I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.
The term the “Black Diaries” was first coined in the 1950s. It refers to a small number of diaries of varied physical size and a cash book which were the property of Roger Casement round or about the period he was investigating atrocities against native peoples in the Congo in 1903 and the Putumayo area of Peru in 1910/1911. Among them is a field notebook from 1902, which is without sexual content. The 1903 diary which records Casement’s journeys of that year and his investigations of atrocities contains brief references to homosexual musings and encounters interspersed among the material. The 1910 Putumayo diary is similar, but the scale and detail of the sexual references has noticeably increased. The 1910/1911 cash book, as well as containing expenditure on everyday items, also details expenditure on sexual favours. There is also some text of a sexual nature in the cash book. The 1911 diary is mainly devoted to the recording of sexual observations and experiences. There are a few archival items, principally in the National Library of Ireland, Dublin which associate Casement with homosexuality, such as photographs, poetry, postcards and personal letters. All of these have or conceivably could have passed through the hands of British Intelligence at some time. “A thick rolled manuscript … the sheets were ragged at the top as if they had been torn from a composition book” was described by former Associated Press correspondent Ben Allen in The Times of Aug 6th, 1960. This was how Allen described the “Casement diary” that had been shown to him by Captain Sir Reginald Hall of Naval Intelligence in 1916. He said the sheets were “at least twice the size” of what has now come to be understood as the much discussed Casement diaries. This document has never been seen since those days in 1916. Photographs of parts of the diaries, typed transcripts, the rolled manuscript and occasionally the hardback bound diaries themselves were circulated surreptitiously in the weeks leading up to Casement’s execution. The evidence, such as it was, of promiscuous homosexual indulgence undermined the growing wave of sympathy for Casement’s plight. After the execution, the photographs and diaries abruptly vanished. Until the late 1950s the British Home Office would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the diaries. In 1959 the Olympia Press published an account of Casement’s life titled The Black Diaries by Peter Singleton-Gates and Maurice Girodias, in a limited edition….
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