And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

21 April

1807
Joseph Farington,
artist

‘At Eleven o’Clock I called on Sir Nathaniel Holland [Dance had changed his name by this time to Dance-Holland]. We talked of the sale of Barry’s pictures. He said Barry’s Birth of Pandora was a very incompetent attempt to do something great. It was deficient both in design, in form, & in colouring. Jupiter was a Huge figure in the upper parts but the lower limbs were so small in proportion that such a figure could not stand. It was the case with several other figures in that picture; and many of the limbs appeared to have been executed in imitation of parts which He had looked at in the antique, but these limbs were not of the same character with the other parts of the figure to which He had attached them. What attempt there was at colouring was as bad as possible, He seemed to have no sense of it. On the whole He sd. Barry Had talked & bullied people into a belief of His being a great artist. He said His Venus rising from the Sea was His best performance. In that He had the Venus of Medicis in his eye, & made something of it, but He had spoilt the picture by rubbing a brick dust colour over the upper part of the figure.

He spoke of the Bacchus & Ariadne by Titian belonging to Lord Kinnaird. He said it was impossible that Titian could have left the Sky in the state it is, almost pure Ultramarine, like a Lapis Lazuli stone, while another part of the sky is quite Hot. He did not like the figure of Bacchus leaping from His Car, nor that of Ariadne. In some parts there is fine colour, but on the whole it is a picture more fit for an Artist to examine for the purpose of studying what is good in it, than desireable to hang up in a room for general admiration. He thought the picture had been in the hands of bungling picture menders.

He mentioned Wilkie with great approbation, saying that His merit was of the right sort, so true in all respects.

He complained of not having a good painting room at His House in the Country. He had no light good to paint by but what faced the South & He had been much embarassed by it.’

Farington on Dance

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1812
Henry Crabb Robinson,
lawyer

‘Accompanied Cargill to Covent Garden. Mrs. Siddons in “Mrs. Beverley”. Her voice appeared to have lost its brilliancy (like a beautiful face through a veil); in other respects, however, her acting is as good as ever. Her “Oh, that my eyes were basilisks!” was her great moment in the play. Her smile was enchantingly beautiful; and her transitions of countenance had all the ease and freedom of youth. If she persist in not playing Mrs. Beverley again, that character will, I am confident, never be played with anything like equal attractions.’

Her genius triumphed

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1868
Edward Lear,
poet and artist

‘Bonifacio is doubtless a most striking place and full of subjects for painting; the bright chalky white of the rocks on which it stands, the deep green vegetation, and the dark gulf below it, add surprising contrasts of colour to the general effect of its remarkable position and outline. Returning to the Widow Carreghi’s hotel, confusion prevailed throughout that establishment, owing to its being crowded at this hour by, not only the officers of the garrison, who take their food there, but an additional host of official civilians, gendarmerie, &c, to-morrow being a day of great excitement, on account of the conscription taking place, in consequence of which event the Sous-prefet is here from Sartene, with numerous other dignitaries.

It was not wonderful that the two obliging women, who seemed joint hostesses, were somewhat “dazed” by the unbounded noise in the small and overfull rooms; nevertheless, they got a very good supper for me and my man, only apologising continually that “le circonstanze” of the full house, and of the late hour at which I had arrived, prevented their offering more food and in greater comfort and quiet. Everybody seemed to be aware that I was a travelling painter, and all proffered to show me this or that; the Sous-prefet, they said, had gone out to meet me, and the Mayor, for whom I have left a card and a letter from M. Galloni d’Istria (he lives in the Carreghi house), would come and see me to-morrow. Another of the persons at the table gave me his address at Casabianda, and begged that, if I should come there, he might show me the ruins of Aleria. The whole party, “continentals” and “insulaires,” were full of civility.

All night long there was singing and great noise in the streets, so that in spite of my camp-bed very little sleep was attainable.’

Awfully tortured by fleas

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1906
Douglas Hyde,
president

‘The white blossoms of the dog trees brightened the woods and forests on both sides of the railway, and the pink patches made by the Judas trees, as they are called, were beyond anything lovely. The Judas tree appears to have no leaves, but is thickly covered with pink blossoms. Judas is said to have hung himself on one of these trees, hence the name. They are numerous all over the South, but apparently not in the North. Toward evening we struck the Allegheny Mountains, a series of lovely ridges with a beautiful river running through them. All night long these ridges were lit up by brilliant flashes of summer lightning which kept playing on the hills and river for hours.’

Ireland’s first president

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1910
Jean Sibelius,
composer

‘Again in the deepest depression. Working hard at the newcomer.’

An inner confession

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1912
Clifford Crease,
mechanic

‘Fine weather started to pick up bodies at six AM and continued all day till five thirty PM. Recovered fifty one bodies, forty six men four women and one baby. Burried twenty four men at sea at eight fifteen PM. Rev Canon Hinds in attendance also Ships Company. Bodies in good state but badly bruised by being knocked about in the water.’

Recovering Titanic bodies

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1912
Frederick Hamilton,
engineer

‘Two icebergs now clearly in sight, the nearest is over a hundred feet high at the tallest peak, and an impressive sight, a solid mass of ice, against which the sea dashes furiously, throwing up geyser like columns of foam, high over the topmost summit, smothering the great mass at times completely in a cascade of spume as it pours over the snow and breaks into feathery crests on the polished surface of the berg, causing the whole ice-mountain, which glints like a fairy building, to oscillate twenty to thirty feet from the vertical. The ocean is strewn with a litter of woodwork, chairs, and bodies, and there are several growlers about, all more or less dangerous, as they are often hidden in the swell. The cutter lowered, and work commenced and kept up continuously all day, picking up bodies. Hauling the soaked remains in saturated clothing over the side of the cutter is no light task. Fifty one we have taken on board today, two children, three women, and forty-six men, and still the sea seems strewn. With the exception of ourselves, the bosum bird is the only living creature here. 5.p.m. The two bergs are now in transit, the heavy swell has been rolling all day, must be a gale somewhere. 8.p.m. The tolling of the bell summoned all hands to the forecastle where thirty bodies are ready to be committed to the deep, each carefully weighed and carefully sewn up in canvas. It is a weird scene, this gathering. The crescent moon is shedding a faint light on us, as the ship lays wallowing in the great rollers. The funeral service is conducted by the Reverent Canon Hind, for nearly an hour the words For as must as it hath pleased - ‘we therefore commit his body to the deep’ are repeated and at each interval comes, splash! as the weighted body plunges into the sea, there to sink to a depth of about two miles. Splash, splash, splash.’

Recovering Titanic bodies

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1944
Denton Welch,
writer and artist

‘This morning I had a book, Planet and Glow-worm, from Edith Sitwell and a letter with her love. Then I went out in the sun and, feeling so much better, I lay on the top of a haystack and sunned myself and ate and actually fell asleep, and I forgot unhappiness and trouble and only felt in a daze with hot sun and cool wind on my face.

Edith mentioned my Horizon story which appeared on Wednesday. Cyril Connolly sent me fourteen guineas and said Hamish Hamilton wanted to know if I had a book of them in mind, because if so he’d like to publish it.

Lately I have a poem in the Spectator and two in Life and Letters and a story in New Writing and one in English Story.

Also I have sold two little pictures to a Mrs. Serocold

It is happiness to have things liked, but when I’m ill as I was on Wednesday and other days lately everything pales to nothing and I want to die more than anything on earth.

I think all I can do is to keep my work going as long as I can. And if I can no longer, then I will die . . .’

Black, dead, inhuman

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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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