And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

21 August

1592
Duke of Württemberg

‘In the afternoon his Highness was conducted to see the grand and truly beautiful royal Palace called Hampton Court.

Now this is the most splendid and most magnificent royal Palace of any that may be found in England - or, indeed, in any other kingdom. It comprises ten different large courts, and as many separate royal or princely residences, but all connected; together with many beautiful gardens both for pleasure and ornament - some planted with nothing but rosemary; others laid out with various other plants, which are trained, intertwined, and trimmed in so wonderful a manner, and in such extraordinary shapes, that the like could not easily be found. In short, all the apartments and rooms in this immensely large structure are hung with rich tapestry, of pure gold and fine silk, so exceedingly beautiful and royally ornamented that it would hardly be possible to find more magnificent things of the kind in any other place. In particular, there is one apartment belonging to the Queen, in which she is accustomed to sit in state, costly beyond everything; the tapestries are garnished with gold, pearls, and precious stones - one tablecover alone is valued at above fifty thousand crowns - not to mention the royal throne, which is studded with very large diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and the like, that glitter among other precious stones and pearls as the sun among the stars.

Many of the splendid large rooms are embellished with masterly paintings, writing-tables inlaid with mother-of-pearl, organs, and musical instruments, which her Majesty is particularly fond of. Among other things to be seen there, are life-like portraits of the wild man and woman whom Martin Forbisser the English captain, took in his voyage to the New World, and brought alive to England.

In the middle of the first and principal court stands a splendid high and massy fountain, with an ingenious water-work, by which you can, if you like, make the water play upon the ladies and others who are standing by, and give them a thorough wetting.

34 heads on London Bridge

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1674
John Evelyn,
writer

In one of the meadows at the foot of the long Terrace below the Castle [Windsor], works were thrown up to show the King a representation of the city of Maestricht, newly taken by the French. Bastians, bulwarks, ramparts, palisadoes, graffs, horn-works, counter-scarps, etc., were constructed. It was attacked by the Duke of Monmouth (newly come from the real siege) and the Duke of York, with a little army, to show their skill in tactics. On Saturday night they made their approaches, opened trenches, raised batteries, took the counter-scarp and ravelin, after a stout defense; great guns fired on both sides, grenadoes shot, mines sprung, parties sent out, attempts of raising the siege, prisoners taken, parleys; and, in short, all the circumstances of a formal siege, to appearance, and, what is most strange all without disorder, or ill accident, to the great satisfaction of a thousand spectators. Being night, it made a formidable show. The siege being over, I went with Mr Pepys back to London, where we arrived about three in the morning.

A most excellent person

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1789
William Wilberforce,
politician

‘After breakfast to see Chedder [Gorge]. Intended to read, dine, &c. amongst the rocks, but could not get rid of the people; so determined to go back again. The rocks very fine. Had some talk with the people, and gave them something - grateful beyond measure - wretchedly poor and deficient in spiritual help. I hope to amend their state.’

God’s work against slavery

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1804
Thomas Asline Ward,
young man

‘And now, London, I must bid thee “Farewell.” Thou art the centre of Good and Evil, of Virtue and Vice! How many and how various are the characters which inhabit they walls! How magnificent thy palaces! How mean they cottages! How miserable some, how happy others! Some fatten on the spoils of poverty, others starve in the midst of plenty. How many thousands are insufficient to supply the luxury of some, while others want a crust of bread to satiate the calls of hunger!’

City of virtue and vice

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1885
Rudyard Kipling,
writer

‘Dinner with Tarleton Young at his chummery. Where met one LeMaistre who is a womans mind small and mean featured. He may be decent enough for aught I know. Usual philander in Gardens. Home to count the risks of my resolution.’

Something of myself

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1892
Beatrix Potter,
writer

‘Went into the garden immediately after breakfast, but saw nothing of the wild rabbit except its tracks. Benjamin’s mind has at last comprehended gooseberries, he stands up and picks them off the bush, but has such a comical little mouth, it is a sort of bob cherry business.’

Beatrix and Benjamin

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1897
Thomas Cobden-Sanderson,
craftsman

‘How superbly beautiful the river is at this moment! There is a high wind blowing the surface into innumerable ripples, each of which catches instantly and reflects a dazzling gleam from the sun, so that there are as it were countless diamonds at play, reflecting and deflecting rays of brightest light, so that the river’s face is an ever shifting [. . .]

What I should like to convey is the intense energy, sparkling, crisping, into moments of whitest, brightest light, again and again and again, everywhere over the surface of the outstretched sheet of water.

Education: shall we at last transform it, and with it our vision of and dealings with the world? Shall we have the energy of the light I see in dazzling brilliance playing upon the reflecting facets of the water, and play with the earth our home, and its dwelling-place, the infinite voids of space? Education will be transformed. “Arts and crafts” will invade and overcome literature and science and commerce, and with our own eyes we shall re-see the universe, and with our own hands and brains we shall re-create it afresh.

My writing splutters and fails of the mark.’

Innumerable ripples; countless diamonds

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1914
Franz Kafka,
writer

‘Began with such hope and was then repulsed by all three stories; today more so than ever. It may be true that the Russian story ought to be worked on only after The Trial. In this ridiculous hope, which apparently has only some mechanical notion behind it of how things work, I start The Trial again - The effort wasn’t entirely without result.’

I am entirely alone

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1950
Kenneth Williams,
actor and writer

‘Dreary day spent watching the lousiest production of ‘Seagull’ in rehearsal. It was monumentally boring. Can’t see it EVER being a success. CE [Clifford Evans] in London, R [Richard West, assistant director] rehearsing company. Very dreary for him. Performance in evening bad. Lousy house.’

Carry on carping

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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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