And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

4 February

1685
John Evelyn,
writer

‘I went to London, hearing his Majesty had been the Monday before (2d February) surprised in his bedchamber with an apoplectic fit, so that if, by God’s providence, Dr. King (that excellent chirurgeon as well as physician) had not been accidentally present to let him bleed (having his lancet in his pocket), his Majesty had certainly died that moment; which might have been of direful consequence, there being nobody else present with the King save this Doctor and one more, as I am assured. It was a mark of the extraordinary dexterity, resolution, and presence of mind in the Doctor, to let him bleed in the very paroxysm, without staying the coming of other physicians, which regularly should have been done, and for want of which he must have a regular pardon, as they tell me.

This rescued his Majesty for the instant, but it was only a short reprieve. He still complained, and was relapsing, often fainting, with sometimes epileptic symptoms, till Wednesday, for which he was cupped, let bleed in both jugulars, and both vomit and purges, which so relieved him, that on Thursday hopes of recovery were signified in the public “Gazette,” but that day about noon, the physicians thought him feverish. This they seemed glad of, as being more easily allayed and methodically dealt with than his former fits; so as they prescribed the famous Jesuit’s powder; but it made him worse, and some very able doctors who were present did not think it a fever, but the effect of his frequent bleeding and other sharp operations used by them about his head, so that probably the powder might stop the circulation, and renew his former fits, which now made him very weak.

Thus he passed Thursday night with great difficulty, when complaining of a pain in his side, they drew twelve ounces more of blood from him; this was by six in the morning on Friday, and it gave him relief, but it did not continue, for being now in much pain, and struggling for breath, he lay dozing, and, after some conflicts, the physicians despairing of him, he gave up the ghost at half an hour after eleven in the morning, being the sixth of February, 1685, in the 36th year of his reign, and 54th of his age.

Prayers were solemnly made in all the churches, especially in both the Court Chapels, where the chaplains relieved one another every half quarter of an hour from the time he began to be in danger till he expired, according to the form prescribed in the Church offices. Those who assisted his Majesty’s devotions were, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of London, Durham, and Ely, but more especially Dr. Ken, the Bishop of Bath and Wells. It is said they exceedingly urged the receiving Holy Sacrament, but his Majesty told them he would consider of it, which he did so long till it was too late. Others whispered that the Bishops and Lords, except the Earls of Bath and Feversham, being ordered to withdraw the night before, Huddleston, the priest, had presumed to administer the Popish offices. He gave his breeches and keys to the Duke [James] who was almost continually kneeling by his bedside, and in tears. He also recommended to him the care of his natural children, all except the Duke of Monmouth, now in Holland, and in his displeasure. He entreated the Queen to pardon him (not without cause); who a little before had sent a Bishop to excuse her not more frequently visiting him, in regard of her excessive grief, and withal that his Majesty would forgive it if at any time she had offended him.He spoke to the Duke to be kind to the Duchess of Cleveland, and especially Portsmouth, and that Nelly might not starve.

Thus died King Charles II., of a vigorous and robust constitution, and in all appearance promising a long life. He was a prince of many virtues, and many great imperfections; debonair, easy of access, not bloody nor cruel; his countenance fierce, his voice great, proper of person, every motion became him; a lover of the sea, and skilful in shipping; not affecting other studies, yet he had a laboratory, and knew of many empirical medicines, and the easier mechanical mathematics; he loved planting and building, and brought in a politer way of living, which passed to luxury and intolerable expense. He had a particular talent in telling a story, and facetious passages, of which he had innumerable; this made some buffoons and vicious wretches too presumptuous and familiar, not worthy the favour they abused. He took delight in having a number of little spaniels follow him and lie in his bedchamber, where he often suffered the bitches to puppy and give suck, which rendered it very offensive, and indeed made the whole court nasty and stinking. He would doubtless have been an excellent prince, had he been less addicted to women, who made him uneasy, and always in want to supply their unmeasurable profusion, to the detriment of many indigent persons who had signally served both him and his father. He frequently and easily changed favourites to his great prejudice.

As to other public transactions, and unhappy miscarriages, ‘tis not here I intend to number them; but certainly never had King more glorious opportunities to have made himself, his people, and all Europe happy, and prevented innumerable mischiefs, had not his too easy nature resigned him to be managed by crafty men, and some abandoned and profane wretches who corrupted his otherwise sufficient parts, disciplined as he had been by many afflictions during his banishment, which gave him much experience and knowledge of men and things; but those wicked creatures took him from off all application becoming so great a King. The history of his reign will certainly be the most wonderful for the variety of matter and accidents, above any extant in former ages: the sad tragical death of his father, his banishment and hardships, his miraculous restoration, conspiracies against him, parliaments, wars, plagues, fires, comets, revolutions abroad happening in his time, with a thousand other particulars. He was ever kind to me, and very gracious upon all occasions, and therefore I cannot without ingratitude but deplore his loss, which for many respects, as well as duty, I do with all my soul.

His Majesty being dead, the Duke, now King James II, went immediately to Council, and before entering into any business, passionately declaring his sorrow, told their Lordships, that since the succession had fallen to him, he would endeavour to follow the example of his predecessor in his clemency and tenderness to his people; that, however he had been misrepresented as affecting arbitrary power, they should find the contrary; for that the laws of England had made the King as great a monarch as he could desire; that he would endeavor to maintain the Government both in Church and State, as by law established, its principles being so firm for monarchy, and the members of it showing themselves so good and loyal subjects; and that, as he would never depart from the just rights and prerogatives of the Crown, so he would never invade any man’s property, but as he had often adventured his life in defence of the nation, so he would still proceed, and preserve it in all its lawful rights and liberties

This being the substance of what he said, the Lords desired it might be published, as containing matter of great satisfaction to a jealous people upon this change, which his Majesty consented to. Then were the Council sworn, and a Proclamation ordered to be published that all officers should continue in their stations, that there might be no failure of public justice, till his further pleasure should be known. Then the King rose, the Lords accompanying him to his bedchamber, where, while he reposed himself, tired indeed as he was with grief and watching, they returned again into the Council chamber to take order for the PROCLAIMING his Majesty, which (after some debate) they consented should be in the very form his grandfather, King James I., was, after the death of Queen Elizabeth; as likewise that the Lords, etc., should proceed in their coaches through the city for the more solemnity of it.

Upon this was I, and several other gentlemen waiting in the Privy gallery, admitted into the Council chamber to be witness of what was resolved on. Thence with the Lords, Lord Marshal and Heralds, and other Crown officers being ready, we first went to Whitehall gate, where the Lords stood on foot bareheaded, while the Herald proclaimed his Majesty’s title to the Imperial Crown and succession according to the form, the trumpets and kettledrums having first sounded three times, which ended with the people’s acclamations. Then a herald called the Lords’ coaches according to rank, myself accompanying the solemnity in my Lord Cornwallis’s coach, first to Temple Bar, where the Lord Mayor and his brethren met us on horseback, in all their formalities, and proclaimed the King; hence to the Exchange in Cornhill, and so we returned in the order we set forth. Being come to Whitehall, we all went and kissed the King and Queen’s hands. He had been on the bed, but was now risen and in his undress. The Queen was in bed in her apartment, but put forth her hand, seeming to be much afflicted, as I believe she was, having deported herself so decently upon all occasions since she came into England, which made her universally beloved.

Thus concluded this sad and not joyful day.

I can never forget the inexpressible luxury and profaneness, gaming, and all dissoluteness, and as it were total forgetfulness of God (it being Sunday evening), which this day se’nnight I was witness of, the King sitting and toying with his concubines, Portsmouth, Cleveland, and Mazarin, etc., a French boy singing love songs in that glorious gallery, while about twenty of the great courtiers and other dissolute persons were at Basset round a large table, a bank of at least 2,000 in gold before them; upon which two gentlemen, who were with me, made reflections with astonishment. Six days after, was all in the dust.

It was enjoined that those who put on mourning should wear it as for a father, in the most solemn manner.’

Virtues and imperfections

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1795
William Godwin,
philosopher and writer

‘Call on mrs Jennings: tea Johnson’s, Kentish Town.’

William Godwin’s diary

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1805
Washington Irving,
writer

‘This morning I walked out of town to visit the celebrated Ear of Dionysius the Tyrant. I was accompanied by Dr Baker of the President, Davis, a midshipman, and Tootle, purser of the Nautilus.

The approach to the Ear is through a vast quarry, one of those from whence the stone for the edifices of ancient Syracuse was procured. The bottom of this quarry is cultivated in many places, and being entirely open overhead to the sun and sheltered on every side from the wind by high precipices, it is very fertile.

Travellers have generally been very careless in their account of the Ear. Some one originally started the observation that it was cut in the form of a human ear, and every one who has since given a description of it has followed in the same track and made the same remark. Brydone, among the rest, joins in it . . .

The Ear is a vast serpentine cavern, something in the form of the letter S reversed; its greatest width is at the bottom, from whence it narrows with an inflection to the top, something like the external shape of an ass’s ear. Its height is about eighty or ninety feet, and its length about one hundred and twenty. It is the same height and dimensions from the entrance to the extremity, where it ends abruptly. The marks of the tools are still perfectly visible on the walls of the cavern.

The rock is brought to a regular surface the whole extent, without any projection or curvatures as in the human ear. About half-way in the cavern is a small square recess or chamber cut in one side of the wall even with the ground, and at the interior extremity there appears to be a small recess at the top, but it is at present inaccessible. A poor man who lives in the neighborhood attended us with torches of straw, by which we had a very good view of the interior of the Ear. Holes are discernible near the interior end of the cave, which are made in the wall at regular distances and ascend up in an inclined direction. They are about an inch in diameter. Some of the company were of opinion that they have formerly contributed to the support of a stairs or ladder, but there is no visible place where a stairs could lead to, and the holes do not go above half the height of the cavern.

There are several parts of the Ear in which the discharge of a pistol makes a prodigious report, heightened by the echoes and reverberations of the cavern. One of the company had a fowling-piece which he discharged, and it made a noise almost equal to the discharge of artillery, though not so sharp a report. A pistol also produced a report similar to a volley of musketry. The best place to stand to hear the echoes to advantage is in the mouth of the cavern. A piece of paper torn in this place makes an echo as if some person had struck the wall violently with a stick in the back of the cave.

This singular cavern is called the Ear of Dionysius, from the purpose for which it is said to have been destined by that tyrant. Conscious of the disaffection of his subjects, and the hatred and enmity his tyrannical government had produced, he became suspicious and distrustful even of his courtiers that surrounded him. He is said to have had this cavern made for the confinement of those persons of whom he had the strongest suspicions. It was so constructed that any thing said in it, in ever so low a murmur, would be conveyed to a small aperture that opened into a little chamber where he used to station himself and listen. This chamber is still shown. It is on the outside of the Ear, just above the entrance, and communicates with the interior. Some of the officers of our navy had been in it last summer; they were lowered down to it by ropes, and mention that sounds are conveyed to it from the cavern with amazing distinctness. I wished very much to get to it, and the man who attended us brought me a cord for the purpose, but my companions protested they would not assist in lowering me down, and finally persuaded me that it was too hazardous, as the cord was small and might be chafed through in rubbing against the rock, in which case I would run a risk of being dashed to pieces. I therefore abandoned the project for the present.’

Echoes in the Ear

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1836
Charlotte Brontë,
writer

‘Well, here I am at Roe-Head. It is seven o’clock at night, the young ladies are all at their lessons, the school-room is quiet, the fire is low, a stormy day is at this moment passing off in a murmuring and bleak night. I now assume my own thoughts; my mind relaxes from the stretch on which it has been for the last twelve hours & falls back onto the rest which no-body in this house knows of but myself. I now, after a day’s weary wandering, return to the ark which for me floats alone on the face of this world’s desolate & boundless deluge. It is strange. I cannot get used to the ongoings that surround me. I fulfil my duties strictly & well, yet, so to speak, if the illustration be not profane, as God was not in the wind, nor the fire, nor the earth-quake, so neither is my heart in the task, the theme or the exercise. It is the still small voice alone that comes to me at eventide, that which like a breeze with a voice in it [comes] over the deeply blue hills & out of the now leafless forests & from the cities on distant river banks of a far & bright continent. It is that which wakes my spirit & engrosses all my living feelings, all my energies which are not merely mechanical, & like Haworth & home, wakes sensations which lie dormant elsewhere.

Last night I did indeed lean upon the thunder-wakening wings of such a stormy blast as I have seldom heard blow, & it whirled me away like heath in the wilderness for five seconds of ecstasy, and as I sat by myself in the dining-room while all the rest were at tea the trance seemed to descend on a sudden, & verily this foot trod the war-shaken shores of the Calabar & these eyes saw the defiled & violated Adrianopolis shedding its lights on the river from lattices whence the invader looked out & was not darkened. I went through a trodden garden whose groves were crushed down. I ascended a great terrace, the marble surface of which shone wet with rain where it was not darkened by the mounds of dead leaves which were now showered on & now swept off by the vast & broken boughs which swung in the wind above them. Up I went to the wall of the palace to the line of latticed arches which shimmered in light, passing along quick as thought, I glanced at what the internal glare revealed through the crystal.

There was a room lined with mirrors & with lamps on tripods, & very darkened, & splendid couches & carpets & large half lucid vases white as snow, thickly embossed with whiter mouldings, & one large picture in a frame of massive beauty representing a young man whose gorgeous & shining locks seemed as if they would wave on the breath & whose eyes were half hid by the hand carved in ivory that shaded them & supported the awful looking coron[al?] head—a solitary picture, too great to admit of a companion—a likeness to be remembered full of luxuriant beauty, not displayed, for it seemed as if the form had been copied so often in all imposing attitudes, that at length the painter, satiated with its luxuriant perfection, had resolved to conceal half & make the imperial Giant bend & hide under his cloudlike tresses, the radiance he was grown tired of gazing on.

Often had I seen this room before and felt, as I looked at it, the simple and exceeding magnificence of its single picture, its five colossal cups of sculptured marble, its soft carpets of most deep and brilliant hues, & its mirrors, broad, lofty, & liquidly clear. I had seen it in the stillness of evening when the lamps so quietly & steadily burnt in the tranquil air, & when their rays fell upon but one living figure, a young lady who generally at that time appeared sitting on a low sofa, a book in her hand, her head bent over it as she read, her light brown hair dropping in loose & unwaving curls, her dress falling to the floor as she sat in sweeping folds of silk. All stirless about her except her heart, softly beating under her satin bodice & all silent except her regular and very gentle respiration. The haughty sadness of grandeur beamed out of her intent fixed hazel eye, & though so young, I always felt as if I dared not have spoken to her for my life, how lovely were the lines of her small & rosy mouth, but how very proud her white brow, spacious & wreathed with ringlets, & her neck, which, though so slender, had the superb curve of a queen’s about the snowy throat. I knew why she chose to be alone at that hour, & why she kept that shadow in the golden frame to gaze on her, & why she turned sometimes to her mirrors & looked to see if her loveliness & her adornments were quite perfect.

However this night she was not visible—no—but neither was her bower void. The red ray of the fire flashed upon a table covered with wine flasks, some drained and some brimming with the crimson juice. The cushions of a voluptuous ottoman which had often supported her slight, fine form were crushed by a dark bulk flung upon them in drunken prostration. Aye, where she had lain imperially robed and decked with pearls, every waft of her garments as she moved diffusing perfume, her beauty slumbering & still glowing as dreams of him for whom she kept herself in such hallowed & shrine-like separation wandered over her soul, on her own silken couch, a swarth & sinewy moor intoxicated to ferocious insensibility had stretched his athletic limbs, weary with wassail and stupefied with drunken sleep. I knew it to be Quashia himself, and well could I guess why he had chosen the queen of Angria’s sanctuary for the scene of his solitary revelling. While he was full before my eyes, lying in his black dress on the disordered couch, his sable hair dishevelled on his forehead, his tusk-like teeth glancing vindictively through his parted lips, his brown complexion flushed with wine, & his broad chest heaving wildly as the breath issued in spurts from his distended nostrils, while I watched the fluttering of his white shirt ruffles starting through the more than half-unbuttoned waistcoat, & beheld the expression of his Arabian countenance savagely exulting even in sleep, Quashia triumphant Lord in the halls of Zamorna! in the bower of Zamorna’s lady! while this apparition was before me, the dining-room door opened and Miss W[ooler] came in with a plate of butter in her hand. “A very stormy night my dear!” said she.

“It is ma’am,” said I.’

From real to fantastical

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1934
Aleksander Rodchenko,
artist

‘How many interesting things have been missed that you can’t depict with either a Leica or a drawing. So I begin to write. . .

A certain loneliness from my private life being not quite in order forces me to write . . .

You don’t know what’s interesting: private life together with work, or just work alone.

Probably one should write what one lives and breathes by. And as to who will find it interesting, it doesn’t matter. Moreover, one has to write every day. It disciplines.

Twenty years ago I wrote a diary, and it seems to me that what I wrote had no meaning, either then or now . . .

A page is begun . . . My private life is over, my work isn’t moving.

Philosophy of diary writing: I read Varvara’s diary and I see that there are few concrete facts, it’s a lot of philosophy in general, probably one should write quite simply, like a log one keeps on a ship.

I’m drawing a caricature of Freberg and the publishing section of Politizdat. I want to do caricatures [. . .], and put together an evening exhibition in the studio - but why? I don’t know. A diary is a strange thing; everything looks dumb, somehow. It’s possible that when a person is completely opened up, the emptiness and silliness is terribly embarrassing.

I’m beginning to understand that one needs to record and not philosophize . . .

For example, in the Mostorg store, the price of electric plugs - one ruble - is twice what is in the VEO [Electrical Society] store on Miasnitskaia - fifty kopecks. True, this isn’t particularly interesting, but it’s a fact.

I’m writing like you take an exam, and this is my own exam, it’s stricter that way. Have to write to that, it will be interesting for me to read. Don’t feel like writing about love, you can’t exactly write the same way as writing letters to her . . .’

Photos to surprise and amaze

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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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