And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

18 August

1880
Isaac Albéniz,
composer

‘I have visited Liszt. He received me in the most amiable manner. I played two of my Etudes and a Hungarian Rhapsody. To all appearances he was much pleased with me, especially when I improvised a complete dance on a Hungarian theme which he gave me. He asked me all sorts of questions about Spain, my parents, my religious opinions, and, finally, about music in general. I told him quite frankly and decidedly that I gave no thought to any of those things, which seemed to please him. I am to return the day of after tomorrow.’

Albéniz and Liszt (or not)

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1912
Aleksander Rodchenko,
artist

‘In the evening Mam and I like to sit and talk over tea. I love it when she tells stories. The lamp. . . A little samovar . . . Her father was a sailor, served twenty-five years. He was a small, nimble man with a pointed beard and gray eyes. He married a girl from a rich peasant home. And left for the Turkish campaign . . . Their ship was destroyed, and he floated on the wreckage with other sailors, there were fifteen of them. They floated for a long time, three days, hungry and cold. They were taken on board a ship and brought home. Her papa was sick for a long time . . . He was given a job at a gunpowder factory, where he worked stuffing the cartridges with gunpowder. But he soon died . . . They had to go to Petersburg, where my Mama’s mama took up a position. Mama was given away for one chervonets, she was seven years old. . . She babysat the kids. And that’s how her life began . . .’

Photos to surprise and amaze

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1938
Bertolt Brecht,
writer

‘by offering only formal criteria for realism LUKÁCS, whose significance is that he writes from moscow, is in the final estimate handing readers who are avid to learn on a plate to those famous contemporary bourgeois novelists on whom he has bestowed great, if slightly embarrassed compliments, because they display the said formal features (even if they are not so ‘happy’, ‘pure’ and ‘creative’ as the old masters of the great early period). they become his realists (he allays any suspicion by contrasting them with a form of ‘decadence’, to which DOS passos and presumably i too belong), whose descriptions exclude the class struggle (‘do not not take sufficiently into account’, ‘do not yet fully encompass’), so that the reader himself then has to unravel the complicated reflections which the ‘decadents’ incorporate in their books, the very reflections which establish that the events depicted derive from the class struggle. they all display LUKÁCS’S hallmarks, HEINRICH MANN presents such a ‘tangle’ of different human fates in his HENRI QUATRE that nobody can find his way around in it, and doesn’t his brother THOMAS unfold the ‘whole life of the biblical joseph’ in all its ultimate fullness! in HAMSUN we have ‘very involved, very indirect relationships’ by the dozen, the class struggle is less in evidence in all three, but naturally we can add that for ourselves, for ‘in the last resort’ everything is class struggle, such obtuseness is monumental.’

The concept of decadence

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1952
Charles Ritchie,
diplomat

‘With me love for a woman is always linked with a need to betray that love; a compulsion which I dread and desire. But there are times when that interminable dialogue of marriage seems interminable. It gives one a feeling of pure pain to think that it must go on and on and on. I am pretty sure that I should feel that whoever I had married.’

V happy with E

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1955
Evelyn Waugh,
writer

‘The original day’s visit to Birmingham to see the Pre-Raphaelites became extended. With Laura, Teresa, Margaret and £30 we drove off in the afternoon. A letter to propose our stopping at Stanway brought no answer so I presumed Letty Benson to be away. I also wrote to Lady Olivier telling her we shall be in the audience on Friday. We stopped in Evesham while the children had tea. As we approached Birmingham the evening became hotter and heavier. Birmingham was humid and over- powering. We arrived at Queen’s Hotel where I found that our rooms for the night would cost £9. The children had ‘bubble’ baths, the salts for which we had purchased in Cheltenham. Laura and I drank Pimm’s No. 1 Cup in the cocktail bar where there was a cool breeze and an intoxicated dwarf. A ham sandwich and then on foot to the theatre where we sweated through a tedious farce. Back to dinner. The servants very civil in the hotel, the rooms poky, airless and shabby. But the girls in high spirits.’

Waugh’s appalling diaries

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1965
Peter Pears,
singer

‘After our expedition to Pushkin’s memorial, Ben spent 24 hours in bed with tummy in extremis. Every imaginable remedy was proferred and taken, Alka-Seltzer, Enterobioform, manganese in solution and stewed pomegranate leaves. All of which, in ensemble, proved effective and Ben was OK in 48 hours. Well enough, yesterday, to go for a gentle drive down the river past Dilidjan to Idjevan, through high mountains of bare rock on the west side and craggy bristling rocky precipices all covered over with forest on the east side. Superb trees of all sorts, and willows in the rushing, clear pebbly water. Our driver has been chastened and we went seldom more than 30 mph. It was, of course, much more pleasant and we could really look at this superb and ‘horrid’ country.

Ben’s two days’ hors de combat, one in bed and one on the sofa, produced, as it so often does, intense creative energy. He has now just written his 5th Pushkin song, and Galya, who is to sing them, heard them for the first time this afternoon. She was deeply affected, as I knew she would be, and wants to get at them at once. Slava, too, was highly excited. I am pegging on at the translations.

Last night after dinner we had heard a record of Edik Mirzoyan’s Symphony for Strings and Timps on a very bad gramophone which didn’t give the work much chance, to his distress. It has some nice sounds and is felt and tense, though the last movement was played too slow and sounded ineffective. Tonight another leading residing composer is going to play a piece of his to us.’

Peter Pears centenary

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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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The Diary Junction is one of those wonderful privately maintained public resources for which the Internet is justly celebrated: a database of information about celebrated and obscure diaries[over 500] from all historical periods, with referrals to the dates the diaries cover, where the originals are held and bibliographic information on published versions.’ Laura Miller, Salon

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