Another diarist who died young. ‘W.N.P. Barbellion’ (1889-1919), whose real name was Bruce Frederick Cummings, published his diary under the title The Journal of a Disappointed Man in 1919, a few months before his death arising out of multiple sclerosis. The diary – philosophical, observant, raw – is considered a minor classic.
There is a Barbellionblog which reproduces Barbellion’s text in blog format. The diaries covers the period 1903-1917 and have a few references to cinema. On 15 March 1915 he makes the intriguing observation: “I felt the same sardonic humour as a cinema film provokes, showing you, say, the Houses of Parliament with a ‘fade-through’ of Guy Fawkes in the cellars underneath.”
But the most notable reference is that for 18 August 1907, when he was eighteen:
When I feel ill, cinema pictures of the circumstances of my death flit across my mind’s eye. I cannot prevent them. I consider the nature of the disease and all I said before I died — something heroic, of course!
This may be adolescent morbidity, but it is a haunting transference of the fear of death to the screen, suggesting how the idea of cinema played upon the imagination of the audience. It may also be an intriguing variation on the idea of life passing before your eyes at the point of death.