And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

2 July

1690
John Stevens,
soldier

‘At break of day those few drums there were beat as formally as if we had been a considerable body, but it was only mere form and we scarce the shadows of regiments, the bodies being dispersed and gone. What was left in dismal manner marched as far as Dublin, where when each commanding officer came to view his strength, shame of marching in such case through the city we not long before had filled with expectation of our actions and hopes of gathering part of the scattered herd caused us to halt in the fields without the town. The colours of each regiment being fixed on eminences that all stragglers might know whither to repair, in the space of near three hours each regiment had gathered a small number, the Grand Prior’s as one of the most considerable being then 100 strong. Thus we marched through the skirts of the city, passing over the river at the Bloody Bridge, which is the farthest off in the suburbs, being now only the remains of four regiments, the others being either quite dispersed or gone other ways, we halted again in a field at Kilmainham, a hamlet adjoining to the city. The general opinion was that we were to encamp in the park till such time as our men came up, and what forces had not been in the rout as also the militia should join us, and then either maintain the city, or, if it were judged expedient, give the enemy battle, which gave occasion to some of our small number to steal away into town thinking they might soon be back with us. But about noon we were all undeceived, the other three regiments having orders to march, and ours only left there without any or knowing whence to expect them. Being thus left by all our lieutenant-colonel marched us away, which we did not hold above a quarter of an hour when we were reduced to only twenty men with the colours. On the road we overtook the Lord Kilmallock’s Regiment, which was untouched, being quartered in Dublin when the defeat at the Boyne. The whole day was a continual series of false alarms, the greatest reached us within two miles of the Naas, where Kilmallock’s officers attempting to draw up their men to line the hedges, the confusion and terror of the soldiers who had never seen the enemy was such they were forced in all haste to march away, It was ridiculous to see the brother of the traitor O’Donnell who had the name of lieutenant-colonel reformed in our regiment, pretend to take authority upon him here, and order us to line the hedges, when at that time our whole strength was but six musketeers, eight pikes, four ensigns, and one lieutenant besides myself, to this was that but the day before hopeful regiment reduced, and yet not one of the number killed, unless they perished who were left drunk when we fled which were four or five. For our comfort no enemy was within twenty miles of us, but fear never thinks itself out of danger. We followed Kilmallock’s men with such speed it had been hard for an enemy to overtake us, and that regiment though till then untouched was in such a consternation that when they came to the Naas they were not 100 strong. Here being quite spent with marching two days without rest or food I used my utmost endeavours to persuade O’Donnell, who as I said pretended to act as lieutenant-colonel, to take up quarters for the few men that were left, to refresh them that night, and be the better able to march next morning, but all in vain. The general infection had seized him and he fancied each minute he stayed was to him time lost and an opportunity given to the enemy to gain ground upon us. Therefore following the dictates of his fear he hasted away commanding all to follow him, but necessity pressing more than his usurped authority, I stayed a while in the town with an ensign who had a lame horse, and having refreshed ourselves with bread and drink which was all the town afforded, we followed both on the same lame creature five miles to Kilcullen Bridge, where we could hear no news of our men, though they lay there that night. So inconsiderable was a regiment grown that it could not be heard of in a town where there are not above twenty or thirty houses and but three good ones. Here we took up for the remaining part of the night in a waste house, and rested the best we could till break of day.’

The sieges of Limerick

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1771
Ezra Stiles,
priest

‘Catechising 19 Boys 44 Girls 8 Negroes. Tot. 71.’

Great grief and distress

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1853
Henry Sewell,
lawyer and politician

‘Rain again. Simeon has resolved upon resigning the Agency forthwith which is a great relief. I shall consider him entitled to a quarter’s Salary in advance. I shall have a good deal to do with him after the formal termination of his office.

A good deal of talk with Raven about matters which become connected with one’s future views - but more of this hereafter.

In the evening comes Capt. Fuller dressed like a dilapidated Shepherd, in truth a great object. He seems to have cast off all care about personal appearance, and is a strange contrast to the neat trim Military gentleman at the Adelphi. He comes evidently to seek refuge and hospitality. Board we give him but lodging we cannot, Raven occupying our only spare room. I don’t like the fashion of people coming at all times, and disturbing your domestic privacy - but Hospitality is a necessary virtue in a Colony. Raven and Fuller talk the whole evening of bullocks and Sheep, breaking up land, potatoes and so forth. Fuller is afflicted still with that huge agricultural Family - the Russleys, who eat up his substance like locusts - still I think on the whole he is getting into the right way to do well for himself, but he is half daft. Queer anecdotes one gets of Colonial ways of living. There is the road to Kaiapoi, a never-failing topic of lamentation. Just after leaving Christchurch you enter the Papanui Swamp through which it is next to impossible to drag any vehicle formed for human use. Raven took his children across it the other day. He in advance carrying the eldest girl. Miss Burbidge the Governess and Johnny following on a Cart horse with a pack saddle. Presently there is a scream - the horse is down and Governess and child are in the midst of the Swamp, but with some exertion are safely mounted again. After clearing the Swamp the road becomes slightly better for a few miles, when you reach the banks of the River. Who in England would take the bed of a River for a Road? but so it is, the bottom is tolerably hard, barring a quicksand here and there which may possibly engulph the travellers. After some miles of this amphibious route they get to the Ferry - a ferry for man but not for horses, so the horses have to swim for it, getting thoroughly wet and of course transferring the acquired moisture to their riders on remounting, - then more quagmires and swamp and so home - fifteen miles up the country. Such is winter travelling in the settled District of the Canterbury plains. N’importe - people get on well enough, and on the whole seem rather to enjoy it than not. They are out of provisions up at Kaiapoi and have no sugar. Vessels cannot go round to the Waimakariri this weather.’

New Zealand’s first premier

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1864
John L. Ransom,
soldier

‘Almost the Glorious Fourth of July. How shall we celebrate? Know of no way except to pound on the bake tin, which I shall do. Have taken to rubbing my limbs, which are gradually becoming more dropsical. Badly swollen. One of my teeth came out a few days ago, and all are loose. Mouth very sore. Battese says: “We get away yet.” Works around and always busy. If any news, he merely listens and don’t say a word. Even he is in poor health, but never mentions it. An acquaintance of his says he owns a good farm in Minnesota. Asked him if he was married - says: “Oh, yes.” Any children? “Oh, yes.” This is as far as we have got his history. Is very different from Indians in general. Some of them here are despisable cowards - worse than the negro. Probably one hundred negroes are here. Not so tough as the whites. Dead line being fixed up by the Rebels. Got down in some places. Bought a piece of soap, first I have seen in many months. Swamp now in frightful condition, from the filth of camp. Vermin and raiders have the best of it. Captain Moseby still leads the villains.’

See maggots squirming

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1882
Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff,
politician

‘I received this morning a cipher telegram from the Viceroy, warning me that we might have to send troops to Egypt. I saw accordingly the Commander-in-Chief, as well as the Military Secretary, and telegraphed to alter the arrangements for my approaching tour, some portions of which, as originally settled, would have taken me too far from the railway.’

Good-natured books

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1913
Franz Kafka,
writer

‘Wept over the report of the trial of a twenty-three-year-old Marie Abraham who, because of poverty and hunger, strangled her not quite nine-month-old child, Barbara, with a man’s tie that she used as a garter. Very routine story.

The fire with which, in the bathroom, I described to my sister a funny motion picture. Why can I never do that in the presence of strangers?

I would never have married a girl with whom I had lived in the same city for a year.’

I am entirely alone

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1940
John Rupert Colville,
civil servant

‘Tomorrow at dawn we put into operation a plan called CATAPULT which entails the seizure of all French ships in British ports and, later in the day, an ultimatum to the big French capital ships at Oran.

The P.M. says that in the event of invasion London should be defended. To take it would cost the Germans many lives. Secret Service reports from Norway make it clear that invasion is being prepared from there as well as from other quarters. It is suggested that Iceland and the Shetlands may be among the first objectives, that a feint will be made against the East Coast, but that the real attack will be from the West.

Beaverbrook wants to resign because of his difficulties with the Air Ministry and, in particular, with the Air Marshals. Winston won’t hear of any such thing at the present moment and, of course, it does rather look as if B. wanted to leave now, at the peak of success in aircraft production, before new difficulties arise. It is like trying to stop playing cards immediately after a run of luck.

Brendan Bracken is apparently to be allowed to supervise the appointment of bishops - which I find a little hard to stomach. Brendan is all very well - intelligent, forceful and often sensible - but he is not the man to deal with bishops.

Winston returned about 10.45 p.m. from a tour of defences in the South and life became both hot and hectic.’

My first day at No. 10

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1945
John F. Kennedy,
politician

‘The great danger in movements to the Left is that the protagonists of the movement are so wrapped up with the end that the means becomes secondary and things like opposition have to be dispensed with as they obstruct the common good. When one sees the iron hand with which the Trade Unions are governed, the whips cracked, the obligatory fee of the Trade Union’s Political representatives in Parliament, you wonder about the liberalism of the Left. They must be most careful. To maintain Dictatorships of the Left or Right are equally abhorrent no matter what their doctrine or how great their efficiency.’

JFK‘s diary strikes gold

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1960
Georges Simenon,
writer

‘The Match photographer, who lived four or five days in the bosom of my family, had not known me before he came but left as an old friend. The writer, theoretically more ‘cultured’, but who managed to ask hundreds of impertinent questions, came to do his work, no more, and add an article, a victim, to his collection.’

A peasant’s mind

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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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