And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

18 December

1810
Marie-Henri Beyle (Stendhal),
writer

‘My faith, it it’s coquetry, I’m caught, if you can call it being caught to experience keen pleasure.

There were fifteen or twenty people present, they were about to start some games; she was beside the fireplace, two women kept me from approaching her. She came over to me with that decision given by a keen desire to which one yields, in order to come over to me she took four or five steps, and stopped to speak to me in the middle of the salon. I’m not very sure what she said to me, I didn’t pay much attention to it; in this salon I was like a prince who is vain and who finds himself among people to whom his ribbons, his orders and all his dignitaries are invisible. I happened to be near the sofa to the right of the door, I was playing with the children to give myself countenance. She suddenly came over, seated herself beside me and said: “Mama told me to ask you if it’s true that the louis is going to be demonetized the first of January etc. . .” (not altogether said in those terms).

I replied, and at once the conversation turned to what interested us. Her face, on which the expression of feeling is extremely rare, had such a look of loving me, and her eyes regarded me with so much happiness that I restrained myself just as I was about to take her hand. We happened to change places a moment later, and, while seated, she spoke to three ladies who were standing up, I at her side. A man was mentioned, and she asked, “Is he young? Is he amiable? Does he look intelligent?” with the liveliest and warmest expression of happy love. She congratulated herself on her choice and took pleasure in praising, in his presence, the lover to whom hasn’t yet confessed her love, and, as she talked, in urging him to be aggressive. Her face was animated and full of passion. Her soul seemed to be stirred. If, during the past year, she’d had a quarter of this expression in one of our languishing tete-a-tete, it would at once have become delightful. I looked at her fondly, and her soul being stirred, she must have read in mine.

Surely it was the fredetto that was beginning to take effect. Every time she told me that she’d be home she added a phrase begging me to come to see her.

In all the time I’ve known her, this was the day when I saw the most ardent expression of love in her. Things had reached a point where all would have been over at once if we’d been alone.’

Pinch their thighs

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1821
Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville,
civil servant

‘I came to town, went to Brighton yesterday se’nnight for a Council.

I was lodged in the Pavilion and dined with the King. The gaudy splendour of the place amused me for a little and then bored me. The dinner was cold and the evening dull beyond all dulness. They say the King is anxious that form and ceremony should be banished, and if so it only proves how impossible it is that form and ceremony should not always inhabit a palace. The rooms are not furnished for society, and, in fact, society cannot flourish without ease; and who can feel at ease who is under the eternal constraint which etiquette and respect impose?

The King was in good looks and good spirits, and after dinner cut his jokes with all the coarse merriment which is his characteristic. Lord Wellesley did not seem to like it, but of course he bowed and smiled like the rest. I saw nothing very particular in the King’s manner to Lady Conyngham. He sat by her on the couch almost the whole evening, playing at patience, and he took her in to dinner; but Madame de Lieven and Lady Cowper were there, and he seemed equally civil to all of them. I was curious to see the Pavilion and the life they lead there, and I now only hope I may never go there again, for the novelty is past, and I should be exposed to the whole weight of the bore of it without the stimulus of curiosity.’

The King’s bathing habits

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1865
John Adams,
politician

‘How great is my Loss, in neglecting to keep a regular journal, through the last Spring, Summer, and Fall. In the Course of my Business, as a Surveyor of High-Ways, as one of the Committee, for dividing, planning, and selling the North-Commons, in the Course of my two great journeys to Pounalborough and Marthas Vineyard, and in several smaller journeys to Plymouth, Taunton and Boston, I had many fine Opportunities and Materials for Speculation. The Year 1765 has been the most remarkable Year of my Life. That enormous Engine, fabricated by the british Parliament, for battering down all the Rights and Liberties of America, I mean the Stamp Act, has raised and spread, thro the whole Continent, a Spirit that will be recorded to our Honour, with all future Generations. In every Colony, from Georgia to New Hampshire inclusively, the Stamp Distributors and Inspectors have been compelled, by the unconquerable Rage of the People, to renounce their offices. Such and so universal has been the Resentment of the People, that every Man who has dared to speak in favour of the Stamps, or to soften the detestation in which they are held, how great soever his Abilities and Virtues had been esteemed before, or whatever his fortune, Connections and Influence had been, has been seen to sink into universal Contempt and Ignominy.’

A spirit to our honour

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1913
Gertrude Bell,
writer and archaeologist

‘Fine, cold, snow on the hills. We took 2 hrs 20 min. to get off. Left at 8.35 and had an hour’s bad struggle through the muddy zera’ the camels falling down at intervals. When we were S. of the Roman camp our rafiq joined us, Hamad al Lafi of the Ghiyath. The latter seem to be gom with everyone except the Sayyad and the Jumlan who are fellah tribes of Damascus. But, being with us he does not fear to meet the B. Hassan with whom he is gom. We want one of them as a rafiq. He goes with us for a mej. a day. The big chiefs of the Hasenneh are Sa’ad and Muhammad ibn Milhem who receive ma’ash from the Govt. The B. Hassan are a new group; they were once part of the Ghiyath. We got into the volcanic country at 11.30 and marched over broken ground straight onto a tell called el ‘Abd which we reached at 2.30 and found a muddy rain pool where we filled our girbehs. Grass growing between the stones and on the patches of low ground which are free of stones. A man of the Jumlan Sayyad rode out to see who we were; they are camped to the S. of us under the hog’s back which was my first bearing, 102° from ‘Adra. Got into camp at 4 in a low patch with the Saigal tells immediately in front of us. Beautiful sunset glow. We saw one of the Dumairis at his husbandry. He sowed first and ploughed afterwards. The Jumlani Sayyadi was much surprised to see me, but I offered no explanations. Excellent mushrooms-fitr. We saw a good deal of naitu today but there are no shajar tonight.’

The Arabian Diaries

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1917
Alfred A Cunningham,
aviator

‘Got up frozen stiff. The weather fairly clear. Persuaded a French pilot of a biplane fighting Spad to take me over the lines. We went up like an elevator and talk about speed! Wk were over the lines in no time and I was all eyes. The archies bursting near us worried me some and made it hard to look all the time for boches. I saw something to one side that looked like a fountain of red ink. Found it was the machine gun tracer bullets from the ground. After a few minutes we sighted a boche 2 seater just below us. We made for him. It was the finest excitement I ever had. I got my machine gun ready. Before we got to him he dived and headed for home. On 1 of our rolls I let loose a couple of strings of 6 at him but it was too far for good shooting. After following him a ways over the lines we turned to look for another. None were out so we came home. Finest trip I ever had. If the boche had not turned quite so soon, I think I might have got him. Watched pilots doing stunts in afternoon. At about 8 p.m. we were huddled around a small fire in the hut when we heard 3 boche machines fly over very low. Two of them did not locate our place and went on. We went outside and saw the other 1 flying around trying to locate the hangars so we made for the machine gun pit. He finally flew down the line and let go a couple of bombs, as he came over we opened on him but the gun jammed and no one could fix it in the dark. He made 3 trips and let go 2 bombs each trip. Then he left us. We found he had dropped them all in the woods and no machines were hurt. We went back and tried to sleep but every time a big gun would go off I thought it was another raid. I am writing this Wednesday night with my hands blue from cold. There is certainly no lack of excitement around here.’ [Front of the 4th French army]

Baggage and Boche

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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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