And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

13 June

1758
Jeffrey Amherst,
soldier

‘A fine morning but a most terrible day afterwards. We could not land anything. Getting our tools on shore last night we worked to clear a Road from the Right to the Left, I walked in the morning over the Front with M. McKullogh (McKellar) and ordered three Redoutes in front. At twelve about 200 came from the Town and got toward our Camp; we beat them back with 40 men and some of the Light Infantry before two Picquets got up to their assistance.’

Canada for the British

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1799
Thomas Robert Malthus,
economist

‘Showry. Therm at 2, 59. Saw the King’s library which consists of upwards of 300,000 volumes. It contains many scarce books & valuable manuscripts; but we were too much pressed for time to examine them with any attention. Talked to a man who had published a book on Statistics. According to his calculations, 1 in 40 die in Norway, 1 in 38 in the islands, 1 in 37 in the dutchies. He said that Professor Thaarup had stolen from him. Call’d upon Monsr. Wad, professor of natural history in the University, a great mineralogist, & saw some curious specimens relating to the formation of coal & amber, a new semimetal & some new crystals & c. & c. We have found all the professors that we have seen extremely polite, & ready to give every kind of information. The King’s library is open every day from 10 till 12, & a professor generally attends.

There are no corn laws in Denmark & no publick store except a small one for the army. The Bank is entirely a government institution but in great credit. The notes are as low as 1 rix dollar. Silver must be paid at the bank when demanded. These notes bear a discount in Holstein. I heard, but do not know whether from good authority or not, that there was a discount on these notes in the islands about 10 yrs ago. The Bank is said now to be very rich in silver, & it is thought probable that in a few years the notes will be destroyed & that there will be only a silver currency.

Every thing is remarkably dear at present in Copenhagen. Beef & mutton 6d., Fresh butter is. Common labour in the environs of the town 2s. - in the country 1s. 4d. There is a very great demand for labour at present, and labourers are scarce. Every thing in the shops is remarkably dear, & books particularly so. Only four years ago labour in the country was 1 danish marc or 8d. a day. This rapid rise in the price of labour has placed the lower classes in a very good state, and it is expected that there will be a very rapid increase of population. In the afternoon went to see the review, which upon the whole went off very well, tho it was unluckily a showry afternoon. The soldiers at a distance appeared to be handsomely drest, but on a nearer view their cloathing was very coarse. The horses small, but handsome, & in good order - all with long tails. Towards the end of the review I got near the King’s tent & saw him quite close. He is treated quite as an idiot. The officers about the court have all orders not to give him any answer. Some of the party observed him talking very fast & making faces at an officer who was one of the sentinels at the tent, who preserved the utmost gravity of countenance & did not answer him a single word. Just before the royal party left the tent the Prince rode up full speed, & his father made him a very low bow. I could not well distinguish the Prince’s countenance, and could only see that he had a thin pale face & a small person. His father has the same kind of face & person, but is reckoned a better looking man.

We observed the French minister with his national cockade. He had an interesting, tho rather fier countenance, and seemed to look on what he saw as a poor farce not worth his attention. When he addressed any person his features relaxed into mildness & he seemed to be perfectly well bred in his manner. The Princess Royal is rather pretty, and is, I understand, a most agreeable & valuable woman. Lady R F spoke in the highest terms of her - She is a daughter of the Prince of Hesse who lives in the palace at Sleswic. We saw the Princess get into her carriage with her daughter, the only remaining child of five, who is now about five yrs old. There was a large party of nobility in the King’s tent, but Ld R F was not there. The King drove off first, accompanied by the Princess Royal & her daughter, in a gilt chariot with six very handsome grey horses.’

The cost of men and food

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1816
Franz Schubert,
composer

‘This day will haunt me for the rest of my life as a bright, clear, and lovely one. Gently, and as from a distance, the magic tones of Mozart’s music sound in my ears. With what alternate force and tenderness, with what masterly power did Schlesinger’s playing of that music impress it deep, deep in my heart! Thus do these sweet impressions, passing into our souls, work beneficently on our inmost being, and no time, do change of circumstances, can obliterate them. In the darkness of this life, they show a light, a clear, beautiful distance, from which we gather confidence and hope. Mozart! immortal Mozart! how many and what countless images of a brighter, better world hast thou stamped on our souls! This quintett may be called one of the greatest amongst his smaller works. I too was moved on this occasion to introduce myself. I played variations by Beethoven, sang Göthe’s “Rastlose Liebe,” and Schiller’s “Amalia.” The first met with universal, the second with qualified applause. Although I myself think my “Rastlose Liebe” more successful than “Amalia,” yet I cannot deny that to Göthe’s musical genius must be attri-buted in a large measure the applause which greeted the song. I also made acquaintance with Mdlle. Jenny, a pianoforte-player with extraordinary powers of execution; but I think her wanting in true and pure expression.’

Schubert’s diary fragment

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1853
George William Frederick Howard,
politician

‘Secured my place in the Danube steam-boat to Constantinople. Went with Lady Westmorland to Count Edmund Zichy’s. He showed us a marvellous collection, principally of old swords, of every age and clime, and of his own splendidly jewelled Hungarian dresses. We went on with him to the imperial treasury, where we saw very fine crown jewels, and various interesting relics both of German and Austrian empires, beginning with the crown of Charlemagne; then to the imperial carriages, dating not quite so far back, but there was one which belonged to Charles V; also to the Manege, which is of very august dimensions; here lately had been held a splendid carousel, or tournament, of which they spoke with great admiration; then to the library, which I imagine must be the finest room north of the Alps; it has priceless manuscripts.

I then went over Prince Lichtenstein’s Palace, which I had heard compared to Stafford House; it has nothing like its staircase, and nothing like its pictures (the prince’s are elsewhere); the ball-room is more brilliant than any room at Stafford House, and there is more lightness, and perhaps not less richness, in the gilding and decoration.

I dined at my hotel, which is renowned for its cookery. I drove afterwards with Lady William in the Prater. It is very pretty, with its green alleys, and park-like glades, and fair visitors; but I think it must generally be very damp. I admire Vienna, on the whole, extremely. In the town itself, the narrow streets, tall houses, and frequent palaces, remind me occasionally of Genoa; while the cheerful faubourg, the broad glacis, with its alleys of chestnut and acacia in fullest blossom, and the fine outlines of hill beyond, make it a very attractive city. I suppose that in the beauty of its environs it surpasses any other capital, again I say, north of the Alps.

We then had ices in the Graben. [. . .] I went with Odo Russell to the Volksgarten, where citizens and soldiers were sitting under trees, listening to the alternate bands of Strauss and a Bohemian regiment; this seems the most attractive point of Vienna life, enjoyment of open air and music. I went still on for one act of the opera Stradella, and finished a full day with listening to some animated details of Austrian history and character.’

In Turkish/Greek waters

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1864
John L. Ransom,
soldier

‘It is now as hot and sultry as it was ever my lot to witness. The cloudy weather and recent rains make everything damp and sticky. Wo don’t any of us sweat though, particularly, as we are pretty well dried up. Laying on the ground so much, has made sores on nearly every one here, and in many cases gangrene sets in, and they are very bad off. Have many sores on my body, but am careful to keep away the poison. To-day saw a man with a bullet hole in his head over an inch deep, and you could look down in it and see maggots squirming around at the bottom. Such things are terrible, but of common occurrence. Andersonville seems to be head-quarters for all the little pests that ever originated - flies by the thousand millions. I have got into one bad scrape, and the one thing now is to get out of it. Can do nothing but take as good care of myself as possible, which I do. Battese works all the time at something. Has scrubbed his hands sore, using sand for soap.’

See maggots squirming

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1880
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
writer

‘Yesterday I had a visit from two schools; some sixty girls and boys, in all. It seems to give them so much pleasure, that it gives me pleasure.’

Gabrielle, Celestine or Evangeline?

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1881
John Dearman Birchall,
businessman

‘I went to Bowden. The house had not even got one coat of paint all over it. Best bedroom begun papering. Ordered stables to be colourwashed. Called on dear old Mr Jones. He said, “I shall be under the sod before you come down again. I am very happy.” I tried to encourage him thinking the pain he complained of in his chest was partly indigestion. Mrs Jones told me he was sinking; but I could scarcely credit it. I only stayed 10 minutes as he soon fatigued. The next day Mr Jones died aged 84. It will be a great loss. His end was peaceful without pain. He dozed away and the time when his spirit fled was not marked or even noticed by those who had the privilege of being present. May we be sustained by as robust a faith when our end comes.’

The tricycle diaries

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1902
Victor Trump,
sportsman

‘Rain, no play. Saw Gay Lord Queux [Gay Lord Quex - a play by Arthur Wing Pinero] . . . passable.’

Ran about all day

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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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