Sunday, February 28, 2016

Point of departure

Had he lived, Robin Cook, a British Labour party politician who served as Foreign Secretary under Tony Blair, would have reached three score years and ten today. Considered a great parliamentarian, he was also a man, apparently, of high principles, who resigned rather than be part of the government that supported George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. His only published book - at least as far as I can tell - is a selection of diary entries, written during the second New Labour government. He planned the book, he said, as an ‘honest attempt’ to explain how he ‘arrived at the point of departure’, i.e. resigning from his government cabinet post.

Robert - known as Robin - Finlayson Cook was born on 28 February 1946 in Bellshill, Scotland, the only son of a chemistry teacher, and the grandson of a miner. Educated in Aberdeen, Royal High School, Edinburgh, and the University of Edinburgh, he eschewed the idea of a career in religion for teaching and then politics. In 1969, he married Margaret Katherine Whitmore, with whom he had two sons. In 1970, he contested, unsuccessfully, the Edinburgh North constituency, but then he won Edinburgh Central at the next election becoming an MP in February 1974. When the constituency boundaries were changed in 1983, he transferred to the nearby Livingston constituency, which he represented for the rest of his life.

In Parliament, Cook joined the left-wing Tribune Group of the Parliamentary Labour Party and soon found himself opposing policies of the Wilson and Callaghan governments. He established himself in Parliament as a powerful debater, and rose through the party ranks, winning shadow cabinet posts in Opposition under Neil Kinnock (health 1987-1992), John Smith (trade and industry 1992-1994), and Tony Blair (foreign affairs 1994-1997). As Shadow Foreign Secretary, responding to the government’s presentation of the Scott report into the Arms-to-Iraq affair, he said, famously, ‘this is not just a Government which does not know how to accept blame; it is a Government which knows no shame’.

When the Labour Party came into power in 1997, Blair made Cook Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, a position he held throughout Blair’s first term of office. Only months after becoming Foreign Secretary, however, Cook was hit with a public scandal: b
efore the newspapers released the story, he announced he was leaving his wife and would marry Gaynor Regan, a member of his staff with whom he’d been having an affair. They married the following year. Cook’s period as Foreign Secretary was characterised by controversial British interventions in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, by his helping normalise relations with Iran after the death threats against Salman Rushdie, and by making progress with Libya after a long stand-off following the Lockerbie bombing.

After the 2001 general election, Blair replaced Cook, against his wishes, with Jack Straw at the Foreign Office, offering Cook the job of Leader of the House of Commons, still in the Cabinet but, nevertheless, considered a demotion. After consideration, Cook took the position, and set about trying to reform some Parliamentary practices. By 2003, though, he was increasingly at odds with Blair over the prospect of military action against Iraq; and on 17 March he resigned. In his resignation speech - widely praised -  he asked: ‘Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years and which we helped to create?’ Outside of government, he remained an active Parliamentary Member, commenting on foreign affairs, education, Europe and reform of the House of Lords. He was also reconciled with Gordon Brown, after decades of mutual animosity, with the aim of ensuring progressive Labour Party policies beyond Blair’s leadership.

In 2005, Cook died, unexpectedly, from a heart attack while walking in the Scottish Highlands. Blair, on holiday at the time, was criticised for not attending his funeral, though he delivered a reading at Cook’s memorial in December at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster. Jack Straw said he was ‘the greatest parliamentarian of his generation and a very fine Foreign Secretary’. Further biographical information is available at Wikipedia or from obituaries at the BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, or The Independent. A longer profile can be found at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (though log-in is required).

As far as I can tell, Robin Cook only published one book, and this was based on a diary he kept during his term of office as Leader of the House of Commons: The ODNB says: ‘Since 2001 Cook had kept a diary and in October 2003 he published an edited version as The Point of Departure, his account of the Iraq crisis and other events of the period. The book stood out from other ministerial memoirs, usually evasive and self-serving, of the Thatcher–Blair era. Its style was fluent and sophisticated, and the account of cabinet government under New Labour was analytical and frank, but never vitriolic.’ Interestingly, this is in stark contrast to the bitter and rather self-justifying text, also full of diary material, published by Clare Short - who turned 70 a couple of weeks ago 
(see No. 10 hostile to me) - a short time after .

Introducing his book, Cook says: ‘The narrative charts a personal journey in which my early enthusiasm over my role in modernising the Commons and reforming the Lords became overshadowed by growing concern and eventual dismay at our complicity in George Bush’s intentions on Iraq. Although the culmination may have been Bush’s war, the prelude records my deepening disaffection with elements of the domestic agenda. It is the story of how I found myself losing touch with a leadership which often appeared to have instincts that were at odds with values that had brought me into the Labour Party and had sustained me through long barren years of Opposition. [. . .] This book is my honest attempt to explain how I arrived at the point of departure.’

It is worth noting that the tone and language of this introduction appear to suggest the book is significantly more than what it appears on the surface, a collection of diary entries: the way Cook writes, for example, of the book as a ‘narrative’, a ‘story’, and ‘my honest attempt to explain’, implies something closer to a moulded memoir. Any how, here are a couple of extracts from The Point of Departure (Simon & Schuster, see Amazon for a preview).

4 December 2001
’Began the day with a visit to Jack Straw at the Foreign Office to make my peace. The Secretary of State’s room has reverted to tradition. My examples of the best of British design have gone from the bookcase which has once again gone back to sleep with a collection of leather-bound early Hansards which no one will ever read.

I began by getting my apology in first. “Look, I’m sorry that I snapped at you at the Cabinet. But what’s important to me now is that we quit the argument as to who saw the document first and who got the document too late, and get on with agreeing on a package for modernisation.” Jack was generous in accepting the apology. “I have now had a chance to read the paper and it does have a lot of good ideas. I’ll make a point of writing in to support the revised version.” ’

13 March 2003
‘I am not out of the house before Jack Straw calls me to urge me not to resign. Jack and I go back a long way and were the two junior members of Peter Shore’s Treasury team in the early eighties. I got the impression that he clearly wants me to stay out of concern for me as a friend.

The case he put to me was rather legalistic. He went over how resolution 1441 gives us all the legal authority we require to launch war. I responded that my problem was the political and diplomatic absurdity of a unilateral war even if it were legal.

I saw Tony before Cabinet. I found him half-amused, half-furious with IDS. He had given IDS a briefing in Privy Councillor terms, and, to his dismay, IDS had walked straight out of the door and disclosed to camera that the Prime Minister thought a second resolution now ‘very unlikely’. Since the fiction that Tony still hopes to get a second resolution is central to his strategy for keeping the Labour Party in check, it is not welcome news that IDS has told the world that not even Tony believes this.

I began by joking: “I’m getting so many regular checks from colleagues that I’m beginning to think I’m on suicide watch. I wouldn’t be entirely surprise if someone came along and took away my belt and shoelaces to keep me out of harm’s way.” He laughed and said - and I think he meant it - “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

I was frank with him that my mind was made up, and that I would not mislead him into thinking that he could persuade me to change it. However, I was equally clear that I was not running any other agenda, or lending myself to an attack on his leadership. “You have been the most successful Labour leader in my lifetime. I want you to go on being leader and to on being successful.”

At this point his body language visibly softened as his muscles relaxed and he leaned back into his sofa. After that he was open, almost philosophical. All he said confirmed my impression that he is mystified as to quite how he got into such a hole and baffled as to whether there is any way out other than persisting in the strategy that has created his present difficulties.

He told me that he was going to call a special Cabinet meeting when the process in the UN was complete, and I promised that I would make no public move while he was still working for a result in the UN.

After me he was seeing Clare [Short], which had the effect of delaying Cabinet for fifteen minutes. [. . .]

When I got back to the office there was a message from the Foreign Office to say that Jack would be very grateful if I could represent the government at the funeral on Saturday of Zoran Djindjic, the Prime Minister of Serbia, who was assassinated yesterday. I readily agreed as I had worked with Zoran for years. We cooperated closely when I was Foreign Secretary and he was in opposition. It is a terrible irony that throughout those years he managed to avoid being assassinated by Milosevic, only to be killed now that he has brought Milosevic to the bar of justice. There is also something of an irony in that my last official engagement representing the government will be attending a funeral.’

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A most excellent person

Today marks the 310th anniversary of the death of John Evelyn, a contemporary and friend of Samuel Pepys, who described him as a ‘most excellent person’. He was a writer, gardener, and a diarist, and his diaries, spanning 50 years, are considered of historical importance. Here is the draft chapter on Evelyn from London in Diaries (see an earlier Diary Review article for more about this yet-to-published book).

John Evelyn - a most excellent person
John Evelyn is another famous 17th century London diarist, though his diaries reveal a far less colourful character than Pepys, and show none of the latter’s wide-ranging curiosity, nor his introspection, nor his love of gossip. The two lived contemporaneously - Evelyn was born before Pepys and died after him - and were friends, mentioning each other in their diaries. But what Evelyn’s diary lacks in colour and entertainment, it makes up for in time span and historical importance. He was much interested in London’s development, its new squares, houses and gardens, and, after the Great Fire, he was involved with rebuilding the city.

Evelyn was born in 1620 at Wotton, near Dorking in Surrey, the large family estate founded originally on wealth accumulated after his great-grandfather brought the invention of gunpowder to England. John would, eventually, inherit Wotton, but not until the end of his life, in 1699. John spent much of his childhood near Lewes in Sussex with his mother’s parents, and declined to go to Eton. He was admitted into the Middle Temple in 1637, and also became a fellow commoner at Balliol College, Oxford, though he left without taking a degree. After his father’s death in 1640, Evelyn inherited sufficient wealth to allow him to live independently.

These were, though, confusing times in England, especially for a Royalist like Evelyn. After a very brief involvement with the Royalist army, he managed to gain permission to go abroad, where he stayed - in France and Italy - for several years to avoid the Civil War. In Paris, in 1647, he married the 12 year old Mary Browne, daughter of the English ambassador. He returned to England soon after, but did not live with his wife for several years. In 1652, the couple moved into Sayes Court, Deptford. This was a property, once leased from the crown by his father-in-law, but which had been seized by Parliament, and which Evelyn had had to buy back. In time, he rebuilt the house and developed a beautiful garden. This latter was a project that would lead to his serious interest in botany and garden history, and the writing of an encyclopaedia of gardens and gardening practices - Elysium Britannicum.

Here is Pepys, a lifelong friend of Evelyn, describing a visit to Sayes Court some years later (in 1665): ‘ . . . and so I by water to Deptford, and there made a visit to Mr Evelyn, who, among other things, showed me most excellent painting in little; in distemper, Indian incke, water colours: graveing; and, above all, the whole secret of mezzo-tinto, and the manner of it, which is very pretty, and good things done with it. He read to me very much also of his discourse, he hath been many years and now is about, about Guardenage; which will be a most noble and pleasant piece. He read me part of a play or two of his making, very good, but not as he conceits them, I think, to be. He showed me his Hortus Hyemalis; leaves laid up in a book of several plants kept dry, which preserve colour, however, and look very finely, better than any Herball. In fine, a most excellent person he is, and must be allowed a little for a little conceitedness; but he may well be so, being a man so much above others.’

After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Evelyn was favoured by Charles II, though he never sought or held high rank. Instead, he busied himself with various minor posts usually aimed at improving public life, whether by licensing hackney coaches, developing sewers, reforming the streets, regulating the Royal Mint, or re-planning London after the great fire. He was a founder member of the Royal Society. Under the Catholic King James II, he became alarmed by attacks on the English Church, which led him to concur with the revolution of 1688 that brought William of Orange to the throne. Towards the end of his life, in 1695, he was made treasurer of Greenwich hospital for old sailors.

Writing was surely Evelyn’s main passion. His early works were largely Royalist tracts, but other, mostly scientific, books soon followed. He wrote pioneering works on tree cultivation (Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees), soils (A Philosophical Discourse of Earth) and pollution (Fumifugium). His later works tended to be more concerned with culture, art, and religion, with titles such as Sculpture: or the History and Art of Chalcography and Engraving in Copper, and Numismata - A discourse of medals, antient and modern. An 800-page history of religion was published after his death.

And then there is his diary which has come to overshadow all his other works. First edited by William Bray and published in two volumes by Henry Colburn in 1818 as Memoirs Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn, comprising his Diary from 1641 to 1705/6, and a Selection of his Familiar Letters. A more complete and definitive edition comprising six volumes was edited by Esmond Samuel de Beer and published by Clarendon Press 1955. Experts acknowledge that some parts of Evelyn’s diaries were compiled at a later date from notes, and that because they show evidence of hindsight, they are more memoir than diary.

Though covering a period of over 50 years, Evelyn’s diary is not as long as Pepys’s, nor is it as entertaining or interesting. It is dry and factual, and mostly the entries are brief and unemotional - except on the death of a child. When Richard - aged but 5 - dies, Evelyn fills several pages with the precocious boy’s achievements, concluding with, ‘Here ends the joy of my life, and for which I go even mourning to the grave.’ 

Arthur Ponsonby, author of English Diaries, says this of Pepys and Evelyn: ‘Although the two diarists were contemporaries and friends, and although they came across many common acquaintances in their official and Court experiences, they did not live in the same stratum of society, and their method, their motive, their point of view, their manner and their characters were so completely different that except for the fact that they refer to the same people and the same events, the two celebrated journals that have been handed down to us have very little resemblance, and they seem to call for different moods in the reader.’

Birds and animals in St James’s Park
9 February 1665
Dined at my Lord Treasurer’s, the Earl of Southampton, in Bloomsbury, where he was building a noble square or piazza [London’s first square, or at least one of the earliest], a little town; his own house stands too low, some noble rooms, a pretty cedar chapel, a naked garden to the north, but good air. I had much discourse with his Lordship, whom I found to be a person of extraordinary parts, but a valetudinarian.

I went to St James’s Park, where I saw various animals, and examined the throat of the Onocrotylus, or pelican, a fowl between a stork and a swan; a melancholy waterfowl, brought from Astrakhan by the Russian Ambassador; it was diverting to see how he would toss up and turn a flat fish, plaice, or flounder, to get it right into his gullet at its lower beak, which, being filmy, stretches to a prodigious wideness when it devours a great fish. Here was also a small water-fowl, not bigger than a moorhen, that went almost quite erect, like the penguin of America; it would eat as much fish as its whole body weighed; I never saw so unsatiable a devourer, yet the body did not appear to swell the bigger. The solan geese here are also great devourers, and are said soon to exhaust all the fish in a pond. Here was a curious sort of poultry not much exceeding the size of a tame pigeon, with legs so short as their crops seemed to touch the earth; a milk-white raven; a stork, which was a rarity at this season, seeing he was loose, and could fly loftily; two Balearian cranes, one of which having had one of his legs broken and cut off above the knee, had a wooden or boxen leg and thigh, with a joint so accurately made that the creature could walk and use it as well as if it had been natural; it was made by a soldier. The park was at this time stored with numerous flocks of several sorts of ordinary and extraordinary wild fowl, breeding about the Decoy, which for being near so great a city, and among such a concourse of soldiers and people, is a singular and diverting thing. There were also deer of several countries, white; spotted like leopards; antelopes, an elk, red deer, roebucks, stags, Guinea goats, Arabian sheep, etc. There were withy-pots, or nests, for the wild fowl to lay their eggs in, a little above the surface of the water.

Burning an effigy of the pope
10 June 1673
We went, after dinner, to see the formal and formidable camp on Blackheath, raised to invade Holland; or, as others suspected for another design. Thence, to the Italian glass-house at Greenwich, where glass was blown of finer metal than that of Murano, at Venice.

5 November 1673
This night the youths of the city burned the Pope in effigy, after they had made procession with it in great triumph, they being displeased at the Duke for altering his religion and marrying an Italian lady. [The Duke of York, who later became King James II, had converted to Catholicism, and some weeks prior to this diary entry married a 15 year old Italian princess, Mary of Modena.]

Practising for a siege at Windsor
21 August 1674
In one of the meadows at the foot of the long Terrace below the Castle [Windsor], works were thrown up to show the King a representation of the city of Maestricht, newly taken by the French. Bastians, bulwarks, ramparts, palisadoes, graffs, horn-works, counter-scarps, etc., were constructed. It was attacked by the Duke of Monmouth (newly come from the real siege) and the Duke of York, with a little army, to show their skill in tactics. On Saturday night they made their approaches, opened trenches, raised batteries, took the counter-scarp and ravelin, after a stout defense; great guns fired on both sides, grenadoes shot, mines sprung, parties sent out, attempts of raising the siege, prisoners taken, parleys; and, in short, all the circumstances of a formal siege, to appearance, and, what is most strange all without disorder, or ill accident, to the great satisfaction of a thousand spectators. Being night, it made a formidable show. The siege being over, I went with Mr Pepys back to London, where we arrived about three in the morning.

11 May 1676
I dined with Mr Charleton, and went to see Mr Montague’s new palace, near Bloomsbury, built by Mr Hooke, of our Society, after the French manner [now the site of the British Museum].

From Enfield to Bellsize House in Hampstead
2 June 1676
I went with my Lord Chamberlain to see a garden, at Enfield town; thence, to Mr Secretary Coventry’s lodge in the Chase. It is a very pretty place, the house commodious, the gardens handsome, and our entertainment very free, there being none but my Lord and myself. That which I most wondered at was, that, in the compass of twenty-five miles, yet within fourteen of London, there is not a house, barn, church, or building, besides three lodges. To this Lodge are three great ponds, and some few inclosures, the rest a solitary desert, yet stored with no less than 3,000 deer. These are pretty retreats for gentlemen, especially for those who are studious and lovers of privacy. 

We returned in the evening by Hampstead; to see Lord Wotton’s house and garden (Bellsize House), built with vast expense by Mr O’Neale, an Irish gentleman who married Lord Wotton’s mother, Lady Stanhope. The furniture is very particular for Indian cabinets, porcelain, and other solid and noble movables. The gallery very fine, the gardens very large, but ill kept, yet woody and chargeable The soil a cold weeping clay, not answering the expense.

9 October 1676
I went with Mrs. Godolphin and my wife to Blackwall, to see some Indian curiosities; the streets being slippery, I fell against a piece of timber with such violence that I could not speak nor fetch my breath for some space; being carried into a house and let blood, I was removed to the water-side and so home, where, after a day’s rest, I recovered.

Dining with Pepys at the Tower
18 April 1678
I went to see new Bedlam Hospital, magnificently built, and most sweetly placed in Moorfields, since the dreadful fire in London.

4 June 1679
I dined with Mr Pepys in the Tower, he having been committed by the House of Commons for misdemeanours in the Admiralty when he was secretary; I believe he was unjustly charged.

3 July 1679
Sending a piece of venison to Mr Pepys, still a prisoner, I went and dined with him.

14 September 1681
Dined with Sir Stephen Fox, who proposed to me the purchasing of Chelsea College, which his Majesty had sometime since given to our Society, and would now purchase it again to build a hospital; or infirmary for soldiers there, in which he desired my assistance as one of the Council of the Royal Society.

4 August 1682
With Sir Stephen Fox, to survey the foundations of the Royal Hospital begun at Chelsea.

An innumerable assembly of drinking people 
1 May 1683
I went to Blackheath, to see the new fair, being the first procured by the Lord Dartmouth. This was the first day, pretended for the sale of cattle, but I think in truth to enrich the new tavern at the bowling-green, erected by Snape, his Majesty’s farrier, a man full of projects. There appeared nothing but an innumerable assembly of drinking people from London, peddlars, etc., and I suppose it too near London to be of any great use to the country.

30 October 1683
I went to Kew to visit Sir Henry Capell, brother to the late Earl of Essex; but he being gone to Cashiobury, after I had seen his garden [later to become the famous Kew Gardens] and the alterations therein, I returned home. He had repaired his house, roofed his hall with a kind of cupola, and in a niche was an artificial fountain; but the room seems to me overmelancholy, yet might be much improved by having the walls well painted á fresco. The two green houses for oranges and myrtles, communicating with the rooms below, are very well contrived. There is a cupola made with pole-work between two elms at the end of a walk, which being covered by plashing the trees to them, is very pretty; for the rest there are too many fir trees in the garden.

Streets of booths on the frozen Thames
1 January 1684
The weather continuing intolerably severe, streets of booths were set up on the Thames; the air was so very cold and thick, as of many years there had not been the like. The smallpox was very mortal.

9 January 1684
I went across the Thames on the ice, now become so thick as to bear not only streets of booths, in which they roasted meat, and had divers shops of wares, quite across as in a town, but coaches, carts, and horses passed over. So I went from Westminster stairs to Lambeth, and dined with the Archbishop. [. . .] After dinner and discourse with his Grace till evening prayers, Sir George Wheeler and I walked over the ice from Lambeth stairs to the Horseferry.

24 January 1684
The frost continues more and more severe, the Thames before London was still planted with booths in formal streets, all sorts of trades and shops furnished, and full of commodities, even to a printing press, where the people and ladies took a fancy to have their names printed, and the day and year set down when printed on the Thames: this humor took so universally, that it was estimated that the printer gained £5 a day, for printing a line only, at sixpence a name, besides what he got by ballads, etc. 

Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, and from several other stairs to and fro, as in the streets, sleds, sliding with skates, a bull-baiting, horse and coach-races, puppet-plays and interludes, cooks, tippling, and other lewd places, so that it seemed to be a bacchanalian triumph, or carnival on the water, while it was a severe judgment on the land, the trees not only splitting as if the lightning struck, but men and cattle perishing in divers places, and the very seas so locked up with ice, that no vessels could stir out or come in. The fowls, fish, and birds, and all our exotic plants and greens, universally perishing. 

The air full of the fuliginous steam of sea-coal
Many parks of deer were destroyed, and all sorts of fuel so dear, that there were great contributions to preserve the poor alive. Nor was this severe weather much less intense in most parts of Europe, even as far as Spain and the most southern tracts. London, by reason of the excessive coldness of the air hindering the ascent of the smoke, was so filled with the fuliginous steam of the sea-coal, that hardly could one see across the street, and this filling the lungs with its gross particles, exceedingly obstructed the breast, so as one could scarcely breathe. Here was no water to be had from the pipes and engines, nor could the brewers and divers other tradesmen work, and every moment was full of disastrous accidents.

Building about the city too disproportionate for the nation
12 June 1684
I went to advise and give directions about the building of two streets in Berkeley Garden, reserving the house and as much of the garden as the breadth of the house. In the meantime, I could not but deplore that sweet place (by far the most noble gardens, courts, and accommodations, stately porticos, etc., anywhere about the town) should be so much straitened and turned into tenements. But that magnificent pile and gardens contiguous to it, built by the late Lord Chancellor Clarendon, being all demolished, and designed for piazzas and buildings, was some excuse for my Lady Berkeley’s resolution of letting out her ground also for so excessive a price as was offered, advancing near £1,000 per annum in mere ground rents; to such a mad intemperance was the age come of building about a city, by far too disproportionate already to the nation: I having in my time seen it almost as large again as it was within my memory.

Fire on and in the river for the Queen’s birthday
15 November 1684
Being the Queen’s birthday, there were fireworks on the Thames before Whitehall, with pageants of castles, forts, and other devices of girandolas, serpents, the King and Queen’s arms and mottoes, all represented in fire, such as had not been seen here. But the most remarkable was the several fires and skirmishes in the very water, which actually moved a long way, burning under the water, now and then appearing above it, giving reports like muskets and cannon, with grenades and innumerable other devices. It is said it cost £1,500. It was concluded with a ball, where all the young ladies and gallants danced in the great hall. The court had not been seen so brave and rich in apparel since his Majesty’s Restoration.

7 December 1684
I went to see the new church at St James’s, elegantly built; the altar was especially adorned, the white marble inclosure curiously and richly carved, the flowers and garlands about the walls by Mr Gibbons, in wood: a pelican with her young at her breast; just over the altar in the carved compartment and border environing the purple velvet fringed with I. H. S. richly embroidered, and most noble plate, were given by Sir R. Geere, to the value ( as was said) of £200. There was no altar anywhere in England, nor has there been any abroad, more handsomely adorned.

Buried at Westminster without any pomp
14 February 1685
The King [Charles II had died on 6 February] was this night very obscurely buried in a vault under Henry VII’s Chapel at Westminster, without any manner of pomp, and soon forgotten after all this vanity, and the face of the whole Court was exceedingly changed into a more solemn and moral behavior; the new King [James II] affecting neither profaneness nor buffoonery. All the great officers broke their staves over the grave, according to form.

22 May 1685
Oates [Titus Oates instigated the fictitious Popish plot that led to several executions before being found out], who had but two days before been pilloried at several places and whipped at the cart’s tail from Newgate to Aldgate, was this day placed on a sledge, being not able to go by reason of so late scourging, and dragged from prison to Tyburn, and whipped again all the way, which some thought to be severe and extraordinary; but, if he was guilty of the perjuries, and so of the death of many innocents (as I fear he was), his punishment was but what he deserved. I chanced to pass just as execution was doing on him. A strange revolution!

The Apothecaries’ garden at Chelsea
7 August 1685
I went to see Mr Watts, keeper of the Apothecaries’ garden of simples at Chelsea [now the Chelsea Physic Garden], where there is a collection of innumerable rarities of that sort particularly, besides many rare annuals, the tree bearing Jesuit’s bark, which had done such wonders in quartan agues [fevers/chills]. What was very ingenious was the subterranean heat, conveyed by a stove under the conservatory, all vaulted with brick, so as he has the doors and windows open in the hardest frosts, secluding only the snow.

19 January 1686
This night was burnt to the ground my Lord Montague’s palace in Bloomsbury, than which for painting and furniture there was nothing more glorious in England. This happened by the negligence of a servant airing, as they call it, some of the goods by the fire in a moist season; indeed, so wet and mild a season had scarce been seen in man’s memory.

Shells, insects, animals - all destined for the British Museum
16 December 1686
I carried the Countess of Sunderland to see the rarities of one Mr Charlton in the Middle Temple, who showed us such a collection as I had never seen in all my travels abroad either of private gentlemen, or princes. It consisted of miniatures, drawings, shells, insects, medals, natural things, animals (of which divers, I think 100, were kept in glasses of spirits of wine), minerals, precious stones, vessels, curiosities in amber, crystal, agate, etc.; all being very perfect and rare of their kind, especially his books of birds, fish, flowers, and shells, drawn and miniatured to the life. He told us that one book stood him in £300; it was painted by that excellent workman, whom the late Gaston, Duke of Orleans, employed. This gentleman’s whole collection, gathered by himself, traveling over most parts of Europe, is estimated at £8,ooo. He appeared to be a modest and obliging person. [This collection was later bought by Sir Hans Sloane and formed part of the British Museum.]

16 March 1687
I saw a trial of those devilish, murdering, mischief doing engines called bombs, shot out of the mortar piece on Blackheath. The distance that they are cast, the destruction they make where they fall, is prodigious.

Coronation of King William and Queen Mary 
11 April 1689
I saw the procession to and from the Abbey Church of Westminster, with the great feast in Westminster Hall, at the coronation of King William and Queen Mary [after the flight of James II]. [. . .] The Parliament men had scaffolds and places which took up the one whole side of the Hall. When the King and Queen had dined, the ceremony of the Champion, and other services by tenure were performed. The Parliament men were feasted in the Exchequer chamber, and had each of them a gold medal given them, worth five-and-forty shillings. [. . .]

Much of the splendor of the proceeding was abated by the absence of divers who should have contributed to it, there being but five Bishops, four Judges (no more being yet sworn), and several noblemen and great ladies wanting; the feast, however, was magnificent. The next day the House of Commons went and kissed their new Majesties’ hands in the Banqueting House.

8 July 1689
I sat for my picture to Mr Kneller, for Mr Pepys, late Secretary to the Admiralty, holding my ‘Sylva’ [his book] in my right hand. It was on his long and earnest request, and is placed in his library. Kneller never painted in a more masterly manner.

Buildings destroyed by a storm and a fire
11 July 1689
I dined at Lord Clarendon’s, it being his lady’s wedding day, when about three in the afternoon there was an unusual and violent storm of thunder, rain, and wind; many boats on the Thames were overwhelmed, and such was the impetuosity of the wind as to carry up the waves in pillars and spouts most dreadful to behold, rooting up trees and ruining some houses. The Countess of Sunderland afterward told me that it extended as far as Althorpe at the very time, which is seventy miles from London. It did no harm at Deptford, but at Greenwich it did much mischief.

10 April, 1691
This night, a sudden and terrible fire burned down all the buildings over the stone gallery at Whitehall to the water side, beginning at the apartment of the late Duchess of Portsmouth (which had been pulled down and rebuilt no less than three times to please her), and consuming other lodgings of such lewd creatures, who debauched both King Charles II. and others, and were his destruction.

Great auction of pictures at Whitehall
21 June 1693
I saw a great auction of pictures in the Banqueting house, Whitehall. They had been my Lord Melford’s, now Ambassador from King James at Rome, and engaged to his creditors here. Lord Mulgrave and Sir Edward Seymour came to my house, and desired me to go with them to the sale. Divers more of the great lords, etc., were there, and bought pictures dear enough. There were some very excellent of Vandyke, Rubens, and Bassan. Lord Godolphin bought the picture of the Boys, by Murillo the Spaniard, for 80 guineas, dear enough; my nephew Glanville, the old Earl of Arundel’s head by Rubens, for £20. Growing late, I did not stay till all were sold.

5 October 1694
I went to St Paul’s to see the choir, now finished as to the stone work, and the scaffold struck both without and within, in that part. Some exceptions might perhaps be taken as to the placing columns on pilasters at the east tribunal. As to the rest it is a piece of architecture without reproach. The pulling out the forms, like drawers, from under the stalls, is ingenious. I went also to see the building beginning near St Giles’s, where seven streets make a star from a Doric pillar placed in the middle of a circular area; said to be built by Mr Neale, introducer of the late lotteries, in imitation of those at Venice, now set up here, for himself twice, and now one for the State.

A death, a fire, a storm and a fog
5 March 1695
I went to see the ceremony. Never was so universal a mourning; all the Parliament men had cloaks given them, and four hundred poor women; all the streets hung and the middle of the street boarded and covered with black cloth. There were all the nobility, mayor, aldermen, judges, etc. [Queen Mary II had died of smallpox two months earlier.]

5 January 1698
Whitehall burned, nothing but walls and ruins left. [In fact, Inigo Jones’s Banqueting House survived the fire.]

26 March 1699
After an extraordinary storm, there came up the Thames a whale which was fifty-six feet long. Such, and a larger of the spout kind, was killed there forty years ago (June 1658). That year died Cromwell.

15 November 1699
There happened this week so thick a mist and fog, that people lost their way in the streets, it being so intense that no light of candles, or torches, yielded any (or but very little) direction. I was in it, and in danger. Robberies were committed between the very lights which were fixed between London and Kensington on both sides, and while coaches and travelers were passing. It began about four in the afternoon, and was quite gone by eight, without any wind to disperse it. At the Thames, they beat drums to direct the watermen to make the shore.

The death of Samuel Pepys
26 May 1703
This day died Mr Samuel Pepys, a very worthy, industrious and curious person, none in England exceeding him in knowledge of the navy, in which he had passed through all the most considerable offices. Clerk of the Acts and Secretary of the Admiralty, all which he performed with great integrity. When King James II went out of England, he laid down his office, and would serve no more; but withdrawing himself from all public affairs, he lived at Clapham with his partner, Mr Hewer, formerly his clerk, in a very noble house and sweet place, where he enjoyed the fruit of his labors in great prosperity. He was universally beloved, hospitable, generous, learned in many things, skilled in music, a very great cherisher of learned men of whom he had the conversation. His library and collection of other curiosities were of the most considerable, the models of ships especially.

26-27 November 1703
The effects of the hurricane and tempest of wind, rain, and lightning, through all the nation, especially London, were very dismal. Many houses demolished, and people killed. As to my own losses, the subversion of woods and timber, both ornamental and valuable, through my whole estate, and about my house the woods crowning the garden mount, the growing along the park meadow, the damage to my own dwelling, farms, and outhouses, is almost tragical, not to be paralleled, with anything happening in our age. I am not able to describe it; but submit to the pleasure of Almighty God.

31 October, 1705
I am this day arrived to the 85th year of my age. Lord teach me so to number my days to come, that I may apply them to wisdom!

See also Modesty, prudence, piety, Virtues and imperfections and The Diary Junction

Monday, February 22, 2016

A wish or a curse

‘Each word is a wish or a curse. One must be careful not to make words once one has acknowledged the power of the living word. The artist’s secret lies in fear and awe. Our times have turned them into terror and dismay.’ This is Hugo Ball, born 130 years ago today, writing in his diary just months, in fact, before he founded Cabaret Voltaire where, famously, the anarchic art movement Dada would soon emerge.

Hugo Ball was born in Pirmasens, near the German border with France, on 22 February 1886, and raised by a middle-class Catholic family. He studied sociology and philosophy at the universities of Munich and Heidelberg, becoming interested in Nietzsche and writing plays, before moving to Berlin to study acting at Max Reinhardt’s drama school. Having worked for a short while as a stage manager, he was back in Munich by 1912, where he came into contact with the Blaue Reiter circle, and became critic-playwright at the Kammerspiele Theatre.

Around this time, Ball met a number of people who would have an influence on his life: Emmy Hennings, an actress and singer whom he would marry in 1920; Richard Huelsenbeck with whom he would open the Cabaret Voltaire; Hans Leybold, a young student radical, with whom he launched a new magazine, Revolution, though the first issue was confiscated by censors; and Wassily Kandinsky, the greatest of the Expressionist painters in the Munich circle.

In 1914, Ball applied for military service but was turned down several times. Impatient to experience war, he made a trip to Belgium. Appalled by what he saw, he turned pacifist, antiwar protester and anarchist. Soon after, he moved with Hennings, to Zurich, in neutral Switzerland, where the couple lived as unregistered aliens, unable to get work. It is thought, Ball tried to commit suicide at this point.

Nevertheless, things began improving for Ball. In 1916, he was able to get work as a touring pianist, but he also continued working on a book about German culture, and writing poems. His beliefs were shifting from anarchism towards mysticism, and he began experimenting with drugs. In 1916, back in Zurich, he opened Cabaret Voltaire, which served as the breeding ground for the Dada movement. In July of the same year, Collection Dada issued its first volume of writing (by the youngest member of the Zurich movement, Tristan Tzara). The following year Ball and Tzara opened Galerie Dada.

Ball’s involvement with Dada was short-lived. He left the movement and moved to Bern, to work as a journalist, and he published Zur Kritik der deutschen Intelligenz, a strident attack on German politics and culture. He then journeyed back, spiritually speaking, to Catholicism, and a couple of years later, published Byzantinisches Christendom

For the last years of his life, Ball lived relatively quietly and poorly, in the Canton of Ticino, southern Switzerland, with occasional trips to Italy. He became friends with Herman Hesse, who also lived in Ticino. Indeed, one of Ball’s last works was a study of Hesse (see also the recent post - Love of humanity). Ball died in 1927, aged only 41. Further biographical information can be found  at Wikipedia, the Dada Companion, or National Gallery of Art (Washington DC).

For a while, during his early and difficult days in Zurich, Ball kept a diary of sorts, in which he jotted down philosophical musings. These were were first published by Viking Press, New York City, in 1974 as Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary. The text was edited by John Elderfield and translated by Ann Raimes. More recently, in 1996, University of California Press has reissued the book with a few additions. Parts of the book are available to read online at Googlebooks or Scribd.

18 September 1915
‘The collapse is beginning to take on gigantic dimensions. We will not be able to use the old idealistic Germany as a basis any more either, so we will be completely without any basis. For the devout Protestant-enlightened Germany of the Reformation and the Wars of Liberation produced an authority, and one could say that this authority confused and destroyed the last opposition to the animal kingdom. That whole civilization was ultimately only a sham. It dominated the academic world enough to corrupt the common people too; for even the people approved of Bethmann’s words about necessity knowing no law; in fact, the Protestant pastors were the most unhesitating spokesmen and interpreters of this degrading slogan.’

20 September 1915
‘I can imagine a time when I will seek obedience as much as I have tasted disobedience: to the full. For a long time I have not obeyed even myself. I refuse to give ear to every halfway reasonable or nobler emotion; I have become so mistrustful of my origin. So 1 can only confess: I am eager to give up my Germanity. Is there not regimentation, Protestantism, and immorality in each of us, whether we know it or not? And the deeper it is, the less we know it?’

25 September 1915
‘The philosophy with which the generals try to justify their actions is a coarse version of Machiavelli. The peculiar words of the language of government (and unfortunately not only of the language of government) go back to a stale Renaissance ideal: the “right of the stronger,” the “necessity that knows no law,” the “place in the sun,” and other similar terms. Machiavellianism, however, has ruined itself. The Machiavellians are being called by their true name; the articles of the law are being remembered and used against them. Machiavellian wars in old Europe no longer succeed.

There is, in spite of everything, a folk morality. Frederick II’s saying “When princes want war, they begin one and call in a diligent lawyer who proves that it is right and just” is being rejected. How might a man feel, how must he live, when he feels he belongs, and when he seems disastrously willing to apply all kinds of adventure, all con- fusion of problems and offenses to his own unique constitution? How could a person assert himself if he is someone whose fantastic Ego seems to be created only to receive and suffer the scandal, the opposition, the rebellion of all these released forces? If language really makes us kings of our nation, then without doubt it is we, the poets and thinkers, who are to blame for this blood bath and who have to atone for it.’

4 October 1915
‘I tend to compare my own private experiences with the nation’s. I see it almost as a matter of conscience to perceive a certain parallel there. It may be a whim, but I could not live without the conviction that my own personal fate is an abbreviated version of the fate of the whole nation. If I had to admit that I was surrounded by highwaymen, nothing in the world could convince me that they were not my fellow countrymen whom I live among. I bear the signature of my homeland, and I feel surrounded by it everywhere I go.

If I ask myself in the dead of night what the purpose of all this might be, then I could well answer: So that I might lay aside my prejudices forever. So that I might experience the meaning of what I once took seriously: the backdrop. So that I might detach myself from this age and strengthen myself in the belief in the improbable.

The naiveté of those people who are afflicted with incurable diseases and are treated for rationalism. There is no doubt that it is a great time - for a healer of souls.’

25 November 1915
‘Each word is a wish or a curse. One must be careful not to make words once one has acknowledged the power of the living word.

The artist’s secret lies in fear and awe. Our times have turned them into terror and dismay.

People who live rashly and precipitately easily lose control over their impressions and are prey to unconscious emotions and motives. The activity of any art (painting, writing, composing) will do them good, provided that they do not pursue any purpose in their subjects, but follow the course of a free, unfettered imagination. The independent process of fantasy never fails to bring to light again those things that have crossed the threshold of consciousness without analysis. In an age like ours, when people are assaulted daily by the most monstrous things without being able to keep account of their impressions, in such an age aesthetic production becomes a prescribed course. But all living art will be irrational, primitive, and complex; it will speak a secret language and leave behind documents not of edification but of paradox.’

Diary briefs

Diary kept by Marian Andersen - Smithsonian

WWI diary of battle in African jungle - Mail OnlineExpress

Tipperary parish priest diary - Patheos

Artemus Comstock’s mid-19th C diaries - Niagara Gazette

Elizabeth De Hart Bleecker diary online - New York Public Library

A Broken World, edited by Sebastian Faulks - Penguin

WW1 hospital diaries go online - National Archives, Centenary News

Bacon biographer finds friend’s diaries - The Guardian

Troubled footballer keeps diary - FourFourTwo

Bennett’s diaries 2005-2015 to be published - Faber & Faber, The Bookseller

Indian criminal’s diary record - Times of India

WWII refugee tales from Split - Total Croatia News

Éamon de Valera’s prison diary to be auctioned - The Irish Times

Diaries of Sydney Opera House architect - ABC

The Diaries of Randolph Schwabe - Sansom & Company

A Collective Diary of the Last Days of the Third Reich - W. W. Norton, Washington Times

Monday, February 15, 2016

No. 10 hostile to me

‘TB said in ’97, no one must think ‘we are masters now’. We must focus on our duty to serve - or something similar. The reality of his behaviour is ‘I am master now’. There is a complete arrogance in the way he runs the government and No. 10.’ This is direct from the diary of Clare Short, written at a time when she was still serving in Tony Blair’s cabinet. This and other carefully-selected/edited quotes from her diary are included in an autobiographical book she wrote to inform the debate on why ‘Tony Blair did what he did on Iraq’ and ‘how such a disastrous mistake came to be made’. But the book can also be read as Short’s self-justification for being so anti-Blair yet serving in his cabinet for so long, and for, ultimately, condoning the invasion of Iraq, but then resigning from government and losing no opportunity to attack Blair thereafter. Happy birthday Clare Short, 70 today.

Short was born in Birmingham, UK, on 15 February 1946, to Irish Catholic parents. Aged 17, she gave birth to a son, who was given up for adoption; and aged 18 she married a fellow student, Andrew Moss. After studying political science at Leeds and Keele universities, she worked as a civil servant in the Home Office. In 1981, she got married again, to Alex Lyon (who died in 1993). In 1983, she was elected Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood. She is said to have gained some early notoriety, soon after the election, when she implied Alan Clark, the government’s employment minister, was drunk at the despatch box. And, in 1986 she gained attention for campaigning against photographs of topless models in British tabloid newspapers.

Short rose through the ranks of the Labour front bench, despite twice resigning (over the prevention of terrorism act, and over the Gulf war in 1990). From 1993 to the general election in 1997, Short held a variety of posts: Shadow Minister for Women, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Opposition spokesperson on Overseas Development. She was a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) from 1988 to 1997 and Chair of the NEC Women’s Committee from 1993 to 1996. In 1996, Short discovered her adopted son, Toby, was working as a solicitor in London, and had three children.

After the 1997 election that brought Labour into power, the new Prime Minister Tony Blair created the Department for International Development, with Short as a cabinet-level Secretary of State. She retained this post through to the 2001 UK general election, and into the second Blair-led Labour government. In 2003, though, she threatened to resign from the cabinet should the government go to war with Iraq, but was persuaded by Blair to remain and back the war. Nevertheless, she resigned in May that year. Subsequently, in early 2004, she was involved in a controversy when she claimed the British security services were intercepting UN communication, including those of Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General. And later, in 2004, Free Press (Simon & Schuster) published her autobiographical book on New Labour, including a detailed analysis of the run-up to war with Iraq: An Honourable Deception?: New Labour, Iraq, and the Misuse of Power.

Short announced in 2006 she would not be standing at the next general election, and she also resigned the Labour whip, saying she was ‘ashamed’ of Tony Blair’s government. In 2011, she expressed interest in becoming a candidate for Birmingham mayor, but the idea of a mayoralty for the city was rejected in a referendum. In 2009, The Daily Telegraph exposed irregularities in her claims for expenses - by 2009, it is said, she had claimed and received over £65,000 in expenses above her salary.

According to her own website, Short is now active in various organisations ‘working on slum upgrading in the developing world, transparency in oil, gas and mining, African-led humanitarian action, destitute asylum-seekers in Birmingham, Trade Justice for the developing world and for a just settlement of the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict.’ Furthermore, she ‘is a trustee of Hope Projects (West Midlands) Ltd, Trade Out of Poverty, the Welfare Association, and Africa Humanitarian Action; and patron of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK’. In March 2011 she was elected Chair of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Further information can also be found at Wikipedia.

In her book - An Honourable Deception?: New Labour, Iraq, and the Misuse of Power - Short relies heavily on quotations from her diaries to show or prove her opinions and state of mind at different points in time. The opening paragraph of the book reads as follows:
‘Everywhere I go, in Britain and overseas, people ask me why Tony Blair did what he did on Iraq. This book is my attempt to answer that question as fully and honestly as I can. I have written it so that the discussion of how such a disastrous mistake came to be made can be more fully informed, and in the hope that we can begin to learn the lesson and start to put things right.’ (By writing, as if in passing, of Blair’s decision to go to war against Iraq as ‘a disastrous mistake’ seems to presuppose that this is a universally acknowledged fact - which of course it isn’t - but it does set the tone of Short’s purpose, a diatribe against Tony Blair, rather well.) Here are several extracts from Short’s diary, as selected and edited by Short herself.

1 July 2002
‘TB said in ’97, no one must think ‘we are masters now’. We must focus on our duty to serve - or something similar. The reality of his behaviour is ‘I am master now’. There is a complete arrogance in the way he runs the government and No. 10. My experience of it recently in his effort to press us to misuse and to get asylum seekers returned to their countries is a minor example but very much the style of his government.’

19 September 2002
‘Was feeling very, very irritated with TB and that he and US were determined on war at any price. Asked to see V + [Vauxhall Cross - headquarters of SIS] and told not allowed. Even more irritated. Made a fuss then got briefing. V+ said SH had masses chem and biol dispersed across country. Nuclear not imminent but would get. Military option target elite - no repeat Gulf war + big humanitarian effort.’

September 2002
‘In September 2002 we had a long and full discussion on Iraq at Cabinet. Tony Blair asked to see me before the meeting. He asked if I had seen SIS and said, as my diary records: “He said he didn’t want to lose me, but couldn’t give me a veto. I had done an interview for GMTV on Sunday stressing UN, no repeat of Gulf war and hurt to Iraqi people. Need for progress on Palestine and Kashmir. Big stress on keeping to UN route. No complaint from TB. I briefly reiterated my points.”

The Cabinet discussion was full and open. Once again my diary entry summarised:

“Cabinet discussion good. Big beasts lined up to support - JP - GB - JS - DB. JP said something like must all stick together but didn’t disagree with me. GB stressed UN but brief. DB a muddled contribution M Beckett came in with, not against. Then I did teaching on the just war etc. Alan Milburn and Estelle Morris and others then spoke v openly re why now? Why him? What about the Palestinians? Palestinians came up repeatedly and UN. V Good discussion. I think it influenced TB statement to Parliament, less belligerent and more UN.” ’

7 March 2003
‘Had a couple of days feeling gloomy and sleepless nights writing my resignation statement in my head. It seemed they were into military action whatever Blix said, we are arm-twisting Security Council non-permanent members and don’t seem to care that they can’t reconstruct the country without a UN mandate.’

23 March 2003
‘. . . terrible week - decided to stay in the Gov - horrendous media and bitter disappointment to all who were buoyed by my threat to resign.’

7 April 2003
‘Atmospherics in No. 10 hostile to me, maybe not stay long in government after all.’

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The cost of men and food

‘Married men are paid by the keep of a cow, a house, potatoe & flax ground, with a certain yearly sum in money. At one period of the war unmarried ploughmen paid by the year received 18£, and 6½ bolls of meal with milk. In 1816 the money wages fell to 9£. At present. 12£.’ This is Thomas Robert Malthus, the British scholar whose writings on political economy and populations studies - notably that population growth will always tend to outrun food supply - caused controversy in his time. He left behind a few travel diaries, which show him always aware of ‘the economic aspect of things’ as well as ‘his persistent interest in the costs and amenities of living in different environments’.

Malthus was born on 13 February 1766 into a large prosperous family living in Westcott, Surrey. He was educated at home, then Warrington Academy, and entered Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1784, eventually being elected a Fellow in 1793. Earlier, though, he had taken orders for the Church of England, and become a curate. His first work - An Essay on the Principle of Population - was published anonymously in 1798, and then revised by him five or six times, during his lifetime, incorporating new information. The work made him famous at the time, and he remains one of the most well remembered of early economists.

Essentially, Malthus argued in his essay that hopes for future human happiness - as expressed by learned men, including his father - must be in vain because food supply, which increases in arithmetic progression, will always be outstripped by population growth, which increases by geometric progression if unchecked. Indeed, population, he argued, will expand to the limit of subsistence, and be held in check by war, famine, ill health.

In 1804, Malthus married Harriet Eckersall, and they had three children. When the East India Company College was founded, in 1805-1806, to train administrators for the Honourable East India Company, he was appointed professor of history and political economy. Although initially situated in Hertford, new buildings including accommodation for the professors and their families were soon after constructed at Haileybury, just outside the city, where Malthus taught and lived for the rest of his life (having helped, in 1817, defend the college against closure).

In 1818, Malthus was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1820, he published his Principles of Political Economy, and soon after was a founding member the Political Economy Club. Later, he was elected one of the 10 royal associates of the Royal Society of Literature, and he cofounded the Statistical Society of London. He died suddenly in late 1834. Further information is available at Wikipedia, The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, BBC, Encyclopaedia Britannica, New World Encyclopedia or the Biographical Dictionary of British Economists.

Malthus travelled infrequently: to northern Europe in 1799, through Sweden and Finland to St Petersburg; to France and Switzerland in 1802; to Ireland in 1819; to the Continent in 1825; and to Scotland in 1826. He may have kept diaries on all these trips, who knows, but only those from 1799, 1825 and 1826 appear to have survived - the 1799 diary (four notebooks) only being discovered in 1961. These diaries were transcribed and edited by Patricia James and published in 1966 in Cambridge at the University Press for the Royal Economic Society as The Travel Diaries of Thomas Robert Malthus.

According to the eminent British economist Lionel Robbins, who wrote the foreword, the diaries are not only notable for their occasional entries on population questions (shedding light on differences between the first and second editions of ‘Essay on the Principle of Population’), but because ‘they afford valuable evidence of general temper of the author’s mind in its focus on the economic aspect of things - his patient empiricism, his concern with the mundane details of institutions and customary behaviour, his persistent interest in the costs and amenities of living in different environments.’

Robbins finishes his foreword: ‘Since the discovery of these diaries, I have often thought of the pleasure which they would have given to Maynard Keynes who wrote so eloquently of their author and who valued so highly the ways of living and thinking for which he stood. How he would have relished the piquant details of travel and the agreeable parties at which such serious questions were discussed. It is a fitting thing that they should now be published by the Royal Economic Society whose fortunes he did so much to establish and whose meetings for so many years were made memorable by the liveliness of his wit and fancy.’

Here are several extracts from the three tours: Scandinavia, 1799 (four notebooks), the Continent, 1825, and Scotland, 1826.

13 June 1799
‘Showry. Therm at 2, 59. Saw the King’s library which consists of upwards of 300,000 volumes. It contains many scarce books & valuable manuscripts; but we were too much pressed for time to examine them with any attention. Talked to a man who had published a book on Statistics. According to his calculations, 1 in 40 die in Norway, 1 in 38 in the islands, 1 in 37 in the dutchies. He said that Professor Thaarup had stolen from him.  Call’d upon Monsr. Wad, professor of natural history in the University, a great mineralogist, & saw some curious specimens relating to the formation of coal & amber, a new semimetal & some new crystals & c. & c. We have found all the professors that we have seen extremely polite, & ready to give every kind of information. The King’s library is open every day from 10 till 12, & a professor generally attends.

There are no corn laws in Denmark & no publick store except a small one for the army. The Bank is entirely a government institution but in great credit. The notes are as low as 1 rix dollar. Silver must be paid at the bank when demanded. These notes bear a discount in Holstein. I heard, but do not know whether from good authority or not, that there was a discount on these notes in the islands about 10 yrs ago. The Bank is said now to be very rich in silver, & it is thought probable that in a few years the notes will be destroyed & that there will be only a silver currency.

Every thing is remarkably dear at present in Copenhagen. Beef & mutton 6d., Fresh butter is. Common labour in the environs of the town 2s. - in the country 1s. 4d. There is a very great demand for labour at present, and labourers are scarce. Every thing in the shops is remarkably dear, & books particularly so. Only four years ago labour in the country was 1 danish marc or 8d. a day. This rapid rise in the price of labour has placed the lower classes in a very good state, and it is expected that there will be a very rapid increase of population. In the afternoon went to see the review, which upon the whole went off very well, tho it was unluckily a showry afternoon. The soldiers at a distance appeared to be handsomely drest, but on a nearer view their cloathing was very coarse. The horses small, but handsome, & in good order - all with long tails. Towards the end of the review I got near the King’s tent & saw him quite close. He is treated quite as an idiot. The officers about the court have all orders not to give him any answer. Some of the party observed him talking very fast & making faces at an officer who was one of the sentinels at the tent, who preserved the utmost gravity of countenance & did not answer him a single word. Just before the royal party left the tent the Prince rode up full speed, & his father made him a very low bow. I could not well distinguish the Prince’s countenance, and could only see that he had a thin pale face & a small person. His father has the same kind of face & person, but is reckoned a better looking man.

We observed the French minister with his national cockade. He had an interesting, tho rather fier countenance, and seemed to look on what he saw as a poor farce not worth his attention. When he addressed any person his features relaxed into mildness & he seemed to be perfectly well bred in his manner. The Princess Royal is rather pretty, and is, I understand, a most agreeable & valuable woman. Lady R F spoke in the highest terms of her - She is a daughter of the Prince of Hesse who lives in the palace at Sleswic. We saw the Princess get into her carriage with her daughter, the only remaining child of five, who is now about five yrs old. There was a large party of nobility in the King’s tent, but Ld R F was not there. The King drove off first, accompanied by the Princess Royal & her daughter, in a gilt chariot with six very handsome grey horses.’

28 June 1799
‘We were engaged to dine with Mr Ancher at half past 2, & to go to his brother’s in the evening. In the morning, walked up to the Castle with the daughter of the landlord of our Inn as an interpreter. She speaks french, is a little of a coquette, & is much celebrated in the neighbourhood for the gracefulness of her manners; but she has not much pretension to beauty. On account of her superior accomplishments she is admitted into the first circle at Christiania. Mr A praised her highly & said that she was one of their best actresses. They have private theatricals at Christiania as well as at Frederickshall, & Mr A himself often takes a principal part - sometimes indeed that of author as well as actor. He told us of a tragedy that he had written on the subject of the death of Major Andre, which he performed before the Prince Royal, playing himself the part of the Major. The Prince, he told us, was highly pleased.’

8 June 1825
‘Bruges at 8 o’clock. Hotel nearly full.’

9 June 1825
‘Tower in the Market Place. Church of Notre Dame: Carved Pulpit. Statue of the Virgin by Michaelangelo. Tombs of Charles the Bold & his daughter. St Salvador. Baptism of John by Van Os. Resurrection not yet put up.

Church of Jerusalem not worth going to. Black Manteau’s. Some of the whitened houses do not suit the antient character of the Town.

At the Hotel Fleur de Bled Vin de Bordeaux ordinaire 2.f.’

10 June 1825
‘To Ghent by the Grand Barque. Passage 5½ francs each, dinner included, wine excluded. Vin de Bordeaux ordinaire 3 f. Claret at 4 f. not better. - rather approaching to the wine at 1½ f.’

For a great part of the way the banks were so high that the country was not visible - wood on each side - chiefly poplar of different kinds, and beech - Latter part of way banks lower - neat houses - good deal of rye the main food of the common people. Labour 14 sous, 28 French Sous. White bread 3½ pounds for 4 Sous or pence.’

11 June 1825
‘Town - marks of the wealth and splendour of the middle ages. Cathedrale de St Bavo rich in marble. Pulpit by Delvaux. Statue of Bishop Trieste by Quesnoy. Chch. St Michael. Crucifixion by Vandyke - a very fine picture, but dirty, and not distinct. -another copy in Academy in better order, but not reckoned so good. Van Kraeger. Boxon sculptor - single portrait of himself.

Nunnery. Town Hall Gothic side superb.

Sabots, women without stockings. Blue Carters frocks. Cotton cloaks.’

12 June 1825
‘Feats of swimming from the bridges of the Schelde and the Leys, numerous barges laden with Coals chiefly from Charleroix.

In the afternoon to Brussels by the Diligence - premiere caisse. Pavé the first half of the way between two rows of beeches. Country flat but not unpleasing from the number of trees - chiefly different kinds of poplar, and beech, - no large timber. Much rye in full ear, and good crops, some barley turning yellow, - but little wheat - just coming into ear. good crops flax. From Alost the crops of wheat and rye forwarder, and the finest and fullest I ever saw. - the first half of the way the houses the neatest, - last half thatched cottages, and a waving country much like England. Alost and Assche very white and cheerful. Blue frocks, women without shoes. Hotel Belle Vue. Place Royale. Park - splendid.’

4 July 4 1826
‘Hill by Turnpike before breakfast. Small hill the other way after breakfast. Down to Stoney river and wooden bridge. View of Luss & Ben Lomond. Steam boat. Rowerdennan. Tarbet. Inversnaith. Rob Roy’s cave. Tarbet. Walk on a shoulder of one of the mountains in the evening.

Heard at Luss that the wages of the man who worked in the slate quarries were about 20d. a day. All had been employed, and there had been little or no fall.

In Fifeshire, from Mr Bruce the same account. Wages had risen in 1825, and had not fallen again - no want of agricultural work. In 1811, 12 and 13 the price of labour for single men had been 12s. a week. In 1823, they had fallen to 9s. and in 1825 rose to 10s. at which price they remained, June 30th 1826. For about 3 months of the year the wages are only 9s,; and during the harvest much is done by piece work.

Married men are paid by the keep of a cow, a house, potatoe & flax ground, with a certain yearly sum in money. At one period of the war unmarried ploughmen paid by the year received 18£, and 6½ bolls of meal with milk. In 1816 the money wages fell to 9£. At present. 12£. Altogether what the married men receive is worth more than the earnings of the single man. Their wages in money are about half those of the single man.

The boll of wheat is rather above 4 bushels, of barly six, of oats six.

Farms are now for the most part let in Scotland so as to vary with the price of corn. Sometimes the whole rent varies with the price of corn, and sometimes a part is reserved in Money.’

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A life of Joy and lions

‘Went along the river bank with Joy and called a croc. She radiated sex and I only just managed to keep a hold on myself.’ This is from the diary of the British wildlife conservationist George Adamson - born 110 years ago today - who would soon marry the said Joy. Together, in Kenya, they would rear an orphan lion cub called Elsa, and reintroduce her to the wild - something not done before. Joy penned a book about this experience, called Born Free, partly based on George’s diaries, which became a worldwide hit, and made them both famous.

Adams was born at Etawah, in British India as it was then, on 3 February 1906, but educated at boarding school in England. Aged 18, he went to Kenya, to work on his father’s coffee plantation, but this did not suit him, and he tried various other occupations, gold prospector, goat trader, safari hunter, before joining Kenya’s game department in 1938, where he became the senior game warden of the Northern Frontier District. In 1944, he married Joy, after she had divorced from her second husband, Peter Bally. She had several miscarriages, but the couple never had any children.

Towards the end of the 1940s, Joy began painting the natives of Kenya. During several years of travel, and visiting more than 50 tribes, she produced 700 pictures many now held by Nairobi National Museum. In early 1956, George was sent to track down a man-eating lion that had been terrorising villages. His party startled a lioness in the deep bush, and he was forced to shoot her. He brought her three lion cubs back home with him, two of which were later sent to a zoo. However, he and Joy kept the third one - naming her Elsa.

Elsa remained with the Adamsons for three years before they decided to re-integrate her into the wild, something that had never been attempted before. She survived only a couple of years, dying from tick fever in 1961. However, by then, George had retired as game warden, preferring to focus on working with lions (still in the Meru National Park), and Joy had founded the Elsa Conservation Trust. They were also famous. A year earlier, a young David Attenborough from the BBC had interviewed them, and the book, Born Free, had been published. Born Free, written by Joy partly from diaries kept by George, was a publishing phenomenon, selling millions around the world (not least to friends of my parents, Bill and Sean, who bought it in May 1960 to give to me as a present for my eighth birthday! I still have it.) Two sequels followed, and a very successful film, starring Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna (husband and wife in real life).

In 1968, one of George’s lions mauled the son of a warden, and George was obliged to leave the Park. The only place where the government would allow him to continue his wildlife rehabilitation programme was in Kora, an isolated and almost uninhabited region of desert 400 km north of Nairobi. There he rented 1,300 sq km and set up operations with his younger brother Terence  and native assistants. Joy had no wish to move to Kora, which only added to long-standing tensions between her and George, and which led to their separation. Joy travelled the world promoting wildlife conservation, showing films and setting up Elsa clubs, but was murdered by an irate employee in 1980. The same year, Terence Adamson was mauled by a lion, and the Kenyan government stopped any further cubs entering George’s rehabilitation programme.

In 1984, Travers and McKenna set up the Born Free Foundation; and in 1986 George published his autobiography My Pride and Joy. Two years later, the Kenyan government reinstated his programme, with three orphan cubs to rehabilitate into the wild. But, in 1989, George and two of his assistants, in Kora, went to the aid of some tourists and were murdered by Somali poachers. Further information about George is available at Wikipedia, PBS, Father of Lions,, and Destination Magazine.

As Joy acknowledged in her books - Born Free, Living Free and Forever Free - her husband’s records were the source of much of the detail. As far as I know, George’s diaries have never been published in their own right, however, Adrian House used them extensively in his biography: The Great Safari - The Lives of George and Joy Adamson (Harvill, 1993).

In his introduction, House says: ‘The written sources on which this book is based are primarily those left by George and Joy themselves. The most remarkable of these are George’s diaries, kept night after night for more than sixty years [. . .]

When I first read the most intimate passages in the diaries and letters I felt uneasy about using them. However, I then realized George and Joy had deliberately preserved them in the full knowledge that their activities aroused curiosity throughout the world and that they might die at any moment. I have therefore quoted them because they throw critical light on a number of mysteries. [. . .]

It has often been necessary to abridge passages from letters, diaries, reports and books, but to avoid distraction I have not indicated omissions with the customary eclipses.’

Here are several extracts from George’s diaries as reproduced by House in his biography.

1 January 1943
‘While we were walking along Bally was some way behind, Joy suddenly caught me by the hand and said she loved me. I was flabbergasted and felt very embarrassed.’

2 January 1943
‘Went along the river bank with Joy and called a croc. She radiated sex and I only just managed to keep a hold on myself.’

6 January 1943
‘In the evening we had drinks, while I went into the bush Joy filled up my glass with neat brandy. I pretended not to notice and drank it down. When we were going to bed our eyes met. If Bally had not been there we would have slept together.’

12 January 1943
‘Joy asked me whether, if we got married, she would spoil my life - I said she could make it and I believe she could.’

13 January 1943
‘Yesterday at our midday halt, Joy and myself were sitting on the ground next each other skinning a Vulturine guinea fowl. Presently we touched and it was like an electric current through me. It would be a very dirty trick to take advantage of the situation.’

14 January 1943
‘Went out for walk with Joy and she told me that Bally is impotent, pretty tragic. During the night I heard Joy crying. I’d like to help her - Bally seems a very decent fellow, but at the same time he is a bit of an “old woman” and I can quite understand a woman like Joy wanting a man with red blood in his veins.’

15 January 1943
‘The Ballys and Hales started back for Garissa by lorry. Sorry the Bs have gone, they were good company on the safari. She is an exceptionally good walker and does not mind hardship and would make a wonderful companion for a man like myself. As they drove off her eyes literally looked into my soul.’

18 March 1943
‘She wants to get a divorce and to marry me; she has discussed it with Peter and he wants it. I do not know whether I want to marry her; I do not want to behave like a cad, least of all hurt her. I am single, past my youth and I want to have a wife some day - why not risk it? It will be something positive if I make her happy.

Well I “burnt my boats” and now I am in honour bound to marry her. I think it will not be difficult to fall in love with her.’

24 April 1943
‘I do love Joy, in fact I am frantically in love with her. This has been the most wonderful experience of my life. Joy means everything in the world to me and I now long for the time when we are married.’

26 April 1943
‘I realised today that Joy has doubts about our marriage being a success. My God - is she another Juliette? No, it can’t be, she is in a very nervous state over the divorce and it is understandable.’

29 April 1943
‘She still loves Peter and I am terribly afraid that she may go back to him before the divorce is through.’

24 June 1943
‘In the course of the afternoon Joy turned up in a hired lorry. Very upset and wanted to dash off to Nairobi, appearing at the divorce case in court and telling the judge that the whole thing was “collusion” with the idea of getting the proceedings stopped and saving me! She said she had decided she did not want to marry me or anyone again.’

15 February 1957
‘Joy went up the beach with Elsa. About 6.30 pm. I was feeling definitely queer in the head. I imagined Elsa attacking Joy. Suddenly a terrible fear gripped me that I was going mad. I had the sense to call Herbert who was lying on his bed. I told him that I might do anything - anything! Asked him to stay with me and not leave me for a moment - told him to remove all guns, knives, everything with which I could injure myself or another.

I knew I was sinking into darkness, I went through the most terrifying mental anguish, I cried for help, I wanted something to clutch on to like a drowning man. Herbert held my hands which were ice cold and he urged me not to give in. I felt myself going colder and colder - I started to cry out for Joy because I knew that I was going into the limbo of insanity or death. At length I heard Joy come up from the beach. It was like the sound of a faint voice at the end of a mile-long corridor. I urged her to hurry because there was so little time left. She came and at once I felt a great relief as if a great burden had been suddenly lifted from my head.

All the time the cold kept creeping relentlessly up and up, up from my feet, up to my knees, and it grew ever faster and faster until, like the bursting of a dam, it flooded over me and I knew I was dying.

The last feeling I can remember was of immeasurable peace.’

4 July 1958
‘Joy had the foolish idea of trying to drag Elsa by the chain into the car! When it didn’t work, Joy behaved like a lunatic. I went off to shoot meat, got a kongoni. Finally, after much abuse and ill temper from Joy, Elsa came along and without demur jumped into the car.’