And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

31 January

1881
Lucy Cavendish,
campaigner

‘A very notable week of Parliamentary events. The “debate” on leave to bring in the Coercion Bill began afresh on Monday, and the House sat for 41 1/2 hours. The Speaker and Dep. Speaker (Dr. Playfair) relieved each other, and the House divided itself as before into relays. On Tues. night F. was to sit up, and to go to bed at 8 on Wednesday morning the 2nd Feb. Instead of which, when he turned up at that hour, he announced that after some breakfast and a tub he was to go back again, as a coup d’état was decided on. The Speaker had gone on patiently calling the wretches to order over and over again, and about midnight the Tories made a dead set at Dr. Playfair, who had taken the Chair, to “name” one of the lot. He wouldn’t do what the Speaker had declined to do, and a bear-garden ensued. The Front Opposition bench all stalked out of the House, and rest took to shouting. Only poor Mr. Childers was on the Government bench at the time; but after a bit Bright came in and made a good speech which quieted them. Meanwhile F. went off in a cab to Devonshire House and pulled unlucky Hartn. out of bed at 1 when he had just got there and was sound asleep. The rest of the night passed peacefully. Very few even of the Government knew what was planned between the Speaker, Uncle W., and Sir Stafford; but some notion of a decisive step impending must have prevailed, for at 9 a.m. the House was pretty full. I hurried matters at home, but couldn’t omit Prayers for any coup d’état! so that I was just in time at 9.30 to be too late. The Speaker took Playfair’s place at 9, and without sitting down made a stately little speech as to the obstructed condition of things, and proceeded to say that under the exceptional circumstances he should call on no member to speak, but should at once call for the division. Biggar, one of the most offensive of the Irish, like a hunched-back toad to look at, who was comfortably expecting to resume his speech (interrupted by Playfair’s leaving the Chair), was thus left high and dry! and, before any of them could say Jack Robinson, the division was taken and leave given to bring in the Coercion Bill, which was immediately read a 1st time. When I got there, a bit of the business was being got thro’ and then came the announcement that the House do adjourn (for only 2 1/2 hours!), received by a worn-out cassé cheer of joy as the hapless M.P.s rushed out of the House and home to bed. We came across Sir Bow-wow Harcourt and Cavendish by Westminster Hall in high feather, Sir Bow-wow saying that it was the 1st time in history that Cavendish had been known to be in bed at 1, and then he was pulled out of it! F. went to bed, but had to be back by 12. Motions for adjournment went on just as if nothing had happened, and so came 6 with no progress made. Uncle W. then gave notice of Anti-Obstruction Resolutions.’

Lord and Lady Cavendish

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1907
A C Benson,
teacher and writer

‘I reflected sadly today how I tended to squabble with my women-friends. Here have I dropped out of all or nearly all my feminine friendships. I never see Lady P., I hear nothing of Countess B. I have lost sight of B. M. I have insulted M. C., alienated Mrs L., shut up Mrs S. - and so on. I have had rows with Howard, but he is more feminine than most of my friends. I think it is a certain bluntness, frankness, coarseness, which does not offend men, but which aggravates women. The thing which has tended to terminate my women-friendships is that at a certain juncture they begin to disapprove and to criticise my course, and to feel a responsibility to say disagreeable things. One ought to take it smilingly and courteously; and one would, if one liked the sex - but I don’t like the sex. Their mental processes are obscure to me; I don’t like their superficial ways; their mixture of emotion with reason. [. . .] I don’t want to excuse myself, because I think it is a vital deficiency in me; but it is so vital and so instinctive that I don’t see how to cure it, and I cannot even frame an effective desire to do so.’

A C Benson’s inner life

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1932
Harold Nicolson,
politician and writer

‘There is a dead and drowned mouse in the lily-pool. I feel like that mouse - static, obese and decaying. Viti is calm, comforting and considerate. And yet (for have I not been reading a batch of insulting press-cuttings?) life is a drab and dreary thing. I had a great chance. I have missed it. I have made a fool of myself in every respect.

Surely there was a time I might have trod
The sunlit heights, and from life’s dissonance
Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God? [Oscar Wilde lines]

Very glum. Discuss finance. Viti keeps on saying that we have got enough to go on with. But when one goes into it, that enough represents only two months. I must get a job. Yet all the jobs which pay humiliate. And the decent jobs do not pay. Come back to Long Barn. Arrange my books sadly. Weigh myself sadly. Have put on eight pounds. Feel ashamed of myself, my attainments, and my character. Am I a serious person at all? Vita thinks I could make £2,000 by writing a novel. I don’t. The discrepancy between these two theories causes me some distress of mind.’

For one’s great-grandson

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1937
Ludwig Wittgenstein,
philosopher

‘I feel as if my intellect was in a very labile equilibrium: so as if a comparatively minor jolt could bring it to snap over. It is like when one sometimes feels close to crying, feels the approaching crying fit. One should then try to breath quite calmly, regularly, deeply until the fity dissipates.’

A labile equilibrium

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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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