And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

24 February

1748
Thomas Gyll,
lawyer

‘The lady of George Bowes, esq., one of the knights of the shire for the county of Durham, was brought to bed of a daughter at his house in London. She was the only daughter of Thomas Gilbert, a merchant in London, and this was her first child after a marriage of six or seven years.’

Who died the last week

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1800
Joseph Farington,
artist

‘This day the greatest calamity that could fall upon me I suffered in the death of the best, the most affectionate, the most amiable of woemen, my beloved wife. Unexpected indeed was the blow, long had I reason to consider her delicate frame with apprehension, but as she had encountered the severity of many winters so I fondly hoped she might do this and that a more favorable season would restore Her strength. The time was now come when this hope was to be fruitless. Yesterday evening she was declared to be better, but in the night a change took place & at 3 o’clock this day I witnessed the departure of what I held most dear on earth. Without a sigh, with the appearance of only gentle sleep, did my beloved expire, to be received by that God to whom Her duty had been exemplary. May He in his mercies dispose my heart to follow the example of Her who discharged every duty so as to excite the love & respect of all, so that those remaining years which it may please God to allow to me may be devoted to His service and I may be rendered fit to hope for the mercies of my Creator through the mediation of Jesus Christ our blessed Lord Saviour.’

Farington, painter and diarist

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1838
Edward Hodges Cree,
surgeon

‘Fine morning with breeze from south. Passed Zembra early and afterwards inside the Canes Rocks signalled the Rhadamanthus with mails for Gibraltar. In afternoon we were between Galite and the African coast going 7 knots. The wind hot and sultry and a lurid glare spread under a bank of inky clouds in the west. The barometer was falling rapidly. The clouds gradually formed an arch across the sky and suddenly the squall came on most furiously, taking us aback. Fortunately we had not many sails set and these were soon furled. The wind increased in violence and we made no headway by all our steaming. A heavy swell was getting up from the west. At night the storm raged most furiously and the wind screeched amongst the rigging, the vivid lightning flashed and thunder rolled and heavy driving rain. The sea ran very high and the poor little Firefly rolled as if she would have gone over. The night was very dark and we were not far from the black rocks of Galite. It was a night of trouble and anxiety.’

Pirate hunting expedition

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1857
Henry D. Thoreau,
philosopher and scientist

‘A fine spring morning. The ground is almost completely bare again. There has been a frost in the night. Now, at 8.30, it is melted and wets my feet like a dew. The water on the meadow this still, bright morning is smooth as in April. I am surprised to hear the strain of a song sparrow from the riverside, and as I cross from the causeway to the hill, thinking of the bluebird, I that instant hear one’s note from deep in the softened air. It is already 40°, and by noon is between 50° and 60°. As the day advances I hear more bluebirds and see their azure flakes settling on the fence-posts. Their short, rich, crispy warble curls through the air. Its grain now lies parallel to the curve of the bluebird’s warble, like boards of the same lot. It seems to be one of those early springs of which we have heard but have never experienced. Perhaps they are fabulous. I have seen the probings of skunks for a week or more. I now see where one has pawed out the worm-dust or other chankings from a hole in base of a walnut and torn open the fungi, etc., there, exploring for grubs or insects. They are very busy these nights.

If I should make the least concession, my friend would spurn me. I am obeying his law as well as my own.

Where is the actual friend you love ? Ask from what hill the rainbow’s arch springs! It adorns and crowns the earth.

Our friends are our kindred, of our species. There are very few of our species on the globe.

Between me and my friend what unfathomable distance! All mankind, like motes and insects, are between us.

If mv friend says in his mind, I will never see you again, I translate it of necessity into ever. That is its definition in Love’s lexicon.

Those whom we can love, we can hate; to others we are indifferent.

P. M. - To Walden. The railroad in the Deep Cut is dry as in spring, almost dusty. The best of the sand foliage is already gone. I walk without a greatcoat. A chickadee with its winter lisp flits over, and I think it is time to hear its phebe note, and that instant it pipes it forth. Walden is still covered with thick ice, though melted a foot from the shore.

The French (in the Jesuit Relations) say fil de l’eau for that part of the current of a river in which any floating thing would be carried, generally about equidistant from the two banks. It is a convenient expression, for which I think we have no equivalent.’

Get my boat out the cellar.’

Cows in the river

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1944

Hugh Dalton, politician

‘Lunch with Mrs Phillimore and two Frenchmen. One, recently arrived from France, says that ‘the resistance’ is not divided into political parties but is more prepared, probably, than we in England for large changes after the war, both in the direction of European ‘federation’ - in loose form, e.g. unification of currency, transport services, etc. - and internally in Socialist direction, especially through public ownership of heavy industry. He thinks Germany should be admitted from the start to any new international organisation, but with very low status, this only being raised to that of other members gradually and in accord with German good behaviour. He thinks countries on the Atlantic seaboard will be much more stable and closely bound to England than anything to the east. He is not hopeful about south-east Europe.

Afterwards I go back with Attlee, who says that he and others today protested to the P.M. about last night’s pandemonium in Cabinet and the impossible position in which our officials were now placed. P.M. said he thought we were really all agreed on three things: (1) no return to the gold standard, (2) no abolition, or even reduction, of Imperial Preference, except in return for sufficient tariff concessions by Americans, and (3) no increase in the price of food by taxation. He inveighed again, with great emphasis, on this third point. Anderson said that these three points would suit him and the P.M. said he would issue a short Minute.’

Uproar in Parliament

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1945
Alexander Cadogan,
civil servant

‘3.15 walked into Green Park. Spent about 5 mins watching a baseball match. It’s the silliest - and the dullest - game I’ve ever seen. I’d sooner play dominoes with mangold wurzels. Back at the F.O. about 4. Yellow crocuses well out, some purple in flower and a few white. Forsythia just showing yellow. Not too much work. Home at 7.’

Went to see P.M. (in bed)

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1978
Bernard Donoughue,
politician

‘My view is that we must establish an image of [Margaret] Thatcher [then the leader of the opposition] as a dangerous woman who will divide our society and create trouble. We are doing this now over immigration. Instead of ducking this issue, as many have advised, I have pressed the PM to take it head-on and attack her for inciting racial hatred - and so causing violence on the streets. We will not win any votes on the immigration issue this way: Thatcher will gain a lot on that in the short run. But I hope that in the long run we can broaden it out to her disadvantage. So we shall show that she is abrasive and divisive on industrial relations, confronting the trade unions. And on Scottish devolution. And on social security casualties - ‘scroungers etc’. And on the unemployed - attacking redundancy payments.’

Donoughue’s Downing Street play

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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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