And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

7 August

1510
Luca Landucci,
tradesman

‘There were two earthquakes at 6 in the morning, and at 7 came a third; and the next night there were two more at the same hour of the night. We heard that in the country round Bologna there had been such a severe storm of wind that it destroyed many houses. Think of the consequences to the fruit! At this time the foundations and pavement of the Ponte a Rubiconte were renewed.’

Earthquakes in Florence

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1685
John Evelyn,
writer

I went to see Mr Watts, keeper of the Apothecaries’ garden of simples at Chelsea [now the Chelsea Physic Garden], where there is a collection of innumerable rarities of that sort particularly, besides many rare annuals, the tree bearing Jesuit’s bark, which had done such wonders in quartan agues [fevers/chills]. What was very ingenious was the subterranean heat, conveyed by a stove under the conservatory, all vaulted with brick, so as he has the doors and windows open in the hardest frosts, secluding only the snow.

A most excellent person

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1754
Henry Fielding,
writer and lawyer

‘Lisbon, before which we now lay at anchor, is said to be built on the same number of hills with old Rome; but these do not all appear to the water; on the contrary, one sees from thence one vast high hill and rock, with buildings arising above one another, and that in so steep and almost perpendicular a manner, that they all seem to have but one foundation.

As the houses, convents, churches, &c. are large, and all built with white stone, they look very beautiful at a distance; but as you approach nearer, and find them to want every kind of ornament, all idea of beauty vanishes at once.

While I was surveying the prospect of this city, which bears so little resemblance to any other that I have ever seen, a reflection occurred to me, that if a man was suddenly to be removed from Palmyra hither, and should take a view of no other city, in how glorious a light would the ancient architecture appear to him? and what desolation and destruction of arts and sciences would he conclude had happened between the several areas of these cities?

I had now waited full three hours upon deck, for the return of my man, whom I had sent to bespeak a good dinner (a thing which had been long unknown to me) on shore, and then to bring a Lisbon chaise with him to the sea-shore; but, it seems, the impertinence of the providore was not yet brought to a conclusion. At three o’clock, when I was from emptiness rather faint than hungry, my man returned, and told me, there was a new law lately made, that no passenger should set his foot on shore without a special order from the providore; and that he himself would have been sent to prison for disobeying it, had he not been protected as the servant of the captain. He informed me likewise, that the captain had been very industrious to get this order, but that it was then the providore’s hour of sleep, a time when no man, except the king himself, durst disturb him.

To avoid prolixity, tho’ in a part of my narrative which may be more agreeable to my reader than it was to me, the providore having at last finished his nap, dispatched this absurd matter of form, and gave me leave to come, or rather to be carried, on shore.

What it was that gave the first hint of this strange law is not easy to guess. Possibly, in the infancy of their defection, and before their government could be well established, they were willing to guard against the bare possibility of surprize, of the success of which bare possibility the Trojan horse will remain for ever on record, as a great and memorable example. Now the Portuguese have no walls to secure them, and a vessel of two or three hundred tons will contain a much larger body of troops than could be concealed in that famous machine, tho’ Virgil tells us (somewhat hyperbolically, I believe) that it was as big as a mountain.

About seven in the evening I got into a chaise on shore, and was driven through the nastiest city in the world, tho’ at the same time one of the most populous, to a kind of coffee-house, which is very pleasantly situated on the brow of a hill, about a mile from the city, and hath a very fine prospect of the river Tajo from Lisbon to the sea.

Here we regaled ourselves with a good supper, for which we were as well charged, as if the bill had been made on the Bath road, between Newbury and London.

And now we could joyfully say, “Egressi optata Troes potiuntur arena.”

Therefore in the words of Horace,

“ -–– hic Fines chartaeque viaeque.” ’

Voyage to Lisbon

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1815
George Cockburn,
sailor and politician

‘On reaching the deck [Buonaparte] said to me, “Here I am, Admiral, at your orders!” He then asked to be introduced to the Captain, then asked the names of the different officers and gentlemen upon deck, asked them in what countries they were born and other questions of such trifling import, and he then went into the cabin with Lord Keith and myself, followed by some of his own people. After I had shown him the cabin I had appropriated for his exclusive use and requested him to sit down in the great cabin, he begged me to cause the Lieutenant of the ship to be introduced to him; as, however, at this time his own followers came to take leave of him, I thought it best to leave him for a little while to himself, and I found soon afterwards advantage was taken of this for him to assume exclusive right to the after, or great cabin. When I therefore had finished my letters I went into it again with some of my officers and desired M. de Bertrand to explain to him that the after cabin must be considered as common to us all, and that the sleeping cabin I had appropriated to him could alone be considered as exclusively his. He received this intimation with submission and good humour and soon afterwards went on deck, where he chatted loosely and good-naturedly with everybody.

At dinner he ate heartily of almost every dish, praised everything and seemed most perfectly contented and reconciled to his fate. He talked with me during dinner much on his Russian Campaign, said he meant only to have refreshed his troops at Moscow for four or five days and then to have marched for Petersburg, but the destruction of Moscow subverted all his projects, and he said nothing could have been more horrible than was that campaign; that for several days together it appeared to him as if he were marching through a sea of fire owing to the constant succession of villages in flames which arose in every direction as far as his eye could reach; that this had been by some attributed to his troops but that it was always done by the natives. Many of his soldiers however, he said, lost their lives by endeavouring to pillage in the midst of the flames. He spoke much of the cold during their disastrous retreat, and stated that one night, after he had quitted the army to return to Paris, an entire half of his Guard were frozen to death.’

Napoleon plays whist

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1874
James Calhoun,
soldier writer

‘Travelled through a rich country - high rolling prairie - good arable land, extensive forests of fine timber, principally pine of large growth. Passed several small valleys with beautiful streams of crystal water running through them. A large mountain (grizzly) bear was killed late this afternoon. I should judge its weight to be about 800 lbs. The following named persons shot him: General Custer, USA, Capt W. Ludlow, Engineer Corps, USA, Private Jno Noonan, Co. L. 7th Cavalry, Bloody Knife, Indian scout.

Mr. Illingworth, a photographer of St. Paul, Minn., acompanying the Expedition, took a photograph of the hunters on a high knoll behind the tent of the Commanding Officer.

The Indian also killed a bear.

Abundant supply of wood. In the Black Hills there is no scarcity of timber. Extensive forests of large timber run all through this country, and for this reason I have not mentioned for several days past the fact of wood being found at our camps.

Marched 16 half miles, arrived at Camp No. 29. An excellent stream of water running through camp.

Good grazing.’

Calhoun in the Black Hills

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1885
John William Horsley,
priest

‘A young man, crippled and with only one hand, a friendless clerk, is helped and taken in by Mr. Wheatley, of the St Giles’s Christian Mission. Trusted on an errand with a cheque he absconds. Eventually he gets work at Westminster, and plays his employer the same trick. When no spark of honesty or of gratitude is discoverable, what can be done?’

State-created crime

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1912
William Swabey,
soldier

‘I woke this morning with the most violent and insupportable pain in my head I ever felt, which having endured for some hours, at last turned into a fit of the ague, which I was extremely glad to change for the apprehensions that an alarming fever occasions. Mr. Peach of the 9th Dragoons who attended me, made me immediately get into water during the hot fit, and repeat this operation several times. The getting into water in a fever makes one shudder almost as much as if told to get into a furnace. One of the worst of my complaints was the total want of money, so that I could not even get fruit and wine, that were particularly recommended. When the fit left me after 3 hours, I began to feel a wish to be quietly reposing in some cool spot in England, and it brought to my remembrance every tender recollection and regret. Sickness is at any time bad, but under all my circumstances and with the probability of the army’s moving in which case I could not have stirred, it put me in mind of French prisons, Bayonne and all its horrors.’

Spiritless generals!

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1931
Benjamin Roth,
lawyer

‘Business is at an absolute standstill and the big stores are deserted even tho’ they are all running sales and almost giving the merchandise away. Since the local savings and loan companies stopped paying out, nobody has any money and everybody seems scared and blue. We seem to have touched bottom in Youngstown and it hardly seems possible that things could get worse.’

Banks suspend payments

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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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