And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

4 July

1698
Patrick Gordon,
soldier

‘In the morning, the four Strelitzes condemned last Saturday were brought out and beheaded. With few exceptions, all those executed submitted to their fate with great indifference, without saying a word, only crossing themselves; some took leave of the lookers-on. One hundred and thirty had been executed, about seventy had been killed in the engagement or died of their wounds, eighteen hundred and forty-five been sent to various convents and prisons, and twenty-five remained in this convent.’

A soldier of fortune

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1826
Thomas Robert Malthus,
economist

‘Hill by Turnpike before breakfast. Small hill the other way after breakfast. Down to Stoney river and wooden bridge. View of Luss & Ben Lomond. Steam boat. Rowerdennan. Tarbet. Inversnaith. Rob Roy’s cave. Tarbet. Walk on a shoulder of one of the mountains in the evening.

Heard at Luss that the wages of the man who worked in the slate quarries were about 20d. a day. All had been employed, and there had been little or no fall.

In Fifeshire, from Mr Bruce the same account. Wages had risen in 1825, and had not fallen again - no want of agricultural work. In 1811, 12 and 13 the price of labour for single men had been 12s. a week. In 1823, they had fallen to 9s. and in 1825 rose to 10s. at which price they remained, June 30th 1826. For about 3 months of the year the wages are only 9s,; and during the harvest much is done by piece work.

Married men are paid by the keep of a cow, a house, potatoe & flax ground, with a certain yearly sum in money. At one period of the war unmarried ploughmen paid by the year received 18£, and 6½ bolls of meal with milk. In 1816 the money wages fell to 9£. At present. 12£. Altogether what the married men receive is worth more than the earnings of the single man. Their wages in money are about half those of the single man.

The boll of wheat is rather above 4 bushels, of barly six, of oats six.

Farms are now for the most part let in Scotland so as to vary with the price of corn. Sometimes the whole rent varies with the price of corn, and sometimes a part is reserved in Money.’

The cost of men and food

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1831
Alexis de Tocqueville,
historian

‘Ceremony of 4th July. Mixture of impressions, some funny, some very serious. Militia on foot and on horse, speeches swollen with rhetoric, jug of water on platform, hymn to liberty in church. Something of the French spirit.

Perfect order that prevails. Silence. No police. Authority nowhere. Festival of the people. Marshal of the day without restrictive power, and obeyed, free classification of industries, public prayer, presence of the flag and of old soldiers. Real emotion.

Departure from Albany in the night of 4th July. Valley of the Mohawk. Hills not high. Wooded the whole way up. A part of the valley wooded too. In general the whole country has the look of a wood in which clearings have been made. Much resemblance to Lower Normandy. Every sign of a new country. Man still making clearly ineffective efforts to master the forest. Tilled fields covered with shoots of trees; trunks in the middle of the corn.

Nature vigorous and savage. Mixture in the same field of bushes and trees of a thousand different species, plants sown by man and various self-sown weeds. Brooks on all sides. New country peopled by an old people. Nothing untamed but the ground; dwellings clean and well cared for; shops in the middle of the forest; newspapers in isolated cabins. The women well turned out.

Not a trace of the Indians, the Mohawks, the most admired and the bravest of the confederate tribes of the Iroquois.

Road infernal. Carriage without springs and with curtains.

Calmness of the Americans about all these annoyances; they seem to put up with them as necessary and passing ills.’

Perfect order that prevails

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1842
William Whewell,
theologian and academic

‘The Duke of Wellington arrived; his carriage stopped at the Great Gate and then proceeded to St. John’s, where he went to attend the Duke of Northumberland’s levee. He then walked with me to Trinity Lodge, and the Fellows were presented to him by me. He then went again to St. John’s Lodge, and accompanied the Duke of Northumberland to the Senate House. After his return to this Lodge he came into the dining-room, and then he conversed a good deal.

With reference to the news of the Queen having been shot at by Bean, which arrived this morning, he spoke of an attempt made to shoot him at Paris. He had previous information that he was to be shot at. The man tried in vain to find an opportunity in the streets. The Duke had said before the event that the assassin must inevitably make the attempt at his own house. So it turned out. The man placed himself behind a watch-box and fired as the Duke entered his own Porte cochère.

The postilion saw him raise his arm, and urged his horses to a gallop, so that the Duke thought he had knocked down one of the sentries in driving in. I asked him why he had done so, and he told me that a man had fired a pistol at me from a place close by. Mr. M (Mr. Milnes?) reminded the Duke that Napoleon left the man a legacy. “Yes” he said, “Napoleon left him 10,000 francs for trying to rid the world of an aristocrat.”

I spoke of the attempt made to kill the King of Portugal in the last century. “Yes,” he said, “that was under the Marquis de Pombal’s administration. It was one of the circumstances which led to the expulsion of the Jesuits. That event was an evil to Spain and Portugal. It ruined the education of the upper orders. They are now men of no education, no moral and religious education. You never find a well educated nobleman in Spain. Consequently they are regarded with no respect by those of lower rank, and are a worthless set. Nothing can save a country but a moral and religious education of its upper classes.”

He spoke much of the Afghan war. He had always disbelieved the accounts, he said, of the abandonment of Ghuznee. He never could believe that a person put in a command so important could be so destitute of resources as the accounts represented him. “I never could believe that such an officer could say that he was obliged to surrender for want of water, when he was snowed up. I never could believe that he could say that he had left the soldiers’ bayonets in the citadel. There is no more convenient way of disposing of a bayonet than at the end of the musket or in the scabbard by the soldier’s side.”

Speaking further of India, he said, “You have there the blessing of a free press; in that country, in a country quite unfitted for such a thing. You might as well try a free press on the quarter-deck of a man of war.”

Passing the picture of Perceval, he said he was a good debater and always spoke well when he had had previously to explain a measure to a meeting of his friends.

When the Duke had been in this Lodge a few minutes, he wished me to return to St. John’s Lodge, where the Duke of Northumberland was. I tried to detain him by representing that the Chancellor could not possibly go to the Senate House for some time, and that we should see him, and could join him when he passed the College gate. But he was not to be detained, so we walked together. As we went he said, “I came to do honour to the Duke of Northumberland, and I must be on the spot for that purpose. Nothing like being on the spot.”

When he had stayed at the Lodge some time after his return from the Senate House, conversing as above, I proposed to him to go to Magdalen College, where the Master had collected a party of distinguished visitors in the Lodge garden, with a band of music. We went there by the back of the Colleges and through Northampton Street. When we arrived near the gate the Duke asked who was the master of Magdalen, and when I told him Mr. Neville Grenville, he said “Oh, I know him, he officiates sometimes at the Chapel Royal. I usually go to the Chapel Royal. Sometimes I am there alone with the reader. ” Then aside, “Dearly beloved Roger.”

The Duke of Wellington went from Magdalen Gardens with the Bishop of London, and returned to Emmanuel to the Vice-Chancellor’s dinner. Here he stayed but a little while and went away before dinner, having determined to sleep at Hatfield. So far as I know he had no dinner till he got there, which must have been near eleven o’clock at night.

I left the dinner at the Vice-Chancellor’s early and came home to receive a few friends at the Lodge.’

Master of Trinity College

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1857
Karl Varnhagen von Ense,
diplomat and soldier

‘Yesterday Humboldt spoke of the time when he lived in a house at the side of George’s Garden, and was so assiduous in his magnetic observations that he once stinted himself of sleep for seven successive days and nights in order to examine the state of things every half hour; after that he changed the watch with substitutes. This was in 1807, just fifty years ago. I often saw the little house in which the experiments were made, when I visited Johannes von Mueller, who also lived in a house at the side of the same garden; or Fichte who lived in a garden house in the middle of the garden. When old George, a wealthy distiller, showed the garden to his friends, Humboldt went on to say, he never failed to boast of ‘his learned men’. ‘Here I have the famous Mueller; there is Humboldt, and there is Fichte, but he is only a philosopher, I believe.’

Humboldt’s genius

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1887
Tappan Adney,
journalist and photographer

‘An excursion of the Natural History Society [from New York City] to Manawagonish Island in the Bay of Fundy off Saint John. Thirty of us went along in two small yachts. Manawagonish Island [is] a rocky island covered with dense, stunted spruce and a small clearing where some sheep were browsing. Dense fog swept in, enveloping all things with reeking, dripping moisture, shutting out all things but the tinkle of a sheep bell, the murmuring of the waves on the beach, and the voices of a few hardy birds. Strong, clear, like a flute in the hands of a master, the Hermit thrush - a pathos that is known to no other bird. There is no song of more pure beauty, and one must come here or listen in the early morn in some far New Brunswick wilderness, to hear this, the most beautiful of bird music. I found the nest, containing four blue-green eggs, on the ground, among the cool, damp mosses and luxuriant ferns. The fog was so thick we could hardly find our way back to the harbor.’

Goose Lane Editions

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1898
Anna Klumpke,
artist

‘ ‘Today is young America’s birthday,’ Rosa Bonheur announced this morning. ‘To celebrate, I’ll give you a long sitting. Use it well!’

I’d got a good start on the head, and I prayed to God to let me capture the penetrating gaze and the benevolent, poetic air that emanated from her whole person.

In the midst of posing, she blurted out: ‘You’ve got such goodness in your face I can’t help thinking of my mother. Your face is long and oval, mine is square. You say I’m cheerful? You’re young at heart. Never would I have believed that we’d get along so perfectly. Your portrait has got fine tone and texture; it’ll be good.’ ’

Let the paint dry

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1902
Victor Trump,
sportsman

‘England 49 behind. Wickets rolled on the quiet. Made 62 in 47 minutes. Clem [Hill] 100. England, Jessop 50 not out, bowled fast.’

Ran about all day

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1924
Joseph Goebbels,
politician

‘We need a firm hand in Germany. Let’s put an end to all the experiments and empty words, and start getting down to serious work. Throw out the Jews, who refuse to become real Germans. Give them a good beating too. Germany is yearning for an individual, a man - as the earth yearns for rain in the summer.’

We can conquer the world

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1958
George Adamson,
conservationist

‘Joy had the foolish idea of trying to drag Elsa by the chain into the car! When it didn’t work, Joy behaved like a lunatic. I went off to shoot meat, got a kongoni. Finally, after much abuse and ill temper from Joy, Elsa came along and without demur jumped into the car.’

A life of Joy and lions

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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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