And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

5 April

1689
John Reresby,
politician

‘I received the unfortunate news of the death of my son George by the small-pox - a very beautiful, apt, understanding child. It was a great affliction to me; but God gives, and God takes, and blessed be the name of the Lord.’

The most barbarous murder

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1837
Cécile Mendelssohn,
wife of composer

‘In the morning we walked for a good half-mile along the Rhine as far as the river crossing. Misunderstandings on the way. Made plans at the boatman’s cottage. Return at three for lunch. In the afternoon Felix played the organ of an atrociously decorated church - a wretched box of whistles. Walk to the cathedral and down into the crypt, but no spring. The sacristy - the subterranean chapel with its strange pillars. In the course of the evening and well into the night endured the loathsome company of Rhinelanders who behaved little better than their large dogs.’

Mendelssohn’s honeymoon

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1722
Jacob Roggeveen,
sailor and explorer

‘When we approached nearer the land we saw distinctly from a short distance that the description of the sandy and low island did not accord in the least with our discovery. Furthermore, it could not be the same land which the aforesaid voyagers claim to have seen stretching 14 to 16 leagues in front of them, and near the highland which Dampier judged to be the coast-line of the unknown south. That Easter Island can not be the sandy island described by Davis is clear, because that was small and low, while on the contrary Easter Island is high and towers above the sea, having also two elevations rising above the level part. It would not be possible to mistake, even at the dry season of the year, the grass and verdure that covers the hill-sides for barren sand. After the Dutch custom of the day, the admiral assembled the commanders of the three vessels composing his fleet - the Arend, the African Galley, and the Thienhoven - in council to pass formal resolutions claiming the discovery of the land. The proceedings of the assembly state that on Easter day land was sighted about 9 miles distant, of moderate height, and containing an area of about 6 Dutch miles. The weather being calm the vessels were not able to secure an anchorage near the land until the next day, The island was found to be destitute of trees, but with a fertile soil producing bananas, potatoes, and sugar-cane of extraordinary thickness. It was unanimously agreed that both from the difference in the location as well as the appearance of the land seen by Davis, the fact was established beyond doubt that the island just discovered could not be the same. These proceedings, being drawn up, were formally signed by Jacob Roggeveen, Jan Koster, Cornelius Bonman, and Roelof Rosendaal. After sailing from Easter Island the vessels spent a number of days in it search for the low sandy island described by Davis, but not with success.’

Roggeveen and Easter Island

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1909
Robert E Peary,
sailor and explorer

‘Over the 89th!! Started early last evening. The march a duplicate of previous one as to weather & going. temp at starting -35˚. Sledges appeared to haul a little easier, dog on trot much of the time. Last two hours on young ice of a north & south lead they were often galloping. 10 hours. 25 miles or more. Great.

A 50 yd lead open when I reached it moved enough by time sledges came up to let us cross. Still this biting cold, the face burning for hours. (like the Inland Ice),

The natives complain of it & at every camp are fixing fixing their clothes about the face, waist, knees & wrist. They complain of their noses, which I never knew them to do before. it is keen & bitter as frozen steel. Light air from S during first of march, veering to E & freshening as we camp. Another dog expended here. Tomorrow if ice & weather permit, I shall make a long march, ‘boil the kettle’ midway, & try to make up the 5 miles lost on the 3rd.

We have been very fortunate with the leads so far, but I am in constant & increasing dread of encountering an uncrossable one. Six weeks today since I left the Roosevelt.’

The Pole at last!!!

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1935
Leon Trotsky,
politician

‘Life is not an easy matter. . . You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness.’

Trotsky’s indispensability

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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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