Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy days with Peggy

‘All day with Peggy Ashcroft reading through Happy Days. Magnificent play. It excited me to hear her read it.’ Today marks the 110th anniversary of Peggy Ashcroft, a grand dame of 20th century British theatre. Although not a diarist herself, cameos of her can be found in the diaries of others, not least the theatre director Peter Hall (writer of the above diary entry) and the film director Lindsay Anderson. I, also, have a brief diary entry about Ashcroft - on seeing her at a world premiere of a film with a screenplay by Harold Pinter.

Ashcroft was born on 22 December 1907 in Croydon, Surrey, the youngest child of a land agent who would die during WWI. She was educated locally, until, aged 16, she determined to become an actress and so she enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She made her professional stage debut, while still a student, at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre playing opposite Ralph Richardson; and she graduated with a Diploma in Dramatic Art in 1927. She went to work for small touring companies, but in 1929 made a successful debut in the West End playing Naemi in Jew Süss. The same year, she married another actor (later a publisher) Rupert Hart-Davis, though the marriage was short-lived ending in divorce in 1933 (on the grounds of Ashcroft’s adultery with Theodore Komisarjevsky who, in 1934, she married).

In 1930, Ashcroft’s Desdemona in a production of Othello at the Savoy Theatre, starring Paul Robeson, brought her increased attention. Beginning in 1932, her appearances with the Old Vic Company (run by Lilian Baylis) established her reputation, in Shaw’s Cleopatra, for example, as Juliet in John Gielgud’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and as Cecily in Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.  During the 1930s, she also starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Thirty-nine Steps, and she made her American stage debut as Lise in Maxwell Anderson’s High Tor (1937). After her marriage to Komisarjevsky failed, and during the war, she married a lawyer, Jeremy Hutchinson, with whom she had two children, returning, after a break, to the West End and Broadway in 1947.

Ashcroft continued to star in West End and touring productions throughout the 1950s, but in 1958 agreed to join Peter Hall’s newly-formed Royal Shakespeare Company for which she played many starring roles through the 1960s and 1970s. From 1973, she also appeared at the National Theatre where Hall had been appointed director. Although she retired from the stage in the early 1980s, Ashcroft appeared in several successful films and TV productions, notably The Jewel in the Crown and A Passage to India. She was garlanded with honours, at home and abroad, being made a CBE in 1951 and a DBE in 1956, as well as film and theatre industry awards including a special Laurence Olivier Award (1991), the year she died. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, Screen Online, Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Washington Post, The New York Times.

There is no obvious evidence that Ashcroft kept a diary, but she regularly crops up in other people’s diaries, notably those published by the theatre director Peter Hall and the film director
Lindsay Anderson. See below for extracts from both Hall’s and Anderson’s diaries, as well as one short extract from my own diary.

From Lindsay Anderson’s diaries:

22 January 1966
‘Call in on Jocelyn, who is drawn and shattered but in control. Peggy [Ashcroft] there: we greet with warmth. What is there to say, beyond that expression of sympathy which so exhausts, making one feel the emptiness of one’s heart. Am rather touched when she asks me to escort her to the funeral - and also by the pages which George [Devine] left of the start of his autobiography. ‘For me the theatre is a temple of ideas . . .’

25 January 1966
‘George’s funeral: Peggy had asked me to escort her . . . I get to her house in Frognal lane about 11.30. . . A cup of coffee first. . .  I like Peggy, but there is a sort of mannered constraint about her. . . As we drove she said how she’s thought about George - and been impelled to write it all down: she had been in twenty-five productions with him . . . The funeral: all woeful and treading on emotional glass. We are shepherded by a pale Julian Lousada round to a sort of porch at the side of the chapel, where we wait in a hush. It is sort of awkward because we find it difficult to be spontaneous about such solemnity.’

9 April 1970
‘Thursday. The Council Meeting of the English Stage Company, and the inevitable collapse before the Arts Council threat of withdrawal of subsidy if Hilary Spurling is not reinvited. I tried to propose a press statement first, simply making public the Arts Council’s blackmailing attempt. . . But only Jocelyn and Robin supported it. Interestingly, Oscar and John Osborne were both for immediate capitulation: Peggy Ashcroft’s worried, charming, stupid liberal face radiated desire for the relief and calm of appeasement from the other end of the table . . . Blacksell popped his eyes stupidly, and with incredibly obstinate persistence reiterated his belief that Hilary Spurling ’wasn’t worth it’, and his confidence (genuine or just an excuse or self-deception?) that the Arts Council would be willing to conduct the important discussions about dramatic criticism we’d asked for, after the tiresome difficulty had been disposed of . . . Bill veered erratically, but had abandoned his radical position of the week before.

So we are carried poshly from Le Moulin d’Or to the lawyer’s offices in Tony’s limousine . . . They are all gathered - Greville [Poke] in the chair, George Harewood making one of his rare, much appreciated appearances, John Osborne, careful to sit as far as possible away from Tony (they no longer speak), Peggy [Ashcroft] in a sort of white denim trouser suit, with cap, looking quite dashing and (if you know her) rather preposterous: as if playing Helene Weigel in the Gunter Grass Brecht play at the Aldwych has gone to her head. . .’

From Peter Hall's diaries:

14 April 1972
‘To supper at Peggy Ashcroft’s. She understands what is driving me to the National. Is glad that I am going back to running a theatre, as it is what she thinks I have to do. But she is very sad I am moving away from the RSC. Is this the end of fifteen years work together? It can’t be.’

21 April 1974
‘Peggy and I crept out of the Nunns’ house at quarter to ten, leaving Trevor and Janet still fast asleep. We collected Jenny and Christopher, who were staying with a friend, and then Peggy drove us back to Wallingford.

Peggy is one of those ladies who cannot talk and drive. She makes extravagant gestures and her hands disconcertingly leave the wheel. When I told her that she was a potato in Leicester - that the theatre bar there had a ‘Spud Ashcroft’ stuffed with prawns, she took both hands off the wheel and waved them about with pleasure and amazement. We nearly hit a lorry.

Jenny and Christopher got us lunch back at Wallingford, then we sat in the sun for the afternoon. Jenny talked a good deal to Peggy about Avoncliffe, for Peggy remembers the house well and lived in it for long periods before we did. I am still amazed by Jenny’s inaccuracies. She says, in the childhood memories section, that when Leslie and I split she did not see her mother for two years and didn’t recognise her when she met her. In fact it was two months.’

6 May 1974
‘The Old Vic’s Lilian Baylis celebration, Tribute to the Lady. I had viewed it with foreboding. In the event, it was a very good evening. By far the best item, the achievement, was Lilian Baylis herself, amazingly portrayed by Peggy Ashcroft. It was one of the finest performances I have seen her give. You can always tell when an actor is absolutely creating. Conventional timing, normality, is broken. The rhythm of speech, the rhythm of the body, become something different. This happened to Peggy tonight.

She presented that strange. Cockney, busybodying, straightlaced, crooked-mouthed eternal mother, bossing everybody about - and created a genuine eccentric. And what a mystery it all is. There would be no Royal Ballet, no National Theatre, and I shouldn’t think much Royal Opera, and certainly no Sadler’s Wells, without the dotty, single- minded, good works of Miss Lilian Baylis. Joan Littlewood, though less the do-gooder and more the revolutionary, is in the same tradition.’

16 August 1974
‘All day with Peggy Ashcroft reading through Happy Days. Magnificent play. It excited me to hear her read it. Hard to do well but quite evident what has to be done. A very funny, touching piece: I think one of the masterpieces of the last twenty years. My spirits rose and I longed to begin on it.’

From my own diaries:

25 June 1989
‘The heatwave continues. Cloudless blue skies. Warm languid evenings. Hot dusty days, watering-can days. Half the year nearly over.

B and I went up to Aldeburgh together for I’d bought two tickets for a film premiere at the quaint old cinema, one with a visit by some of the stars promised. The film we saw was another adaptation of an Elizabeth Bowen novel - The Heat of the Day. Dame Peggy Ashcroft has a cameo role, and it was she who graced the cinema with her presence. Though, seeing her there seated in front of us, we imagined her to have had a bigger role in the film. The main actors, Michael York, Patricia Hodge and Michael Gambon were not present. The little cinema was the fullest I’ve ever seen it, nine-tenths of the audience, however, were grey and white-haired old women. Calling the event a ‘world premiere’ was a little grand if understandable. In fact, the film has been made for the BBC, and is quite clearly a TV movie, many close-ups and small sets. It was well-made (screenplay by Harold Pinter).’

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The extraordinary Mr Newton

The extraordinary John Newton died all of 210 years ago today. At sea from the age of 11, he was pressed to work for the Navy, then on a slave ship before being virtually enslaved himself in West Africa. He was rescued, underwent a spiritual conversion, yet became a captain of slave ships. He turned tax collector, then lay preacher, and then evangelical curate. He proved a very popular pastor, friend to the poet William Cowper (with whom he wrote the hymn Amazing Grace) and to the leader of the slave abolition movement, William Wilberforce. Much of what we know about this remarkable man comes from his own hand, an autobiography and diaries.

Newton was born in 1725 in Wapping, London, the son of a shipmaster. His mother died when he was seven, and from the age of eleven he sailed on his father’s voyages. When his father retired, he, still a teenager, signed on with a merchant ship. Before long, he was pressed into the naval service, becoming a midshipman on HMS Harwich. He was caught trying to desert and was severely flogged. He transferred to the Pegasus, a slave ship heading for Africa, but was left in West Africa, in the hands of a slave dealer, and was treated no better than a slave himself. In 1748, he was rescued, and brought back to England, by a ship’s captain who had been asked by Newton’s father to look for him. On the journey home, the ship almost sank which led to Newton undergoing some kind of spiritual conversion, and thereafter living a far more sober life.

Back in Liverpool, Newton secured a position as first mate on the slave ship Brownlow bound for the West Indies. In 1750, he married his childhood sweetheart Mary Catlett, and they adopted two orphaned nieces. He went on to become captain on several slave ship voyages, only giving up in 1754 after suffering a stroke. Thereafter, he worked as tax collector in the Port of Liverpool, but at the same time serving as an evangelical lay minister. He first applied to be ordained in the Church of England in 1757, and to other denominations, but it was not until 1764 that he was finally accepted into the C of E, and took up the living of Olney, Buckinghamshire. He was supported by John Thornton, a wealthy merchant and evangelical philanthropist, and proved a popular curate, well known for his pastoral care. In 1767, the poet William Cowper moved to Olney, attended Newton’s church, and the two became friends. They collaborated on a volume of hymns, the most famous of which is known as Amazing Grace.

In 1779, Thornton invited Newton to take over as Rector of St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard Street, London, becoming one of only two evangelical Anglican priests in the city. He remained a popular churchman, friendly with evangelicals as well as Anglicans, and is known to have advised a young Member of Parliament, William Wilberforce, who would become a leader of the abolition movement. In 1788, Newton published a pamphlet, Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade, breaking a long-lived silence on the subject, in which he apologised abjectly for the part he had played many years earlier. Mary died in 1790, which led Newton to publishing Letters to a Wife. Newton, himself, died on 21 December 1807. Further information is readily available online at Wikipedia, The Abolition Project, The Church Society, or Banner of Truth.

Newton kept a diary for much of his life, and although it was not published (as far as I can tell) until the 1960s, substantial extracts can be found in a biography put together in the 19th century by Rev Josiah Bull and published by The Religious Tract Society: John Newton of Olney and St. Mary Woolnoth: An Autobiography and Narrative compiled chiefly from his diary and other unpublished documents. This is freely available online at Internet Archive. In 1962, Epworth Press issued The Journal of a Slave Trader 1750-1754 edited by Bernard Martin and Mark Spurrell. Some pages from the manuscript of Newton’s journal (taken from The Slave Trade and Its Abolition by John Langdon-Davies) can be view online at Getty Images.

Transcribed extracts from Newton’s journals can also be found on two contrasting websites: The International Slavery Museum and The John Newton Project (which advertises is objective as ‘the transformation of society through faith in Jesus Christ, using the life and works of John Newton as one great example). However, neither website (as far as I can ascertain) give any clue as to the source for their extracts, nor can I find any indication as to where the original manuscript diaries might be held. The John Newton Project says there are ‘several diaries’ covering the period 1751 to 1805, but not where they are or how it, the Project, has access to them.

The following extracts have been taken from the 19th century Autobiography, the International Slavery Museum website, and The John Newton Project.

Extracts from An Autobiography and Narrative:

22 December 1751
‘I dedicate unto thee, most blessed God, this clean, unsullied book; and at the same time renew my tender of a foul, blotted, corrupt heart. Be pleased, O Lord, to assist me with the influences of Thy Spirit to fill the one in a manner agreeable to Thy will, and by Thy all-sufficient grace to overpower and erase the ill impressions sin and the world have from time to time made in the other, so that both my public converse and retired meditation may testify that I am indeed thy servant, redeemed, renewed, and accepted in the sufferings, merit, and mediation of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory, honour, and dominion, world without end. Amen.’

21 November 1753
‘As it has pleased God already to raise me above dependence, and to give me more than I could have presumed to ask, not only food and raiment, but a great variety of conveniences and comforts, insomuch that I number myself amongst the most happy on earth, I cannot but think it incumbent upon me to bestow a part of my superfluities towards relieving those who are struggling under a want of necessaries. I have not come to a full determination of the quota I intend to set apart for this purpose. I will guard against being too sparing, leaving myself, however, at liberty to suspend or leave it on such an unavoidable emergency as my conscience shall allow, and, on the other hand, looking upon it to be my duty to enlarge it, if Providence sees fit to bless me beyond my present expectations; for I cannot think I have a right to gratify myself in mere indulgences any further than as I shall purchase it by charitable actions and imparting occasionally to those who have need.’

Extracts from the International Slavery Museum website:

26 May 1754
‘. . . ln the evening, by the favour of Providence, discovered a conspiracy among the men slaves to rise upon us, but a few hours before it was to have been executed. A young man, who has been the whole voyage out of irons, first on account of a large ulcer, and since for his seeming good behaviour, gave them a large marline spike down the gratings, but was happily seen by one of the people. They had it in possession about an hour before I made search for it, in which time they made such good dispatch (being an instrument that made no noise) that this morning I've found near 20 of them had broke their irons. Are at work securing them.’

27 May 1754
‘. . . A hard tornado came on so quick that had hardly time to take in a small sail; blew extream hard for 3 hours with heavy rain. . . At noon little wind. . . ln the afternoon secured all the men's irons again and punished 6 of the ringleaders of the insurrection.’

28 May 1754
‘. . . Secured the after bulkhead of the men's room, for they had started almost every stantient. Their plot was exceedingly well laid, and had they been let alone an hour longer, must have occasioned us a good deal of trouble and damage. l have reason to be thankful they did not make attempts upon the coast when we had often 7 or 8 of our best men out of the ship at a time and the rest busy. They still look very gloomy and sullen and have doubtless mischief in their heads if they could find every opportunity to vent it. But I hope (by the Divine Assistance) we are fully able to overawe them now. . .’

Extracts from An Autobiography and Narrative:

14 February 1772
‘Went to meet the little society at M. Mole’s. The Lord has been pleased to awaken several young persons of late, and to incline their hearts to meet together.’

10 May 1772
‘Preached at Collingtree. Had a large congregation. The church crowded, the chancel and belfry nearly full. My dear and Mr. Cowper went with me.’

31 December 1772
‘The comforts, the trials of another year finished, and can be repeated no more. It has been to me a year of great mercy and great sinfulness. Many proofs of the Lord’s goodness, and of the evil of my own heart has it afforded. [Referring to the fact that he had come to the end of the second volume of his diary] It is now more than sixteen years since I began to write in this book. How many scenes have I passed through in that time, - by what a way has the Lord led me! - what wonders has He shown me! My book is now nearly full, and I shall provide another for the next year. O Lord, accept my praise for all that is past. Enable me to trust Thee for all that is to come, and give a blessing to all who may read these records of Thy goodness and my own vileness. Amen and Amen.’

Extracts from The John Newton Project:

21 January 1773
‘Our trial still continues, and I think increases. The Lord knows how and when to moderate it. We all find it a sharp trial for faith and patience. How mysterious are the Lord’s ways, but we are sure all that he does is right and good. Met the children. In the afternoon sent Miss T and A to Newport. Preached in the evening and was favoured with liberty. Acts 13:17’

22 January 1773
‘My dear friend [Mr Cowper] still walks in darkness. I can hardly conceive that anyone in a state of grace and favour with God, can be in greater distress. And yet no-one walked more closely with him, or was more simply devoted to him in all things. Thus as in the case of Job he shows his right to deal as he wills with his own, he knows how to make up for all, to bring light out of darkness and real good out of seeming evil. When we presume to say, Why hast thou done this? He answers in his word, Be still and know that I am God.’

23 January 1773
‘Much like yesterday. Our great trial still continues. Writing at leisure times. Mr Cooper of Loxley came in the evening.’

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Dreamed I was a robot

‘Upset stomach last night. Dreamed I was a robot, being rebuilt. In a great burst of energy managed to redo two chapters. Took them to Stanley, who was very pleased and cooked me a fine steak.’ This delightful snippet is from a diary Arthur C. Clarke kept while working with Stanley Kubrick on the legendary film 2001: A Space Odyssey. But, this diary (written with publication in mind) is the only diary Clarke ever published. He did keep a diary as a young man - many volumes worth, or so he revealed in a 1999 interview - but planned to keep them sealed from public view for thirty years after his death. Today marks the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Clarke was born on 16 December 1917 in Minehead, England, and grew up on a farm in nearby Bishops Lydeard. He was schooled at Huish Grammar School in Taunton. In his teens, he joined the Junior Astronomical Association, and he contributed articles to the society’s journal. Not yet twenty years old, he moved to London where he worked as a pensions auditor at the Board of Education. During the Second World War, from 1941 to 1946, he served in the Royal Air Force as a radar specialist. He was commissioned as a pilot officer (technical branch) in 1943. Soon after, he was promoted to flying officer, eventually being appointed chief training instructor at RAF Honiley in Warwickshire, and later he was demobilised with the rank of flight lieutenant.

After the war, Clarke studied for a maths degree at King’s College London, and then worked as an assistant on the journal Physics Abstracts. In 1950, he published Interplanetary Flight, a work of non-fiction in which he discussed the possibilities of space travel. By this time, he was also writing science fiction stories - his first novella, Against the Fall of Night, appeared in 1948 - and from 1951 he took up writing as a full time occupation. It was well known among his friends that Clarke was gay, hence he never married. In 1953, he moved to Sri Lanka, where he embarked on a second career combining skin diving and photography, and he remained domiciled there for the rest of his life. He continued writing novels, such as The Deep Range and The City and the Stars, and was often consulted by scientists on issues connected with spacecraft and satellites.

In 1964, Clarke began working with the film director Stanley Kubrick on a screenplay adaption of his 1951 short story The Sentinel, a project that would become the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, widely considered one of greatest movies ever made. Clarke and Kubrick published a novel of the film and, subsequently, Clarke also wrote several sequels. Clarke’s fame only increased when chosen by American broadcaster Walter Cronkite as a commentator for CBS’s coverage of the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969. After completing more novels, several winning international accolades, he hosted television series such Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World (1981). By the end of the 1980s, complications from having had polio in 1962 led to him being increasingly confined to a wheelchair.

In 1983, the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation was established to promote the use of technology to improve quality of life, particularly in developing countries, through educational grants and awards; and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for excellence in British science fiction was established three years later. Clarke held chancellorships at the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka from 1979 to 2002 and the International Space University from 1989 to 2004; and he was knighted in 2000 by the British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. He died in 2008. Further biographical information can be found at Wikipedia, the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, Biography.com or Encyclopaedia Britannica.

In a Guardian interview with Tim Adams, published in 1999, Clarke revealed that, when he was younger, he had written ‘volumes and volumes’ of journals. At the time of the interview, these were held in an archive managed by his brother Fred Clarke in Taunton, England, (which he called the Clarkives). However, Fred died in 2013 without realising his dream of creating an Arthur C. Clarke Centre (see this bulletin of the Astronomical Society of Haringey). A. C. Clarke also told Adams that the journals would be sealed for 30 years from the time of his death. ‘Why on earth are they sealed up?’ Adams asked. ‘Well,’ Clarke answered, ‘there might be all sorts of embarrassing things in them’. Adams enquired further: ‘What kind of things?’, but Clarke didn’t answer.

Nevertheless, Clarke did publish one of his diaries (or what he called a ‘log’), from the period while he was working on 2001: A Space Odyssey. It first appeared in Clarke’s 1972 book The Lost Worlds of 2001, which also contains a collection of other written texts (behind-the-scenes notes, screenplay drafts etc.). Many secondhand copies are available cheaply online, through Abebooks for example, but there seem to have been no commercial reprints since 1980 or so. However, parts of Clarke’s diary were republished in The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey edited by Stephanie Schwam.(Modern Library, 2000). Some of the diary can be viewed at Visual Memory, but at the time of writing, the whole of The Lost Worlds of 2001 can be read online at the Avalon Library.

Here is a long extract from the book which, apart from the first paragraph, is all made up of quotes taken by Clarke from his diary. (I’ve quoted the whole section as one, therefore the dates for the individual diary entries are as in the original, i.e. not standardised as they are for most diary extracts in Diary Review articles.)

‘The announced title of the project, when Stanley gave his intentions to the press, was Journey Beyond the Stars. I never liked this, because there had been far too many science-fictional journeys and voyages. (Indeed, the innerspace epic Fantastic Voyage, featuring Raquel Welch and a supporting cast of ten thousand blood corpuscles, was also going into production about this time.) Other titles which we ran up and failed to salute were Universe, Tunnel to the Stars, and Planetfall. It was not until eleven months after we started-April 1965-that Stanley selected 2001: A Space Odyssey. As far as I can recall, it was entirely his idea.

Despite the unrelenting pressure of work (a mere twelve hours was practically a day off) I kept a detailed log of the whole operation. Though I do not wish to get bogged down in minutiae of interest only to fanatical Kubrickologists, perhaps these extracts may convey the flavor of those early days:-
May 28, 1964. Suggested to Stanley that “they” might be machines who regard organic life as a hideous disease. Stanley thinks this is cute and feels we’ve got something.
May 31. One hilarious idea we won’t use. Seventeen aliens-featureless black pyramids-riding in open cars down Fifth Avenue, surrounded by Irish cops.
June 20. Finished the opening chapter, “View from the Year 2000,” and started on the robot sequence.
July 1. Last day working at Time/Life completing Man and Space. Checked into new suite, 1008, at the Hotel Chelsea.
July 2-8. Averaging one or two thousand words a day. Stanley reads first five chapters and says “We’ve got a best seller here.”
July 9. Spent much of afternoon teaching Stanley how to use the slide rule - he’s fascinated.
July 11. Joined Stanley to discuss plot development, but spent almost all the time arguing about Cantor’s Theory of Transfinite Groups. Stanley tries to refute the “part equals the whole” paradox by arguing that a perfect square is not necessarily identical with the integer of the same value. I decide that he is a latent mathematical genius.
July 12. Now have everything - except the plot.
July 13. Got to work again on the novel and made good progress despite the distraction of the Republican Convention.
July 26. Stanley’s birthday. Went to the Village and found a card showing the Earth coming apart at the seams and bearing the inscription: “How can you have a Happy Birthday when the whole world may blow up any minute?”
July 28. Stanley: “What we want is a smashing theme of mythic grandeur.”
August 1. Ranger VII impacts on moon. Stay up late to watch the first TV closeups. Stanley starts to worry about the forthcoming Mars probes. Suppose they show something that shoots down our story line? [Later he approached Lloyd’s of London to see if he could insure himself against this eventuality.]
August 6. Stanley suggests that we make the computer female and call her Athena.
August 17. We’ve also got the name of our hero at last - Alex Bowman. Hurrah!
August 19. Writing all day. Two thousand words exploring Jupiter’s satellites. Dull work.
September 7. Stanley quite happy: “We’re in fantastic shape.” He has made up a 100-item questionnaire about our astronauts, e.g. do they sleep in their pajamas, what do they eat for breakfast, etc.
September 8. Upset stomach last night. Dreamed I was a robot, being rebuilt. In a great burst of energy managed to redo two chapters. Took them to Stanley, who was very pleased and cooked me a fine steak, remarking: “Joe Levine doesn’t do this for his writers.”
September 26. Stanley gave me Joseph Campbell’s analysis of the myth The Hero with a Thousand Faces to study. Very stimulating.
September 29. Dreamed that shooting had started. Lots of actors standing around, but I still didn’t know the story line.
October 2. Finished reading Robert Ardrey’s African Genesis. Came across a striking paragraph which might even provide a title for the movie: “Why did not the human line become extinct in the depths of the Pliocene? . . . we know that but for a gift from the stars, but for the accidental collision of ray and gene, intelligence would have perished on some forgotten African field.” True, Ardrey is talking about cosmic-ray mutations, but the phrase “A gift from the stars” is strikingly applicable to our present plot line.
October 6. Have got an idea which I think is crucial. The people we meet on the other star system are humans who were collected from Earth a hundred thousand years ago, and hence are virtually identical with us.
October 8. Thinking of plot all morning, but after a long walk in the sun we ended up on the East River watching the boats. We dumped all our far-fetched ideas - now we’re settling for a Galactic Peace Corps and no blood and thunder.
October 17. Stanley has invented the wild idea of slightly fag robots who create a Victorian environment to put our heroes at their ease.
November 20. Went to Natural History Museum to see Dr. Harry Shapiro, head of Anthropology, who took a poor view of Ardrey. Then had a session with Stan, arguing about early man’s vegetarian versus carnivorous tendencies. Stan wants our visitors to turn Man into a carnivore; I argued that he always was. Back at the Chelsea, phoned Ike Asimov to discuss the biochemistry of turning vegetarians into carnivores.
November 21. Read Leakey’s Adam’s Ancestors. Getting rather desperate now, but after six hours’ discussion Stan had a rather amusing idea. Our E. T.’s arrive on Earth and teach commando tactics to our pacifistic ancestors so that they can survive and flourish. We had an entertaining time knocking this one around, but I don’t think it’s viable.
November 22. Called Stan and said I didn’t think any of our flashback ideas were any good. He slowly talked me out of this mood, and I was feeling more cheerful when I suddenly said: “What if our E. T.’s are stranded on Earth and need the ape-men to help them?” This idea (probably not original, but what the hell) opened up whole new areas of plot which we are both exploring.
November 23. Stanley distracted by numerous consultations with his broker, and wants my advice on buying COMSAT.
December 10. Stanley calls after screening H. G. Wells’ Things to Come, and says he’ll never see another movie I recommend.
December 21. Much of afternoon spent by Stanley planning his Academy Award campaign for Dr. Strangelove. I get back to the Chelsea to find a note from Allen Ginsberg asking me to join him and William Burroughs at the bar downstairs. Do so thankfully in search of inspiration.
December 24. Slowly tinkered with the final pages, so I can have them as a Christmas present for Stanley.
December 25. Stanley delighted with the last chapters, and convinced that we’ve extended the range of science fiction. He’s astonished and delighted because Bosley Crowther of the New York Times has placed Dr. S on “Ten Best Films” list, after attacking it ferociously all year. I christen Bosley “The Critic Who Came In from the Cold.”

From these notes, it would appear that by Christmas 1964, the novel was essentially complete, and that thereafter it would be a fairly straightforward matter to develop the screenplay. We were, indeed, under that delusion - at least, I was. In reality, all that we had was merely a rough draft of the first two-thirds of the book, stopping at the most exciting point. We had managed to get Bowman into the Star Gate, but didn’t know what would happen next, except in the most general way. Nevertheless, the existing manuscript, together with his own salesmanship, allowed Stanley to set up the deal with MGM and Cinerama, and “Journey Beyond the Stars” was announced with a flourish of trumpets.’

Friday, December 15, 2017

My room is like a padded cell

‘I was appointed Minister of Housing on Saturday, October 17th, 1964. Now it is only the 22nd but, oh dear, it seems a long, long time. [. . .] The room in which I sit is the same in which I saw Nye Bevan for almost the first time when he was Minister of Health, and already I realize the tremendous effort it requires not to be taken over by the Civil Service. My Minister’s room is like a padded cell, and in certain ways I am like a person who is suddenly certified a lunatic and put safely into this great, vast room, cut off from real life and surrounded by male and female trained nurses and attendants.’ This is from the opening entry in the celebrated political diary of Richard Crossman. Born 110 years ago today, he became a key figure on the left of the Labour Party during the 1960s. He is best remembered today for his diaries which the civil service tried to ban at first, and which later led to the famous Yes Minister sitcom.

Crossman was born on 15 December 1907 in London, the son of a barrister. He won scholarships to Winchester College school and New College, Oxford. After graduating in the classics, he spent a year in Germany, where he met Erika Susanna, a divorcee who he then married in 1932 (but divorced in 1934). Remaining at New College as a fellow, his lectures were very popular, and he soon developed a reputation for being a first class tutor. He became a lecturer at the Worker’s Educational Association, and he was elected onto Oxford City Council, becoming head of the Labour group in 1935. In 1937, he married another divorcee, Hilda Baker, née Davis. In 1938, he was appointed assistant editor for the New Statesman. Having unsuccessfully fought a by-election in 1937, he had to wait until the 1945 election to be elected to Parliament (for Coventry East - a seat he would hold until shortly before his death). During the war, he served in the Ministry of Economic Warfare organising British propaganda against Germany

Crossman became associated with a group of left-wing MPs (often called Bevanites), and coproduced a tract, entitled Keep Left, urging a closer relationship with Europe, so as to create a ‘Third Force’ in politics. He was elected a member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee from 1952 until 1967, and he was Chairman of the Labour Party in 1960-1961. After the 1964 General Election, Harold Wilson appointed him Minister of Housing, and then, in 1966, Leader of the House of Commons (in which role he reformed the select committee system), and then, in 1968, Secretary of State for Health and Social Services. After the Conservatives returned to power in 1970, Crossman resigned the Labour front bench and became editor of the New Statesman, though he stepped down in 1972.


Crossman’s second wife died in 1951, and he got married a third time, in 1954, to Anne Patricia who gave him two children. Crossman himself died in 1974. Further information is readily available online at Wikipedia, Spartacus, Warwick University’s website, a BBC radio profile, or Anthony Howard’s profile at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (for which a free UK library or other log-in is required).

Crossman kept detailed diaries during much of his time as an MP and as a government minister - from 1952 to 1970. These were published posthumously in four volumes (Diaries of a Cabinet Minister, three volumes, and The Backbench Diaries of Richard Crossman), although Crossman himself spent the last years of his life preparing them for publication. In the introduction to the first volume, The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister - Minister of Housing 1964-66 (Hamish Hamilton, 1975), Crossman explains that he began to keep a diary so that historians would have a ‘coherent and continuous picture’ of what was going among the Bevanites.

‘Of course’, he continues elsewhere in the introduction, ‘the picture which this diary provides is neither objective nor fair - although as a lifelong political scientist I have tried to discipline myself to objectivity. In particular I have tried to avoid self-deception, especially about my own motives; the tendency to attribute to others my own worst failings; and the temptation to omit what might make me look silly in print. I have been urged by many to remove all the wounding passages about colleagues or officials. I have not done so because it would make the book untrue, and I hope that when some of them find me intolerably unfair, they will recall the follies and illusions I faithfully record about myself. A day-by-day account of a Government at work, as seen by one participant, is bound to be one-sided and immensely partisan. If it isn’t, it too would fail to be true to life.’

In fact, Crossman provided such a detailed day-to-day account of the government at work, including of cabinet meetings, that a senior civil servant, Lord Hunt of Tamworth, felt it his duty to try and halt their publication. More about this - and the link with the 1980s comedy sitcom, Yes Minister - can be found in an earlier Diary Review article: Yes, Minister, thanks to Hunt. A review of Crossman’s diaries by Clive James, first published by the New York Review of Books in 1977, can be read on James’s own website. The following extracts from Crossman’s diaries are reproduced from a 1976 Book Club Associates edition of the first volume.

22 October 1964
‘I was appointed Minister of Housing on Saturday, October 17th, 1964. Now it is only the 22nd but, oh dear, it seems a long, long time. It also seems as though I had really transferred myself completely to this new life as a Cabinet Minister. In a way it’s just the same as I had expected and predicted. The room in which I sit is the same in which I saw Nye Bevan for almost the first time when he was Minister of Health, and already I realize the tremendous effort it requires not to be taken over by the Civil Service. My Minister’s room is like a padded cell, and in certain ways I am like a person who is suddenly certified a lunatic and put safely into this great, vast room, cut off from real life and surrounded by male and female trained nurses and attendants. When I am in a good mood they occasionally allow an ordinary human being to come and visit me; but they make sure that I behave right, and that the other person behaves right; and they know how to handle me. Of course, they don’t behave quite like nurses because the Civil Service is profoundly deferential - ‘Yes, Minister! No, Minister! If you wish it. Minister!’ - and combined with this there is a constant preoccupation to ensure that the Minister does what is correct. The Private Secretary’s job is to make sure that when the Minister comes into Whitehall he doesn’t let the side or himself down and behaves in accordance with the requirements of the institution.’

27 November 1964
‘I got to the Ministry fresh and hearty and spent the day on office meetings, staff meetings, progress meetings, dealing with the routine of the Private Office as well. They seem to have a better idea of what my policy is and I have got them to agree to an elaborate programme of informal consultations and discussions on the content of the Rent Bill. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday will be totally allocated to discussions in two groups, one headed by myself and Arnold Goodman, and the other headed by Jim MacColl and Donnison. These two groups will study one paper prepared by the Department. I am really pleased I have got this fixed.

I caught the train to Coventry on Friday evening where I had to make the first speech I had ever made in my life at a public dinner. I suppose I provided what was required. Then I motored home to find Anne lying upstairs in bed listening to the new B.B.C. programme which has now been put on instead of TW3, and finding how vacuous it was.’

28 November 1964
‘At eight o’clock I had to be off to Leicester for one of my visitations, from nine fifteen in the morning till four o’clock in the afternoon. They have become quite a routine for me now and I had my long discussions on the usual subjects, multi-occupation, the new Government subsidies, land policy. The interesting thing at Leicester, I thought, was the admirable way they are trying to deal with the problem of the people who grow elderly on their huge housing estates and then under-occupy their three-room council houses. Here they are taking a certain number of the houses in each area and turning them into flats by the most ingenious method of putting one old person upstairs and one downstairs in each house. They were also putting the old people’s bungalows next door to old people’s homes so those in the bungalows could have meals if they wanted in the old people’s homes. They all seemed to me humane and civilized schemes.’

15 September 15 1965
‘Anne and I motored over to Warwick University, which is in a very pleasant Coventry suburb. Astounding progress has been made there in twelve months. They are using very modern techniques of industrialized building and the new sections are being run up incredibly quickly. I found it difficult talking to Jack Butterworth, who is a very old friend, because I knew too much about the relations between Warwick University and the city authorities. When I was Shadow Science Minister I became more and more convinced that one of the biggest jobs for the next Labour Secretary of State for Education was to break down the rigid division between higher education and further education and institute a unitary approach as against the existing binary approach. At that time I saw this extremely clearly in Coventry itself. It seemed obvious that one should try and integrate the Lanchester College of Technology, the new university and the first-rate teacher training college which for years has been on the site adjacent to the university campus. Indeed, one of the last things I did before the election was to ask Harold Wilson to come down and make a speech at the Lanchester against the binary policy, although I knew that officials in the Ministry were firmly committed to it. Alas! in 1964 when Michael Stewart took over, he quietly accepted the departmental line because there was nothing in the Party policy about committing us to repeal it. When Michael went and Tony replaced him I felt it was unfair to intervene, since I remembered how much I resented any intervention by Michael Stewart in my rents problem (he had been Shadow Minister of Housing). But I was disappointed to hear that he had decided to maintain the binary system, and I was greatly disconcerted when I learnt later on that he was by no means convinced in his own mind that it was right. I have always wondered since then whether he mightn’t have changed his mind if I had really gone in to bat when he first took over.

Still, those are all speculations which one shouldn’t waste time on. I had an excellent time with Butterworth, and informal talks with a number of his staff. I safely caught the 3.20 train and was up in time for my first meeting of the liaison committee at 6 in George Wigg’s room.

Taking over as chairman was tricky because Transport House was deeply suspicious of me and George himself is a most erratic, difficult, crabby man.

I went away after an hour and a half feeling fairly depressed, saying to myself, ‘Well, I have either asserted my authority or I have got myself into an unholy row.’ I was sure I had got Marcia Williams’s support but I wasn’t sure of much else.

I found it difficult to keep my attention fully on the meeting because of something which had happened just before I went across to Palace Yard. Into my office came copies of the Evening Standard and the Evening News, each containing the announcement that the London boroughs had jointly decided on a common policy of requiring a five-year residence qualification for anybody to get a council house in Greater London. This shocked me. And not only that: I had spent a great deal of time working out a speech I was due to deliver on Thursday morning to the annual meeting of the Institute of Housing Managers in Brighton, which contained a slashing attack on the reactionary attitude many housing authorities display to immigrants and the point that cities laying down a five- or six-year residence qualification were objectively committing racial discrimination. Peter Brown and Bob Mellish were in a state of great excitement about the speech. All I knew was that the press release I had prepared would not do as it would be regarded by everyone as a direct reaction by the Minister to the announcement from the boroughs.

I had to leave the liaison committee meeting in order to go across to No. 10 for a cocktail party Harold was giving to the industrial correspondents. I stayed about ten minutes, long enough for Geoffrey Goodman to tell me that he thought the reaction to George Brown’s National Plan would be lousy. The press had had the plan that day and had been working on it in preparation for Thursday morning.


From Downing Street I went on to Crosland’s house where I had a most amiable evening with him and his wife Susan - so delightful that I talked politics far too freely and felt a delicious, racy, scandalized joy in doing so.’

2 November 1965
‘A very long day entirely devoted to departmental meetings. In the evening a meeting of the strategy group over supper at No. 10. Present: Peter Shore, Tony Benn, Tommy Balogh, Marcia Williams, Gerald Kaufman, myself (as chairman) and the Prime Minister. When he came in he looked really jaded. The Rhodesia crisis has been telling on him. As soon as he flew in, after a week of activity, he was plunged into Cabinet on Monday morning and the House of Commons on Monday afternoon. Judging by the press, he has had a real success in the Commons and foxed the Tories by his proposal for the Royal Commission, even though it was pretty obvious from the word go that the Commission was a non-starter and we were merely postponing the evil day. Nevertheless, by Tuesday evening he looked tired and found it difficult to talk to us at all. Gradually he got more interested and we had a useful discussion on the line he should take in the Queen’s Speech. But then his interest lapsed and he suddenly got the bright idea that because Exchange Telegraph had closed down its parliamentary services, Tony Benn as P.M.G. should nationalize it.’

8 August 1966
‘The Sunday papers were full of the story and I had a number of telephone talks with Peter Brown before I caught the night train from Bodmin Road. I got to Paddington at 7.15 this morning to find that the hot water had been turned off and I couldn’t have a bath at Vincent Square.

I had hoped to have a quick meeting under Harold’s leadership in order to fix this idiotic problem of mortgages. It seemed obvious that I should meet George Brown to the extent of asking the building societies not to raise their mortgage rates until the P.I.B. had reported and then making sure the P.I.B. gave us their report by early October. This is exactly what we did in fact finally agree on, but first I had to square my Permanent Secretary, who thought I was giving far too much to George and that I should stand firm on the original statement Callaghan and I had made. I found this terribly negative and when we got into our meeting finally, shortly after twelve, we settled it along the lines I have described.

In the afternoon I saw the building societies and got their agreement that I should make a Statement in the House to that effect next day. After that I had to see George Brown about the Centre for Environmental Studies. I had promised Richard Llewelyn-Davies the headquarters would be in London. George Brown was insisting on Edinburgh. After we had disagreed in quite a friendly way, he asked me to stay behind in his room and told me that he would be out of the D.E.A. within a few days and he was glad because he had been doing that job far too long. Then he went on to say how much he appreciated my behaviour on the day before the devaluation Cabinet. I had been honest with him, unlike some other people he could mention. ‘Whatever happens,’ he said, ‘don’t do anything without telling me. I gather you want to make it as difficult as possible to introduce Part IV. I don’t agree with you but I am not so far away from your position. Keep in touch with me. I trust you, you trust me, I support Harold and so do you.’ That was George at about four o’clock.’

The Diary Junction

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Great grief and distress

Ezra Stiles, an 18th century American pastor who did much to modernise Yale College in its early years, was born 290 years ago today. He had eight children by his first wife who died tragically young, leading Stiles to write in his daily diary ‘It is a day of great Grief & Distress, such I never before knew.’ His diary provides a valuable first hand testimony of society at that time, but particularly of the Revolutionary War and late 18th century developments in education.

Stiles was born on 10 December 1727 in North Haven, Connecticut. His mother, daughter of a poet pastor, died days after his birth, and he was brought up by his pastor father and a stepmother. He studied theology at Yale, and was ordained in 1749. He taught at Yale until 1755 when he became pastor of the Second Congregational Church in Newport. He also acted as Librarian of the Redwood Library and Athenaeum. In 1757, he married Elizabeth Hubbard, daughter of a physician. They had eight children. In 1764, he helped establish the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (now Brown University) by contributing to the drafting of its charter and by serving with 35 others as a founding trustee. Elizabeth died in 1775, and the following year, with the start of the American Revolutionary War, and Newport harbour being full of British warships, Stiles and his children left Rhode Island for Dighton, Massachusetts.

After a year of preaching in and around Dighton, Stiles accepted the pastorship of the First Congregational Church of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. But, shortly after, he was offered the presidency of Yale College. Despite some doubts as to his qualifications for the role, he accepted, moving to New Haven in mid-1778, and remaining in the position for the rest of his life. Initially, he found the college lacking in public funding, and in severe financial trouble. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1781, and, the following year, he married the widow Mary Checkely (née Cranston). In 1783, he published The United States elevated to Glory and Honor. It was not until 1792, that Connecticut endorsed the modernising changes brought in by Stiles and restored the college’s state funding.

Encyclopedia.com provides this assessment: ‘Stiles not only strengthened Yale but also secularized it, took it through the war successfully, and saved it financially. One important accomplishment of his administration was a change in the charter that allowed several state officials to become college board members and ensured state financial aid for the college. He not only performed well as an administrator but also taught classes in Hebrew, ecclesiastical history, theology, philosophy, and science, and even though he was not a minister of a specific church, he continued to perform ministerial duties until his death.’ Further information can also be found at Wikipedia, Yale College, or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required).

Stiles was a committed diarist, writing entries nearly every day from his early 40s until his death. Under the terms of his will, he left his diary notebooks (and other manuscripts) to his successor in the Presidency of Yale College. However, it would be a century before they were edited by Franklin Bowditch Dexter and published (in 1901) in three volumes by Charles Scribner’s Sons as The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles. All three volumes are freely available online at Internet Archive (January 1769 to March 1776, March 1776 to December 1781, January 1782 to May 1795).

Here are several extracts.

22 October 1770
‘This day I finished reading the Old Testament in the Original Hebrew, which I began to read in Course near three years ago, or Janry 30, 1768. I have all along compared the English & hebrew together, and am able from my own knowledge to say, that the English Translation now in use is an excellent & very just Translation & needs very few corrections. And was it again to be translated I cannot expect it would be better done. I have cursorily examined the late Quaker Translation, which is by no means equal to that in use; which was really made by Tindall: For tho’ his Transl was burnt, yet I have seen one of Tindall’s copies preserved in the Easton Family on Rhode Isld; & have compared the Great Bishops Bible, & find that that & K. James in use, are truly but Revisions of Tyndall. I do not wish to see another English Transl, till the English Dialect of the two last Ages shall have become obsolete & untilligible to posterity. But this will not be till English America is fully settled from the Atlantic to Mississippi, When the English of the present Idiom may be spoken by One hundred Million, all of whom may be able to read the Scriptures in Tyndall’s Translation.

Probably the English will become the vernacular Tongue of more people than anyone Tongue ever was on Earth, except the Chinese, who are above one Quarter of the human Race, being seventy Million fencible Men, implying above Two Hundred & Fifty Million souls.

This day fifteen years ago I was ordained, by my Father, Mr. Torrey, & Mr. Burt. Thro' the Patience of Gd. I am still continued an unworthy Pastor under the great Head of the Church.

I am the third Minister in the second Congregational Chh in Newport Rhd. Isld, which was gathered above 42 years ago or Apr. 11, 1728, when Rev. Jn° Adams was ord. Pastor, to whom Rev. James Searing’ succeeded, to whom I succeeded.’

2 July 1771
‘Catechising 19 Boys 44 Girls 8 Negroes. Tot. 71.’

19 August 1771
‘This Afternoon my Wife sat to Mr King for her Picture. Mr Ellis of Compton here. He told me a story of an Event formerly on the Cape, I think at Barnstable. Two Brethren of the Chh had unhappily got into a Lawsuit, & in prosecuting it had become guilty of such Indiscretions & broken peace, as that it came into the Chh - & seemed impossible to reconcile. Two other Brethren of that or another Chh observing it, marvelled that such irreconcileable Enmity should arise among Christs Disciples for a Lawsuit - & were confident they could go to Law & not quarrel. They make the wicked Attempt: & for sake of Trial commenced a Lawsuit one with another. But they soon embroiled their Spirits, and the Thing proceded & ended in total Breach of Friendship and most irreconcileable Enmity. Dangerous to tempt Satan, & try our own strength!’

1 June 1773
‘At IX A.M. I preached at the Courthouse in Greenwich on Mat. v. 20 without Notes, as desired. The Quakers general Meeting broke up yesterday and few were gone home. I had about 200 Hearers. After Lecture I rode 7 miles and dined at Mr. Nath Greens1 at the Iron Works in Coventry.’

29 May 1775
‘Early this morning at IVh 50’ my Dear Wife Elizabeth Stiles departed this Life aetat. 44. It is a day of great Grief & Distress, such I never before knew. Merciful God support me by thy Grace.

My Wife Elizabeth Stiles was the oldest Daughter of Col. John Hubbard of New Haven & Elizabeth his first Wife, where she was born July 3, 1731, O. S. Her Mother was a Woman of Ten Thousand for Sense, Discretion, Resolution & true Greatness: and died 1744 Aug 25, aet. 42. Her Father was an ingenious sensible Man, of a fine Taste for Poetry & polite Writings, and an eminent Physician. She inherited the Quintessence of both Parents - the Discernment Sagacity & Sensibility (but not the scientific Taste) of her Father, with the Nobleness & true Greatness of Spirit the Resolution, Discretion, Prudence, Economy & Judg of her Mother. She was thro’ some Hardships in youth bro’t up to Industry, spinning & all parts of female Industry. From her Infancy to her Mothers death she was educated delicately, kept to School for Sewing & Needle Work: afterwards from aet. 14 to her Marriage she was accustomed to all the Variety of Business in female Life, which qualified her for the Scene of usefulness she exhibited at Newport. Directed by the supreme Lord of the Universe I was bro’t to make Choice of her for a Wife. We were married Febry. 10, 1757. It pleased Gd to give us Eight Children, of whom seven are now living. In 1753 aet. 21½ she gave up herself to Jesus in the Profession of the Faith & came to the Lords Table. And ever since has continued a steady Christian, walking before Gd with fear, Conscientiousness, Integrity & Reverence. She had an Aversion to Fraud & Dishonesty & never could bear Hypocrisy in any. She was perhaps unexampled for her Love of Integrity. She had the highest the sublimest Conceptions of the personal Excellency of the divine Emanuel, whom she accounted the chief among 10 Thousds & altogether lovely. [. . .]’

9 January 1777
‘A solar visible Eclipse. I observed it at Dighton.’

29 December 1777
‘Col. Langdon presented me with two yards of Genoa Velvet for a Jacket. The selling price here now is Twenty five Dollars Continental p yard. Tea is now 15 Doll, a pd. I had presented me to day 2lbs Tea, 2 Loafs Sugar, & Sundries to the amount of 70 Dollars, & inclusive the Velvet 120 Dollars. Wood is 15 Doll. a Cord, Ind Corn 2 Doll, p Bushel, Pork 1/6 Poultry 1/the pound, Beef 9d & 1/, Tea 12 Doll.’

9 September 1778
‘Anniversary Commencement at Yale College: when I conferred the academic Degrees upon 41 Bachelors and 42 Masters. I presented the Diplomas in the Chapel, it being a private Commencement. The 41 Bachelors were Alumni nostri besides one Harv. Of the 42 Masters 4 were from Harvd & Dartmo ad eundems. Mr. Benedict presented me with 30 Doll. Contin. Bill - the highest gratuity besides was 13, some ten, some 4 Dollars. I threw up my fee & referred myself to the Liberality of the Graduates for this Commencement, only this to be no precedent in future. Of the 84 I gave away a dozen degrees besides my sons: and 71 had Diplomas - about 15 absent. Gurley one of the Students which lately went home sick, died a few days since.’

26 February 1784
‘Giving Directions respect the Planetarium six feet Diam. now construct in the College Library by Joseph Badger a Jun. Sophister of a mechanical Genius, and a Joyner. We have been describing the Zodiac & signs & adjusting the Perihelia & Eccentricities & drawing the Ellipses of the orbits of Saturn & Jupiter, and the 3 Comets of known Revolutions. The Planet Herschel is put on. The whole is constructed with an internal Wheel Movement to exhibit the Places of the Planets revolving on the face of the Planetarium.’

Friday, December 8, 2017

Diary briefs

The Diary of a Bookseller - Profile Books, Daily Express, The Guardian

Diary of a murdered Israeli - Times of Israel

David Law’s coalition diaries - Biteback Publishing, Daily Mail

Vladimir Nabokov’s dream diary - Princeton University Press, The Guardian

Diaries of Emilio Renzi - Restless Books, Literal Magazine

Winnipegger’s WWI diaries online - CBC News

John Lennon’s diaries recovered - The Guardian, Rolling Stone

Hunger strike diary - Oxford University Press Pakistan, Dawn

Our History of the 20th Century - Michael O’Mara Books, Amazon

Diary of a Fiji missionary online - Australian National University, The Fiji Times

Diaries of a military wife - Profile BooksDaily Echo

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Dined with the Einsteins

‘Dined with the Einsteins. A quiet, attractive apartment in Berlin West (Haberlandstrasse). Rather too much food in a grand style to which this really lovable, almost still childlike couple lent an air of naivety. [. . .] I had not seen Einstein and his wife since their major excursion abroad. They admitted quite unaffectedly that their reception in the United States and Britain were veritable triumphs. Einstein gave a slightly ironic, sceptical twist to their description by claiming that he cannot make out why people are so interested in his theories. His wife told me how he kept on saying to her that he felt like a cheat, a confidence trickster who was failing to give them whatever they hoped for.’ This is from the diary of the colourful German Count, Harry Kessler, who died 80 years ago today. He was a man of many talents, a diplomat, writer and connoisseur, and he was extremely well connected in political, artistic, literary, and social worlds. Mostly, he is remembered today for the detailed diaries he kept throughout his life.

Kessler was born in Paris in 1868. His father, a banker, was ennobled by Kaiser Wilhelm I, and his mother was considered an Irish beauty. He was educated in England and Germany, and trained for a career in the foreign service. However, he became more interested in the arts, and was involved, during the mid-1890s, in developing an elitist magazine called Pan. He was particularly concerned with trying to develop the arts in Weimar, and held various appointments, including director of the ducal art museum and the art school. In 1904, he went to London to seek advice on the design of books for Insel Verlag, the innovative Leipzig publishing house.

When war broke out, Kessler led troops into Belgium and on the eastern front, but he became traumatised, apparently because his loyalties were so divided between three of the nations at war. Thereafter, he was briefly an ambassador in Poland, and became involved in peace negotiations. In the 1920s, he continued travelling and supporting the arts and producing superb editions of classical masterpieces published by his own Cranach Press. He turned to pacifism later in life, and this led to him being exiled from Nazi Germany. He died on 30 November 1937. Further biographical information can be found at Wikipedia or The Irish Times.

Kessler was a committed diarist from the age of 12 and, indeed, he is mostly remembered today for his diaries. Some of these were first published in German in 1961 as Harry Graf Kessler, Tagebücher 1918-1937. This was then translated into English and edited by Charles Kessler for publication by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1971 as The Diaries of a Cosmopolitan 1918-1937. Kessler’s earlier diaries were thought to be lost, but then they were found in a safe in Mallorca in 1983. A definitive edition of the full diaries (nine volumes) was published in Germany in 2004, and a first edition of the early diaries, edited and translated by Laird M. Easton, was published in English in 2011 by Alfred A. Knopf as Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler 1880-1918 (also in a Vintage Books edition, 2013). Reviews of Journey to the Abyss can be found online at The Atlantic, The New Yorker and The New York Times.

In promoting his most recent book, on the early diaries, Laird stated: ‘Harry Kessler was a born diary writer, with an extraordinarily sharp gift for depicting personalities, landscapes, and tableaus. He also was extremely well connected in political, artistic, literary, and social worlds within Europe. Browsing through the book, the reader will find whatever she or he likes: rollicking accounts of a trip around the world; encounters with artists and writers such as Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Munch, Shaw, Nijinsky, Rilke, Bonnard, Vuillard, Matisse, Degas, Hofmannsthal, and Duncan; accounts of murders; adultery in high places; and political intrigue. There are first-hand accounts of many of the famous literary and political scandals of the day, including the famous premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in Paris in May 1913.’

The following diary extracts - including meetings with the Einsteins and the Pope - have been taken from a reprint
 of The Diaries of a Cosmopolitan 1918-1937 by Phoenix Press in 2000.

8 March 1919
This morning we had newspapers once more. The last two days have seen more bloodshed in Berlin than any since the start of the revolution. According to the Lokal-Anzeiger there have been five to six hundred dead. Ernst has had his ‘blood-letting’. For the moment the strike has been suspended. The workers have put forward fresh conditions: removal of the volunteer regiments from Berlin and repeal of the state of siege.

Kestenberg says that at the Chancellery they are drunk with victory. As far as the Majority Socialists are concerned, every angel in heaven is busy twanging his harp. They imagine that all difficulties have been overcome because, with Reinhardt’s assistance, they have mown down the uprising in Berlin. So Kestenberg thinks it unlikely that they will be prepared to enter into any compromise with the Independents or allot them any ministerial posts. In the northern parts of the city, seething hatred of the ‘West’ is said to be the preponderant mood. Reinhardt soldiers who go through the streets alone there are torn to pieces by the mob. Soon, it is thought, no one wearing a stiff collar will be safe in those quarters.

About a quarter to five I was passing down the Wilhelmstrasse when a lorry stationed in the courtyard of the Chancellery was being loaded with prisoners, both civilians and soldiers. The guards outside the building hustled passers-by along. I produced my identity papers, stopped and watched what was happening. Suddenly a soldier with a whip jumped on the lorry and several times struck one of the prisoners just before the lorry drove out into the street. The prisoners, mainly soldiers, stood with their arms raised and hands crossed behind their heads. Shameful, to see men wearing German uniform in that position.

I went inside the Chancellery and asked for the Commanding Officer. In his absence I saw the Adjutant. (These were Reinhardt troops.) I reported to him the incident of the prisoner being struck, demanded an inquiry, and had my testimony recorded. The lieutenant expressed his regret at the incident, but explained in exculpation that the prisoner was found to have on him the papers of three officers who have disappeared. There was, he added, a completely reliable escort on the lorry. Otherwise there would be grave danger of the prisoner not reaching Moabit alive at all. The bitterness of the Reinhardt troops is boundless. Last night a sergeant was stopped in the street by Spartacists and shot out of hand. Two soldiers have been thrown into the canal by Spartacists and others have had their throats cut.

All the abominations of a merciless civil war are being perpetrated on both sides. The hatred and bitterness being sown now will bear harvest. The innocent will expiate these horrors. It is the beginning of Bolshevism.
The electricity is on again. Business as usual in the cabarets, bars, theatre, and dance halls.

For some weeks, dating approximately from Liebknecht’s murder, a new factor has crept into the German revolution and during the last two days has grown uncannily, the blood-feud element which in all great revolutions becomes ultimately the driving force and, when all others are extinguished or have been appeased, is the last ember to remain burning.

25 June 1921
‘At half past twelve a private audience with the Pope. There were just the two of us and so I had the chance briefly to ventilate the questions which interest me. In these circumstances an even sharper edge was given to his deliberate diversion from the subject of the League, evading it with the words, ‘Ce n’est pas ici’ (meaning the Vatican) ‘que nous pouvons traiter cette question.’ The main thing, he emphasized, is ‘qu'il fallait mettre fin à la guerre’. He asked me, perhaps out of politeness, whether and what I had written on the subject of the League and, at the end, accorded me his Apostolic blessing on behalf of my efforts.’

20 March 1922
‘At one o’clock to Rathenau in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our conversation began with a detailed catalogue of complaints on his part about the onerousness of his duties and the difficulties with which he has to contend. Nobody, in his view, can cope with this appointment for more than six months. It is a cranking up the Ministry’s entire machinery, and that is superhuman labour. For eight years German foreign policy has lain fallow. Now it has to be reactivated, every day a fresh iron has to be put into the fire, a helping hand has to be given to every part of the Ministry. To enable him to do that, he should see everything. If he omits anything, then that sector slips out of his grasp. He cannot in fact see everything, and so he will perhaps have to divide things up in such a way as more or less to delegate certain sectors to department heads while he himself exercises active control over these minor fields only every few weeks. Even then the burden will remain almost insuperable.

On top of this come the affronts which he must constantly pass over in silence, the answers to the Entente communications, the visits he has to receive and make, the Cabinet meetings and the Reichstag sessions, and the paradox which requires that German foreign policy shall now not merely be
sensible but accord with the popular mood. All that is an impossible strain to carry indefinitely. Worst of all, though, is his own countrymen’s vindictive hostility. In addition to threatening letters he receives every day, there are police reports which cannot be ignored. As he said this, he drew a Browning from his pocket. His most cordial relations are with the British, followed by the French, Italians, Japanese, and so on; his worst, with the Germans.

We discussed my trip to Paris. He is of the opinion that the phrase ‘désarmement morale’ presents at this stage the greatest possible danger to us, now that physical disarmament has been effectively implemented, because it can serve the French with an excuse for maintaining their military control.

Finally the talk turned to Genoa. I said that I propose to go there and that I am informing him of this because I do not want to act without his knowledge or against his wishes. He replied that he is very willing for me to go, but it should remain a private matter between us. I am to tell no one that he has encouraged the idea, else far too many others will seek his blessing also.

I am going, I commented, because I believe I shall be able to make myself useful to him and our common objectives and interests. He agreed that my innumerable connections in France, Britain and Italy may render my presence valuable and, if occasion arises, he will be pleased to avail himself of my services. He is very glad that I am going.

My own impression is that he is not as gratified as all that. Perhaps he fears that I shall produce too pacifist an effect and thereby inconvenience the efforts of his own people. The military undoubtedly exercise some influence on his trains of thought. Before I left, he added that we cannot promise the French ‘désarmement morale’ when our entire youth is moving in precisely the opposite direction towards the worst, most obdurately reactionary, outlook. Were we to offer the prospect of such a disarmament, then they would be justified in subsequently accusing us of dishonesty.

Dined with the Einsteins. A quiet, attractive apartment in Berlin West (Haberlandstrasse). Rather too much food in a grand style to which this really lovable, almost still childlike couple lent an air of naivety. Guests included the immensely rich Koppel, the Mendelssohns, Warburg, Bernhard Dernburg (as shabbily dressed as ever), and so on. An emanation of goodness and simplicity on the part of host and hostess saved even such a typical Berlin dinner-party from being conventional and transfigured it with an almost patriarchal and fairy-tale quality.

I had not seen Einstein and his wife since their major excursion abroad. They admitted quite unaffectedly that their reception in the United States and Britain were veritable triumphs. Einstein gave a slightly ironic, sceptical twist to their description by claiming that he cannot make out why people are so interested in his theories. His wife told me how he kept on saying to her that he felt like a cheat, a confidence trickster who was failing to give them whatever they hoped for.

He wanted to know precisely, and made me repeat several times, what message Painlevé gave me for him and what he said about his Paris trip. He is starting on this in the next few days and will stay there a week. He expects university circles here to take it amiss, but they are a terrible lot and he feels quite sick when he thinks of them. In Paris he hopes to be able to do something towards resumption of relations between German and French scholars. He brushed aside his differences with Painlevé as a detail, appearing to attach no importance to them. In autumn he intends to comply with invitations to visit China and Japan, giving lectures at Peking and Tokyo. He must see the Far East, he has confided to his wife, while the big drum is still being banged on his account; that much he insists on obtaining from the hullabaloo.

He and his wife kept me back when the other guests left. We sat in a comer and chatted. When I confessed to sensing the significance of his theories more than I can properly grasp them, Einstein smiled. They are really quite easy, he retorted, and he would explain them to me in a few words which would immediately render them intelligible. I must imagine a glass ball with a light at its summit resting on a table. Flat (two-dimensional) rings or ‘beetles’ move about the surface of the ball. So far a perfectly straightforward notion. The surface of the ball, regarded two-dimensionally, is a limitless but finite surface. Consequently the beetles move (two-dimensionally) over a limitless but finite surface. Now I must consider the shadows thrown by the beetles on the table, due to the light in the ball. The surface covered by these shadows on the table and its extension in all directions is also, like the surface of the ball, limitless but finite. That is, the number of conic shadows or conic sections caused by the theoretically extended table never exceeds the number of beetles on the ball; and, since this number is finite, so the number of shadows is necessarily finite. Here we have the concept of limitless but finite surface.

Now I must substitute three-dimensional concentric glass balls for the two-dimensional beetle shadows. By going through the same imaginative process as before, I shall attain the image of limitless yet finite space (a three-dimensional quality). But, he added, the significance of his theory lies by no means in these thought processes and concepts. That is derived from the connection between matter, space, and time, proving that none of these exists by itself, but that each is always conditioned by the other two.

It is the inextricable connection between matter, space, and time that is new in the theory of relativity. What he does not understand is why people have become so excited about it. When Copernicus dethroned the earth from its position as the focal point of creation, the excitement was understandable because a revolution in all man’s ideas really did occur. But what change does his own theory produce in humanity’s view of things? It is a theory which harmonizes with every reasonable outlook or philosophy and does not interfere with anybody being an idealist or materialist, pragmatist or whatever else he likes.’

16 April 1932
‘General demobilization and disarmament of the various civil war armies. It is a radical liquidation of the situation which, on my return to Germany, so surprised and disquieted me. At that time, a month ago, we really stood on the edge of a civil war between perfectly drilled, organized, armed, and fully equipped armies of several hundred thousand men on each side, simply waiting for the signal to attack one another. That this situation has been resolved by a stroke of the pen, that the SA and the SS (reputedly four hundred thousand men) allowed themselves with such lamblike patience to be disarmed and broken up (nowhere did they put up any resistance worth mentioning) seems almost suspicious.

If the operation has indeed been carried out seriously and thoroughly, it signifies the greatest change in public affairs since the defeat of the Spartacus uprising in March 1919. The behaviour of Hitler and his followers seems pretty chicken-hearted in comparison, but may well be consistent with the infirm, strongly feminine character of Hitler and his entourage. Therein too they resemble William II, loud-mouthed and nothing behind it when it comes to the point. A fully equipped army of four hundred thousand men (so Hitler maintains, and he probably believes it) and then, without the slightest resistance, unconditional surrender! One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry! Is this the ‘German desire for military preparedness’ which Hitler ostensibly wants to re-awaken and invigorate? Pitiable!’

30 January 1933
‘At two o’clock Max came to lunch and brought with him the news of Hiltler’s appointment as Chancellor. I was astounded. I did not anticipate this turn of events, and so quickly at that. Downstairs our Nazi concierge inaugurated exuberant celebrations.

In the evening dinner at the Kaiserhof followed by Coudenhove’s lecture on ‘Germany’s European Mission’, which he of course interprets as fulfilment of his Pan-European idea. What I dislike is that he wants to see it established as a preventive against Soviet Russia and thereby plays into the hands of those imperialists and propagandists who want a war of annihilation against the Bolsheviks. He expressly quoted Churchill and Amery as supporting his Pan-European concept.

In the discussion which followed, Hoetzsch very properly told him that the notion of playing off western Europe against Russia is one to appeal only to the generation aged over fifty: European youth as a whole (including right-wingers) is already far too imbued with collectivist and socialist theories to go along with him. Coudenhove’s trains of thought are logically cogent but remain unconvincing because they derive from far too narrow and biased a selection of facts. All the same, he speaks clearly and has a humanely appealing approach; un homme de coeur.

I sat at a small table between Coudenhove and the celebrated Herr von Strauss, formerly of the Deutsche Bank, who talked very big about his intimate association with Hitler. The latter, he claimed, has promised to fulfil whatever wish he may acquaint him with. I permitted myself to chaff him wickedly by saying that a few days ago I was pleased to learn, from someone who ought to know, that Otto Wolff has paid Hitler’s debts for him. Strauss, very red in the face, was extremely cross and growlingly denied my story. Simons, the former Supreme Court president, was at our table. So was Seeckt, who invited me to attend one of his wife’s regular Monday afternoon at-homes. Gossip included the titbit that the first Cabinet meeting this morning already saw a row between Hugenberg and Hitler.

Tonight Berlin is in a really festive mood. SA and SS troops as well as uniformed Stahlhelm units are marching through the streets while spectators crowd the pavements. In and around the Kaiserhof there was a proper to-do,with SS drawn up in double line outside the main door and inside the hall. When we left after Coudenhove’s address, some secondary celebrities (Hitler himself was in the Chancellery) were taking the salute, Fascist style, at an endless SA goose-stepping parade.

I drove with S. to the Furstenberg beer hall. SA troops were also marching back and forth across the Potsdamer Platz, but the peak of the festive mood was reached inside the hall. Five of us were sitting with S. at a table when a couple of blonde tarts appeared on the scene. They promptly accepted his invitation to sit down and we spent the rest of the evening, until two o’clock in the morning, in their company. At first I was under the impression that the pair were old acquaintances of S. This turned out to be a mistake. He became more and more embarrassed as time moved on but they did not. They swallowed down with hearty appetite whatever was offered them, suggested that he tutoyer them, and called him ‘grandad’. It was a worthy ending to, and appropriate to the general temper of, this ‘historic’ day.’

The Diary Junction

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair

‘As soon as I woke up I rushed to the newsstand on the corner to look for the April issue of Vanity Fair. The second edition is even more baffling than the first one I saw in London in February. The cover is some incomprehensible multicolored tin-man graphic with no cover lines that will surely tank on the newsstand.’ This is from the opening diary entry in Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 just published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. She would go on to ‘triumphantly reinvent’ the US magazine, just as she had done with Tatler in London. The diaries have received widespread publicity, and some extracts can be found online, in reviews and at Googlebooks.

Christina (Tina) Hambley Brown was born in Maidenhead, England, in 1953, but was brought up in Little Marlow, Buckinghamshire, with an elder brother. Her father was a film producer, working on early Agatha Christie films, among others, and her mother was an assistant to Laurence Olivier. Tina was a precocious but subversive school child, being expelled from three boarding schools, and entering St. Anne’s College, Oxford, aged only 17, to study English literature. Even before graduating, she had begun writing for the New Statesman and had won a National Student Drama Award for a play (Under the Bamboo Tree).

In 1973, Brown met Harold Evans, editor of the The Sunday Times, and she was soon being given freelance assignments for the newspaper. After starting a relationship with Evans (25 years older than her), she moved to work for The Sunday Telegraph. In 1979, she became editor of 
Tatler, then a publication with a fast diminishing circulation, and transformed it into glossy popular magazine featuring famous photographers and writers. In 1981, she married Evans, and they would have two children, George and Isabel. The following year, when Condé Nast bought Tatler, Brown resigned, but she was then enticed back by the company’s owner S. I. Newhouse Jr., to advise on resurrecting Vanity Fair in New York City. In 1984, she was named editor-in-chief. Vanity Fair’s circulation rose dramatically. In 1992, she was invited to take over as editor of The New Yorker, only the fourth editor in its history, and remained in that position until 1998. Brown then went to work for Harvey Weinstein and Bob Weinstein’s Miramax Films venture, editing Talk magazine, until it folded in 2002.

In 2007, Brown published her biography of Diana, Princess of Wales, which was a critical and popular success, and the year after that she worked with Barry Diller to launch The Daily Beast, an online news magazine which went on to win various awards. In 2010, The Daily Beast and Newsweek announced a merger of their operations, The Newsweek Daily Beast Company with Tina Brown as editor-in-chief. Newsweek ceased publishing in December 2012, and Brown resigned her position in 2013. She now runs Tina Brown Media. For more biographical information see Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or The Guardian.

Most recently, however, Brown has been working on a new book, The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992, which was published by W&N a couple of weeks ago (14 November 2017). Here is the publisher’s blurb (even though it declined to provide me with a review copy): ‘The Vanity Fair Diaries is the story of an Englishwoman barely out of her twenties who arrives in Manhattan on a mission. Summoned from London in hopes that she can save Condé Nast's troubled new flagship Vanity Fair, Tina Brown is immediately plunged into the maelstrom of the competitive New York media world and the backstabbing rivalries at the court of the planet's slickest, most glamour-focused magazine company. She survives the politics, the intrigue and the attempts to derail her by a simple stratagem: succeeding. In the face of rampant scepticism, she triumphantly reinvents a failing magazine.’

Some pages of Brown’s diaries can be read at Amazon and Googlebooks, while extracts can be read at Vogue, MSNBC and The Globe and Mail. Otherwise, reviews of the book can be found at New Statesman, Financial Times, The New York Times and The New Yorker. And here are a few extracts cribbed from those sources.

10 April 1983
‘I am here in NYC at last, brimming with fear and insecurity. Getting in late last night on British Airways, I suddenly felt the enormousness of New York City, the noise of it, the speed of it, the lonely obliviousness of so many people trying to get ahead. My London bravado began to evaporate. I wished I was with Harry, who I knew would be sitting at his computer in front of his study window, in Kent, furiously pounding away about Rupert Murdoch.

I am staying at the Royalton Hotel on West Forty-Fourth Street, opposite the Algonquin Hotel. It’s a bit of a fleapit but in walking distance to the Conde Nast HQ at 350 Madison Avenue. The man at the desk seemed half-asleep when I checked in and there was no one around to haul my bag to the elevator. All the way in from JFK in the taxi, a phone-in show was blaring a woman with a rasping German accent talking in excruciating detail about blow jobs. The instructions crackling from the radio to “tek it in the mouth und move it slowly, slowly up und down” got so oppressive I asked the cabdriver what the hell he was listening to. He said it was a sex therapist called Dr. Ruth who apparently gives advice on the radio and has an enormous following.

As soon as I woke up I rushed to the newsstand on the corner to look for the April issue of Vanity Fair. The second edition is even more baffling than the first one I saw in London in February. The cover is some incomprehensible multicolored tin-man graphic with no cover lines that will surely tank on the newsstand. Some stunning photographs - they can afford Irving Penn and Reinhart Wolf, which made me pine with envy, and they don’t disappoint - but the display copy is nonexistent, so it’s not clear why they are there. There’s a brainy but boring Helen Vendler essay next to an Amy Clampitt poem, a piece headed (seriously) “What’s Wrong with Modern Conducting?” and a gassy run of pages from V. S. Naipaul’s autobiography. All this would be fine in the Times Literary Supplement, but when it’s on glossy paper with exploding, illegible graphics, it’s a migraine mag for God knows whom. Plus I learned today the Naipaul extract cost them seventy thousand dollars! That’s nearly a whole year’s budget at Tatler!

The question is, how long can Richard Locke survive as VF’s editor?

Leo Lerman, the old features legend at Vogue, heard I was in town and called me at the Royalton early this morning. He twittered on about last night’s screening, then asked me to think of a piece to write for Vogue, so that’s a relief. It means that leaving Tatler in the UK so abruptly hasn’t alienated the US Condé Nast powers as I feared.’

10 September 1983
‘The suspense about VF is now making me a basket case. I went to see wonderful Dr. Tom Stuttaford for sleeping pills and he was at his tweedy best. I told him about all my mixed-up longings. “Hmm,” he said. “I never did understand your infatuation with America. I tried it once and wouldn’t dream of making it a habit.” He removed his fountain pen and wrote a new prescription with an inky flourish. “Here’s my diagnosis, Tina. Buy a large house in the country, have a couple of babies, and just accept you are complicated.” In other words, just go off and be a wife.’

22 August 1990
‘So long between entries. Have had the whole family to stay at Quogue. Heaven having the cousins here for George.

When not with the kids have been glued to CNN, watching the developments in the crisis in the Gulf since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He's such a preposterous figure, with the backward beret and huge chimney-sweep mustache, but clearly much more dangerous than anyone gave him credit for. No one took Hitler seriously either. It seems to be the hallmark of the most dangerous dictators that no one considers them a threat until too late.

The September issue is a news storm with the Trump piece and the Hitler speeches revelation. Happily, Trump trashed us to Barbara Walters on her show, and that spun another column from Liz Smith.’

16 August 1991
‘We christened Izzy last weekend on one of the nicest days we could have dreamed of, at the Church of the Atonement, Quogue’s little clapboard church, as we did for G. It was a glorious day. We had all the friends over for a buffet lunch on the porch and a local band playing at the entrance. Izzy looked so adorable in her frothy little dress, with those huge eyes in her china-doll face. She loved being swooped up and down by all the guests, grabbed the rector’s cross from around his neck, and chomped on it happily. She has all Harry’s power-packed energy and his equable temperament. Nothing fazes her as she moves from one passionate absorption to the next. How lucky I am.’