Brontë and her diary

“The haughty sadness of grandeur beamed out of her intent fixed hazel eye, & though so young, I always felt as if I dared not have spoken to her for my life, how lovely were the lines of her small & rosy mouth, but how very proud her white brow, spacious & wreathed with ringlets, & her neck, which, though so slender, had the superb curve of a queen’s about the snowy throat.”

On Jan. 21, 2011, the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City opened a fascinating exhibit, “The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives.” Introducing the exhibit were these thoughts:

“For centuries, people have turned to private journals to document their days, sort out creative problems, help them through crises, comfort them in solitude or pain, or preserve their stories for the future. As more and more diarists turn away from the traditional notebook and seek a broader audience through web journals, blogs, and social media, this exhibition explores how and why we document our everyday lives. With over seventy items on view, the exhibition raises questions about this pervasive practice: what is a diary? Must it be a private document? Who is the audience for the unfolding stories of our lives — ourselves alone, our families, or a wider group?”

Timeless questions … certainly legitimate ones for 21st century bloggers and tweeters. The exhibit, which unfortunately I wasn’t able to visit before its conclusion on May 21, featured work from the brightest stars of the literary galaxy. As quoted in the introductory essay, Henry David Thoreau aspired for his diary “to meet the facts of life — the vital facts — face to face.” Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife co-authored their diary to celebrate their new married life together. “I do verily believe there is no sunshine in this world, except what beams from my wife’s eyes,” he wrote. “I feel new as the earth which is just born again,” his wife later wrote in response.

St. Augustine and Anais Nin … Walter Scott and Tennessee Williams … William S. Burroughs and Charlotte Brontë … A prisoner from World War II and a police rescue worker from the 2001 World Trade Center attack — the range of work and creativity and purpose is just as astounding as the authors and the beautiful words this exhibit so elegantly celebrated.

The exhibit lives on online. In addition to the introductory essay, the website offers images of diary pages, diary excerpts, and essays on the authors.

Also included are audio readings of selected diaries by actors Paul Hecht and Barbara Feldon. Reading the diaries is, for me, a joy, but hearing them read to me is a special — and often quite romantic — experience.

This special series begins with Charlotte Brontë: “The haughty sadness of grandeur beamed out of her intent fixed hazel eye, & though so young, I always felt as if I dared not have spoken to her for my life, how lovely were the lines of her small & rosy mouth, but how very proud her white brow, spacious & wreathed with ringlets, & her neck, which, though so slender, had the superb curve of a queen’s about the snowy throat.”

Entries in this series:
Part 1: Introduction to the exhibit and Charlotte Brontë
Part 2: Frances Eliza Grenfell
Part 3: Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne
Part 4: Paul Horgan
Part 5: John Newton
Part 6: Mary Ann and Septimus Palairet
Part 7: Walter Scott
Part 8: Bartholomew Sharpe
Part 9: Tennessee Williams
Part 10: John Ruskin

Niche boutique’s grand opening

We’re excited to launch our men’s collection at Niche boutique’s grand opening party this Thursday at San Antonio’s Historic Pearl. It begins at 5:30 p.m.

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My wife and I are excited to launch our men’s collection alongside already amazing women’s collections at Niche boutique’s grand opening party at San Antonio’s Historic Pearl. The party is this Thursday and begins at 5:30 p.m.

I’m so proud of her.

Free Love Freefall

The revolutionaries were determined to make lasting changes to the various forms of sexual oppression they perceived. It remains to the current generation to ensure their still-blossoming accomplishments do not wither under cold conservative shadows.

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Allyn’s revolutionaries were determined to make lasting changes to the various forms of sexual oppression they perceived. It remains to the current generation to ensure their still-blossoming accomplishments do not wither under cold conservative shadows.
A review by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

*****

Discussed in the essay:

Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution: An Unfettered History. By David Allyn. New York: Routledge, 2001. Pp. 381. $30.95

David Allyn’s Make Love, Not War intelligently and creatively tours a sexual renaissance that ebbed and flowed throughout the 1960s and 1970s, sparking changes of varying longevity throughout society. Latino and black Americans fought throughout this era for equal rights as citizens and for the freedom to pursue and fully embrace the American Dream. The general public’s gradual tolerance of public gay culture, the rise of swingers movements, the gaveling of obscenity trials, the publication of sex studies, and the embrace of the birth control pill all comprise for Allyn a sexual rights movement, a “revolution” that silenced some prudes, raised legal eyebrows, and brought America a few sultry steps closer to the fulfillment of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”1

Allyn designates the early sixties to the late seventies as the era of the sexual revolution, and he links its progression to general economic health in the United States. They rise and fall together. He utilizes dozens of interviews with men and women — some identified and some under pseudonyms — thirty years after their revolution takes place. Sexual histories, sociological studies, essays, novels, and academic reports supplement his study of the birth control pill, lesbian empowerment, gay rights, fights over literary censorship, public excitement over sexually-charged theater and film works, nudist colonies, swinger parties, and the general struggle to strip shame away from anyone’s sexual life.

The revolution was a multi-pronged and disjointed effort that lurched toward sometimes unclear objectives. Critics may condemn Allyn’s book for its seemingly disorganized structure, but it actually properly reflects the messiness of a series of efforts to change social mores and personal prejudices. Allyn’s great strength as a writer is his ability to gracefully transition from one theme of the era to another.

If anyone wanted to read a new sex manual to improve their sex life, Allyn argues that the sexual revolution made that possible. If a gay man or woman wanted to add legal sexual escapades at a sex party into their urban lifestyle, the sexual revolution made that available. If upper and middle-class women wanted to control their fertility, swap their spouses with other couples, or find and buy a book filled with sexual imagery, the sexual revolution eased strictures, opened doors, and soothed public outrage. Americans could fully and freely explore their identities, fulfill their aspirations, find their limits, and live their lives. For almost everyone, Allyn explores, the sexual revolution provided the freedom from fear.2

Allyn is enamored with the term “revolution,” which is his theme as his historical tour widens its scope over American society. From the very beginning, Allyn credibly admits the duality of his terrain, of which some aspects “were not revolutionary at all but evolutionary.” The era’s development of the pill, the rise of the sexual book publishing industry, the debates over obscene literature, the stronger roles women secured for themselves in American society — all were inherited from earlier eras in American history, all far from original movements. He admits this duality and does nothing to compensate for its contradictory influence on his narrative structure except pair stories of triumph with stories of eventual defeat or threat.

The era’s legacy is a mixed success of progression and regression, like all revolutions in American history. American society generally accepts the use of birth control and the popularity of premarital sex, though religious leaders and worried parents still frown on the still-expensive pill. Uncensored pornography — from hard-core videos to the soft sensuality of Anais Nin — is ubiquitous in the online world and easily found in the most popular bookstores, though erotica still faces many “family-oriented” enemies. Celebrities, news organizations, the military, scientific organizations, national leaders, and students across the United States embrace homosexuality as a normal sexual orientation, gay rights for citizens and servicemen, gay adoptions, and gay unions. But legal recognition of gay marriages retains its legal and political polarizing effect.3

Not everything can change all at once. Not everyone is won over when new ideas, new bathing suits, new aspirations, and new freedoms dawn over the raucous American society. When it comes to sex, each citizen had to make his or her own personal journey. People change as they grow older. Love and desire bring their own contradictory and revolutionary effects on one’s understanding and acceptance of the world around them. Jealousy, lust, insecurity, and fear can easily disrupt carefully constructed arrangements among sexual partners.

His interviews with the revolution’s participants best capture these intimate journeys. However biased or self-conscious they may be three decades later, Allyn’s interviewees echo the bittersweet afterglow the revolution’s sunset left in their lives. One father remembered his son loudly declaring in an airport terminal that his mother took a shower with a male sexual friend. One humiliated teenager remembers when her sexually supportive father left condoms on every bed in case she wanted to have sex with her male guest. Allyn deserves credit for including the long, dark slopes of the era’s gleaming aspirations for sexual liberation. He mostly maintained his balance between giddy celebration of short-term sexual bliss and grim acknowledgement of the long-term emotional consequences.4

His book’s duality also demands answers to eternal historical questions: Do changes deserve to be considered revolutionary if they are not all long-lasting? Was the sexual blossoming in the sixties an aberration in social values, enough to be considered revolutionary, or was the real revolution comprised of religious attitudes and social frigidity that put in place decency laws, targeted erotic literature, oppressed gay communities, marginalized women, and put shame into the hearts and minds of millions of sexual beings? Perhaps Allyn’s era was simply a counter-revolution, an attempt to take further the romantic aspirations of early twentieth century struggles for gender equality, sexual freedom, a more-just democracy, and fulfilled personal desires. Perhaps Allyn’s era consisted of a series of moments when Americans again grappled with and consummated fundamental American ideals that the original revolutionary generation left their descendants in a different and better America to achieve.

The book’s focus is mostly on urban upper and middle-class Anglo citizens. Blacks, Latinos, and lower-class citizens are not part of this study, which leaves readers hungering for a greater variety of voices and experiences. However, his study is linked to the economic health of the U.S. When the economy worsened in the seventies, the sexual revolution sputtered, which suggests the sexual revolution belonged only to those who could afford its luxurious promise. Impoverished minorities had larger and more immediate problems to worry about — how to feed their children and themselves, where to find work, how to avoid or at least endure an oppressive and heartless society — that they could not be concerned about swinger parties, literary censorship, or lesbian rights.

Overall, Allyn’s conflicted book is a valuable contribution to the study of postwar America. He brings together a detailed examination of various aspects of a sexual renaissance that benefited and benefited from other struggles for other freedoms. The arguments from this era came down — and still do — to eternal American issues: How much equality is necessary to fulfill our founding principles? How much are Americans entitled to? Where does private control — over our bodies, our gender, our children’s education, our moral principles — end and a democratic society’s standards begin? Allyn’s revolutionaries were determined to make lasting changes to the various forms of sexual oppression they perceived. It remains to the current generation to ensure their still-blossoming accomplishments do not wither under cold conservative shadows.


1. David Allyn, Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution: An Unfettered History (New York: Routledge, 2001), 3-4. Allyn asserts that the every aspect of the sexual revolution “had an impact on how we as a nation have come to think of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
2. Allyn, 4-5.
3. Allyn, 8, 295-296.
4. Allyn, 217, 297-299.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: I suffered intensely

As Stone works her way back to Texas, a toothache adds to her discomfort and fear throughout a journey through wild and war-torn swampland.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

As Stone works her way back to Texas, a toothache adds to her discomfort and fear throughout a journey through wild and war-torn swampland.

November 1864

On the road to Texas

We got off from Col. Templeton’s Monday morning, all sorry to part after a delightful summer and fall with not a disagreeable incident to mar our intercourse. They have been the soul of kindness to me, one and all. The direct road through the swamp is impassable, and so Capt. Wylie piloted us a new route. Capt. Wylie, Johnny, and I were on horseback, and about 2 o’clock we reached the hill road without getting bogged down as Johnny had in coming through the old road. We dismounted, entered the carriage, and bade Capt. Wylie a warm farewell, thanking him for his many courtesies. …

It was a rainy day and we did not reach Monroe until about sunset. Capt. Brigham met us, and we waved him adieu as we crossed the Ouachita on a flat. We passed the night at Mrs. Scale’s at Trenton, much to Johnny’s disgust as he does not like them. Some gentlemen called, and we had cards. After they left, Lucy and I tried our fortunes in divers ways as it was “All Hallow’e’en.” We tried all magic arts and had a merry frolic, but no future lord and master came to turn our wet garments hanging before the fire. There were no ghostly footprints in the meal sprinkled behind the door. No bearded face looked over our shoulders as we ate the apples before the glass. No knightly forms of soldiers brave disturbed our dreams after eating the white of an egg half-filled with salt. …

The third morning we left in a cold drizzling rain with a splendid lunch and a jar of pickles, and with kisses and good wishes of the family. I had a raging toothache, because of sitting all day in wet shoes after passing the swamp. Capt. Wylie’s solicitude on the subject of my thin, wet shoes was not uncalled for at last.

Our trip to Vienna was disagreeable. We stopped at twelve, built a fire, enjoyed our dinner, and then smoked leaf cigarettes. They relieved my tooth for a time, but the pain returned. For several days I suffered intensely, nearly ruining all my teeth I fear by using creosote, caustic, and any strong thing people recommended. Our supper at the hotel at Vienna consisted of cold stewed pumpkins, cold greens, and cold white cornbread. Nothing else but cold well water. The breakfast was nearly as unpalatable, but it was warm. We had nothing to eat all day except the pickles, which Johnny first ate and then drank the vinegar. …