A Diary: 1824-1889

A Diary: 1824-1889 - H. Allingham, H. Allingham, D. Radford, John Julius Norwich Allingham, Helen (editor); Radford, D. (editor). I read this in the original Macmillan, 1907 ed. [These notes were made in 1991:]. To the varied ranks of James Boswell and Pamela Des Barres (Confessions of a Groupie), add William Allingham, celebrity-hunter extraordinaire. His chief prizes were life-long, close friendships with Tennyson and Carlyle, an early, if somewhat fading friendship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti (he stayed on better terms with Morris and Burne-Jones), and at least passing acquaintance with many other notables, including Emerson, Swinburne and Darwin. He also knew Browning well. If Allingham had intended to publish from his diary, he doesn't seem to have got around to smoothing or selecting. The entries reproduced here are true journal entries, full of abbreviations, personal trivia and obscure allusions. To the beginnings of an autobiography (does everybody in the world have the beginnings of an autobiography, I wonder?) his editors have added bridging passages explaining the course of his life, and a selection from the journals, mostly from the times he spent in London. Allingham spent much of his time as a customs officer far from London (but close to Tennyson). His London days seem to have been the highlights, especially when he was a bachelor - which was most of his life. Although he was doubtless consciously recording for posterity, the fact that everything is still in diary form means that there's relatively little post facto comment, which is nice. On the other hand, the principles of selection seem to have been to print things about the celebrities, which means we get relatively little sense of Allingham's own day-to-day personality. Quite possibly it's not there anyway. But it's disconcerting, to say the least, to find him all of a sudden married on p. 233 without the slightest mention of the woman coming before (note that she's one of the editors!) Anyway, I rather enjoyed this exercise in literary gossip.