And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

13 February

1885
Rudyard Kipling,
writer

‘Scrap. Musketry schools. Annotated Prejvalsky’s explorations in Thibet - and rec’d bellew’s Sanitary Report for notes of the week. Typhoid at home went in today: Mem scrap on Rai Kanega Lall and design for town hall must be done tomorrow.’

Something of myself

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1888
Friedrich von Holstein,
civil servant

‘When Radolinski informed the Kaiser on Thursday that the Crown Prince was to be operated on, the old gentleman wept a good deal, said ‘my poor, poor son’, but slept well all night. In all three generations of that family warmth of feeling is very under-developed.

When the Kaiser celebrated his birthday recently the Crown Prince arrived a quarter of an hour before he was expected. The Kaiserin asked him in a hectoring tone: ‘What are you doing here? Why, the Kaiser is not ready yet’ - and the Crown Prince had to wait outside.

The Crown Prince, although he is the only man of sensibility in the whole family, did not refrain from making waspish remarks about his parents’ longevity. ‘You’ll see’, he said in great irritation to someone the day the corner-stone of the Reichstag building was laid, ‘my father will live to see the building dedicated.’ On another occasion he said: ‘I was standing in the White Room yesterday evening’ - a ball had been held - ‘when I heard something behind me rattling. I looked round, it was my mother. She’s so skinny now that her old bones fairly rattle. But that does not keep her at home. She must put in an appearance even though she’s got one foot in the grave.’

Prince Wilhelm’s attitude to his father’s illness is purely businesslike. Between him and his mother there is fierce hatred. Recently on her son’s birthday she refused to drink to his health.

Except for a few fanatics no one now imagines that the Crown Prince has anything but cancer. And if it is cancer, then, so the doctors think, it will probably be all over by the 1st of April. His strength has declined very rapidly during the past four weeks.

The Chancellor’s speech is a masterpiece of rhetoric. Its contents are admittedly open to criticism in places by the specialist, whether he is a soldier or a diplomatist. The Chancellor felt that himself, which explains why he flattered the officers, the noncommissioned officers, the muscular stalwarts of the reserves, the whole nation in fact. As a result his speech has been a great success at home, and has done less harm abroad than I had feared.

It has made no difference to the general situation. The hatred and mistrust in certain quarters remain as strong as ever. Perhaps we shall keep the peace this year, during which we shall be exposed to the danger of seeing our alliances dissolved.’

The Gray Eminence

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1936
George Orwell,
writer

‘Housing conditions in Wigan terrible. Mrs H tells me that at her brother’s house (he is only 25, so I think he must be her half-brother, but he has already a child of 8), 11 people, five of them adults, belonging to 3 different families, live in 4 rooms, ‘2 up 2 down’. All the miners I meet have either had serious accidents themselves or have friends or relatives who have. Mrs H’s cousin had his back broken by a fall of rock - “And he lingered seven year afore he dies and it were a-punishing of him all the while” - and her brother-in-law fell 1200 feet down the shaft of a new pit. Apparently he bounced from side to side, so was presumably dead before he got to the bottom. Mrs H adds: “They wouldn’t never have collected t’pieces only he were wearing a new suit of oilskins.” ’

When DID Orwell start a diary?

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1942
Alexander Cadogan,
civil servant

‘German battle-cruisers eluded us and must be home by now. Another blow. Poor Winston must be in a state.’

Went to see P.M. (in bed)

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1988
Theodore M. Hesburgh,
priest and administrator

‘En Route to Milford Sound. We awoke to another slightly overcast day, about 75 to 80 degrees on deck, but getting warmer. The sea is calm. There is only a slight 5-knot wind coming in from the east. We are cruising down the west coast of South Island, having come almost 500 miles since leaving Wellington last night. We’re moving along at 28.5 knots.

This morning we passed Mount Cook. At about 12,000 feet, it is the highest point in New Zealand. As we made our way down the coast toward Milford Sound, the coastline was about twenty miles off our port side, very mountainous, like the coast of Chile, with some snowcapped peaks as well.

Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound the eighth wonder of the world. It was formed many millions of years ago when the sea flooded a giant glacial valley. It’s really a fjord that is dominated by a miter peak over a mile high. Pembroke Peak is even a bit higher. From these two peaks, precipitous rock walls plunge deeply into the water. The water is 180 feet deep at the entrance to the sound and 1,680 feet deep at its head.

Fog descended down off the peaks, along with rain, as we approached the head of the sound. Nevertheless, we were able to make out the Milford Sound Hotel and most of the outstanding sights along the way. The scenery was quite spectacular, much like the Norwegian fjords. When we reached the middle of the fjord, we turned around and retraced our route. At 45 degrees south, Milford Sound is the farthest south we will sail on our journey across the world, although we’ll come close to this latitude as we round the bottom of Australia near Melbourne.

Two pastoral consultations took about an hour and a half today. With this many people and particularly the age group, which seems to average around sixty-five, one encounters a wide variety of problems - but opportunities too. Ned and I generally wear a cross on our coat collars, as military chaplains do, so people will know what we’re about, even if they have no need for our services. Cardinal Suahard of Paris expressed it very well, I think, when he spoke of the effect one can have merely by being visible. He called it “the apostolate of one’s presence.” Or as my old Holy Cross friend Charley Sheedy used to say, “Just being there helps.” ’

To smell the roses

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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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