Last week I went to the Morgan Library to see an exhibit called The Diary, Three Centuries of Private Lives. It was all about diaries, some of them 300 years old.
You can’t take photos in the exhibit, except for sneaking a shot under the radar of the security guards.
The exhibit was exciting in that it had some fine examples of the art of keeping a diary. From Henry David Thoreau:
From the wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne:
From Paul Horgan (1903 – 1994) who carried notebooks with him wherever he went to allow him to capture ideas at the moment they arose. “Some of the notes are productive,” he later explained, “developing organically in a wonderful way. Others die and you don’t know why. They all seem fascinating at the moment.”
But the exhibit was drearily “interpreted” by a curator who felt the need to categorize the diaries — under such lumpen rubrics as War Diaries, Road Diaries, Shared Diaries, Spiritual Diaries, 1960s [???] Diaries — and, when those categories broke down (from their own reductivity (sp?)), she tossed in facsimiles, in the form of reproductions or published books(which, to me, shattered the whole immediacy of looking at a diary, the unmediated un-edited first-hand report of a life).
And, for some (or not) reason, the diaries of Charlotte Bronte and Albert Einstein were left floating on their own, about which our docent-of-the-day was able to state the stunningly obvious: “Charlotte’s handwriting is minuscule“, and “Any mathematician today can read the equations that Einstein jotted down in his journal.”
Dear Readers, I am a connoisseur of The Diary. And I have just the diary for you. Meet me here next week.