 April 1634 at Thrybergh, Yorkshire. In 1646, he succeeded to the Baronetage upon the death of his father, and in 1652 was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge. However, because parliament had, since 1642, voided all honours conferred by Charles I, Cambridge would not acknowledge his baronetcy, and Reresby decided instead to study at Gray’s Inn. In 1654, he left on a Grand Tour and remained abroad for several years, during which time he managed to ingratiate himself into the English court in Paris. With the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, he returned to England, and established himself as a country gentleman at Thrybergh. He married Frances Browne in 1665 (they would have nine children), and the same year was appointed a sheriff.

Reresby became an MP for Aldborough in 1673, and subsequently involved himself in various committees, slowly earning respect for being discreet and for being faithful to the king and the church. In 1681, he was elected MP for York, but Parliament was soon dissolved. Later that year, after the dissolution, he was appointed justice of the peace for Middlesex and Westminster (and as such he supervised the investigation into the high profile murder of Sir Thomas Thynne). In 1682, he was appointed governor of York, and contributed to the king’s plan to remodel charters throughout the country.

Reresby was elected to the next parliament in 1685, but found himself conflicted between his loyalty to court and the new king, James II, and his commitments to York. Following the dissolution of that parliament he returned to York, but was ousted during the so-called Glorious Revolution, i.e. the overthrow of James II in 1688 by William of Orange and English parliamentarians. Having been taken prisoner in the seizure of York, he was allowed to retire to Thrybergh, where he died in 1689. Further biographical details can be found at Wikipedia, on the Rotherham website, or the History of Parliament website.

Reresby’s diaries were first published in 1734 as The Memoirs of The Honourable Sir John Reresby, Bart. And laft Governor of York, Containing feveral Private and Remarkable Tranfactions From the Restoration to the Revolution Inclufively. This is freely available to read online at Internet Archive. Nearly a century and a half later, in 1875, his diaries were re-edited by James J Cartwright and published by Longmans, Green, and Co. as The Memoirs of Sir John Reresby. This is also available at Internet Archive. At least two more editions were published in the 20th century, one by Andrew Browning, and one a revision of Browning’s version, in 1991, by W. A. Speck and M. K. Geiter.

In addition to Reresby’s Memoirs, there is also The Travels and Memoirs of Sir John Reresby, ‘during the time of Cromwell’s usurpation’, first published in 1813. Although the Memoirs looks and reads as though it is a diary, the Travels and Memoirs reads more like a memoir, written in hindsight, than a diary.

The following extracts (several of which focus on Reresby’s investigation of the Thynne murder) are taken from Cartwright’s 1875 edition.

20 October 1681
‘His Majesty went to see a new ship launched at Deptford, in his barge. I waited upon him to the water side, where he seeing me called me into the barge. He that was named to be captain gave the King a great dinner, where his Majesty commanded all the gentlemen to sit down at the same table. He was very serious that day, and seemed more concerned than the greatest business did usually make him.’

23 October 1681
‘I dined with the Earl of Feversham, where we made a more than usual debauch.

That evening I met the King going to council, and desired him that a notorious robber, one Nevison, having broken the gaol at York and escaped, he would be pleased to grant a reward of 20l. to those that would apprehend him, and to make it known by issuing out a proclamation to that purpose. The truth was, he had committed several notorious robberies, and it was with great endeavours and trouble that I had got him apprehended at the first; and since his escape, he had threatened the death of several justices of the peace, wherever he met them (though I never heard that I was of the number). The king’s answer (my Lord Halifax being present) was this, that a proclamation would cost him 100l., but he would order 20l. to be paid by the sheriff of that county to him that took him, wherever it was; and that it should be published by the Gazette, which was the same thing. The rogue was taken not long after, and hanged at York.

I had begged of the King some money that I had discovered in the hands of a convicted papist, which belonged to my wife, her sister. My Lord Halifax spoke to my Lord Hyde, first Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, that dined there that day, to befriend me in the getting of it, which he promised me, for it might first be forfeited to the King, before I could pretend to it, and then only of the King’s gift.’

29 October 1681
‘A new lord mayor of London was chosen. The King being invited, did him the honour to dine with him at Guildhall. The show and dinner were very great and splendid. I dined that day at the table of my lord mayor.’

5 November 1681
‘I told the King the story of Sir Henry Goodricke, then ambassador in Spain, whom I called brother, of whom I had received a late account, that going out to shoot some miles from Madrid, in his return home he lighted upon some thieves that had set upon a coach full of ladies, with an intent to rob them; but before they could effect it, Sir Henry and his followers attacked them, wounded some and dispersed the rest, and rescued the ladies.’

12 February 1682
‘There happened the most barbarous murder that had taken place in England for some time. Mr. Thynne, a gentleman of 9,000l. a year - lately married to my lady Ogle, who, repenting of the match, had fled from him into Holland before they were bedded - was set upon by three ruffians, and shot to death as he was coming along the street in his coach. He being one deeply engaged in the Duke of Monmouth’s interest, it was much feared what construction might be made of it by that party - the authors escaping and not known. I was at Court that evening, when the King hearing the news, seemed much concerned at it, not only for the horror of the action itself, to which his good nature was very averse, but also apprehending the ill constructions which the anti-Court party might make of it.

At eleven o’clock the same night, as I was going into bed, Mr. Thynne’s gentleman came to me to grant a hue and cry and soon after the Duke of Monmouth’s page, to desire me to come to his master at Mr. Thynne’s lodging, sending his coach to fetch me. I found him surrounded with several gentlemen and lords, friends to Mr. Thynne, and Mr. Thynne mortally wounded by five bullets, which had entered his belly and side, shot from a blunderbuss. I granted immediately several warrants to search for persons suspected to be privy to the design, and that might give some intelligence of the parties that had acted that murder. At the last, by intelligence from a chairman that had the same afternoon conveyed one of the ruffians from his lodging in Westminster to take horse at the Black Bull, and by a woman that used to visit that gentleman, the constables found out his lodging in Westminster, and there took his man, a Swede, who being brought before me, at last confessed that he served a gentleman, a German captain, who had told him that he had a quarrel with Mr. Thynne, and had often appointed him to watch his coach as he passed by; and particularly, that day, so soon as the captain did know the coach was gone by, he had booted himself, and with two others - a Swedish lieutenant and a Polander - gone, as he supposed, in quest of Mr. Thynne on horseback. By this servant I further understood, where possibly the captain and his two friends might be found; and after having searched several houses with the Duke of Monmouth, Lord Mordaunt, and others, as he directed us, till six o’clock in the morning, having been in chase almost the whole night, I personally took the captain at the house of a Swedish doctor in Leicester Fields, I going first into the room, followed by my Lord Mordaunt. I found him in bed, and his sword at some distance from him upon the table, which I first seized, and afterwards his person, committing him to two constables. I wondered to see him yield up himself so tamely, being certainly a man of great courage, for he appeared unconcerned from the beginning, notwithstanding he was very certain to be found the chief actor in the tragedy. This gentleman had not long before commanded the forlorn hope at the siege of Mons, where only two besides himself, of fifty under his command, came off with life. For which the Prince of Orange made him a lieutenant in his guards, and the King of Sweden gave him afterwards a troop of horse.

Several persons suspected for accessories and the two accomplices - viz., the Swedish lieutenant and the Polander (whose names were Stern and Borosky, and the captain’s name Fratz) - were soon after taken by constables with my warrant, and brought to my house, where, before I could finish all the examinations, the King sent for me to attend him in Council, which was called on purpose for that occasion, with the prisoners and papers. His Majesty ordered me to inform him of my proceeding in that matter, both as to the way of the persons’ apprehension and their examinations, and then examined them himself, giving me orders at the rising of the Council to put what had been said there into writing and form, in order to the trial. This took me up a great part of the day, though I desired Mr. Bridgeman, one of the clerks of the Council and a justice of the peace, to assist me in that matter both for the dispatch and my security, the nicety of the thing requiring it, as will appear hereafter.’

15 February 1682
‘The Council meeting again, amongst other things to examine the governor to young Count Coningsmark, a young gentleman resident in Monsieur Faubert’s academy in London, supposed to be privy to the murder. The King sent for him to attend the Council, where he confessed that the eldest Count Coningsmark, who had been in England some months before, and had made addresses to my lady Ogle before she had married Mr. Thynne, had ten days before the murder come incognito into England, and lay disguised till it was committed. This gave great cause of suspicion that the said count was in the bottom of it. Whereupon his Majesty commanded me to go search his lodging, which I performed with two constables, but found he was gone, the day after the deed was done, betimes in the morning; of which I presently returned to give the King an account.

I several times after this attended the King, both privately and in Council, to inform him from time to time, as new matter did occur. Upon the whole we discovered, partly by the confession of the ruffians, and by the information of others, that captain Fratz had been eight years a companion and particular friend to Count Coningsmark, one of the greatest men in the kingdom of Sweden, his uncle being at that time governor of Pomerania, and near being married to that King’s aunt; that whilst he was here in England some months before, and had made addresses to the Lady Ogle, the only daughter and heiress to the Earl of Northumberland, married after to the now murdered Mr. Thynne, the said count had resented something done towards him as an affront from the said Mr. Thynne, and that the said captain, out of friendship to the Count (but as he then pretended hot with his privity), was resolved to be revenged of him. To which intent he, with the assistance of the said Stern and Borosky, had committed this so barbarous act, by obliging the latter to discharge a blunderbuss upon him in his coach, the others being present. I was glad to find in this whole affair that no English person nor interest was concerned, the fanatics having buzzed it already abroad that the design was chiefly against the Duke of Monmouth; and I had the King’s thanks oftener than once, my Lord Halifax’s also, and of several others, for my diligent discovery of the true cause and occasion as well as the authors of this matter. The truth is the Duke of Monmouth was gone out of the coach from Mr. Thynne an hour before; but I found, by the confession both of Stern and Borosky, that they were ordered not to shoot in case the Duke were with him in the coach.

It was much suspected all this while that Count Coningsmark was not yet oversea; and on the 20th he was found by the Duke of Monmouth’s servant disguised at Gravesend alone, coming out of a sculler, intending the next day to go aboard a Swedish ship. The King having notice, called an extraordinary Council to examine him that afternoon, at which I was present. He appeared before the King with all the assurance imaginable; was a fine gentleman of his person; his hair was the longest for a man’s I ever saw, for it came below his waist, and his parts were very quick. His examination before the King and Council was very superficial, but he was after that appointed the same day to be examined, by order of the King in Council, by the lord chief justice, Mr. Bridgeman, the Attorney-General, and myself. It was accordingly done, but he confessed nothing as to his being either privy or concerned in the murder, laying his lying here concealed upon the occasion of his taking physic for a disease, and therefore was unwilling to discover himself till he was cured; and his going away in a disguise after the fact was done, upon the advice of some friends, who told him that it would reflect on him were it known he was in England, when a person that was his friend was under so notorious a suspicion for committing so black a crime; and therefore did endeavour to get away, not knowing how far the laws of this land might for that very reason make him a party.’

10 March 1682
‘The captain and the other two, that were guilty of Mr. Thynne’s murder, were hanged in the same street where it was committed. The captain died without any expression of fear, or laying any guilt upon Count Coningsmark. Seeing me in my coach as he passed by in the cart to execution, he bowed to me with a steady look, as he did to those he knew amongst the spectators, before he was turned off; in fine, his whole carriage, from his first being apprehended till the last, relished more of gallantry than religion.

The part I had in the discovery and prosecution of this murder made me generally known in the new employment of justice of the peace for Middlesex and Westminster; and there happened another thing that assisted to it in some measure, which was the setting up of a manufacture of wool for the maintenance of the poor in St. Martin’s parish, which was very much oppressed with them before, and to which my endeavours did much contribute.’

5 April 1689
‘I received the unfortunate news of the death of my son George by the small-pox - a very beautiful, apt, understanding child. It was a great affliction to me; but God gives, and God takes, and blessed be the name of the Lord.’

11 April 1689
‘The day of the coronation of King William and Queen Mary, performed with great splendour according to the usual ceremonies. The procession to the Abbey of Westminster was very regular, but not attended by so many of the nobility as when the two last kings were crowned. The House of Commons were taken great care of in this solemnity, had a side of Westminster Hall prepared for them to see it, another place in the Abbey to see their Majesties crowned, and several tables prepared and covered with all sorts of meat, where they dined by themselves. Only some friends were admitted amongst them, and I amongst others, which gave me a good opportunity to see and observe all. The Bishop of London crowned the King and Queen, assisted by the Bishop of Salisbury (the late Doctor Burnet), who preached the coronation sermon, and by two others.’

14 April 1689
‘My birthday, I humbly thanked God for preserving me through so many dangers till the 55th year of my age, and begged of Him to lead the remainder of my life better than I had hitherto done.’

The Diary Junction

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The wonderful echo

Charles Burney, the much revered music historian and father of the famous diarist, Fanny Burney, died 200 years ago today. Although not known as a diarist himself, he did keep detailed diaries on two journeys through Europe while researching the history of music. Much of the detail in these diaries concerns, rather laboriously, matters only musical, but he does write about what he hears and sees with an exquisite precision - even when his subject is but a famous echo.

Burney was born at Shrewsbury, Shropshire, in 1726. He attended The King’s School in Chester, where his music master, a previous student of John Blow (see John Blow’s bad singing), was organist at the cathedral. On leaving the school, he was taught first by his half-brother and then apprenticed in London to Dr Thomas Arne. From 1746, the aristocrat Fulke Greville adopted Burney as a musical companion, but they parted when Greville wanted to go abroad, and Burney wanted to stay with his new love, Esther Sleepe, who he then married (in 1749). Left otherwise without funds, he won an appointment as organist of St Dionis-Backchurch, Fenchurch Street.

In 1751, Burney went to Lynn Regis in Norfolk, where he was again elected organist, taught music students, and lived for nine years. During that time he began to entertain the idea of writing a general history of music. In 1760, he returned to London with a young family (his daughter Fanny would go on to become one of the most famous diarists of the age), but his wife Esther died soon after. In 1769 he married Mrs Stephen Allen of Lynn.

Burney published concertos for harpsichord which were much admired, and, in 1766, he produced, at Drury Lane, a translation and adaptation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s opera Le Devin du village, under the title of The Cunning Man. In 1770, Burney left London to travel in Europe to collect material for a history of music; and he undertook a second Continental journey in 1772. The first volume of his history appeared in 1776, with further volumes appearing in 1782 and 1789. In between, he continued teaching, he finished other notable musical and written works, and contributed many articles to Ree’s Cyclopaedia. In 1783, he was appointed organist to the chapel at Chelsea Hospital, where he lived, and then died on 12 April 1814. For more biographical information see The Burney Centre hosted by McGill University, Westminster Abbey’s website, or Wikipedia.

After each trip to the Continent, Burney published a book of his travels made up largely of the journal he had kept on route. The first of these, published by T. Becket & Co, came out in 1771: The Present State of Music in France and Italy or The Journal of a Tour through those Countries, undertaken to collect Materials for a General History of Music. This is freely available online at Internet Archive. His record of the second tour, published also by T. Becket & Co, came out in 1773, with a similar title: The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands and United Provinces. This is also available at Internet Archive.

One hundred and fifty years later, Cedric Howard Glover revisited Burney’s journals, and, in 1927, Blackie & Son published Dr. Charles Burney’s Continental Travels 1770-1772. In this volume, however, Burney’s actual diary entries are merged into a general text composed by Glover. He explains, in his introduction, his decision to revisit and re-edit the journals:

‘The primary object of Dr. Burney’s travels was the acquisition of material for the General History of Music which it was his ambition to compile, and his Journals are therefore mainly concerned with the results of his researches. However interesting to the public of his own day, there can be no question that the sections of his Journals devoted to purely musical matters are in the main responsible for the somewhat rapid decline in popular favour which his books experienced. Yet embedded in accounts of interviews with long forgotten musicians, we can still find plenty to delight and entertain us.

The Journals contain graphic descriptions of encounters with many of the notable figures in the literary and musical history of that time - Voltaire and Rousseau, Mozart and Gluck, Laura Bassi, the lady professor of Bologna, and Sir William Hamilton, antiquarian and collector. Few Englishmen had the luck to hear Frederick the Great play the flute at Potsdam, or to watch Henry, Cardinal York, the last of the Stuarts, say Vespers in Rome.

But it is not only the personal side of the Journals which arrests our attention. There is much to interest us in Dr. Burney’s adventures on the road. He gives us a striking picture of the devastation and misery caused by the Seven Years’ War, of his own discomforts on the journey by river on a log raft from Munich to Vienna, and of the villainy in general of postboys and innkeepers. Finally, there is the pleasure of watching the actions and reactions of an engaging personality. A man of his age, with no great complexity of character, Dr. Burney makes us share his pleasures even in the condescensions of the great. His insatiable curiosity is infectious; nothing is too trivial to enlist a sympathetic attention. [. . .]

The Journals have long played their part in the formation of musical history; the present volume sets out to win them the favour of a wider circle of readers than the musical lexicographers by bringing into prominence the many factors of varied interest contained in them; these, it is hoped, may prove a substantial contribution to the history of those remote days when Continental travelling required the courage and endurance now demanded of an Arctic explorer.’

Here, though, are several extracts from the original published journal of Burney’s travels in France and Italy. (At the time, an f-like s was still being used at the start of, or in the middle, of words).

13 June 1770
‘This morning I fpent in the library of the College Des Quatre nations, founded by cardinal Mazarin. It is a noble one. I confulted the catalogues, and found feveral of the books I wanted.

In the evening I heard two pieces performed at the Theatre Italien, in which the finging was the worft part. Though the modern French compofers hazard every thing that has been attempted by the Italians, yet it is ill executed, and fo ill underftood by the audience, that it makes no impreffion. Bravura fongs, or fongs of execution, are now attempted; but they are fo ill performed, that no one ufed to true Italian finging can like any thing but the words and action. One of thefe pieces was new, and meant as a comic opera, in all its modern French forms of Italian mufic, (that is, mufic compofed in the Italian ftyle) to French words. No recitative, all the dialogue and narrative part being fpoken. And this piece was as thoroughly d—d as ever piece was here. I ufed to imagine that a French audience durft not hifs to the degree I found they did upon this occafion. Indeed quite as much, mixt with horfe laughs, as ever I heard at Drury Lane, or Covent Garden. In fhort, it was condemned in all the Englifh forms, except breaking the benches and the actors heads; and the inceffant found of hifh inflead of hifs. The author of the words, luckily, or rather judicioufly, lay concealed; but the compofer, M. de St. Amant, was very much to be pitied, for a great deal of real good mufic was thrown away upon bad words, and upon an audience not at all difpofed, efpecially in the two laft acts (there were three) to hear anything fairly. But this mufic, though I thought it much fuperiour to the poetry it accompanied, was not without its defects; the modulation was too ftudied, fo much fo as to be unnatural, and always to difappoint the ear. The overture however was good mufic, full of found, harmony, elegant and pleafing melody, with many paffages of effect. The hautbois at this theatre is admirable; I hardly ever heard a more pleafing tone or manner of playing. Several of the fongs would have been admirable too; if they had been fung with the true Italian expreffion. But the French voice never comes further than from the throat; there is no voce di petto, no true portamento or direction of the voice, on any of the ftages. And though feveral of the fingers in this theatre are Italians, they are fo degenerated fince they came hither, that if I had not been affured of it, their performance would have convinced me of the contrary. The new piece had several movements in it very like what is heard at the ferious opera. (It muft be remembered that the whole was in verfe, and extremely ferious, except fome attempt at humour in Calliot’s part) which, however, did not prevent the audience from pronouncing it to be deteftable.’

14 June 1770
‘This being Fete Dieu or Corpus Chrifti Day, one of the greateft holidays in the whole year, I went to fee the proceffions, and to hear high mafs performed at Notre Dame. I had great difficulty to get thither. Coaches are not allowed to ftir till all the proceflions, with which the whole town fwarms, are over. The ftreets through which they are to pafs in the way to the churches, are all lined with tapestry; or, for want of that, with bed-curtains and old petticoats: I find the better fort of people, (les gens comme il faut) all go out of town on thefe days, to avoid the embarras of going to mafs, or the ennui of ftaying at home. Whenever the hoft ftops, which frequently happens, the priefts fing a pfalm, and all the people fall on their knees in the middle of the ftreet, whether dirty or clean. I readily complied with this ceremony rather than give offence or become remarkable. Indeed, when I went out, I determined to do as other people did, in the ftreets and church, otherwife I had no bufinefs there; fo that I found it incumbent on me to kneel down twenty times ere I reached Notre Dame. This I was the lefs hurt at, as I faw it quite general and many much better dreffed people than myfelf, almoft proftrated themfelves, while I only touched the ground with one knee. At length I reached the church, where I was likewife a conformift; though here I walked about frequently, as I faw others do, round the choir and in the great aifle. I made my remarks on the organ, organift, plain-chant, and motets. Though this was fo great a festival, the organ accompanied the choir but little. The chief ufe made of it, was to play over the chant before it was fung, all through the Pfalms. Upon enquiring of a young abbe, whom I took with me as a nomenclator, what this was called? C’eft prefer, ‘Tis profing, he faid. And it fhould feem as if our word profing came from this dull and heavy manner of recital. The organ is a good one, but when played full, the echo and reverberation were fo ftrong, that it was all confufion; however, on the choir organ and echo ftops I could hear every paffage distinctly. The organift has a neat and judicious way of touching the inftrument; but his paffages were very old fafhioned. Indeed what he played during the offertorio, which lafted fix or eight minutes, feemed too ftiff and regular for a voluntary. Several motets, or fervices, were performed by the choir, but accompanied oftener by the ferpent than organ: though, at my firft entrance into the French churches, I have frequently taken the ferpent for an organ; but foon found it had in its effect fomething better and fomething worfe than that inftrument. Thefe compofitions are much in the way of our old church fervices, full of fugues and imitation; more contrivance and labour than melody. I am more and more convinced every day, that what I before obferved concerning the adapting the Englifh words to the old canto fermo, by Tallis, at the Reformation, is true - and it feems to me that mufic, in our cathedral fervice, was lefs reformed than any other part of the liturgy.

At five o’clock I went to the Concert Spirituel, the only public amufement allowed on thefe great feftivals. It is a grand concert performed in the great hall of the Louvre, in which the vocal confifts of detached pieces of church mufic in Latin. I fhall name the feveral performances of this concert, and fairly fay what effect. each had upon myfelf, and upon the audience, as far as a ftander-by could difcover. . .’

21 July 1770
‘It did not feem foreign to my bufinefs in Italy to vifit the Palazzo Simonetto, a mile or two from Milan, to hear the famous echo, about which travellers have faid fo much, that I rather fufpected exaggeration. This is not the place to enter deeply into the doctrine of reverberation; I fhall referve the attempt for another work; as to the matter of fact, this echo is very wonderful. The Simonetto palace is near no other building; the country all around is a dead flat, and no mountains are nearer than thofe of Swifferland, which are upwards of thirty miles off. This palace is now uninhabited and in ruin, but has been pretty; the front is open, and fupported by very light double Ionic pillars, but the echo is only to be heard behind the houfe, which, next to the garden has two wings. [Illustration . . .]

Now, though it is natural to fuppofe that the oppofite wails reflect the found, it is not eafy to fay in what manner; as the form of the building is a very common one, and no other of the fame confruction, that I have ever heard of, produces the fame effects. I made experiments of all kinds, and in every fituation, with the voice, flow, quick; with a trumpet, which a fervant who was with me founded; with a piftol, and a mufquet, and always found agreeable to the doctrine of echos, that the more quick and violent the percuffion of the air, the more numerous were the repetitions; which, upon firing the mufquet, amounted to upwards of fifty, of which the ftrength feemed regularly to diminifh, and the diftance to become more remote. Such a mufical canon might be contrived for one fine voice here, according to father Kircher’s method, as would have all the eifect of two, three, and even four voices. One blow of a hammer produced a very good imitation of an ingenious and practifed footman’s knock at a London door, on a vifiting night. A fingle ha! became a long horfe-laugh; and a forced note, or a found overblown in tire trumpet, became the moft ridiculous and laughable noife imaginable.’

Beautiful blueberries

Happy 60th birthday Jon Krakauer, US author of several best-selling true-story books. I have no idea whether Krakauer is a diarist himself, but in two of his books - one about a young man who died on a solitary adventure in Alaska, and the other about Pat Tillman, a famous football player-turned-soldier killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan - he makes very good use of his subjects’ diaries.

Jon Krakauer was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on 12 April 1954, but was raised in Corvallis, Oregon, from the age of two. His father was a doctor and mountaineer, and he took Jon climbing from the age of eight. Jon studied at Hampshire College, where he graduated in environmental studies. He married Linda Mariam Moor in 1980. They lived in Seattle, Washington, before moving to Boulder, Colorado. But Krakauer divided his time between Colorado, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest, supporting himself primarily as a carpenter and commercial salmon fisherman, but also writing for Outside magazine.

Some of Krakauer’s essays and articles on mountain-climbing were collected in his first book, Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains, published in 1990. Then, in 1993, he wrote a 9,000 word article for Outside on Christopher McCandless an American hiker and idealist who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness and died four months later, probably from starvation. Krakauer went on to write a very successful book about McCandless - Into the Wild (Macmillan 1996) - partly based on a diary that was found with his body, and which documented his struggles to stay alive.

In 1996, Krakauer climbed Mt. Everest, but four of his party, who reached the summit with him, died in a storm. An analysis of the tragedy for Outside was highly regarded, and is said to have led to a general re-evaluation of the commercialisation of what had once been a romantic, solitary sport. His book on Everest, Into Thin Air (Villard, 1997), became another best-seller, and was widely translated.

A third non-fiction best-seller followed in 2003 with Under the Banner of Heaven (Doubleday), about offshoots of Mormonism, and the practice of polygamy within them; and a fourth best-seller came in 2009: Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (Doubleday). Tillman was an American football player who gave up sport to enlist in the army, in 2002, following the September 11 attacks. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The army initially reported that he had been killed in action, but it later became clear that his death by friendly fire had been covered up. Krakauer’s book draws on Tillman’s journals and letters.

In the first paragraph of the first chapter Krakauer writes: ‘During Pat Tillman’s stint in the Army he intermittently kept a diary. In an entry dated July 28, 2002 - three weeks after he arrived at boot camp - he wrote, “It is amazing the turns one’s life can take. Major events or decisions that completely change a life. In my life there have been a number.” He then catalogued several. Foremost on his mind at the time, predictably, was his decision to join the military. But the incident he put at the top of the list, which occurred when he was eleven years old, comes as a surprise. “As odd as this sounds,” the journal revealed, “a diving catch I made in the 11-12 all-stars was a take-off point. I excelled the rest of the tournament and gained incredible confidence. It sounds tacky but it was big.”

And here are several extracts from the first of Krakauer's best-sellers, Into the Wild, all of them quotes from McCandless’s diary. The first three are from a diary McCandless kept soon after leaving university and heading off on his solitary travels. During this period, he called himself Alexander, and wrote about himself in the third person. The rest of the entries are from the weeks preceding his death in Alaska in August 1992, probably from starvation, although Krakauer argues that McCandless poisoned himself by eating the wrong kind of berries. Sean Penn wrote and directed a film adapted from the book in 2007.

5 December 1990
‘At last! Alex finds what he believes to be the Weltreco Canal and heads south. Worries and fears return as the canal grows ever smaller. . . Local inhabitants help him portage around a barrier . . . Alex finds Mexicans to be warm, friendly people. Much more hospitable than Americans.’

6 December 1990
‘Small but dangerous waterfalls litter the canal.’

9 December 1990
‘All hopes collapse! The canal does not reach the ocean but merely peters out into a vast swamp. Alex is utterly confounded. Decides he must be close to the ocean and elects to try and work way through swamp to sea. Alex becomes progressively lost to point where he must push canoe through reeds and drag it through mud. All is in despair. Finds some dry ground to camp in swamp at sundown. Next day, on 12/10, Alex resumes quest for an opening to the sea, but only becomes more confused, traveling in circles. Completely demoralized and frustrated he lays in his canoe at day’s end and weeps. But then by fantastic chance he comes upon Mexican duck hunting guides who can speak English. He tells them his story and his quest for the sea. They say there is no outlet to the sea. But then one among them agrees to tow Alex back to his basecamp, and drive him and the canoe to the ocean. It is a miracle.’

28 May 1992
‘Gourmet Duck!’

1 June 1992
‘5 Squirrel.’

2 June 1992
‘Porcupine, Ptarmigan, 4 Squirrel, Grey Bird.’

3 June 1992
‘Another Porcupine! 4 Squirrel, Grey Bird.’

9 June 1992

Although McCandless was enough of a realist, Krakauer observes, to know that hunting game was an unavoidable component of living off the land, he had always been ambivalent about killing animals. Believing that it was morally indefensible to waste any part of an animal that had been shot for food, McCandless spent days toiling to preserve what he had killed before it spoiled.’

10 June 1992
‘Butchering extremely difficult. Fly and mosquito hordes. Remove intestines, liver, kidneys, one lung, steaks. Get hindquarters and leg to stream.’

11 June 1992
‘Remove heart and other lung. Two front legs and head. Get rest to stream. Haul near cave. Try to protect with smoker.’

12 June 1992
‘Remove half rib-cage and steaks. Can only work nights. Keep smokers going.’

13 June 1992
‘Get remainder of rib-cage, shoulder and neck to cave. Start smoking.’

14 June 1992
‘Maggots already! Smoking appears ineffective. Don’t know. Looks like disaster. I now wish I had never shot the moose. One of the greatest tragedies of my life.’

A couple of days later
‘Consciousness of food. Eat and cook with concentration . . . Holy Food.’

And then on the back pages of the book that served as his journal, he declared: ‘I am reborn. This is my dawn. Real life has just begun. Deliberate living: Concious attention to the basics of life, and a constant attention to your immediate environment and its concerns, example -> A job, a task, a book; anything requiring efficent concentration (Circumstance has no value. It is how one relates to a situation that has value. All true meaning resides in the personal relationship to a phenomenon, what it means to you).

The Great Holiness of FOOD, the Vital Heat.
Positivism, the Insurpassable Joy of the Life Aesthetic.
Absolute Truth and Honesty.
Finality - Stability - Consistency’

5 July 1992
‘Disaster . . . Rained in. River look impossible. Lonely, scared.’

McCandless’s inability to cross the river (now much more swollen than when he had first crossed it earlier in the year), which would have allowed him to hike back to the highway, appears to have led to his death some weeks later. 

Krakauer quotes a few more journal entries, but, he says, the signs are ominous.

30 July 1992

2 August 1992

5 August 1992

12 August 1992 [the last dated entry]
‘Beautiful Blueberries.’

Monday, April 7, 2014

Elizabeth Freke’s misfortunes

‘I was in a most grievous rainy, wet day married without the knowledg or consent of my father or any friend in London.’ This is part of the first entry in an extraordinary diary - or more accurately a set of reminiscences - left behind by Elizabeth Freke, who died 300 years ago today. Her life - as recounted in the autobiographical writings - from the secret marriage onwards seems to have been unusually full of dispute and troubles, not only with her husband but many others besides. According to one reviewer of the published diary, ‘she wields her resentment like an iron ball swung round her head ready to let fly’.

Elizabeth was born in Wiltshire, the eldest daughter of Raufe Freke and Cicely, a cousin of the famous Nicolas Culpeper (who wrote the London Dispensatory). After her mother’s early death, she and her sisters were raised by her father and a maternal aunt. When 30, she eloped with her second cousin Percy to London. She had a child, a son, and then went to Ireland, where Percy’s father lived at Rathbarry in County Cork, leaving the boy with her father.

In subsequent years, Freke travelled back and forth, quarrelling with her husband, about money and about where they should live. And while her father kept providing her with funds, her husband kept spending them. Ultimately, her father bought her an estate at West Bilney, in Norfolk, which she managed to keep for herself, and to where she eventually retired after leaving Ireland for the last time. Percy came to Norfolk when he was ill, and died there, causing Elizabeth much stress. Later, she suffered from asthma and pleurisy, and died in Westminster on 7 April 1714 while visiting London. She was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Elizebeth Freke is only remembered today because of her autobiographical writings - recorded in two separate manuscripts - and the historical and social interest of those writings. Some of these were first edited by Mary Carbery and published in 1913, by the Journal of the Cork Historical & Archaeological Society, as Mrs. Elizabeth Freke Her Diary, 1671 to 1714. Although the term ‘diary’ was used - presumably because many of the autobiographical entries left by Freke were dated in diary format - it is clear from the content that the bulk of them were written much later on. Melosina Lenox-Conyngham included some of Freke’s so-called diary entries in her Diaries of Ireland (published by Lilliput Press, Dublin in 1998).

Much more recently, a US professor, Raymond Anselment, re-examined the Freke papers in the British library, and produced a more detailed and considered version of Freke’s literary legacy. This was published by Cambridge University Press in 2001 as The Remembrances of Elizabeth Freke, 1671–1714. Some pages can be read online at Googlebooks and at Amazon.

In his introduction, Anselment discusses the two manuscripts left behind by Freke, i.e. the two versions of her autobiographical writings, and how Carbery ‘cut, conflated, and rearranged’ them. Although he says that the composition of neither manuscript can be dated precisely, he does conclude that Freke began writing her remembrances in 1702, aged 60, ‘perhaps relying on earlier notes for the specific details of her first thirty years of marriage’. From then on, he also concludes, Freke’s increasingly substantial entries were written ‘fairly soon after the entry dates’.

‘In writing and then rewriting autobiographical remembrances recalling three decades of marriage and ensuing years of widowhood,’ the publisher’s blurb says, ‘Elizabeth Freke strikingly redefines the relationships among self, family, and patriarchy characteristic of early modern women’s autobiography. Suffering and sacrifice dominate an extensive ledger of disappointment and bitterness that reveals over time the complex emotions of a Norfolk gentry woman seeking significance and even vindication in her hardships and frustrations. [. . .] By making available both versions of the remembrances in their entirety, this new, multiple-text edition clarifies the refashioning inherent in each stage of writing and rewriting, recovering with unusual immediacy Freke’s late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century domestic world.’

Dr Amy Erickson, in a review of Anselment’s book for the Institute of Historical Research, says this: ‘Elizabeth Freke has the distinction among my autobiographical acquaintance of being the memoirist I would least like to meet. This is not because she was toothless, lame, blind and probably bald and, as she said in 1711, ‘a diseased criple with a rhumatisme and tisick confined to a chair for this eighteen months past’. It is because she wields her resentment like an iron ball swung round her head ready to let fly.’

And Erickson goes on to explain further: ‘These are not remembrances in the sense of reminiscences. They are not a record of family or piety or maternal devotion, as many early modern women’s memoirs might be categorised. They are explicitly ‘remembrances of my misfortuns ... since I were marryed’. The bitterness is directed primarily, but by no means exclusively, at her husband and son, and with good reason. Her sister, her cousin (who is her financial agent), her tenants, and the Bishop of Norwich also mistreat her to varying degrees. All of these relationships are described in terms of property - in relation to gifts (the cash value of which is always recorded), ingratitude or theft.’

Here are a few extracts from the early pages of The Remembrances of Elizabeth Freke, 1671–1714.

14 November 1671
‘I was privately married to Mr Percy Frek by Doctter Johnson in Coven Garden, my Lord Russells chaplain, in London, to my second cosine, eldest son to Captain Arthur Frek and grandson to Mr William Frek, the only brother of Sir Thomas Frek of Dorsettshiere, who was my grandfather, and his son Mr Ralph Frek my deer father. And my mother was Sir Thomas Cullpepers daughter of Hollingburne in Kentt; her name was Cicelia Cullpeper. Affter being six or 7 years engaged to Mr Percy Freke, I was in a most grievous rainy, wet day married without the knowledg or consent of my father or any friend in London, as above.’

26 July 1672
‘Being Thursday, I were again remarried by me deer father by Doctter Uttram att St Margaretts Church in Westminster by a licence att least four years in Mr Freks pocttett and in a grievous tempestuous, stormy day for wind as the above for raigne. I were given by me deer father, Ralph Frek, Esqr, and the eldest of his four daughters and the last married, being contracted to him by promise for five years before, butt unwilling to give my sisters any president of my misfortunes prognosticated to mee by the two tempestuous and dreadful days I were married on and which I looked on as fatal emblems to me. Eliza. Freke.’

26 August 1672
‘Mr Frek, Agust 26 coming over St James Parke about 12 a clock att night, challenged my lord of Roscomon either to fight him in St James Parke presently or to pay him down a thousand pounds my lord has long owed Mr Freke. Butt the 26 of Agust att three a clock in the morning ten men of the lifeguard came and fetched Mr Freke out of his bed from me and immediatly hurryed him to Whit Hall before Secretary Coventry, I nott knowing what itt was for more then words spoken. This was the begining of my troubles for my disobedience in marrying as I did. Eliz Freke’

4 March 1690
‘Mr Frek left me and went away again for Ireland, I nott knowing of itt above two days before, to endeavour the getting of his estat, tho given away by King James to Owen Maccarty. My Husband being then outtlawed for an absentee had all his estate of above 700 pounds a yeare with all his stock and good given away by the said kinge and his greatt house att Rathbarry burnt down by the Irish to preventt its being made a garrison, as itt had held outt on nine months for King Charls the First by Captaine Arthur Frek, my husbands father.’

30 March 1692
‘Mr Frek, haveing now left me to shifft for my selfe above two years, never lett me have any quiett butt commanded me to leave all my affairs att Billney and come over to Ireland. Wher, affter halfe a years concideration I forced my selfe to undertak againe a jorney to Ireland, and in order to itt wentt with my son and servants to London in my deer sister Nortons coach and left my house and goods in the care of Jams Wallbutt, then my servantt and affter my cheating tenant.’

The Diary Junction