And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

5 February

1622
William Laud,
priest

‘Wednesday, I came to London. I went that night to his Majesty, hearing he had sent for me. He delivered me a book to read and observe. It was a tract of a Capuchin, that had once been a Protestant. He was now with the French ambassador. The tract was to prove that Christ’s body was in two places at once, in the apparition to St. Paul.’

My picture fallen

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1836
Charlotte Brontë,
writer

‘Friday afternoon. Now as I have a little bit of time, there being no French lessons this afternoon, I should like to write something. I can’t enter into any continued narrative—my mind is not settled enough for that—but if I could call up some slight and pleasant sketch, I would amuse myself by jotting it down.

Let me consider the other day. I appeared to realize a delicious, hot day in the most burning height of summer, a gorgeous afternoon of idleness and enervation descending upon the hills of our Africa, an evening enfolding a sky of profoundly deep blue & fiery gold about the earth.

Dear me! I keep heaping epithets together and I cannot describe what I mean. I mean a day whose rise, progress & decline seem made of sunshine. As you are travelling you see the wide road before you, the field on each side & the hills far, far off, all smiling, glowing in the same amber light, and you feel such an intense heat, quite incapable of chilling damp or even refreshing breeze. A day when fruits visibly ripen, when orchards appear suddenly change from green to gold.

Such a day I saw flaming over the distant Sydenham Hills in Hawkscliffe Forest. I saw its sublime sunset pouring beams of crimson through magnificent glades. It seemed to me that the war was over, that the trumpet had ceased but a short time since, and that its last tones had been pitched on a triumphant key. It seemed as if exciting events—tidings of battles, of victories, of treaties, of meetings of mighty powers—had diffused an enthusiasm over the land that made its pulses beat with feverish quickness. After months of bloody toil, a time of festal rest was now bestowed on Angria. The noblemen, the generals and the gentlemen were at their country seats, & the Duke, young but war-worn, was Hawkscliffe.

A still influence stole out of the stupendous forest, whose calm was now more awful than the sea-like rushing that swept through its glades in time of storm. Groups of deer appeared & disappeared silently amongst the prodigious stems, & now and then a single roe glided down the savannah park, drank of the Arno & fleeted back again.

Two gentlemen in earnest conversation were walking along in St Mary’s Grove, & their deep commingling tones, very much subdued, softly broke the silence of the evening. Secret topics seemed to be implied in what they said, for the import of their words was concealed from every chance listener by the accents of a foreign tongue. All the soft vowels of Italian articulation flowed from their lips, as fluently as if they had been natives of the European Eden. “Henrico” was the appellative by which the talker & the younger of the two addressed his companion, & the other replied by the less familiar title of “Monsignore.” That young signore, or lord, often looked up at the Norman towers of Hawkscliffe, which rose even above the lofty elms of St Mary’s Grove. The sun was shining on their battlements, kissing them with its last beam that rivalled in hue the fire-dyed banner hanging motionless above them.

“Henrico,” said he, speaking still in musical Tuscan, “this is the 29th of June.” Neither you nor I ever saw a fairer day. What does it remind you of? All such sunsets have associations.”

Henrico knitted his stern brow in thought & at the same time fixed his very penetrating black eye on the features of his noble comrade, which, invested by habit and nature with the aspect of command & pride, were at this sweet hour relaxing to the impassioned & fervid expression of romance. “What does it remind you of, my lord,” said he briefly.

“Ah! Many things, Henrico! Ever since I can remember, the rays of the setting sun have acted on my heart, as they did on Memnon’s wondrous statue. The strings always vibrate, sometimes the tones swell in harmony, sometimes in discord. They play a wild air just now, but, sweet & ominously plaintive Henrico, can you imagine what I feel when I look into the dim & gloomy vistas of this my forest, & at yonder turrets which the might of my own hands has raised, not the halls of my ancestors like hoary morning [illeg.]. Calm diffuses over this wide wood a power to stir & thrill the mind such as words can never express. Look at the red west—the sun is gone & it is fading. Gaze into those mighty groves supernaturally still & full of gathering darkness. Listen how the Arno moans!’

From real to fantastical

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1842
Richard Henry Dana Jr.,
lawyer

‘Called on Dickens at 10.30 A. M. by appointment, as he leaves at one. He was at breakfast. Sat down with him. He was very agreeable and full of life. He is the cleverest man I ever met. I mean he impresses you more with the alertness of his various powers. His forces are all light infantry and light cavalry, and always in marching order. There are not many heavy pieces, but few sappers and miners, the scientific corps is deficient, and I fear there is no chaplain in the garrison.

Mrs. Dickens appears to be an excellent woman. She is natural in her manners, seems not at all elated by her new position, but rests upon a foundation of good sense and good feeling.’

The slurs of vessel owners

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1851
Henry Greville,
courtier and diplomat

‘Yesterday I went with the Queen to the House of Lords. The day was magnificent, and the crowds of people far greater than I ever saw on any other similar occasion. The carriage in which I sat (the first) was too far from the Queen to judge of her reception, but the Duchess of Sutherland, who was in the State coach, told me the cheering was great, but the cries of ‘No Popery!’ were continuous. The House of Lords looked beautiful, filled as it was to overflowing by women in every sort of colour and sparkling with jewels.’

I went with the Queen

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