Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 31: Procreation v annihalation

In this entry my father explains why he has written some words in an abbreviated form. I have reproduced them as written.

Tuesday, 23rd December 1958, 9.15 p.m.

Christmas is upon us. I think of the Christmases when we had the shop in the [Newington] Butts, and the December takings were about a quarter of the year’s total, I should think. The front room upstairs converted to an extra saleroom, traipsing to and from the shop itself to this room. In retrospect they seem almost “good” times, though in reality they were bitter enough. I “employed” by Mum. Perhaps I should have had the guts to break away and earn my own living. But it was not only the vis inertiae that kept me at home. I recollect quite clearly that in 1936/37 I could have gone to France as an assistant; it would have been invaluable experience for me. But I felt I could not leave Sam [his brother] to carry the baby – I had had four months in Grindelwald anyway. Anyway, there’s no point in musing on the remote past. What has been, has been.

A characteristic letter from Hugh Stubbs, the grandson of the Archbishop. It seems incredible that more than eighteen years have elapsed since we met in the 24 H.A.A. Tng. Regt. at Blackdown. I don’t know whether I have mentioned Hugh in these pages before; if not, I must try to write him up.

The obvious thing would be to read through this diary again carefully, so that I don’t have to waste time wondering whether I’m repeating myself, and, possibly, compile an index, of names if of nothing else. Wd be gd experience in indxg.

Meanwhile I am faced with a potential difficulty. I want to use this notebook for a) the period ending 31st December 1958 or b) the p. ending 31st Dec. 1959. If a) the book will be only two-thirds full, even with index. If b), and if I am to include an index, I shall have to cramp the 1959 entries. I think I will opt for b) and try to get more wordage in less space by using abbrvns and wrtg smll. (Must try to assim. Dutter’s Speedwriting [sic], a system of contracted longhand writing the book of which I picked up for a copper some time ago.)

The holidays are under way. I pretend the reason I’m not getting up any articles is that I must help E. [Edith Witriol, née Katz] with domestic chores. She is now very big and though her attitude to pregnancy is ambivalent — dislike of the irritation, heartburn, swollen-leg(s) and general slowing down of activity on the one hand, and radiant motherhood on the other — the uppermost feeling is obviously one of thrilledness. As for me, I remember recording a crack of George Moore’s that procreation was the one unforgivable sin, but that was of course because I thought it extremely unlikely at the time that I would ever be able to procreate. In point of fact, no time could be worse for the creation of new life than this present nuclear age, when sober, responsible people tell us that there is a distinct possibility that we may succeed in killing ourselves, all of us — if we’re lucky; if we’re less lucky, we may find ourselves suffering from the effects of radiation, amidst a wilderness of rubble. But of course, I couldn’t kid myself, had I deliberately abstained from parenthood, that I was doing so on grounds of conscience unless, indeed, I gave practical evidence of my concern by e.g., experiencing discomfort in the fight against nuclear bombing and expending as much money on trying to create a world fit for babies to be born into as I shall find myself spending on the baby (ies) that will, I hope, be born to us.

Anyway, all one can do now is hope that everything will pass off beshoolem, as my mother says, and do ones best for the children (!) that are born to us. My mother used to “curse” me ( but one shouldn’t take Yiddish curses seriously, perhaps) that I shd have chln like myself, and I have said I asked for nothing better. I wonder? Too big a subject to deal with now. (Perhaps I have been over pessimistic? “Genetic danger not so great?” is headline of article in to-day’s M.G.) Lion Feuchtwanger died on Sun. 21st. Sonntag rang me up to know if I could do an article on him (on L.F.). No, I could not find the books, gut them, quickly enough. I shall be satisfied if I can be a hack translator; junior can be the creative writer. But will he have the creative gift? I can’t see any reason why he should have.