And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

23 July

1726
Benjamin Franklin,
politician

‘This day we weighed anchor and fell down with the tide, there being little or no wind. In the afternoon we had a fresh gale, that brought us down to Margate, where we shall lie at anchor this night. Most of the passengers are very sick. Saw several porpoises, &c.’

Founding Father Franklin

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1757
Robert Lester,
diplomat

‘This Morning, at 7 o’clock, Antonio came to me, and told me, that the King would give me Audience, at the same time he told me, that on going into the King’s Apartment in his Barge, I must leave my Sword and Shoe behind, and on approaching near the King, to the Place appointed for me, I must kneel; I used all the Arguments I could, and told him as an Officer in the Honourable Company’s Service, I could not consent to the above, he then, as likewise other Great Men with him, told me, that no Person, let him be of the highest Rank, could have Audience given them by the Great King of Ava, Pegu, &c. &c. (Allaum Praw, next to GOD) if they did not conform to the above, and that all Ambassadors, from the Negrais before, had done it.

As I hope it will be a means of getting the Treaty of Alliance, with the above King and The Honourable Company, settled, I agreed, and went with Antonio to the King’s Barge, and after congratulating him, on his late conquest of so potent a Kingdom, with other Compliments on the Occasion I delivered him my Credentials. [. . .]

I then desired the Interpreters to inform the King, [. . .] that the English were strongly attached to His Interest; and if His Majesty would now be pleased to consent to the fixing His Chop [seal] to the above, it would be a means of uniting the two Nations together for ages to come. The King then said, that he had sent a Sloop some Months ago to Madrass, with Goods to purchase Powder, &c, and he was informed by the Captain of another Sloop, now arrived at Dagon from the Coast, that the Governor of Madrass had detained his Sloop there, I answered that we had received no Letters, or News of any kind, from Madrass, but I was positive if the Sloop was detained, that the Governor of Madrass did not know that she belonged to His Majesty.

As I had not room to stretch my legs out, and I was somewhat uneasy, I saw a small Stool behind me, which I took, and sat on, this caused a laughter among the Great Men about me, the King asked the reason, and was informed, on which he rose up and came close to me, and laughed very heartily, and asked me what was the reason that Englishman could not kneel? I told him we were not accustomed to it; on which he pointed to the Yard of the Boat, which was close by, and told me I might set there, I told His Majesty I was not insensible of the Honour he did me, he then pointed to the Prince of Persaim, and told me he had given him a new Name (Mungee Narataw) on account of his good behaviour, the King then asked me several Questions, through the above Interpreters, viz. Does your King go to the Wars and expose his Person as I do? Do you understand the use of Ordnance, &c? Could you point a Gun to kill a Man at a great distance? Is there as much Rain in your Country as in this? What is the reason you wear that at your Shoulder, (my Shoulder Knot)? How much Money does The Company pay you [per] Month? Why don’t you black your Bodies and Thighs as we do (at the same time rising up, and shewing me his Thigh)? Let me feel your Hand, feeling my Fingers and Wrist, and said we were like Women, because we did not black as above. Is there Ice in your Country as in mine, small Creeks froze over?

I answered to all the above Questions, which seemed to please them, and to the last Question I told him that I had seen a River, as broad as this His Majesty is now in (meaning London River) frozen over, and an Ox roasted whole, upon the Ice; to which the King, as likewise all the Great Men about him, laughed heartily; the King asked me, what was the reason we did not leave the Negrais, and come all to Persaim, and settle there? I told him that the Negrais was a Key to that River, if we lost it entirely, that the French, who I believe we were now at War with, would likely come there, but that we should come with a firm resolution to settle at Persaim, if His Majesty would indulge us in settling the Treaty, and leave a small Force at the Negrais; The King then said if all the Powers in The World was to come, he could drive them out of His Country; he then asked me, if we were afraid of the French; I told him that the English and French had no great liking for each other but there never was that Englishman born, that was afraid of a Frenchman; the King then told me, that he had taken great quantities of Guns, Bombs, &c. with all kind of Warlike Stores at Pegu, and that he was now going up triumphant (with the former King of Pegu, and his Daughter, the Uppa Rajah, and other Great Men, Peguers, prisoners) to his great Cities, Prone, Ava, &c. and that he would put his Chop, to our Treaty of Alliance, and give us Liberty to trade in any part of his Kingdom; he then ordered me to follow him to the Mouth of the River, which leads to Ava, where there is a House, as above-mentioned, for the King’s reception, and I am informed, he intends to stay two or three days, and he would send me Provisions and settle the above; I desired the Interpreter to return His Majesty my hearty thanks for the Honour done me, and as His Barge was getting in readiness to proceed, I was desired to take my Leave, which I did and came away.

I have made Presents to the Prince of Persaim, King’s Brother, Prime Minister, and other six Great Men, about the King’s Person, of the following things, viz. Scarlet Cloth 30 Yards, 2 Pieces Seersuckers, 1 Piece Pullicat Handkerchiefs, 1 Kittysall, 1 Bottle Lavender Water, 1 Ring, Bristol Stone, with a Brilliant Spark on each side, 1 Black Feather, from my Hat, 1 Piece of Silk Handkerchiefs; this I have done, hoping it may be a means of getting my business done, on The Company’s Account, the sooner; the remainder part of this day we have been following the King to the Place above mentioned, the Fresh in this River is excessive rapid, and we could not come to the Place where the King was, at Night, I believe, at a moderate computation, there’s in Boats, on this River, on this Occasion, One hundred thousand Men, Women, and Children.’

An audience with Alaungpaya

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1879
Francis Turner Palgrave,
civil servant and poet

‘Cis and I took the two eldest children to ‘Hamlet.’ I had not seen any serious acting for years, and went expecting to find my greatest pleasure in the dear children’s; but I returned very deeply impressed with the frequent admirable renderings of Irving as ‘Hamlet’ and Miss Terry as ‘Ophelia.’ . . . Above all, the amazing difficulty of the art impressed me; as with painting, I doubt how far the spectator can pretend to point out the way in which parts might be improved, though he may lawfully feel not satisfied. What was good also, both in these and in the other actors, is to me so much clearly gained. Also if ‘Hamlet’ acted unequally, how unequally, a vrai dire, is ‘Hamlet’ written!’

Professor of poetry

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1884
Thomas Cobden-Sanderson,
craftsman

‘On Monday, Morris and the Hyndmans came to lunch with us, and I afterwards went with them to Hyde Park to take the opportunity of the Liberal demonstration to spread socialistic literature and to hold an open-air meeting. This last was a fiasco, being brought to an ignominious close by an ugly rush of the crowd.’

Innumerable ripples; countless diamonds

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1907
Robert Charles Benchley,
writer and actor

‘Then Lucy, Miss Jean, Jessie, Miss Ida and I went on the river in the moonlight in the two canoes. Sang and drifted. Took my mandolin. Slick.’

I hope not a ‘what it was’

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1941
Marielle Bennett,
actor

‘Then we went to see ‘Blythe Spirit’ which is one of the best productions I have ever seen. Margaret Rutherford as the medium was superb. I do not know when I have seen a more amusing and yet realistic characterisation. I could go over and over again and not get bored with that show. My friend saw a man come into one of the boxes towards the end of the play and look around at the audience intently and then make a great show of lighting a cigarette. She said it must have been Noel Coward as no one else would do it quite like that but I was too interested in the play to worry about the author! After that we went to get tea at The Prompt Corner only to find it closed. I was not surprised at that as all the places I hope to find seem closed. Eventually we got some at a nasty little cafe in Charing Cross.’

The cost of stockings

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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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