Isherwood Diary

Isherwood never kept a day to day diary and chose to make copious, often fragmented, notes in Silverline students’ notebooks. Many of the diaries were either destroyed by Isherwood or have been lost, but recently the notes made between 1973 and 1979 were discovered, marked “private only.” The entries track his painting life and record small details of his life at 151 Wigan Lane. Around this time, he had split up with his partner Pat White.

Here are a selection of extracts:

Wake-up. Now finished with Pat. Today I am passed worrying. Why did she send those tapes back (voice recordings)? She might as well have sent me all the lot.

Go to Atkinson’s (grocers). £5. Then do the tyres. Go to paint shop and he gives me 2 old canvasses.

I’ve been losing my touch on my paintings. It cannot be diluted by Pat. I am only loosening up. Bed after 12. Slept OK.

Up at 9. No letters. No-one rang. I go to the post. The chip shop is closed so I get a pork pie.

Get up at 9. Marmalade toast. Watch TV then measure frames for hardboard. Go to Atkinson’s 3.45 to 4.15. Get sirloin for 80p and onions. Cook at 6. Gracie Field’s story on TV – she’s dead. Gordon (his brother) rings after I’ve cut the hedge.

Terence Lennon (then Wigan supermarket owner) rings. He’s just come back from abroad two days ago. He suggests going to a gallery in Mancheter. He will perhaps buy 50 for £1,000.

Up at 1, prime boards and paint gate, back window and drainpipe. See a hole near the chimney.

Letter from Corlett’s (TV suppliers), saying they’ll take paintings instead of cash. £74.

Ring the doctor who has a (new born) son. “Congratulations on a son” I say. Then do “Malta Moonlight” before I go to bed. I am upset because of no phone calls. Try the telephone exchange to see if the phone is working OK.

Feel awful but decide to start 20 x 24 (inches) painting of Mills. Do Lowry with hat on too. Do sardine boat.

Have a fire in the front garden. Laundry comes at 3 o’clock. Pay £3.20p. Cook second piece of meat. Wash hankies etc. Pan handle comes off. Keep knocking everything over these days.

I do about 8. Woman from voting list calls. Bed at 4.

Do mills paintings although I don’t feel like it. Touch up big ones until I’m satisfied. But feel I may be overdoing the clogs and shawls. Perhaps Wigan hates me. Sometimes I feel lonely but sometimes I feel glad to be on my own.

Molly (his sister-in-law) rings at 10 to thank me for the birthday card. Waddingtons (friends) come about 4 and bring me some sandwiches and some of their 30th wedding anniversary cake.

My system has got to go on working. I can’t change now for a woman (Pat) who thinks she knows all the answers but knows none. She needs me and I need her. As always, I’ve got to keep my own counsel and do what I think is right. If I don’t I feel ill and drink.

I feel weary tonight, thinking of Pat and what we did and how we got on so well when we were OK. Cuddling etc. Looking at the old photos in Palma in December ’76.

Keep pyjamas on all day. Side up the front room in the afternoon. Make it better and find frames and all sorts.

Dull and cold. Waken at 8 then at 1 feel a bit better to fight the world. I think of opening large collection – 500 oils.

Found picture of Mother. Burn a lot of stuff.

Do crumpets for tea. Feel sick. Find good “Paddington” (Station) under the rubble in the front room.

Very tired. Feel peculiar before I get up – as if I’m in a different world I don’t want to get out of. Anyway get up at 2 and feel more normal. Been overdoing it, I think.

I do to men poring (kicking) to death in clogs, then Gt George Street – 24 by 20 (inches). I’ve got the old atmosphere back. Raining outside, I think. Now 3.30. Am having a cigarette.

I feel absolutely awful now. Never felt worse. Upset about Pat – and wondering where she is and how everything went wrong.

TOWARDS THE END OF 1979, ISHERWOOD WAS ORGANISING AN EXHIBITION OF HIS WORK AT THE BROCKET ARMS HOTEL, IN WIGAN.

Talk at Brocket and leave leaflets.

White lead paint running out. Nothing to eat. Too tired.

Paint the front bedroom with purple non-drip. Feel worn out and don’t know what to do.

Day of show. People from the Brocket ring to say people are waiting. So let them!! Go to Brocket around 2.30 to 3. Frank and Grace help to unload, along with Jean and husband and two daughtes.Sell Bus Queue and Clown for £200. Gordon takes money home to save me losing it. Sell three pictures +1.

I used to like beautiful women. But BLIMEY. I now see nothing but trouble in them.

I watch “The Lovers” in bed on tv and think “Is it worth it. The emotional upset and doubt. The waste of time, if there is anything else to do better. So much frustration