And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

27 June

1840
Edward John Eyre,
explorer and administrator

‘In crossing the southern extremity of these large plains, we came suddenly upon a small party of natives engaged in digging yams of which the plains were full; they were so intent upon their occupation that we were close to them before they were aware of our presence; when they saw us they appeared to be surprised and alarmed, and endeavoured to steal off as rapidly as they could without fairly taking to their heels, for they were evidently either unwilling or afraid to run; finding that we did not molest them they halted, and informed us by signs that we should soon come to water, in the direction we were going. This I knew to be true, and about three o’clock we were in front of a water-course, I had on a former journey named the “Rocky river,” from the ragged character of its bed where we struck it.

We had been travelling for some distance upon a high level open country, and now came to a sudden gorge of several hundred feet below us, through which the Rocky river wound its course. It was a most singular and wild looking place, and was not inaptly named by the men, the “Devil’s Glen;” looking down from the table land we were upon, the valley beneath appeared occupied by a hundred little hills of steep ascent and rounded summits, whilst through their pretty glens, flowed the winding stream, shaded by many a tree and shrub - the whole forming a most interesting and picturesque scene.

The bed of the watercourse was over an earthy slate, and the water had a sweetish taste. Like most of the Australian rivers, it consisted only of ponds connected by a running stream, and even that ceased to flow a little beyond where we struck it, being lost in the deep sandy channel which it then assumed, and which exhibited in many places traces of very high floods. Below our camp the banks were 50 to 60 feet high, and the width from 60 to 100 yards, its course lay through plains to the south-west, over which patches of scrub were scattered at intervals, and the land in its vicinity was of an inferior description, with much prickly grass growing upon it.

Upwards, the Rocky river, after emerging from the gorges in which we found it, descended through very extensive plains from the north-north-east; there was plenty of water in its bed, and abundance of grass over the plains, so that in its upper parts it offers fine and extensive runs for either cattle or sheep, and will, I have no doubt, ere many years be past, be fully occupied for pastoral purposes.’

Along the Rocky river

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1871
Cosima Liszt Wagner,
wife of composer

‘Still rain; but R is working - that is my sunshine! When, visiting him while he is at work, I tell him that, he says; ‘And do you know what makes me feel so irresponsible toward everything? The fact that I have you; none of our evil experiences touches the nerve of things; so I, too, can be single-minded. If I had had you with me in Paris, I should not have let myself in for all those things. The only trouble is, we came together late, I want to enjoy it for a long time yet.’ - Uncharitable feelings over my father’s behaviour. - R has composed Hagen’s aria [Hagen - a character in Götterdämmerung]. He says, ‘While doing it I was thinking of you asleep; I was uncertain whether to let himself express himself in silence or not; then I remembered how you talk in your dreams, and I saw I could let Hagen voice his emotions, which is much better.’ . .’

Music was sounding

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1872
Cosima Liszt Wagner,
wife of composer

‘R reads in the newspaper that there have been uprisings among the workers in Vienna, and again it is the misguided poor people who have been punished and persecuted. ‘The demagogues, the ringleaders, should be trodden underfoot like vermin,’ says R, very indignant that the misguided people are once again the victims. - Visit from the conductor Herbeck. Proposals for Vienna, inquiry whether R would perhaps do Die Walküre there, before Bayreuth - all of it nonsense. - Family lunch, the faces of musicians are discussed, and R says the handsomest was Méhul’s. On my remarking that these French musicians (Grétry, Méhul, etc.) were very gifted: ‘Oh the French are significant, no question of that, what they lack is an ideal, something which, when it comes to the point, doesn’t concern itself at all with form - like Bach for instance, who simply ignored the laws of euphony, which meant everything to the Italians, in favor of independence for his voices.’ - R has done some work, despite the interruption of Herr H. Walk with the children after the rain, renewed pleasure in the park: ‘If one could conjure it up with a wish, one couldn’t make it any lovelier.’ In the evening took up our old Gibbon again and continued with him, remarking as we did so that the English are much better and more original interpreters of Latin ways, their classical form and their settled outlook, than the French.’

Music was sounding

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1874
Cosima Liszt Wagner,
wife of composer

‘Quite a lot of things all at once; furnishing of the hall, which is to be consecrated today; visit from the machinist Brandt, arrival of the singer Scaria (Hagen) and visit from Frau Löper, back from Karlsbad. Herr Scaria sings somem of Hagen’s music straightaway, but since he knows nothing of the text, R reads it to him. Curious the dealings with these implements! -’

Music was sounding

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1911
Tommy Lascelles,
civil servant and courtier

‘The Coronation; up at cock-crow and escorted Maud to our seats in Montagu House. I marvelled that people should have given themselves so much trouble for so singularly unimpressive a ceremony. Dined v. happily at Brooks’s with Edward; and then on through crowded streets to Downing Street, where we picked up the Prime Minister, his entire family, D. [Lister], Kath, Venetia Stanely etc. Escorted by a policeman and a detective who spoke seven languages and never opened his mouth in one of them, we plunged into Pall Mall and wondered for hours looking at the illuminations and trying to extract humour from an annoyingly sober and ordered crowd. At Trafalgar Square the PM when home to bed, and we could join more freely in the sports of the people. I had hoped someone would have recognised him and started a demonstration but except for one man who exclaimed, ‘There’s Asquith - I should like to go and break his head,’ he excited no feeling. It was fun singing Gourdouli all down the Strand, and I nearly got run in for putting a paper cap on a policeman’s helmet, and was only saved by the intervention of our escort. Poor man, he was heartily ashamed of us.’

Sports of the people

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1974
Federico Fellini,
director

‘A wooden root falls from the sky. “It’s the wooden harp!” someone tells me with a tone of devotion and exultation as if a miracle had taken place. “Play it!” Dressed like a monk/mendicant, I (but was it me?) draw incredibly sweet sounds from the rough piece of wood. They make people cry. Even I am moved to tears. This last part of the dream was followed by me commenting on the dream itself, as if it were a film created for television by a young director. My comments were very positive.’

Fellini’s dreaming

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1996
Alan Bennett,
playwright and actor

‘Chichester. Talking to Maggie Smith about the number of grey heads in the audience for Talking Heads, I compare them with a field of dandelion clocks. She says that she’s read or been told that the Warwickshire folk name for these was ‘chimney-sweeps’ so that Shakespeare’s “Golden lads and girls must,/ As chimney-sweepers, come to dust” is thus explained. I had always taken chimney-sweepers to be a straightforward antithesis, poor and dirty boys and girls the opposite of clean and bronzed ones. This, of course, doesn’t bear close examination, though what probably planted it in my mind was a nightmare I used regularly to have as a child in which a chimney-sweep or coalman rampaged through our spotless house. I look up chimney-sweeps in Geoffrey Grigson’s The Englishman’s Flora (shamefully out of print) and find that, the flowers being black and dusty, chimney-sweep and chimney-sweeper are Warwickshire slang for the plantain, particularly the ribwort, and that these were used to bind up sheaves of hay; children, whether golden or otherwise, used to play a game not unlike conkers with the flowers on their long stems, in the course of which, presumably, the flowers disintegrated, or came to dust.’

A place for my asides

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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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