And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

17 January

Jacob Bee,

‘John Borrow departed this life, and ‘twas reported, that he see a coach drawn by six swine, all black, and a black man satt upon the cotch box. He fell sick upon’t and dyed, and of his death severall apparations appeared after.’

Very fiery comets


Vere Hunt,
landlord and politician

‘Dublin. Got into the harbour at daylight and after landing, proceeded to Dublin on foot and put up at Quin’s Hotel in Crow Street. In the evening to the House of Commons and most warmly welcomed by Lord Castlereagh. Called on Lord Glentworth and consulted him on my expectations from Government. Strongly advised by him not to take any bargain, as those who acted steadily and honourably to the Government would be more liberally treated than if they made a contract.’

Vere Hunt in a crashing machine


Francis Rawdon-Hastings,

‘Although we were told that all the country parallel to the march we had to make this day, was so devoid of cover as to afford no prospect of meeting a lion, the knowledge that we were after this day to enter a country so highly cultivated as to preclude the possibility of finding them, made us resolve not to throw away even the poor chance which we still had. At about seven miles wide of our road, two curious hills, apparently composed of loose blocks of stone, arose from the plain. We thought there might be cover about their bases, but there was not any on the side which we approached. [. . .] About six miles ahead of us, there appeared trees which we supposed to be a thicket. We resolved to push for it. In our way we fell in with some large herds of cattle. The men attending them, of the tribe of Jhaats, informed us that the trees to which we were steering only surrounded a village, but that they could show us, at about two miles from where we then were, a place where there was great probability of our finding a lion. They told us that they had of late often seen two, which had carried off many of their cows.

It is extraordinary how little apprehension these people have of the lion. They say it never wantonly attacks a man; so that if it gets enough of other food, and they do not provoke it, they are not terrified at seeing it prowling about. Then they always say to you, if it be my destiny to be eaten by a lion, no care of mine will prevent it; he will come and take me out of my bed. Leaving the cattle under the charge of some boys, three or four men went to show the place where they thought it likely our game should be found.

There never was a more promising spot. It was a dell, which ran from the back of the first hill, and it was full of long grass and thorns. We beat it with the utmost care, refraining from firing at other animals, which continually started up before us, but found no lion. We then returned to the herds. I this day remarked what I had indeed observed on many former occasions, what a fine lace of men, the Sikhs and Jhaats are. They are not bulky, but they are tall and energetic. Their step is firm and elastic; their countenances frank, confident, and manly; and their address has much natural politeness. I had noticed the same appearance in the Rohillas and Patans, but with less of cheerful air than what I observe in the Sikhs. More active, brave, and sturdy follows can nowhere be found than these tribes present. [. . .]

More from the principle of leaving nothing untried than from the supposition that there was any chance of finding a lion there, we directed our course through the thorns. When we had got nearly to the further end, two lionesses started up before us. Some ineffectual shots were fired, and both the animals took to the plain. One, at which both my rifles missed fire, gained a little ravine at some distance, which we took for granted must yield her a secure escape. The other afforded us a curious spectacle.

There was so little expectation of our finding a lion there, that one of Skinner’s Irregular horsemen (a party of whom attended us at a distance) was riding up to the thorns to deliver a letter which had been sent after me. The lioness made a dash at him, though her distance from him was considerable. He made off with all the speed to which his spurs could rouse the horse. The lioness coursed him fairly in the open plain, and gained so much upon him as to give us extreme uneasiness. At length, by the time he had reached a little rising ground, his horse got into his rate, and the lioness found she could not overtake him. She then turned round the point of the hill over which he had gone straight. Just at that moment, all the herdsmen who had followed us called to us, and said that the first lioness had come back into the thorns. We had no difficulty in finding her. The gentleman who first stumbled on her wounded her. Though she was much crippled by the shots, when I met her, on turning round a bush, she made a gallant run at my elephant. I, luckily, hit her in the head, and she fell immediately. At that moment the screams of the herdsmen made us turn round, and we beheld the other lioness galloping through the midst of them to regain the cover. Though she passed close to three or four she did not attempt to strike at any of them, but hastened to take refuge in the longest and best covered bush that the place afforded. [. . .]

Just as I got round, the lioness darted out, and springing at the elephant on which Mr. Shakespear was riding, fixed her talons in each of its ears while she vigorously assailed its forehead with her teeth. The violent exertions of the elephant to get rid of this troublesome appendage put into confusion all the elephants that were near, and prevented help being given. But it had a still worse effect; for in one of its ungovernable efforts, the elephant threw Mr. Shakespear out of the howdah. Luckily, he fell on a bush, so that he was not hurt, yet he rolled to the ground, and there lay exposed. Two of Skinner’s horsemen seeing his situation most gallantly drew their sabres and galloped forward to protect him. At the same instant the lioness was thrown off, but happily on the side opposite to that where Mr. Shakespear lay. On recovering herself, her attention was attracted by the haunches of an elephant which had wheeled round through fear close to her. She seized it, and tore the inside of both its thighs dreadfully. There was now, however, an opportunity of firing at her, and she received three or four wounds. Checked by these, she retired into the bush. [. . .] My elephant soon reached the place; and I saw her lying exhausted. She roused herself and attempted to come towards me; but I believe the effort would have been vain had I not given her another shot, which was instantly decisive. It was with great difficulty that we brought to our camp, at Great Bhowannee, the elephant whose thighs had been so lacerated.’

Meeting lionesses


Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen,

‘The thick weather and snow continued through the night. At 2.0 a.m. both ships put about on to the port tack. At 6.0 a.m. we observed right ahead of us an iceberg which we only just succeeded in avoiding. The thermometer stood at freezing point; at the same time the wind began to freshen and we were forced to double-reef the topsails. At 8.0 a.m. the Vostok, turning to the wind, joined up with the Mimyi. Towards midday the sky cleared a little of snow clouds and the sun appeared. We were able to take midday observations and found our position to be Lat. 68° 51’ 51” S., Long. 3° 07’ 06” W., the stream having set N. 20° W. 13 miles. We did not, however, enjoy the sun for long; in these latitudes it is so rarely visible. Fog and snow, the travelling companions of the navigator in the Antarctic, again overtook us.

In these high latitudes, into which we extended our voyage, the sea is a most beautiful blue colour, which in some measure serves to indicate the great distance of land. The penguins, whose, cries we heard, are in no need of land. They live just as comfortably, and indeed seem to prefer living, on the flat ice, far more so than other birds do on land. When we caught penguins on the ice, many dived into the water but, without even waiting till the hunters had gone, they returned to their former places with the help of the waves. Judging by the form of their bodies and their air of repose, one may conclude that it is merely the stimulus of seeking food that drives them from the ice into the water. They are very tame. When Mr Lyeskov threw a net over a number of them, the others, not caught by the net, remained quite quiet and indifferent to the fate of their unhappy fellows who, before their eyes, were put into sacks. The suffocating air in these sacks and careless handling while catching, transferring and taking the penguins on board the vessels, produced a sickness amongst them, and in a short time they threw up a great quantity of shrimps, which evidently form their food. At this point I may add that we had so far not found any sort of fish in the high southern latitudes, excepting the different species of whale.

At 8 o’clock the Vostok waited for the Mirnyi and, joining her, we passed to windward on a starboard tack so as to draw away from the ice and lie to during the foggy weather. The wind blew steadily from the north with occasional snow. The whole horizon was in a haze. Since our arrival in these higher latitudes we had always the same sort of bad weather with north winds, but with the wind from the south we had dry weather with a clear horizon.’

A solid stretch of ice


William Tayler,

‘I took a short walk today, saw a new machine for scrapeing the roads and streets. It’s a very long kind of how, very much like an ell rake. One man draws it from one side of the street to the other, taking a whole sweep of mud with him at once, cleaning a piece a yard and a half at a time. There are two wheels, so, by pressing on the handles, he can wheel the thing back everytime he goes across the street for a hoefull. It’s considered to do as much as seven men.’

A wretched bad writer


Sanford Fleming,

‘Today is Handsel Monday, if all is well there will be great merry makings at Haugh Mills. Reed from Scobie & Balfour £2/10 paid Father £2/5. Last Wednesday I got from David 7 dollars to help pay the rent which with the other two makes 9 dollars I gave my Father that time & owe David $7. Engaged at Scobies just now making a title to the Newcastle & Colborne map. There is a vast deal of work at it, but shall try to make a good job.’

Adieu to my youth


Robert Falcon Scott,

‘Camp 69. T. -22° at start. Night - 21°. The POLE. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected. We have had a horrible day - add to our disappointment a head wind 4 to 5, with a temperature -22°, and companions labouring on with cold feet and hands.

We started at 7.30, none of us having slept much after the shock of our discovery. We followed the Norwegian sledge tracks for some way; as far as we make out there are only two men. In about three miles we passed two small cairns. Then the weather overcast, and the tracks being increasingly drifted up and obviously going too far to the west, we decided to make straight for the Pole according to our calculations. At 12.30 Evans had such cold hands we camped for lunch - an excellent ‘week-end one.’ We had marched 7.4 miles. Lat. sight gave 89° S3’ 37”. We started out and did 6 1/2 miles due south. To-night little Bowers is laying himself out to get sights in terrible difficult circumstances; the wind is blowing hard, T. -21°, and there is that curious damp, cold feeling in the air which chills one to the bone in no time. We have been descending again, I think, but there looks to be a rise ahead; otherwise there is very little that is different from the awful monotony of past days. Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. Well, it is something to have got here, and the wind may be our friend to-morrow. We have had a fat Polar hoosh in spite of our chagrin, and feel comfortable inside - added a small stick of chocolate and the queer taste of a cigarette brought by Wilson. Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it.’

Race to the South Pole


Alexander Berkman,

‘Landed, 2 P. M. Sent radios to Tchicherin (Moscow) and Shatov (Petrograd) notifying them of the arrival of the first group of political deportees from America.

We are to travel in sealed cars through Finland to the Russian border. The Captain of the Buford allowed us three days’ rations for the journey.

The leave-taking of the crew and soldiers touched me deeply. Many of them have become attached to us, and they have “treated us white,” to use their own expression. They made us promise to write them from Russia.’

Exhibition of intolerance


Zorina Gray,

‘Rehearsal also today (Sunday) and buttermilkday. Love rehearsing the ballet. I very much hope Donahue will be good. Afterward went through the whole play - it’s beginning to get some shape.’

My knees felt like macaroni


Jean Guéhenno,

‘Never have so many people in Europe known how to read and yet never have there been so many herd animals, so many sheep. In times gone by, a man who didn’t know how to read would save himself through his distrust. He knew he was ignorant, as Descartes did, and he was wary of anyone who spoke too well. He thought by himself - the only way to think. A man today who has learned to read, write, and count is utterly unprotected from his vanity. A degree certifies his knowledge. He believes in it, he’s proud of it. He reads the paper and listens to the radio like everyone else, with everyone else. He is abandoned to the tender mercies of advertising and propaganda. Something is true as soon as he has read it. The truth is in books, isn’t it? He doesn’t realize that the lie is in them, too.

I can see this confirmed more every day. Our teaching is far too much about teaching results. All too often, it fosters only the gift for pedantry and a docile memory. A hundred young people I talk to are far more knowledgeable in geometry than Euclid, but few of them are able to reflect that Euclid was a great geometer and that they are nothing. More than the results of the sciences, we should teach their history, reveal to young minds the nature of a moving, active intelligence and communicate the deep meaning of science: get them to understand that a scientist is not a man who knows but a man who seeks, crushed and exalted at the same time by the idea of all that he does not know. Thus we could produce independent, strong men and not vain, servile animals.’

France has lost her soul


Thomas Dooley,

‘Been here 5 months today. Today is memorable in that we had tripe for supper (in the soup). B.P. went down and made the arrangements at the slaughter house where they are killing beef for the Japanese army. He got for us the heart, liver, and stomach of the beef. We had tripe at supper and promise of heart, liver, + kidney for breakfast. “Edible awful” is the term some applied to our meal. Other than that the day was uneventful with inspection and church in a.m. and bridge in p.m. A cold day.’

To Bataan and Back


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And so made significant . . .
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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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