And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

12 January

1691
John Evelyn,
writer

‘My grand-daughter was christened by Dr. Tenison, now Bishop of Lincoln, in Trinity Church, being the first that was christened there. She was named Jane.’

Modesty, prudence, piety

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1810
Mirza Abul Hassan Khan,
diplomat

‘On either side of the lofty stage [Covent Garden theatre, recently rebuilt] are galleries with painted ceilings. Although somewhat smaller than the Opera, the decoration is more elaborate. Musicians banished sorrow from our hearts with their songs. It seemed strange that the audience reacted to some of the tunes with such boisterous applause that it could be heard by the cherubim in heaven, but to others they appeared totally deaf.

The manager of the theatre, Mr Kemble [John Philip] acted the part of a King of Britain who divides his kingdom between two of his daughter, leaving the third without a share [this was a much-altered version of King Lear].

Next, several multi-coloured curtains were lowered, and from behind these curtains - in the manner of Iranian acrobats - appeared the fantastic figures of divs and peris, of birds and beasts. No one watching their antics could possibly have retained his composure. Grimaldi, a famous clown, performed an act which I shall never forget: he would leap from a high window and just as easily leap back up again, returning each time as a different character and causing the noble audience to laugh uncontrollably.

Walking around the theatre, my companions and I saw beautiful ladies, beautifully dressed, casting flirtatious glances from their boxes. Then we left the theatre by the King’s door and came home.’

I was utterly amazed!

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1840
Henry Greville
, courtier and diplomat

‘On Tuesday there was a great ball at the Embassy. The Infants of Spain, Don Francisco and Dona Carlotta and their children, were present. The Infanta, a huge, fat, frightful woman, danced the whole evening like a girl of sixteen. Don Francisco is an ignoble stunted-looking man with a Bourbon face.

An interesting discussion is going on in the Chambers on the Eastern question. The feeling against Russia is very strong, but, on the other hand, the English alliance is not so popular as it has been.’

I went with the Queen

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1848
Sanford Fleming,
engineer

‘Little Mr Buchan, Scobie & Balfour engraver had been drunk last night and cant work today. Silly fellow to spend his time and money, and breaking his constitution. Can it be possible that I shall be a drunkard; surely not. Paid the Jew £3/10 the Quarter rent.’

Adieu to my youth

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1894
Fridtjof Nansen
, explorer

‘There was pressure about 10 o’clock this morning in the opening forward, but I could see no movement when I was there a little later. I followed the opening some way to the north. It is pretty cold work walking with the thermometer at 40° F below zero, and the wind blowing with a velocitv of 16 feet per second straight in your face. But now we are certainly drifting fast to the north under Liv’s star. After all, it is not quite indifferent to me whether we are going north or south. When the drift is northward new life seems to come into me, and hope, the ever young, springs fresh and green from under the winter snow. I see the way open before me, and I see the home-coming in the distance - too great happiness to believe in.’

Siberian driftwood cannot lie

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1895
Henry James
, writer

‘Note here the ghost-story told me at Addington (evening of Thursday 10th), by the Archbishop of Canterbury: a mere vague, undetailed faint sketch of it – being all he had been told (very badly and imperfectly) by a lady who had no art of relation, and no clearness: the story of the young children (indefinite number and age) left to the care of servants in an old country-house, through the death, presumably, of parents. The servants, wicked and depraved, corrupt and deprave the children; the children are bad, full of evil, to a sinister degree. The servants die (the story vague about the way of it) and their apparitions, figures, return to haunt the house and children, to whom they seem to beckon, whom they invite and solicit, from across dangerous places, the deep ditch of a sunk fence, etc. – so that the children may destroy themselves, lose themselves by responding, by getting into their power. So long as the children are kept from them, they are not lost: but they try and try and try, these evil presences, to get hold of them. It is a question of the children ‘coming over to where they are’. It is all obscure and imperfect, the picture, the story, but there is a suggestion of strangely gruesome effect to it. The story to be told – tolerably obviously – by an outside spectator, observer.’ [This is about what would become Turn of the Screw.]

Hammer out a little idea

**************************************************************************************

1943
George Adamson,
conservationist

‘Joy asked me whether, if we got married, she would spoil my life - I said she could make it and I believe she could.’

A life of Joy and lions

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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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