And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

19 January

1686
John Evelyn,
writer

This night was burnt to the ground my Lord Montague’s palace in Bloomsbury, than which for painting and furniture there was nothing more glorious in England. This happened by the negligence of a servant airing, as they call it, some of the goods by the fire in a moist season; indeed, so wet and mild a season had scarce been seen in man’s memory.

A most excellent person

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1763
James Boswell,
writer

‘This was a day eagerly expected by [George] Dempster [a young and wealthy, newly-elected MP from Scotland], [Andrew] Erskine [a lieutenant], and I, as it was fixed as the period of our gratifying a whim proposed by me: which was that on the first day of the new tragedy called Elvira’s being acted, we three should walk from the one end of London to the other, dine at Dolly’s, and be in the theatre at night; and as the play would probably be bad, and as Mr David Malloch, the author, who has changed his name to David Mallet, Esq. was an arrant puppy, we determined to exert ourselves in damning it.

I this morning felt the stronger symptoms of the sad distemper, yet I was unwilling to imagine such a thing. However, the severe exercise of today, joined with hearty eating and drinking, I was sure would confirm or remove my suspicions.

We walked up to Hyde Park Corner, from whence we set out at ten. Our spirits were high with the notion of the adventure, and the variety that we met with as we went is amazing. As the Spectator observes, one end of London is like a different country from the other in look and in manners. We eat an excellent breakfast at the Somerset Coffee-house. We turned down Gracechurch Street and went up on the top of London Bridge, from whence we viewed with a pleasing horror the rude and terrible appearance of the river, partly froze up, partly covered with enormous shoals of floating ice which often crashed against each other. [. . .] We went half a mile beyond the turnpike at Whitechapel, which completed our course, and went into a little public house and drank some warm white wine with aromatic spices, pepper and cinnamon. We were pleased with the neat houses upon the road. [. . .] We had some port, and drank damnation to the play and eternal remorse to the author. We then went to the Bedford Coffee-house and had coffee and tea; and just as the doors opened at four o’clock, we sallied into the house, planted ourselves in the middle of the pit, and with oaken cudgels in our hands and shrill-sounding catcalls in our pockets, sat ready prepared, with a generous resentment in our breasts against dullness and impudence, to be the swift ministers of vengeance. [. . .] [The three of them went on to write a highly critical pamphlet about Elvira.]

The evening was passed most cheerfully. When I got home, though, then came sorrow. Too, too plain was Signor Gonorrhoea.’

Young Boswell in London

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1841
Henry Greville,
courtier and diplomat

‘Parliament was opened today by the Queen in person. The Speech, which is a good one, touches upon the state of Ireland principally, and upon the measures which are to be proposed for the amelioration of its social and physical condition; upon Cracow; and upon the Spanish marriages, but slightly, and merely saying that they had given rise to a correspondence between the two Governments. It is said in the town that Palmerston is much annoyed that stronger mention has not been made of this matter; that there had been a dispute in the Cabinet thereupon.

The debates were interesting.

I went to see Covent Garden Theatre, which is being newly constructed for an Italian Opera House. It was a very curious spectacle. M. Albano, the architect, showed it to me. It took them fourteen days to pull down the parts they wished to remove, so strongly was it built. Charles Kemble told me tonight the theatre had cost 300,000l.; that 100,000l. of this, his money and that of his family, had been sunk in the concern, and he should be very glad to sell his share of it for 10,000l.’

I went with the Queen

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1836
William Macready,
actor

‘Acted Hamlet. Oh, how unlike my London performances! The best thing in the play was the grave scene; I played it well, the rest was effort and not good. Still worse, I was morose and ill-tempered. Fie! fie! shall I never outlive my folly and my vice? I fear not.’

Acted Macbeth very unequally

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1848
Sanford Fleming,
engineer

‘In the afternoon today my Father, David, Mr Pollock & I went out to the Humber Mills about 16 miles out, to see them, they are to let or sell. It is a pretty place, a flour mill with two runs of stones just finished and a good saw mill with plenty of pine.’

Adieu to my youth

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

1933
Anaïs Nin,
writer

‘We (Nin and Henry Miller) awake after a short rest and I am not tired. I am blazing with energy. I must be a sexual superwoman who, as Rank has written, is stimulated rather than exhausted by sexual life.’

Nothing but the eyes

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1937
Zorina Gray,
actress

‘First rehearsal on the stage of the Palace Theatre. All the chorus people sat in the audience - got my first “laughs” from the dialogue - it’s such fun. In the evening, saw the second act of Gisèle at Sadler’s Wells with Margot Fonteyn - very good, but not as good as Markova. Nijinska was there with Pat [Dolin]. Very sweet to me - also lots of fans from Covent Garden.’

My knees felt like macaroni

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

1938
Cesare Pavese,
writer

‘Life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic.’

I won’t write any more

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

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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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