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Napoleon congratulates Josephine on her (bogus?) pregnancy

Napoleon and Josephine were married in March, 1796, just days before he departed to take charge of the French army in Italy. In love with his new wife, Napoleon sent her passionate letters and begged her to join him. Josephine, however, preferred to continue her fashionable life in Paris, and to this end she confided to Murat, Napoleon's confidante, that she was pregnant.

Waiting for Ginsberg

When psychiatrists, Marxists, anarchists, and politicos converged on London in 1967 for the Congress of the Dialectics of Liberation, the young Iain Sinclair was there with camera in hand. He and a friend tracked down Allen Ginsberg, counterculture superstar, and interviewed him for their film Ah! Sunflower. In today's guest post, Sinclair describes how he created Kodak Mantra Diaries, a self-published account of that exhilarating summer, combining photographs, personal notes, and reportage into a sort of retrospective diary. A copy is on view in The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives.

What is a Diary?

We all know that a diary is a private notebook where we write about our days and our thoughts. But is it?

In today's post, curator Christine Nelson introduces a new blog to accompany the Morgan's exhibition The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives, opening on January 21.

"What female heart can gold despise? What cat's averse to fish?"

Horace Walpole once asked his friend Thomas Gray to write an epitaph for his cat Selima, who had recently drowned in a large Goldfish Tub. Gray responded by composing a Horatian ode, noting in a letter that it was "rather too long for an epitaph."

This autograph fair copy of his "Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes" dates to ca. 1757, the same year that Gray was offered (but declined) the Poet Laureateship. The poem tells the story of "the hapless nymph" who "stretched in vain to reach the prize" of two goldfishes, and drowned as a consequence. The poem first appeared anonymously, and is one of only 14 poems that Gray published during his lifetime.

Robert Burns on Auld Lang Syne

In the early 1790s the Scottish music collector George Thomson approached Robert Burns, asking for help in compiling and editing his Select Collection of Original Scotish Airs. Burns readily agreed (although with the proviso that his name not be attached to the publication), and the nearly 60 letters from Burns to Thomson that survive are filled to the brim with working and fair copies of some of Burns’s most famous songs.

One letter, written in early September of 1793, discusses in detail no fewer than 74 songs – and it is within this letter, buried nearly at the end, that we find his full text to Auld Lang Syne.