And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

13 February

John Ruskin,
writer and artist

‘Monday. All day at British museum, drawing Hebrew ornament for my book binding - hardly anything done.’

John Ruskin’s birthdays


Rudyard Kipling,

‘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


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


Pierre Gilliard,

‘The Czar tells me that the demobilisation of the army has begun, several classes having already been disbanded. All the old soldiers (the most friendly) are to leave us. The Czar seems very depressed at this prospect; the change may have disastrous results for us.’

State of mental anguish


George Orwell,

‘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?


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)


Hugh Dalton,

‘Address a public meeting at Battersea. This has been well advertised and is reasonably well attended. But I dislike very much addressing public meetings now. One feels held upon a chain with a row of reporters sitting waiting to pounce upon unguarded phrases. Hinley Atkinson is there and we walk back together, after tea with Douglas and his wife. Atkinson quite understands my feelings. The audience, he says, are always waiting for “those few reckless words” which would warm them up but would make most disastrous headlines. He is a very strong supporter of Maurice Webb for the secretaryship of the Party. I still feel, however, that he can’t get it.’

Uproar in Parliament


Dirk Bogarde,

‘Walk to Edward VII in bitter cold. Buy champagne-splits, toothbrush, soap. F. wants a bath. No soap provided, apparently.

Back to Connaught: interview with rather smooth young man, pleasant, and possibly friendly, but won’t know, as usual, until I see his piece printed. Many a slip between Interview and Article. Take the risk because it is for The Times.’

F. asked for a print or picture to have on wall of his rather spartan room. Wants a ‘Country scene: fields and things, summery: something I can tell myself stories about while I’m lying here. You understand?’ I do. But where to go? Probably Medici tomorrow.

National Film Theatre Lecture. Theo Cowan collects me early at four-thirty. Show sold out with no advertising, which pleases me, but am still terrified. Good audience, clever, alert, good reception as far as I can make out, on stage for two and a quarter hours, which seems quite long, but as always am far too nervous to register anything.

Norah there, John Charlton and wife Susan, Olga (my French agent) comes from Paris, Margaret Hinxman, Gareth F. and many others. All have drinks in gloomy black Refreshment Room, but feel happy all went well. Olga Horstig Primuz amazed, and moved, by the long clip shown from Neal Story which closed show. She can’t imagine why it has never been shown as a film; it looks fantastic on Big Screen.

I can’t imagine why either. Ho hum.’

Forwood valiant and brave


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


David Sedaris,

‘Tonight at Barbara’s Bookstore, Tobias Wolff read from his new memoir, This Boy’s Life. All the seats were taken, so I sat on the floor in the front and tried to act normal. I was too shy to say anything when I got my book signed, afraid that if I started talking, everything inside me would just spill out.

He seemed like a kind person and wore a turtleneck, a plaid shirt, a tweed jacket, and jeans with black socks and running shoes. I have to be his biggest fan.’

Sedaris gets the call


Brian Eno,

‘Peter Greenaway 4.00.

In studio at 8.30. Dreadful crowded bus - trying to read Being Digital in very analogue conditions. Want to start getting some writing done, but worried that I also have to do the Storage press thing - really in the way. But, anyway, in I went to produce a typically stiff and tortuous five pages (double-spaced) which did however open up a few new ideas. Trouble is, as soon as I start thinking I go off into the back alleys and dirt tracks. I’ve found things up there before, and the habit stays.

Greenaway cancelled.

Renata came to clean, but I’d already wrecked the morning by resorting to Photoshop. Meanwhile office calling about ‘Industrial Start Small Plot of Land’, one of the D. B. mixes I’d done, which I couldn’t find. Found another (forgotten) opening. I’m a bit remote from this project at the moment. Back to writing (title: ‘Attention Creates Value’). Dull and pedantic, like a professor. Spoke to Michael re Storage.

Home at 5.30, playing with girls; defrosted sausages in microwave. Andree came over and I made prawns and garlic.

Anthea returned at 7.30 from Zagreb, with lots of lists of bizarre and, she thought, rather suspicious ‘aid’ organizations, all with ‘Freedom’ or ‘Democracy’ or ‘American’ in their titles. WarChild was apparently the only charity present that was active doing something.’

Happy birthday Brian Eno


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