And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

22 April

Thomas Hearne,

‘This morning was a total ecclipse of the sun. It began after eight o’clock. But the sky being not clear, the observations that were designed were in a very great measure hindered. There were many papers printed, before it happened, about it. This inserted [described in a footnote], is done by D. Halley. It was very dark when it happened. The birds flocked to the trees as they do at night. Many people used candles in their houses as in the night.’

Remarks and collections


John Wilkes Booth,

‘Friday 21

After being hunted like a dog through swamps, woods, and last night being chased by gun boats till I was forced to return wet cold and starving, with every mans hand against me, I am here in despair. And why; For doing what Brutus was honored for, what made Tell a Hero. And yet 1 for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew am looked upon as a common cutthroat. My action was purer than either of theirs. One, hoped to be great himself. The other had not only his countrys but his own wrongs to avenge. I hoped for no gain. I knew no private wrong. I struck for my country and that alone. A country groaned beneath this tyranny and prayed for this end. Yet now behold the cold hand they extend to me. God cannot pardon me if I have done wrong. Yet I cannot see any wrong except in serving a degenerate people. The little, the very little I left behind to clear my name, the Govrnt will not allow to be printed. So ends all. For my country I have given up all that makes life sweet and Holy, brought misery on my family, and am sure there is no pardon in Heaven for me since man condemns me so. I have only heard what has been done (except what I did myself) and it fills me with horror. God try and forgive me and bless my mother. To night 1 will once more try the river with the intent to cross, though I have a greater desire to return to Washington and in a measure clear my name which I feel I can do. I do not repent the blow I struck. I may before God but not to man.

I think I have done well, though I am abandoned, with the curse of Cain upon me. When if the world knew my heart, that one blow would have made me great, though I did desire no greatness.

To night I try to escape these blood hounds once more. Who can read his fate. Gods will be done.

I have too great a soul to die like a criminal. Oh may he, may he spare me that and let me die bravely.

I bless the entire world. Have never hated or wronged anyone. This last was not a wrong, unless God deems it so. And its with him, to damn or bless me. And for this brave boy with me who often prays (yes before and since) with a true and sincere heart, was it a crime in him, if so why can he pray the same I do not wish to shed a drop of blood, but “I must fight the course” Tis all thats left me.’

Hunted like a dog


Helena Modjeska,

‘Milwaukee. We played “Hamlet” last night.

Ralph and Félicie have gone - at 1.40 p.m. We did not cry at parting - we hope to meet again in Poland. Only when the train disappeared from the station the tears came to my eyes. I slept the whole afternoon in order to calm myself.

The audiences were cold and unsympathetic.

After the performance we went to the car and had supper. Edwin Booth was delightful. He told us some of his early experiences: how in Honolulu he was compelled to paste his own bills on the corners of the streets, and was surprised at that work by a fellow from New York who happened to be there just at the time. This happened, of course, some years ago, about thirty-five, I think. I went to bed directly after supper, but I heard him talking to the ladies of the company for more than an hour. They all shrieked with laughter.’

Pilgrimage to Stratford


Richard Harding Davis,

‘A blackmailer named H_ called, with photos of atrocities and letters and films. He wanted 30 Pounds for the lot. I gave him 3 Pounds for three photos. One letter he showed me signed Bullinger, an Englishman, said he had put the fear of God in their hearts by sticking up the chiefs head on a pole, and saying, “Now, make rubber, or you will look like that.” Went to lunch with Pearson but it was the wrong day, and so missed getting a free feed. Thinking he would turn up, I ordered a most expensive lunch. I paid for it. Evening went Patience, which liked immensely and then Duchess of Sutherland’s party to Premiers. Saw Churchill and each explained his share of the Real Soldiers row.’

Gouty old gentlemen


Frederick Hamilton,

‘We steamed close past the iceberg today, and endeavoured to photograph it, but rain is falling and we do not think the results will be satisfactory. We are now standing eastwards amongst great quantities of wreckage. Cutter lowered to examine a lifeboat, but it is too smashed to tell anything, even the name is not visible. All round is splintered woodwork, cabin fittings, mahogany fronts of drawers, carvings, all wrenched away from their fastenings, deck chairs, and then more bodies. Some of these are fifteen miles distant from those picked up yesterday. 8.p.m. Another burial service. April 23rd Icebergs and growlers still in sight. Both cutters busy all day recovering bodies, rain and fog all the afternoon, fog at times very dense. 7.p.m. The “Allen Line” boat “Sardinia” stopped near us and took despatches from our cutter. The fog had lifted slightly, but shut down denser than ever, soon after she had signalled ‘good-night’ on her flash light.’

Recovering Titanic bodies


Harvey Cushing,

‘The morning passed with Tuffier, and now waiting for him for a moment at his private hospital. Here at this place are several officers, one a general with half his face blown off and quite blind. T. says most of the officers have been killed, and that is why the men are so brave! It puts courage into them. Queer idea; but possibly I don’t quite understand.

He tells me of peculiar wounds that he has seen. An officer, hit in the trenches by an explosion of an enemy hand grenade, had a small wound of entrance near the inner canthus of the right eye, without special symptoms. An X-ray showed an undeformed cartridge in the frontal lobe of the brain. This was extracted and it proved to be an intact French Lebel cartridge! I give it up. He explains that the captured French ammunition, which of course does not fit the German Mauser rifles, is used with whatever else may be handy to fill the hand grenades, now so murderously thrown about in the trench fighting.

Another instance was that of a woman who had been injured in the thigh by a fragment of the first of the aeroplane bombs dropped on Paris. There was in addition a trifling wound of the scapular region, and a point of tenderness low down in the back, where subsequently an X-ray showed the presence of a French rifle bullet! She had been hit by a falling ball that had been fired from a mitrailleuse (“devil’s coffee mill”) at the aeroplane. Strange coincidence that she should have got both injuries at one and the same instant.

Lunch with T. and a Belgian officer, who constitute a committee to supply artificial limbs to the amputés. A month ago 7000 were needed and the French can only make 400 a month at the best - the American manufacturers 500. Hence it will take the better part of a year to supply those already wanted. Many more will be needed before we’re through. Later to see a review at the Invalides of the 29th and 30th Regiments (territorial) of infantry - very moving. There is something about French troops on the march that dims one’s eyes.’

Ether, a gorilla, and poppies


George Allardice Riddell,

‘Long talk with Kitchener, who said that LG’s alleged statement as to the number of troops in France was inaccurate and that what LG had really said was that the number of troops ‘overseas’ amounted to thirty-six divisions. I referred to the speech, in which the words were ‘over there’. K said, ‘Well, if he said that he was wrong, and the speech must be put right in Hansard.’ He asked Brade to see that this done.

K commented upon what he called ‘Newspaper embroidery’ and complained of the criticisms as to the inconsistencies between his statements and those of the PM as to the efficiency of our output of munitions of war. He asked my opinion. I replied that they seemed inconsistent and that this was the general opinion. K said, ‘The Times has been the most virulent critic, I am told, but I never read it.’ He asked me to look up the speeches, which I did subsequently, and wrote to him setting out the two passages. He said that Northcliffe was acting very badly and that it was difficult to know how to deal with him.’

Riddell and Lloyd George


Gottlob Frege,

‘When I was a child, my native town Wismar had a position in Mecklenburg similar to that which later Lübeck, Hamburg, and Bremen had in the Reich. That is to say, it enjoyed great internal independence. There was a law at that time that Jews were permitted to stay overnight in Wismar only in the time of certain annual fairs. Then, they would first be rung in by the bell and then rung out. I suppose that this decree was old. The old inhabitants of Wismar must have had experiences with the Jews that had led them to this legislation.

It must have been very much the Jewish way of doing business together with the Jewish national character that is tied closely to this way of doing business. One had also probably seen that little was achieved through laws which forbade such business practices. So it came that I could not have bad experiences with Jews. This was changed only in 1866 with the establishment of the North German Confederation. There came universal suffrage, also for Jews. There came the freedom of movement, also for Jews, presents from France. We make it so easy for the French to bless us with gifts. If one had only turned to noble and patriotic Germans, and instead of persecuting them in the time of the reaction, used their help in producing decrees and institutions arising from the German spirit and heart! The French had treated us nastily enough indeed before 1813, and nevertheless we have this blind admiration for all things French. We reckoned the French so far in front of us that we believed we could hardly catch up with them with seven-league boots. Was there yet perhaps also a seed in us from which something German could have been developed? I have only in the last years really learned to comprehend antisemitism. If one wants to make laws against the Jews, one must be able to specify a distinguishing mark [Kennzeichen] by which one can recognize a Jew for certain. I have always seen this as a problem.’

Reprehensible social views


Heinrich Schenker,

‘The installment from Mozio. Day of Music-Making at the Palais Kinsky. Bamberger incomparable in Mozart ’s Divertimento; in making this judgment, I encounter opposition from people [in the audience]: “Really?” ’

Diaries of a musical theorist


Bill Haley,

‘3rd day [of 45 day tour]. Weather good so far. All the acts are behaving. Mosque Theatre, Richmond, Virginia. $1,430. Both shows sold out and turned thousands away. 9,600 people for two shows. This tour is like sitting on a keg of dynamite. The show is all coloured but our act. With the racial situation in the south broiling plus the newspapers and magazines like ‘Variety’ stirring up everyone about rock and roll, anything can happen. I hope my nerves hold up.’

The rock and roll life


Leonid Brezhnev,

’86.400 Five o’clock meeting devoted to his [Lenin’s] birthday Talked with Grishin Gromyko Chernenko Doroshina

To every historian’s despair


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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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