And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

27 April

1597
James Melville,
teacher

‘The 27 of Apryll, anno 1597, Mr Robert Pont, Moderator of the last lawfull Generall Assemblie, cam to St Androis of purpose to keipe the dyat apointed for the Generall Assemblie; bot finding nan convenit ther bot the Province of Fyff, cam to the New Collage Scholl, the place apointed for the said Assemblie, and ther, efter incalling of the nam of God, and humble confessioun of sine, that haid procured that brak and desolatioun, cravit mercie, and fensit the Assemblie ther ordourlie in the name of God, taking notes and documents of protestatioun for the libertie of the Kirk. But, alas! even then that libertie began to be almost lost! For thairefter, to utter it in a word, whar Chryst gydit befor, the Court began then to govern all; whar pretching befor prevalit, then polecie tuk the place; and, finalie, whar devotioun and halie behaviour honoured the Minister, then began pranking at the chare, and pratling in the ear of the Prince, to mak the Minister to think him selff a man of estimatioun!’

Libertie of the kirk

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1810
Mirza Abul Hassan Khan,
diplomat

‘Early in the morning Sir Gore Ouseley and I went to Somerset House, a large and magnificent mansion built of stone, like a small castle, overlooking the river. In one part of the building about 1,000 naval officers and clerks administer the affairs of the Royal Navy.

In another part of the building famous artists show their paintings to the general public, who pay two shillings to look at what they call an ‘exhibition’. The money collected is given to poor painters and their children. By showing their paintings here, artists may gain in reputation and attract sitters to have their portraits painted. The work is well paid.

My portrait by Sir William Beechey was among those in the exhibition.’

I was utterly amazed!

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1821
Francis Edward Witts,
priest

‘The overseer of Halling brought up two gipsies, casual poor in their parish in order to their being examined to their settlement. Merach Lock the husband swore that he was born under an oak on Halling down as he had heard from his mother, being an illegitimate child and knowing nothing of his father; also that he was recently married to his wife Mary which whom he had cohabited twenty years, having by her six children. It seems that the Parish of Halling has little or no chance of proving him settled elsewhere. On examining the woman, she swore all the children to be Merach Lock’s - Lucas and Adam being born like their father in the Paris of Halling - Eve at Cold Ashton - Sarah at Brimpsfield - Temperance at Hawkesbury - Joanna at Cranham. The law was strictly interpreted and removal orders were made in respect of the last four children, sending them to their respective birth places.’

Upper Slaughter’s squire

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1872
Louisa Alcott,
writer

‘Mr Emerson died at 9 P.M. suddenly. Our best and greatest American gone. The nearest and dearest friend Father has ever had, and the man who has helped me most by his life, his books, his society. I can never tell all he has been to me, from the time I sang Mignon’s song under his window (a little girl) and wrote letters a la Bettine to him, my Goethe, at fifteen, up through my hard years, when his essays on Self-Reliance, Character, Compensation, Love, and Friendship helped me to understand myself and life, and God and Nature. Illustrious and beloved friend, good-by!’

I flied the highest

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1888
Elizabeth Lee,
young woman

‘Tonight Mr. Bragg took me to a ball at the City Hall, Liverpool. Mr. Rimmington took Miss Homes. Of course we all went together. Enjoyed myself immensely. We caught the 4.a.m. boat and came home (all the lot of us) in a hansom (which is only made for two).’

A jolly double tricycle ride

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1910
Robert Earl Henri,
painter

‘The exhibition was a great success as far as general notice and attendance - the crush at the opening and continued full attendance to the last day. Financially nothing happened.’

Make the draperies move

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1910
Jean Sibelius,
composer

‘Light, expectant, hopeful thoughts. Worked in my own way. Try to concentrate. ‘A must.’ Now or never.’

An inner confession

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1915
Edith Cavell,
nurse

‘Yesterday a letter from Monsieur Capiau who has gone to Germany voluntarily to inquire at Essen! with some other Belgian engineers. The letter came thro a young Frenchman who with 7 others had come from N. France to escape and hopes to get over the Dutch frontier in a day or two. The frontier has been absolutely impassable the last few days. Germany and Holland have been on the verge of war over the sinking of the Catwyk. The Dutch refused to allow anyone to cross and had massed their troops & laid mines all along from Maastricht to Antwerp. A sentinel on the Dutch side was posted very 15 metres & all the young men who had left to try & cross were stuck or came back - 5 of ours were heard of at Herrenthall yesterday & the guide left to bring them back.’

[Cavell gives a description of one of her guides and carriers of information - a boy, as she called him, of 23, Charles Vanderlinden, one of a family of nine brothers, ‘all strong and fighters’.] ‘This fellow is a fine type - about 5ft 6 or 7, slightly made but very strong and muscular. He amused himself when small with boxing a great sack of sand or corn which swung forward and butted him in the face if he failed to hit in the right place. He afterwards got some lessons in boxing & obliged me with a description of the right way to catch a man’s head under the arm & ‘crack’ his neck or to give him a back-handed blow and destroy the trachea or larynx. He is also a poacher in time of peace & sets lassoes in rows so that hares racing to their feeding grounds are bound to be caught in one of them. [. . .] He will be caught one day & if so will be shot but he will make a first class bid for freedom.’

The brave Edith Cavell

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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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