And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

27 February

1729
John Byrom,
poet and landowner

‘Called upon Mr Stanley, he began, paid five guineas, and promised no soul living should see it but himself; I showed him the way of coming at the alphabet, and left him to blunder by himself, and appointed to call on him to-morrow at nine. Thence to the Guildhall, met Woolston, who told me that he should not be tried to-day, because the Attorney General was not there; called upon Mr Lethuillier and drank a dish of chocolate with him; thence to Meadow’s, who put four Knight Errants in my pocket, and desired me to send them something, a poor introduction to such a design. I went to Will’s coffeehouse to enquire for Mr Salkeld, not there; I wrote shorthand in answer to Phebe and Mrs Byrom. To Richard’s; thence to the Royal Society, Vernon there from Cambridge; Dr Rutty read about ignis fatuus; humming bird’s nest and egg, mighty small; Molucca bean, which somebody had sent to Dr Jurin for a stone taken out of a toad’s head; Desaguliers made some experiments about electricity. [. . .] we had a very elegant supper, salmon, fowls, jellies, and a pint of Moselle very good, and a bowl of punch.’

Byrom’s universal shorthand

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1853
Rutherford B Hayes,
president

‘Almost two months married. The great step of life which makes or mars the whole after journey, has been happily taken. The dear friend who is to share with me the joys and ills of our earthly being grows steadily nearer and dearer to me. A better wife I never hoped to have. Our little differences in points of taste or preference are readily adjusted, and judging by the past I do not see how our tender and affectionate relations can be disturbed by any jar. She bears with my “innocent peculiarities” so kindly, so lovingly; is so studious in providing for my little wants; is - is, in short, so true a wife that I cannot think it possible that any shadow of disappointment will ever cloud the prospect,save only such calamities as are the common allotment of Providence to all. Let me strive to be as true to her as she is to me.’

They cheered lustily

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1907
Richard Harding Davis,
writer

‘Saw two hippos. Thought Anstrossi said they were buffalo. So was glad when I found out what they were. I did not want to go home without having seen only two dead ones. In a few minutes I saw two more. Anstrossi fired at them but I did not, as thought it not the game when one could not recover them. Before noon saw six in a bunch - and then what I thought was a spit of rock with a hippo lying on the end of it, turned out to be fifteen hippos in a line! Burnham has told he had seen eleven in the Volta in one day. Before one o’clock, I had seen twenty-six, and, later in the day Anstrossi fired at another, and shot a hole in the awning. That made twenty-seven in one day. Also some monkeys. The hippos were delightful. They seemed so aristocratic, like gouty old gentlemen, puffing and blowing and yawning, as though everything bored them.’

Gouty old gentlemen

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1924
C. S. Lewis,
writer

‘A letter from my father this morning, answering my last, in which I had pointed out that my scholarship had now ceased and that I should need a little supplement to carry on. This question had been raised before. He replied with a long and pleasant letter with a sting in its tail: offering what was necessary, but saying that I had £30 extra expenses last year (which I cannot account for at all) and remarking that I can always put money in my pocket by spending more time at home. There comes the rub - this cannot be answered: yet to follow his suggestion would be nerves, loneliness and mental stagnation.

I finished More’s Philosophical Works this morning and made out a table of chronology from Ward’s Life and my old table done for the English school. After lunch I went first to the Union where I extracted several facts from the Dictionary of National Biography subvoce More and then to Wilson to borrow his Theological Works . . . In the evening I began The Mythology of Godliness.’

For Mrs Moore

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1933
Joseph Goebbels,
politician

‘On the evening of February 27, four of the most powerful men in Germany were gathered at two separate dinners in Berlin. In the exclusive Herrenklub in the Vosstrasse, Vice-Chancellor von Papen was entertaining President Hindenburg. Out at Goebbels’ home, Chancellor Hitler had arrived to dine en famille. According to Goebbels, they were relaxing, playing music on the gramophone and telling stories. “Suddenly,” he recounted later in his diary, “a telephone call from Dr. Hanfstaengl: ‘The Reichstag is on fire!’ I am sure he is telling a tall tale and decline even to mention it to the Fuehrer.” ’

The Reichstag on fire

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1933
Erich Ebermayer,
writer

‘Suddenly at the beginning of the midnight news report, the radio announcer’s voice in great excitement proclaims: “The Reichstag Building is burning.” Every conversation in the small café ceases. We learn that the Reichstag in Berlin was today set afire by the Communists. The whole building is engulfed in flames. The dome threatens to collapse. One of the arsonists is already arrested; he is a young Dutch communist named van der Lubbe. We are all dumbfounded. How can anyone understand this insane act, shortly before the elections, shortly before the voting which Goebbels has so carefully prepared and called the “Day of the Awakening Volk.” What could have driven the communists to such a heroic act of despair! Didn’t they know that the Nazis would gladly welcome such an event? M accompanied me to the house.... My father was still working at his desk. I bring him the news. He was silent a few seconds, and then announced in his finest Bavarian dialect?: “Course, they’ve set it themselves....” But the arrested communist? Can they simply invent him?” From his fifty years of experience as a prosecuting attorney, my father smiles.’

The Reichstag on fire

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1961
Robertson Davies,
writer

‘Now that the news is out, and the world has received it with exemplary calm, and my Proposals are out of my hands, I feel a deep depression, a regression of the libido, what might be called the Hump. What have I let myself in for? What am I, a mere magpie of leaning and certainly no scholar, doing with a learned appointment in that collection of medieval schoolmen and learned but vulgar thrusters, the University of Toronto? My one desire is to crawl into a hole and work on the novel which has been in my mind since before A Mixture of Frailties.’

Robertson Davies as diarist

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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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