The diary of Antonia Macnaghten née Booth
Antonia Booth was my great grandmother. She died in 1952, 5 years before I was born.
Diary entries and other quotations are in black,
commentary is in blue
and footnotes are below in black.
Entries are captured in months.
This blog begins with the year 1898 even though the diaries start in 1894 because it is more straightforward to introduce the main characters in this year. I shall return to 1894 in a while.
If you think I’ve left something out please do let me know or if there is a factual error please tell me gently.
March 1898 continued
Southwark. Met Dorothy and came home with her. Adeline Richie, Janie and Olivia (Freshfield), Sybil Vaughan Williams, dear Mary Fletcher came to tea. Meg and I went to the Pop to hear the Joachim quartets and sat with cousin Jayne and Harry F. Joachim was in quite his most wonderful mood. There never was never will be anybody like him. Two Beethoven quartets, op 15 and a late one, exceedingly glorious and a nice soothing Haydn quartet. Tom heard from the War Office today that he is to set sail on April the 7th.
‘The 19th century, a golden age of the violin, produced a Cooperstown of great fiddlers. But even in an age of titans, there was general agreement that two were more titanic than the others: the eminently Italian Niccolò Paganini, who died in 1840, and the definitively Central European Joseph Joachim, who died 100 years ago this Wednesday(1907)…His life coincided with the rediscovery of Bach, living memory of Beethoven and the career of his friend and collaborator Brahms…More than any other performer, he personified an era that understood Great Music as religion. Yet people liked as well as venerated him. He agonized about colleagues who struggled with the late Beethoven quartets but needed the job. He played with amateurs. He helped friends and students find instruments with no hint of a commission. He told and enjoyed dialect jokes. He was civil to female composers and interested in old instruments before either were fashionable. He stood up for Jews even after he stopped being one. He read Goethe. Friends and intimates, who called him Uncle Jo, meant it’. When he grew old ‘From London to St. Petersburg audiences still scrambled to hear him play Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Spohr, Viotti, his own “Hungarian” Concerto, Brahms and Bruch with what was once, at least, a formidable technique. His solo Bach in 1890 inspired George Bernard Shaw to one of the funniest reviews ever written.
Yet even Shaw acknowledged that he too had “applauded like anything,” and saluted Joachim’s “dignified artistic career.” ‘
Here is the poet Robert Bridges expressing his admiration:
Thou that hast been in England many a year
The interpreter who left us nought to seek,
Making Beethoven’s inmost passion speak,
Bringing the soul of great Sebastian near.
Their music liveth ever, and ’tis just
That thou, good Joachim, so high thy skill,
Rank (as thou shalt upon the heavenly hill)
Laurel’d with them, for thy ennobling trust
Remember’d when thy loving hand is still
And every ear that heard thee stopt with dust.
Robert Bridges, May 2, 1904.
Sir Frederick Pollock, a jurist, friend of the Booths and a cousin of Malcolm Macnaghten’s was a member of the Joachim Concerts Committee, which organized and sponsored the performances of the Joachim Quartet in England and he wrote this address on the occasion of Joachim’s jubilee concert:
At that day (in 1844) the fine arts, and music among them, languished in this country. It was not understood that the function of art is to be not merely the recreation of a privileged class, but an integral element of national life. We have now learnt to know and to do better…. This great and salutary change which we have witnessed in the course of the last generation is largely due to your exertions. Learning from Mendelsohn and Schumann, and working with Brahms in the comradeship of lifelong friends, you have devoted your whole energies, as executant and as composer, to continuing the tradition and maintaining the ideal of classical music.
Joachim’s British friends included Tennyson, Browning, Thackeray and his daughter Anne Thackeray Ritchie, Dickens, Eliot, Landseer, Leighton, Alma-Tadema, Millais, Watts, Darwin, Gladstone, Jowett, Parry, Stanford, Pollock, Freshfield and Grove. He also knew the Booths, and his great niece Jelly d’Aranyi, who was herself a celebrated Hungarian violinist, taught Antonia’s daughter the violin when she was a child.
Anne Thackeray Ritchie (whose son Billy married Antonia’s sister Meg) wrote:
When the writer first personally knew Dr. Joachim, it was in her father’s house at Palace Green in Kew. She can remember seeing him coming in one rainy afternoon in springtime and entering the long light-blue drawing-room. He was a young man then. He was carrying a rolled-up scroll — it was an original score of Beethoven’s which some one had just given him; he showed us the cramped, fierce writing, the angry-looking notes of those calm harmonies. I have never again seen a Beethoven MS.; but the remembrance is distinct of that one, as well as of Joachim’s talk of Beethoven himself, of his mighty self and his protesting nerves, and his impossible difficulties with housekeepers and maids-of-all-work. I have sometimes heard Joachim speak of Schumann with the gentlest affection and reverence, and then of Brahms, — above all of Brahms, and of his meeting with him, one of the greatest emotions of his life. Anne Thackeray Ritchie: Concerning Joseph Joachim 1901
Tom and Meg and I went to Bath, Tom for the day. Meg and I came back from Bath found mother quite collapsed after Settlement meeting this morning and long day yesterday. George and I to a heavenly party at the Freshfields to hear the Joachim quartet. They played a Mozart quartet and a Brahms quintet. Miss Fillinger sang Schubert songs. Tom to Gracedieu with Oppenheim.
According to some current commentators ‘By 1865, London’s concert life was entirely professional, ‘amateurs no longer playing along, still less pretending to “direct” the proceedings’. The aristocracy began to find themselves unable to afford the high fees of international stars for their private concerts and, consequently, their salons were on the wane during the second half of the century.’ However it is clear that in 1898 and in the years that followed various families in Antonia Booth’s circle were still staging serious concerts at their London homes.
Lucy Broadwood who founded the Folk Song Society in 1898 also went to the Freshfields concerts. In her diary of 1901 she reports meeting Joachim at a party at the Freshfields where she met the rest of his quartet as well who were joined by Leonard Borwick for a performance of a Brahms piano quintet. Soprano Marie Fillunger sang 2 Brahms songs. The Freshfields were not alone in this pursuit. The Ritchies (great friends of the Booths) held salons in their home, End House, Berkeley Place, Wimbledon, in which musicians like Lucy Broadwood and the Lushington sisters played a prominent part.
‘Female propriety, the bourgeois ethos, a proper upbringing, the equating of culture with status, the flaunting of one’s womanly accomplishments – all of these were embedded in the image of the woman at the piano. The image became highly stylised, and always showed a poised young woman seated at the instrument, in fashionable dress, often white, and always looking decent, demure and refined. In this domestic sphere, the iconography of the woman at the piano was perhaps more ornamental in its function, rather than depicting her as a real live active performer.’
But Antonia was not just acting a part. She had an excellent voice; she sang in the first Bach Choir in London and tutored her own choir later in life. She was also a very gifted pianist taught by Sir Donald Tovey who was very successful composer, conductor and pianist and music educationalist. She took her playing seriously. When she was younger she had considered devoting her life to being a pianist and she played at several professional concerts like the one below in memory of Norman Grosvenor where she played alongside her renowned tutor.
She tutored her brothers and sisters in the piano. She encouraged her children and grandchildren to develop their musical talents too, helping to find the best international tutors for them. Her eldest daughter Mary was an excellent pianist and teacher and her youngest daughter Anne became a professional musician and music educationalist who founded the Macnaghten concerts. Antonia encouraged the development of her daughter’s musical skills. ‘Anne began her violin studies at the age of six with Hungarian soloist Jelly d’Arányi (great niece of Joachim). At the age of seventeen she travelled to Germany to study at Leipzig Conservatory (now University of Music and Theatre Leipzig) with German pedagogue Walther Davisson, who later became the director of the conservatory’. As she got older it became clear that it was still not easy for young women to forge serious careers in music.
Elizabeth Maconchy, a young composer, recalled that fresh from success in Prague, and a Proms debut in the summer of 1930, she was finding it hard to get her music played. The lack of a career infrastructure and performance opportunities for all young composers was exacerbated for women by good old-fashioned sexism in the classical music industry. Even after the triumphs of 1930, Maconchy later recalled:
‘no one suggested a commission, or a grant, or even a chatty interview on the radio, let alone another performance. The publishers weren’t interested. They were all men, of course, and tended to think of women composers being capable of only the odd song or two.’
‘Faced with the intransigence of the music industry, a remarkable group of women got together in 1931 and changed the face of music in London, at least for a few years. One was Iris Lemare, that rare thing a female conductor. The other two were the violinist Anne Macnaghten, and the composer Elisabeth Lutyens. Together they launched a series of concerts to showcase new music by young composers, alongside works from eras under-represented in the concert halls of London at the time.’
Antonia Booth’s grandson William Peri became a successful violinist too. From the age of three William had his own gramophone. It is clear from her diary of the same year, 1939, that Antonia encouraged his musical interest:
William had all his favourite songs after tea. He won’t have Stork Stork Stander but he likes the Cuckoo and Snow White out of the Reineke book and the nursery rhymes. We ended with a dance. May 1939
He and I played and sang songs after tea. He won’t have ‘Stork Stork Stander’ but thought he might like it next week. He likes Snow White, the Cuckoo, the Soldier Song (very much) when the little children sleep and all the nursery rhymes. May 1939
Many years later William wrote in his own diary:
Page 184 in Proust’s Sodom and Gomorrah
When the narrator reflects on his grandmother it’s very moving for me especially, though I suppose everybody has happy memories of a gran. My first memory is of crawling up the green carpeted stairs at Eldon Road going to grans bedroom – 1938? It was quite warm and Nen brought gran tea and bread and butter which I shared. Later on she played Schuberts moment musicale to me at the same time a narrative about a tired soldier going home she put to the music. I remember her at the Broadwood in her music room. ….a very kind and talented woman.
William began taking violin lessons at the age of 5. When eight years old he was awarded a scholarship for the Guildhall School of Music where he studied with Reginald Morley. He played in public concerts from an early age, sometimes with other members of the Booth and Macnaghten family:
‘The concert began with the Golden Sonata of Purcell, played by William Peri and Margaret Booth (violins) and Daniel Booth (piano). Special praise is due to William Peri, a lad of eleven, who exhibited a degree of technique and sense of interpretation quite remarkable in one so young. Later in the programme Master Peri, accompanied by Mr. Booth, played Beethoven's Romance in F and delighted the audience with the skill and facility of his playing.’
William was a scholar of Antonio Brosa at the Royal College of Music where he won all the major violin prizes. Following a scholarship award he went to Budapest for two years where he studied at the Liszt Academy with Bela Katona ‘One of the 20th century’s greatest violin pedagogues’ . In 1967 after joining the Royal Opera House Covent Garden orchestra he won the Sir George Solti prize. He then led the orchestra for the Royal Ballet for three years when he began his collaboration with Donald Twiner. William Peri was also co-leader of the English National Opera orchestra.
Antonia’s niece and namesake Antonia Booth was a violinist who played with the Busch Chamber Orchestra, the leading small orchestra in Europe in the 1930s. Many of her friends were also gifted players, for example Kitty Maxse was an excellent pianist too.
Only lately a friend had spoken with enthusiasm of the memory of years ago, of her golden head aureoled against the black of the pianoforte as she sat playing softly on by the hour in the drawing room of their house in Montpelier Square.
Antonia and her musically gifted friends may not have had careers in the modern sense but they developed their skills and talents as far as was possible in their world. More than this Antonia laid the foundations for her children and grandchildren to develop into accomplished musicians.
A number of people in her social circle, like Norman Grosvenor mentioned earlier, strove to bring what they considered to be good music to the masses. There was a philosophical underpinning to this pursuit. Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy (1869) proposed that culture is needed to save society from anarchy. Culture for Arnold is not a broad term: he is not interested in the music hall. The working class was thought to need ‘rational amusement’ such as choirs. So societies like The People’s Concert Society, founded in in 1878, abounded. The People’s Concert Society was an amateur organisation dedicated to making high-status music known among the London poor. The Society began Sunday concerts of chamber music in South Place, Moorgate, in 1887. From the succeeding year, admission was free, or a voluntary contribution could be made, and attendance was good. ‘The all-pervasive ideology of respectability and improvement meant that music could be found even on the timetable at Mechanics’ Institutes, especially after 1830’.
April 1898 continued
Met Imogen and Charles to go to Gracedieu and Father and George followed by a later train. Mother in bed all day and I stayed with her.
Mother much better. Ella came in the afternoon. Mother to Bath, I to Gracedieu. Met Tom at Leicester, he went up a day earlier to pack so that he will be all alone tonight poor thing. Sybil and Mrs Spring Rice and Barber came.
Heavenly day outdoors. Father and Mother….
London: sat up very late having a delicious talk with Tom. Missed the train at Liverpool Street. All went down to the ship and saw Tom’s cabin which was nice and said goodbye.
The little Lascars almost made us feel as if the ship was in India already. Mother and father and I went to Gracedieu.
Father and George went to meet the three Purcells at Derby. Atahualpa, Huanca and Bolivar. Charles immediately took them under his wing.
So who were Atahualpa, Huanca and Bolivar Purcell? They were the sons of William Purcell, a Brazilian agent for the Booth shipping line who I believe had died by the time these boys visit Gracedieu. This is what I can find out about him:
Born in Pará, Brazil on 15/08/1882 to William Purcell and Jesuina Canovas, Atahualpa Purcell married Lucila De Castro Pinheiro and had 2 children. Some time after his visit to Gracedieu Atahualpa Purcell became a Manager of the Booth Shipping Office in Belém do Pará, Brazil and remained so until at least 1948. He died on 14 Jun 1953 in South America.
Atahualpa Purcell was well liked wherever he went in Brazil:
Atahualpa Purcell, who was amongst us for four months, in the employment of the important company Booth Line where he always revealed maximum competence, is bound for the capital of the Mazonas, where he will run the business of the same company, during the time it deems necessary for the development and regularity of services there. During the stay of the illustrious gentleman in our social environment, we had the opportunity to appreciate the excellent qualities of character and intelligence that are peculiar to him. Eminent spirit, practical and endowed with high value intellectual, and tailored to the great companies, Mr Atahualpa …has the frank sympathies of all those who approach him. Our society welcomed you with special affection, always trying to testify to you the fair appreciation in which you have it. We wish Mr. Atahualpa, all sorts of fortunes wherever your business multiplies. O Jornal Number 587. Friday, 27 October 1916
Roger Casement even mentions Atahualpa in his 1910 diary:
Turn up stream at 4:00 PM opposite Muskerio. Trader behind us: Atahualpa Purcell. At 7:30 to hotel de Comercio where got room and out to Marco by tram.
Trevor Stephenson , who travelled to Brazil to work for the Booths in 1936, remembers Atahualpa too:
‘The official visit came aboard, my passport was stamped and then an old gentleman, dressed in a white suit and wearing a straw hat came aboard. His complexion was a kind of almost transparent off white. He introduced himself to me. “I am Sr. Gouvea, Passenger Manager, and I have been instructed by the Manager, Atahualpa Purcell, to take you to the office.” “What about my trunk?”, I asked. “Leave that on board till Sr. Purcell gives you your instructions.’
The office was in an old Portuguese mansion built on the side of the river bank facing the river on Rua Gaspar Viana. Just inside the massive wooden front door was a magnificent wide wooden staircase leading to the upper floor where was the office. Being built on the riverbank, the back office was on the ground floor. Stairs led to the first floor where was the Junior Staff House. This consisted of a large living room with billiard table, dining room, two bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom. There was also a small airy room under a sky light which we used for taking breakfast.
I had not been there long before I began to explore the staff quarters. In the breakfast room was a large cupboard fitted into one wall. I opened it to find it with several completely empty shelves. Then I noticed that the wooden panel at one side seemed to be loose. I pulled it away and was amazed to find a narrow flight of steps inside the wall. Being curious, I climbed up the steps and found myself at the top in a small, very dusty room. There was a small window in front of which was an old chair, also covered in dust and a lovely brass telescope trained on the river. I mentioned this to Atahualpa Purcell who was sufficiently interested to ask me to accompany him to this room. It was his opinion that the room must have been used by his father when he was Manager of the Agency towards the end of the 19th century to monitor the arrival of Booth vessels.’
This is another charming story about him:
‘One morning a stranger to Belem (in Brazil) was moved to yell. “ I have only once before in my life heard such tramcars.” Atahualpa Purcell, a notable citizen, asked “ln Cardiff?” The stranger looked surprised. “Yes.” he said “How did you know?” Purcell smiled. “We bought 18 trams from Cardiff last year”.’ Western Mail - Wednesday 20 February 1952
April 1898 continued
The steam roller steamrolled the drive and we all looked on.
Nora Martin came in the afternoon and Mr Cornford. In the evening Nora began the picture of Meg. Pouring rain and general dampness but we went out a good deal and saw delicious greenness coming everywhere. Lovely day of sun. Father and I and George and Mr Cornford were in the Woods in the morning and again in the afternoon with all the others.
After tea George and Mr C and Imo, Charles and I went along the Brook to Belton in low slanting sunlight. We came home by the old canal and found such quantities of Cowslips and Primrose and Violets another lovely day Nora and I walked about together in the afternoon and had a delightful talk.
The three Purcells left in the morning and dear Charles emerged again, he’s been entirely devoted to them all the week.
Heavenly day, Mr Spring Rice and Mr Henley bicycled over early from Watford Court. Nora, Meg, Imogen, Charles and I to church. Theodore made a delightful and unexpected appearance at lunchtime and stayed the night. The other two had to depart after tea we went and sat in the Woods in the afternoon, one can see the leaves coming. Theodore went early. George and Mr C cut down trees or parts of them all morning. Nora came to the nine holes with Meg, we basked there, down by the pond.
 Antonia Macnaghten née Booth was born on 3 February 1873. She was the daughter of Rt. Hon. Charles Booth and Mary Catherine Macaulay.1 She marred Rt. hon. Sir Malcolm Martin Macnaghten. She had four children. She died on 18 January 1952 at the age of 78 leaving 53 diaries which are transcribed here.
 Joseph Joachim (Hungarian: Joachim József, 28 June 1831 –1907) was a Hungarian violinist, conductor, composer and teacher who made an international career, based in Hanover and Berlin. A close collaborator of Johannes Brahms, he is widely regarded as one of the most significant violinists of the 19th century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Joachim
 Antonia’s brother Tom fought in the Boer War between 1900 and 1902. He gained the rank of Colonel in the Gordon Highlanders. He fought in the First World War in 1914, where he was mentioned in despatches twice. He was Brigade-Major of the 174th Infantry Brigade, British Expeditionary Force between 1914 and 1916. He was commander of the 7th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders in 1916. He was awarded the Companion, Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) in 1917 and bar. He was awarded the Officer, Order of the Crown of Belgium.1 He held the office of Justice of the Peace (J.P.) for Leicestershire in 1932. He also became a director of the Alfred Booth & Company of Liverpool.
 George Bernard Shaw
 Sir Frederick Pollock: Address to Joseph Joachim, May 16, 1904. https://josephjoachim.com/category/pages/speeches-and-utterances-joachim/
 Probably to see her maternal grandmother.
Douglas William Freshfield, (1845—1934), British mountaineer, explorer, geographer, and author who advocated the recognition of geography as an independent discipline in English universities. Freshfield married Augusta Charlotte Ritchie. She was the daughter of William Ritchie and the sister of Sir Richmond Ritchie. They had four daughters and a son. Their Granddaughter Magdalene Fisher married Antonia’s only son Antony. Douglas Freshfield observed
‘My highest ambition has never been to spend my days in strenuous exercises to develop my muscles. No other mountaineering moment was instead more appreciated by me than that in which I could enjoy the landscape, while the others had to open a path.’
 Chapter 11. Music and Social Class in Victorian London by Derek B. Scott, Professor of Critical Musicology, University of Leeds.
 ‘Donald Tovey was a stupendous pianist, with a large following of admirers. What he may have lacked in delicacy and subtlety of nuance, was amply compensated by great intelligence and breadth of conception. Tovey was an exceptionally kind, gentle and sympathetic person, he had endless patience with his students, some of whom commenced working for their music degree with only the scantiest of musical backgrounds. His examination questions were not always orthodox however. Take this one for example:
Set the following as a three-part round for equal voices:
There was a young lady of Rio
Who tried to play Hummel’s Grand Trio
But her pace was so scanty
She took it Andante
Instead of Allegro con brio’
 Ellen Jackson, Antonia’s housekeeper and my Godmother.
 Chichester Observer – Saturday 03 December 1949
 Antonio Brosa was a Spanish violinist and teacher. He is best known for having premiered Benjamin Britten’s violin concerto. The premiere took place in New York on March 28, 1940 with the New York Philharmonic. From 1940 to 1942, he was first violinist with the Pro Arte Quartet as well. He later also taught at the Royal College of Music in London.
 From her obituary in The Times, 10 October 1922.
 Lascars, or Indian sailors, first began to be employed in small numbers from the seventeenth century by the East India Company, which was set up by private merchants in 1600 by Royal Charter to establish trade links with India (see: ‘Migrating home‘). Lascars were engaged to fill the manpower gap on ships returning from India, as some British sailors deserted their ships in India and others died. When British sailors were needed for the Royal Navy during wartime, merchant ships had to rely on the labour of lascars. Because of this, during the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-1815, the numbers of lascars employed on British ships shot up from 224 in 1803 to 1,336 in 1813. Lascars worked as able seamen, as deckhands and as cooks, and later, with the advent of steam-powered liners, in engine rooms as firemen and trimmers to stoke furnaces. Lascars were paid less than their European counterparts. According to a 1910 Parliamentary Report, they received only 8-9 shillings per week. They were often described as ‘docile’ and ‘manageable’ and unlike white sailors they were not unionised, so considered ‘trouble free’. Placed on the lowest rung of the imperial hierarchy of sailors, lascars were discriminated against, paid less, treated poorly on board ships and worked in difficult roles on steam-powered liners. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel A Little Princess features a lascar named Ram Dass. Written by
Dr Florian Stadtler, Lecturer in Global Literatures, University of Exeter
Dr Rozina Visram, independent scholar and author of Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History
 Roger David Casement, known as Sir Roger Casement, CMG, between 1911 and 1916, was a diplomat and Irish nationalist. He worked for the British Foreign Office as a diplomat and later became a humanitarian activist, poet and Easter Rising leader.
 Trevor left England for Brazil at a time when air travel and roads had not made the huge impact on Amazonia we see today. The Booth Line offered the exciting prospect of work anywhere from the mouth to tiny villages far upstream in a world of their own. The isolation experienced in the early 20th century is hard to imagine but as Trevor discovered it was a place with its own vibrant way of life. The Booth Steamship Company had offices everwhere and usually represented Great Britain with consular services, insurance coverage or agencies for British and other companies. Trevor’s first destination was a desk in São Luis do Maranhão or Maranham on the Atlantic coast about 450 kms southwest of the Amazon mouth. http://www.nonesuchexpeditions.com/nonesuch-features/trevor-stephenson/memoirs-chapter-2.htm
 Francis Macdonald Cornford FBA (27 February 1874 – 3 January 1943) was an English classical scholar and translator known for influential work on ancient philosophy, Frances Cornford, his wife, was a noted poet.
 Cowslips were her eldest daughter Mary’s favourite flower.