A Criminal Act

Since, as with most baby-boomers, my life is already crowded with too much material “stuff,”  I had the brilliant idea this past holiday season to ask for one thing for future “presents”:  handwritten diaries for the archive I hope to establish.    Santy Claws fulfilled my wish with two diaries purchased through eBay.  I mentioned them briefly in a blog.  Shortly afterward, I received an email from someone who had also purchased a diary by one of these women – Josephine Conklin of Mount Morris, Livingston County, New York.

My first reaction was a happy excitement.  We could transcribe the diaries and share.   This was followed by a second reaction of slow-burning rage at the eBay seller.  Why?  Because two thoughts occurred to me.   The owner of the other diary told me that the seller had even more by the same woman.  This means that the seller took the entire collection of Josephine Conklin’s diaries and split them up, possibly figuring she would make more money that way.

I don’t know about you, but as a diarist myself I think this is about the most horrible thing someone could do.   You can take someone’s artwork and sell each piece separately because each piece is a work unto itself, but a diary kept over many years is all part of the same work.   To mutilate it in this fashion is criminal.  Would anyone tear apart a canvas and sell off the fragments?  Would anyone take a book and sell it by the chapters?   A collection of journals is a complete tapestry of someone’s life…why, why destroy it?

It is true that both of the diaries I received were part of a larger collection.

One other thing disturbs me about these eBay sellers.  So many of the ads for handwritten diaries use these phrases:  “Amazing!!,” ” one-of-a-kind,”  “fabulous piece of Americana,” ” private window into American History.”   I don’t know why, but “amazing” disturbs me the most.  Mrs. Conklin was just recording her  ordinary day-to-day  activities.  What was  amazing was her dedication to that,  a point belittled by the behavior of the seller in destroying the integrity of the work by dividing it for increased profit.

Those advertising slogans remind me of circus barkers.  They cheapen the hallowed recording of someone’s life story.   “One of a kind” is also a lie when there is a box-full by the same diarist which are about to be torn apart.  Have these profiteers no conscience?


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