And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

9 April

Nicholas Cresswell,
tradesman and farmer

‘This morning got up very early and wrote to my Father. Got on Board about Nine o’clock. Set sail with a fair wind and tide in our favour; in the afternoon calm and pleasant; came to an Anchor off Ormshead. We are Four passengers, but don’t as yet know the others. All of us very merry at supper, tho’ I believe most of us Young Sailors are rather squeamish. At Eight in the evening, a Breeze sprung up; hove up the Anchor; about Ten saw the Skerry Lighthouse.’

Whores and rogues


Nicolas Baudin,
sailor and explorer

‘There was little wind for the rest of the day. Sometimes we were even becalmed and at the mercy of the current, which carried us towards the coast, then only a league off. After sighting our points of the previous day, we sailed along the high land that we had seen a little before sunset. The coast in this part, if not extremely pleasant. was at least preferable to the region of sand-hills that we had just left.

At midday the latitude observed was 35° 36' but this was very uncertain. At three o’clock we sighted the island and islets spoken of by Mr. Flinders. I proceeded so as to run in for the channel separating them from the mainland, but since the slight wind blowing did not allow me to do this before dark, I went about at five o'clock to stand out to sea.

Coasting the mainland during the day, we sighted three islets or rocks lying such a short way out, that to see them. it was necessary to be as close in as we were. If becalmed, one could anchor there in 24 or 21 fathoms, for the bottom is sandy and good - a rather rare thing between here and the Promontory. At sunset we could still see Mr. Flinders’ ship running on the South-westerly leg.

Until midnight the winds were South to South- South-East and rather fresh, but then they moderated, and shortly after, we went on the landward leg.’

Baudin’s voyage to Australia


Polly Lavinia Crandall Coon,

‘Rained all day consequently we have laid by - improving the time in doing some baking. At night the ground being very wet we were obliged to take shelter in the house.’

We hope for better times


Bruce Lockhart,

‘Telegram from Hicks re Semenov affair. This looks very serious, worked all day sending off telegrams about the situation. Things are moving towards a crisis. Our people at home are so incredibly stupid that they will drift into tragedy, almost without knowing it. We have done our best and it is difficult to see what more we can do. This stupid affair at Vladivostok has spoilt all the advantages which the German landing at Finland could have given us. Everyone here is against it.’

Secret agent in Moscow


Ayn Rand,
writer and philosopher

‘The human race has only two unlimited capacities: for suffering and for lying. I want to fight religion as the root of all human lying and the only excuse for suffering.

I believe - and I want to gather all the facts to illustrate this - that the worst curse on mankind is the ability to consider ideals as something quite abstract and detached from one’s everyday life. The ability to live and think quite differently, thus eliminating thinking from your actual life. This applied not to deliberate and conscious hypocrites, but to those more dangerous and hopeless ones who, alone with themselves and to themselves, tolerate a complete break between their convictions and their lives, and still believe that they have convictions. To them, either their ideals or their lives are worthless - and usually both.

I hold religion mainly responsible for this. I want to prove that religion breaks a character before it’s formed, in childhood, by teaching a child lies before he knows what a lie is, by breaking him of the habit of thinking before he has begun to think, by making him a hypocrite before he knows any other possible attitude to life. [. . .]

Why are men so afraid of pure, logical reasoning? Why do they have a profound, ferocious hatred of it? Are instincts and emotions necessarily beyond the control of plain thinking? Or were they trained to be? Why is a complete harmony between mind and emotions impossible? Isn’t it merely a matter of strict mental honesty? And who stands at the very bottom denying such honesty? Isn’t it the church?

I want to be known as the greatest champion of reason and the greatest enemy of religion.’

The champion of reason


Harold Nicolson,

‘In the afternoon Viti and I plant annuals. We sow them in the cottage garden and then in the border and then in the orchard. We rake the soil smooth. And, as we rake we are both thinking, ‘What will have happened to the world when these seeds germinate?’ It is warm and still. We should have been so happy were it not for the thought which aches at our hearts as if some very dear person was dying in the upstairs room. We discuss whether we might be defeated if war comes. And if defeated, surely surrender [suicide] in advance would be better? We ourselves don’t think of money or privilege or pleasure. We are thinking only of that vast wastage of suffering which must surely come. All because of the insane ambitions of one fanatic, and of the vicious theory which he has imposed on his people.’

Of war and of sowing


Lindsay Anderson,

‘Thursday. The Council Meeting of the English Stage Company, and the inevitable collapse before the Arts Council threat of withdrawal of subsidy if Hilary Spurling is not reinvited. I tried to propose a press statement first, simply making public the Arts Council’s blackmailing attempt. . . But only Jocelyn and Robin supported it. Interestingly, Oscar and John Osborne were both for immediate capitulation: Peggy Ashcroft’s worried, charming, stupid liberal face radiated desire for the relief and calm of appeasement from the other end of the table . . . Blacksell popped his eyes stupidly, and with incredibly obstinate persistence reiterated his belief that Hilary Spurling ’wasn’t worth it’, and his confidence (genuine or just an excuse or self-deception?) that the Arts Council would be willing to conduct the important discussions about dramatic criticism we’d asked for, after the tiresome difficulty had been disposed of . . . Bill veered erratically, but had abandoned his radical position of the week before.

So we are carried poshly from Le Moulin d’Or to the lawyer’s offices in Tony’s limousine . . . They are all gathered - Greville [Poke] in the chair, George Harewood making one of his rare, much appreciated appearances, John Osborne, careful to sit as far as possible away from Tony (they no longer speak), Peggy [Ashcroft] in a sort of white denim trouser suit, with cap, looking quite dashing and (if you know her) rather preposterous: as if playing Helene Weigel in the Gunter Grass Brecht play at the Aldwych has gone to her head. . .’

Happy days with Peggy


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And so made significant . . .
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