And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

12 December

John Rous,

‘At night as is thought, some West-country packman that had sold all in Norfolk, returned by Thetford, and went towards Barton milles late; but the next morning three horses with pack saddles and two packes were found short of Elden a mile. These horses and packes are seised by the lord of Elden. Some thinke a man is murthered and robbed: some thinke that it a servant that is ridden away on the fourth horse with the mony. The packes were fish, either bought or trucked at Norwich or Yermouth.’

Newes from Cambridge


Ralph Josselin,
priest and farmer

‘Saw a booke esp: of Welsh prophecies, which asserts that Cromwell is the great Conqueror that shall conquer Turke and Pope. I have many yeares on scripture grounds and revolutions judged him or his govermt and successors, but esp. my heart fixt on him, to bee most great; but sad will bee things to Sts and him; this booke of prophecies giveth mee no satisfaction, but perhaps may sett men a gadding to greaten him.’

A boisterous yeare


Cotton Mather,

‘My Son Increase, by a violent and passionate Resentment of an Indignity, which a wicked Fellow offered unto me, has exposed himself to much Danger, and me also to no little Trouble. I must employ this Occasion as much to his Advantage, especially in regard of Piety, as I can.

God graciously gives a good Issue to it.’

Cotton Mather, You Dog


George Washington,

‘Morning Cloudy - Wind at No. Et. & Mer. 33. A large circle round the Moon last Night. About 1 oclock it began to snow - soon after to Hail and then turned to a settled cold Rain. Mer. 28 at Night.’

Washington’s domestic felicity


Gideon Welles,

‘Negro suffrage in the District is the Radical hobby of the moment and is the great object of some of the leaders throughout the Union. At the last session the Senate did not act upon the bill for fear of the popular verdict at the fall elections. Having dodged the issue then, they now come here under Sumner’s lead and say that the people have declared for it.

There is not a Senator who votes for this bill who does not know that it is an abuse and wrong. Most of the negroes of this District are wholly unfit to be electors. With some exceptions they are ignorant, vicious, and degraded, without patriotic or intelligent ideas or moral instincts. There are among them worthy, intelligent, industrious men, capable of voting understandingly and who would not discredit the trust, but they are exceptional cases. As a community they are too debased and ignorant. Yet fanatics and demagogues will crowd a bill through Congress to give them suffrage, and probably by a vote which the veto could not overcome. Nevertheless, I am confident the President will do his duty in that regard. It is pitiable to see how little sense of right, real independence, and what limited comprehension are possessed by our legislators. They are the tame victims and participators of villainous conspirators.’

Neptune’s Civil War


William Crookes,

‘At 2 this morning we passed Cape St. Vincent, and then bowled along well, the wind for almost the first time being of some use. We made this morning 11 knots an hour. In the afternoon we began to look out for Cadiz. Soon white houses and a tali white lighthouse commenced to appear above the waves. “There’s Cadiz,” everyone said, and the ship’s course was altered direct to the lighthouse. As we neared it the houses got higher until we could see a small town, on a low sandy shore appearing. Then a pilot boat put off to us, and a man was seen in it waving his hat violently to attract our attention. “There’s Lord Lindsay,” cried Huggins, who was looking through his aluminium telescope. The word went round, and the ship was stopped. The man came alongside, when, instead of Lord Lindsay, he turned out to be a seedy-looking pilot who could not speak English. We mustered sufficient Spanish, however, to find out that the place was not Cadiz, but that he would take us there. This was a thorough sell, so we gave him a sovereign and bundled him back, and steamed away a little further south. The lighthouse (a new one not on our chart) had misled the master, and the village it seems was Chipiona. As it got dark the lighthouse of Cadiz appeared, but the navigation being difficult, it was thought better to lay to all night at sea. So here we are, some miles from shore, very little wind, and no steam up, rolling about in a helpless manner. We expect to be in Cadiz to-morrow morning by breakfast-time.’

Victorian eclipse diary


Alice James,
sister of writer

‘I wonder, whether, if I had had any education I should have been more, or less, of a fool than I am. It would have deprived me surely of those exquisite moments of mental flatulence which every now and then inflate the cerebral vacuum with a delicious sense of latent possibilities - of stretching oneself to cosmic limits, and who would ever give up the reality of dreams for relative knowledge?’

Geyser of emotions


King George V

‘Reached the Camp at 3.0. Rather tired after wearing the crown for 3½ hours, it hurt my head, as it is pretty heavy . . . Afterwards we held a reception in the large tent, about 5,000 people came, the heat was simply awful. Bed at 11.0 & quite tired.’

Quite a historic occasion


Harold Temperley,

‘Peace - in the words of the German Emperor - scraps of paper to be binding and swords to beaten into spades. A peace-offer by wireless by 4 despotic monarchs in the world, while we still fumble on the backstairs of secret diplomacy. Now I understand why several days ago LG’s private secretary [Philip Kerr] wanted me to write an article on ‘What Peace Means’. That, according to LG, is the greatest danger.’

All change in the Balkans


Albert James Sylvester,
civil servant

‘This afternoon, while the House was in session at Church House, I got news that Lord Lothian had died. I immediately put through a priority telephone call to L.G. and spoke to him personally at Criccieth. He was flabbergasted. He said: ‘I feel as if a shell had fallen at my feet and numbed me. I am glad I saw him. I do not think I noted anything particular about him: he had not quite the vitality which he had. You know how vital he was.’

I said: ‘You know that already your name is being mentioned as his successor.’ 'Ah,’ he said, ‘that would involve a great physical strain.’

I am completely tired of L.G.’s mucking about. The man is doing nothing for his country, and he is just living amongst the clouds, quarrelling with everybody. He has just quarrelled with Willie the gardener at Brynawelon. Willie just went into the kitchen and wrote out his resignation, and sent it upstairs to Dame Margaret. When she asked him to reconsider his decision, he refused. It all arose out of the heating-pipes not been sufficiently warm, according to L.G. Dyer told me that he cursed Willie in Welsh. Workmen were working downstairs in the air-raid shelter and heard it. They were chapel people and had no idea that L.G. could swear and were very shocked. That has gone the round of Criccieth. L.G.’s stock has gone down since he has been living here . . .’

He is a very great man


Peter Scott,
artist and conservationist

‘What a day of days! Tom and I were up at 5. [. . .] We motored to Sinoie, meeting a torrential rain storm, so that the turning down from the main road was a raging milky river. The middle of the road was still mostly above water but the ditches on either side were rising. [. . .]

At 7:15 the flight began. The geese came in great masses about 1.5 to 2km to the north of the road and went down in two principal places, one just over the hill and the other just below a communal tractor and farm machinery station on the hill beyond. The geese made a dark patch on the green of the sprouting wheat in the middle of the field of perhaps 500 acres. Could Whitefronts sit so thick? Such sounds as we could hear gave no conclusive indication of the species though we felt that some at least must be Red-breasted Geese, Branta ruficollis. The weather seemed to be improving with the light. By the end of the flight we thought that between 6 and 7 thousand geese had settled in about three places. None was less than half a mile from us. To give the weather time to improve we moved, when the flight was over, down into the village of Sinoie. We bought a water bottle to supply the little squeegee which cleaned our car windows - the most essential feature for goose-watching and goose-finding in these parts.

Then we returned to the geese. [. . .] There was nothing for it but a long muddy walk. [. . .] So, as we walked up the hill, we bore right through the standing maize stalks, into dead ground. Heavy rain was approaching, and we sat on some stooks for a while to let it pass. Then we plodded on through the maize. We came upon the fresh tracks of a wild boar which had run out of the maize ahead of us. Presently we swung left towards the ridge and towards the geese, and came almost at once to the edge of a sand quarry. We jumped into it and walked across. It offered shelter from the now continuous rain under its upwind overhanging cliff. We moved to the edge overlooking the geese, and it was from this point that our most valuable observations were made. Already there were Whitefronts within 100 yards of us in the maize stubble. These were constantly being joined by Redbreasts. [. . .] Then came the business of assessing their numbers [. . .] the same total was reached 3 times over. It was between 3,800 and 4,000 Red-breasted Geese. [. . .] The total experience of all this was so absorbingly exciting that we scarcely noticed the continuous rain[. . .] we had been with the Redbreasts since dawn - a magical morning, especially when I recall my pre-war Redbreast hunts to Hungary, Romania, Iraq and Persia in the 1930s. [. . .]

It was in every way a superbly eventful day.’

Scott’s wild goose chase


Andreas Ramos,
businessman and writer

‘Everything was out of control. Police on horses watched. There was nothing they could do. The crowd had swollen. People were blowing long alpine horns which made a huge noise. There were fireworks, kites, flags and flags and flags, dogs, children. The wall was finally breaking. The cranes lifted slabs aside. East and West German police had traded caps. To get a better view, hundreds of people were climbing onto a shop on the West German side. We scampered up a nine foot wall. People helped each other; some lifted, others pulled. All along the building, people poured up the wall. At the Berlin Wall itself, which is 3 meters high, people had climbed up and were sitting astride. The final slab was moved away. A stream of East Germans began to pour through. People applauded and slapped their backs.’

The fall of the Wall


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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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