And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

14 April

1553
Gilles de Gouberville,
farmer

‘Symonnet and Morisseau went shooting and got a hare. It was dark when they returned and they said that they had heard Helquin the Huntsman in the old wood.’

I distrust the miller

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1749
Pehr Kalm,
explorer and botanist

‘This morning I went down to Chester: in several places on the road are saw-mills; but those which I saw today had no more than one saw. I likewise perceived that the woods and forests of these parts had been very roughly treated. It is customary here, when they erect saw-mills, wind-mills, or iron-works, to lead the water a good way lower, in case the ground near a fall in the river is not convenient for building upon.’

Toast, joints, mulberry trees

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1783
Joseph Martin Kraus,
composer

‘The fourteenth I finally visited Gluck. He was quite polite, but told me personally that it was difficult to express himself now after his illness. His right hand also did not have its former perfect flexibility. Klopstock’s Hermannsschlacht is not yet written out, especially since, according to him, the Emperor was plaguing him about Les Daniades at the same time. At first, he wanted to use Salieri to write down [the latter] on paper for him - but he noted that it would be too much trouble, and on the orders of his doctor, he let it be. Salieri is allowed to set the opera in Paris under his own name. Cluck very clearly let it become known that Salieri has quite retained his thoughts, furthermore that he was not in favor of putting the opera on under his own name. He gave me his portrait and showed me the original painting which is a masterpiece of expression. He often repeated his contention that a simple song belonged of necessity to a stage piece. He was the first to make actors of the chorus in Paris, for previously they only stood there like statues. He allowed Orphée to be translated, but he was not satisfied with the first poet. He then accepted a mediocre one who did things more in accordance with his wishes. He is very satisfied with the scenes in Armide: “Un seul guerrier” [and] “Poursuivons notre ennemi jusqu’au trépasse,” etc. . .’

Fire in the music

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1805
Meriwether Lewis,
soldier and explorer

‘Capt. Clark walked on shore this morning, and on his return informed me that he had passed through the timbered bottoms on the N. side of the river, and had extended his walk several miles back on the hills; in the bottom lands he had met with several uninhabited Indian lodges built with the boughs of the Elm, and in the plains he met with the remains of two large encampments of a recent date, which from the appearance of some hoops of small kegs, seen near them we concluded that they must have been the camps of the Assinniboins, as no other nation who visit this part of the missouri ever indulge themselves with spirituous liquor.

of this article the Assinniboins are pationately fond, and we are informed that it forms their principal inducement to furnish the British establishments on the Assinniboin river with the dryed and pounded meat and grease which they do. they also supply those establishments with a small quantity of fur, consisting principally of the large and small wolves and the small fox skins. these they barter for small kegs of rum which they generally transport to their camps at a distance from the establishments, where they revel with their friends and relations as long as they possess the means of intoxication, their women and children are equally indulged on those occations and are all seen drunk together. so far is a state of intoxication from being a cause of reproach among them, that with the men, it is a matter of exultation that their skill and industry as hunters has enabled them to get drunk frequently.’

White bear, drunk Indians

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1943
Thomas Dooley,
soldier

‘Distribution of Corned beef from the Red Cross started today. For first month we will receive 3 oz. corned beef per day; 1# sugar per week. We will get 1/2# cocoa + 1# salt per month. The Corned beef is Argentine beef and is wonderful. This small amount of Red Cross real food is remarkably raising the morale of everyone.’

To Bataan and Back

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1944
Henry Agard Wallace,
politician

‘. . . Major General Leslie Groves [commanding officer of the Manhattan Project, developing the atomic bomb] presented me with a report on a governmental secret project which is the most interesting report I have ever seen. This is a project about which I have talked with Vannevar Bush for the last two years. This is a project which should result in definitely ending the war within another 18 months at the outside . . .’

The 33rd vice president

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1972
Peter Hall,
director

‘To supper at Peggy Ashcroft’s. She understands what is driving me to the National. Is glad that I am going back to running a theatre, as it is what she thinks I have to do. But she is very sad I am moving away from the RSC. Is this the end of fifteen years work together? It can’t be.’

Happy days with Peggy

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1974
Ulick O’Connor,
writer

‘Flying back to New York from Chicago where I had gone to promote Irish Liberation on the Kupcinett Show, I pass a truly enormous black man in first class as I board. He is sitting with another black.

‘Hi,’ says Muhammad Ali, ‘How’s it going?’

I met Ali a number of times in the late Sixties and also covered his fight in Dublin in 1970 against Al Blue Lewis when we had become well acquainted over three weeks.

‘Come down and see you later,’ Ali said.

I have just finished my modest airline nosh when Ali plops down beside me. He has short sleeves and his enormous bicep rests near mine with the vein in it pulsing like a python.

‘I’d like to show you some poems.’

This is the guy that put Sonny Liston away in round two so I listen. To my credit, I don’t nod acquiescently but try to remain detached. Fortunately, two lines come up which I can approve:

The same road that connects two souls together

When stretched becomes a path to God.

I nod and he doesn’t stop for half an hour. His face is unlined, miraculously free from the damage that boxers can acquire. Of course, in the ring he bobs like a bamboo and it is almost impossible to land a clean punch on him. His ears are close to his head, neat and well formed. When he straightens up you can see his trousers stretched tightly over gigantic thighs, each more than two feet in circumference. I asked him was he never afraid he’d get shot when he was a Vietnam protester and had his title taken away from him because he wouldn’t join the army.

‘A true Muslim doesn’t fear, neither does he grieve. I was happier than I had ever been then in my little car, riding round the States. I never sold out. I was no Uncle Tom.’

He goes back to his chum. I don’t see him again till I am getting off the plane. He introduces me to the man he is with.

‘This is Kid Gavilan.’

I am impressed. Kid Gavilan is the inventor of the bolo punch and one of the great all-time world middleweight champions. Ali says he’ll give me a ride into town in his chauffeur-driven limousine. He sits in front while he puts me in the back of the car with the Kid who starts to sing for me, in Spanish, bits of a musical he is composing about the boxing ring. He says he was down and out recently in Alabama when Ali saw him at a petrol station where he was working and took him on board for a month’s holiday. As we roll into Manhattan, the Kid is singing away at his own songs, while Ali’s well shaped head rolls from side to side in the front seat. Out for the count.’

Pulsing like a python

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1977
Leonid Brezhnev,
politician

‘At home - Tolya washed my hair Weight 86.700 Talks with Podgorny about presenting me with Koms, card Presentation of Komsomol card No. 1 speech by Tyazhelnikov my speech Galya read serial from ‘pravda’ on limitation of strategic arms Who are the authors of this material Lunch and rest 2.30-4.10’

To every historian’s despair

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1989
Roger Black,
athlete

‘Mike Smith cannot now become as big a part of me as he was before because he hasn’t stood by me. He will still be my coach, but not my controller. I must use the right formula of myself, Kriss, Mike Smith, Mike Whittingham and Joe Picken. I must do what I feel to be best for me, and I can no longer rely entirely on Mike Smith’s judgement - but I do need the group.

I hope Mike will be able to step back a little with me. Remember those who have stood by you, they are the only ones you need to involve. The rest mustn’t have the pleasure of association with your success.’

Worse by training

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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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The Diary Review, hosted by Blogger, publishes magazine-style articles on diaries and diarists, several times a week. Now over ten years old, The Diary Review is the secondary source for the extracts in this online anthology.