Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Daily Dissembler: Your Trusted Source For News Of An Imaginary Europe

The Daily Dissembler, Special European Gazette Issue, September 15, 1905

 We make sense of a complicated, far-off world so you, dear reader, can enjoy the Gilded Age.

A Note to Our Readers

In the interests of our readers, and that we may present the most accurate possible picture of the extraordinary events in Europe, our Editorial Board has decided to print the following extra

ordinary communication from our reporter, Mr. Ernest Harrington, even while we are awaiting police reports on the veracity of the strange, and possibly momentous, events he describes.

My Ordeal: Four Days in a Fishing Smack and a Surprise Interview

From Our Late Roman Correspondent, Ernest Harrington

It was the day after my exclusive report on Marshal de Graspi’s attempt to seize the Spear of Destiny that my travails began.  I had spent the evening in one of Rome’s seediest meeting places waiting for a rendezvous with my Vatican source, but when the monsignor failed to show up I returned to my office.  At some stage my cordial must have been drugged, as I found myself becoming insensible.

 When I awoke I was in a small, confined space.  From the heaving movement and prevailing stink of fish, I deduced I was in one of the small vessels that ply Mediterranean waters.  After a few hours a crew-member appeared; he refused to answer my demands to know what was happening, merely tossing me a bowl of thin fish broth.  How I wish he was the only member of that gang I met!  Over the next few days I was beaten and roughly questioned about my journalistic activities and informants.

"I deduced I was in one of the small vessels that ply Mediterranean waters"

On the fourth day, we reached shore and I bundled into the back of a van.  I was delivered to a large villa, where I was doused with a bucket of water, given some clean clothes.  After a long wait, during which I feared I was about to be summarily executed, I was brought into the presence of no less that Marshal de Graspi himself!

Gone was the dandy whose dapper figure had bewitched the matrons of Boston.  He appeared not to have slept in days, his skin was sallow, there were large bags under his eyes and his famous whiskers were un-waxed.  Yet, as he spoke, a fire burned in his blue eyes.  

 He surprised me by apologising for my detention: it was necessary, he explained, for reasons of state security.  He had learned that Italy had been betrayed by traitors within the political and military classes (he spent a good ten minutes on a diatribe against ‘Turkish practices’ in the Admiralty).  Before retiring to a place of safety in the country, King Victor Emanuel, had commissioned de Graspi to personal government of the country.  He had no recourse but to cleanse the Augean Stables and take on the burden of leadership.  Accordingly, parliament had been suspended and the military and ministries were now in the hands of ‘trusted patriots’.  Pre-emptive strikes had been made against France and Turkey (“barely in time, for the sacred ground of Italy is now tainted by the invader’s foot”).

It was here, that de Graspi’s frightening obsessions became clear.  This was all part of the New Italy’s destiny, he declaimed.  Now the Spear of Longinus has been found in a Hapsburg treasury, it only remained to recover the True Cross from Constantinople and seize the Lost Priory from the French.  Much mysticism followed, which became more confusing as he went on.  It was only after stating the end goal of liberating the Rosslyn Chapel from the Protestants, that he finished his oration, sinking to his chair exhausted.  My role, apparently, was to be de Graspi’s voice in America.  This I naturally refused.

 And that, dear readers, is why when the authorities raided a certain Marseilles house of ill-repute I was found naked and bound in the cellar.  The presence of a carpet bag containing a large amount of currency and files containing incriminating material on a number of prominent Italian and French politicians I can only put down to an attempt to discredit both me and them.

 [Note to Ed - Bail will be sent by a Special Military Tribunal on Thursday.]

My Journey To Paris

Story filed by the Daily Dissember’s own Miss Amelia Roosevelt, Intrepid Girl Reporter and niece of the Vice President.

My readers will recall that my last report was filed from a woods in the middle of Germany, where Kaiser Wilhelm was conducting his quixotic defence of his realm.   Upon leaving  the Imperial presence, I made my way to Berlin, which I found to be a scene of total anarchy.   As in Vienna, parts of the city were engulfed in conflict.   Worker’s committees, inspired by the revolutionary writings of Mr. Karl Marx, and inspired by similar uprisings in Russia and Austria, had raised their red banners of revolt.   From my hotel I could hear the sounds of artillery in the working class neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg, as loyal German troops, including the Kaiser’s own Foot Guards, fought with the Sparticists, as the revolutionaries call themselves.  The situation become further confused as an English army, advancing from the west, attempted to enter the city.   With much of the Charlottenburg district in flames, and the American Embassy cut off by the fighting, I was able to use my schoolgirl German to assist a group of Benedictine sisters evacuating their orphans.  We were fortunate in that our white flags and the Sister’s habits allowed us to pass between the German and English lines, and the British troops, being perfect gentlemen, allowed us to proceed towards France.  I learned the words of many German children’s songs before I left my new friends in Soissons and took the train for Paris.

Fighting in the streets of Berlin, as seen from near my hotel.

I confess that I expected to find refuge and tranquility in the City of Light, but found the city very tense.   Following the news of the Fall of Marseilles, it seemed that the French Government had been forced to disband an army that had raised recently in the Paris region.   The streets were still crowded with recently dismissed soldiers, some of whom were drunk and others demanding arrears in their pay.    Heavily armed gendarmes kept a tense eye on the streets.   Patriotic crowds denounced the treason and incompetence of the French officials and generals who, they claimed, had allowed the Italians to invade.  I was nearly caught in a riot, and my dress was badly torn by a coarse soldier, but I found myself hailed by a friend, the Comtesse Miley de Cyrus, whom I had known at Bryn Mawr.  The Comtesse took me into her town car and sheltered me in her palatial town home.   I asked her if she knew the position of the French government on the current situation.  “Ma cherie!”, she laughed, “I know ALL their favourite positions.”  I confess that remark went over my head.
With the assistance of the Comtesse, I was able to secure an appointment at the Palais de l’Élysée with the French President, who charmingly asked me to call him Emile.   I called him Mr. President.   No sooner did the interview start than I regretted having accepted the dress that the Comtesse had leant me, which was rather revealing in the French manner.  My first question was about how the entire world world was shocked by the fall of Marseilles to the Italians.   Have you taken steps to punish the French officials and generals who let this happen?

"No, of course not", he replied suavely.  "This is no an occupation, it is a regrouping of troops for the coming attack on the Turk. Our alliance is strong."
This remark took me aback, as  I was under the impression France and Italy were at war., and that Italian troops were in fact in Marseiiled.  I asked him, Do you think that Italy’s attack came because France’s passive foreign policy made it look weak?
Tsk, tsk, he said, as if I was a somewhat dim schoolgirl, a fairly common reaction when heads of state speak to me.  "As I said, ma cherie, Italy did not attack us, we have simply prepared a safe marshsalling area for the Italian troops in preparation for the coming war."

I asked, Do you trust England not to attack you from the North?

The President waved a hand as if to dismiss the question.  "Our alliance with England is as strong as ever."

I asked him about France’s ambitions given the German collapse.  Does France want a piece of Germany, specifically Ruhr and Munich?

The President smiled charmingly.   "We would of course not intrude on the territory of our neighbour Germany unless invited."

So, I asked, Is it true that France has allied with Turkey?

The smile grew wider.  "Italy and Turkey are at war. Italy is our ally. Do the math, Ms Roosevelt."

With that, an aide suavely informed me that the interview was over, but that I was invited to share the President’s box at the opera that evening.   While the temptation to get a more extensive interview was strong, I plead my exhaustion from my recent travels.   Upon returning to the Comtesse’s townhouse, I discovered an embossed letter from the Turkish Embassy, inviting me to a dinner party where I learned that the Sultan was most interested in meeting me.   I am currently arranging travel to Constantionople and hope to report on that visit in my next piece.

Insightful commentary on the European situation by General Sir Erasmus Blatt (ret), geo-political and military correspondent for the Rioters News Agency, on contract to the Daily Dissembler.

Stirring the Pot...

A commentary by General Sir Erasmus Blatt, geo-political and military correspondent for the Rioters News Agency.

It was subsequent to the emergence of newly commissioned fleets and armies throughout war-torn europe that this writer perceived that mighty Turkey might well have outgrown its strength. Powerful at sea, the Porte appeared to lack solidity on land. Small wonder the hasty commissioning of three new armies.

But there was nothing to be done about the fall of Serbia to Italian arms, not in 1905 at any rate. On the other hand, the military career of General Walid Pasha, commanding in chief the invasion of Italy, may well be coming to an abrupt and possibly fatal end. The strike for Rome had to be over-ambitious. But a landing in Apulia was not only assured, but would have placed Rome in a very parlous case come the Autumn.

The Sultan can count himself lucky his alliance with England is holding firm, for his army in Moscow is far from any possible support from his own forces. So with the vicissitudes of its fortunes during the opening months of 1905, Turkey remains in a powerful position, and may well surge back later in the year.

Italy, meanwhile, continues form success to success, but for the loss of Naples. That loss, however, bids fair to outweigh the gains. Had the Turkish Army in Naples supported the Apulia landing this spring, Rome was doomed. French pressure would have recovered Marseille, and the Capital of Western Christendom would have gone the way of the Eastern, never to be recovered. The 'Miracle of Rome': perhaps it was the earnest prayers of Pius X that kept the Turk from the door. I shouldn't wonder if in less than 50 years' time he receives his canonization from the Vatican.

But for how long can Italy survive the attentions of France and Turkey both? Powerful as is the Peninsular Kingdom, she may be able to hold out for a long time. But the eventual outcome can surely be in no doubt.

This despite the unhappy situation in which the Republic finds itself: its Mediterranean fleet orphaned, and the resources as yet unavailable to wrest back its sole entree to the Mediterranean at Marseille. The strike at Tunis can only have been by arrangement with Turkey. Methinks the interests of France and Turkey both might have been better served had the French fleet moved into the Gulf of Lyons. Marseille would surely have fallen in the Fall season; and the Italian fleet in Tunis would have been placed in a terrible quandary about whether to stay in port or venture forth into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Imagine had the Turkish landed a second army in the heel of Italy. The Sultan's fleets would have been released to challenge the Italian fleet off the coast of Sicily at that, and Rome must have fallen along with Marseille. Italy has been given a reprieve. What can she make of it during the waning of the year? 

Meanwhile in the North, England is having things all its own way. The Czar in Warsaw is lamenting his lost Imperium; the Kaiser is in little better case. Soon the newly crowned King of England will count himself master of the entire Baltic littoral as well as the Arctic. Astonishing the progress made by the Island Kingdom.

It would be a bold prophet, withal, who could predict any other outcome but the division of Europe between the powers most accustomed to imperialism: Turkey and England. At that, it might well come down to a final showdown between Albion and Anatolia.

15 July, 1905

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