And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

11 August

Duke of Württemberg

‘London is a large, excellent, and mighty city of business, and the most important in the whole kingdom; most of the inhabitants are employed in buying and selling merchandize, and trading in almost every corner of the world, since the river is most useful and convenient for this purpose, considering that ships from France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Hamburg, and other kingdoms, come almost up to the city, to which they convey goods and receive and take away others in exchange.

It is a very populous city, so that one can scarcely pass along the streets, on account of the throng.

The inhabitants are magnificently apparelled, and are extremely proud and overbearing; and because the greater part, especially the tradespeople, seldom go into other countries, but always remain in their houses in the city attending to their business, they care little for foreigners, but scoff and laugh at them; and moreover one dare not oppose them, else the street-boys and apprentices collect together in immense crowds and strike to the right and left unmercifully without regard to person; and because they are the strongest, one is obliged to put up with the insult as well as the injury.

The women have much more liberty than perhaps in any other place; they also know well how to make use of it, for they go dressed out in exceedingly fine clothes, and give all their attention to their ruffs and stuffs, to such a degree indeed, that, as I am informed, many a one does not hesitate to wear velvet in the streets, which is common with them, whilst at home perhaps they have not a piece of dry bread. All the English women are accustomed to wear hats upon their heads, and gowns cut after the old German fashion - for indeed their descent is from the Saxons.

In the city there is among others a large and remarkable church, called St Paul’s, where there are two choirs or churches, one over the other, but otherwise there is nothing of importance to be seen in it. There are also many other churches here and there; in particular three, where they preach in the French, Italian, and Dutch tongues.

The Exchange (La Burce) is a palace, where all kinds of beautiful goods are usually to be found; and because the city is very large and populous, the merchants who transact business together appoint to meet each other at that place, of whom several hundreds are constantly to be met with congregated there.

The sweet water is preserved in various parts of the city in large well-built stone cisterns, to be drawn off by cocks; and the poor labourers carry it on their shoulders to the different houses and sell it, in a peculiar kind of wooden vessels, broad at the bottom, but very narrow at the top, and bound with iron hoops.’

34 heads on London Bridge


David Douglas,

‘Early this morning I went to the vegetable market, the Fulton. It had a beautiful appearance, beet of superior variety and fine carrots, raised in this country; I observed a very great deficiency of cauliflower, indeed they were miserably poor; onions were fine, mostly red; the immense supply of melons and cucumbers - the latter of which, however, were not so fine as may be expected and appeared for the most part to be the same as the short prickly ones cultivated in England - the melons were fine. An abundant supply of early apples, pears, peaches - the two former were fine, but the peaches looked rather bad, being ripened immaturely and the trees being sickly; immense varieties of squashes or gourds, plums, early damsons, a great supply of pineapples from the West Indies, and cocoanuts. I observed a fine head of Musa sapientum which weighed 40 lb. At 8 o’clock this morning we set off for Flushing and visited the establishment of Mr. Prince. I found him a man of but moderate liberality; he has some good specimens of Magnolia, of Berberis Aquifolium, a few European plants, common shrubs and herb plants. Indeed on the whole I must confess to be somewhat disappointed, for his extensive catalogue and some talk had heightened my idea of it; but most of his ground is covered over with weeds. I was much pleased with the beautiful villas on the banks of the Sound; saw people employed in preparing their operations for diving to the Hussar, a British frigate taken during the late war.’

Plant hunting in America


John Dearman Birchall,

‘Emily and I went to Whiteholme [Mary Birchall’s] picking up Florence in Leeds on the way, for the grouse shooting.’

The tricycle diaries


John William Horsley,

‘A young lady with eight aliases, and all addresses given found to be false, is resigned and martyroid because every word of hers is not believed against those of others.’

State-created crime


Jean-Martin Charcot,

‘Soon we arrive at one of our “wealthy Moors”. [. . .] The young ladies go into the women’s quarters. Employing a searching gaze, we look into everything open to us. I think they were expecting us; most certainly, they were waiting for us. However a flurry of emotion, doubtless feigned, a pretended surprise, took place when we entered. A lady of mature years, who appeared beautiful to me, quickly fled, but not before showing us her face. That left 4 or 5 negresses, who shamelessly stayed where they were. Moreover, they were very beautiful, their arms and legs nude, their bodies lightly clothed in a clear fabric. They certainly do not belong to the religion whose acolytes cover up. As always, the first floor with balcony is just about the same as the lower floor. But it seems we cannot visit since the private living quarters are there. I look everywhere for a certain spot which interests me from a hygienic perspective. Instinct guides me. Here water flows on the ground - one certainly cannot go in without clogs. The floor is made of tile mosaics as are the walls - no seat - only a hole which seems narrow to me at ground level. One has to be agile - but the Arabs certainly are in this respect. They do everything squatting. It is perfect, a paradise for the sense of sight and smell.’

The father of neurology


Gertrude Vanderbilt,

‘Yesterday was one of the happiest I have ever passed. It was a yachting party. I love the water, the day was perfect, the people were nice, the race was sufficiently interesting, the lunch was delicious, our spirits were overflowing.

We met down at the landing at 9.45. There were lots of parties given so of course a great crowd was there. Different people came up and talked and suddenly looking up who should I see in front of me but Regi Renalds. We shook hands said “howd’y do” and that was all. He did not go on the Nournahae, that was the only cloud in my sky all day. It began by being a pretty big one but dwindled down surprisingly as the day went on. To-night I dine at the Cushings Oh Joy! joy! A thousand times joy. Prepare.’

Our spirits were overflowing


Alfred Deakin,

‘Virtue is an ordering of the self - continuous, unflagging and ever wakeful to the best ends one sees.’

I have been to the Commons


Dorothy Mackellar,

‘Got up earlier than usual. .. Felt quite reasonably well. Evening: Mrs Arthur Feez’s and Mrs W. Collins’ dance. A very nice one, and I loved it - what I had of it. Broke down at the 12th dance. Rather a stirring night. He was upset because I love him and it upset me, and I nearly kissed him, which would have startled things a good deal. I never felt like that before - rather desperate - and yet not miserable. Only he wouldn’t believe me when I told him so.’

I love a sunburnt country


Jean Guéhenno,

‘This morning I tried once again to obtain the Ausweis necessary to go into the other zone. Useless. As early as 5:30 a.m., in the dark, I was on the first Metro with the fishermen. They were getting on at every station, with their fishing-rods, their landing nets, boxes of worms, folding chairs, and so many hopes. They were all rushing to take their places on the banks of the Seine and got off at Châtelet. Toward 6 a.m. I was at Rue du Colisée, where the occupying authorities have their headquarters. It was much too late. But how could I get there earlier, unless I walked there during the night? It is forbidden to go out before 5 a.m. Three hundred people were already there; they lived in the neighborhood or had slept in the hallways nearby. As the authorities only examine about 50 cases a day, at least 200 of them were there for the third or fourth time. People were bickering with each other. It was all rather frightful, a scene out of Maupassant. Each one wanted to have the most dangerous illness in his own family. Peritonitis was at a premium. The luckiest had a corpse, and, to get in with the first in line, brandished their telegram.

What’s more, I was told they were examining only “urgent” cases and mine did not even deserve examination. After two hours of waiting on line, abandoning all hope, I left.

I walked along the Champs-Élysées, completely empty. Only a few “feldgrau” and a few “gretchen” were making their way to their offices, clicking their heels on the asphalt and giving the Hitler salute. Then I got the idea of going all the way up to the Arch of Triumph, to go for a moment near the Other One, up there under his slab of stone. I stood there for a long time. The policeman on duty was bored. The pathetic little flame danced in the wind. Do I know what I was thinking? I was looking. There he was, that man, killed twenty years ago... a corpse has no age. Are you less dead after twenty years than after a thousand? But all around me there was Paris - admirable - and France, like a ruin, in that astonishing silence, and also those “feldgrau” and those “gretchen.” That dead man, alone among all the dead, decidedly did have an age, an age given to him by the history of his country. For how long will that flame keep burning? Why, then, was it lit? It all felt to me like an insult. Unknown comrade, whom they let neither live nor die, offended in your life which was stolen from you, offended now even in death, you poor man loaded with glory and shame that you did not desire, o you, truly my brother. . .’

France has lost her soul


Charles McMoran Wilson,

‘I wish sometimes that one member of this singular family would behave like an ordinary human being. Clemmie is the culprit this time; she is being difficult - over nothing. The P.M. was in tremendous form last night. In a few hours he would be leaving Quebec for Hyde Park to spend some days as the President’s guest; then, as he grunted with great satisfaction, things would really get moving. I was therefore surprised to find him this morning in poor spirits. It appears that Clemmie was to have gone with him; but she changed her plans at the last moment; she was not sleeping well, she said. The truth is she does not like the President; once she confided to me that she does not like any great man except Winston. Winston tried to argue with her; it was not very polite to the President, he said. But Clemmie can be as difficult and obstinate as the great man himself. Besides he has ‘talked at’ her so often she has become resistant and doesn’t mind being ‘shouted down’.’

A third dose of pneumonia


Seán Ó Ríordáin,

‘I have just returned from a funeral. A Protestant who died yesterday was being taken to the church at seven this evening. I went into this church for the first time and felt a strong sense of eeriness. I stood at the door and looked in. A small chapel was visible. The congregation was standing, its back to me, facing the altar. It was divided in two, a path in the middle. The altar and the minister could be seen at the end of the path. ‘Holy - Holy - Holy’ was written on the altar cloth. The place had the appearance of poverty, although the building seems ostentatious from the outside. The coffin was at the foot of the altar. I must confess that I was deeply moved, that is to say that every part of my mind was moved and renewed, and every moment of my life back to the days of my youth, and I might even say that I felt the hundreds of years between me and the Reformation slipping away when I looked into that holy place this evening. It was as though I had opened a door in my own soul that I had not had the courage to open until now. That was the strangest thing of all: that it seemed to me that I was looking at something which concerned me closely but that I had neglected, and I felt guilty. It was though I had visited relatives with whom my own family had long been at odds, people whom we had denied and avoided, and suddenly a hidden part of my own heritage was revealed to me. I found it difficult to satisfy my eyes. If allowed, I would have remained till midnight, peering about. There before me was Protestantism within which I hitherto had seen only from without. These are the people whose faith and way of life and destiny I had thought was to remain outside. This evening I saw them inside - inside though still outside. I felt that here was spiritual shelter. Although they had separated from the larger flock at the time of the Reformation, observe the heed they paid to the altar, to the altar cloth, to the priest’s vestments, to the rail, to the chapel itself, and observe how they had preserved these and other things. Who would claim that they did not preserve something of faith and sanctity and efficacy? Who would claim that their prayers are not heard?

I have long known a man of this congregation, but I never saw him pray to God until today. I looked on his back and on his grey hair and felt guilty. Why guilty? Because, I suppose, this thing has been happening among us for ages and we closed our eyes firmly to it. I felt also that I had been here before, although I had not. There is a part of Ireland and a part of the Church and a part of me here that exists nowhere else. Simple and not so simple people have been worshipping God, in this way, in this kind of church, for hundreds of years. Behind this worship is one great historical deed: the rejection of the Pope’s authority. It took great courage to risk damnation, but it required even greater faith to believe in the teaching of this severed Church. What a thing a great deed is, be it right or wrong! To do is to live! Think of the suffering, the love, the hate, the bloodshed, the philosophy, the history that followed this deed. All this activity must have contributed greatly to the light of truth.’

I know my own death


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And so made significant . . .
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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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