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20 July

Caroline Herschel,

‘Prince Charles (Queen’s brother) Duke of Saxe-Gotha and the Duke of Montague were here this morning. I had a message from the King to show them the instruments.’

I swept from ten till one


Joseph Farington,

‘[Porden, the architect, said] He was rapidly proceeding with Lord Grosvenors House at Eaton. The Stone is excellent & it is procured at 10 miles from Eaton. The pinnacles (it is a Gothic design) are executed in Cast Iron, which He said is more desirable than stone & He gets that for 14 shillings which wd. cost in Stone, £9. The frames of the windows are also of Cast Iron. He sd. the mine discovered on Lord Grosvenor estate brings him in £30 or £40,000 a yr. He was building stables at Brighton for the Prince of Wales, of a Circular form in imitation of the famous Corn Market at Paris which was burnt in 1803. The Prince at present takes much interest in building. [The stables are now the Hall known as the Dome which adjoins Brighton Art Galleries and Library.]’

Farington, painter and diarist


William Wilberforce,

‘What a lesson it is to a man not to set his heart on low popularity when after 40 years disinterested public service, I am believed by the Bulk to be a Hypocritical Rascal. O what a comfort it is to have to fly for refuge to a God of unchangeable truth and love.’

God’s work against slavery


Elisha Mitchell,
professor and geologist

‘Tuesday morning. Rode up to see Gen. Stokes and Col. Wellborn. Their father-in-law Hugh Montgomery owned one of the finest plantations on the river. They married sisters, and this plantations was divided among them. Stokes is considerably the oldest. They have not formerly agreed very well but are said to be on good terms now. Wellborn is nearest to town - only two miles off. Called on him. He offered me breakfast - whiskey and then feeding of my horse, but I declined them all. Showed me some minerals and I went on to Gen. Stokes’ two miles farther. What Wellborn’s real character is I cannot make out. He has been a member of the Baptist church and will now allow no swearing about him. He left the church under the idea that he was unfit to remain in it. He seems to have a religious paroxysm. He is a candidate, a furious Jacksonite and a prompt bold man. At Gen. Stokes’ I was treated with great kindness. I used to wonder why he was so much put forward in the state but it now appears. He is a very pleasant man of good sense. His wife appears much younger than himself. He was born 20 or 30 miles above Petersburg in Virginia and was a sailor in his youth. In his family he has been exceedingly unfortunate - perhaps this is not the proper word. He has been a great card player and is at present a great swearer himself so that we may conjecture what their education has been. In addition to this I suspect some defect in the moral and physical constitution of the young men themselves. One, Hugh M. Was educated at Chapel Hill and is now a lawyer in Morgantown. He is said to possess respectable talents but is intemperate. I was told of his reformation as I passed through Morganton last year. As we were conversing freely about his children I told him I had understood that Hugh had reformed. He said he had hoped so - had sent him on his circuit with Judge Donnell with high expectations but on his return he staid at Morganton instead of coming home and he knew but feared to ask for what. Another son is a midshipman, a third is at West Point and I gathered from his father not succeeding very well, a fourth is at home. I told him I intended to give my children the best education in my power and then if they did not succeed, not to permit it to trouble me - he said I could not help it - and I suppose he was right. He gave me some information respecting the running the line first by Strother and Co.65 to painted rock and then by himself, Dr. Caldwell, and others along the great Smoky mountains. After dinner rode out to see Michals Forge and Ore Bank; the Forge (not yet completed) is the only one in the county. The ore bank is 2 or 3 miles off; the ores appear to be tolerably good though not of the first quality and has been manufactured into iron pretty extensively at Beard’s Forge in Burke. There seems to be a series of beds of iron, one lying on this side of the Brushey Mountains, on one of the spurs of which Michals ore Bank is extending like everything else in this country from N. E. To S. West; returned to town - and took tea at Major Finley’s where I saw Col. Patterson and his wife - granddaughter of Gen. Lenoir.

Wednesday Morning. The repairs of my wagon not being yet completed I did not start till about eleven. In the meantime walked out to see the Wilkesboro mineral spring. ‘Tis only some water that oozes through some earth and leaves that has been brought down the road, and that it contains perhaps a little iron has little to recommend it besides its dirty nauseous taste. Started at eleven with Dr. McKenzie and passed up the river, found the rocks mostly Gneiss the whole day and indeed throughout this whole excursion; found iron on the road 6 miles from town in white flint rock. Near Millers when we crossed the river McKenzie told me there was a bank of Porcelain clay; I did not visit it. Passed Stonecyplus an old bachelor who they say knows where there is lead in the mountain near but will give no account of it. Left my wagon at Dyck Jones, and went on a couple of miles further to John Lipps and then up the creek a mile and a half further to see some black lead. Found a little in the granite rocks but none of any value. Was told by Lipps of the garnet on the lands of ___ Church, his father-in-law, who lives just under the Blue Ridge. Returned to Jones’s and got an excellent cup of coffee. Anderson Mitchell and another Lipps came in with specimens chiefly from flat Knob amongst which I found rich characterized Sappare or Kyanite.

Thursday Morning. Crossed over through a barren country to the river which we had left and then up the river to Gen. Jones where we arrived about noon or a little after. It is not difficult to account for the deterioration of the “Range” of which people are continually complaining in this part of the country. Two causes operate in the production of this effect. 1. Since the country has been cleared and plantations laid out it will not answer to burn the woods as formerly for fear of destroying the fences and the consequence is that the small undergrowth is not destroyed as it used to be - the woods become thicker and not like an orchard as they are in the indian country - and thus herbage of all kinds being shaded does not grow and flourish. 2. Of the different kinds of herbage those suited to the sustenance of cattle as the pea-vine and natural grasses are fast devoured and both become less vigorous in their growth and are prevented from going to seed whilst the contrary effect is produced upon the bitter unpalatable weeds. Thus our woods become thick also and shady and the little herbage they produce is not fitted to the sustenance of cattle. Passed Gen. Lenoir’s (Old Fort Defiance) and stopped at the house of his son-in-law Gen. Jones to dinner. The Gen. out electioneering. A man of wealth - has two sons one at Hillsboro with Mr. Bingham and the younger with Mr. Gay. His daughters all married, two of them at table - one recently wedded to Lawyer Henry of Greenville, district S. Co. originally a Yankee? and a well enough man, the other - the youngest stole a march upon her parents and married her cousin Larkin Jones described to me by McKenzie as the smartest young man that has been raised in Wilkes. After his marriage was raised into favour and went on last winter to attend the medical lectures at Philadelphia and the agitation produced by the sudden and unexpected return of her husband at night caused a miscarriage from which she is still feeble. After a thunderstorm, occurring whilst we were at dinner, was over, obtained a horse and rode accompanied by a son of Catlett, the General’s brother, to Gidding’s old place to see some ore said to be there - the distance 10 miles. For two or three miles the country was tolerably open but the hills afterwards closed in upon us and we wound our way beneath them beside the river bank and were finally obliged to cross one or two pretty considerable ridges in order to reach our place of destination. A ride of this kind to one accustomed to the monotonous sameness of the Low Country is pleasant and agreeable and would have been highly so to me but for a shower that fell. Giddings old place, now occupied by three men by the name of Harrison - a father and his three sons, is a fine sample of what is called in the mountains as a Cove. The Yadkin is here a brawling mountain stream and the mountain instead of coming up close to it recedes so as to leave a handsome plantation of level land along its banks. Here is a fine peach and apple orchard and as pleasant a spot but for its situation as is to be found in the country. But the only access to it is by a trail or foot-path leading over a mountain ridge. Tis a very valley of Wyoming - the place for a person to retire to, who has been illtreated by the world and is disgusted with it - the place for him to retire to and not be happy. I recommend it as a retreat to Lawyer Henry - telling him how finely he could shoot bears for his wife to eat and get fine skins to warm her - the orchard would also furnish fine whiskey for her as well as the field the best of wheat and he could present the whole to her as the product of his own labor and a testimonial of his love. But he did not seem to approve the plan. We did not leave the place before sun-down and had then to wind our way over the hills and down the river ten miles but it was a fine moon-light night. We reached home after the family had all retired to rest but found a good supper ready for us.’

Lead in the mountains


David Cargill,

‘About 2 O.C. this morning our fifth child - a stout girl - was born. We have had none but natives to assist us at this critical juncture, but the Lord has been better to us than all our fears. Our native female servant has been very attentive and kind on this occasion. Mrs C is much better. . . than we could have expected her to be. May she and I have grace to dedicate ourselves afresh to the service of God.’

Like wolves and hyaenas


Lewis Carroll,

‘Called on Macmillan, and showed him Tenniel’s letter about the fairy-tale, he is entirely dissatisfied with the printing of the pictures, and I suppose we shall have to do it all again. (Millais recommends keeping back the 2000 printed at Oxford for future edition). Thence to Thomas’, the man there thinks the lamp is the cause, as I found when I tried yellow calico round it and got some first-rate negatives of Mrs. Millais, Effie, and Mary. Spent the evening again at Putney.’

Dodgson in wonderland


Charles Graves,

‘Took a slow train back to London, arriving late for lunch. Changed into uniform and hurried off to Hampstead Heath, where a demonstration by the Royal Tanks Corps was being provided. An officer with a loud-speaker described to everyone present - hundreds of civilians, perhaps Quislings among them, in addition to the 3,000 Home Guards - all the best ways of destroying our latest Valentine tank. Actually it seems it takes a tank to kill a tank, but still . . . Today is the great V day. You see Vs on walls and posters, even chalked inside restaurants.’

A hell of a night


Riccardo Cassin,

‘Finally reach Camp 3 at 6 a.m., almost totally exhausted. While the others prepare something to eat. I massage Canali’s feet. The pains begin to lessen. Outside the tent there is nothing but snow and icy wind, and so it remains for the entire day. We stay in the tent for just so long and then decide to continue our descent. To remain much longer at this height would be extremely dangerous, especially for Canali. Yet, as we attempt to go a few paces beyond the tent, we are soon driven back, convinced that to descend under such conditions is tantamount to suicide.’

Nothing but snow and icy wind


Jacques Piccard,

‘There is no weekend underwater. The watches succeed the watches. The work has to be done as usual. A Bible is on board. During the day we wait with impatience for the news of the moon landing. The message arrives finally at 4:20 pm and it is short and precise without any comments. ‘Two Americans have landed on the moon.’ So that is all we are to learn about the most beautiful, technical achievement ever made by mankind. Save for some 800 million Chinese and Albanians, we are the only people on earth not to have witnessed this historic event on our television screens. We must wait to enjoy the moment vicariously. Tonight I saw at my porthole a big salp, a sea creature perhaps 10 inches long and two to three inches in diameter. I could see it swimming, ejecting water from within itself to propel itself in circles through the water.’

The deeper you delve


William Burroughs,

‘They say a writer should have something he does with his hands (besides typing, that is). Pulling cat hairs from the Hudson Bay blanket seems to be my hand thing. That and shooting. I groom her, but the hairs are seemingly inexhaustible. What’s a man to do. Ain’t got no chance, one man alone.

Stumbles on a vile deed: report in the Weekly [World] News. McVeigh has turned into a sniveling coward, sobbing: “I don’t want to die.”

Has he? No responsible newspaper has reported what is certainly a newsworthy event. Only the Weekly News has culled this scoop from its mysterious “sources.” I nominate the Weekly News for the Vilest Act of the Century. If this story is fabricated, the News has perpetrated - has extended the very frontiers of vileness.

I remember the Machos. Died smoking. Mexican banditos stand against a pitted adobe wall, sneering at the firing squad.

So some reporter who wasn’t even there reports: “The bandits died begging for their lives. Most of them lost control of their bowels and bladders.”

I was there. I will hunt that rat reporter down. I will force him to beg for his life in front of witnesses, promising to spare his life if he begs for it like Fido on his knees, with little yips while the cameras roll.

Lights, action, (pistol shots), camera.
To me the most unforgivable sin is the Lie, because like counterfeit currency, it devalues truth.

He has endured tortures that would have reduced most men to sniveling wrecks, an agent of a service so secret it can never be admitted to exist. Now he is, by computer magic, suddenly “a dirty child-molesting dope fiend,” spit on and pelted with rocks from snarling children.

He’s had all he can take.
“Fill my truck with ammonium nitrate. I’m going to fertilize till the land looks level.”
Few survive the Big Switch.
So then?

Beat writer‘s last months


Alastair Campbell,

‘TB called early, worried about Ireland. He felt the way the coverage was leaning could add to the pressure on Trimble to pull out. There was a sense that the IRA ceasefire was a tactic to secure exactly that, so that the Unionists would be the ones blamed for screwing it up. TB suggested that I sprinkle around references to the UUs surely not wanting to be seen to throw away the best prospect of peace for years. He wanted it made clear that we had not changed the line on decommissioning, and there was far too much of that around in the Sundays. We had both to reassure the Unionists but also make clear how much was at stake if they pulled out now.’

Hoping for a big one


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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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The Diary Junction is one of those wonderful privately maintained public resources for which the Internet is justly celebrated: a database of information about celebrated and obscure diaries[over 500] from all historical periods, with referrals to the dates the diaries cover, where the originals are held and bibliographic information on published versions.’ Laura Miller, Salon

The Diary Review, hosted by Blogger, publishes magazine-style articles on diaries and diarists, several times a week. Now over ten years old, The Diary Review is the secondary source for the extracts in this online anthology.