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Tag: diary

Allingham: The fullness and emptiness of writing

Friday, 18 November, 2016 0 Comments

Many an eerie Hallowe’en night is still graced with a reading of The Fairies by William Allingham, which begins:

“Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men.”

William Allingham, who died on this day in 1889, was an Irish poet and chronicler best known for his Diary, in which he recorded his encounters with Tennyson, Carlyle and other 19th-century writers. For Allingham, the act of writing was double edged.

Writing

“A man who keeps a diary, pays
Due toll to many tedious days;
But life becomes eventful — then
His busy hand forgets the pen.
Most books, indeed, are records less
Of fullness than of emptiness.”

William Allingham (1824 – 1889)


Journalist of the day: Robert Bruce Lockhart

Friday, 11 April, 2014 0 Comments

When the Russian Revolution broke out in early 1917, Robert Bruce Lockhart was the Acting British Consul-General in Moscow. Working for the Secret Intelligence Service, he set about creating a network of undercover agents, but he and fellow British spy Sidney Reilly were soon arrested. Robert Bruce Lockhart Instead of getting the expected 9mm of lead in the back of their necks, however, they were exchanged for the Russian diplomat Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov. Lockhart wrote about his experiences in Memoirs of a British Agent — a bestseller that was made into the film British Agent in 1934.

11 April 1929: “Priceless story of Lenin and the death of his mother-in-law (Krupskaya’s mother). Krupskaya tired of watching at the death-bed asked Lenin to sit by her mother while she slept. He was to call her if her mother wanted anything. Lenin took a book and began to read. Two hours later Krupskaya came back. Her mother was dead. Lenin was still reading. Krupskaya blamed him: “Why did you not let me know?’ Lenin replied: ‘But your mother never called me!’ Still, Lenin was not inhuman.” Robert Bruce Lockhart (1887 — 1970)

And thus ends our week of journal entries. It’s good for mind and soul to keep a journal says Oliver Burkeman: “Write about your most profound fears, your feelings of loneliness, of regret and grief. Then hide it somewhere where nobody will ever find it, don’t tell a soul…”


Journalist of the day: Kenneth Williams

Thursday, 10 April, 2014 0 Comments

The English actor and comedian Kenneth Williams was one of the main characters in the popular Carry On films. He lived alone and had few friends apart from his mother, and no significant romantic relationships, but his journals contain references to homosexual liaisons, which he describes as “traditional matters.” His last words in his diary were “Oh, what’s the bloody point?” The cause of death was an overdose of barbiturates.

10 April 1966: “Michael C. [Codron] told me this story about Lady Dorothy Macmillan saying to Mme. de Gaulle at the Elysée Palace. ‘Now that your husband has achieved so much, is there any particular wish, any desire you have for the future?’ and Madame replied, ‘Yes — a penis.’ Whereupon Gen. de Gaulle leaned over and said, ‘No, my dear, in English it is pronounced Happiness.'” Kenneth Williams (1926 — 1988)

Tomorrow, here, we end our week of journal entries with one that documents what happened when Lenin spent a night beside his mother-in-law’s death bed.


Journalist of the day: Liane de Pougy

Monday, 7 April, 2014 0 Comments

“We’re drawn to making our mark, leaving a record to show we were here, and a journal is a great place to do it.” So wroteKeri Smith in The Guardian last month, and this week Rainy Day will be devoting its posts to those who have left a record with their journals. We’re beginning with Liane de Pougy, a Folies Bergère dancer who became one of Paris’s most beautiful and desired prostitutes in the glory days of the fin de siècle.

7 April 1922: “Lord Carnarvon, the archaeologist, is dead. Liane de Pougy He was my lover when I was eighteen. It was here at Nice, at the Restaurant Français, that I first saw him. He was twenty five, I thought he was so fine, so distinguished, so thoroughbred, so chic that I adored him. Just to watch him and admire him was enough for my enthusiasm. He was introduced to me that same year at the clay-pigeon shooting at Monte Carlo. Tremendous heart fluttering, I could have died at his feet. He left the next day. What a dear little silly I was. A few months later I saw him again in London, at Covent Garden. Lady Dudley had the measles and the key of her box was for sale according to custom and I had bought it. Carnarvon walked in absent-mindedly during the interval: flutters, smiles, excuses, compliments, confessions. He was vicious, an invert so they said. He loved me all the same… and was a delicious, agonizing lover, full of charm and cruel grace. So I became the rival of Lady de Grey — Gladys. I had the upper hand. He didn’t make me very happy; he was fugitive, a traveller, always off to India, the Baltic, Scotland. I have kept a pearl in his memory, the most beautiful of all my pearls, the one valued today at a hundred thousand francs.” (Liane de Pougy, 1869 — 1950)

Tomorrow, here, Queen Victoria confides some dreadful news to her diary.


Camus discovers the sweet side of social networking

Friday, 8 November, 2013 0 Comments

The great Algerian-French writer Albert Camus, whose 100th birthday was celebrated yesterday, wasn’t a typical diarist, but he jotted down enough daily impressions to produce three published collections. Camus, by the way, never felt comfortable with the Parisian intelligentsia. He once called La Nouvelle Revue Française, a “curious milieu” whose function “is to create writers” but where, however, “they lose the joy of writing and creating.”

8 November 1937: “In the local cinema, you can buy mint flavoured lozenges with the words: ‘Will you marry me one day?’, ‘Do you love me?’, written on them, together with the replies: ‘This evening’, ‘A lot,’ etc. You pass them to the girl next to you, who replies in the same way. Lives become linked together by an exchange of mint lozenges.” Albert Camus

Hearts


Shaw’s last words

Thursday, 7 November, 2013 0 Comments

Maurice Collis was born in Dublin in 1889 and went to Rugby School and then to the University of Oxford, where he studied history. He entered the Indian Civil Service in 1911 and was posted to Burma, rising to the position of district magistrate in Rangoon in 1929. He returned to England in 1934 and wrote more than 20 books, including volumes of autobiography, travel writing, novels, histories, three plays and a diary. He died in 1973. This is a classic dinner party recollection:

7 November 1953: [dining with Lord and Lady Astor] She [Lady Astor] told of her famous visit to Moscow with Bernard Shaw during the war. The things she said straight out to Stalin were staggering.
‘Your regime is no different from the Czars’.
‘Why?
‘Because you dispose of your opposition without trial.’
Stalin laughed. ‘Of course.’

Shaw She also spoke of Bernard Shaw’s last illness. ‘I went to see him the day before he died. I sat by him stroking his head. He was quite clear. Suddenly he said. “That reminds me,” and told me this story. “Lord X gave a great party to all the local gentry. As they were about to eat, the butler came in and said to him, ‘Excuse me, your lordship, but Mr So & So is in bed with your wife.’ At this, Lord X, rising in his place, said to the company: ‘Go home, go home. There is a man in bed with my wife. The party is cancelled. Off you go.’ The guests, much disappointed, for there were quantities of drink, began to disperse. The butler came in again, and spoke to his lordship. He got up. ‘Don’t go, don’t go. The man has apologised.'” Those were G.B.S.’s last words.’

The story was well received. If it was not Shaw’s last words, it might well have been.” Maurice Collis

November 2013 marks the centennial of the birth of Albert Camus, who once said, “I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.” Tomorrow, here, the diarist and philosopher Camus ponders the social networking aspect of lozenges.


Self reflection with Cesare Pavese

Wednesday, 6 November, 2013 0 Comments

On 27 August 1950, Cesare Pavese committed suicide in the hotel Roma in Turin by swallowing barbiturates. His book, Dialoghi con Leucò, lay on the bedside table with the following annotation on the first page: “I forgive all and ask everyone’s forgiveness. OK? Don’t gossip too much.” He was just 42 years old. Given the number of beautiful women who attended his funeral, there was lots of gossip.

Born in the village of Santo Stefano in the Piedmont, Cesare Pavese is considered one of Italy’s most important 20th-century writers, and one of the saddest. The protagonists in his novels are loners, managing only superficial relationships. Unrequited love was also the hallmark of his own life. Pavese’s diaries were published in English under the title, The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950.

6 November 1939: “I spent the whole evening sitting before a mirror to keep myself company.” Cesare Pavese

Tomorrow, here, Maurice Collis notes down George Bernard Shaw’s last words as recalled by Lady Astor, who once scolded Stalin, “Your regime is no different from the Czars.”


Black and white in the pre-PC days

Tuesday, 5 November, 2013 0 Comments

Back in March 2006, Garry O’Connor of the Scottish football side Hibernian agreed a £1.6 million transfer to Lokomotiv Moscow. He was not, however, the first Scot to play football in Russia. Robert Bruce Lockhart won the Moscow league championship in 1912, playing with Morozov — a textile factory team. But all this was a cover for his real profession: espionage. And if one believes the conspiracy theorists, he was at the centre of a plot to assassinate Lenin.

British Agent Robert Bruce Lockhart was Acting British Consul-General in Moscow when the first Russian Revolution broke out in early 1917. Working for the Secret Intelligence Service, he had been given £648 worth of diamonds to fund the creation of an agent network. Diamonds are said to be a girl’s best friend and it was almost inevitable that Moura Budberg, the beautiful widow of Count Johann von Benckendorff, became his mistress. With all the dramatis personæ in place, Lockhart was ready to strike, but Felix Dzerzhinsky, the cunning head of Cheka, struck first. Lockhart and fellow British agent, Sidney Reilly, were arrested, but instead of being shot, they were exchanged for the Russian diplomat Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov. Lockhart wrote about his experiences in Memoirs of a British Agent — a bestseller that was made into the film British Agent in 1934.

Spy, author and broadcaster Robert Bruce Lockhart was a talented, prolific diarist with an eye for detail and an ear for anecdote:

5 November 1928: “Heard a very good story on Mussolini and crown Prince [Wilhelm of Germany]. Latter had been to Tripoli and his father asked him what he thought of the natives. He replied, ‘I prefer dealing with black men in white shirts than the white men in black shirts.'” Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart

Tomorrow, here, Cesare Pavese, the Italian writer and diarist, who once said, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”


“Her accent is really rather awful”

Monday, 4 November, 2013 0 Comments

We begin a week of historical diary entries with one by Sir Roy Strong, the former director of both the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The supercilious tone may sound rather grating to the emancipated ear but this is exactly how a certain stratum of British society views itself and its peers.

4 November 1981: “The Princess [of Wales] looked sensational, her dress cut straight across revealing the by now famous shoulders, but with a triple choker of pearls fastened with a diamond clip around her neck in the manner of Queen Alexandra. She has a clear complexion and lustrous blue eyes. Tonight she seemed a large girl in a billowing white dress full-skirted to the ground with a broad blue ribbon at the waist. More petticoats, however, Julia [his wife] observed, were called for. How can I describe her? Well, after the event I would categorise her as Eliza Doolittle at the embassy ball. Beautiful, in a way like a young colt, immensely well meaning, unformed, a typical product of an upper class girls’ school. But she has so much to learn, which she will, unless she gets bored with it and it sours. At the moment she has not learned the royal technique of asking question. Nervous, certainly, so I placed myself next to her and as I promised Edward Adeane [private secretary to the Prince of Wales], kept an eye on her the whole time. Her accent is really rather awful considering that she is an earl’s daughter. Not an upper class drawl, at all but rather toneless, and dare I say it, a bit common, as though it were the fashion to learn to talk down. That is what I meant by Eliza at the ball.” Sir Roy Strong

The Princess of Wales

Tomorrow, here, diarist and spy Robert Bruce Lockhart, who won the Moscow league championship in 1912 playing with Morozov, a textile factory team. He was much more entertaining than the unbearably narcissistic Edward Snowden.


Shopping for John and Yoko

Monday, 21 October, 2013 0 Comments

Starting in November 1976, Monday through Friday, Andy Warhol phoned his secretary Pat Hackett each morning and told her about the happenings of the previous day and night. After transcribing the monologue onto paper, Hackett would then type up the pages. Apart from wishing to document his life and times, Warhol had an ulterior motive for keeping a diary: satisfying the tax man. The Internal Revenue Service audited him annually and he liked to present his minute side of the story to the accountants. In all, Warhol dictated more than 20,000 pages, which Ms Hackett dutifully put down on paper.

Published in 1989, Pat Hackett’s Andy Warhol Diaries (mercifully condensed to 807 pages) begins on 24 November 1976 and ends 11 years later on 17 February 1987, just a few days before the artist’s death. Here’s today’s entry:

21 October 1980: “I ran into a boy whose job is to go shopping for John [Lennon] and Yoko [Ono], to buy them clothes and things. I asked him if they’d ever made him bring anything back and he said just once. I asked him if they ever wore any of the clothes they bought since they don’t go out, and he said, ‘They’re going to make a comeback. They’ve been wearing them to the studio.’ Oh, and the best thing he said was that when he started to work for them he had to sign a paper that said, ‘I will not write a book about John Leonnon and/or Yoko Ono.’ Isn’t that great? He said he loves his job. I should find somebody to help me shop — show me where all the good new things are.” Andy Warhol

Six weeks later, on the night of 8 December 1980, Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon four times in the back at the entrance to his New York apartment in the Dakota Building. Lennon was declared dead on arrival at nearby Roosevelt Hospital.

Andy Warhol


Sorrow and bliss in Italy

Wednesday, 16 October, 2013 0 Comments

The recent spate of migrant deaths in the waters off the coast of Italy has highlighted the tragedy of Africa and its failed states. But the heartrending fate of Africans in Italy is not new, as Iris Origo noted in her diary 70 years ago:

16 October 1943: “Antonia goes down to Chianciano and returns with the news that at Magione a German captain, as he was driving through a wood, was shot and killed; he was buried yesterday at Chianciano.

In the evening a Moroccan soldier turns up here, an escaped prisoner from Laterina. He can speak only a few words of English and Italian and is very completely lost — travelling north, although he says he wants to get to Rome. We give him food and shelter for the night and point out the road to the south. ‘Me ship,’ he says, ‘Me not swim’. Very slight are his chances of getting home again.” Iris Origo

Iris Origo was an Anglo-Irish writer best known for works such as War in Val d’Orcia, The Merchant of Prato and The Vagabond Path. Following her birth in 1902, her parents travelled widely, particularly in Italy, where her father contracted tuberculosis and died in 1910. Her mother, Lady Sybil Cutting, then bought one of Florence’s most spectacular residences, the Villa Medici in Fiesole, which was built between 1451 and 1457. Iris Cutting married Antonio Origo, the illegitimate son of Marchese Clemente Origo, in 1924 and the couple devoted much of their lives to the improvement of their estate at La Foce, near Montepulciano. The Marchesa of Val d’Orcia, as Iris Origo was titled, died in her beloved Tuscany, with its cultivated hills, picturesque towns and magnificent Brunello di Montalcino in June 1988, aged 85.

Tuscany