And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

22 June

1603
Margaret Hoby,
heiress

‘at Ashbye, wher I kissed the Queens hand’

After private prayers

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1760
Richard Pococke,
priest and traveller

‘We went into a Highland cabbin, in which there were five apartments, one at the entrance seemed to be for the cows, another beyond it for the sheep, and a third, to which there was only at the end of the house, for other cattle; to the left was the principal room, with a fire in the middle, and beyond that the bed-chamber, and a closet built to it for a pantry; and at the end of the bed-chamber, and of the house, a round window to let out the smoak, there being no chimney. The partitions all of hurdle-work, so one sees through the whole. A great pot of whey was over the fire, of which they were making Frau. They have a machine like that which they put into a churn, with stiff hairs round it, this they work round and up and down to raise a froth, which they eat of the pot with spoons, and it had the taste of new milk; then the family, servants and all, sat round it, and eat, the mistress looking on and waiting. She brought us a piggin of cream, and drank to me, and we drank it round. The dairy is in a building apart. This was contrived that I might see the Highland manners. They have here a great number of foxes and hares, the skins of which are very fine; the hares are of a light colour on the backs, and the bellies are quite white. I was told there are some all over white in the winter. A few swans come here every year in the hard weather; and a great number came in the year 1738, when the winter was very cold, but it is difficult to shoot them. They have plenty of red deer, and of the roe deer. Mr Monroe shot in the upper part of the Kyle of Dornock an extraordinary sea-bird, which dived very readily. It is as big as a goose, and much like it, except that the bill, about four inches long, is pointe.’

The Highland manners

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1846
Benjamin Haydon,
artist

‘God forgive - me - Amen. Finis of B R Haydon ‘Stretch me no longer on this tough World’ - Lear. End.’

Thirst after grandeur

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1847
Thomas Huxley,
scientist

‘Since my last entry we have had quite another sort of thing to the “quiet river”. It has been cold miserable weather with occasional hard close-reefed topsail breezes, and to add to our discomfort the fuel was all of a sudden found to have fallen short some ten days ago. By way of meeting this alarming deficiency the galley fire was put out at twelve every day, and lately there has been no galley fire at all, all cooking being done in the coppers, and the fire in these even put out at 4 p.m. It is astonishing what a difference this makes in one’s small stock of ship’s comforts. No hot grog, tea at half-past three, and other abominations. If the present state of things continues however we shall soon have an end of these things. We are within 200 miles of Van Diemens Land with a glorious 8½ knot breeze and expect to see land to-morrow evening at farthest.

I had one of my melancholy fits this evening and as usual had recourse to my remedy-a good “think” to get rid of it. It took me an hour and a half walking on the poop however to accomplish the cure. Among other thoughts that I thought I sketched out the plan of my next paper, “On the Diphydae and their relations with the Physophoridae”. I have the material all ready and will send it from Sydney. [. . .]

Suppose I finish my account of our trip in Mauritius. I left off where we started, provided with eatables and drinkables and altogether three “proper men”. Away we trudged, full of life and spirits, and I confess that the whole scene, the bright sunlight, the brilliant foliage, the firm earth, so refreshing in its very resistance to the foot of one who has been for weeks reeling at sea, intoxicated me, and I would have readily undertaken to walk to Jericho if required. As it was we put a good ten miles between us and the town before calling a halt. By this time the sun was getting hot, and never was anything so sweet as the water of the little Belle Isle river on whose banks we rested.

But there are seven miles to go and we must not rest here. So on we go, asking our way from the innocent blacknesses who cross our path in the best French we can command, as it turned out to little purpose, for after crossing the Rivière du Tamarin and being quite elated at the prospect of leaving our carriage friends in the lurch, we took the turn to the Black River instead of that to the Cascades. We walk on some way and then inquire of a Frenchman who keeps a sort of wayside auberge for further directions. We get capital vin ordinaire at sixpence a bottle and our good friend, seeing us I suppose look somewhat vexed at having come out of the road, assured us that the Cascade du Tamarin is nothing so very grand - he himself has seen that, but that if we want to see the real beauty of the island we should go on to Chamarelle which is only twelve miles off. We must sleep somewhere, and there is nowhere else to sleep at but the Military Post at Black River from whence it is an easy stage to Chamarelle. Our friend assures us that we need be under no apprehension about a reception as M. le docteur at the Porte is a “tres joli petit docteur”. Could we do else? No, so we agree to go on. [. . .]

The Riviere du Cap rises among the high land towards the centre of the island, thence winds its way as a quiet rivulet, till it reaches Chamarelle, when it precipitates itself over the edge of a huge chasm, sheer down for 350 feet; at the bottom it breaks into rainbows of foam against the rocks and then becomes a dark still pool of many acres in extent, ultimately finding its way to the sea by a fissure in one side of the rocky basin. An old tree overhangs one edge of the precipice and hanging on by this you can look down and see the birds wheeling and soaring below you. A little Asmodeus of a boy, Sewan by name, accompanied us and I made him hang on to the tree for a foreground while I sketched. The sides of the pit are all covered with large trees and the whole aspect of the place conveys to the mind at once the strongest ideas of wildness and of richness. We bathed in the rivulet just above the falls and had a sort of small washing day so as to get rid of any rate the superficial layer of dust with wh. we were enveloped. In the afternoon King and I made another visit to the falls and saw them under a different point of view. At dinner we met the ladies of our host’s family, and I fear that we did not represent the navy creditably in consequence of our imperfect knowledge of French. Chess-playing and conversation whiled away the evening, and we started early on the morrow on our way back to Port Louis, taking a somewhat different course to the way we came.

At noon we were going to bivouac at the bottom of a long avenue wh. led up to a gentleman’s house, but he spying us out came down, and carried us up to lunch with him. M. Butte was not contented with entertaining us in first rate style, but seeing that Brady walked rather lame, he insisted upon his riding on a donkey for some miles, sending a black servant to bring the said donkey back. We reached Port Louis that night at ten, having walked thirty odd miles. Brady was disabled for some days, but the rest of us were ready for anything the next morning. And so ended one of the most pleasant trips I ever had.

Van Diemen’s Land.

The sight of the bold land about S.W. Cape was I may venture to say the most pleasant thing that happened to us in our last cruise, always excepting, by the bye, the jolly face and English tongue of the old pilot who came off to us in Storm Bay. The pilot was a man well to do in the world. He lived on Bruny [?] island and we sent a boat to his farm to get such supplies of firewood, fresh meat, potatoes and other luxuries as he had at hand. Those who went brought back reports about a very nice well-furnished cottage, with piano and the like, and ladylike wife with three or four rosy children. And this in a place where fifty years ago you would have seen nothing but naked savages or kangaroos.

Light winds and calms detained us so that we did not get to anchor in Sullivan’s Cove before the second day after leaving Storm Bay. I got ashore in the jolly-boat before the ship came up to her anchorage, and having done what business I had to do, got before a huge fire in the Ship Inn with McGillivray and there stuck, imbibing considerable quantities of toddy, until ten or eleven o’clock. We were all invited to a ball that evening but it had no charms for me compare with that splendid wood fire.’

Grandfather’s Rattlesnake diary

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1883
James Hannington,
priest

‘Gave another address at morning prayers. Brighton 11 a.m. Gave address at the C.M.S. meeting in the Pavilion.’

The bishop in Buganda

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1927
Eric Gill,
sculptor and designer

‘A man’s penis and balls are very beautiful things and the power to see this beauty is not confined to the opposite sex. The shape of the head of a man’s erect penis is very excellent in the mouth. There is no doubt about this. I have often wondered - now I know.’

Very beautiful things

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1978
John Rae,
teacher

‘I am woken at 2am by footsteps on the roof. I find two 14-year-old boys clambering along in the semi-darkness. I say, ‘good evening’, and they, only mildly surprised to see me, say: ‘Sorry, Sir’. I tell them that roof-climbing is dangerous and that they must come down through the headmaster’s house and report to me in the morning. I admire their enterprise - it is what schoolboys should do sometime before they grow up, but they need a ticking off just the same.’

A ticking off at Westminster

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1979
Kenneth Williams,
actor and writer

‘On the news they announced that JEREMY THORPE had been acquitted!! So that lying crook Scott has not succeeded in his vindictive quest!! They were cheering Jeremy outside the Old Bailey, and he rather spoiled it by making a sanctimonious speech about JUSTICE etc. Whereas he should have just expressed satisfaction and breezed away!’

Carry on carping

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1995
Michael Spicer,
politician

‘Major’s letter of resignation read out at the 1922 Committee; stand by for a week in which everyone lies through his teeth.’

The spiceless diaries

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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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