And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

9 January

1684
John Evelyn,
writer

‘I went across the Thames on the ice, now become so thick as to bear not only streets of booths, in which they roasted meat, and had divers shops of wares, quite across as in a town, but coaches, carts, and horses passed over. So I went from Westminster stairs to Lambeth, and dined with the Archbishop. [. . .] After dinner and discourse with his Grace till evening prayers, Sir George Wheeler and I walked over the ice from Lambeth stairs to the Horseferry.’

A most excellent person

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1708
Timothy Burrell,
lawyer

‘These are the funeral charges on the internment of my dear sister Jane Burrell, who died on the 16th January, 1708. To G Wood, for crape and worsted for the shroud, £1 6s, and for making it, 8s; for making and nayling the coffin, £2 2s; for bays to line it, 11s, and cloth to cover it, £1 6s; for black crape, hatbands, gloves, 6s; favour knots, wine, and use of pall, £15 1s.

To Mr Middleton, for sermon, £2 3s. To the clerk and sexton, for the passing bell and grace, 2s 6d. To Mr Daw, for his bill for charges for commission and probate of the will, £2 9s. The total expenses were £35 9s 6d.’

Dr Fuller’s infusion

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1777
Ezra Stiles,
priest

‘A solar visible Eclipse. I observed it at Dighton.’

Great grief and distress

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1793
Jean-Pierre Blanchard,
inventor

‘At 9 o’clock the mist dissipated, the sky was wrapt in thin clouds, pervious to the rays of the sun; wind S. W. Reaumur’s thermometer [various meteorological figures]

At ½ past 9, the sun which broke in through the clouds dissipated them in such a manner that they appeared no more than cobwebs on the irradiated atmosphere - A gentle westerly breeze [figures].

The hour fixed for my departure now drew near, and I was anxious to keep my word with a numerous people, whom repeated discharges of the artillery of the city had already forewarned of the execution of my experiment; I then disposed in order all the apparatus requisite for my observations: I adapted Reaumur’s thermometer to the center of an excellent barometer, in order to rectify, with the greatest possible exactness, the degrees of expansion or condensation which the mercury in the barometer should undergo by the changes in the temperature of the air. The altitude, as corrected at that time, [figures]

At 10 o’clock, the sky was still finer and clearer; a light breeze from the W. N. W. [figures]

Already the balloon, inflated by the inflammable gas, lifted itself from the ground, and having assumed its spherical form, was equally pressed on all the points of its concave surface. Already specifically lighter than the column of air which it had displaced, it hovered majestically in the middle of that fluid in a vertical situation, striving to break loose from the fastening which held it by its base and reluctantly kept it down. Repeated experiments have made these various circumstances so many data from which to determine the moment of my departure.

At 9 minutes after 10, the sky being clear, serene and propitious, little wind and nearly calm at the surface of the earth; [figures] I affixed to the aerostat my car, laden with ballast, meteorological instruments, and some refreshments, with which the anxiety of my friends had provided me. I hastened to take leave of the President, and of Mr. Ternan, Minister Plenipotentiary of France to the United States. I then received from the President the most flattering mark of his good will in the passport which he was pleased to deliver to me with his own hand. I never felt the value of glory so much as I did in that moment, in the presence of a Hero, whom she had constantly attended at the head of armies, and with whom she still presided over the councils of his country.

The moment of my departure was announced by the last discharge of the artillery; I then ascended my car, studied the proportions of aerial gravities, and threw out as much of my ballast as appeared necessary to leave the aerostat at liberty, and to render my ascent certain. I soon found myself possessed of every requisite; I felt myself balanced at 15 inches from the ground. This was all I wished for; I requested Messieurs Nassy and Legaux, who held the aerostat, to let it loose.

My ascent was perpendicular, and so easy that I had time to enjoy the different impressions which agitated so many sensible and interesting persons, who surrounded the scene of my departure, and to salute them with my flag, which was ornamented on one side with the armoric bearings of the United States, and on the other with the three colors, so dear to the French nation. Accustomed as I have long been to the pompous scenes of numerous assemblies, yet I could not help being surprized and astonished, when, elevated at a certain height over the city, I turned my eyes towards the immense number of people which covered the open places, the roofs of the houses, the steeples, the streets and the roads over which my flight carried me in the free space of the air. What a sight! How delicious for me to enjoy it! This people naturally serious and reflecting, whose mirth is so much more true and national, as it is not apt to give away to the transports of the moment, shewed from all parts the most unequivocal marks of astonishment and satisfaction: I, for a long time, followed their rapid motions: for a long time could I hear the cries of joy which rent the air: I thought myself carried on the vows of their hearts. I had at that instant nothing but the success of my voyage to answer for my gratitude, and the waving of my colours to express the same. At present I make it my duty to express the same in this feeble essay; may it be agreeable to the inhabitants of a city whose approbation is so glorious for me.

I still continued to rise; the calm state of the atmosphere, whereinto I had now launched, offered no kind of difficulty, and I followed the ascending motion of my aerostat with a gradual uniformity, at once easy and majestic.

I was at a perpendicular height of 200 fathoms, when I felt a somewhat stronger breeze spring up, which carried me in an easterly direction towards the Delaware: here I met a numerous and thick flock of wild pigeons: they seemed to be much frightened. Alas! it was never my intention in traversing the ethereal regions to disturb the feathered inhabitants thereof: they separated into two different parties and left a passage open for me. I soon perceived them again at a great distance from me. I ascended constantly, being carried towards the south-east by a light and pleasant breeze. At 10h. 10m. I let go my anchor, to serve as a point of observation, keeping the same course, though rather a little more to the southward.

At 10h, 19-20-21m. bearing constantly towards the S. S. E. my ascent became more rapid, owing solely to the dilatation of the inflammable gas which filled the balloon. At this moment my position was perpendicular over the middle of the Delaware, which the reflecting sunbeams painted to my eyes of a transparent white; and at the height I was then at, this river appeared to me like a ribband of the breadth of about four inches.

At 10h. 35m. being now in a much more rarified fluid, and the force of the inflammable gas having increased in proportion to its dilatation, the aerostat was soon raised to the highest elevation which it is susceptible of. I had lost nothing of my ballast consisting of four bags and an half filled with sand, containing 24lb. English weight each, together 108 lb. A little black dog, which a friend had entrusted to me, seemed to feel sick at this height; he attempted several times to get out of the car; but finding no landing-place he took the prudent part to remain quietly beside me: the whining of this little animal raised nevertheless reflections in my mind, which would have affected me very much, had not the view of the country, whose vast extent was expanded before my eyes, opened my mind to softer and more agreeable contemplations.’

First US balloon flight

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1810
Mirza Abul Hassan Khan,
diplomat

‘Many London houses are built around ‘squares’: these are large, [. . .] enclosed by iron railings as high as a man and set vertically a hand’s breadth apart. The streets between the houses and the square are wide enough for three carriages to drive abreast; and streets for carriages, horse-riders and pedestrians lead out from each corner. Each square belongs to the owners of the houses surrounding it, and only they are allowed to go in. On each side there is an iron gate which the residents - men, women and children - use when they wish to spend some time walking and relaxing within. The squares are pleasant gardens, planted with a variety of trees and beautiful, bright flowers. Most squares also have pools of water and wide, straight paths to walk along. Three gardeners are kept busy in each square repairing paths, plantings trees and flowers and tending the shrubs. At night street lamps are lighted - like those outside each house. The doors and windows of all the houses look out on to the square. It is pleasant to walk there in all seasons.’

I was utterly amazed!

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1832
Barclay Fox,
businessman

‘Commenced schooling today by myself in the new schoolroom and made an address to it in 6 Latin verses. I knocked out a pane of glass with my whipping top. A very wet day. I have begun to go to bed at 9 instead of 10.’

The day came at last

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1914
Gertrude Bell,
writer and archaeologist

‘The temp fell to 22° in the night and our unwelcome guard had a bad time. Spent the day waiting for the Qaimmaqam of Salt. F. and Abdallah came back (the chowwish had offered to bring them back in the middle of the night) and we all spent the morning making a new tent pole for me, the soldiers aiding. Heaps of gazelle in the hills. Sat in F.’s tent and drew out a section of Kharaneh in afternoon. Cold and horribly windy. Jusef Ch. who has been away all day, came back in a good and obliging temper. It is all rather fancy I must say.’

The Arabian Diaries

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1943
Francis Burton Harrison,
politician

‘Bernstein then presented the question of a movie drama in Hollywood, now in course of preparation, showing an American nurse and an American officer’s adventures on Bataan. A Filipino doctor had been proposed, and Romulo considered it, and insisted that he should appear as himself! Quezon said quietly that Romulo did not look sufficiently like a Filipino - was more like a Chinese. Proponed Dr Diño, his personal physician instead - said he was a real Malay type and also had had previous experience of acting.

Knowing as I did, from another source, of the terrific row Romulo and Quezon had recently had over Romulo’s book I saw the Fall of the Philippines, I was somewhat diverted by this calm discussion. Quezon had been so angry with Romulo that he had told him, “to get the hell out of here, and never come back” and had deprived him of his uniform as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Philippine Army when he was on the lecture platform.’

Philippine hero’s birth date

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1956
Bill Haley,
musician

‘Reported at 9.30 am for third day at Colombia lot. Shot more scenes on the picture. Today did ‘Rock Around The Clock’ and ‘Rudy’s Rock’. That makes 5 songs so far we’ve done in the picture. So far the picture is going great. This is a big break for us. Keeping my fingers crossed. To bed early and up at them tomorrow at 7.30 am.’

The rock and roll life

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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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