And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

22 January

John Newton,
sailor and priest

‘My dear friend [Mr Cowper] still walks in darkness. I can hardly conceive that anyone in a state of grace and favour with God, can be in greater distress. And yet no-one walked more closely with him, or was more simply devoted to him in all things. Thus as in the case of Job he shows his right to deal as he wills with his own, he knows how to make up for all, to bring light out of darkness and real good out of seeming evil. When we presume to say, Why hast thou done this? He answers in his word, Be still and know that I am God.’

The extraordinary Mr Newton


Florence Nightingale,

‘Sat long in the cold moonlight watching our approach to Philae and preparing myself for it. Moonlight walk on the island. Sitting on Philae by the temple of Isis, with the roar of the cataract, I thought I should see Him. His shadow in the moonlight in the Propylaeum.

Florence’s lost diaries


August Strindberg,

‘I’m turning 49 (7x7) years old. Last night: dreamt I found some occult books, black magic. Wanted out from a cowhouse but it was dark and I couldn’t find the exit. Woke with palpitations, and heard people above leaving. Kléen arrived.’

H-t was with me


King George V

‘I held a Council, at which Ramsay MacDonald was sworn in a member. I then asked him to form a government, which he accepted to do. I had an hour’s talk with him, he impressed me very much; he wishes to do the right thing. Today 23 years ago dear Grandmama died. I wonder what she would have thought of a Labour Government.’

Quite a historic occasion


Henri Michaux,
writer and artist

[After Panama] ‘The sea resolves all difficulties. It brings on few. It’s a lot like us. It lacks the earth’s hard, pulseless heart, and, be it ever so prompt to drown, we have only to take against this eventuality reasonable precautions for it to be once again our friend, quite brotherly, and understanding us perfectly.

It does not offer us these unmatched spectacles wherein the earth excels (provided we journey a few hundred miles), spectacles that make utter strangers of us, as if we were newly born and unhappy.

Who knows one sea knows the sea. Its anger, like ours. Its inner life, like ours. What is more, it does not like the earth offer in a single vista thousands of independent, different, and personal points - trees, rocks, flowers.

To the Ancients these personal points were not negligible, and it was My Lord Rock, Madam River. The professors, after the Jews and Christians, ruined all that.

Who can speak fittingly of a grove?’

Washed out exoticism


Zorina Gray,

‘Rehearsal at 11 - before that, looked at costumes - now tired but happy at home. I find Jack Whiting very, very nice and sympathetic. I know I always have to have something “romantic” in the theater and he is exactly right for the role. Jack Donahue is nice - but too nice - also right for Morosine, so I can play my scenes better. Today the blue foxes for my costume were chosen.’

My knees felt like macaroni


Earl Silas Tupper,

‘I can do this designing better than anyone else.’

Tupper the tinkerer


Frida Kahlo,

‘Today Wednesday 22 of January 1947
You rain on me - I sky you
You’re the fineness, childhood,
life - my love - little boy - old man
mother and center - blue - tender-
ness - I hand you my
universe and you live me
It is you whom I love today.
= I love you with all my loves
I'll give you the forest
with a little house in it
with all the good things there are in
my construction, you'll live
joyfully - I want
you to live joyfully. Although
I always give you my
absurd solitude and the monot-
ony of a whole
diversity of loves -
Will you? Today I'm loving
the beginnings and you love
your mother.’

Thanks to my Diego


Lindsay Anderson,

‘Call in on Jocelyn, who is drawn and shattered but in control. Peggy [Ashcroft] there: we greet with warmth. What is there to say, beyond that expression of sympathy which so exhausts, making one feel the emptiness of one’s heart. Am rather touched when she asks me to escort her to the funeral - and also by the pages which George [Devine] left of the start of his autobiography. ‘For me the theatre is a temple of ideas . . .’

Happy days with Peggy


Paul K. Lyons,

‘Arsenal were knocked out of the cup today. They’re useless.’

Arsenal, Highbury and me


Michael Palin,
actor and writer

‘Tomorrow I must be on the ball, for even more important discussions, this time about the professional future, must be raised with Terry as a result of a couple of calls from Jimmy Gilbert who has once again emphasised that he would like the Tomkinson series to be a Michael Palin series, written by Michael Palin and Terry Jones and starring Michael Palin.’

The Jones/Palin relationship


Theodore M. Hesburgh,
priest and administrator

‘En Route to Acapulco. This morning we woke up to as calm a sea as we have seen so far. The Pacific is living up to its name. A whole school of dolphins was cavorting off the port side as a number of ships, mainly tankers, passed by en route to Panama. Off the starboard side, we see long rows of mountains on the coastline, as well as a number of islands out at sea. It’s a beautiful sunny day, with the temperature in the high 80s. I finished Sayonara before turning in last night, and now I’m beginning Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind and continuing with Burghardt’s Preaching. While I was up on the sports deck reading this morning, I ran into Herb Kaplow. We had a two-hour bull session out in the sun. He and I have known each other for a long time, going back to the late 1950s and the 1960s when I was on the Civil Rights Commission.’

To smell the roses


Peter Clark,

‘We walk into the city centre. There are more people around than usual. Men in dark suits persuade shopkeepers to close up and by 1 o’clock all shops have their shutters down. Groups of youths process in hooting cars, carrying pictures of Basil [the President’s son, who died the day before]. Newspapers with large photos are stuck on shop doorways and people pause to peruse. One paper has a long poem by the Minister of Culture. Yesterday people seemed to be too stunned to show any reaction. Today there are demonstrations. A human tragedy is perceived. Everyone can deplore the death of a child before his parent. Basil was writ large across Syria. His father, prematurely aged, must be shattered. I hear there were troop movements all last night, including tanks in the city. The accident, we hear, was on the road to the airport, perhaps late on Thursday night. Basil was perhaps drunk, driving to see a Makhlouf cousin off to Germany.’

Damascus diaries


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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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