And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

20 September

Maria Nugent,
wife of soldier

‘My Dear N. much harassed by the accounts from Walcheren. There is a dreadful fever among the troops, and the sufferers are beginning to come over, for a change of climate and medical care, &c. - All the morning, he has been on horseback along the coast, and giving orders, for every possible accommodation, &c. for the sick. - Unfortunately, we had another large party at dinner.’

Walcheren Fever


Francis Lieber,
philosopher and teacher

‘With Niebuhr, Amalie, and Marcus to the Rotunda. The church door is ornamented with a beautiful frieze. Niebuhr thinks the old walls we saw were part of a bath built for the Germans in the time of Domitian.

Niebuhr says nothing can be accomplished for the welfare of Italy until the priesthood is suppressed. This could be done gradually by allowing the monks to leave the cloisters with a pension. If a whole cloister should disperse, a certain sum should be divided among the monks in proportion to the income of the cloister. The princes, for instance the Chigi and their descendants, might be taxed for this purpose.’

Lieber’s Life and Letters


Edward John Eyre,
explorer and administrator

‘Rising very early I set to work, with an axe, to clear away the bushes from around my tent. I now discovered that the natives had been concealed behind a large tea-tree not twenty yards from the tent; there were numerous foot-marks there, and the remains of fire-sticks which they had brought with them, for a native rarely moves at night without fire.

By working hard I cleared a large circle with a radius of from thirty to forty yards, and then piling up all the bushes outside and around the tent, which was in the centre, I was completely fortified, and my sable friends could no longer creep upon me to steal without my hearing them. I spent great part of the day in charting, and took a few angles from the tent, but did not dare to venture far away. At night, when it was dark, I mounted guard with my gun for three hours, walking round outside the tent, and firing off my gun before I lay down, which I did with my clothes on, ready to get up at a moment’s notice. Nothing, however, disturbed me.’

Along the Rocky river


Ford Madox Brown,

‘After dinner, worked at drawing in the outline of the male head in ‘the Last of England’ - then reflected on it till near five, settled that I would paint the woman in Emma’s shepherd plaid shawl, in stead of the large blue & green plaid as in the sketch. This is a serious affair settled which has caused me much perplexity. After this I worked till tea-time at scraping away the ground of Zink white which I had laid myself for the picture at Hampstead. I found that the head of the man had cracked all over since I painted it, so had to scrape it out - his coat also has crack in it, a bad thing in a coat in particular, so I will have no more of this zink, confound it. There is nothing like tin for a foundation to go upon, in this system will I work henceforth. After tea I worked at altering the little laydy reading a letter in the ‘Brent’ which had rubbed in from Emma the other day, I have made it more sentimental. After this I cleaned my pallet & brushes & am now writing this. I must leave off to begin the lettering of the ‘Cartoon’ & painted scetch of ‘the Last of England’ - only did the scetch 11 pm (6 1/2 hours).’

The Last of England


Robert Earl Henri,

‘[In London . . .] gazing at these wonderful landmarks of history - at the very things themselves! [. . .] One can get himself mixed up in old rookeries, tangled and narrow, antiquity and picturesqueness at every step - forget that he is in the 19th Century - wander about the haunts of Dickens and all that great list of English men of letters, perfectly out of the world of today, lost in delightful reveries of the past.’

Make the draperies move


Hugo Ball,

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

A wish or a curse


John MacGavock Grider,

‘Aboard R. M. S. Carmania in the harbor of Halifax.

Well, here I am aboard ship and three days out of New York, waiting for a convoy at Halifax. This seems to be a fitting place to start a diary. I am leaving my continent as well as my country and am going forth in search of adventure, which I hope to find in Italy, for that is where we are headed. We are a hundred and fifty aviators in embryo commanded by Major MacDill, who is an officer and a gentleman in fact as well as by Act of Congress. We are traveling first class, thanks to him, tho we are really only privates, and every infantry officer on board hates our guts because we have the same privileges they do. Capt. Swan, an old Philippine soldier, is supply officer.

This morning when we steamed into harbor, which is a wonderful place, we found five or six transports already here. The soldiers on them, all that could, got into the boats and came over to see us. They rowed around and around our boat and cheered and sang. They were from New Zealand and a fine husky bunch they were. One song went: “Onward, conscript soldiers, marching as to war, You would not be conscripts, had you gone before.”

This is a beautiful place. I expect my opinion is largely due to my frame of mind, but it really is pretty. Low jagged hills form the horizon and on the south side of the river as we came up, is solid rock with a little dirt over it in spots but the rock sticking thru everywhere like bones thru a poor horse.

We went thru two submarine nets stretched across the mouth of the harbor. I wish I had words to describe the feeling I had when all the soldiers in the harbor came over to tell us howdy. One New Zealander, I think he was a non-com, stood up in the back of the boat and said, “You fellows don’t look very happy.” And I guess our boys don’t at that - the doughboys, I mean. We’ve got over two thousand of them on board of the 9th Infantry Regiment of the regular army. Anyway, New Zealand beat us cheering with their full throated, “Hip Hurrah Hip Hurrah Hip Hurrah!” But they said they were five weeks out and knew each other pretty well, while our boys aren’t acquainted yet.

I have a stateroom with Lawrence Callahan from Chicago, who roomed with me at Ground School, where we suffered together under Major Kraft and had a lot of fun from time to time in spite of him. We almost got separated at New York as he was going to France with another detachment over at Governor’s Island. I got Elliott Springs, our top sergeant, to get the Major to have him transferred to us. We had a good crowd over at Mineola and I saw him in town and he told me he was in a rotten bunch over there. I was a sergeant as Springs had me promoted because I took a squad out and unloaded a carload of canned tomatoes after two others had fallen down on the job. We got him transferred all right and then he got mad as fury at Springs because he made him peel potatoes for four days for chewing gum in ranks. On the fourth day Cal told Springs how much trouble he had taken to join his outfit and that he hadn’t come prepared to be a perpetual kitchen police. Springs said he was very glad to have him but if he wanted to chew gum in ranks he’d have to peel potatoes the rest of the day every time he did it. Cal said he’d already been assigned to the job for four days. Springs said he knew it but that so far he hadn’t peeled a single potato and he was going to get one day’s work out of him if he had to chain him to the stove to do it. Cal won tho, because Springs was too busy to watch him and he never did finish one pan of spuds.

I’ve got to go to boat drill now. We practice abandoning ship every day.

That’s over. My platoon is assigned to the top deck and Captain La Guardia is in charge of our boat. He is a congressman from New York City and learned to fly last year. He is an Italian so was sent over with us. He managed to bring along two of his Italian ward bosses as cooks. One of them owns a big Italian restaurant and yet here he is as a cook. And he can’t cook!

I probably won’t write much in this thing. I never have done anything constantly except the wrong thing, but I want a few recollections jotted down in case I don’t get killed.

I am going to make two resolutions and stick to them. I am not going to lose my temper any more - I fight too much. And I am going to be very careful and take care of myself. I am not going to take any unnecessary chances. I want to die well and not be killed in some accident or die of sickness - that would be terrible, a tragic anticlimax. I haven’t lived very well but I am determined to die well. I don’t want to be a hero - too often they are all clay from the feet up, but I want to die as a man should. Thank God, I am going to have the opportunity to die as every brave man should wish to die - fighting - and fighting for my country as well. That would retrieve my wasted years and neglected opportunities.

But if I don't get killed, I want to be able to jog my memory in my declining years so I can say, “Back in 1917 when I was an aviator, I used to - !”

I’ll probably not write any more for a week, or perhaps no more at all.’

Many things have happened


Nettie Palmer,

‘Early this morning, we watched a man on a ridge behind Mrs. T.’s house lassooing the branch of a tree with a length of rope. What was he doing? Stretching a clothes-line? But why so high up, and on that slope?

Here in South Queensland, life moves lightly and intimately; you’re always looking out of doors at this sunny end of winter. From the narrow shelf of the front veranda, there’s the bush sloping towards the ocean in one direction, and towards the Passage with its wide water in another. Along the western skyline stand the unbelievable Glasshouses. Then from the back windows, you look across the open ridges to forest country. You see the casual events of your neighbours’ lives, especially when you sit at breakfast in the open sun.

You see dreamily, and often without understanding. That clothes-line? I met Mrs. T. at the end of the morning while we both waited for our mail at the lighthouse post-office. She was bubbling kindly: ‘My son-in-law from town’s just fixed a radio aerial, and the crystal set he’s brought is clear as can be. Would you come in this evening and hear it? It’s the first wireless set in Caloundra.’

This evening we went along in the moonlight. In Mrs. T.’s open lounge there must have been sixty visitors. Fishermen and their women; lighthouse-keeper and ex-keeper, wives and families. Children sucking large black humbugs solemnly. And in the place of honour, the new miracle of communication, the wireless. (The son-in-law was a self-effacing showman. At eight o’clock, and before we noticed the instrument was turned on, came heavy strokes - the Post Office clock, Sydney: ‘as if they were right in the room,’ sighed someone voluptuously). Then came a weather report: squally, we heard, as the calm moon listened in with amusement.

What next? Some ‘music’ so nondescript that people mostly relapsed into friendly talk while it lasted - as if it were real-life music. So far no statics or interference. The son-in-law muttered technicalities to the few eager youths who could lap up his learning. A speech is announced on the air: ‘it’s a lecture on Christian Science,’ says the son-in-law. For five minutes of it, everyone listens; even the children with their still-revolving jaws. It’s so wonderful to have any opinion conveyed whole, like eggs by plane from Sydney. Then people begin asking one another questions. Can everything be caught up by wireless? Could you use it like a listening telescope and direct it to a cathedral service or a trade union meeting? No? Well, who decides what you’ll have? It all comes so clear it might be important some day.

The Sydney clock struck the hour again. The children had sucked away their issue of humbugs. Time to thank Mrs T. and her son-in-law and go home. We drifted in the moonlight along the strip of rough road. There stood that other aerial mast, the lighthouse, mild winds humming in its flagpole ropes. Its light blinked regularly against the moon, that supreme mistress of communication. Long before wireless, the light was: long before the light, the moon. What was it Andrew Tripcony said yesterday, as patriarchal fisherman in these parts: ‘Th’ moon’s useful; y’ always know the tides by her. Quarterflood over the Bar at moonrise. Same at moonset.’

Will the wireless ever catch up with such established guides of mankind?’

N. tinkering with diaries


Jean Giorno,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important not to be duped


Federico Fellini,

‘In Piazza Barberini in the middle of the day, in the midst of all the traffic, I’m completely naked in bed with Sandrocchia, who is also nude. Maybe we’re making love, but nobody pays any attention, nobody notices us, as if doing so were the most normal thing in the world. Later Sandrocchia (in P.P. she vaguely resembles A, as well) says to me “When I think about you I cry right away. I always cry when I think of you.” This was her way of telling me that she loves me very much.’

Fellini’s dreaming


Jan Kenneth Eliasson,

‘My most recent visit took place three years ago in mid-September, together with Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar. His main objective was to free the hostages captured in Lebanon. . . Even today, I still have difficulties in accepting “the deal" - the guilt of Iraq . . . in return for assistance in the Bekaa Valley.’

Eliasson the go-between


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And so made significant . . .
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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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