Exhibit Information

Morgan Library & Museum

Address 225 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Click here for quick directions
Phone Number 212-685-0008

Website http://www.themorgan.org

THE DIARY: Three Centuries of Private Lives

Opening: 21 January 2011 - Closing: 22 May 2011

THE DIARY: Three Centuries of Private Lives

 

 

 

Charlotte Brontë [1816–1855] relied on her Diary to escape stifling-work as a Schoolteacher.

 

 

Tennessee Williams [1911–1983] confided his Loneliness & Self-Doubt to his Diary.

 

 

John Steinbeck [1902–1968] struggled to compose The Grapes of Wrath, recorded in very precise but tiny handwriting.

 

 

Bob Dylan [b. 1941] sketched his way through a Concert-Tour.

 

 

The Diaries of such Creative-People often surprise.

 

 

How could someone so famous write such Banalities?

 

 

How could you not know that your Next-Novel would be on the New York Times Best-Seller-List for weeks?

 

 

The new exhibition at the Morgan—with over 70 items—raises the question: Who were these people actually writing these Journals, Diaries, & Notebooks for? Themselves, alone?

 

 

Or were they hoping that their Children might some day discover how they had Suffered  & Sacrificed for them?

 

 

Long, long ago, in a thoughtful essay on the Practice of Keeping Diaries, Dean Inge was certain that most of these "private musings & meditations” were really written with the expectation that one day others would read them, rather than have them buried in their respective Coffins

 

 

The Morgan has a remarkable collection of Diaries & Journals, including the Notebooks of Henry David Thoreau of Walden-Pond fame.

 

 

In fact, Pierpont Morgan was such a Voracious-Collector that he even acquired the Tools used in the writing some diaries.

 

 

Consider this listing: Diaries of Henry David Thoreau [1817–1862], kept from 1837–61, with pencils made by J. Thoreau & Co., the Thoreau-Family Pencil-Factory. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909.

 

 

The Diaries now on-view allow us to observe—in personal terms—the birth of such great works of art as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, & Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta, The Pirates of Penzance.

 

 

Momentous Public-Events—from the Boston-Tea-Party to the 9/11 Attacks on the World-Trade-Center—are marked by individual witnesses.

 

 

Many diarists, such as Thoreau & John Newton [1725–1807]—a former Slave-Trafficker & author of the Hymn, Amazing Grace—look inward, striving to live with integrity.

 

 

Three great artists in their twenties, all on the brink of fame—Joshua Reynolds [1723–1792], Charlotte Brontë, & Kingsley Amis [1922–1995]—honed their considerable talents in their private writings.

 

 

Century after century, many individuals—from the famous diarist Samuel Pepys [1633–1703] to Abstract-Impressionist painter Charles Seliger [1926–2009]—captured memory & marked time by keeping a daily-record of the substance of Everyday-Life.

 

 

Was there no Famous-Diary that Morgan was not willing to pay the premium to acquire?

 

 

Thoreau’s monumental series of Journals stands alongside the beautifully-printed First-Editions of The Confessions of St. Augustine [354–430] & Jean-Jacques Rousseau [1712–1778], both important & influential figures in the history of Self-Examination & Self-Revelation.

 

 

Just imagine what Mr. Morgan might have found, had he lived to purchase the Private-Diary of Geo. W. Bush. Rather than his recent Ghost-Written but Best-Selling Memoir

 

 

Something like this: "Gee, I feel so embarrassed! There were No Weapons of Mass-Destruction!

We killed all those people for nothing. Even the Oil-Rights were already sewed-up by the Russkis & the French…”

 

 

The Marriage-Notebooks of the American author Nathaniel Hawthorne [1804–1864] & his wife, Sophia [1809–1871], were Interactive-Documents.

 

 

The Newlyweds made entries in tandem, reading each other’s contributions & building a Joint-Narrative of their Daily-Lives.

 

 

Nathaniel’s first Contribution: "I do verily believe there is no sunshine in this world, except what beams from my wife’s eyes,” followed by Sophia’s breathless declaration: "I feel new as the earth which is just born again.”

 

 

Later, their young children added naïve drawings to the pages of their parents’ notebooks, transforming the Marriage-Diary into a Family-Affair.

 

 

How about: "The potatoes were scorched again!” Or: "I wish Daddy would finish writing The House of Seven-Gables, so he’d have time to play with us!”

 

 

These imaginary-entries, however, you won’t find down at the Morgan…

 

 

A Diary of Nathaniel Hawthorne includes this idea for a story-subject: "The life of a woman, who, by the old Colony-Law, was condemned always to wear the letter A, sewed on her garment, in token of her having committed adultery.”

 

 

Anaïs Nin [1903–1977]—one of the 20th-Century’s most Prolific-Diarists—made a thick copy of her astonishingly intimate personal account, presenting to a friend "this uncut version of the Diary in memory of our uncut uncensored confidences & faith.”

 

 

Nin is one of several examples of Diarists who sought a wide audience through traditional publication before the advent of the Web.

 

 

Your Roving-Arts-Reporter can vouch for that. Way back in 1947, when I was Science & Religion Editor on the Daily-Californian, at UC/Berkeley, Nin appeared at our Newsroom-Counter, asking for me.

 

 

She wanted me to write a feature about her adventurous life. The UC-hook was that her brother, Joaquin Nin-Culmel was the Chairman of our Music-Department. He’d been reading my reports on the Dawn-Redwoods & Absolute-Zero, as well as what Christian-Scientists believe…

 

 

Even Queen Victoria [1819–1901] released a volume of excerpts from her Journals; a signed-copy of her 1868 best-seller, Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands, is on-view.

 

 

Some diarists turn their private writings into shared memoir. Fanny Twemlow [1881–1989], a British woman imprisoned in a Civilian-Internment-Camp during World War II, recopied the illustrated diary that she kept secretly & transformed it into a cherished-family-memento.

 

 

Lieutenant Steven Mona, who led a Police Rescue & Recovery team after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, recast his private-diary as a letter, in order to share his experience with family & friends: "I don’t think I will ever look at anything in life the same way,” he wrote.

 

 

But reading Diaries left-behind—which their authors never thought would be read by anyone else—can be a bit unsettling.

 

 

After my father died, I found a cardboard-box filled with old daily-appointments-books. He used these for diaries. One entry: "Glenn arrived from Back East. Rained.”

 

 

Three days later: "Glenn left.” No other comments about me or my visit… Well, it makes you Stop & Think.

<- Back