And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

29 April

1857
Queen Victoria

‘Till today I have been prevented from writing in my Journal, & I resume it today with feelings of the deepest, gratitude towards an All Merciful Father in Heaven who has preserved me, & restored me almost completely to health & strength. I have felt better & stronger this time, than I have ever done before. How I also thank God for granting us such a dear, pretty girl, which I so much wished for! She came into the world at 2 o’clock on the 14th, having caused me a very long wearisome time. I was amply rewarded, & forgot all I had gone through, when I heard dearest Albert say “it is a very fine child, & a girl!” & it was as inexpressible joy to me. My beloved ones love and devotion, & the way he helped in so many little ways, was unbounded. Mrs Lilley being old, & having been so ill last year, I had an assistant monthly Nurse, Mrs Innocent to help her. Dr Lucock & Dr Snow attended me. After I had some sleep, Mama & Feodore came in for a moment to see me. Albert had to go at 4 to the Council, & wished dear Aunt Gloucester. He brought Vicky in, to wish me good night - We have to settled that the Baby should be named, Beatrice>, Victoria, Feodore>. Beatrice, is a lovely name, meaning Blessed, & was borne by 3 English Princesses. Dear Mama, Vicky & Fritz & Feodore, are to be the sponsors. - Have done remarkably well all the time. - After the first days saw all the Children, & Vicky has often been reading to me, Mama, & Feodore, also constantly coming in & out. [. . .]

Occupied in choosing various things including little caps, &c - for the dear little new born one, who is such a pretty plump, flourishing child, promising to be very like Arthur, with fine large blue eyes, marked nose, pretty little mouth & very fine skin.’

Amply rewarded

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1859
George Eliot,
writer

‘Finished a story - The Lifted Veil - which I began one morning at Richmond as a resource when my head was too stupid for more important work. Resumed my new novel, of which I am going to rewrite the two first chapters. I shall call it provisionally The Tullivers, for the sake of a title quelconque, or perhaps St Ogg’s on the Floss.’

St Ogg’s on the Floss

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1865
Emmala Reed,
housewife

‘A variable pleasant day of smiles & tears - busy at home. Becky Webb & Eleanor ready with baskets of lunch to go to a picnic, but all parties backed out - boys & girls couldn’t agree. We ate lunch at home.

Mrs. Pinkind here - we sang duetts, then to our surpize a soldier friend entered - Cousin Tom Carter. One of the captured army of Va., yet wouldn’t surrender - escaped & hopeful still & brave. Had a hard time wandering about there. He looked right handsome - delicate form - wavy black hair, bright eyes & rosy face. Good & moral & so lively & blunt. Had a cold & could scarcely talk, but he & I sat chatting all day of the times &c. He said Tom & Jim Hamilton & one Charlie Jones of Abb. were all anxious to learn if I was single - wanted to visit me &c. In evg he walked down to Grandpa’s - where they will be glad to see him. He reminded me of Alfred today - his voice & ways. Fear he may go the same way - with consumption - hope not.

Guests comes from Pendleton on the cars too. Helen Smith & Fannie Adams - dined here & sat some time talking Fan is fine looking - smart & stiff - talks much. I sang for them some. She went to see the Wilkinsons - spoke of their brother Joe coming home soon - having my likeness. She would send him to see me &c.

Helen stayed with Eleanor - ‘though nobody was much pleased, only cares to collect beaux around her. Gus Van Wyck came along. Keys McCulley with them in aft. Called this morn & at night again. A good looking merry chap! Frazier Wilson & Nick Whaley - two Charleston gents, called on them too, so they are highly entertained tonight whilst I was deploring my false or constrained lover - so near - so far! He & C went to their brother Ed’s today - have so many kin to see. I can’t see much of him, wonder if he is not thinking of me &c and what will be the result! All here wondering why he comes not - they will tell him tales of me I guess.

In the soft - hazy - dewy moonlight - the fragrant flowers & myriad roses - dripping with pearly drops - I sat in the piazza - knitting & dreaming so sadly. For every step I thought was his and my heart would bound, but sink back more depressed - as I found he would not come! And always before when he came from trips he called on me the second day or night &c and now when most interested - he comes not & I get no message even and what does he think &c feel? Direct us for the best oh God! He is weary & worn - no clothes - has to stay home with all the collected family. He would cause too much excitement were he to seek me already. He fears all of us down here & some of my letters - or tales he hears may offend. Still he will surely came ere long - or I can’t stand it [. . .].’

Prayed & wept & hope

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1885
Heinrich Hertz,
engineer

‘Set the generator going and wanted to undertake some measurements with it, but the gas motor was not quite up to it.’

Hertz and his radio waves

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1887
Henry J. Heinz,
businessman

‘Am reading up on roses and flowers and pleasure in cultivating them. Spent over $250 on trees and flowers this year.’

Caught in the mustard mill

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1917
Maurice Hankey,
civil servant

‘In one way this has been one of the most dreadful weeks of the war, owing to appalling mercantile losses from submarines. These have depressed me very much, but at last, when it is almost too late, the Govt, are taking action. I spent the whole morning dictating a long Memo, to help Ll. G., who has undertaken to investigate the whole question at the Admiralty on Monday. I also had a talk on the telephone with Lord Stamfordham, who says the King is very angry with the Press attacks on the Admiralty, though in my opinion these attacks are largely justified. For example a few weeks ago they scouted the idea of convoy. Now they are undertaking it on their own initiative, but apparently want weeks to organise it - though this at any rate might have been done earlier. They don’t look ahead. As Lord Fisher has lately written to me the problem is “Can the Army win the war before the Navy loses it?” My horrible prophecy when Lord K.’s army was first conceived, that we should lose at sea without winning on land, threatens to come true . . .’

Dreadful meetings

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1918
Pierre Gilliard,
teacher

‘The children have received a letter from the Czarina from Tioumen The journey has been very trying. Horses up to their chests in water crossing the rivers. Wheels broken several times.’

State of mental anguish

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1926
Richard E. Byrd,
explorer

‘Greatly disappointed today to hear from Amundsen by radio that we could not go alongside dock as there are two Norwegian ships alongside.

Amundsen sent a lieutenant from the Norwegian gunboat that is alongside the dock out to meet us. He informed us that he didn’t know when we could go alongside dock.

We arrived about 4 PM. Asked the captain of the gunboat if we could go alongside him. He reluctantly consented. I called on Amundsen immediately but he was at supper. Met him later and went to his quarters with him

I then called on captain of the gunboat and asked him when we could get alongside dock and get our plane ashore. He replied Monday. I then requested that he let us go alongside when he is not coaling at night and put the plane ashore. He would not do that.

We cannot wait for days and I ordered the floats lowered so as to take the plane on four of our boats rigged together by planking.

I then called on Smithmeyer, the director of the coal mine. He told us that we would have to move from alongside the gunboat to allow a Norwegian whaler to get alongside and coal. We anchored out about 300 yards at midnight. Got our pontoon made and at this writing have the small plane’s [the Oriole’s] wing put aboard.

Got radio that Wilkins is OK at Point Barrow. Hurrah! Smithmeyer told us to go alongside dock. Small space other side [of] gunboat. We would surely have gone aground. I cannot understand.’

Flying over the Poles

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1930
Virginia Woolf,
writer

‘And I have just finished, with this very nib-ful of ink, the last sentence of The Waves. I think I should record this for my own information. Yes, it was the greatest stretch of mind I ever knew; certainly the last pages; I don’t think they flop as much as usual. And I think I have kept starkly and ascetically to the plan. So much I will say in self-congratulation. But I have never written a book so full of holes and patches; that will need re-building, yes, not only re-modelling. I suspect the structure is wrong. Never mind. I might have done something easy and fluent; and this is a reach after that vision I had, the unhappy summer - or three weeks - at Rodmell, after finishing The Lighthouse. (And that reminds me - I must hastily provide my mind with something else, or it will again become pecking and wretched - something imaginative, if possible, and light; for I shall tire of Hazlitt and criticism after the first divine relief; and I feel pleasantly aware of various adumbrations in the back of my head; a life of Duncan; no, something about canvases glowing in a studio; but that can wait.)

And I think to myself as I walk down Southampton Row, ‘And I have given you a new book.’ ’

One wave after another

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2005
Václav Havel,
politician

‘I have been to two more “political dinners” at Madeleine’s; many important people were there, such as the former secretary of defense William Cohen; the director of PBS, Mrs. Pat Mitchell; Senator Barbara Mikulski; the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, Mrs. Nancy Pelosi; the deputy secretary of state, Mr. Nicholas Bums; and many others. Many of them I had met on earlier occasions, others I had once been introduced to, but I had forgotten those earlier encounters. Madeleine, once again, moderated the discussion wonderfully; it was lively and spontaneous and exhausting, naturally. I had the constant feeling that I was speaking of things about which these people knew more than I did, and moreover I was doing so in a language I don’t know very well. Now that it’s over I’m glad I did it, and I’m grateful to Madeleine.

It’s paradoxical: every evening I meet with the most important people here, and then, during the day, I run afoul of banal American red tape. Yesterday, for example, we had to return our rental car and then turn right around and rent it again, even though we’d already paid for another month. I understand the thing itself - it’s an accounting matter. What I don’t understand is why the transaction consumed almost an entire, valuable American day. Standing at the window where all this took place, and where more and more complications kept surfacing, I found it hard not to lose my temper. My Czech pistoleer often uses a trick I don’t much like: he reveals who I am - if I’m not recognized, that is. But in this democratic country, favoritism is out of favor, and so the results are always the same: great delight that they’ve met me, great astonishment that I, of all people, have turned up here, of all places - and then an immediate return to the original situation. It doesn’t speed things up by even a minute. That was yesterday. I barely had time to change for dinner at Madeleine’s.

But that wasn’t the end of it; two unpleasant things happened this morning. The first was something I knew was bound to happen, that is, our Barnabas, Mr. Edler, was nowhere to be found, and so they wouldn’t let us into our parking spot. (Later the director of the Kluge Center had to sort things out himself at the entrance.) And the second thing was something I could not have known would happen, and which says something about the state of my memory. At the entrance to the library, where they put my bag through a scanner, they discovered a metal kitchen knife in it, which is not allowed. I expressed surprise and denied it, of course, because I’d completely forgotten that I’d put the knife in my bag that morning so I could spread jam on my roll. They searched the bag and I was caught red-handed. There was nothing to do but hope I wouldn’t be arrested, then go outside and toss the knife in the garbage. (Fortunately it was not made of silver.) I felt very silly.

I often can’t understand Americans when they speak, especially black Americans, and this is the source of many other embarrassing moments. Yesterday, for example, a young black man who was with me in the elevator told me how much he admired me and asked me for my autograph. Then he mumbled something I didn’t catch, though it was evidently a question. For the sake of simplicity, I replied, “Yes.” As soon as I’d spoken, I realized that he was asking me if I had written The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I couldn’t very well change my answer, and there was no escaping, so I had to remain in a state of embarrassment until the moment of liberation when our elevator arrived at the right floor. A truly Kunderian situation.’

Václav Havel as diarist

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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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