And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

16 August

1663
Henry Newcome,
priest

‘I rose about 7. Wrot hard all ye forenoone. Wee dined at Mr Buxton’s. I was foolishly vexed wth envey & folly. I heard today yt a new complaint was gotten to Chester agst mee, wch a freinde hath prevented at ye chardge of 12s 6d. Mr Illingworth wth mee a while.’

The nonconformist Newcome

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1677
Robert Hooke,
scientist

‘Smart here about Hold, a note to be at East India house tomorrow. To founders in Bedlam for 2 ballances. Sent Tom to Scowen. At Sir Chr. Wrens. Passd Mr. Marshalls bill for Coleman street. Dind with Marshall and Oliver. to Rowlisons at Miter. At Home, Henshaw, Hoskins, Hill, Hawk, Whistler, Aubery. At the Crown, Sir Christopher told of killing the wormes with burnt oyle (elsewhere mentiond) and of curing his Lady of a thrush by hanging a bag of live boglice about her neck. Discoursed about theory of the Moon which I explained. Sir Christopher told his way of solving Keplers problem by the Cycloeid.’

Boglice round the neck

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1804
Thomas Asline Ward,
young man

‘After a long and fatiguing day’s business I accompanied Mrs Dalby to Vauxhall Gardens, where a great number of people were assembled, it being a Gala Night on account of the Duke of York’s birthday. We first noticed the orchestra, which is erected amidst trees, and ornamented by coloured lamps in various forms and devices. A band of music and some of the first singers in town occupied it, and at the time we entered Mrs Bland was singing. In a short time they left the orchestra for a little repose, and it was occupied by the Duke of York’s military band which played several martial spirit-stirring airs. 10 o’clock arrived and suddenly a bell rang which announced an exhibition of waterworks, after which the restless auditors and spectators again flocked to the orchestra, which was again the theatre of singing til’ 12 o’clock, when they finally concluded, and the fireworks commenced. After this spectacle the gardens are generally a scene of merriment and jollity. The Pandeans, German, Turkish and military bands are stationed in various parts of the place, and some of them are continually playing, while parties of joyful visitors “trip it on the light fantastic toe.” Here might be seen fat clumsy boors dancing with the taper, light London Miss, a jumble of oddity and levity truly ridiculous. Long covered promenades (with little cells in which were spread a profusion of refreshments) served to protect the votary of pleasure from dire effects of the midnight air, which many, more ardent, braved in the dark green alleys, whose cool and kindly shade afforded a charming retreat to the lovers of darkness. Should the pitiless rain intrude its unwelcome patter, all take refuge in a large room which is elegantly fitted up with various patriotic and emblematic devices, where the walk, the dance, the music, and the supper, continually offer themselves to the senses. The lights, the transparencies, the trees, the magic-resembling, fairy-like whole, formed for me a truly new scene. Mrs D and I retired 2 hours before the usual time it closes, which is 4 o’clock.’

City of virtue and vice

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1840
William Charles Macready,
actor

‘Went to dine with Dickens, and was witness to a most painful scene after dinner. Forster, Maclise and myself were the guests. Forster got on to one of his headlong streams of talk (which he thinks argument) and waxed warm, and at last some sharp observations led to personal retorts between him and Dickens. He displayed his usual want of tact, and Dickens flew into so violent a passion as quite to forget himself and give Forster to understand that he was in his house, which he should be glad if he would leave. Forster behaved very foolishly. I stopped him; spoke to both of them and observed that for an angry instant they were about to destroy a friendship valuable to both. I drew from Dickens the admission that he had spoken in passion and would not have said what he said, could he have reflected; but he added he could not answer for his temper under Forster’s provocations, and that he should do just the same again. Forster behaved very weakly; would not accept the repeated acknowledgment communicated to him that Dickens regretted the passion, etc., but stayed, skimbling-skambling a parcel of unmeaning words, and at last finding he could obtain no more, made a sort of speech, accepting what he had before declined. He was silent and not recovered no wonder! during the whole evening. Mrs Dickens had gone out in tears. It was a very painful scene.’

A surprising man

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1856
Wilhelm Bleek,
scientist

‘Saturday 16th August. The king gave a big beer-drinking party, from which many of the chiefs returned towards evening in more than merry mood, u Mnayamane demonstrated this usually by beating his wives and young men, while Masipula did not show it so obviously, but his servants had to approach him very obediently. One of the chiefs un Nkalakuwa was bold enough to tell him, ‘ndakiwe’ (you are drunk) whereupon Masipula said very indignantly, ‘ndakive [sie!] wena’ (you are drunk yourself).

Father of African philology

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1874
James Calhoun,
soldier writer

‘Saw Indians on the right intercepted by Bloody Knife and Cold Hand, who report that six (6) bands of hostile Indians are encamped on the east side of the Little Missouri awaiting to attack this command on its return march. These Indians, four (4) in number, belong to Cheyenne Agency.

Travelled nearly north. At noon arrived at the “Belle Fourche River.” The wagons were loaded with wood and water. Our general direction is towards “Slave Butte.”

Calhoun in the Black Hills

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1910
Jean Sibelius,
composer

‘When will I get this development finished? i.e. be able to concentrate my mind and have the stamina to carry it all through. I managed when I had cigars and wine, but now I have to find new ways. I must!’

An inner confession

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1914
Robert Charles Benchley,
writer and actor

‘Japan has jumped in now and given Germany till August 20 to get out of Kaeow Chow. It is something of the “kick-him-in-the-teeth-he-ain’t-got-no-friends” attitude, and “come-on-in-and-get-a-piece-while-the-getting-is-good.”

I hope not a ‘what it was’

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1937
Zorina Gray,
actress

‘Mama has bought a horse! You would think we are rich as Croesus. She is in seventh heaven. The horse is a thoroughbred and sweet - rode him in the afternoon and Balanchine watched. In the evening George and I went to the recording session of Alfred Newman, and I became angry because George whispered in my car, “What awful music,” and then said to Newman, “Very good.” Saw the test for Romeo and Juliet - adagio was beautiful, but the costume for jazz section awful.’

My knees felt like macaroni

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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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