Thursday, 4 August 2011

from The Diary of William N. [2]



19.12.1898   In Finland I am not respected!  How would it have gone with me if I had remained in Helsinki? Poorly – the mail does not go to the hinterland properly, unlike in Europe –  the circles there are narrow, malicious, and even I respect but a few men like Th. S. who is loyal to me and F. Elfving, who is also a decent man. The Fries family are Swedish, but how they have messed up my life! At the dinners in Uppsala there was punch and chatter, yes, yes, but later the mood of the music changed (furioso), F. pater did not listen to my opinions, he contradicted me and cultivated relations behind my back in many directions, and so did F. filius. Lord knows  what will become of science if the scientists comport themselves like dancing masters!  I tried to promote Zetterstedt’s appointment to the Upsala post, but it turned out otherwise, for the post went to  T. Fries filius. Professor Andersson of Stockholm had the nerve to claim that I had merely succeeded in harming Z.’s position, thank you very much!

20.12.1898   Constance brought "Christmas fare", as she he is leaving tomorrow with her "old fellow" for the Auvergne. (I thought the man was a former officer, but he is really a common soldier.)  I received food that keeps such as sausages and brawn and English-style Christmas cake  in which there were plums, apricots, cherries and raisins, and the cake is soaked in brandy. I snorted at the word “Christmas”, for C. knows the manner in which I "celebrate" it, but she also insisted on cleaning, which led to an altercation between us, and C. shed some tears when she went home. But she is a good woman.

21.12.1898  Today I sat in the hospital (I had promised Elisa that I would see the doctor), on a bench with a mother who held a crying baby in her arms, an old, loud-voiced deaf woman, a labourer whose leg was wrapped in bloody rags, etc.  The dreary corridor echoed with footsteps when the nurses and doctors walked by, and I at last I made up my mind to get to my feet and shout that I was a doctor too, and should therefore be treated with respect, did I have to bow and scrape in order even to make a doctor halt in his tracks, I was not trying to jump the queue ahead of the concierge-woman or the tinsmith, but had been waiting for two hours, so perhaps at last it was my turn. A third hour began, and I could not endure to wait any longer, but went home. Let Dr. S. send me instructions for treatment by letter as before. I am too thin, I know it is true,  I am six feet tall and weigh only 136 pounds, but my frame has the strength of spirit and intellect.

24.12.1898   I ate two slices of Christmas cake and drank two small glasses of Madeira. (A.B brought the Madeira yesterday.)  I have found  the pharmacist R's  old letter in which he writes: "Vous serez toujours pour moi un homme d'une veritable science, mais d'un caractère quelquefois difficile. " Friends and enemies in the same basket! R.  helped me to manage my affairs in Paris during the time when I held the post at Helsinki, but later he got tangled in a troublesome affair which had its origins in the fact that I did not inform Descaine of my travel to Helsinki, although he got me the money with which to complete the Synopsis (Part Two), and therefore D. began to threaten to reclaim the money by legal means, which information was passed to me by R. That wretched sum of money, a mere handout, which originally seemed almost an insult, but the real insult was the fact that I was suspected of laziness or incompetence or even of dishonesty! I immediately sent half of the sum to Tulasne, and through him a letter to  D.  My relations with many people were at once broken off, but not even in the scientific sense can I associate with people who do not trust me and do not value my work. Since in the room it is only 15 degrees Celsius, I shall drink one more glass of Madeira, this is my Christmas Eve.


[Kristina Carlson, William N. päiväkirja, Otava 2011]

translated from Finnish by David McDuff

(to be continued)

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