And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

15 July

1699
Richard Newdigate,
landowner

‘About 4 ith’ afternoon landed at Chirburgh, being a Port where the “Sun”, the great French ship, was fired. The Sea shore had hundreds of people upon it, it being their St James’s Day. When they saw the English colors they drew near our boat, and the third man we met with addressed us in very good English. He was a Merchant of that place, knew our swearing Seaman, Abraham, his name John Baily, but entitled Cobizon, from a Village he possesses of that Name. He led us to Mademoiselle du Val’s house, the Sun, where there were Stone Steps as to our Steeples, no boarded Floors but bricked, two Beds in a Room, no blankets under, but first a Great Mattress of Straw, then a small thin Feather-bed, and then a large Quilt, then a Blanket and Counterpane, round Bolster, no Pillows.

Mr Cobizon advised me to wait upon the Commissary, who is their only Governor, the Sieur Menevill. He was very Civil. Then we went to the Inn, and Mr Cobizon undertook to finish all with the Master of the Vessel, Mr Harly. But I had a mind to go on board our Ship, where I found the Custom house Officers and many people on board, and hundreds on shore to see the Sight.

After two hours spent in shewing all our goods to the Custom house officers, who were very strict but very civil, we slung our Horses and Coach ashore and put it together, and four men carried our Goods in great Handbarrows. The Coach was accompanied by the multitude into town, who had (as Mr Cobizon said) ne’er seen a Coach before, and I was forced to take it off the Wheels and carry it into a Bachelor Merchant (Mr Bousselaer) his Yard, to have it safe. Otherwise it had been torn in pieces and those kept as Relics by the people. This held me till near eleven.

In the meantime I went to bespeak Supper, but could have no flesh; they durst not dress it. ’Twas Saturday, a Fish day, and tho’ to break the seventh Comandment is venial, eating Flesh is a mortal Sin. Nor could we have fish; Mrs Du Vail said ’twas all gone. But I spied Crabs, of which she bought six for three pence, and we got Thornback and made a pretty good Supper. Prayed and went to bed after twelve, I having read myself half asleep and then went to bed. After my first sleep I slept heartily, I thank God, till after eight.’

But I spied crabs

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1704
Benjamin Franklin,
politician

‘The Duke de Chartres’s balloon went off this morning from St. Cloud, himself and three others in the gallery. It was foggy, and they were soon out of sight. But the machine being disordered, so that the trap or valve could not be opened to let out the expanding air, and fearing that the balloon would burst, they cut a hole in it which ripped larger, and they fell rapidly, but received no harm. They had been a vast height, met with a doud of snow, and a tornado which frightened them.’

Founding Father Franklin

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1710
William Byrd,
landowner

‘About 7 o’clock the negro boy that ran away was brought home. My wife against my will caused little Jenny to be burned with a hot iron, for which I quarreled with her. It was so hot today that I did not intend to go to the launching of Colonel Hill’s ship but about 9 o’clock the Colonel was so kind as to come and call us. My wife would not go at first but with much entreaty she at last consented. About 12 o’clock we went and found abundance of company at the ship and about one she was launched and went off very well, notwithstanding several had believe the contrary. When this was over we went to Mr Platt’s to dinner and I ate boiled beef. We stayed till about 5 o’clock and then returned home, where all was well. I found an express from above with a letter from Joe Wilkinson desiring to be discharged from my service when his year was out.’

A planters life!

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1865
Lewis Carroll,
writer

‘Went to Macmillan’s and wrote in 20 or more copies of Alice to go as presents to various friends. This took so long that I did not get to Terry’s till 12½, where I photographed till about 4½, and took a large one of Miss Terry in fancy costume, Tom, a Miss Martin, a friend of theirs, and finally a family group of all but the baby.

Then I had a game of “Castle Croquet’ with Miss Terry, Mrs. Watts, and Polly. I made a sort of dinner at their tea, and ended by escorting Polly to the Olympic to see The Serf. We had Miss Terry’s season-ticket, and got good places in the dress-circle. After The Serf I took Polly round to the stage-door to join her sister and went back to see Glaucus, a very pretty burlesque. I mark these last three days with a white stone.’ [See Contrariwise for a detailed discussion of Dodgson’s ‘white stone’ references.]

Dodgson in wonderland

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1952
Salvador Dali,
artist

‘Once more I thank Sigmund Freud and proclaim louder than ever his great truths. I, Dali, deep in a constant introspection and a meticulous analysis of my smallest thoughts, have just discovered that, without realising it, I have painted nothing but rhinoceros horns all my life. At the age of ten, a grasshopper-child, I already said my prayers on all fours before a table made of rhinoceros horn. Yes, to me it was already a rhinoceros! I take another look at my paintings and I am stupefied with the amount of rhinoceros my work contains. Even my famous bread [1945 painting] is already a rhino horn, delicately resting in a basket. Now I understand my enthusiasm the day Arturo Lopez presented me with my famous rhinoceros-horn walking stick. As soon as I became its owner, it produced in me a completely irrational illusion. I attached myself to it with an incredible fetishism, amounting to obsession, to such an extent that I once struck a barber in New York, when by mistake he almost broke it by lowering too quickly the revolving chair on which I had gently put it down. Furiously, I struck at his shoulder hard with my stick to punish him, but of course I immediately gave him a very big tip so that he would not get angry. Rhinoceros, rhinoceros, who are you?’

Rhinoceros, who are you?

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1955
Carolina Maria de Jesus,
rubbish collector

‘The birthday of my daughter Vera Eunice. I wanted to buy a pair of shoes for her, but the price of food keeps us from realizing our desires. Actually we are slaves to the cost of living. I found a pair of shoes in the garbage, washed them, and patched them for her to wear.

I didn’t have one cent to buy bread. So I washed three bottles and traded them to Arnaldo. He kept the bottles and gave me bread. Then I went to sell my paper. I received 65 cruzeiros. I spent 20 cruzeiros for meat. I got one kilo of ham and one kilo of sugar and spent six cruzeiros on cheese. And the money was gone.

I was ill all day. I thought I had a cold. At night my chest pained me. I started to cough. I decided not to go out at night to look for paper. I searched for my son Joao. He was at Felisberto de Carvalho Street near the market. A bus had knocked a boy into the sidewalk and a crowd gathered. Joao was in the middle of it all. I poked him a couple of times and within five minutes he was home.

I washed the children, put them to bed, then washed myself and went to bed. I waited until 11:00 for a certain someone. He didn’t come. I took an aspirin and laid down again. When I awoke the sun was sliding in space. My daughter Vera Eunice said; “Go get some water, Mother!” ’

There’s nothing to eat

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1964
Malcolm X,
politician

‘I find all the African delegates at all levels are strongly sympathetic to our cause, [. . .] But American propaganda through the USIS [United States Information Service] has been powerful[,] influencing most of them to think we hate Africa & don’t identify with her in any way. Most of them are shocked by my strongly pro-African sentiments - shocked and elated.’

Malcolm X uninterrupted

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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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